Working at a media company, I am used to seeing negative or critical comments come across my desk or appear in my e-mail in-box. As the old saying goes, “it goes with the territory.”
Yet I am somewhat amazed at the amount of online venom that exists for agricultural giant Monsanto. Just the mere mention of the words “Monsanto” or “glyphosate/Roundup” in an online article will inevitably see a host of e-mailers denouncing the company for its “evil ways.” At times, this hatred borders on the ridiculous, such as when e-mailers blamed the company for some recent bee deaths in Oregon or the fertilizer plant disaster in West, TX. (For the record, Monsanto doesn’t produce either the kinds of crop protection products suspected in the bee incident or fertilizer.)
Given these facts, I’ve often wondered why there exists an entire haters culture toward Monsanto compared with other agricultural companies. And I’m apparently not alone. Recently, I ran across an online article that asked this exact same question.
“I find it very interesting that Monsanto is one of the most hated companies on the planet, with the Internet and social media full of stories and passed-around memes that declare it to be one of the worst companies in the world,” said the article’s author. “And yet, DuPont is just as big in genetically-modified seeds and agricultural chemicals and pursues largely the same policies as Monsanto with respect to pricing, Intellectual Property enforcement and so on. So it merits the question – why is Monsanto evil but DuPont isn’t?”
In the course of this article, the author pointed to three reasons why Monsanto seems to be so universally disliked:
- It made dangerous chemicals such as Agent Orange.
- It has “bought” the U.S. government and regulatory agencies off through lobbying efforts to sell its products such as Roundup Ready crops to an unsuspecting public.
- It has supposedly ruthlessly prosecuted growers for unknowingly growing its products in their fields.
In the end, the author pokes serious holes in each and every one of these arguments. “I suspect that Monsanto is a victim of its own success,” he concludes. “All they do is crop science. Likewise, they’ve been very good at what they do.”
I tend to agree. If Monsanto were just another player in the agricultural field rather than the leader it is, the company would probably have a few more online fans as opposed to its numerous foes.