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Food, Inc.: Did Monsanto decline to participate?

FoodInc

By Darren

Recently, I sat down to watch Food Inc., a film by director Robert Kenner and marketing firm Participant Media.

I was anxious to see the film because it included my company, Monsanto. But, I was also very interested because I took the initial call from one of the film’s L.A.-based producers, Elise Pearlstein, asking my company to be a participant a number of months ago.

When I got the call, I asked a number of questions: “Who would be in it? Who would present the opposing view? Who was funding the film? Would the film present balance and fairness or present one side of the story?”

Over the course of a few weeks, Elise and I talked and e-mailed several times, but I never felt I had those key questions answered. Despite this, we invited Elise and a crew to a trade show to learn more about Monsanto, agriculture and talk with farmers. They opted not to come to the show.

By this time, as my dad would say, I had an inkling something wasn’t right. Given the one-sided view I watched play out on the silver screen that night, I would say my intuition proved right. But, bottom line, we didn’t decline to participate.

So knowing what I know now, let’s ask the questions: Why not participate? Why not be a participant?

Dictionary.com defines the verb participate as “to take or have a part or share in.” The popular Web site describes a participant as “a person or group that participates” and one interesting synonym as “actor.”

I can tell you Monsanto is very interested in participating in thoughtful dialogue about food production and other topics related to agriculture. It’s why we’ve spoken at Google’s Zeitgeist 2008, the Milken Institute Global Conference and participated in Davos for years. It’s also why you’ll find us blogging, tweeting and sharing information online as well.

We believe taking part and sharing in rich conversations about the important challenges facing agriculture, food production and our well being are inherently intertwined. Climate change, water use and drought, exploding global populations, rural development and poverty, all deserve our best ideas and our thoughtful participation.

What we’re not interested in doing is being an actor, typecast in a film with pre-determined outcomes; outcomes that conveniently step around important issues facing agriculture today. Beverly Hills-based Participant Media describes their mission as one of telling “compelling, entertaining stories…” and “entertain[ing] audiences first…”

When it comes to the important topics facing agriculture, we’re happy to participate, we just have no interest in being someone’s participant.

More information on Food, Inc.

Monsanto ~ Food, Inc.

Moe Parr

Seed saving and seed lawsuits

Darren is a native Missourian and grew up on a family farm in Southeast Missouri where his dad, mom and brother still farm today. He has worked for Monsanto for two years in public affairs.

53 Responses to "Food, Inc.: Did Monsanto decline to participate?"

  1. While I don’t doubt that conversations were had between you and Elise Pearlstein, it is difficult to trust at face value your version of the story.

    After all, Monsanto has posted a formal review of the documentary that claims the film “demonizes American farmers”, among other things.

    Such a reaction, assuming Monsanto is interested in “taking part and sharing in rich conversations about the important challenges facing agriculture, food production and our well being,” makes it clear that Monsanto isn’t interested in any of this.

    When your company starts answering to consumers that are directly impacted by your products, rather than exclusively on your shareholders, then we will know the company is changing.

  2. Rob, I don’t find anything inconsistent in Monsanto’s position on this. I’d say, if you are LOOKING for Monsanto to lie to you, that is what you will “read”. But if you are not, what they say makes sense.

    As for their products, if you don’t like them, don’t consume them. The easiest way to do this is go all-organic. If enough consumers are willing to pay extra for organic, I can assure you Monsanto will notice.

    And if you want them to start answering to you, BECOME a shareholder. As of today, it will run you about $84 to get started. I welcome your contribution!

  3. Rob, you say Monsanto should answer to consumers … what, specifically, are they not answering already?

    I agree with John – if you don’t like Monsanto products, don’t buy them.

    If the point of leaving a comment on their blog was self-promotion, I understand. But if your “question” was just a vacuous complaint about “answering to consumers”, I think John answered it for you.

  4. John: To suggest people who don’t want GMO in their food should buy all-organic severely restricts what they can eat. What we need is for every consumer food product to clearly on its label identify if it contains GMO corn, soy bean, wheat, etc. After all, isn’t freedom of choice important?

    As for your comment on becoming a shareholder, talk about an “elitist” comment. Less than 20% of Americans own stock outside employer sponsored plans. Regardless, what I’m interest in knowing is how a company that impacts so much of the food we eat isn’t accountable to consumers?

    JC: You want more questions? Here are a couple:

    What has Monsanto specifically done to ensure consumers know which food products contain ingredients linked to foods grown with GM seeds?

    How does Monsanto justify the use of patent protection for products used to “feed the world”?

    Why can’t Monsanto accept a government’s decision to ban the use of GM seeds, e.g., Germany?

    What is your interest in Monsanto?

    When will Darren respond to my post?

    If you would like, I could gather many more unanswered questions from people all over the globe, as you and I both know they are out there.

    Finally, as for “self-promotion”, you throw that around rather loosely. How much money do you think Monsanto spent in the last 12 months promoting its ability to feed the world? In Q1’09 alone, it spend $2.0 million lobbying. Give me a break.

    • Hey Rob and others,

      One of the things I like to encourage commenters to do is stay on task with the post, in this case, our participation in the Food, Inc. film. Your questions are answered on other blog posts regarding those topics, including patent protection and labeling. Another great place to look for answers to these questions is our For the Record site.

      Thanks so much!

    • Rob,
      I’ll address the questions that I’m qualified to answer. Luckily, many of them are already answered here on this blog, so for the sake of saving time I will provide you links instead of copying and pasting mounds of dialogue – I hope you don’t mind.

      What has Monsanto specifically done to ensure consumers know which food products contain ingredients linked to foods grown with GM seeds?
      Ewan Ross wrote a good explaination
      There are is also a blog post on labeling and a For the Record

      How does Monsanto justify the use of patent protection for products used to “feed the world”?
      This article should succinctly answer your question – Should Crucial Technology be Patentable

      Why can’t Monsanto accept a government’s decision to ban the use of GM seeds, e.g., Germany?
      Brad has an excellent response to that question.

      What is your interest in Monsanto?
      I’m not sure who JC is for sure so I’m not really qualified to answer this.

      When will Darren respond to my post?
      Your first post doesn’t seem to actually contain a question, at least not one that I can see.

      I hope that your concerns have been addressed. I appreciate your interest in Monsanto.

      Kate

  5. Kathleen: With all due respect, chocking off dialog by sending me/others to unnamed blog posts because I didn’t “stay on task” is exactly the kind of thing I would expect from Monsanto (or any other company trying to avoid directly communicating with consumers).

    Why not allow the free-flow of conversation, preferably including a Monsanto rep (since I don’t think John or JC are official voices), to allow people to fully engage, get answers to questions, and learn?

  6. “How does Monsanto justify the use of patent protection for products used to ‘feed the world’?”

    They have to make a profit to stay in business. Just like the drug companies and everybody else, the patent protection allows them to pay for the research. Eventually the patent will run out and then others can try to copy the product.

  7. Great post. I would strongly encourage you to make sure to send this statement to GMA, ABC and any other news group covering the film, and ask them to please air your comments. It is important for everyone to hear this side of the story! Keep up the good work.

  8. Rob, with all due respect, having “other” discussions here just makes this topic harder to follow, and KEEPS people who ARE interested in the discussions you want to have from being able to find them. Requesting the conversation follow the topic is pretty standard for these kinds of sites.

    Unless, of course, one is just here to complain, and isn’t really interested in targeted discourse….

  9. John Q: I am prepared to answer any questions you have, as well as engage in constructive, civil dialog regarding my questions for Monsanto. And I am absolutely certain that the blog’s host – Monsanto – has the talent and resources to keep up.

    Many of us, including Monsanto, are wrestling through the highly complex issues our food system faces. And while it may be difficult to follow from time to time, these multi-thread dialogs must happen.

    Greg: Are you speaking for Monsanto re: intellectual property, or just yourself? Due respect, I am looking for Monsanto responses, as this is the company’s blog.

    Darren, are you out there? Will you be joining this dialog, which started from your post?

  10. I know people who have watched “An Inconvenient Truth” and been totally convinced of man’s culpability in global warming. Likewise, I know people who have watched “The Great Global Warming Swindle” and have come to the exact opposite conclusion. Which is the correct documentary?

    I’m always cautious whenever a new film like this comes out because of the level of control that the creator has over the information presented. After spending 90 minutes listening to their facts, their stories and their experts, it’s hard not to come to their conclusions. But what about the other side’s facts? What about their experts?

    My fear for all documentaries like Food, Inc. is that after watching them, people will immediately consider themselves well informed about the issue without taking the time to consider all the viewpoints and all the information available. Now I don’t want to come off like I’m saying documentary films are bad and that we should ignore them. Just that wisdom doesn’t come from watching a video; it takes an open mind and the willingness to investigate and analyze what your brain takes in.

  11. I give people the benefit of the doubt. They can think for themselves. They can research information. This is information people need in that search.

  12. Exactly what type of access was the film crew requesting? I understand that the company offered to allow the film crew into a trade show but it is tough to evaluate that offer without knowing what the producers were seeking.

  13. Paul,

    We discussed several different options with them, including having them at our St Louis facility for interviews. In our last discussion, we suggested they come to Commodity Classic – a trade show run jointly by two farmer organizations – the National Corn Growers Association and the National Soybean Association.

    Frankly, based on our conversations with the filmmakers and the background of those involved, we were more than a little concerned about their objectivity. When a journalist has a pre-existing bias, we have learned the hard way that we need to be careful. A good journalist is like a referee in a ball game. They objectively ensure both sides are given a fair shot. Sometimes however, they are both the referee and the opposition. In such situations, its best to sit the game out. The journalist has final say on what is included in the film, article, etc., and the context in which it is presented. When you give an interview, you give that journalist a lot of control over how your words are presented.

    We figured Commodity Classic as a setting would help neutralize any bias a bit, and we we would have a better shot at a balanced piece if they were able to speak to some of our customers, as well as Monsanto staff. Not that the only Monsanto customers interviewed in Food Inc. are ones with whom we had legal disagreements.

    We aren’t quite sure why the Food Inc folks didn’t come to Commodity Classic. Interestingly, a section of the book Food Inc (the companion to the film), written by producer Robert Kenner, describes Commodity Classic as “an industry conference on the development, sale, and patenting, and control of seed”. Quite the contrast to the description provided by the farmer associations who organize this event – which brings his objectivity that much more into question.
    http://www.commodityclassic.com/2009/Exhibitors/index.asp

  14. After watching the film tonight, I will tell you what I noticed in regards to Monsanto’s declination in offering comment. The audience simply laughed at the 4th major company who “declined to comment.” The people in that theater wold have been more then happy to hear what you had to say. Your silence spoke volumes!! You can spin it anyway you want, but I bet the folk in that theater would have pitched in to help out Moe Parr with his huge legal fees. The law may very well be on your side, but how about morals??

  15. The problem is, what we had to say could have been heavily weighted by selective editing on the part of the filmmakers. Having seen the film, I have little doubt that this would have occurred.

    As for Mo Parr, I have no doubt the audience would have pitched in to help him out based on the very selective presentation of information the filmmakers provided relative to the events surrounding Mr. Parr’s activities.

    From our site:

    Mr. Parr had received many clear communications about the patent law around Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready® soybeans, and he knowingly disregarded this information. Mr. Parr confused farmers about the law regarding patents, which led to some of his customers breaking their contracts by saving seed as well. Mr. Parr did not “settle with Monsanto.” Rather, Mr. Parr took his case to court, and the U.S. District Court in Lafayette, Indiana issued a permanent injunction against Mr. Parr prohibiting him from cleaning Roundup Ready soybeans.

    The injunction also makes clear Mr. Parr can honor the patent by informing customers it is illegal to save Roundup Ready seed and requiring his customers certify their seed is not from a patented product and providing samples for testing. His business will be able to continue to clean conventional soybeans, wheat and other seed crops. Monsanto has agreed not to collect the damages awarded against Mr. Parr as long as Mr. Parr honors the terms of the court order.

    View the injunction issued by the U.S. District Court in Lafayette, Indiana at http://www.fr.com/DSU/Monsanto%20v.%20Parr%20(NDIN%204-07-cv-00008)%20Apr%2022,%202008.pdf

  16. While I agree that the movie may have been biased and Monsanto wanted to be conservative in declining to be interviewed (to avoid the selective editing you reference), the truth is that Monsanto’s website is a little deviant in the way it phrased question 1 of 7, namely: “Monsanto did NOT decline to participate in the film, Food, Inc.” I would guess an attorney for Monsanto selected the careful wording for this to be published on the website because its my understanding the movie’s producers claim that Monsanto declined to be INTERVIEWED for the film. Obviously, your invitation to the film’s producers to attend a trade show permits you the ability to say that Monsanto agreed to “participate” in the making of the film but this invitation was likely nothing more than just a clever ruse to permit Monsanto to later post something on its website which appears to contradict and therefore diminish the movie’s claim (of not wanting to be interviewed) when neither notion (interviewing vs. participating) is really the same, but is ‘close enough’ to confuse the public. Its this type of deception that universally roils the populace against big corporations.

    • Frank,
      Thanks for your comment. First, I can tell you that I worked on that quiz – the way the question is phrased was done because I wanted another ‘True’ answer. You may have noticed that a lot of the quiz answers are false and I wanted to mix it up. I’m not attorney and I would probably agree that the question might sound better as “Monsanto declined to participate in the film, Food, Inc – Answer: False” but again, I was trying to mix it up.

      While I was not involved with the communications with the filmmakers I don’t think anyone could have possibly had the foresight to lay a clever legalese trap for the film producers by inviting them to a trade show to interview us and our customers (nor would we engage in such a tactic). I think maybe you give us too much credit – hindsight is 20/20.

      It’s my understanding that after a series of correspondance in which those involved from Monsanto did not feel that our questions were satisfactorly answered and after the film crew declined to attend the trade show communication broke down with neither side pursuing it further. It’s my opinion that the burden of communication was on the film crew but that point is moot now. I also think that the film makers might have preferred that we didn’t participate – to support their message that Monsanto is ‘hiding’ something – which might be one reason there was a breakdown in communication. Brad from Monsanto gave a good explanation in his interview. You can listen to the interview here: Feedstuffs Interview

  17. The injunction makes for pretty interesting reading – how willing would people have been to help Mr Parr out with his legal fees furnished with the knowledge that he essentially lied to farmers tricking them into infringing patent law thus opening them up to the very real threat of legal action.

  18. I find it interesting that these ‘poor’ farmers that have gone to court with Monsanto are farming land or have operations worth millions of dollars.

  19. Don’t count money in someone else’s pocket. It is still a very tough job.

    We all know organic costs more. America loves cheap plentiful product. (Gas, food, cloths, toys, cars —). We will do anything to perpetuate that low cost availability including sell our own nation down the tubes. We outsource our manufacturing, we outsource our labor and soon we will probably outsource our food production. If you think Monsanto is bad just wait until China starts to produce our beef, pork and poultry.

    Big agra could do a better job telling their side but in reality the people who are inclined to see demons would just keep on seeing them.

    Monsanto, however, is right. We should vote with our wallets. Stop buying soda. Stop buying chips. Stop eating fast food and candy. The industry would change on a dime in the face of that show of commitment. Look to your own habits before you point the finger. I am sure that even the producers of this film (and their families) indiscriminately support big agra with their wallets.

    How many fat film crew members drank caffeinated soda for months to pump out this work. You can almost see the trays of corn enhanced products lined up next to the trailers fueling them day and night.

  20. Spencer – interestingly China’s increased internal demand for meat (currently approximately 50% per capita of US consumption, but rising every year) most likely excludes them from becoming a serious source of food for the US, indeed as they are just about at the limits of sustainability the bigger problem is likely to be that Chinese demands will begin to have a serious impact on grain prices going forwards, with the biggest producers of grain (US, Brazil etc) exporting more to China as their middle class increases in size and their appetite for meat closes in on the US average. Another reason that increasing yields in these crops is vital in terms of global food security.

  21. Kate,
    Thanks for the reply. In your reply you said:

    >>don’t think anyone could have possibly had the foresight to lay a clever legalese trap for the film producers by inviting them to a trade show to interview us and our customers (nor would we engage in such a tactic). I think maybe you give us too much credit – hindsight is 20/20.

    If you really think any of that was clever, I’d like to introduce you to some of many lawyer friends. I am an expert technical witness and over the years I’ve come to know many lawyers not to mention fundamental skills and tactics involving in covering one’s you-know-whay. If you think inviting a film production company to something which perhaps you didn’t really care or even expect them to attend so you can later use their non-attendance as a strike against them — while at the same time claiming you were in fact willing to participate, clouding the real issue of not being willing to be interviewed — if you think any of that is so excessively laden with foresight, well, I’d say Monsanto could possibly stand some new legal counsel. This type of tactic is so obvious and fundamental even a half-wit engineer like myself picked it up right away.

    You have every right not to want to be interviewed just as I have every right to speak my mind, a film producer has every right to exercise bias in his or her concerns regarding things such as patenting the basic elements of food — which in my mind is almost akin to trying to patent water or air; the thing that is annoying is when someone produces questions attempting to debunk someone else’s work which only presents a half truth.

    I have an idea — add an 8th question true or false question: “Did Monsanto decline to be interviewed by Food, Inc’s producers?”. Heck, I’d even be happy with “Did Monsanto decline to be interviewed by Food, Inc’s producers because it seemed obvious that Food, Inc’s producers might selectively edit Monsanto’s responses to the detriment of Monsanto”.

  22. Can’t say that I am surprised. China, however, has demonstrated time and again that they are committed to developing a self sustaining economic model. For that model to succeed they will have to figure out how to increase their food production yields. Over the next generation they will dramatically shift their population from agrarian to urban thereby freeing up huge tracks for China’s version of big agra. I hope that we remain the bread basket for the world but I have my doubts.

    We are going down a poorly though out path of consolidation our growing fields. If any one of our major food growing areas experiences a natural disaster things will go bad quickly and the world will no longer feel comfortable relying on us production.

  23. http://brightergreen.org/files/brightergreen_china_print.pdf

    gives a rather scary view of Chinese agriculture at present and where it is likely headed at least in the short term – in terms of sustainability there are huge questions around availability of agricultural land – increased urbanization also leads to a decrease in available land resources – something which from comments on this blog US farmers are concerned about here in a country where population and population growth are not as significant is in China, aswell as increasing the demands on the agricultural system itself (I believe the report suggests that urban Chinese have a higher demand for meat than non-urban) aswell as the quality of the agricultural land that is currently and may in the future be available – Chinese heavy industry is reported to have caused huge amounts of pollution in certain areas which in turn reduces the agricultural yield capacity of these areas.

  24. I find the wordplay by the Monsanto rep rather interesting, myself. Not to mention disingenuous, misleading and delusory.

    Right off, Darren seeks to make you think poorly of Participant Media by referring to them as a “marketing firm”. Later, he attempts to denigrate them by noting that they are “Beverly Hills-based” (suggesting that they are less trustworthy or similar negative connotative) followed by carefully-parsed snippets from their website.

    The dishonesty in excerpting, “compelling, entertaining stories…” (gotta love the ellipsis!) while leaving off the rest, “…that also create awareness of the real issues that shape our lives.” is shameful. Then, to post “entertain[ing] audiences first,…” is to post an outright falsification because the REAL quote is, “to entertain audiences first, then to invite them to participate in making a difference.”; he changed the quote to mean something different. And he sorta forgot to mention that Participant Media, whom he viciously portrays in a negative light, is also the company behind “Syriana”, “Good Night, and Good Luck”, “Charlie Wilson’s War” and Vice-President Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth”. Hardly the bottom-feeding muckracking hack shop that Darren would have you believe.

    Then he wants to play word games with “decline”. Using Dictionary.com again, we find that the FIRST definition of “decline” is to “withold consent…”, a passive act, followed by “deny consent” and “refuse”, active actions. By not giving ANY answer, Monsanto did indeed decline passively because they withheld consent.

    Much is made by Darren of the word “participant”. He even equates it with “actor”, and then says that Monsanto doesn’t want to be “an actor, typecast…”. Sadly, he missed the second definition of “actor” on Dictionary.com: “a person who does something”. Ironically, while reiterating that (by his own definitions) they did not want to have a part in the movie, and did not want to be a company that “does something”; after portraying participation as something to be avoided, he proudly points to their “participating in thoughtful dialogue”.

    Darren justifies Monsanto’s choice not to take a part in “Food, Inc.” by saying that he never felt his questions were answered (after another irrelevant mention that the producer is in LA – attempting to portray her as some tree-hugging hippie, perhaps?). It’s hard for me to believe that he didn’t get answers, far easier to believe that he didn’t get answers he liked – but that doesn’t have the dark conspiricy slant that he tries to express, especially since he could have gotten answers to his questions with about 15 minutes of Internet research.

    When the grain of salt is added to Darren’s post, the trade convention begs several questions: Where was it? Did Monsanto offer to cover the expense of transporting the camera equipment and crew to the convention, providing accomodations, paying the admission fees, etc.? Or did they expect an indie documentary film company, with limited budget, to pay for all of that themselves?

    And with that final sentence, Darren clearly shows that his Spin Doctor license should be revoked. ‘We are willing to take a part in but not be someone who takes a part in’. Uh, yeah.

    Of course, by declining to participate, Monsanto passed up any chance to influence the direction of the film, or rebut any of the points made in it, or actually do anything but blow raspberries. Had they participated, Darren would have you believe that whatever they said or did would be twisted and portrayed negatively – something he/they would NEVER do in, say, a post on their website. Conveniently, he forgot that if Monsanto’s statements in the movie were, in fact, perverted that there would be grounds for a lawsuit.

    It is deceitful for Monsanto to act (mmm…see “actor”) innocent and to take exception to their truthful and accurate portrayal as declining to participate in “Food, Inc.”. Rather pathetic, in fact. Surprising, too – the pharmaceutical companies usually handle PR better. Oh, you DID know that Monsanto is a drug company, right? “[I]ncorporated as a stand-alone subsidiary of the pharmaceutical company. (Pharmacia itself eventually becomes a subsidiary of Pfizer, in 2003).”

  25. AnonTech said:

    “Of course, by declining to participate, Monsanto passed up any chance to influence the direction of the film, or rebut any of the points made in it,”

    Most films I have been involved in, the “actors” had very little influence over the direction, or chance for rebuttal there within. Their “influence” was pretty much limited to either say the lines (and trust the editor), or don’t be in the film.

    If Monsanto had agreed to be in the film, they risked lending legitimacy to an OPINION they don’t believe in, and risked having their “contribution” twisted to represent them however the EDITOR chose to present them.

    As an example:

    AnonTech said:
    “I … think poorly of Participant Media by referring to them as a “marketing firm”. … noting that they are “Beverly Hills-based” (suggesting that they are less trustworthy or similar negative connotative) followed by carefully-parsed snippets from their website.

    The dishonesty … is shameful. … Participant Media, … the bottom-feeding muckracking hack shop”

    And so on. (If it helps, envision this as an edited voiceover of the PM logo.)

    You are welcome to your opinion, as is Monsanto, as am I.

    But saying
    “It is deceitful for Monsanto to act (mmm…see “actor”) innocent and to take exception to their truthful and accurate portrayal as declining to participate in “Food, Inc.”.”

    Is basically saying your opinion is more valid than Monsanto’s, and mine. I don’t feel that the film in question WAS a “truthful and accurate portrayal”, and applaud Monsanto for not allowing themselves to be taken advantage of.

    But thank you for your post. I think you are a very fine wordsmith, yourself.

  26. Some solutions for our food fixes are laid out in the movie—basically, stop doing what we’re doing. We can’t do that alone and all the corporations involved must act—Tyson, Purdue, Monsanto, etc. The farmers will produce what we want—organic included. Organic is one answer but it’s not the best answer. Vegetables are picked unripe to get to us before spoiling—picked early short-changes what we need.
    Farmers are being squashed by big business for trying to “do something different” if it goes against what’s currently being fed to us. That’s unhealthy any way that one wants to slice it. And it lacks a moral compass. All my life I’ve heard that farmers lose out. Why, and when will that change?

    Cows aren’t meant to be head-locked and fed corn that makes them sick; chickens aren’t meant to be plumped up so full of hormones that they can’t stand and must sit in their feces, then fed arsenic (a heavy metal) to rid them of the resulting parasites; vegetables aren’t supposed to be genetically modified if that removes the nutrients and the enzymes that our systems need for digestion and fuel; and we, as human beings, shouldn’t be eating a hamburger that includes “stuff” from up to 1,000 cows. Diabetes and obesity in children at alarming and epidemic rates aren’t just because they are more sedentary. Our biological systems aren’t designed to handle all that and they are revolting.

    The movie also suggests growing our own gardens, even small ones. Where can I get untainted, non genetically-modified seeds? I’m not being sarcastic, I truly want to know.

    One thing certain, it will take leaders with a conscience to make things change.

  27. to Anon Tech: perhaps another meaning of Beverly Hills based is to show how far the production studios are from the heart of rural America and farming

  28. Sharon – to get hold of non genetically modified seeds I’m pretty sure you can buy any seeds at all (I dont think there are any GM seeds available to the public)

    I’m not sure that any GM vegetables are available which have reduced nutritional content (infact the only GM veg I know of which have been produced and released commercially are flavrsavr tomatoes, disease resistant potatoes, and virus resistant papaya (none of which were nutritionally impacted as far as I am aware)) – most GM plants produced are high acreage commodity crops – corn, soy, cotton, canola not vegetables and smaller acreage/greenhouse type plants.

    Havent seen the film yet, but I have to question how achievable a solution it is to simply ‘stop doing what we are doing’ – this would require an almost complete restructuring of society as it is right now – will western society accept a 2 to 3 fold (if not more) increase in food pricing to do things like get rid of factory farmed animals, will western society shift towards a more vegetarian (perhaps meat once or twice a week) diet? I personally dont see it – it’s a fine ideal in terms of moving away from high input farming but other than for very dedicated individuals the changes in lifestyle and spending required to effect change just based on stopping what we are doing are probably too big to be a realistic short or even mid term goal.

  29. I am so happy you have massaged your mind to convince yourself that you work for a company that does not poison the world or all of the innocent citizens that live on it. It’s time you have a moral awakening and stop hiding from disabled people like me with a stomach disability where GMO foods are and label them. You have poisoned our ecosystem and will eventually have a tobacco industry sized settlement. I look forward to participating in the class action lawsuit against monsanto.

  30. Simply put, if your explanation that you “didn’t refuse to participate” needs to include a dictionary definition of the word “participate”, then you basically refused to participate!

  31. anontech is not wordsmithing. rather, anontech has taken darren to task on the use of specious (deceptively attractive) explanations about monsanto’s role in whether to sit for an interview with the film production team of “film, inc.” his rhetoric is, however, artless, and easily equivocated, as anontech has rigorously demonstrated.

    there is no question on close reading that monsanto was only interested in the film, if it could be on the company’s terms and its terms alone, which, it would appear, meant not to interview at all. that is not a criticism. what i take issue with, which anontech has already eloquently laid out, is this: monsanto has acted deceptively by putting the burden of proof on the film makers, suggesting that the film’s claims about monsanto are implausible. this is evasive behavior that raises more questions than it silences.

    in addition, the claims of wanting to insure objective representation of monsanto in the film is going abegging. to suggest that there is something such as interest free knowledge is sophistry. bias and subjectivity are at the root of all human experience: social, emotional, cognitive and empirical. language, for example, is highly subjective. it is embedded with cultural meanings which derive from the need to mediate understanding of the particularities of shared experience within a culture or social group. the speaker, depending on the audience and his/her goals, makes pragmatic choices in order to accomplish highly subjective ends. in the case of monsanto vis-a-vis the film, the goal is to maintain as opaque its role in the corporate food production chain. for the film makers of “food, inc.”, it is to expose secrets about monsanto’s operation and organization, which monsanto appears willing to protect at any cost. unfortunately for monsanto in this case, by being silent, it colludes in the very interrogation, it has tried to oppose, of the impact the company has on, and the circumscription of, how we eat and rely on the earth to provide our food.

    “food, inc.” has served notice.

  32. How is it that Monsanto would argue that their voice may be misinterpreted or not completely presented?

    Corporations like Monsanto have a huge voice that the consumer and voter does not. I don’t have a set of attorney’s, publicists, and I certainly don’t have a team of lobbyists in Washington.

  33. The most unbiased take I’ve seen on the whole issue, the science of it, was (surprisingly?) Bill Nye’s special on GMOs (definitely more unbiased than Food Inc, though I very much enjoyed Food Inc). His conclusion: GMOs create a promising field of research, but companies like Monsanto are rushing them to market, in order to “recoup their investments”. For the most part, that’s the conclusion of the students in my research writing class. Just so you know, there is a whole generation of students out here getting angry about the repression of the Right To Know Act. All they want is to be in the loop. Monsanto should respond to Food Inc not with a antagonistic internet response, but, like a company composed of mature adults, make their own documentary, to inform the American people in a fair and straightforward way what’s going on in their food, and why it is (if it is) okay.

  34. Wow, did your lawyers write this response?

    I can understand Monsanto’s lack of interest in participation because the conversation was not stacked in your favor. The sheer “legal-ese” of this explanation to a very simple question sheds a lot of doubt on the credibility of this post.

    I especially like how you ask the questions, “Who was funding the film? Would the film present balance and fairness or present one side of the story?”

    Is there any irony that you ask this question, and mention other things in this blog that questions the intention of the film…while the title of this blog ends with…”Monsanto According to Monsanto.” That is a refreshingly straight forward statement from you all and helps to remind us of just how questionable the statements on this site are.

  35. Brian, I am not sure I follow you. To ME, it is much more honest for this site to be called “Monsanto according to Monsanto” than it is for that movie to be called “Food Inc.”

    Wouldn’t it be more intellectually honest to call the film “Food Inc. according to Robert Kenner”, or even more appropriately “A Biased Criticism of Monsanto and others according to Robert Kenner”?

    But my guess is the marketing firm Participant Media didn’t think those titles would sell as well or make as much money, which is what the film was REALLY about.

  36. As a former reporter, I’ve seen the game you’re playing many a time. Inviting someone to a trade show is NOT the same as agreeing to make executives available to discuss some very serious questions.
    By sidestepping the producers you did a major disservice to your shareholders and the many fine employees of Monsanto. In addition, you let down all the dedicated farmers here in the Unites States. You owe them all an apology.

  37. i dont believe a word from MONSANTO’s rebuttal.
    i saw the FOOD INC film and it has had me on the internet researching this company and all its “doings” for days now. and I thank FOOD INC for waking me up to what i have been so ignorant to. it is a very scary thing this company is doing. trying to control all of the food industry in every facet. and now trying to patent the pig!!!! they are like the starbucks of patents …. trying to own all food sources.
    very scary stuff.
    i wonder what the top guys feed their kids?????? and wonder how they sleep at night knowing this is this genetically modified world they will be leaving behind for their kids and grandkids.

    SICKENING, APPALLING LIARS with LOADS & LOADS of Money and unscrupulous lawyers.

  38. JAS, you do yourself and your message a disservice by including the “patent the pig” comment.

    This has been discredited all over the Internet, including on this site, which calls into question the rest of your ‘on the internet researching this company and all its “doings” for days now’.

    It sounds to ME like you have already made up your mind, and are only looking for evidence to support the “conclusion” you had previously formed, without support, and ignoring evidence that might contradict your “position”.

    I’m sure that’s not how you wanted to portray your efforts.

  39. RSS, I’m not sure what games YOU played as a reporter, but I think inviting “someone” to a trade show as a “first date” to give them some background and see what they are REALLY interested in before wasting the time of a busy executive make sound business sense to me.

    If you’re not willing to expend the effort of a “first date”, you shouldn’t expect a “relationship”, seems to me.

  40. Interesting dialogue going on here.

    Declining to participate and declining to be interviewed are two completely different things.

    What Montsanto declined to do was to answer specific questions posed by the producers of Food Inc. They declined to be interviewed on the filmmakers’ terms. Like every large company, every word uttered needs to be carefully scrutinized and spun by a nice big team of communications experts to put the company in the best possible light. I consulted for a very large grocery conglomerate for years, and saw time and time again the half-truths perpetuated by food companies that people trust to deliver quality products. Montsanto is no different.

    So instead, Food Inc. gets invited to a trade show? Trade shows are nothing but back-patting displays of corporate incest, designed to build morale and let the same companies delivering the same message bathe in their own shallow gene pool. I highly doubt anyone at this trade show was advocating the opposite stance, that being rejecting GM seeds, or promoting small-scale organic farming practices. Are you surprised Food Inc. didn’t want any part of that? If the reasons behind GM farming practices (ie/ “providing a sustainable solution to world hunger”) are so sound, then why the reluctance of Montsanto to be interviewed on Food Inc’s turf?

    Perhaps Food Inc. should have taken Montsanto up on their offer. The film could then have illustrated, Borat-style, how ridiculous the arguments are for GM seeds by letting the mouthpieces for the company speak for themselves, on film. Ignorance and short-sighteness make for great entertainment.

    As a food advocate, chef, and parent, you will never convince me that Montsanto’s band-aid solutions to world hunger are in the best interests of anyone but rich corporate farming executives. If your concern was truly about feeding the hungry , you wouldn’t be suing grandfathers who clean seed. Food, to Montsanto, is a commodity, as are people. They saw a demand, and filled it. End of story. It could have been anything, but it just happens to be what we put in our mouths three time a day.

  41. Monsanto has done a great job of setting up a spiffy marketing and PR campaign to play the victim card whenever any investigative report is released that points out how Monsanto consistently overlooks consumer’s well being for a quick profit or recoup on their investment. You can’t say GMO is safe or not safe because you don’t know. It hasn’t been around long enough to see the long term effects. Not knowing if something is safe is OK, it happens all the time. But I don’t want Monsanto or anyone else using my kids or my family as the proof that GMO is safe and OK and you shouldn’t either, why? Because, what if it turns out that GMO’s are not all safe? How would we know if we can’t even determine which of the cancer patients have been consuming GMO’s?
    More on track for this topic:
    This movie isn’t all about Monsanto, so why is Monsanto going after the whole movie? The movie is about the consumer’s right to know what they are purchasing and the controlling corporate interests who seek to keep that information hidden or unavailable. I read comments here and on other boards saying “If you don’t like Monsanto’s products or GMO’s then don’t buy them.” Well it’s not that easy. Try to find a product that says it was created with Monsanto’s GMO’s…or any GMO’s for that matter. The consumer can’t use their purchases to vote if they don’t know what they’re voting for with their purchases. This appears to be exactly what Monsanto and DuPont and all the corporate players in the food industry want. That is the point of this movie. It’s not about Monsanto, it’s about the food supply in the USA and how corporate interests are trumping consumer’s interests to know what they are eating.
    The right to know what we are eating is the fundamental step towards creating a truly open and free market. Monsanto doesn’t want this and they make you think you don’t need it with flashy PR blogs and a nice new clean logo and phrases like “Excessive labeling will only add cost and confusion for the consumer.” Then they go and use the analogy of a computer…like I’ve ever thought to myself “Gee, I would eat this computer, but I’m not sure about the source of the silicon in the chipset.” Give me a break. The only reason to oppose proper labeling of food items is that you are afraid your bottom line might suffer if people had the knowledge to make informed buying decisions. That maybe, just maybe, people don’t want to eat corn or soy or canola that has been engineered such that a continuous mist of herbicide can be applied to it.

  42. Kelly and JRS:

    Monsanto has several products that are not GM, so firstly I think you are confusing your objections and thus diluting your message.

    If you don’t want GM products, there is an EASY way to tell that the food you are eating is not GM: look for the already existing ORGANIC label. Current organic certification requires non-GM organisms. Problem solved, thanks for stopping by!

    If, on the other hand, you don’t want to eat ANY products grown from Monsanto seed, you may be in for some more work, because Monsanto sells a lot of non-GM hybrid seeds, which my understanding is may well be grown using organic techniques.

    And just to short-cut the process, I expect you to come back and say, “but the organic food may be contaminated with GM pollen”. Which is true, in principle.

    But, as the pet-food, infant formula, and peanut issues of late have shown, NO label is an absolute guarantee of any particular quality of the food.

    The only way to REALLY know what is in your food is to grow it yourself, and then hope there is no lead in the Ball Jar lids you use to can it. And likely you’ll have to give up coffee, chocolate, bananas, and the like. But at least you’ll “know”, except for pesticide drift from your neighbors, and residues from the previous owners of your yard, and….

  43. Kelly H said:

    “If your concern was truly about feeding the hungry , you wouldn’t be suing grandfathers who clean seed.”

    I tried to let this go, but I couldn’t. Very clever, if shallow, appeal to the emotional side of the argument.

    However, I’m not sure what you point is, Kelly. The saying goes: “Justice is Blind.” Monsanto is likely allowed to SUE anyone they want, but the Justice system determines if Monsanto WINS, and so Monsanto only sues people they feel they have enough evidence to win against.

    Are you arguing that grandfathers should be allowed to steal? Does that also extend to uncles? Or is it really just old people can steal? Or do you have to be old, male, and have children that have reproduced? Do they have to be biological grandchildren, or can either (or both) generations be adopted?

    Is it only stealing that is OK, or are other crimes allowed for grandfathers, too? [Editors note: Portion of comment redacted]

    The fact that the gentleman in question was a grandfather has NO bearing on whether he was guilty of a crime. In fact, I’d say MORE shame on him, for being a poor role model for his grandchildren.

  44. JRS – I think the big trip up for your arguement is that the public is not informed. Not only on whether they are eating GMOs or not (if the public were perfectly informed I’d be all for labelling if that is what people wanted, however I feel that were the public properly informed the demand for labelling would evaporate) your final line, and countless hysterical one liners of similar ilk in many stories in the press, illustrate the point. RR crops are not engineered so that a continuous mist of herbicide can be applied (I’d guess a continuous mist of anything would be pretty detrimental to any crop)- they are engineered to survive application of a far more benign herbicide than is used on non-GM crops under the same production system (ie non-organic) – I believe they end up being sprayed only once or twice in the life of the crop, which is worlds away from a continuous mist.

  45. AronTech – way to go! you’ve captured the essenence of what Monsanto is doing here. Once I started reading their questions for the way they were phased, I started getting the answers “correct”

    An invite to a food show? I checked the site, its worse than the one I go to every year. “shaken hands and kissin’ babies”, more pics of poker games and country singers than anything else – what an ol’ boys network. Of course your cronies there wouldn’t dare say anything bad.

    I work for a food company, have friends who are farmers both organic and regular, have my education as a food scientist as well as my mom was a dietitian and I can tell you something doesn’t feel right. Just a reminder to everyone (especially Monsanto) – everything in MODERATION.
    Eat organic if you can. Quit eating the corn chips and soda. Learn something about what you put in your body. Teach others, and pray to God (or whom ever) that somewhere down the line we’re not all in a world of hurt when the politics of food blows up in our face.

  46. Katheen says to stay on the topic – but there is only one – participation – lets not beat a dead horse. Next subject.

    I guess I object to Monsanto saying that they own the seed that comes from their seed. So if they sell me a cow and it has a calf, they own the rights to it and the milk it produces? Fact of the matter is some of that corn naturally mutates and is not the same corn they have a patent on, therefore how can any company (since Monstato is not the only one) claim they own all of it?

    Also, is it really in our best interest to use so much petroleum to grow and make our food? The general public is starting to see the error in its ways with SUVs, when will the Monstanto’s of the world see theirs?

  47. Troy S – On concerns around seed ownership – without the intellectual property rights granted around seed production etc modern agriculture would either stagnate, or become prohibitively expensive – patents dont only cover genetically modified seeds but also hybrids – without the ability to reap the rewards of the work that goes into producing elite hybrids and genetically modified crops there would be none of either, and advances in crop productivity would come to a grinding halt. I would imagine that if genetically modified cattle were to enter the market at any stage then there would absolutely have to be some sort of licensing agreement around the modification made, either some sort of yearly useage fee, no resale fee, or something else similar (the mind boggles at the various legal ramifications to be honest)

    On useage of petroleum (and indeed other resources) you also have to ask what the impact would be, at present, of using less of each various resource – without advancements in seed technology and agronomic practices using less is potentially catastrophic in the short term – while it is clear to most people that maintaining current resource useage going forward (with increasing demands on the food system) is not sustainable – which is exactly why Monsanto is pushing so hard to get water efficient crops onto the market(in the near term) and nitrogen efficient crops onto the market (in the mid to long term)