The Risky Business of Being a Monsanto Shareholder
When readers of the Saint Louis Post-Dispatch opened their papers yesterday morning, they saw a full-page ad welcoming Monsanto shareholders into town and asking them to vote for full disclosure of the true costs of genetically modified foods (GMOs). The ad depicts the quintessential American farm (red barn and all), and is very similar to many of the ads that Monsanto released implying that the chemical giant has a rosy relationship with farmers. But the veneer of Monsanto’s advertising has worn thin and shareholders are questioning that very relationship and looking for honest answers as to the impacts that GMOs are having on farmers.
Monsanto is generally seen as the most nefarious and targeted corporation in the food movement. The past few years have seen multiple states fight for the right to know what is in their food, international bans on GMOs and increasingly visible negative environmental impacts. Now, even Monsanto’s own shareholders are demanding answers about their controversial products and practices.
Today, shareholders are meeting in St. Louis to vote on a resolution that would compel the company to fully evaluate the true cost of GMOs. By true cost they aren’t looking for a figure that represents the cost of production, but rather a number that represents the environmental and social impacts of GMOs, including the costs of working to stop labeling legislation and cleaning up the mess when things go awry with Monsanto’s products (which seems to happen quite often). The resolution calls for a report that fully assesses the “actual and potential material financial risks or operational impacts on the company related to these GMO issues.”
In addition to yesterday’s ad and the financial risk resolution that Food & Water Watch is supporting, Occupy Monsanto and Adam Eidinger will greet Monsanto shareholders with a large group of protestors outside Monsanto’s headquarters today. Eidinger will be presenting a separate proposal to shareholders today requesting that GMOs be labeled.
Shining a light on biotech firms like Monsanto whose business model thrives on keeping people in the dark has been part of Food & Water Watch’s ongoing work to ensure that consumers have access to safe food. Monsanto is a giant biotech firm that has a long history in heavy chemical production, most notoriously known for Agent Orange. Now, most people know the company as the producer of the herbicide Roundup and its corresponding “Roundup Ready” crops that have been genetically engineered to resist the chemical.
GMO crops are those that have been genetically engineered to contain certain traits that make them resistant to herbicides, pesticides or include more desirable nutritional or agronomical traits. Massive consolidation has left a few companies in control of the market, leaving farmers with fewer choices within the seed market. Although Monsanto may promote its products as beneficial for the environment, the best choice for farmers, and world hunger, but the facts tell a different story.
Overuse and dependence on GMO crops and their linked pesticides such as Monsanto’s Roundup have led to the development of uncontrollable superweeds, a problem that is plaguing a majority of our nation’s farmland. Regularly spraying weeds with the same pesticide drives resistance to that very chemical, necessitating that farmers spray greater amounts to get the job done. As a response to this growing problem, companies like Monsanto are looking to pair GMO products with stronger and more dangerous chemicals that pose an even greater risk to consumers, farmers and the environment.
The negative health impact of the heavy use of chemicals such as Roundup is just one way that GMO crops negatively affect farmers. Non-GMO and organic farmers face possible contamination of their crops by neighboring GMO farms. This contamination can make it impossible for farmers to sell their now contaminated product, causing major economic loss and affecting farmer livelihoods.
What does it say about a company if even their shareholders are asking for more transparency and questioning their product and practices? The Monsanto shareholders resolution would bring to light the true cost of the company’s unsound business practices. Food & Water Watch supports this resolution along with Harrington Investments, SumOfUs, Pesticide Action Network, and the Missouri Rural Crisis Center.
Anna Meyer is a communications intern for Food & Water Watch.