On a recent upgrade flight, the big guy next to me introduced himself as a Monsanto executive.
You've probably heard of Monsanto. It's one of the most notorious GMO corporations. With its worldwide power and its history of releasing harmful products into the environment, Monsanto has angered millions of people who care about health, ecology, their families, and the future of farming and food.
Monsanto Man had already consumed a few martinis in the airport lounge, he admitted, and he was in a talkative mood. I was ecstatic.
“I help academia do the research we want,” Monsanto Man said when I asked what his job was.
He explained that Monsanto, Dow, BP, and many other corporations have bought off public university systems, generating “tremendous benefits” for corporations.
“Universities are mostly funded by taxpayers and tuition,” he explained. “Students and professors work for slave wages compared to what private sector research costs. For a few million dollars per university, we get billions of dollars of research that generates patents we profit from.”
Better yet, he said, Monsanto uses research grants and other “gifts” as clandestine tools for academic censorship, product marketing and control.
For one thing, required university classes often feature Monsanto products embedded in the course curriculum. As it turns out, professors are marketing Monsanto products, presenting Monsanto as a agribusiness pioneer, but failing to mention the many controversies surrounding Monsanto products.
“Professors and their students know better than to bite the hand that feeds them,” he said. “Department heads know better too. Some smart-ass professor or student thinks they’re going to mess with Monsanto, their department head says, ‘Remember where our funding comes from,’ and puts an end to it. Monsanto gets the research it wants, we control the data and the public narrative, and no university person dares help our enemies.”
What enemies? I asked.
Enemies are anyone not supporting biotechnology, GMOs, industrialized agriculture, petroleum, pesticides, herbicides, patented seeds, and other Monsanto favorites, he answers.
The way Monsanto Man sees it, a university professor or student who wants to validate the ecological, economic and human health benefits of organic farming is an enemy.
The same goes for a university professor or grad student who wants to document harmful effects of Monsanto’s Roundup, bovine growth hormone, GMO seeds, or the historically devastating effects of Monsanto Agent Orange chemical herbicide, used as an instrument of war by U.S. forces in Vietnam.
“Business is business. You can’t let anybody talk shit about you,” he says. “If someone takes a swing at you, you swing back twice. You aim for the kill shot. That’s the Monsanto way, and we’re damned proud of it.”
Monsanto Man’s face was florid, his voice a tad too loud for comfort, and his tone had gone from modulated corporate-speak to the edgy, aggressive bully talk you expect on the frenzied, greed-infected floor of the U.S. Stock Exchange on Wall Street.
I knew I was taking a risk, but I asked if he really thought Monsanto’s manufacture of Agent Orange, blamed for tens of thousands of civilian birth defects and deaths in Vietnam, and harming the health of U.S. soldiers, was morally defensible.
“Morally defensible! What kind of faggy question is that?” he said. “Are you a goddamn communist? Monsanto helped win that war. Agent Orange killed the forests and food crops of our red enemies. Our Roundup is used to kill coca and marijuana in Colombia. If I had my way we’d spray it on all the marijuana fields in the USA too.”
I recoiled. My questioning had hit too close to home; the alcohol was exacerbating his temper.
Fortunately, our meals came, Monsanto Man hurriedly ate his steak, then passed out, snoring.
I took the opportunity to move to a vacant seat in the economy section, and never saw him again.
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Tuesday, 17 April 2012