Ag Policy Blog

Monsanto Protests and the Public Policy Debate

Chris Clayton
By  Chris Clayton , DTN Ag Policy Editor
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Monsanto Co. was the center of protest news over the weekend due to a global protest rally sparked through social media.

Backers of the protests claim there were 2 million people involved in 436 cities on Saturday. Those numbers, an average of 4,500 people per rally, don't hold based on the reports on Sunday. Still, there were some large rally photos from a few major cities. Most major news websites posted the same Associated Press piece about the rallies.

People protested genetic engineered crops, the lack of biotech labeling on food products and protested harming the bees.

On social media, well, let's just say there's a conspiracy out there tying Monsanto to just about everything but the Benghazi scandal. Give it time and I'm pretty sure someone will make that connection as well.

Beyond the numbers, it's still surprising to see the level of activism directed at one company and technology created primarily to help increase annual crop production.

The New York Times approached the issue over the weekend with a story about more food companies trying to find baking ingredients that are not from genetically engineered crops. Companies also were trying to determine the value proposition of going non-biotech and labeling their own products as such. The push for certification for food suppliers started going through the roof this spring after Whole Foods announced it would convert its stores to requiring labels for foods with biotech ingredients.…

The New York Times piece neglected to note the Senate rejected an amendment by Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., to allow states the ability to require labeling. Sanders offered the amendment, he said, because the law isn't clear whether states can allow "GMO free" labels, or require labeling for foods made with ingredients for biotech crops. Despite a growing push in state legislatures, the vote failed on Thursday, 71 to 27.

Yet, Whole Foods has put its stamp on the farm bill. Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., talked to members of the Organic Trade Association on the afternoon her committee passed the farm bill to the Senate floor. Stabenow told OTA members she had already talked that day to Walter Robb, president and chief operating officer of Whole Foods, about the organic checkoff being approved in committee. Both the Senate and House farm bills have provisions that would give USDA authority to create an organic checkoff program.

A Time magazine piece on the rallies attributed Robert Fraley, Monsanto's chief technology officer, saying the company will hold a "bee summit" in June looking at the colony collapse problems.

I can be found on Twitter @ChrisClaytonDTN


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ron shepard
6/2/2013 | 6:42 AM CDT
Just Label It!
Jay Mcginnis
5/30/2013 | 5:39 AM CDT
I'd say Walmart and Monsanto are evil twins Bonnie.
Bonnie Dukowitz
5/29/2013 | 3:55 PM CDT
Kind of like Walmart, Jay?
Jay Mcginnis
5/29/2013 | 10:33 AM CDT
Making money with no limits is what Monsanto is about, whatever happened to anti-trust laws and monopolies? Why is it that Clarence Thomas got to make a decision on the supreme court case when he was once employed by Monsanto? Dick is right, Monsanto wouldn't be in business if no one bought their product,,,,, who else has a product? What other company sues their own customers? You know Dick there are some farmers (including me) that aren't blind corporate Lemming/clones and don't wish to farm for the "company store" corporate giants!
Vince Moye
5/29/2013 | 7:00 AM CDT
Trouble is the the Big Mon wants to own every farmers future by tying up patents for ever. The technology is OK.
Bonnie Dukowitz
5/29/2013 | 6:52 AM CDT
The only company(s) created to lose money, Jay, are those founded for tax write-offs. EWG, for example. Good Grief.
Dick Doriguzzi
5/28/2013 | 1:20 PM CDT
Right Jay, nobody should strive to make a profit !!! Monsanto would not be in business if no one bought their product . I did not realize you were the spokesperson for all American Farmers, excuse me.
Jay Mcginnis
5/28/2013 | 8:35 AM CDT
Whole Foods needs to learn that check off organizations become their own monster that then allies with corporations,,,, the Soybean Association is totally behind Monsanto, NOT American farmers! Also Chris you are very wrong saying that Monsanto is a "company and technology created primarily to help increase annual crop production" they are a company created and dedicated to make huge profits, PERIOD! The public wants labeling, they deserve it! Let the markets decide their fate even if GMO's are safe the people feel that Monsanto is not right in making these decisions!