You probably already know that Monsanto is a multinational agrochemical and agricultural giant, and you may well have heard that this corporation does not always have the consumer’s best interests at heart. However, do you really have a clear grasp of why Monsanto has such a bad reputation? Here are ten significant things you need to know.
1. There are reasons to doubt the safety of Monsanto’s GMOs
Monsanto prides themselves on their pioneering development of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), but there is a fierce debate about the associated safety concerns. In particular, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine cautions that there are studies suggesting a link between GMOs and organ damage, immune disorders, premature aging, reproductive issues, and even cancer. It is often noted that such health problems have been on the rise since GMOs were introduced in the mid-1990s.
2. GMO ingredients don’t need to be labelled
You might think that it should be easy to avoid GMOs, but the alarming truth is that Monsanto has fought to prevent clear labeling. In fact, American is one of the few countries that doesn’t require GMO ingredients to be evident on the label.
3. GMOs are banned in some countries
In other parts of the world, the views of corporations like Monsanto haven’t stood in the way of strict regulations on GMOs. For example, France and Germany are particularly opposed to genetically modified food, and Austria, Hungary, and Greece all ban both cultivation and sale of GMOs.
4. Monsanto is a threat to the small farm industry—to a certain extent
You may have heard that Monsanto is keen on pursuing destructive lawsuits that result in owners of small farms being sued for “patent infringement” after growing genetically modified crops (sometimes even by accident). Monsanto has indeed aggressively pursued farmers who may have been using GMO seeds without paying the company, and some of their intimidation tactics have been proven to be directed at farmers who had not engaged in intentional wrongdoing.
However, the extreme claim that Monsanto sues farmers who end up with trace GMOs in their fields after cross-pollination does not appear to be supported.
5. GMOs may be bad for livestock
Some researchers working on the environmental impact of GMOs have found that animals that are fed a diet mainly comprised of GMO crops appear to be more likely to suffer from certain health problems. In particular, they might be more likely to have metabolic disturbances and immune system dysfunctions.
6. Monsanto will not compensate poisoned Vietnamese families
Monsanto’s Agent Orange contains dioxin, which is linked to a wide array of horrible health problems (including malignancies, neurological problems, and birth defects). In spite of numerous studies affirming these connections, Monsanto will not compensate the Vietnamese civilians and US armed forces veterans who were exposed to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. Representatives of Monsanto have repeatedly claimed that dioxin is non-toxic.
7. GM crops may not be superior to conventional crops
While one of the main points of GM crops is meant to be that they lead to yield improvement when compared to conventional crops, a 2014 study in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability highlights the fact that the US agroecosystem (which involves much more GM-biotechnology than most other countries) does not have exceptional yields when compared to Western Europe.
Nor can the US plausibly be said to demonstrate improved sustainability. A credible report from 400 scientists and sponsored by the UN/World Bank concludes that GM crops are not doing much to help the urgent issues of poverty, hunger and climate change, stating that there are better alternatives (such as organic farming).
8. Monsanto’s GMOs are leading to weed resistance
The introduction of GM crops has been shown to have led to increasingly resilient insects and weeds. Monsanto’s famous Roundup product was designed to get rid of troublesome weeds without harming crops, but excessive use of Roundup has encouraged the evolution of resistant weeds that require expensive techniques that farmers hoped to have left behind. Monsanto reassures customers that the issue is “manageable” but the National Research Council notes that the emergence of these resistant weeds is starting to outweigh the benefits that GMOs may have otherwise provided.
9. Monsanto lied about Roundup’s safety
In addition to promoting weed resistance, the weed killer Roundup is composed of glyphosate that Monsanto has falsely advertised as being “safer than table salt” and almost “non-toxic” to animals. 2007 saw the company being convicted on the basis of this false advertising. The European Union confirms that glyphosate is both dangerous for the environment and toxic for aquatic organisms.
10. GMO ingredients may increase allergy frequency
Finally, it’s worth noting that allergic reactions to soy have increased since genetically modified soy appeared on the market. This correlation was noticed in 1999 by a team of scientists at the York Laboratory of England, just after genetically modified soy first appeared in the UK. However, other researchers argue that the evidence is inconclusive and that genetic engineering of foods might even help to reduce the potential for allergies (especially in highly allergenic foods like peanuts).