Yesterday, I posed five questions for the anti-GMO movement. I’ve heard the objections to biotechnology, but none of them make sense to me. A lot of the talking points, it seems, are the product of lies that capitalize on ignorance and fear, though there’s an entire subset of arguments that can be classified as appeals to Monsanto or argumentum ad Monsantium. This fallacy is so widely abused that
smug fuck comedian Bill Maher un-ironically uses it on national television to argue that GMO technology is bad.
Since you can’t put anything on the internet that isn’t true, Monsanto is the most evil, powerful, deceptive corporation on the face of this earth. According to incredible sources, Monsanto is responsible for everything from farmer suicides in India to committing honeybee genocide to spraying us with chemtrails. If something bad happens, Monsanto caused it. Because this fallacy is so popular, it will be the main focus of the next five questions. Stupid, I know, but what can you do?
Hold onto your butts.
6. How can Monsanto exert control over entire governments and almost all of the world’s scientists?
The shill gambit is a favorite play of the conspiracy-minded. The idea that anyone could have the audacity to present contradictory information can only mean that he or she was paid to do so. The Food Babe even put a price on shilling for Monsanto ($.60 per post). It’s pretty amazing to me the lengths some can go to in order to preserve irrational fears, well, except in Food Babe’s case because she wants to make that money, but for the average person… Wow.
There’s so many problems with this idea that Monsanto must be running a perpetual black ops campaign. The first, obviously, is that it would cost so damn much. After we consider just how many scientists, farmers, government officials, media personalities, and internet commenters that need to be paid off, Monsanto will have spent, in my estimation, more money than has ever existed in the history of all space and time. That may be a slight exaggeration, but I would be raking in hundreds of dollars a day and I’m nowhere near as active as many of the other
In 2013, Monsanto had sales of $14.86 billion with a net income of just under $2.5 billion. Meanwhile, ExxonMobil, Shell, and BP, on the other hand, combined for $1.3 trillion in revenue while managing a combined profit of $72.4 billion! And that’s just the three oil companies I can think of off the top of my head.
Taking this into consideration leads me to wonder – how the fuck can Monsanto afford to buy so many people when the oil companies can’t even stop scientists from producing paper after paper about man-made global warming? Monsanto has less than 5% of the resources but somehow has orders and orders of magnitude more power and influence over the world. I know what some will say. They’ll say, “Monsanto has people working in our government! It’s a conflict of interest to change jobs somehow!” Ex-employees of oil companies work in our government too. The only people they’ve managed to buy are halfwit tea-partiers and the sociopaths at Fox News.
Interestingly enough, Monsanto over the past decade has spent an average of $5 million per year on lobbying. It’s mostly for agriculture and patent laws. That seems like a lot of money too. I mean, it is a lot of money, I’ve never seen that much in my life and here they are basically giving it away, but when compared to the amount of money that goes into
anti-GMO propaganda organic advocacy, it’s chump change. Let’s see what this report from Academics Review found.
[R]esearch reveals that anti-GMO and anti-pesticide advocacy groups promoting organic alternatives have combined annual budgets exceeding $2.5 billion annually and that organic industry funders are found among the major donors to these groups.
$2.5 billion. Annually. That’s almost $1 billion more than what Monsanto spends on research and development. The entire agribusiness lobby only spends about $125 million per year. Make of that what you will.
7. How does Monsanto’s involvement in areas other than biotechnology affect the safety of GMO crops?
Poisoning the well, red herrings, non sequiturs, the Monsanto appeal is one of the more amazing logical fallacies because of its ability to be all those and more simultaneously. “Monsanto” is to logical fallacies what “fuck” is to swear words. Versatile. Powerful. Maybe that’s why propagandists use it so often.
One of the ways Monsanto, and GMOs by extension, is denigrated is by being referred to as a chemical company. Apparently, diversification is frowned upon. This is really rich and somewhat ironic coming from people who spend so much time shouting “MONOCULTURE!” at anyone who dares question their position.
Monsanto has gone through several changes in its relatively short history. It was started in 1901 as a saccharin manufacturer. After achieving success, the company branched out into other areas producing fertilizers, herbicides, LEDs, pharmaceuticals, and plastics. In the late 1990s, Monsanto split up its agricultural, pharmaceutical, and chemical businesses. Their pharma and chem businesses are now wholly owned by other companies, and Monsanto is strictly an agricultural operation.
Not that any of that matters. Monsanto’s prior involvement in chemical and pharmaceutical production has zero relationship with the current iteration of the company which is technically an entirely new business altogether. But this does nothing to stop bullshit artists from creating the narrative of an evil conglomerate out to destroy us all. Faceless corporations can be scary. I totally get that. I’m not exactly sympathetic to corporate interests myself, but that doesn’t mean I go around slandering big business nor that I should, but that’s a topic for a little later. The issue is that Monsanto used to produce a dangerous chemicals which should come as no surprise to anyone. Regulations and scientific knowledge are leaps and bounds beyond what they once were. That’s why chemicals like DDT and Agent Orange were able to see the light of day. Ignorance. Mostly ignorance. Monsanto actually warned the US government that Agent Orange was contaminated with dioxins but was ignored.
As I said before, none of this matters. Nearly all companies have a diverse range of interests. Questioning the safety of GMOs because Monsanto also produces pesticides is like questioning the deliciousness of a Krispy Kreme doughnut because they sell coffee. It’s a non sequitur at best. (If anyone from Krispy Kreme is reading this, I would so totally shill for you guys. Drop me a line if you’re interested.)
8. Why does it matter that Monsanto is interested in turning a profit?
“Monsanto only cares about profit.” I hear that one all the time. It’s the least sensible rhetoric that any organic propagandist has ever uttered. All companies care about money. Even non-profits do. Without money, they’d have no reason or means to exist.
I mentioned the National Organic Action Plan in yesterday’s post, so this will be brief. Here’s links to those stories on the NOAP from WLGV and Farmer’s Daughter, and this is Kavin’s article about the organic industry false image of altruism. I really love those articles and I’ll probably be pushing them for a long time, but I digress. An odd story has been crafted around the organic and natural industries. Somehow it’s been decided that Big Organ isn’t interested in making money. They only care about the health and well-being of their customers.
Just take a look at any of the brands like Food Babe or Mercola. It’s a constant barrage of denigration and scare tactics while assuring their marks that they have the cure, and for $17.99 you can have it too. The snake oil salesmen’s tactics haven’t changed, only the medium through which they work has. And worst of all, they get a pass for trying to make a buck. Meanwhile, Monsanto quietly toils away trying to provide clean water to impoverished regions and combat global warming all so people can call them evil and blame them for every terrible thing that happens or doesn’t happen in the world. But they only care about the money. The cognitive dissonance must be hell on organic customers.
9. How can Monsanto hold farmers hostage when other agricultural companies exist?
One of the weirder and more pervasive Monsanto appeals is based in a mythical mistreatment of farmers. Monsanto has been accused of everything from suing farmers because of accidental contamination (false) to driving Indian farmers to commit suicide at an alarming rate (also false, blatantly false). According the the legend, farmers are somehow being enslaved in a hellhole of modern day sharecropping with no way out. But how?
Most of us live in capitalist societies. Farmers are no different. They find products and services they like, and that’s what they buy. Though the antis would have us believe that farmers are all these hayseed hicks that are too stupid to understand how to run a business. They want us to believe that farmers buy cheap seeds so they can spend more on pesticides and that somehow they don’t notice all the horrific damage being done to them and their land by Monsanto poisons. This myth of the idiot farmer is also made even worse when we’re expected to believe that they’re just too stupid to opt out of licensing agreements and buy from another supplier.
Here’s the thing about all that, “Green Acres” is not a documentary. People don’t just move to the country with a tractor and overalls and become successful. It takes brains, and farmers are some smart motherfuckers. Believe it or not, they know more about farming practices than any idiot with a Google doctorate and a blog at Natural News. There’s a reason universities offer Master’s degrees and PhDs in agriculture, and it ain’t because it’s easy.
So where does this idea of farmers being victimized by Monsanto come from? There’s no record of any farmer being sued because of accidental contamination. Farmers don’t have to buy Monsanto products, and it turns out that they prefer to buy new seeds every year. I can only assume that it’s the result of an elitist mentality that the street smart city folk are going to save the dimwitted farmboys from the big, bad corporation. Maybe these assholes should pay a visit to farm one day and talk to a real farmer instead of listening to bullshit artists like Vandana Shiva who couldn’t care less about the well-being of anyone but themselves.
10. How could Monsanto benefit from poisoning its consumers?
GMOs are poison. Pesticides are in everything. Eat organic and your allergies will disappear.
While most of the other anti-GMO talking points are either based in ignorance or lies, this one is based on a complete lack of rational thinking. Businesses rely on repeat customers. Holding farmers hostage and suing them into oblivion is one way to lose that business. Another bad practice that guarantees losses is killing your customers.
To even suggest that Monsanto would poison people because it wants to increase its profits is the most asinine, nay, aseleven (that’s two more than asinine) line of “thinking” I can imagine. It’s so bizarre that I can’t even expound on it. But there is one thing I’d like to mention because it pisses me off.
Monsanto takes the heat for a lot of things. Some of it they deserve. Most of it they don’t. A couple of years ago, the AP published a photo essay called “Argentina: The Country that Monsanto Poisoned,” and shared horrifying pictures of residents with all kinds of terrible health issues. Since we live in a world where click-bait rules and consumers are too lazy to read past headlines and their own biases, very few people saw just how misleading that headline truly was.
The essay is no longer on AP’s website, and I’m not too keen on giving click traffic to propaganda websites, so I’ll just give a very short summary of its content. Basically, Monsanto produces glyphosate and sells it to farmers in Argentina who ignore all regulations and safety precautions and spray the herbicide everywhere in ungodly quantities. Unsurprisingly, this gets a negative reaction. Somehow though, it’s Monsanto’s fault that Argentine farmers don’t give a shit about local laws. I see it shared all the time as if it’s a breaking story. No one looks beyond the image of a sick little girl and the words “Monsanto” and “poison.” Exploiting children like this to drive some ridiculous ideology makes me really hate the overprivileged fucks running these campaigns.
I believe that biotechnology is currently the most important branch of scientific development we have going right now. Populations are booming and the climate is changing. Who or what is to blame for that is irrelevant. Companies like Monsanto who are far from perfect are pouring billions of dollars and decades of research into trying to make these problems less severe. Whether it’s through higher yield and heartier crops, pesticide reduction, and lowering carbon emissions, they’re out there making an effort. Anti-GMO groups are vilifying biotechnology while trying to fill their coffers.
I’m not trying to say organic is bad. I have no reason to think it is. The organic movement, on the other hand, isn’t worth the fertilizer they spread over their kale patches. Next time someone speaks on the evils of Monsanto, ask them these questions. Ask them why organic should be treated by a different, less ethical standard. Maybe if we put the crunchies on offense, they’ll see just how unhelpful they are in trying to better the world we all share.