“Monsanto is evil.” I’ve seen headlines like that, the latest one for a story about the readers of a website catering to people interested in natural news, health and information. The readers had voted Monsanto as “Most Evil Corporation of the Year.” Given the readers and the site’s coverage of GM food, even the editor acknowledged that those who voted were largely a self-selecting, anti-Monsanto crowd.
If you search the web looking for “Monsanto” and “evil,” you will find the type of thing that sensational movies are made of. But thanks to a new beta product from Google that shows what others in “your social circles” are saying, I have a very different subset of results, too. With the number of farmers and other people who work in agriculture I’ve connected to, Google provides me a very different perspective.
Sure, it’s no surprise that Monsanto employees have written blog posts on the topic. After all, we’re the ones who get painted with that “evil” brush. A few favorites I’ve read from the Monsanto ranks are:
• A scientist who self-identifies as a progressive who believes in enacting positive social change wrote this post. Jeff hopes someday we’ll be able to work together across politics and science to make the world a better place.
• My good friend Mica, who’s been doing a lot of social media work, saw a lot of our critics talking about Monsanto routinely in terms of “evil.” Instead of getting down about the negativity she saw elsewhere, she talked to John Purcell about why he works here. John’s positive attitude as he looks at the world is infectious and reflects so many of our people.
• And before social media was a specific part of my job, I wrote a post on my personal blog, of which I remain proud.
But it’s really the thoughts from farmers and others who get to know our products by planting them on their land that matter to me. I came across two blog posts (and there are a lot of others) and lengthy discussion in the comments give just as clear of a message:
• An Iowa farm wife recently wrote a blog post about how when she hears the accusations against “industrial agriculture,” she knows her family is under attack. And when most people tell her they know her farm is different, she becomes more frustrated because she knows her farm is like so many others and that “big corporations” are not controlling her family. She also explains the interaction of your family, safety, health and research as well as honoring the choices others make for their farms and families.
• Shaun Haney, whose family has a seed business in Canada and farmed until recently, wrote a post about the blinders needing to come off and rhetoric giving way to conversation. “We need to get past the rhetoric that Monsanto is the evil empire,” he wrote, “and all people that eat organic food smoke pot and live in a grass hut down by the river.”
Before someone who’s critical of Monsanto suggests I live in a bubble where everyone holds hands singing “Kumbaya” and praising Monsanto, I want to say my social network is as diverse as my personal community. I frequently have conversations with people who oppose biotechnology and our company’s efforts in general. This morning as one of those critics tweeted a list of who someone should follow for discussions. I was listed along with some of our most vocal critics. Someone else noted the diversity of her recommendations and she replied “well, diversity is the point, you can’t learn very much from people who all think the same.”
I agree. I’d would add that you also can’t learn much when polarizing words like “evil” are used.