Well, in one way you've answered your own question - sometimes companies
represent themselves differently than they really are! (What a surprise!)
Digging deeper, you might find one of two things:
1) They choose commitments that sound good but don't really go to the heart of
the harm that they do. For instance, some of the specific commitments I've seen
them make focus attention on reducing emissions from production at their plants
- but don't really touch on the real problem, the impact of their _products_ on
the global ecosystem.
2) They might make statements that are indeed contradicting their actions - in
which case, I think it's important that we call them on that.
I too look at their products (rGBH, Nutrasweet (linked to serious healthy
problems), pesticides, genetically-engineered soybeans, PCBs, dioxins, etc.) and
wonder how they see themselves. Do they know/care about the risks they put us
under? Or do they believe their own PR re: safety? I wish I knew how
Machiavellian they really are.
When I look to see their true nature, two key things pop out at me:
- THEY CLAIM TO BE SAVIORS NOT HARMERS. For example, genetic engineering
proponents say that genetic engineering is needed to stop world hunger. But if
they're really being selfless/Mother Theresa, why don't they start by stopping
making products that poison us and the environment - and not making soybeans
that allow more poisoning (pesticide use) to occur? Is this an inconsistency
that reveals that they're truly only acting in self-interest, or do they feel
that their poisons really offer net benefit to the world? For instance, what
good for the world is rGBH's ability to create more milk at the expense of the
cows' well-being - when we have a milk oversupply!? Or why are they
promulgating worldwide growing and use of these genetically-engineered products
when the real demonstrable concerns have not been handled? To save the world
from hunger? Or is the real criteria what is good for Monsanto, then how we can
justify it to others....?
- THEY REFUSE PUBLIC POINT-OF-SALE INFORMATION. I'm sure they'd be the first to
argue for a free market (NAFTA, etc.) I don't recall them standing up against
it. But one of the key elements to a free market is full information for
purchasers. Then why do they resist so strongly the labelling of their products
(rGBH, genetically-engineered soybeans corn and potatoes, etc.)? Not only did
they refuse to label products produced with rGBH, they went to court to try to
stop small dairy producers who wanted to advertise that they didn't use it. If
the stuff really is safe, why not just be above board? I think this is a real
vulnerability in their "We're good guys" positioning. Especially when they say
they're committed to the "public's right to know" (see attached email).
First, they say they can't label the genetic soybeans, because they can't
separate them. But then we find out they're already separating them, by making
the farmers send back the seeds at the end of the season and buy them back
again. Their other comments are basically that the population is unreasonable
in their concerns over these products so they don't want labelling to make it
worse, which I think shows their basic attitude to both the population and
democracy - fine to sell products to, but wouldn't want (these "unwashed") to
>> In summary, I'd say Monsanto feels comfortable making products that take
monumental risks with our personal and global well-being - whether from hubris,
disconnection from heart and spirit, or just bad science, I don't know, maybe a
mix, depending on the person - and that they will use substantial energy and
economic resources to prevent point-of-sale info on their products (or on
competitors') and to suppress expression and action on any customer/citizen
concerns that will harm their product sales - including a demand for better
scientific proof of safety before widespread distribution.
To me, that's not corporate responsibility committed to ensuring public or
global best interests, or anything in that arena. But I suspect that if you
look at their language, they don't define these things the way I do. I suspect
that's also true for their definitions of sustainability (theirs' appears to be
systems that require regular input of Monsanto products....)
So I encourage and appplaud those who take the corporate statements and contrast
them to their actions to reveal the huge gaps, holding them accountable for
their words and actions. It's more than about time, and there's much more that
can be done here.
I'm forwarding some email that also might interest you.
P. S. According to a press release calling on people to boycott top 8
poisoning/pesticide companies, these are some of other Monsanto products:
"NutraSweet, Equal; BGH (aka rBGH, rBST and Posilac); Simplesse (an artificial
butter fat), Simple Pleasures Frozen Dairy Desserts, Salad Dressing and
Mayonnaise, the artificial fibers Astroturf and Wear Dated Carpets; the home
insulation foam sheeting Fome-Cor; garden herbicides Roundup and Dimension;
other agricultural chemicals -- Lasso, Harness Plus, Far Go, Avauer, Machete,
Bronco, Bullet, Crop Star GB, Freedom, Landmaster BW, Micro-Tech Partner, Ram
Rod, Accord, Buckle, Fallow Master, Lariat, Rodeo; the Flavr Savr tomato. Be
alert for dozens of new Monsanto genetically engineered plants including corn,
potatoes and soybeans."
P. P. S. As an example of how aggressive Monsanto/this industry is - I got an
email from Darek Szwed in Poland who says that "Poland has low-input agriculture
(high employment, small farms, small energy/chemicals - great potential on
developing ecological agriculture), [and] Monsanto wants "to give [genetically]
modified seed for free or at a discount" to Polish farmers, CAP threatening
Polish "almost ecological" agriculture, first PHARE (grant program for CEE
countries to help them in transition period) grant in 1989 was a
donation of $60 million of pesticides banned in the US and Europe)". Best not
to underestimate what they will do to promulgate their vision of corporate-owned
and manipulated agriculture.
--- FORWARD ---
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Peter M. Ligotti)
Date: 96-11-11 14:15:08 EST
MONSANTO'S DIRTY TRICKS
As the going has gotten tougher for rBGH, Monsanto and its industry supporters
have stepped up their campaign of disinformation and intimidation.
As Canadian activist Brewster Kneen has noted, "The most
remarkable features of Monsanto's work are that none of its
products contribute to human welfare or nutrition. As a result
a significant part of its activities and rsources are devoted
to trying to 'force' its products through the regulatory process
and into our food."
In service of this mission, Monsanto has initmidated dairies and
retailers; misled the media, consumers and farmers; threatened
school boards with lawsuits if they ban rBGH from school
cafeterias; lobbied against rBGH labeling bills in Congress
and states; and threatened states with lawsuits if they pass
rBGH labeling laws.
Apparently, Monsanto's intimidation campaign knows no borders.
Before the European Union (EU) passed its ban on rBGH, Monsanto
warned that the EU would be found "in restaint of trade" under
the new GATT regulations, and thereby subject to trade and
financial sanctions. Monsanto also has threatened to pull all
of its business out of Canada if the Canadian government does
not approve the sale of rBGH.
While performing dirty work behind the scenes, Monsanto and the
biotech industry are working to shine up their public image.
Recently, Monsanto published, and distributed with its annual
report, a brochure titled, "Growing Together" which began,
"The Monsanto family of companies...on the outer edge of science,
with an inner strength of conscience."
A 30-page "Environmental Annual Review" published by the company
stated, "We are committed to openness, involvement, and community
dialogue to foster our employees' and the public's right to know...
We hold ourselves publically accountable for our environmental,
safety and health performance."
Other Monsanto tactics have backfired. In an act of intimidation
designed to scare dairies nationwide, Monsanto had sued two dairies
in February 1994 because they labeled and advertised their milk as
rBGH free. Monsanto charged them with fake and misleading advertising
and with undermining the public faith in Monsanto's rBGH product.
Monsanto lawyers also sent letters to thousands of dairies and
retailers across the country threatening them with lawsuits if they
too labeled their dairy products as rBGH-free.
But in June 1995 Monsanto lost its claim against the Pure Milk and Ice
Cream Co., a Waco, Texas-based dairy, which sells milk only from its own
herd of untreated cows. Monsanto was forced to reach an undisclosed
settlement with the company that includes allowing Pure Milk to resume
its labeling and advertising. Monsanto had previously reached an
out-of-court settlement with the other dairy, Swiss Valley Farms
of Davenport, Iowa. Dairies nationwide should now be confident
in labeling their milk "rBGH-free."
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. RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY #504 .
. ---July 25, 1996--- .
HOW THEY LIE, PART 2
Serving the interests of the poisoners is straightforward. For
example, in the 1980s, Monsanto Corporation got a bad name for
polluting every square foot of the planet with noxious PCBs,
dioxin, and harmful pesticides. In truth, no single corporation
has ever done greater damage to the planet than Monsanto (though
Waste Management, Inc., or WMX, is challenging Monsanto's
record.) To rehabilitate its image, Monsanto has successfully
employed a good-cop, bad-cop strategy. Monsanto announced, for
example, that it is cutting its toxic waste emissions 90%, at
the same time donating hundreds of thousands of dollars to
support libertarian anti-environmental propagandists like
Elizabeth Whelan, some of whose work we examined briefly last
week. (See REHW #503). Monsanto is Ms. Whelan's biggest
supporter and Ms. Whelan has made herself famous defending
Monsanto's products such as PCBs, the cancer-causing herbicide
2,4,5-T, the artificial sweetener Nutrasweet, and the company's
genetically-engineered hormone, rBGH, which is now being added
to much of the nation's milk supply (by injection into dairy
cows). (See REHW #483.) As we saw last week, Ms. Whelan's
contribution to the Good News industry is her bold discovery
that, if particular historical facts are inconvenient,
completely new ones can be manufactured and will be readily
accepted by the nation's media. This technique was pioneered in
Nazi Germany and perfected in the former Soviet Union but has
recently been developed under free market conditions by the Good
News industry. John Tierney of the TIMES uses it repeatedly, as
we shall see.)
While Monsanto's approach keeps the public confused (Are they
good? Are they bad? Aren't they really trying to do better?),
Monsanto has quietly developed an entirely new line of
genetically-engineered creations, products it has begun to
broadcast directly into the environment while denying that any
harm will ensue. (Monsanto has repeated similar denials for
decades.) The corporation's pledge to cut its toxic wastes 90%
is long overdue, but it is also beside the point. It is this
firm's PRODUCTS, not its WASTES, that have covered the earth with
poisons and soon will disrupt the planet's ecosystems with
genetically-finagled forms of life. Good News writers like
Elizabeth Whelan serve as a cover for the main source of harm
from a corporation like Monsanto, which is its perfectly-legal
pursuit of the purposes for which it was created: consolidation
of wealth and power, promoting dangerous products, eluding
liability and passing as many costs as possible on to the public.
Secondly, of course, writers like Elizabeth Whelan and John
Tierney serve a purely ideological master. Most Good News
writers are dedicated to the extremist libertarian proposition
that government's only valid role is to enforce private property
laws, to establish conditions under which the free market can
operate without restriction. Monsanto broadcasting
genetically-finagled creatures into the environment, while
insisting that nothing can go wrong, is the libertarian model.
Government sits by while Monsanto populates the environment with
forms of life that the Creator saw fit to not make, and the
public will be required to "prove harm" before government will
lift a finger to protect the environment as it was originally
created. By that time, of course, it will be too late to put
. Environmental Research Foundation .
. P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403 .
. Fax (410) 263-8944; Internet: email@example.com .
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From: "Susan K. Snow", INTERNET:firstname.lastname@example.org
To: Multiple recipients of list <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, Oct 30, 1996, 11:34 PM
Subject: Monsanto, the company that gave the world PCBs, is also giving the
world genetically engineering whether or not it is welcome
Why does Monsanto get away with this? Try revolving doors at the U.S.
Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Agriculture, and likely
at the EPA. This is nothing new. Revolving doors were big time
during the Reagan-Bush reign.
In the case of rGBH, see
".. The GAO review covered the activities of Margaret Miller, Suzanne
Sechen and Michael Taylor. Miller, a former Monsanto lab supervisor,
became director of the FDA division that was involved in the technical
review of the Monsanto drug. Taylor, who served as the FDA's deputy
commissioner for policy from 1991 to 1994, represented Monsanto as a
partner at the law firm of King & Spalding, although not on issues
directly related to the approval of rBST. (Taylor is now a food safety
official for the Agriculture Department.)..."
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