By Rachel Moore
When I was first offered a summer internship at Monsanto, I’ll be honest – I hesitated.
I knew almost nothing about agriculture, GMOs or biotechnology (although I now know that those last two barely apply to Monsanto Europe, which is focused on traditional seeds). I felt extremely under-qualified for a position at a multinational corporation, much less one so successful. My greatest strengths were long-form journalism, napping and drinking coffee. Could I survive at a billion-dollar company?
The answer is no. I did not survive at Monsanto. I thrived here. This company, this office, these people – they’re all amazing. I learned quickly, read everything I could get my hands on and felt comfortable almost immediately.
However, I will admit that I wasn’t prepared for how much Monsanto is hated by some people in Europe. Coming from Texas and Missouri, Monsanto is not the big bad wolf. In fact, I’d bet I could find people in my hometown who don’t even know what Monsanto is. That is not the case here.
I wondered if I should tell people where I work or just hope the question didn’t come up. I wondered if I my professors at the Free University of Brussels (ULB) would hate me when they found out. Would they think I was just a cog in the corporate machine? I wondered if the people on the tram gave me dirty looks because they knew that my stop was the Monsanto building or because I hadn’t brushed my hair in six months.
But then I thought, why do I care if they hate me? I’m interning in the corporate communications department, so I should be talking about Monsanto. Communication by definition is the exchanging of information. It’s my damned job to talk about Monsanto — and I had a lot of fun doing it.
Actually, some of the most fun I had wasn’t even in the office. Have you ever been in an argument with a bearded hippie in Café Belga who thinks his drink is laced with Roundup®? It’s absolutely hilarious, and almost no other company gets those kinds of reactions. I love telling people I work here even if they hate Monsanto because it’s an opportunity to at least attempt to understand the sources of the misinformation that is constantly spewed by militant environmentalists and the media.
So yes, it’s great meeting people who appreciate learning via facts, but the sceptics and haters make working at Monsanto — and talking about it — all the more important and rewarding.
I was fortunate enough to grow up in a house that didn’t have to worry about how we were going to put food on the table, but that’s not the case for everyone. In fact, one in seven people on the planet struggle every day to feed themselves and their families. Monsanto researches and develops solutions that help those people because 75 percent of the world’s poorest families don’t buy their food. They grow it.
That is why I love working here. We’re creating ways to make food more accessible to all people, not just the ones who can afford to buy it in a grocery store.
So yes, I am a cog in a corporate machine. But we’re all cogs. The mailman, the McDonald’s cashier, the bus driver – we’re all part of something bigger than ourselves, and all of our collective contributions go toward making the world and society work a little better. That’s what I think Monsanto does, too. We help make people’s lives a little better.
I arrived in Brussels terrified of judgement or failure, and I’m leaving with a portfolio of experience and lifelong friends. I could talk all day about the unfair, untrue and undeserved portrayal of Monsanto, but every corporation has its enemies. Not every corporation has the talented, intelligent, driven and kind employees that have made working here such a gift.