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Among the left-leaning progressives that make up a substantial part of Portland's general population, there is a profound fear of GMO food that's becoming an identity belief--a belief that's held not because it's supported by evidence, but because it helps define membership in a group.

It's frustrating to talk to the anti-GMO crowd, in part because these conversations always involve goalposts whipping around so fast I'm afraid someone will poke my eye out. It generally starts with "I don't like GMOs because food safety," but when you start talking about how evidence to support that position is as thin on the ground as snowmen in the Philippines, the goalposts quickly move to "I don't like GMOs because Monsanto." Monsanto, if you listen to Portland hippies, is a gigantic, evil mega-corporation that controls the government, buys off all the world's scientists, intimidates farmers, and rules supreme over the media.

So I got to thinking, How big is Monsanto? Because it takes quite a lot of money to do the things Monsanto is accused of doing--when they can be done at all, that is.

And I started Googling. The neat thing about publicly-traded corporations is they have to post all their financials. A quick Google search will reveal just how big any public company really is.

I expected to learn that Monsanto was big. I was surprised.

As big companies go, Monsanto is a runt. In terms of gross revenue, it is almost exactly the same size as Whole Foods and Starbucks. It's smaller than The Gap, way smaller than 7-11 and UPS, a tiny fraction of the size of Home Depot, and miniscule compared to Verizon and ExxonMobil. That's it, way down on the left on this graph I made:

You can't shake a stick in the anti-GMO crowd without hearing a dozen conspiracy theories, almost all of them centered around Monsanto. Lefties like to sneer at conservative conspiracy theories about global warming, but when it comes to GMOs, they haven't met a conspiracy theory they don't love to embrace.

Most of these conspiracy theories talk about how Monsanto, that enormous, hulking brute of a magacorporation, has somehow bought off all the world's scientists, creating a conspiracy to tell us GMOs are safe when they're not.

Now, hippie lefties usually aren't scientists. In fact, anyone who's ever been part of academia can tell you a conspiracy of scientists saying something that isn't true is only a little bit more likely than a conspiracy of cats saying tuna is evil. As an essay on Slate put it,

Think of your meanest high school mean girl at her most gleefully, underminingly vicious. Now give her a doctorate in your discipline, and a modicum of power over your future. That’s peer review.

Speaking of conspiracies of scientists, let's get back to conservatives and their "climate change" scientific conspiracy. Look at the left-hand side of the chart up there, then look at the right-hand side. Look at the left side again. Now look at the right side again.

ExxonMobil makes more than 26 times more money than Monsanto, and has a higher net profit margin, too. Combined, the country's top 5 oil companies have a gross revenue exceeding $1.3 trillion, more than 87 times Monsanto's revenue, and yet...

...they still can't get the world's scientists to say global warming isn't a thing.

If the oil companies can't buy a conspiracy of scientists, how can a pipsqueak like Monsanto manage it?

I'm planning a more in-depth blog post about GMOs and anti-GMO activism later. But the "Monsanto buys off scientists" conspiracy nuttiness needed addressing on its own, because it's so ridiculous.

It's easy to root for the underdog. One of the cheapest, most manipulative ways to make an argument is to refer to something you don't like as "Big" (Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big SCAM as I like to think of the Supplemental, Complementary, and Alternative Medicine community). We are culturally wired to love the underdog; a great deal of left identity is wrapped up in being the ones who root for the common man against Big Whatever.

So the ideology of Monsanto as the Big Enemy has emotional resonance. We like to think of the small guy standing up against Big Monsanto, when the reality is Whole Foods, so beloved of hippies everywhere, is basically the same size big corporation as the oft-hated Monsanto, and both of them are tiny in the shadow of far larger companies like 7-11 and Target.

Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to head down to Starbucks for a pumpkin spice latte and listen to the hippies rant about how much they hate big corporations like Monsanto.


( 47 comments — Leave a comment )
Sep. 6th, 2014 01:22 pm (UTC)
I already have shares in Starbucks, so please keep supporting them. It looks like I should be buying Exxon.
I wonder where Tim Horton's fits in there - or will after the Burger King takeover.
Lauren Des Marteaux
Sep. 6th, 2014 02:20 pm (UTC)
On that note..
Great post!

The end made me laugh, as I recently encountered a facebook post shared from "GMO Inside" with "#StopMonsanto" and "#GMO" accompanying!


It took a good while to round up some numbers and post a long-ish rant in defense of this stupid latte.
Sep. 6th, 2014 03:52 pm (UTC)
When food crops are genetically engineered to survive being sprayed with poison that kills every other form of life, proving that the genetic engineering is safe isn't all that reassuring, though.
Sep. 6th, 2014 10:01 pm (UTC)
Um, what? Crops are genetically engineered to resist glyphosate, which is poison to many plants but not to "all other forms of life." For example, it's not all that toxic to you--it's less poisonous to humans than baking soda.
Sep. 8th, 2014 03:23 am (UTC)
Glyphosate inhibits protein production required for photosynthesis to work; this kills the plant. Glyphosate-resistant plants are engineered with a different pathway by which to produce the aforementioned protein allowing them to continue photosynthesizing uninhibited.

There—does it sound less scary and oogity boogity now that you're less ignorant?

(To add: the above commenter is right; glyphosate is one of the safest—if not *the safest*—herbicides on the market. There's no need for such massively incorrect hyperbole.)
Sep. 8th, 2014 10:58 pm (UTC)
Tell that to the honeybees that were killed in Monsanto's own testing....but humans can live without those, right?.....
Sep. 9th, 2014 03:49 am (UTC)
Please share with us your knowledge of pollinators and how honeybees fit into that schema. Why don't you tell that to the beekeeping industry that sprays it's own bees with insecticides? Your comment amuses me.
Sep. 10th, 2014 10:29 pm (UTC)
Re: honeybees
Unlike you, I will actually use data and reports from experts. But first I will point out that Monsanto is involved in far more things than insecticides since you are apparently unaware of that. I hope you actually read these reports even though they don't fit into your current over inflated sense of self and your evidently current held opinions. Also I hope they amuse you are well.




Sep. 10th, 2014 10:57 pm (UTC)
Re: honeybees
Thank you for that. You've demonstrated exactly the kind of goalpost-whipping I was talking about earlier. (Careful with those goalposts, you might hurt someone!)

1. Neonicotinoid-coated seeds have nothing to do with GMO crops. Nothing. Both GMO and non-GMO seeds are coated with neonicotinoid insecticides.

2. You're barking up the wrong multinational corporation. Neonicotinoid-coated seeds were developed by Bayer, not Monsanto. Bayer, not Monsanto, owns the patents on this seed-coating technology.
Sep. 11th, 2014 06:17 pm (UTC)
Re: honeybees
For the record, I never said Monsanto invented anything. But to say Neonicotinoid coated seeds (or any kind of pesticide/insecticide coating) has nothing to do with GMO crops is disingenuous at best, as making seeds resistant to these things is the reason for using them....

But as to your contention that I am barking up the wrong company I am simply targeting the largest supplier of GMO seeds,because. of course companies never work together to make money.....

Monsanto and Bayer CropScience in deals to share technology

and their partners listed on their own website



http://www.monsanto.com/products/documents/msds-labels/acceleron_ic-609_msds.pdf <<<<You'll notice on this document that Clothianidin (a neonicotinoid)is being used in Acceleron, which is a Monsanto product. And this is just one example.
Sep. 11th, 2014 07:45 pm (UTC)
Re: honeybees
Okay, see, this is why I roll my eyes and laugh at anti-GMO activists.

Neonicotinoid coatings are used on both conventional and GMO seeds. It is not a GMO issue.

Now, if you had come and said "Bayer invented this insecticide seed-coating technology that's being used widely, and here are peer-reviewed studies that show it's harmful to honeybees," I would be all "you know, you're absolutely right. There is evidence that this coating technology is destructive to bees. We should probably not be using this seed coating technology."

But instead you're all "OMG we need to BAN GMO FOODS because MONSANTO is KILLING BEES!!!!111!!!11!1oneone! MOOOOONSAAAAAAAAAANNNNNTOOOOOO!!!"

And I and other reasonable people roll our eyes and laugh.

The notion that seed coating is a GMO issue shows a profound confusion on the subject. The fact you single out Monsanto for a seed coating technology invented by Bayer and used by many seed companies shows a narrowness of focus that hurts your cause. With your zealotry, you take a legitimate issue that many people would totally agree with, and make yourself look bad instead.

Oh, and a word of advice: If your "sources" include sites like Natural News, a whole lot of people will totally dismiss everything you say out of hand. Quoting Natural News is like quoting the National Enquirer or Mercola or Weekly World News. "Bat boy found in GMOs!"

Edited at 2014-09-11 07:46 pm (UTC)
Sep. 12th, 2014 04:10 pm (UTC)
Re: honeybees
Actually as I stated before the only reason Monsanto (at least in my mind) is the major target is because they are the leading producer of GMO seeds (over 70%).Its the equivalent of saying "I am going to get into the Jacuzzi" even though you own an Emerald Bay hot tub. And of course seed coating (re:insecticide coating)and GMO seeds are related. As I stated earlier,and you seem to gloss over, the whole reason given for GMO seeds is to have insecticide resistant seeds. How can you realistically think otherwise? Finally I will agree with ONE of my sources being questionable, my mistake. However the others I stand behind.

Btw I have never,nor will I ever say OMG.....q;o)
Sep. 12th, 2014 08:19 pm (UTC)
Re: honeybees
Actually as I stated before the only reason Monsanto (at least in my mind) is the major target is because they are the leading producer of GMO seeds (over 70%).

Actually, they're not. The number is closer to 30%. You'll see a lot of other numbers--98%, 95%, 90%, and so on--at anti-GMO Web sites, but if you actually look at the sales figures for different seed makers, Monsanto only has about 30% of the market.

A lot of confusion comes from the fact that lots of seeds are Roundup Ready, and Monsanto developed the Roundup Ready traits, so anti-GMOers who are poorly informed and confused assume that all Roundup Ready seeds come from Monsanto. (In fact, Dow, Syngenta, DuPont, and more than 100 other companies grow and sell Roundup Ready seeds.) This is a classic example of the level of confusion and misinformatn the anti-GMO fanatics have.

Another great example of that level of confusion is in your comment. "And of course seed coating (re:insecticide coating)and GMO seeds are related. As I stated earlier,and you seem to gloss over, the whole reason given for GMO seeds is to have insecticide resistant seeds." In thos one comment is so much confusion it's hard to know where to start.

Let's start here. Roundup Ready seeds are resistant to HERBICIDES, not INSECTICIDES. HERBICIDES kill plants. INSECTICIDES kill insects. You do not need to genetically engineer resistance to INSECTICIDES because they kill insects, not plants.

In fact, the Bayer neonicotinoid coatings use insecticides that are derived from plants. "Neonicotinoid" means "new nicotine." Plants manufacture all kinds of insecticides. Nicotine, caffeine, theobromine, the pungent classes of chemicals found in ginger, the sulfanoids that give onions their flavor--they all evolved as defenses against insects. They are all insecticides.

Neonicotinoid insecticides are insecticides derived from nicotine. They are harmless to plants. You do not have to genetically engineer plants to resist them. Bayer neonicotinoid coatings are used on GM seeds and also on conventional, non-GM seeds.

GM seeds are (sometimes) engineered to resist herbicides like glyphosate. Glyphosate kills plants by stopping photosynthesis. GM Roundup Ready seeds use a different metabolic pathway for photosynthesis, so glyphosate doesn't kill them.

But that is not the "whole reason given" for GM seeds. Some GM seeds resist herbicides. Some GM seeds, like Golden Rice, improve human health by providing nutrients like beta carotene. Some GM seeds, like Arctic apples, provide better fruit; Arctic apples don't turn brown when they're cut. Some GM seeds, like the tearless onions being developed in New Zealand, exist to make people's lives better; you can cut them without exposing your eyes to the acids released by regular onions.

So your one statement had at least two levels of confusion: you've confused herbicide resistance with insecticide resistance and you seem to mistakenly believe that herbicide resistance is the only reason GM technology exists.
Feb. 16th, 2015 12:25 am (UTC)
Re: honeybees
I was curious to see how 'anonymous' would respond, but I only hear the chirping of crickets! Either your very clear explanation has cleared up his confusion, or he has found a less formidable opponent to subject to his righteous indignation.
Ted C. MacRae
Sep. 6th, 2014 05:43 pm (UTC)
Alas, quite true. I object to the GMOs myself, but food safety is not my reason.

I've found it quite frustrating to be against something and to have a gazillion people who agree with me constantly undermining my argument.
Sep. 6th, 2014 06:24 pm (UTC)
poison that kills every other form of life???
"When food crops are genetically engineered to survive being sprayed with poison that kills every other form of life, proving that the genetic engineering is safe isn't all that reassuring, though."

Dude! That comment earns a double "wot?" Glyphosate is one of the least toxic pesticides available. It is not poison to every other form of life. Where on earth did you get that?
Sep. 6th, 2014 06:45 pm (UTC)
Its Income, not Revenue that is important
Well Gross Revenue isn't even relevant. You can't bribe scientists or politicians with Revenue, only INCOME. Which is a WHOLE lot smaller number than the figures on that graph. Importantly, Monsanto is also in a very competitive business, that relies on short lived patents, so they have to sink a lot of that income into ongoing research, and thus the average salary they have to pay to their employees, a large percentage of which are scientists, is going to make their expenses quite high. Thus for the last 3 years, their income has been: $1.6 Billion, $2 Billion and in 2013 $2.5 Billion. In comparison, Gross income for Starbucks, with approx. the same revenue has been 2.16B 2.59B 3.18B http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/sbux/financials http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/ups/financials http://www.marketwatch.com/investing/stock/mon/financials

Sep. 6th, 2014 09:10 pm (UTC)
Flawed argument
Have you heard about the Union of Concerned Scientists?

They are not flaky left-leaning hippies, yet they often voice legitimate concerns about the way in which companies such as Monsanto operate.

For example: http://www.ucsusa.org/food_and_agriculture/our-failing-food-system/genetic-engineering/monsanto-fails-at-improving.html

Refuting the potential harm of a company such as Monsanto by pointing out that many of its critics know nothing about science is not very scientific.

It simply means that you are picking targets that are easy to ridicule while ignoring others which present legitimate scientific arguments.

Stating that it is a small company is also not very enlightening, since all the companies listed in the bar chart are very large. The fact that it is only 17th in the list of North America's biggest trading companies does not mean that its lobbying resources are non-existent.

Quite the opposite, in fact.

Sep. 7th, 2014 12:01 am (UTC)
Re: Flawed argument
Yeah, heh, about the Union of Concerned Scientists...

Doug Gurian-Sherman, the anti-GMO spokesperson at the UCS, has been dismissed, in what may signal a change on the UCS's stance on GMOs.

And rightly so, too. The "Union of Concerned Scientists" has had a bad few years, ignoring scientific research in favor of fearmongering and hysteria (not just about GMOs, but on other topics as well). Their credibility among other scientists is in tatters:

On Double Standards and the Union of Concerned Scientists: The Union of Concerned Scientists criticizes antivaxxers...then makes exactly the same arguments against GMOs that antivaxxers make against vaccines.

Union of Concerned Trolls: Deconstructing Doug Gurian-Sherman's flawed anti-GMO arguments.

Does the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Doug Gurian-Sherman misrepresent GMOs? "The article is classic Gurian-Sherman, mainstream scientists familiar with his method of operation say—a mixture of half-truths and outright misrepresentations. His comment about the lack of consensus on GMO crop safety is particularly outrageous."
Sep. 7th, 2014 09:39 pm (UTC)
Re: Flawed argument
"The fact that it is only 17th in the list of North America's biggest trading companies does not mean that its lobbying resources are non-existent. "

True, but importantly: One could expect them to have roughly the same lobbying power as Whole Foods. Whose lobbying power, well, everyone seems just fine with.

And the size argument is relevant when you consider the comparison to global warming. Franklin has already made that point; I won't repeat it here. But I think you'd need to refute it before you can say that the size of the company isn't important to consider.
Sep. 7th, 2014 12:00 am (UTC)
to buy a scientist
true: Monsanto is big, Monsanto is influential, Monsanto goes for global influence, Monsanto does (almost) everything to sell their product (almost, because their PR is lousy). I do not like Monsanto very much because I had an unpleasant discussion with them.
However, I do not know anyone in my scientific environment who received money or even research funding from Monsanto. In contrast, I know a whole bunch of scientists who were bought/payed by the anti-GMO lobby (including at least one whole university department that was financed by an anti GMO consortium).
I sometimes think about what I did wrong in my life: why am I not one of the 95% of scientists who get payed by Monsanto so that I could have a yacht, a villa in the Carabean, fast cars and beautiful women like all the others have?
Sep. 7th, 2014 12:57 am (UTC)
I dislike Monsanto because they sue farmers who save seeds.

Source: http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/saved-seed-farmer-lawsuits.aspx

Specifically, they not only enforce their patent agreement with farmers who have purchased seed directly from them (and have signed a contractual agreement not to save and replant seeds), they also vigorously pursue claims against parties with which they have no agreement (Bowman, et al.)

I frankly don't care terribly much about GMO vs. non-GMO in most contexts, although I do argue that pesticide-resistance genes can cause unintended environmental impacts to non-pest insects and plant life if pesticide application goes up.

My concerns with things like GMO salmon have to do with the fact that fish farming (GMO or not!) can do a lot of damage to the surrounding aquatic environment (parasites, exceeding load capacity for waste, etc.), and that escaped GMO salmon may interbreed with wild salmon (which isn't necessarily a bad thing overall, unless you're fixated on "species purity" -- with salmon in particular, interbreeding might cause subsequent generations to have abnormal spawning patterns.

The other issue is that it would likely damage salmon's protected status if individual populations were no longer considered to be wild-type -- and that would cause harm to subsistence fishermen and Native populations, particularly if certain rivers and fish-ladder areas were deregulated.

(The third issue with that one, ironically, feeds into your point with this post -- right now, wild-caught salmon can be certified as non-GMO, which means that the "Monsanto is the Devil" types are supporting the industry. If the wild population genome becomes contaminated by farmed GMO salmon, it may damage the salmon industry and, again, potentially lead to preserved waterways losing their protection.)

I'd eat the hell out of a GMO salmon raised on a farm that had minimal negative environmental impact, though. Salmon is *delicious!*

-- A <3

Edited at 2014-09-07 12:58 am (UTC)
Doug Ducat
Sep. 7th, 2014 06:24 am (UTC)
>>I dislike Monsanto because they sue farmers who save seeds.

Source: http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/saved-seed-farmer-lawsuits.aspx

Specifically, they not only enforce their patent agreement with farmers who have purchased seed directly from them (and have signed a contractual agreement not to save and replant seeds), they also vigorously pursue claims against parties with which they have no agreement (Bowman, et al.)<<

GMO seed is protected by patent against illegal usage. Farmers have the option to contract to use GM seeds in planting. If they do so, they must agree not to save seeds for replanting. This has been a common practice in patent protected plants, including non-GM hybrids, since the mid 1900's. This is not unique to GM seed in any way.

Monsanto does, and MUST, sue contract violators and patent violators. Most people don't realize it, but, when a company chooses not to enforce their patents, they are literally giving up the right to that patent. An example of this happening is with Aspex Eyewear in the following case:


You mentioned Bowman. Bowman obtained feed stock seed that contained Roundup Ready seeds from a grain elevator and had no license to plant it, knew this, and intentionally planted it anyway. He then used Roundup to kill all the non-Gm plants and select out the RR plants. Then he harvested seeds from those plants and planted his fields with them, thinking he circumvented the patent. It was a premeditated and dishonest endeavor on his part and he deserved to be sued for it.

>>"I do argue that pesticide-resistance genes can cause unintended environmental impacts to non-pest insects and plant life if pesticide application goes up."<<

Bt and RR crops have significantly reduced the amount of pesticides used on crops. That's largely their purpose and they have been quite successful in that regard.

>>"My concerns with things like GMO salmon have to do with the fact that fish farming (GMO or not!) can do a lot of damage to the surrounding aquatic environment (parasites, exceeding load capacity for waste, etc.), and that escaped GMO salmon may interbreed with wild salmon (which isn't necessarily a bad thing overall, unless you're fixated on "species purity" -- with salmon in particular, interbreeding might cause subsequent generations to have abnormal spawning patterns."<<

I don't know much about environmental impacts of fish farming in general that you are mentioning here, however, GM salmon is being engineered to put on substantial amounts of muscle that is not present in wild salmon. For this reason they have to eat substantially more than wild salmon and are not able to survive in the wild. Even if some GM salmon escaped and bread with wild salmon, the offspring would be at such a severe disadvantage, that they wouldn't be able to survive for long. It's similar to the notion of a domestic cow escaping into the wild. It could breed with a wild ox, but it probably won't survive that long and it's offspring certainly will not.

If you would like to learn more about specifics and participate in GMO related discussions, you should come visit the GMO Skepti-forum. We have compiled a huge amount of information on our wiki and have ongoing discussions about GMOs, farming, pesticide use, Monsanto, and other related topics.

Sep. 7th, 2014 07:49 am (UTC)
Thanks, but I'm at a comfortable level of skepticism.

I said that I *dislike Monsanto's tactics* -- but I also believe that the patent litigation system, as it stands (FWIW, I've worked for a patent law firm, although we focused on polymer patents), is fundamentally broken and discouraging to innovation. Patent-trolling has become a lucrative form of law, and patent litigation often winds up crushing entrepreneurial businesses, who can't afford to keep litigating against a larger company with deep pockets, particularly when broad claims are asserted.

I am aware that failing to follow up on an infringing action can, in some cases, invalidate a patent. However, Bowman was not attempting to market a competing product (there is no indication that he planned on selling his soybeans for seed), he was choosing *not* to enter into a contract with Monsanto for the seed.

While saying "he used feed stock seed for planting" is correct, the idea that seed can be licensed in such a fashion that it can *only* be used for feed stock, rather than for any purpose that the purchaser wishes, is a modern legal fiction. Monsanto also sued a number of grain elevators -- and their reputation as aggressive litigators has meant that, while they have "only" sued 145 farmers (it's unclear whether that also includes their cases against grain elevators), they have certainly made it clear to farmers that there is no point in trying to legally prevail against them.

If I hadn't been on mobile, I would also have referenced the Schmeiser case, where the GMO canola was genuinely a contaminant from a neighboring field. While Schmeiser did deliberately harvest and replant seed from the contaminated crop, resulting in Roundup-resistant canola, he did not purchase the seeds duplicitously, in contravention of Monsanto's contracts.

Nevertheless, Monsanto won the case, because he had "deliberately" replanted Roundup-resistant seeds, despite not being party to a contract with the company, nor having purchased the seeds in contravention of any license to sell as seed crops.

I frankly think his case is a better example than Bowman, but I couldn't remember the case name offhand.

I was actually discussing the salmon/GMO salmon versus cattle with my partner earlier -- I was saying that I was more concerned about GMO salmon than GMO cows, because there isn't a significant population of wild cattle to interbreed with, and there are not currently enough buffalo or other bovines using the same environment as domestic cattle. With fish farms, on the other hand, you are going to necessarily have cross-contamination -- fish farms (catfish may be an exception, I'm more familiar with salmon farms) depend on the circulation of water through their pens in order to keep their fish alive.

Because the pens are necessarily abutting open water for this to take place (it's not economically feasible to pump and filter huge quantities of water, when normal water circulation and a modicum of pumping will do the same job for much less), diseases and parasites of farmed fish contaminate the local native fish population, and some number of farmed fish escape every year. (This has nothing to do with GMO, it's a reality of fish farming.)


Escape, both of fish that exist in a local wild population, and species of farmed fish that are invasive to the area (and are therefore a danger to the wild population), is a persistent problem. Aquaculturists have improved their escape statistics, but it is still an ongoing concern: http://fl.biology.usgs.gov/Nile_tilapia/nile_tilapia.html

Certain types of farming are more harmful to the environment than others: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/11/14/us-mangroves-idUSBRE8AD1EG20121114

Bivalve farming seems to have the least environmental impact, and I'm all for it. :)

I don't have an issue with farmed organisms, in general, as long as they aren't overloading the carrying capacity for an area (such as massive-scale chicken farms dumping nitrogen into rivers, creating "dead zones" in the sea area abutting the river delta.)

Sep. 7th, 2014 07:50 am (UTC)
Right -- I just realized that it's 3 a.m., so I'm off to get some sleep. I understand the desire to get accurate, unbiased information on GMOs out to the general population, and am in favor of it.

That doesn't mean that I'm going to be pro- or anti-GMO on a broad basis -- I prefer to take specific cases/organisms on their merits, without making an overarching statement about GMOs in general. Every food crop that I can think of has been "genetically modified" by humans in its evolution and production -- the issues I take with Monsanto in particular, and GMO patents in general, have to do with the way that they are litigated and the effects that litigation has on the practice of farming.

Regarding GMO *organisms*, depending on their environmental impact, I may be for or against them (just as I'm for or against other agricultural/farming practices, whether or not they involve GMOs.)

I'm certainly not going to fall for the scare tactics, though, and I hope that more people will treat "GMO" as less of a monolith, and more a series of linked issues that bear further scrutiny.


-- A :)
Sep. 7th, 2014 05:13 pm (UTC)
Curious as to why Walmart is not on the chart. From a quick search, seems their revenue is just above Exxon.
Sep. 8th, 2014 02:08 am (UTC)
Re: Walmart?
Walmart would be the extreme right hand side of the chart, above ExxonMobil.

I wasn't tryingo to put together a comprehensive list of large companies, but rather just Googling companies that came to mind more or less randomly, to get a sense of the relative size of Monsanto with respect to other companies we're all familiar with. There are dozens of large companies way bigger than Monsanto that would dominate the right of the chart: Apple, GM, Wal-Mart, General Electric, CVS, Costco, IBM, and more.
Damian Mason
Sep. 8th, 2014 03:28 pm (UTC)
Love this article for the data and the commentary!
Sep. 8th, 2014 06:41 pm (UTC)
What? Who do you work for?
I wonder if you work Monsanto, it seems like it as this article states nothing relevant. People hate Monsanto because of their cut throat lawsuits. They hate Monsanto because once you use gmo you cannot go back. GMO is transgenic once its in the environment its there for good. They hate Monsanto and GMO because its a lie, it doesn't produce higher yield, it takes more water to grow plants, and its all untested beyond the Monsanto controlled fda. Not only that the water is becoming a toxic mix of herbicides and pesticides that is killing all sorts of life. The reasons for it are become less and less since the super weeds are adapting too quickly so you need more pesticides not less. The only way to work with nature is with it not against it.
Sep. 8th, 2014 11:53 pm (UTC)
Re: What? Who do you work for?
Nope, I don't work for Monsanto. Do you by any chance work for Whole Foods? How much do they pay you to go on the Internet and talk about the "Monsanto-controlled FDA" and "toxic water," I wonder?
Sep. 8th, 2014 09:17 pm (UTC)
You did not comment on Monsanto's, near total domination and control of the seeds that farmers use to grow our crops.
Sep. 8th, 2014 11:12 pm (UTC)
Re: Monsanto
Monsanto's "near total domination and control of the seeds that farmers use to grow our crops"? As seed companies go they're neither particularly large nor particularly powerful.

It's common to read anti-GMO "news" sites that say things like "Monsanto controls our food supply." I've read articles that make claims like "Monsanto controls 95% of the seed market" and "Monsanto controls all the nation's farms." In fact, Monsanto's market share is only around 30% of the commercial seed market overall; DuPont and Syngenta are bigger and control more of the market. (For instance, as of 2012, the last year for which I can find data online, DuPont has a 36% market share in soybeans, vs. Monsanto's 28%.)

DuPont spends more in lobbying every year than Monsanto, but both Monsanto and DuPont combined spend way less than Google. Privately-held company Cargill is a giant compared to Monsanto (it's bigger than Ford in terms of gross revenue), and exerts far more influence in agribusiness, in part because it is aggressive about vertical integration--Cargill sells seed, fertilizer, pesticide, and animal feed, and also operates granaries, mills, and slaughterhouses. In areas where it operates, that vertical integration allows it to set prices by controlling the entire market from end to end.

Singling out Monsanto is a little weird. They're not especially large, they're not particularly influential, and yet people will make outrageous claims like "Monsanto controls 95% of the seed market" with a straight face.

I honestly don't get it--doesn't anyone do fact-checking any more?
Jul. 24th, 2015 09:06 pm (UTC)
Re: Monsanto
Cargill actually sold off their seed business to Monsanto back in 1998. And with the 2005 purchase of Seminis they did become the largest grossing seed company and saw their operating income grow by 14% in 2014 ( http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-01-29/dupont-cuts-bonuses-delays-raises-as-profit-growth-slows ). Some information I've seen (not from Natural News) shows that they have in fact overtaken DuPont in sales and are now the single largest seed company ( http://www.globalagriculture.org/report-topics/seeds-and-patents-on-life/seeds-and-patents-on-life.html ).

Edited at 2015-07-24 09:07 pm (UTC)
Sep. 9th, 2014 11:18 am (UTC)
The power of graphs (or charts...). Illustrating the difference between information and fact.
Sep. 9th, 2014 01:50 pm (UTC)
What really are GMO's
People are so concerned about genetically modified organisms but I wonder if people realize that this has essentially been going on since 12,000 B.C. through selective breeding in which plants were selected for desirable traits to improve humans' quality of life. I wonder how people in starving countries would feel if they didn't have access to life-saving GMO's like golden rice. Golden rice is a variety of Oryza sativa rice produced through genetic engineering to biosynthesize beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A, in the edible parts of rice. The research was conducted with the goal of producing a fortified food to be grown and consumed in areas with a shortage of dietary vitamin A, a deficiency which is estimated to kill 670,000 children under the age of 5 each year.
Saving lives sounds pretty "evil" to me. LOL
The great thing about living in the United States is we can choose if we want to pay more for our food and have deep pockets to do so and shop at Whole Foods or are okay with shopping at places that can accomodate those with smaller budgets and are okay with eating the healthiest and safest food supply in the world!
Biggest thing I hope for is that we can all appreciate each others' opinions and agree to disagree, but not instill fear into people with misinformation or cause businesses hardships just because you don't agree with them... kind of how misinformation made Americans loose jobs and hurt the beef industry with lean, finely textured beef.... But that's a whole other topic.
Sep. 9th, 2014 10:33 pm (UTC)
Monsanto profits in perspective
First, I couldn't agree more with your point about the anti-GMO sentiment being irrational and a countercultural badge of honor.

That said though, for a blog with a scientific bent, I'm a bit disappointed in your chart and the conclusions you draw from it. Where'd the data come from? No self-respecting scientist would think about publishing a piece like this without disclosing its data source.

Second, I echo an earlier comment that gross revenue as a measure of a business's success is meaningless. What matters (and some might argue that the ONLY thing that matters) is net profit. Monies left after expenses are what fuel business expansion and initiatives. Yes, Monsanto's revenue is puny compared with Exxon-Mobil's. But where's Apple in your chart? Or IBM?

Seems to me if your goal was to compare Monsanto with other businesses, your credibility takes a hit by selective including or ignoring other, larger businesses. Plus, you show only US companies.

Have a look at http://www.forbes.com/global2000/list/#page:1_sort:4_direction:desc_search:_filter:All%20industries_filter:All%20countries_filter:All%20states then click on the profit column label to sort by profit instead of revenue. The two most profitable companies in the world with nearly $80B in combined profit (Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae) aren't even listed on your chart.

Monsanto is indeed a pipsqueak by comparison with just $2.9B in profit.
Sep. 10th, 2014 01:04 am (UTC)
Re: Monsanto profits in perspective
The source for the chart is each company's financial report for 2013--I built it by reading annual reports for the named companies. It wasn't intended as an exhaustive list of all the big companies, but only as a quick and dirty guide to the general size of Monsanto (which is to say, on part with Whole Foods and Starbucks, smaller than 7-11 and Target, way smaller than Verizon and ExxonMobil--too small to be financially capable fo the giant global conspiracy the anti-GMOers keep blabbing on about. :)
Sep. 10th, 2014 12:57 am (UTC)
What's in a spray?
If commercial GMOs are Trojan Horses for glyphosate, then glyphosate is a Trojan Horse for POEA (polyoxyethylene tallow amine, a "surfactant"). Read on...


Say what you will, Monsanto is still evil, no matter if it's a runt or even if it doesn't pay off scientists. They are a petrochemical company and will use it, or dispose of it, wherever they can (e.g. WWI with deadly gases, Vietnam with Agent Orange, Mosquito abatement with DDT, Roundup twinned with GMOs, Corexit in the Gulf of Mexico/BP spill, chemical dumping in public waterways, wherever...
Sep. 13th, 2014 07:02 am (UTC)
My question is why do people think a GMO is in food? The GM Organism in the case of Monsanto products is the plant. The plant is genetically modified and is the organism. The plant contains a genetic modification of a single or multiple genes introduced using biotechnology and then crossing. The gene codes for a protein. The protein confers an advantage to the crop such as herbicide resistance or pesticide resistance. When the corn is harvested and sold to food processors, the oil is extracted which destroys any protein present. The germ, which contains protein, is mostly fed to animals, the animals break down the protein into amino acids and reuse for energy or building animal tissue. Starch is purified and sold as starch or broken down further to glucose. A similar story with soy and also cotton, which i am pretty sure people are wearing everyday. I think you can figure out where i am going with this, the thing people think of as a gmo, is really a product of the genetic insertions that manifests as a protein that is non-detectable in most (i want to say all) processed products that are sold in the marketplace. I have read a little about this from sources i consider reliable, corn.org and gmo-compass for Soy info. I also have a degree in molecular biology and i understand basic gmo technology. My question is why don't more pro biotech folks talk about this?
Sep. 15th, 2014 03:57 pm (UTC)
Morons one and all!!!
Wow you all are clearly clueless and just lazy idiots that like eating crap, and chemically filled foods.

Good luck with you health! Had any allergies in the younger part of your family? Maybe you all are fat and like it? Or maybe you just getting paid by these twits to promote their crap!

Either way you'll get what comes to ignorant cows!

Wow the world is full of idiots!!!
Sep. 17th, 2014 06:31 am (UTC)
Re: Morons one and all!!!
Hahaha while you're wearing GMO cotton and stuffing Cheetos in your mouth. Wake up and smell the change. If you can read, do some research or just STFU you're making other anti-GMO folks look bad.


Biology Fortified’s GENERA database lists more than 1,000 studies with another 1,300 or so to add. GM crops have been investigated for more than 20 years. There are nuances in conclusions, but the evidence is consistent whether the study was funded by industry or the European Commission: GM crops are as safe as other conventional or organic crops and foods—or safer.

What about the claim made by Charles Benbrook and repeated endlessly by anti-GMO activists that there have been few or no long-term studies? That’s false. GENERA lists more than three-dozen examples of multi-year studies showing no unusual health consequences from consuming GMOs. A recent review of 24 of these studies led by Chelsea Snell found: “Results … do not suggest any health hazards … and there were no statistically significant differences within parameters observed.”

Dec. 7th, 2014 01:09 pm (UTC)
Re: Morons one and all!!!
umm...everything is made of chemicals.
Gasp...even YOU are made of chemicals!
Yeah science!
Sep. 15th, 2014 09:12 pm (UTC)
From one of your hippy friends
Sep. 15th, 2014 09:22 pm (UTC)
Re: From one of your hippy friends
For a takedown on the false claims and pseudoscience in that document, I recommend visiting the GMO Skepti-Forum, which has a large number of scientists and farmers on it. tl;dr version: the PDF is truthy-sounding to folks with limited farming and biology experience, but is about as accurate as similar "why vaccines are bad" arguments floating around the Internet.
Sep. 16th, 2014 06:22 am (UTC)
Freakin' Phabulous

Take that Professor!

A genetic manipulation device created by Professor Richard Lazarus in the "The Lazarus Experiment" to reverse ageing. The 76-year-old professor becomes a young man after using the manipulator, but the process awakens dormant genes, causing him to mutate into a monstrous, scorpion-like creature, capable of extracting the life force from humans. Funding for the project was provided by Mr Saxon who is later revealed to be the Master. The technology is later incorporated into his weapon which he calls a laser screwdriver in "The Sound of Drums" and is used to incapacitate the Doctor by ageing him.
Feb. 9th, 2015 02:16 pm (UTC)
If you want to have an argument about the health problems caused by GMOs, go talk to Jeffrey Smith of the Institute for Responsible Technology. Most of the world already rejected this garbage. -- Eio
Dec. 8th, 2015 01:05 pm (UTC)
I dont have anything against GMO, but from what ive read it is not the biggest sin of Monsanto: "During WW2, Francis Queeny couldn’t import chemicals from Europe and stared manufacturing its own chemical products. In 1929, Monsanto went public and became the largest producer of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Although PCBs were banned in 1970s, they still remain in water along Dead Creek in Sauget where Monsanto had its plant for manufacturing PCBs. PCBs were widely used as lubricants, cutting oils and hydraulic fluids until scientific evidences showed that PCBs are one of the deadliest carcinogens and chemicals tlinked to anuto immune system disorder, birth defects, cancer and fatal death.

The first manufacturing plant of PCBs was in Illinois that still has one of the highest rate of immature birth and birth defect. The scientists at Monsanto knew about the health risks associated with PCBs but they couldn’t afford to lose business when it was MAKING MONEY at the time."

PCB's are staying in the soil for YEARS and are EXTREMELY cancerogenic substances, which can be found in the plants and mostly fishes from the water and soil.
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