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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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I heard Monsanto Employees Control USDA, FDA, etc

Do you ever wonder if Monsanto people are making decisions about the future of the country through positions at the USDA, FDA or other government bodies? It’s a strange question but based on the Twitter search strings I see sometimes, it seems this is a theory a lot of people think is plausible. What’s the basis for the thought? A handful of Monsanto employees in the past couple of decades left the company and ended up working for the U.S. Government.

In no way, does Monsanto control the government. We simply seem to have a shared goal of hiring good people.

There are a number of things that have to do with the way people make choices in their careers and the vast majority get to personal preference and drive. There are some things which Monsanto is impacted by or active in that should be noted:

  1. Career Mobility in the US – I’ve worked for half a dozen different businesses. And although I’m not a baby boomer, the stats from the Bureau of Labor Statistics on folks a bit older than me, it seems like that is pretty much the norm. The stats show: “These younger baby boomers held an average of 11 jobs from ages 18 to 44. (In this report, a job is defined as an uninterrupted period of work with a particular employer.) On average, men held 11.4 jobs and women held 10.7 jobs.” Given that, one would expect that quite a number of people move between public and private employers. And it appeared that the number has likely risen from previous generations.
  2. Clear loyalty – When I first went from one job to another that seemed closely related to the one I had left, it was clear to me and the two organizations involved that my allegiances had changed. I remember the time period involved more than a year of me excusing myself from meetings. That’s the same with many people in today’s changing job market as employment agreements require individuals to sever ties with previous employment and recuse themselves if there is any perceived conflict are commonplace. And the government takes it a step further with many employees having to swear to an oath of office.
  3. Recruiting for Expertise/Experience – What drives Monsanto’s hiring practices? We are fairly transparent about it, even having a page on our career site about who we hire. The characteristics looked for include ability to engage in teams and networks across diverse groups, courage and candor as we face some of the world’s toughest challenges head on and being able to respectfully disagree is highly valued, agility – in the dynamic industry we operate within, flexibility and the ability to adapt to new situations creates more opportunities along the way for our customers and employees’ careers, initiative and foresight, and a results orientation
  4. Working Environment – Monsanto is frequently mentioned as one of the best places to work in part because we encourage diversity, offer opportunities for new challenges and value innovation as well as making positive contributions to our communities. Being an agricultural firm, our employees are frequently connected to family farms where they see the positive impacts of our products.

As a tax payer, I hope the U.S. government is able to recruit good people who have a base of knowledge that helps the public greater good. That would require a diverse set of employees with experience in various areas of any given industry. Within agriculture, I hope there is a balance of people who know biotech and organic farming first-hand. I hope there are people who understand nutrition and can help set realistic programs into place. And I expect all who serve in the government to put that first, no matter where they’ve worked previously or hope to work in the future. They owe all of us that much since individually we are the ones funding their salaries.

6 Responses to "I heard Monsanto Employees Control USDA, FDA, etc"

  1. Monsanto may think it has “simply seem to have shared a goal of hiring good people.” I happen to think it is very unethical and seems to follow in line with many of the activities Monsanto participates in. I also understand you are doing your job in “smoothing” the image of Monsanto. In doing much research about Monsanto I disagree with your image of the company. It may be legal but how can you explain away the “unethicalness” of these examples:

    1) Michael Taylor was a lawyer for Monsanto for 7 years in which time he assisted in determining if it would be legal for states to have labeling laws regarding the rBGH, later he went to the FDA and helped to write the policy on labeling guidelines. Which in turn now require products without the (proven harmful) rBGH hormone in them to have the ridiculous statement about there being no difference between milk containing the hormone and milk not containing the hormone.

    2) Margaret Miller who has done research for Monsanto about the safety of rBGH. She then left and worked with the FDA.

    There are more examples of this type of hiring between Monsanto and the FDA. It is scary to those of us who want to live GMO free and those of us who are organic producers. Our very livelihood is being threatened because we now know GMO and organic cannot live side by side. GMO cross pollination is very real. It is also very difficult when farmers are spraying glyphosate more than they ever had before. Who wants toxic chemicals on their land…not many I can think of. Monsanto and their products are infringing on my rights and I am forced to take it because of unethical behavior. The USA needs to follow in the footsteps of the countries who have banned GMOs.

    Reply
    • Thank you for reading and for taking the time to respond. The product you are talking about is no longer part of Monsanto’s portfolio as we sold Posilac a number of years ago. As I understand it, the product was deemed safe before these individuals were there so there is no Monsanto connection there. I wonder if someone who shared your thoughts on organic farming due to previous work experience would also be considered unethical if they supported organics while in a position. I have to say I am confident there are a number of these people working for USDA as well. It sounds like you may farm organically and I certainly strongly support your right to choose that method of farming. Having friends who farm with biotech and organic both, there are a number of things that can be done to protect the choices each farmer makes and to enable their neighbors the same flexibility.

      Reply
  2. If your GMO food is so “safe” why fight so hard against putting a label on it? Not sure who you think you’re fooling with your stupid smiling farmer commercials and bs like this website claiming innocence. Why don’t you eat your own GMO food in your cafeteria at Monsanto? No one wants to eat poison especially those that create it.

    Reply
    • John, thank you for stopping by. You raise a few questions so I’ll take them one-by-one.

      On GMO labeling, there is a good bit of information on our position on this page http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/Pages/food-labeling.aspx. The key paragraph for this may be:
      “We agree with the AMA and support FDA’s guidance on labeling food products containing GM ingredients. We oppose mandatory labeling of food and ingredients developed from GM seeds in the absence of any demonstrated risks, as it could be interpreted as a warning or imply that food products containing these ingredients are somehow inferior to their conventional or organic counterparts.”

      On our commercials, those are actual farmer customers who are intelligent, generally happy people as are the majority of the farmers who buy our product. I happen to enjoy them as do many others but you are certainly entitled to your opinion of them. I think they represent a segment of farmers and our business quite well.

      As far as eating our own GMO food in the cafeteria, we actually serve GMOs proudly and have new products signed and those are always popular with our employees as we have a real pride about our work. There are a couple of blog posts that speak to it as well. The myth that we don’t serve it is incorrect, we have this one that talks broadly http://monsantoblog.com/2012/02/10/whats-served-in-monsantos-cafeterias/. Last year was the first year we had bt sweet corn on the market and we arranged to have some of the earliest harvested sent up for employees to enjoy — it was standing room only http://monsantoblog.com/2012/06/06/i-love-sweet-corn/. There are a number of environmental benefits from using biotech crops — soil erosion has been reduced as biotech enabled more farmers to use conservation tillage and the reduction of insect sprays is simply amazing. If you’d like to talk to farmers first-hand, I could point out some who have written about their experiences.

      Reply
  3. I’m just an average american mom with 3 little kids. I am so not a “tree-hugger” or a conspiracy theorist, but I just accidentally learned about GMO’s the other day from another mom. All I can say is that I am scared out of my mind! I am so frightened for my children and the future of the world, why are you changing nature? What God gave us to eat is perfect for us, why are you trying to mess with it? The use of GMO’s has risen parallel with the rising of autism/childhood food allergies and type 2 diabetes. Compare the graphs from the USDA website and CDC website on those health issues. Funny thing is, this crap was *snuck* so quietly into our food supply, I just can’t BELIEVE how most of us have not known about this until now. I feel betrayed. Most people don’t want this crap in their food, in case you didn’t know. (But I think you do know). That’s why you fight so hard to not have your junk labeled. Your stuff has filtered into EVERYTHING. My kids love Kraft macaroni & cheese, guess those days are long gone. I don’t know what to feed my kids anymore, I guess I’ll be homemaking every single thing they eat now. Takes a big toll on someone who raises kids but also works. People are starting to learn now about the frankenfood you are trying to peddle us and our future generation, you will be brought down. Nobody wants it. The GMO labeling WILL happen, because the PEOPLE want it. Your company should be ashamed.

    Reply
    • Thanks Nicole for coming to read some things we have written at the company. Being scared out of your mind about GMOs, that happens a lot more these days as people tell bits and pieces of stories and the science is really hard to understand. If you don’t mind, I’d like to give you a bit more information from my point of view and a few other resources you may want to check out.

      You ask why we are changing nature. Quite frankly, we are developing the products we do precisely because we care so deeply about our environment and the future. I have a very different viewpoint than the mom you talked to. I have lived surrounded by cotton, rice & soybean fields and have seen first hand the improvements in the environment. I have shown the kids in my family all of this up close since the mid 90s. The food we are producing based on our seed is every bit as safe as any other food you buy. In fact, I have not only eaten biotech sweet corn but proudly served it to family & friends showing them our product and talking to them about it.

      I’d like to give you a few more resources because I hope you will continue to read things and that even if you choose to eat organic foods which are GMO-free, you will see that you do not need to be afraid of GMO foods.
      1. the American Medical Association did a full report on food biotechnology some time ago. In it, they clearly say: aaa’Bioengineered foods have been consumed for close to 20 years, and during that time, no overt consequences on human health have been reported and/or substantiated in the peer-reviewed literature.” You can see it here https://www.ama-assn.org/ama1/pub/upload/mm/443/a12-csaph2-bioengineeredfood and a pediatrician who works here to offer a clear perspective on health recently did an interview on the topic http://juliesfreshair.com/general/agricultural-biotechnology-wrapping-our-heads-around-the-science/
      2. You can learn some of the basics about GMOs at this website http://gmoanswers.com/explore and they have a section where you can browse questions others with concerns have asked and experts from all over have taken the time to answer.
      3. I recently had some bloggers in to visit, one happened to be a mom who’s big into crossfit. She decided to write a post about what she saw. http://meg-in-training.com/visit-monsanto/
      4. Several farmers who have grown biotech crops blog about their experiences. A farmer/mom in North Dakota writes this http://wagfarms.com/2012/05/31/thankful-thursday-technology/ and a farmer in Nebraska wrote a post about the safety of biotech http://cornfedfarmer.blogspot.com/2012/06/is-my-sweet-corn-safe.html

      I hope you can take a bit of time and read through some of those resources. And I hope you begin to see, we share your sense of commitment to the future and we are trying to provide for the long-term health of our children and our planet.

      Reply

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