Titus: Monsanto’s bad reputation is deserved, can be resolved


Illustration by Reed Lechner

Columnist Katie Titus talks about the faults in Monsanto’s GMO distribution and methods in Iowa, and what the company’s next step should be.

Katie Titus

Monsanto is a popular name in the agriculture community. However, Monsanto is popular in the U.S. for all of the wrong reasons. For years, Monsanto has monopolized the seeding business in most of North America, using genetically modified organisms in the seeds, and hurting smaller farmers along the way. The way Monsanto handles farming is wrong and, especially in Iowa, damaging to the farmers that take care of this great state.

Iowa, which is known for being an agricultural state, actually only has five percent of the population employed as farmers, according to the Iowa Farm Bureau. As a nation overall, only two percent of land in the United States is used as farmland. Taking this into consideration, farmers in the United States have one of the toughest jobs: feeding this nation, and sometimes others, with a limited amount of space to grow crops.

Private and family farmers are able to decide whether they will be using GMOs or non GMOs for their crops, or they can choose to be organic. While farmers have the choice in what crop they decide to grow, if Monsanto seeds inadvertently end up in the farmers crop, they are able to be sued by Monsanto. 

A Supreme Court case in 2011 ruled against 80 farmers that were working to prohibit Monsanto from suing farmers who have inadvertently had their fields contaminated with Monsanto seeds. Because the farmers can be sued at such a high rate and for so much money, Monsanto has the capability of bankrupting the farmers they choose to sue. 

In today’s economy, along with the ever changing climate, people are now more conscious about recycling and considering organic farming. Monsanto, however, is taking opportunities for farmers to reuse their seeds from year to year. While it is somewhat understandable that Monsanto does not allow the reuse of seeds because it could affect the numbers of seeds being bought each year, this act toward farmers makes it seem like Monsanto does not care as much as they should about sustainability.

Monsanto sues farmers that try to reuse seeds from year to year, making crop recycling nearly impossible, considering they dominate the seed market and have almost complete control of seed prices for genetically engineered crops in the United States and Canada, according to the Organic Consumers association. 

Being from a farming community, I cannot imagine the amount of people that would struggle tremendously if they were to be sued by Monsanto. While that is the case, it is a tricky situation because many of the farmers in the area depend on Monsanto seeds to have successful crop harvests each year.

There has been back and forth arguing for and against Monsanto for years. People keep talking about why Monsanto’s use of GMOs is wrong and how we shouldn’t use them. The fact of the matter is that the GMOs themselves are not inherently wrong. Production of GMOs could be a great thing in the agricultural world and it is not science and technology that is the enemy. It is Monsanto’s refusal to allow recycling and suing farmers that have unintentionally used their products.

Monsanto has the capabilities to help farmers in feeding the United States. Many farmers in the United States would not be able to afford their crops without Monsanto GMOs and seeds. It seems that Monsanto has a bad rap and has burned many bridges. It no secret that Monsanto could use some help with public relations, but if they were more relaxed on farmers inadvertent use of seeds, or reuse of seeds, they may not have so many enemies.