“Fortune’s” Senior Editor Brian O’Keefe interviewed CEO of Monsanto Hugh Grant on the semi-important criticisms that have arisen due to the company’s rapid growth in the past 8 years (video link is above). Hugh Grant is the Chairman of the Monsanto Board of Directors and of the Executive committee. Monsanto began as a pesticide and chemical producer, then rapidly expanded into the agricultural community with their GMO engineering programs (Genetically Modified Organisms). This company is infamous for their exploitation of small grass-roots farmers in that they sue farmers for infringing upon their patents (GMO), when their crops infest surrounding farmlands during pollination. This infestation is due to natural causes, but how Monsanto deals with this is anything but above-board. Not only does Monsanto target small, organic, and independent farmers, their GMO seeds have been scientifically analyzed and proven to be detrimental to human health as well as cause environmental disturbances.
This specific interview addresses a few chosen controversies such as Monsanto’s rapid rise in the agricultural sector. O’Keefe begins his interview by summarizing some of the issues with a blanket term used by many anti-GMO and anti-Monsanto activists; “Frankenfood”. This term refers to GMOs being so genetically tweaked that it may cause humans to become “Frankenstein-like” or for the food itself to infest the planet beyond repair. He also touches upon Monsanto’s monopolization of the seed market, being sued heavily by competitor Dupont due to anti-trust issues, and questions Hugh Grant’s methods in running Monsanto.
Grant responds by saying that he “doesn’t see a contradiction by doing well in business and do well in the environment” which is not so much an answer to O’Keefe’s question as it is a possible defense towards previous allegations. He goes on to say that the “untold story” of Monsanto is that “as we [Monsanto] have grown, the focus that we have brought to increase productivity, not just in the US but in many parts of the world….. I’m very proud of what the company does.” In saying this, Grant fails to mention that Monsanto has been quite literally burned out (local farmers setting fire to GMO crops) of 16 countries, and still has not directly answered O’Keefe’s prompt of how CEO Grant runs the company.
O’Keefe then presents Grant with a question regarding last year’s publications by the “Union of Concerned Scientists” that questioned yield growth and genetically modified crops, and how that relates to Monsanto’s efforts to feed the world (Africa in particular). Grant replies “it took 10 years for the first billion acres to be planted, and the second billion acres were planted in about 3 years….. there is a yield benefit in that” This exemplifies Monsanto’s determined attitude towards rapid growth, however, the company’s determination towards implementing practices preached is a different story all together. He goes on to say that the science behind feeding Africa is now 15 years old.
Moreover, Monsanto has promised to share it’s drought resistant GMO technology with Africa, but Grant argues that multinational corporations such as Monsanto cannot succeed alone in this. He goes on to say that the relationship between technology providers, NGOs and technical know-how from independent 3rd parties underneath an “umbrella of Government corporations” has made progress difficult if not impossible. “I don’t think it’s technology that is going to save Africa, but to double yields in the next 30 years. This statement completely contradicts Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Drought Tolerant Maize in South Africa plan prepared by the African Centre for Biosafety. The report states that;
“The reality is that drought tolerant crops are a long way off. Improved stress tolerance in plants by genetic methods requires a better understanding of the underlying physiological, biochemical, and molecular events. ” The report goes on to say that “The successful manipulation and transfer of many complex genes, which can respond to a variety of conditions, and not produce unwanted toxins and allergens, is a long way off for current scientific knowledge with some geneticists admitting that even hoping for drought tolerance in the next 10 or 20 years may be too ambitious.”
With Grant’s dodgy and inconclusive responses, and O’Keefe’s surface level questions, not much is gained from this interview. But, with some very light research one can find that Monsanto is not what its commercials boast or what its CEO protects, which is that they “More important, they are the support system of the world’s economy, working day in and day out to feed, clothe and provide energy for our world.”
However Monsanto’s history of suing small time farmers, exploiting labor, and harboring malcontent in relation to controlling the world’s food supply by suggesting the criminalization of seed-saving (and creating their own “super bee” with their new RNAi program), suggests anything but their intent to support and provide food for the world with the “selflessness” that they boast.
– Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Drought Resistant Maize in South Africa: