[Part of a series of responses to astroturf campaigns]
by Michael Benton
A colleague was driving home through Ohio recently and began to notice billboards with a similar theme about the centrality and importance of
our nation's farmers.
In the linked print ad above, you will see there is an absurd slogan stating vaguely that "America's farmers grow America" and a website is listed below the slogan: America's Farmers. At the top of the site the careful visitor to the website will notice that this all brought to you by the multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto.
Now we could consider this an act of compassionate support by a multinational corporate giant for the embattled American farmer, unless, of course, you are skeptical because you are aware that Monsanto has long been suing and bankrupting independent farmers around the world. They are also long practiced at addressing any negative attention to corporate policies, practices and products. Remember they were originally a chemical company and were the producers of Agent Orange (with the Dow Chemical Company).
Recent documentaries like Food Inc., The Future of Food and The World According to Monsanto provide extensive documentation of the abuses of multinational agricultural companies like Monsanto and how they hide from the public the destructive nature of their policies.
Monsanto is aware of a public movement criticizing the multinational corporation for its predatory and destructive practices. Monsanto is attempting to get you to think of the idyllic images of All-American small farming operations when you think of Monsanto's products/companies. They want to incite the long history of populist protectionist attitudes for the sanctity of the American farmer.
These Monsanto advertisements (because that is what they are), disguised as public service announcements (because that is what Monsanto wants you to think they are), are another example of Astroturfing. In this way they subtly are working to frame American thinking so that they associate notions of the small, independent, hard-working, honest American farmer when they think of the multinational corporation Monsanto. They most fervently hope to keep the American public from feeling they need to investigate the actual practices, policies and products of the multinational corporation Monsanto. Most of all they want to counter reports like these:
Ayers, Jane. "300,000 Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto in Federal Court." Reader Supported News (February 15, 2012)
Cummins, Ronnie. "The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto." Counterpunch (January 28, 2011)
"Eight Ways Monsanto Fails at Sustainable Agriculture." Union of Concerned Scientists (January 4, 2012)
Franceschini, Amy and Christina Ulke. "San Francisco Victory Gardens." Journal of Aesthetics and Protest #6 (2008)
The Future of Food (USA: Deborah Koons, 2004)
"Keeping Tabs on Monsanto." You Grow Girl (January 21, 2011)
Klein, Naomi. "The Tyranny of Brands." The New Statesman (January 24, 2000)
LaVeck, James. "Compassion for Sale? Doublethink Meets Doublefeel as Happy Meat Comes of Age." Satya (September 2006)
Magdoff, Fred. "Food as a Commodity." Monthly Review 63.8 (January, 2012)
Miller, Anna Lekas. "Occupy vs. Monsanto: Activists, Farmers Fight the Corporation They Fear Will Take Over All America's Crops." AlterNet (February 6, 2012)
Mills, Frederick B. "Venezuela and the Battle Against Transgenic Seeds." Revolución Alimentaria (December 7, 2013)
Monsanto vs. Schmeiser ("Percy Schmeiser is a farmer from Bruno, Saskatchewan Canada whose Canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto's Round-Up Ready Canola. Monsanto's position was that it didn't matter whether Schmeiser knew or not that his canola field was contaminated with the Roundup Ready gene, or whether or not he took advantage of the technology (he didn't); that he must pay Monsanto their Technology Fee of $15/acre. The Supreme Court of Canada agreed with Schmeiser, ruling that he didn't have to pay Monsanto anything.")
"ORGANIC FARMERS AND SEED SELLERS SUE MONSANTO TO PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM PATENTS ON GENETICALLY MODIFIED SEED: Preemptive Action Seeks Ruling That Would Prohibit Monsanto From Suing Organic Farmers and Seed Growers If Contaminated By Roundup Ready Seed." Public Patent Foundation (March 29, 2011)
Philpott, Tom. "Why Monsanto is paying farmers to spray its rivals' herbicides." Grist (October 20, 2010)
Sholette, Gregory. "Disciplining The Avant-Garde, The United States versus The Critical Art Ensemble." NeMe (January 20, 2006)
"Taking on Monsanto's Massive Political Muscle." The Burt Cohen Show (February 2, 2012)
"Whole Foods Market Caves to Monsanto." PR Watch (January 28, 2011)
The World According to Monsanto (Canada/France/Germany: Marie-Monique Robin, 2008: 108 mins)