Chemical evolution

The Monsanto legacy

October 1, 2012

For years, food activists have labeled the Monsanto company and its genetically modified seeds as agriculture’s top public enemy. But amid all the lawsuits and rhetoric, it can be easy to forget that those GM crops were invented to withstand Monsanto’s other core product: chemicals, in this case herbicides and pesticides.

The herbicides have led to the evolution of so-called superweeds, resistant to the chemicals. And the pesticides, naturally, are now producing superbugs and even superworms.

But for the really long view, check out Wayne Barrett’s story in the Nation about the connection between Monsanto and current Presidential candidate Mitt Romney. Tom Philpott summarized it on his Mother Jones blog: Back in the 1970s, during his former career as a corporate consultant, Romney helped steer Monsanto onto its current professional path: away from the disasters that were giving the company’s chemicals a bad name (DDT, Agent Orange, PCBs, dioxin) and towards the then relatively innocuous world of agricultural biotech:

The strategy was by no means as obvious as it now seems in hindsight: Monsanto was exiting a steady, established business, industrial chemicals, in favor of a highly speculative and new one, ag biotech. But it worked brilliantly.
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