By Linda Newman
Staring my first day at Monsanto in St. Louis, I had no idea what to expect. Was it going to be anything like having a job back home in Scotland? Would I be in totally over my head in my first ‘real job’ ever? Had I dressed right?
My name is Linda Newman and I am an intern with the Saltire Foundation, a Scottish foundation that gives final year Scottish university students the chance to intern abroad for the summer. I was fortunate enough to be accepted into this program and placed in St Louis, Missouri, at Monsanto.
Before I had the daunting phone interview with Monsanto at the beginning of the year, I obviously did my research on the company. And you can’t research a company like Monsanto without running into the unrelenting amount of negative criticism the company receives on a daily basis. Back in my student life at Edinburgh University I am a debater, so it is in my nature to question, to disagree, to push the truth to the absolute limit until I am sure I understand the whole story. Once I was successful in the phone interview for Monsanto I was looking forward to arriving and being able to talk to the employees about the image of the company and how they deal with it.
And the best part about my first week has to be that not only has every person I have met has happily answered every single one of my questions; but they have encouraged me to ask them. In every meeting I have had people have specifically wanted to know what I think about the issues facing Monsanto in the US. Coming from the UK, I am in the unique position that I am removed from the debates surrounding the company, whether it is on biotechnology or ethanol, and I can bring a new opinion to the table.
I have had so many incredible experiences this week but the one that stood out was the Sustainable Yield Pledge Awards, or what has been nicknamed the ‘Monsanto Emmys’- as the two presenters were dressed so brilliantly in their bow ties (for more information see Feeling Like a Winner). All the projects were inspirational, but the one that stood out to me was the project where Zellipah Githui took Monsanto seeds and her expertise back to her family in Kenya. She taught them better farming practices and gave them higher quality seed- the results were outstanding. Her actions brought about real change in the community.
What she taught the people will remain and improve their quality of life dramatically. Furthermore, the people from her community are passing the knowledge the gained from Zellipah on to other farming families, and in this way education is being shared throughout the region in Kenya.
To me, that is what true sustainability is – not necessarily having a lot of money or resources but taking a simple product like seeds and a simple tool like education back to a community that needs it. This seemingly small action then grows into something that is so much bigger than you could have initially imagined.
I am in no way an emotional person but hearing her story (and also how incredibly happy and grateful she was when she won the Judges Choice Award) made me slightly misty eyed. Her story and everything that I have seen and heard here at Monsanto has inspired me and made me incredibly excited to be working for a company who is committed to making a real, lasting change in society, at a time when society is desperately in need of a shake-up.