By Caroline Emde, Public Affairs Intern in Brussels, Belgium
Studying at the University of Missouri, I was quite familiar with the Monsanto name and reputation. I have watched documentaries such as “Food Inc.” and “The World According to Monsanto” that portray big agriculture as corrupt and evil. However, when I was offered an internship with Monsanto in connection with my journalism and communication studies I gratefully accepted the opportunity. Going into the internship, I was determined to have an open mind about the company despite the conflicting opinions of my friends, family, and the media (Even my hairdresser had something to say about my internship: “You can’t work for Monsanto!” she said, “They’re the devil!”).
Yet here I am, sitting at my desk at the Monsanto office in Brussels, Belgium surrounded by colleagues who really believe in making a difference in the world of sustainable agriculture. While I have learned a lot about controversial topics such as genetic modification (which isn’t a focus of Monsanto’s business in Europe), this has not been a highlight of my internship.
The most important thing I realized in the short time I’ve worked in “Big Agriculture” is the threat of our world’s diminishing resources coupled with a growing population. Before my time at Monsanto, I was very misinformed on the issues revolving sustainable agriculture and the real consequences our world faces if we fail to find solutions. With more people to feed everyday, increasing water demands, and less arable land per capita, we need to grow more food with less resources by increasing productivity.
Monsanto is constantly working towards solutions to solve this growing problem but this philosophy is rarely reflected in the media. Many critics refuse to stretch their knowledge of the company beyond the propaganda that can be found on the Internet. Genetic modification isn’t a new discovery. While Monsanto was one of the first to develop the idea over two decades ago, they are not the only company involved in genetic modification. Bayer, Syngenta, Dow, and DuPont are other leaders in genetic modification, yet their names aren’t seen in the media nearly as much.
I find it frustrating that improvements and new technologies are accepted in other realms of everyday life such as medicine and mobile devices, but when it comes to improving agriculture, modern solutions are often rejected. Coming from a journalism and communications school where media ethics are taught from the very beginning, it is even more frustrating to witness skewed information about Monsanto flooding the media. I have read a plethora of articles both in print and online that scream bad journalism. They lack any sense of the ethics I was taught in school; many are unbalanced, lack fact checking, are biased, or are overly opinionated. Monsanto’s critics seem to have the ability to publish false information without suffering any consequences. Monsanto, on the other hand, has to have all its external content approved and fact-checked by a team of lawyers. Beyond this all being unjust, it delays truth and proven facts from reaching not only farmers, but Europe’s population as a whole.
Regardless of where I now stand with Monsanto, I can no longer deny the importance of solving issues related to the global population crisis. The real problem at stake is not genetic modification, it is the fact that if we continue to produce food like we do now, we will fail to feed countless individuals. Already, 900 million people go to bed hungry every night and 600 million of those people are farmers and their families. This is the bigger issue I believe people fail to realize. It is time for people to try to go beyond this daunting idea of “genetic modification” and realize what is truly at stake. This all starts with education: educating more people on the global population crisis and educating more people about sustainable agriculture.
I haven’t been brainwashed by big agriculture or forced to think a certain way, I have just had the opportunity to become more informed on all sides of the argument. My friends and family can hold their own opinions, but knowing that I am now better educated and less ignorant about such a prevalent topic in today’s society has been the most satisfying part about working for Monsanto.