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 print ad 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 we clearly see the Bayer Fund listed and the careful visitor to the website will notice that this all brought to you by the multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto listed in small print at the bottom.
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 (and many more) 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:
Cummins, Ronnie. "The Organic Elite Surrenders to Monsanto." Counterpunch (January 28, 2011)
Franceschini, Amy and Christina Ulke. "San Francisco Victory Gardens." Journal of Aesthetics and Protest #6 (2008)
The Future of Food (USA: Deborah Koons, 2004)
Gillam, Carey. "How Monsanto Plants Stories, Suppresses Science & Silences Dissent to Sell a Cancer-Linked Chemical." Democracy Now (August 14, 2018) ["As Monsanto comes under scrutiny for allegedly hiding the dangers of its weed killer Roundup, we talk to a reporter who says the company attempted to censor and discredit her when she published stories on their product that contradicted their business interests. Carey Gillam is a veteran investigative journalist and author of “Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science.”"]
Gillam, Carey and Gary Ruskin. "Documents Reveal Monsanto Surveilled Journalists, Activists & Even Musician Neil Young." Democracy Now (August 9, 2019)
Kampmark, Binoy. "Monsanto, Scientific Deception and Cancer." Counterpunch (May 27, 2019)
"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)
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.")
"Newly Released Documents Shed Light on Years of Environmental Lies." PR Watch (July 31, 2019)
"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)
"The Poison Papers Expose Decades of Collusion between Industry and Regulators over Hazardous Pesticides and Other Chemicals." PR Watch (July 26, 2017)
Ross, Alexander Reid. "Monsanto: the Toxic Face of Globalization." Counterpunch (May 26, 2014)
Sholette, Gregory. "Disciplining The Avant-Garde, The United States versus The Critical Art Ensemble." NeMe (January 20, 2006)
Whitney, W.T. "Monsanto's Chemical War in Colombia." Counterpunch (May 29, 2015)
Wilce, Rebekkah. "Corporate Front Group, American Council on Science and Health, Smears List of Its Enemies as 'Deniers for Hire.'" PR Watch (January 24, 2019)
"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)