Friday, May 24, 2013
Denis Thoet, with his partner, Michele Roy, own an
About a month ago, I had the temerity to suggest that Maine Public Television question the use of the words "sustainable agriculture" when it accepts the sponsorship dollars of the Monsanto Corp.
My complaint was not with MPBN getting sponsorship money from Monsanto (lots of big bad corporations support public television).
Like, when Burlington Northern Sante Fe railway says they are moving a lot of material over the rails, conserving energy, we know they are moving coal primarily to coal-fired power plants. But they are not lying.
And we know that Chevron is about energy and ideas and people, but Chevron is an oil company, and oil is not the sustainable fuel of the future.
So when Monsanto uses the word "sustainable" with its corporate mission, let's just pause for a minute.
Monsanto's genetically modified seeds represent the opposite of sustainability. Monsanto sustains Monsanto through the monopoly of its genetically modified seed varieties, not farmers, who are on the hook to buy their seeds.
Not that I was expecting a response from either MPBN or Monsanto when I wrote the column, but it would have been nice to get some kind of justification from MPBN about the question. Instead, Monsanto itself issued a reply:
"Farming is most sustainable when growers have access to diverse production practices and markets. This includes organic practices; the use of genetically modified seeds; integrated pest management, including the use of pesticides; and other legal, beneficial technologies and practices," wrote Kimberly Morin, Monsanto Co., Greenfield, Mass.
I was all set to get agitated by another inappropriate use of "sustainable" by Ms. Morin -- profitable might be the better word there -- when something apparently magical happened:
In my sporadic watching of the NewsHour during the last three weeks, Monsanto had disappeared from sight and sound.
Could it be that the power of the press -- i.e., Notes from the Farm printed in a small Maine daily newspaper every two weeks -- might have forced the chemical giant to rethink its global PR/advertising strategy and scamper away, funding and all, from the NewsHour and its so-called baggy-eyed Bolshevik, Jim Lehrer?
So, last Monday morning I called Susan Tran, sales and traffic coordinator for MPBN, and asked her if Monsanto had caved in and withdrawn its sponsorship. She promptly e-mailed me back with an online article of June 18 (eight days after my Notes article on Monsanto) quoting Robert Flynn, NewsHour's vice president for communications:
"The NewsHour is very selective about who it associates with the program. We do not seek funding from any companies whose motives we question or who may want to advocate a specific point of view.
"Once we have partnered with a funder we feel a loyalty toward that funder unless there is a specific reason why we should back away from them; for instance, malfeasance in their operations, indictments, convictions, etc. In the case of our current funders -- Bank of America, Chevron and BNSF/Railways, and other funding partners such as Toyota and Monsanto whose funding terms have recently expired -- while viewers may have issues with them, they've given us no reason to question the motives behind their NewsHour funding."
So that was it, Monsanto's sponsorship conveniently "expired" just around the time when they were feeling the heat from Notes from the Farm.
Now that I have Ms. Kimberly Morin's attention, I am going to unleash my next salvo: The Monsanto Challenge.
We challenge Monsanto to produce enough food on two acres of land to feed 80 families for 20 weeks of the year. That means we challenge Monsanto to do what we do without herbicides, pesticides, and artificial fertilizers. For the purpose of the challenge, of course, Monsanto should be able to use RoundUp, and RoundUp-ready corn or soy beans on its two acres.
The major difference is that we are producing real, healthy food, while Monsanto is not. The 45-50 vegetables and herbs, with 200-plus varieties, plus a limited supply of eggs and meat, we provide to our CSA members goes directly into their meals, no processing -- besides cooking perhaps.
The vast amounts of corn and soy produced in this country with Monsanto's generous help produces feed that is unhealthy for cows, and high-fructose corn syrup, which is unhealthy for humans. Monsanto is helping to make our nation fat and sick.
In other words, the challenge to Monsanto would be, for once, to help make real food for our country and the world.
Denis Thoet, with his partner, Michele Roy, own and manage Long Meadow Farm in West Gardiner, longmeadowfarm@road runner.com