Monsanto Supersizes Farmers’ Weed Problem | Civil Eats

Monsanto Supersizes Farmers’ Weed Problem

So now the Monsanto Company thinks its bad reputation with the public is primarily an air time problem. As the agribusiness giant’s Chief Technology Officer (and recent World Food Prize winner) Robert Fraley told Politico recently, Monsanto has been “absolutely riveted and focused on giving technology and tools to farmers to improve their productivity and yield and we haven’t spent nearly the time we have needed to on talking to consumers and talking to social media.”

Seriously?

This is a company that spends, on average, $100 million per year on advertising. The past few years, it seems I can’t go to an airport (see cover photo) or ride the subway without seeing larger-than-life farmers smiling down at me from Monsanto’s ads. In 2011, the Business Marketing Association named Monsanto “Business Marketer of the Year.”

The company has a blog and an online news portal, and they put out press releases nearly every day. They’re on FacebookYouTube, and Twitter and I just counted no fewer than 37 official tweets from Monsanto just in a recent 24 hours.

Still, the company has concluded that it must do more to get its message out, including shaking up its communications staff and hiring a heavyweight PR firm to manage the company’s image.

But any new charm offensive, however well-managed, can’t overcome the fact that large agribusiness interests—Monsanto prime among them—stand as a major impediment to a healthy, sustainable food and farm future. And as UCS documents last week, this company’s responsibility for the latest problem facing farmers across the country—so-called superweeds—stands in stark contradiction to the warm and fuzzy public image Monsanto is trying to cultivate.

A new policy brief from the Union of Concerned Scientists, The Rise of Superweeds—And What to Do About It, tells the story of how Monsanto’s wildly popular “Roundup Ready” system of engineered corn, soybean, and cotton seeds and herbicide has accelerated the predictable tendency of weeds to develop immunity to weed-killers, causing major headaches for farmers. A recent survey found that more than 60 million acres of U.S. farmland are infested with Monsanto’s superweeds—that’s an area roughly the size of the state of Michigan.

We’ll bring the news to you.

Get the weekly Civil Eats newsletter, delivered to your inbox.

My colleague Doug Gurian-Sherman wrote at length previously about better weed control solutions from the science of agroecology. From planting cover crops to rotating more crops, these science-based practices are more effective and sustainable over the long term, and can even help farmers increase their profits.

Sadly, the communicators at Monsanto apparently haven’t heard this news. Maybe someone should take out an ad in their boardroom.

This post originally appeared on The Equation blog.

Today’s food system is complex.

Invest in nonprofit journalism that tells the whole story.

Karen Perry Stillerman is an analyst and advocate for transforming the U.S. agriculture and food system to one that produces affordable, healthful foods for consumers; reduces air and water pollution; and builds healthy soil for the farmers of tomorrow. She holds a master's degree in public affairs and environmental policy. Read more >

Like the story?
Join the conversation.

More from

GMOs

Featured

Members and supporters of the United Farm Workers march through Fresno during day 10 of their 24-day march on Aug. 12, 2022. (Photo credit: Larry Valenzuela, CalMatters/CatchLight Local)

California Farmworkers Gain Historic Union Win

After months of protests, Governor Gavin Newsom this week signed a bill allowing farmworkers to vote by mail in union elections. Supporters say the law will make union voting easier.

Popular

Will New Standards for Salmonella in Chicken Cut Down on Food Poisoning?

A raw whole chicken on a tray to illustrate the risks of salmonella in chicken

Op-ed: Is There Plastic in Your Soda? Beverage Companies Must Go Beyond Recycling

a worker stands in front of a massive pile of plastic bottles destined to be recycled

‘Slow Cooked’: How Food Policy Expert Marion Nestle Persisted

A collage of Marion Nestle present-day and the cover of her new memoir, slow cooked

The Field Report: Big Questions Linger About The White House Conference on Hunger

Volunteers load groceries into cars during an Alameda County Community Food Bank food giveaway on July 15, 2022 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)