US multinational chemical, and agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto is trying to amend its image in order to become more appealing to the audience. The company has recently launched a set of advertisements which were designed to cozy up Monsanto up to the reputation, authenticity and wholesomeness of family farmers, Huffington Post reports. But does this picture reflect the company’s actual policy?
The commercials titled “It Begins with a Farmer” were intended to demonstrate that Monsanto shares the same values as family farmers and the consumers they feed and clothe.
But there are rather cold, hard facts which prove that the agrochemical and engineering giant, which heavily supports genetically modified products and chemicals they are designed to promote, has no intention to change its way or share consumers’ values.
Monsanto (like some other chemical companies (and other chemical companies like Dow Chemical, Syngenta, BASF, Pioneer/Dupont, and Bayer) have forced small farmers into a dying breed. The cost of industrial agriculture forces farmers to get big or get out. GE herbicide-resistant seeds have contributed to increased consolidation of farmland in fewer hands, according to USDA economists.
The high cost of inputs ensue smaller profit margins for those famers who manage to survive. Genetically engineered seeds have dramatically driven up per-acre seed prices ever since they were introduced in 1996. The rising cost of chemical fertilizers and pesticides (including herbicides) aggravate the situation even more. Eventually, mammoth farms enabled by biotechnology easily squeeze family farmers out.
Another issue, Huffington Post reports, is contracts imposed by Monsanto and the patents the company wields that forbid farmers from saving seeds year-to-year, a practice that has been part of agriculture for centuries. They demand farmers buy new, expensive seeds each year. And if a farmer stops using Monsanto’s patented seeds, they are at risk of breaching their contract. Sprouts from patented seeds planted in a previous growing season can “volunteer,” or grow spontaneously the following year, even in a new crop variety. If discovered, the farmer could face penalties for patent infringement. Monsanto fosters strife in rural communities by running a “hotline” that encourages farmer to call the company and inform on their neighbors, and has even hired retired farmers to entrap farmers into buying seed illegally, activities one judge referred to as Monsanto’s “scorched earth policies.”
To maximize its profits, Monsanto has undertaken an unprecedented litigation campaign against American farmers to end the practice of seed-saving. $10 million of its annual budget is devoted to investigate approximately 500 farmers each year who are suspected of patent infringement. While Monsanto has taken action against thousands of farmers, only the vast majority reach pre-trial settlements to avoid facing the multinational giant in court. When these pretrial settlements are included, farmers have paid Monsanto an estimated $85 to 160 million, Huffington post reports.
There have also been reports on farmers’ health deteriorating significantly ever since Monsanto’s products introduced to their fields. The odds to find legal recourse are low for US farmers. However, this year, according to Huffington Post, the community successfully filed a suit to block Monsanto’s construction of a transgenic seed plant, fearing their health would continue to worsen.