Babies and Bathwater: Monsanto
In a world ridden with woo, it can be hard to discern between something that is of genuine concern and something harmless that people oppose due to a faulty understanding of the world. However, to disregard any criticisms of any given thing just because the woo-minded oppose it is to endorse a stubbornly contrary sort of dogma.
One example of something that is often criticized for unscientific (or, at least, not verified) reasons is Monsanto, the global agricultural corporation.
Most of the fuss that we tend to hear about Monsanto relates to their foods derived from GMO, or genetically modified organisms. In other words, people tend to be most upset by the idea of food whose genetic code has been altered in a lab as opposed to selective breeding, an older genetic modification technique.
While there seems to be quite a bit of fear surrounding genetically modified foods, most of the evidence does not indicate that is particularly unhealthy or toxic. As is the case with anything other technological advancement, there might be issues with it, but the most measured and methodical approach would be to take each issue on a case-by-case basis. In the case of genetically modified foods, there have been some early issues with allergic reactions, but those were pulled from the market when the issues were discovered.
Reactions over GMO aside, though, Monsanto is problematic in many, many ways. In fact, even in the case of groups who oppose Monsanto based on their perception of food safety issues, of their top ten list of “Things Monsanto Doesn’t Want You to Know“, four of the list items have little to do with food safety, and one is particularly disturbing: Monsanto’s litigiousness against small farmers. Between 1997 and 2010, 144 cases filed by Monsanto have made it to litigation, while 700 were settled out-of-court. Monsanto is opposed to the common farming practice of saving seeds, and while this could be argued to be their choice and right in business practice, the fact is that it is quite difficult to buy non-GMO seeds (i.e. non-Monsanto seeds). The inability to save seeds has made farming far more expensive both domestically and abroad.
Aside from the seed issue, Monsanto had targeted dairy producers who advertise their milk as rBGH free. Whether or not rGBH is controversial due to legitimate reasons, for them to target other companies for truthfully advertising their products is somewhat disingenuous given that they falsely advertised Roundup as “biodegradable.”
In addition to current issues, Monsanto has a history of creating toxic waste dumps, over 50 of which have been targeted by the United States government for clean up, not to mention the toxic waste issues it has created in other countries.
To reverse a proverb, the enemy of my enemy is not automatically my friend. Just because Monsanto is opposed by some people who are afraid of genetic modification does not mean that all people who dislike the company and its practices do so for the same reasons. To assume that any company that is targeted by pro-woo crowds must be just fine as a business is to engage in an odd reversal of the contrarian fallacy.
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