Monsanto is a company that specializes in production of agricultural/vegetable seeds, plant biotechnology and crop protection chemicals. Monsanto headquarters is located in St. Louis, Missouri, but operates internationally as well with 21,035 employees globally with 404 facilities in 66 countries. In the United States alone it employs 10,317 146 with facilities in 33 states.So you can see how much of an impact a company of this size can have on the food we grow, produce and consume. It is imperative that any company be held accountable when they’re business practices don’t measure up; especially one with a massive hold on the market. Monsanto is well-known to genetically modify their seeds and crops, create growth hormones forced on cattle; in addition suing the farmers over patent infringement. These are reasons Monsanto is an unethical company.
Monsanto is the company that produces recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which a number of farms that have mass milk production currently inject into their cows. Bovine Somatotropin (BST or rBGH) triggers a metabolic response to increase growth in young cattle and lactation in dairy cows. According to the FDA’s Safety Assessment of Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, in 1998, when injected into cows, rBGH increases milk production 10-15 percent and in some cases up to 40 percent. Approximately 17% of all cows in the US are given the artificial growth hormone.If this is what it does in other mammals, then who’s to say that it’s perfectly safe for human consumption? One would conclude that they’ve researched and tested their product multiple times before tainting the market with an ill tested product. However that’s farther from the truth. If a company produces a product that is allowed to be placed on the market without proper research and experimentation then we’ve done the founding fathers of modern science no justice and that’s highly unethical; mainly because they negate the proper measurements in reassuring the safety in their product without supporting evidence.
In 1993, the product was first approved after the FDA relied solely on one study administered by Monsanto in which rBGH was tested for 90 days on 30 rats. The study was never published, and the FDA stated the results showed no significant problems. (Hansen) This growth hormone was assessed by Health Canada and determined Monsanto’s results of their 90-day study showed concern and reasons for review before approval of rBGHin 1998. (Halloran) Today, the European Union, Japan, Australia and Canada have all banned the use of rBGH due to animal and human health concerns. If several countries, including the entire European Union can see that this product may not be safe, then why doesn’t the FDA? That’s another conspiracy theory all its own, but it does raise additional questions about the ethical procedures of the FDA as well.
One questionable dilemma is that if human IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor-1) levels increase cancerous side effects could quite possibly occur, “Milk from rBGH-treated cows contains higher levels of IGF-1. Humans also naturally have IGF-1, and increased levels in humans have been linked to colon and breast cancer. Even though no direct connection has been made between elevated IGF-1 levels in milk and elevated IGF-1 levels or cancer in humans, some scientists have expressed concern over the possibility of this relationship”. Based on those things I cannot fathom why that product is still on the American market, but I can see that it isn’t ethical to place a product that is directly being consumed by humans, on the market without proper guidelines set and followed. It wasn’t until recently that America’s food producers and suppliers are listening to consumer concerns. In January 2008, Starbucks stopped using rBGH-treated milk.(McFarland) Closely following in March 2008, was Wal-Mart who banned rBGH use in their store-brand milk products.
Monsanto can’t seem to keep consumers happy, but what’s worse is when they’re lack of ethics regarding smaller farms becomes a circus of legal disputes. One of their commodities is the Round-Up Ready plant and pest killer along with genetically modified seeds (GMO’s) that have a patented formula and cannot be destroyed by Round-Up Ready. So you have a pesticide that won’t destroy these genetically modified crops, which is Monsanto’s ideal of a system where we can kill all the weeds and bugs without risking our superb crops. Bullying and harassing these smaller farms without evidence of patent infringement is completely unethical.
The first of two farms that chose to fight Monsanto back is that of Percy Schmeiser, a man who had been a farmer and farm equipment dealer from a small town called Bruno Sask, Canada. He also served as Mayor of the Town of Bruno from 1966-1983 and a member of the legislative assembly in the Provincial Legislature from 1967-71. In August 1998, Schmeiser was being contacted and harassed by Monsanto regarding their granola seeds. Schmeiser would harvest his crop and then use the seed from the previous year to prepare for next years season. However, Monsanto filed a statement claiming Schmeiser illegally bought Roundup Ready seed from local growers in order to plant his 1997 crop and then saved some of that year’s seed to plant in 1998. Monsanto demanded Schmeiser pay $15/acre technology fee in reimbursements for the supposed stolen seed. In response Schmeiser counter-sued the company for $10 million claiming Monsanto employees had trespassed and contamination of his fields with Roundup Ready.In June 2000, The Supreme Court determined that although Monsanto’s patent is legal: Schmeiser is not forced to pay Monsanto anything as he did not profit from the presence of Roundup Ready canola in his fields.
The second farm is based in Indiana and ran by Mr. and Mrs. Runyon, a soybean farm spanning 900 acres. The Runyons claim Monsanto sent investigators to their home unannounced and demanded years of farming records. Needless to say that the point was to seize any information so they could potentially sue The Runyons for patent infringement. It was an anonymous tip that led Monsanto to believe that the modified soybean products (GMO’s) were growing on their farm, according to The Runyons. Monsanto claimed he was “aiding and abetting” farmers, assisting them to violate the patent. The best part of the story occurred in Feb. 2005, when the Runyons received a letter from Monsanto citing “an agreement” with the Indiana Department of Agriculture giving it the right to come on their land and test for seed contamination. That doesn’t even sound right to me; if anything the supposed Department of Agriculture should handle that, seeing as though they would act as a mediator. If that’s not a pile of horse poop- that letter was sent two months before the supposed Indiana Department of Agriculture was even opened! How’s that for ethics? Outright displays of unethical behavior are the tactics they utilize to overwhelm or belittle a human being. “What Monsanto is doing across the country is often, and according to farmers, trespassing even, on their land, examining their crops and trying to find some of their patented crops,” said Andrew Kimbrell, with the Center for Food Safety. “And if they do, they sue those farmers for their entire crop.”
In conclusion, I have shown in the previous examples of the growth hormone that is injected into our cattle and questionable ethics that play their role in conducting efficient and conclusive results during testing to determine for certain if that product is safe for human ingestion. The results remain inconclusive although multiple countries and corporate businesses have refused to allow their cows injected with the growth hormone because of the damage to the cow’s body and perhaps potential damage it could on a human being. This is my first evidence of unethical behavior. I also shed some light on their tyrannical approach to protect the patent of their genetically modified seeds by threatening, harassing farmers and even by bullying via heavy lawsuits to get their point across. These kinds of shenanigans prove my thesis; it is imperative that Monsanto be held accountable when they’re business practices don’t measure up; especially one with a massive hold on the market. Unethical behavior should be examined and then punished to prevent other manipulations from happening.
1.) Hansen, Michael, Ph.D., Research Associate Consumer Policy Institute, “FDA’s Safety Assessment of Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone.” Consumer’s Union, December 15, 1998
2.) Halloran, Jean M., Michael, Hansen. Groth III, Edward, and Lefferts, Lisa Y., “Potential Public Health Impacts Of The Use Of Recombinant Bovine Somatotropin In Dairy Production: Prepared for a Scientific Review by the Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives”, September 1997
3.) McFarland, Janet. ‘Wal-Mart move ‘tipping point’ for non-hormone milk.’ Toronto Globe & Mail, March 22, 2008
4.) Starbucks. ‘Statement and Q&A-Starbucks Completes its Conversion ‘ All U.S. Company-Operated Stores Use Dairy Sourced Without the Use of rBGH. Accessed April 2008