Can you offer your viewpoints to the following article? httpfracturedparadigm.com20130415monsantosdirtydozenthe12mostawfulproductsmadebymonsantoaxzz2rHxUNxvc
Submitted by: Megan Bachman
Expert response from Kelly Clauss
Global Communications Strategy Lead, IT, Bayer Crop Science
Friday, 09/01/2015 13:04
This article contains quite a bit of misinformation, so I apologize in advance for the length of my response.
First, I think it’s important to note that Monsanto is a relatively new company that was incorporated as a stand-alone subsidiary of Pharmacia in 2000 and spun off from Pharmacia as a separate company in 2002. While we share the name and a partial history with a chemical company that was founded in 1901, today Monsanto is focused 100% on agriculture as well as collaborating with and supporting farmers around the world. (You can learn more about the former Monsanto, and the corporate relationships among Monsanto, and our historical businesses on our company’s website.)
I mention this because the majority of the topics discussed in this article are related to products of the original Monsanto Company – not the agricultural company that operates today under different leadership and with an entirely different vision and purpose. However, I’ve provided a brief response to each topic, along with links when available if you would like to read more.
Topics Directly Related to the Current Agriculture-Focused Monsanto
- Roundup®: Many crop protection products, including Roundup agricultural herbicides, play a vital role in helping farmers control the pests that threaten our food supply. Roundup is one of Monsanto’s most well known herbicides in part because of its excellent safety profile and track record of safe use. The active ingredient in Roundup agricultural herbicides is called glyphosate, which is one of the most thoroughly evaluated herbicides in the world. Many scientists – from industry, universities and independent institutions – have conducted studies and field research with glyphosate herbicides and published their results in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Scientists from more than 166 countries have reviewed the data and agreed that glyphosate does not pose an unreasonable risk to people, wildlife or the environment. In fact, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which reviews extensive toxicological and environmental data before registering an active ingredient, classifies glyphosate as “practically non-toxic,” which is the most favorable acute toxicity category possible based on single-exposure oral, dermal and inhalation studies.
- Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH): In 2008, Monsanto made the decision to focus on our seeds business and sold the POSILAC® bovine somatotropin brand and related business to Eli Lilly and Company. POSILAC was, and is, a successful product that provides safe, valuable benefits to many dairy farmers. The milk produced by cows supplemented with rbST is the same, safe, nutritious milk as comes from cows not supplemented with the product. All cows have somatotropin (growth hormones), dairy farmers using this product are simply supplementing the existing amounts to help increase milk production. It is not an ingredient in the milk.
- The American Dairy Association has a helpful fact sheet that you might like to review.
- Genetically Modified Crops / GMOs: There is a large body of documented scientific testing showing that the GM crops being grown and harvested are safe. In fact, GMO crops undergo more testing and oversight than any other agricultural products, and the safety of biotech crops is well-established by hundreds of studies and years of real-world experience. Each planting season, farmers choose the types of seeds they will plant – some choose GM seeds, some do not. GMO crops, both from Monsanto and other agricultural organizations, have become the fastest, most widely adopted agricultural innovation in recent history because of the benefits all types of farmers experience.
GMOAnswers.com has a great “explore the basics” and “Studies and Articles” section where you can learn more. There are also some videos from the Center for Food Integrity and the International Food Information Council that you might find useful.
- Terminator Seeds: Terminator seeds, or seeds that would produce sterile offspring seeds, would result in seeds that would not grow if planted. It is a popular myth that Monsanto sells, or had intention to sell, these types of seeds. To me, it’s an interesting myth because Monsanto is only successful if our customers are successful. Farmers who buy our seeds range from large family farmers in the United States to small landholder farmers in countries like South Africa and India, and we share many of the concerns that farmers – especially small landholder farmers – have about this technology. It’s for this reason that Monsanto made a commitment many years ago to never sell sterile seeds, and we stand by this commitment – with no plans or research that would violate this promise.
- You can read more about terminator seeds in these resources: http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/terminator-seeds.aspx and http://gmoanswers.com/ask/why-would-people-trust-monsanto-considering-you-develop-so-called-terminator-seeds-sue-farmers
Topics Related to the Former / Original Monsanto Company
- Saccharin: In the early 1970s, the former Monsanto stopped making saccharin – it couldn’t compete with imports and domestic manufacturers who had newer manufacturing processes. Saccharin is approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for use in food as a non-nutritive sweetener. For more information see the FDA’s statement on the safety of saccharin.
- Aspartame: This sweetener was invented in 1965 by G.D. Searle, a company that the former Monsanto purchased in 1985. In 2000, G.D. Searle was sold, and therefore the present Monsanto Company has never made or sold this product. Nevertheless, aspartame has been found to be safe for human consumption. You can read more about the safety of aspartame in a GMO answers response to a question about safety studies on aspartame. We also recommend visiting www.aspartame.org.
- PCB’s: Widely recognized as nonflammable safety fluids, PCBs used to be required by many electrical and building codes as well as insurance companies for use in electrical equipment in buildings where the possibility of fire presented a risk to human life. The former Monsanto Company sold PCBs to the manufacturers of other products who incorporated them into their products. As of 1972, the U.S. government stated that PCB use in electrical equipment was essential for the prevention of fire and noted Monsanto’s work to reduce discharge of PCBs to the environment. Shortly after PCBs were first detected in the environment, Monsanto voluntarily withdrew PCBs from open uses. Monsanto voluntarily ceased all production in 1977. Two years later, the EPA issued regulations prohibiting manufacture and distribution but specifically authorized the continued use of PCBs in certain electrical applications. You can read more about PCBs on a previous GMO Answers question: http://gmoanswers.com/ask/monsanto-has-history-producing-promoting-dangerous-chemicals-and-lying-about-their-safety
- DDT: The former Monsanto Company was one of several companies that manufactured DDT. It did so from 1944 until 1957 when it ceased manufacture for economic reasons, well before environmental concerns led to EPA’s regulatory action. Interestingly, many health professionals still consider the use of DDT under proper conditions as an important part of the worldwide fight against malaria. You can read more about DDT on a previous GMO Answers question: http://gmoanswers.com/ask/monsanto-has-history-producing-promoting-dangerous-chemicals-and-lying-about-their-safety
- Polystyrene: The former Monsanto produced polystyrene, a plastic molding compound based on styrene monomer, beginning in the 1940’s, and was one of the products that was spun off with the industrial chemical and fiber business as Solutia Inc in 1997. It is mainly used in the product Saflex, which is primarily used as the plastic interlayer for windshields, but has other architectural applications as well. It is often called safety glass, and allows glass to be less likely to break, or pose a threat when broken by not shattering. While other options are now available, Saflex was in every windshield at one point, and has undoubtedly saved countless lives.
- Nuclear Weapons: From 1943-1945, the former Monsanto did have a group of scientists working to refine the 94th element, plutonium. This was a pivotal element in the creation of the atomic bomb, but Monsanto Company was not involved directly in the production of these nuclear weapons by our government. Years after the war, Monsanto Company served as a contractor for the Atomic Energy Commission and researched peacetime uses of atomic energy. Also at the request of the U.S. Government back in the 1940s, and strictly as a government contractor for the Department of Energy, the former Monsanto did work in the area of the triggers or detonators. The government called upon the former Monsanto, as it did many science-based companies, to assist in its war efforts.
- Dioxin: The former Monsanto Company and at least eight other chemical companies manufactured the herbicide 2,4,5-T which was widely used for decades in North America to control weeds and clear brush. Monsanto’s began manufacturing this herbicide in 1948. For many years, none of the companies knew that the 2,4,5-T manufacturing process resulted in the creation of trace amounts (parts per million) of the by-product dioxin. Dioxins are a broad class of compounds commonly found in automobile exhaust, air emissions from some chemical processes, and from the burning of organic matter such as coal, leaves, and the like. It was not until 1965 that the dioxin by-product from the 2,4,5-T manufacturing process was discovered and that a specific form of dioxin was recognized to cause a skin condition known as chloracne in some heavily exposed workers. In response, manufacturers made changes to their processes to minimize the creation of this unwanted trace by-product. In 1965 the U.S. Government decided to use a mixture of 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D (another commonly used herbicide) as a defoliant in Vietnam and ordered all it could get from the nine manufacturers. The former Monsanto Company ceased making 2,4,5,-T in 1969.
We are frankly unaware of allegations, let alone evidence, of “covering up” the dioxin issue, and dioxins certainly were not discovered in a “wide range” of products as suggested by this article. To the contrary, once the scientific community became aware of the trace dioxin issue in 2,4,5-T, Monsanto scientists became among the leaders in publishing information and developing analytical techniques for the detection of trace amounts of dioxin by-products from chemical processes.
- Agent Orange: From 1965 to 1969, the former Monsanto Company was one of nine wartime government contractors who were directed by the U.S. Government to manufacture Agent Orange. The government set the specifications for making Agent Orange and determined when, where and how it was used. It was only produced for, and used by, the government. You can read more about this at Monsanto.com and in another response on GMOanswers.com. A factually accurate and easy to read discussion of the Agent Orange issue can be found at pages 6 through 9 of an article written by Judge Jack Weinstein who presided over Agent Orange litigation in the United States for 30 years.
- Petroleum-Based Fertilizer: This term is misleading as these are not actually made from petroleum. The former Monsanto produced nitrogen-based fertilizers. Terms tend to morph over time, especially when they are not technically accurate. The process used to produce nitrogen-based fertilizers is conducted under conditions of high pressure and heat, which takes a lot of energy to achieve. This may be where the term “petroleum-based fertilizer” originated if petroleum is used as an energy source. Petroleum is not used as one of the ingredients to make nitrogen fertilizer but it may be used as an energy source to provide the heat and pressure needed to convert the atmospheric nitrogen and methane to ammonia.
- Nitrogen fertilizers are absolutely essential to farmers. Nitrogen is one of the three most important minerals that plants need to grow, and the basis of the protein we require in our diets. To grow our conventional crops like corn, wheat, barley, fruits, and most vegetables we need to make synthetic nitrogen, as these crops do not produce their own nitrogen. Over 100 years ago, two German scientists (Haber and Bosch) found a way to turn the 80% nitrogen in the atmosphere into plant available forms, for which they received a Nobel Prize. Without synthetic fertilizers, farmers would not have been able to produce the crops above in the yields needed to feed our growing population.