J500 Media and the Environment

Acts versus Words: Monsanto by brennad87
February 13, 2009, 1:44 pm
Filed under: Business + Politics, Food + Health, Society + Media

It’s not what you say, Monsanto, it’s what you do.


The cruel irony and juxtaposition between the two final readings for this week shocked me. How can there be such a huge disparity between how Monsanto presents itself and its actual practices?  The lack of truth made me feel utterly powerless as a consumer.  Its Web site looked so legitimate and its rhetoric seemed so hopeful, yet I had just watched the YouTube video documenting Monsanto’s horrific impact on farmers in the developing world. 


I hate Monsanto, like millions of others… literally. Recently, a campaign has been launched called Millions against Monsanto.

I first became aware of the corporation when I lived in France. I had a professor who was extremely interested in sustainability and food—he was a real French foodie and localist, loving French food, markets and culture. Throughout the semester, most of our projects were centered on those issues within France. I believe Monsanto is a French company. I remember watching a particularly shocking video about the tests that Monsanto runs. The video included interviews with scientists who had been fired and blacklisted after producing tests that did not say exactly what Monsanto executives wanted.


Is this our only alternative? How cruel and terrible is that?

Is this our only alternative? How cruel and terrible is that?



I also had personal experience with the company’s use of pesticides. I used to not bother to wash my apples, thinking– I live in France, these have got to be great. Well, after a month of doing this, I began to have burning pain in my stomach. I soon learned from my teachers and professors that pesticide use in France, largely influenced by Monsanto, surpasses that of the rest of Europe. After poisoning my stomach in France, I am still overly sensitive to pesticides on food– even an unwashed couple of grapes can start the burning all over again. 


What ARE we actually eating?

What ARE we actually eating?




When I returned to the United States, I naively thought I had left the immediate impact of Monsanto behind. Yet soon the name popped up again. This time, it was in a book called Savage Inequalities. This book is about the disparities between schools in the United States. In discussing the lives of children in East St. Louis, the book mentioned areas the children play in which are contaminated by chemicals leaked by Monsanto.


Here we go again.  What scares me is the power that Monsanto has to portray itself so positively. It makes me realize how much power advertising and spin has on what the consumer actually reads. It also makes me realize, as a journalist, what a huge responsibility I have to supercede that. How can one find the truth?





6 Comments so far
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As environmentalists, activists, journalists, or just concerned members of this world, we need to do the research and think for ourselves rather than absorb and regurgitate everything that comes our way. It’s definitely difficult to find the truth, when many times the truth only seems true due to convincing rhetoric and censored information. I’m hoping that with what we’re learning in this class, we’ll also learn how to effectively search for that truth we’re all looking for.

Comment by janiec52

That’s so scary about your experiences with pesticides! Sometimes I am lazy about washing fruit before eating it, but now I will be sure to be much more careful.

Comment by jessicasb

Wow, Brenna! That’s unbelievable… I’m pretty lax, too, about washing fruit before eating it, and I can’t imagine finding out something simple as that is causing real damage to my body. I agree with you- every company out there spins a good line about their safe practices and environmental responsibility, regardless of the truth. Did you see Fast Food Nation? Imagine being a PR person working for Monsanto, and discovering the sorts of practices that occur in India. Do you quit? Ignore it? On a personal level, its a difficult choice- especially if you have a family, and responsibilities.

Comment by justinl7

Your personal experiences are very telling and enlightening…and with Millions Against Monsanto maybe the tide will turn.

Does Wal-Mart compare at all to Monsanto’s image? Wal-Mart has huge profits, but within the last few years has come under intense fire for many of its practices. Has that changed consumer behavior?

Comment by Lauren Keith

I always make sure to wash my fruit because once I saw a lady picking her nose and then touching all the apples… but now I have a much more serious incentive to do so! And I definitely agree with you about the Web site worries. I was surprised at how legitimate it seemed, and saw how easily their information could be eaten up by consumers.

Comment by amandat09

I agree, Justin– Fast Food Nation is a great film! It analyzes so many aspects of capitalism and food production.

Thinking about the PR people for places like Monsanto makes me think about the PR people for cigarette companies. Not so long ago, the harms of smoking were not well-known and companies hid a lot of practices from the public (sound familiar?). There are stories are very brave individuals stepping out of the system– at huge risk– to let people know what was really going on.

Comment by brennad87

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