This is a question I hear again and again from new friends, surprised to hear that I work for Monsanto. Their surprise is certainly understandable. I don’t exactly fit the stereotype. I’m politically progressive, I shop at my local natural food store and the local farmers’ markets, and I belong to natural parenting and attachment parenting mommy groups. I’ve got my own little organic garden growing in pots out on my back porch. I even cloth diaper my baby.
So why on earth would I find myself working at a place like Monsanto? Everyone who’s ever read anything on the internet knows what they say about Big Bad Monsanto. So why does someone like me, a liberal, political activist, lactivist, environmentalist, marginal locavore, and attachment parenting advocate work for a company like that?
Here’s what I tell my friends:
I didn’t fall into a job and Monsanto. It wasn’t something that just happened. I actively sought a position with the company. I wanted to work here, because I believe the work we are doing has a positive impact on the environment and the world.
I’ll use cotton as an example. I grew up in the Brazos River Valley in Texas, and cotton is something I know a little about. My family used to go every year to a local cotton gin festival. We took tours of the cotton gins. I learned about pickers, strippers, modules, and bales in 4H. And it was always fun to pick up the leftover fluff at the side of the road to play with, pick the seeds out, and comb it until it was soft enough to go into a doll bed.
As I grew older, though, I began to learn why it was that my parents wouldn’t let me roll around in those fluffy white piles. Cotton is an essential commodity, and most of us wear it every day, but it takes a lot to produce and truly can impact the environment because of the necessary chemicals. If you have ever wondered why organic cotton costs twice as much as conventionally grown cotton, it is because it is that much more labor intensive to produce and the yields are not as great.
That’s where biotechnology comes in. Through the use of biotechnology, we’re reducing the amount of chemicals needed to produce high-yielding cotton. This is good for the soil, the water table, the farmers, and the consumers. It means we don’t have to spray fields as heavily for pests and weeds. It means we can produce more in sustainable ways, and as a consumer, I feel a personal responsibility to support sustainable agriculture.
Whether it is through conventional breeding to breed a more nutritious head of broccoli or through biotechnology to create a cotton variety that doesn’t need as much pesticide sprayed on it, we’re helping to create a sustainable ag industry. While neither organic farming nor biotechnology is a panacea, each certainly has a role to play. I dream of the day when, through biotechnology, we can reduce the use of farm chemicals to nothing.
This, I explain to my friends, is why I work for Monsanto, and I am proud to be a tiny part of ensuring that my children have a bright future. Whether it’s politics, religion, or food, my friends and I don’t always agree on everything–well educated people do sometimes arrive at different conclusions, after all–but we do respect each others’ passion and find common ground in our love for the earth and our belief in the need for a better future for our children.