Back in 2006 I heard from my colleagues in Europe that a French filmmaker named Marie-Monique Robin was pestering them to participate in a film she was making. The topic? Globalization.
Globalization? Yeah, right.
If you have the misfortune of slogging through all 109 minutes of the anti-Monsanto rant that is “The World According to Monsanto,” (which consists largely of Ms. Robin typing Google searches into her computer), you’ll get to a brief audio cameo of me over the closing credits. It’s about 10 seconds of a five-minute phone conversation that apparently was recorded without my knowledge or consent. During that call, I gave her all the reasons that Monsanto wasn’t going to participate in her movie (summarized below). The only one she chose to use was that we didn’t think the movie would be “positive” toward Monsanto (good example of the selective editing she uses throughout the film).
Sounds like the punch line to a bad joke, right? “I picked up the phone, and the next thing I knew, I was in a French movie.” So how did this happen?
Here’s a brief history of our numerous interactions with Ms. Robin:
She contacted our public affairs person in France about participating in the movie. He said, “Non.”
Then she approached our lead public affairs person in Europe. He said, “Non.”
Then she tried our headquarters here in St. Louis, where she reached me. I said, “Non.”
Like the kid who asks Mom after Dad says no, she tracked down several of my colleagues in St. Louis. They all said, “Non.”
By this time, you’re probably wondering, “How come they’re all saying, ‘Non’? Could it be that…Monsanto has something to hide?”
The reality is that documentary films like this one are a rigged game in which the filmmakers hold all the cards, and the targets who participate are taking a sucker’s bet.
Here’s how it works: a filmmaker gets an idea and does some research (perhaps using Google searches). That research presumably provides enough information to develop a thesis, and the filmmaker then lines up interviews intended to prove that thesis. If the filmmaker is lucky or persistent enough, she can convince the target of the film to participate, lending an illusion of objectivity to an enterprise that had its mind made up before it even started. If we had said “Oui” instead of “Non,” it would have appeared that we were condoning or cooperating in Ms. Robin’s hatchet job.
Not only that, but Ms. Robin brought her own baggage with her. While many online biographies tout her award of the Albert Londres prize for her film on purported organ theft, “Voleurs d’yeu” (“Eye Thieves”), few note that the award was subsequently suspended because of reservations about the film’s accuracy. Read more here and here.
As long as Ms. Robin controlled the editing tools, we knew that Monsanto wasn’t going to get fair treatment, so we declined to participate.
After cajoling us to participate in order to provide balance (as if), all she was left with was a highly edited tape of a phone conversation and some footage of our campus.
Ms. Robin’s film has become something of a minor sensation in Europe, and she’s now a folk hero of sorts. But before you idolize her as Heroine of the Republic or finalize your views of Monsanto based on her movie, consider the facts – the facts she conveniently edited from her movie (which can be found on our Web site at For The Record; the facts she ignored in the face of direct contact with me; and the fact that her portrayal of Monsanto is completely one-sided. Given these facts , can any of her claims about Monsanto in the movie be taken seriously?
Don’t bet on it.
Additional information on allegations made in The World According to Monsanto:
Chris is a regular guy whose approach to each day involves trying to be the best husband, father, friend and co-worker he can – often with mixed results. He works with the scientists in Monsanto’s Technology organization, which meshes with his skill of translating complex concepts in to easily understandable language. He loves the written word and laments the quality of writing generally found on the Internet. He tries not to take himself, or the opponents of Monsanto, too seriously. He enjoys poking fun at the foibles of self-styled activist groups such as Greenpeace and PETA, a hobby he shares with his college-aged children. He is a proud member of the Monsanto Mavericks bicycling team, which raises about $100,000 per year for multiple sclerosis research. His philosophy of life can be summed up in the Shakespearean quote, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”