Monsanto to Food, Inc.: Drop Dead

Categories: Bidness, Food
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Schlosser
Food, Inc., the new exposé -documentary about the food industry, doesn't open at the Tivoli until June 26, but it's already generated a fair amount of controversy in St. Louis.

Co-produced by Eric Schlosser of Fast Food Nation fame and starring Schlosser and Michael Pollan of The Omnivore's Dilemma super-fame, Food, Inc. demonizes the "highly mechanized underbelly" of commercially-produced food. Monsanto, the west county-based agricultural company, emerges as one of its chief villains.

In response, Monsanto has added a new page to its website defending itself and denouncing the film for its various inaccuracies.

In a New York Times article about Food, Inc. that came out last Sunday, Kim Severson writes:
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Don't mess with Pollan...
For people steeped in food politics the most revealing scenes are the least graphic. Monsanto goes after an elderly man whose life has been devoted to the practice of cleaning seeds so farmers can replant crops. The chemical company, which has patented herbicide-resistant soybeans and corn, says he is helping farmers plant Monsanto seeds illegally.

The man is forced in a deposition to expose longtime friends and clients who are suspected of using the seeds illegally. He eventually gives up the legal fight when he runs out of money.
Monsanto, naturally, is eager to report its version of events in the interest of setting the record straight. It claims that its seeds are patented and anyone who purchases them -- including the "elderly man," farmer Troy Roush -- signs an agreement not to save or re-sell the seeds.

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...unless you're Monsanto.
The case between Monsanto and Roush, the company continues, was settled confidentially in 2002, so it cannot comment directly. It can, however, say this:

Mr. Roush said that the introduction of patented seeds have pitted farmer against farmer and torn apart rural communities. Patent infringement has been a contentious issue in some communities where it has occurred. We would suggest that it is not the patenting of seeds that has caused this, but the actions of those few who have chosen to ignore the law and their agreements to save seed illegally.  Monsanto is frequently made aware of saved seed cases by other farmers who contact our customer service line with this information. They do so because they feel it is unfair that they are being put at a competitive disadvantage by their neighbors who do not follow the law and legal agreements as they do.

It is interesting to point out, that while Mr. Roush is a harsh and frequent critic of Monsanto and GM crops, he remains a customer of Monsanto having purchased a considerable amount of corn and soybean seed from us during 2008.

In general, Monsanto says, Food, Inc. "presents an unrealistic view of how to feed a growing nation while ignoring the practical demands of the American consumer and the fundamental needs of consumers around the world." The website also provides comments -- largely negative, naturally -- from others who have seen the film.

The arguments that have made Schlosser and Pollan famous -- that most of what we eat isn't real food and is actually making us sick -- are compelling. But so is Monsanto's argument that there's not enough grass-fed beef to feed everyone in the world. So what to do?

"It's not simple," food writer Andrew Smith, who edited The Oxford Encyclopedia of Food and Drink in America, told the Daily RFT. "There's no data to a lot of statements people make. You need to look at the facts and make the best decision you can. You vote for your food system every day."


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