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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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Reasons Why We Do Need GM Foods: The World is Bigger Than Your House

cornseedlingI have always liked the concept of empathy–or putting yourself into another’s shoes. I truly believe we would have a better world if people only make a little effort to look for different perspectives and realities before opening their mouth or doing things.

Let’s try an exercise. Close your eyes and picture yourself trying to survive with less that $1 a day. Can you do it? Ha! Pretty hard, especially if you were lucky enough to have been born and/or live in a developed country where–even in the middle of an economic crisis–a good dinner and a decent place to live is almost assured for most of us.

Anyway, no matter how hard this might be for us to conceive, that is the daily reality for 900 million people in rural areas around the world. In fact, nearly 60 percent of the world’s hungry are resource-poor farmers, and another 20 percent are landless and rely exclusively on agriculture for their livelihood.

So, you may wonder why a Monsanto employee (in fact, not even that, just a contractor) is bringing this topic up. The reason is because this corporation, alleged by some to be evil, unethical and harmful, is investing 2.6 million dollars a day on research that is contributing to the development of advanced hybrid and biotech seeds that are helping rural families. This assures these farmers food to eat plus it is giving them a surplus harvest to sell, which increases their income and allows them to access better health services and formal education for the first time in their lives.

In February 2009, Monsanto launched–in association with ISAPProject SHARE, an initiative to establish a sustainable model to impact the lives of 10,000 farmers across three states in India. The model will provide small-holder and marginal farmers access to technology, better inputs, agronomic practices and market linkages to expand farm productivity–making farming a viable proposition and honoring Monsanto’s commitment to help increase global food production, while improving farmers’ lives.

SHARE is neither the first nor the last project Monsanto is engaging in to help develop sustainable agriculture for everybody. Monsanto also partnered with the AATF to develop African maize varieties with the long-term goal of making drought-tolerant maize available, royalty-free, to African small-holder farmers. The Water Efficient Maize for Africa is particularly important in Sub-Saharan Africa, where farmers rely on rainfall to water their crops, especially maize–the most widely grown staple crop in Africa. More than 300 million people in Africa depend on maize as their main food source.

While almost 1 billion people survive on less that $1 a day, many people continue arguing about something they don’t even comprehend; like traits and germplasm. In fact, I wonder how many of them have ever had a conversation with a real farmer in their life. Monsanto is a 22,000+ employee company and a lot of these people are sweating their shirts everyday to help farmers around the world. This is not only because they have the ability to empathize with small-holder farmers; it is because many of them have been there once, trying to survive, knowing what hunger really is, and now they are attempting to help their families and friends.

I don’t know what Monsanto might represent to you, but whether you like it or not, this company holds together a group of extraordinary people from all over the world who work extra time and devote their lives to help make a better world for everybody, including you.

10 Reasons We Do Need GM Foods

Santiago is a Manager of Public Affairs at Monsanto. He was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, post-graduate studies in Social Communication & Media and an MBA in Marketing Management. Prior to working at Monsanto, Santiago taught PR for almost seven years while working as a Communications Advisor for several organizations and industries. He also worked for a multi-national IT company and an Oil & Gas company as PR Manager.

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15 Responses to "Reasons Why We Do Need GM Foods: The World is Bigger Than Your House"

    • iffiso,

      We have a post on labeling and Monsanto. We also have a For the Record on it as well! Check em’ out. If those do not satisfy you, please put a suggestion for a future comment in the suggestion box.

  1. Iffiso and Kathleen,

    Correct me if I’m wrong but I feel it’s b/c Monstanto wants to blend in and not stand out. Monstanto wants everyone to believe that their GMO crops are no different than non-gmo’s. Most people don’t even know what a gmo crop is, and labeling would raise awareness to the subject.

    It’s like advertising organic milk with the phase “Our cows are not treated with growth hormones or antibiotics.” Well, the non-organic farmers that gave shots to the cows (extra hormones and other drugs) got mad and said that labeling milk with the quote mentioned above wasn’t fair. The non-organic farmers agrued that consumers would look at milk differently, and that their was no scientific difference to prove that giving the cows all the extra stuff would harm human health. (Even though mulitpule research studies proved that organic milk was less toxic and more nutritional).

    I have a label on pretty much everything in my house. For example:

    Computer: Dell
    Radio: JVC
    Speakers: Harman/Kardon
    Phone: V-tech
    Outside Thermometer: Acu-rite
    Shoes: Brooks
    Pants: Levi
    Air Purifer: Ionic Breeze
    TV- Magnavox
    Blender: Kitchen Aid
    Paper Highligher: Sanford
    Calculator: Casio
    Dish Soap: Ajax
    Candle: Wonderful Wicks
    Guiter: Fender
    Deck of Cards: Cartamundi
    Ink pen: Bic
    Etc, Etc, Etc……………..

    And when I look into the refrigerator I see several companies names on food labels, besides Monstanto.

    • Bob,
      If you feel we should address the subject of labeling further, although I feel we have given a thorough argument for why labeling is unnecessary (requiring labeling for ingredients that don’t pose a health issue would undermine both our labeling laws and consumer confidence), you can suggest what you want the blog to specifically address about it in the suggestion box. Otherwise, I suggest you look at the links I provided above.

      The things you list are brands, not labels. Each brand you mentioned is an identifier of the maker product, not the contents of the product.

      Also, we make the seed that creates crops such as corn, cotton, soybeans, beyond that it is in our farmers hands who it is distributed to. Our products are branded and labeled. We indicate the traits you get with each product, right on the bag.

  2. Bob:-

    Does your dell computer tell you how and where the minerals used in circuitboard manufacture were produced?

    Does your radio mention which processes were used in the production of the plastics which form its casing.

    Do your shoes tell you whether the animals used (assuming they are leather) were organically raised, or shot full of hormones?

    Is there any information on your pants about whether or not the material used came from a GM plant or not?

    etc etc.

    As Kathleen mentions – Monsanto label all their products and make it quite clear which ones are genetically modified and which ones are not, our products are predominantly seeds which then go on to make other products. Our customers actively seek out genetically modified products (well those who buy the GM versions do, we also sell non-GM)

    As labelling laws predominantly are around issues of safety (other than the recent COOL laws, which are more about maintaining sales of US produce) and as there are no differences in the safety of GM and non-GM there are therefore no laws in the US to label GM food.

    I think you do make a good point about another reason to not label – many people either are misinformed, or uninformed, about the safety of GM foods, and labelling them may lead to this being seen as a legitimate safety concern thus leading to sales reductions based on nothing other than fear – in my own personal opinion this is a legitimate reason not to impose labelling on products which may contain GM, although I can guarantee that not everyone agrees with this. I’m going to go ahead and say that for these exact same reasons I’d be opposed to mandatory labelling telling consumers which herbicides/pesticides/fungicides were used in crop production, aswell as whether or not migrant workers were employed to harvest the crop – these are things which I know some people would be concerned about, but which do not appreciably elevate the risk of the product (the risk is controlled by the USDA and EPA)

  3. How will small farmers living on less than $1 per day be able to afford the GM seed and the needed inputs? Furthermore, shouldn’t the issues of desertification and overall soil degredation be addressed? There is a strong link between environmental degredation and poverty, which is crucial to take into consideration.

  4. AG – small farmers living on less that $1 a day may not necessarily be able to afford commercial GM varieties, however projects like WEMA, aswell as numerous academic efforts, are well suited to help those at the absolute bottom end of the farming spectrum (and I would personally hope that other projects follow in the wake of WEMA taking commercial type transgenics and making them available) – keep in mind that Monsanto arent the only people doing GM. On top of this as patents run out on first generation GM traits I’d imagine that these may well become readily available to all and sundry.

    Also what are the “needed inputs” for GM seed? The assumption that because a seed is GM it somehow needs more inputs is not logical in my opinion – current commercial GM seeds may need inputs, but this is because they are put in “high performance” germplasms which have been selected to perform in high input environments – there is no reason that genes put into lower performance (or high performance in low input environment) germplasms would require more inputs (in the case of NUE or WUE genes of the future one would expect a lower input requirement)

  5. “current commercial GM seeds may need inputs, but this is because they are put in “high performance” germplasms which have been selected to perform in high input environments – there is no reason that genes put into lower performance (or high performance in low input environment) germplasms would require more inputs (in the case of NUE or WUE genes of the future one would expect a lower input requirement)”

    So the the drought-tolerant maize discussed in the post doesn’t actually exist yet? Interesting…I heard something about an African rice that’s been doing great guns, but I can’t remember all the details.

    I can appreciate the science behind GM crops, Mr. Ross, but it just seems like a band-aid measure, even though it’s done with the best of intentions. The severe environmental degredation in the sub-Saharan countries must be addressed; otherwise, it will only get worse and further impoverish the soil. The disease must be cured, not just the symptoms.

  6. AG – I’d disagree with your assessment of GM as a ‘band aid’ although would say that perhaps it could be seen as a first aid measure – by no means is the introduction of GM tech (or indeed even better breeding, or even simply better agronomic practices) a cure all.

    Obviously environmental issues aswell as political issues in the region also require a huge amount of work, and most probably if these could be fixed then transgenics here (or indeed better breeding/agronomy) would no longer be seen as a “fix” to a dire situation, but as a tool to increase productivity.

    Even if you do only see projects like WEMA as a first aid effort – I’d argue that this is better than nothing – you dont leave a heart attack victim lying helpless while you wait for the paramedics because you believe that the absolute fix is bypass surgery or a complete change in lifestyle.

    I dont believe we can afford to focus on a single “best” solution which may never come to be when multiple other approaches, while not being the “best” can alleviate suffering in the interim.

    In answer to your question though (and I thought I’d put this in my first post, apparently not though..) yes, issues such as soil degradation and desertification should be addressed (as should many other issues)

  7. How many reasons do we not need GM FOODS.

    Yet again an accredited group that has come out demanding answers and what will happen.
    The great mansanto will do what characterize this article as being full of crazy people and ideas.

    I have posted this on three threads and I hope one of the people being paid to respond to these blogs has something logical and truthful in response.
    But as we can see ( which is also why this blog started) the truth about GM food is actually coming out in waves and it sure as hell doesnt look good. ( oh ya I know your one claim to fame is higher corn yield.) BUt everything else is generally a failure in the long term and most people are starting to see that.

    ONCE AGAIN A COMPANY THAT STARTED BY DESTROYING LIFE(agent orange, pesticide and the like) SHOULD NEVER GET IN THE BUSINESS OF TRYING TO MAKE LIFE AND ALTER IT>

    F. William Engdahl
    Global Research,
    Friday, May 22, 2009

    US Doctors’ association calls for Moratorium on GMO Foods

    The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has just issued a call for an immediate moratorium on Genetically Manipulated (GMO) Foods.

    In a just-released position paper on GMO foods, the AAEM states that ‘GM foods pose a serious health risk’ and calls for a moratorium on GMO foods. Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes ‘there is more than a casual association between GMO foods and adverse health effects’ and that ‘GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health.’ The report is a devastating blow to the multibillion dollar international agribusiness industry, most especially to Monsanto Corporation, the world’s leading purveyor of GMO seeds and related herbicides.

    In a press release dated May 19, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, which describes itself as ‘an international association of physicians and other professionals dedicated to addressing the clinical aspects of environmental health,’ called immediately for the following emergency measures to be taken regarding human consumption of GMO foods:

    * A moratorium on GMO food; implementation of immediate long term safety testing and labelling of GMO food.

    * Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community and the public to avoid GMO foods.

    * Physicians to consider the role of GMO foods in their patients’ disease processes.

    * More independent long term scientific studies to begin gathering data to investigate the role of GMO foods on human health.

    The AAEM chairperson, Dr Amy Dean notes that ‘Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients’ and the public’s health.’ The President of the AAEM, Dr Jennifer Armstrong stressed that ‘Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions. The most common foods in North America which are consumed that are GMO are corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed oil.’ The AAEM’s position paper on Genetically Modified foods can be found at http:aaemonline.org.

    The paper further states that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) technology ‘abrogates natural reproductive processes, selection occurs at the single cell level, the procedure is highly mutagenic and routinely breeches genera barriers, and the technique has only been used commercially for 10 years.’

    The AAEM paper further states, ‘several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signalling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.’

    They add, ‘There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation as defined by Hill’s Criteria in the areas of strength of association, consistency, specificity, biological gradient, and biological plausibility. The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.’

    GMO is toxic

    The AAEM paper should give grounds for official rethinking of the current quasi laissez faire regulatory stance to GMO in which the solemn word of the GMO seed companies such as Monsanto is regarded as scientifically valid proof of safety. The AAEM study is worth citing in detail in this regard:

    ‘Specificity of the association of GM foods and specific disease processes is also supported. Multiple animal studies show significant immune dysregulation, including upregulation of cytokines associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation. Animal studies also show altered structure and function of the liver, including altered lipid and carbohydrate metabolism as well as cellular changes that could lead to accelerated aging and possibly lead to the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Changes in the kidney, pancreas and spleen have also been documented. A recent 2008 study links GM corn with infertility, showing a significant decrease in offspring over time and significantly lower litter weight in mice fed GM corn. This study also found that over 400 genes were found to be expressed differently in the mice fed GM corn. These are genes known to control protein synthesis and modification, cell signalling, cholesterol synthesis, and insulin regulation. Studies also show intestinal damage in animals fed GM foods, including proliferative cell growth and disruption of the intestinal immune system. ‘

  8. Will water-efficient-maize-for-Africa be stacked with any other traits like roundup ready or bt?

  9. the world is bigger than your pockets.

    so lets say that WEMA helps the farmers. can you say me again how many farmers are living with less than a dollar? oh yes… millions… will WEMA help them all? i dont think so.
    it would be easier if you, oh so good company that cares for the hungry and the poor, leave the products for free or stop patenting and leaving everything to everyone. but you are not going to do that, for billions of reazons.
    the one who is against the future is a stupid, but how can we trust a company that hid the effects of PCB on people for 30 years and then tried to redempt themselves with money.
    how can we trust a company that havent prooved his products, or say that they did, and then hear from most of the cientific comunity that what you are saying is not right?
    i cant, i surely cant

    and by the way ignorance is a good way to control people, by hiding/denying the truth about BGH

  10. To mec,
    I just ran across your entry and can give you a quick reply. (It may take PR a bit since they concentrate on newer blogs.)

    Some NGO (non-government orgs) in Africa and other areas are working on helping poor farmers. One big funding source is the Gates foundation. They are getting free stuff – better seed – education and equipment that bring them into the 21st century- etc. Monsanto collaborates with NGOs to help this happen.

    The PCB argument is always interesting. With anything that happened long time ago so the facts for either side can get blurry. The people that were involved are either very very old or gone form the earth (due to being old). Anyway they are not around to trust or distrust. How can one defend or prove the argument? Monsanto sold a bunch of things too.

    The truth about BGH is that all cows produce it naturally in their pituitary gland.

    I have worked at Monsanto for 8+ year in the research area, it seems to me the practice here is to get the new info out ASAP so people know the new technology we have to offer. Of course, we cannot be stupid about it and spill the beans to our business competitors (this is where patent protection comes in) or break trading rules.

  11. If you really CARE about “the poor farmers”, why not teach them how to:
    1. farm WITHOUT having to BUY your patented seeds, (ie. saving their own seeds);
    2. use pastured techniques that uses the resources available to them (ie: manure and chickens) instead of synthetic fertilizer that they must BUY from you;
    3. use equipment and methods that do not require specific machinery that they must BUY from you
    (or another company like you);
    4. practice multiculture farming that feeds their community, rather than monoculture exporting (that makes money for either you or a closely aligned food corporation.)
    In the end, all of your philanthropy seems to be coming from a profit motive, not the heart.

    P.S. re BGH. Cows produce a tiny amount of a natural growth hormone, yes. (All mammels, produce some growth hormone). Monsanto produces rBGH (aka rBST) (r=recombinant) which is synthetic and injected into cows at a rate MANY times that which is natural.

    • Thanks for the comment, Rusty. I am glad to see you are as concerned about farmers as me and the rest of my colleagues.

      First, some important things to point out: Monsanto no longer owns Posilac and does not produce rBST. Also, we don’t produce synthetic fertilizer or any fertilizer, for that matter.

      Now to the much more important issues. Monsanto has a few programs in place under our pledge report that focus on educating farmers on how to farm successfully in order to benefit both their families, their community and the world.
      In the U.S. we have learning centers that educate farmers about the research we have done to improve farming.

      Worldwide, we recently launched Project SHARE, a four-year pilot project that aims to improve the socio-economic conditions of 10,000 small-marginal cotton and corn farmers—from 1,100 villages, across three states in India—Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan—to help them improve yield and income. We have also donated seed to various countries in need, including Malawi.
      Despite what many may think, Monsanto and its employees care about the success of their customers and ensuring that they are getting the most they can out of our products. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be in business.