This Saturday the Illinois Farm Families have invited a handful of guests (including yours truly) to join them for a tour of the Monsanto Biotechnology Research Center! Finally, I have the opportunity to engage with the scientists and the business minds behind the ever controversial GMOs.
The Monsanto name has become synonymous with GMOs despite the efforts of competitors like Dupont and Syngenta (to name a few) who are also trying to corner the market on GMOs. Monsanto has managed to capture most of the seed market. In fact, Monsanto lead the charge to apply the biotechnology business model to agriculture, a model that was typically associated with drug companies. Using this business model, a company invests in the research and development of a product and recoups their costs from the patents. Monsanto markets patent protected seeds with enhanced traits or genetics.
As a result, farmers who purchase Monsanto seeds sign agreements not to sell or save the seeds from their harvests, a practice that was once the cornerstone of the farming industry. The result of these practices are two-fold. On one hand the research has produced more efficient seed growth, soil-type specific seeds and weather resistant crops, but on the other hand it has led to lawsuits against farmers and highlights the fragility of today’s food supply due to seed regulation by companies.
In addition, Monsanto’s production of GMO seeds has also garnered extensive public criticism due to speculative health concerns about long-term consumption. Currently the FDA has not found cause to remove GMOs from the market, but there continues to be controversy surrounding the labeling and distribution of GMOs.
Unfortunately, Monsanto’s history as a chemical company doesn’t encourage consumer confidence. A short list of Monsanto’s previous products include “All” laundry detergent, DDT, Agent Orange and rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone). Their current products include glysophate herbicides (Roundup), crop seed (i.e. corn, alfalfa, grain) and Bt cotton.
I’m anxious to report back what I learn on this trip, but in the interim I’m hoping to hear from you! Do you have questions or concerns that you would like me to address with Monsanto? If so, leave them here in the comment section and I’ll be more than happy to share them with the Monsanto representatives during the tour.
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