Confessions of a Monsanto Co-Op

May 11, 2009

"If you're anything like me, you've also had to face the reality that the job isn't going to be "Rock Star-Astronaut" like you planned for when you were seven years old." - Dan

"If you're anything like me, you've also had to face the reality that the job isn't going to be "Rock Star-Astronaut" like you planned for when you were seven years old." - Dan

By Dan The Co-Op

Many of you have probably been where I am now:–near the end of college and worrying about getting a job to pay off that mountain of student loan debt.  If you’re anything like me, you’ve also had to face the reality that the job isn’t going to be “Rock Star-Astronaut” like you planned for when you were seven years old.

But when I got a call from Monsanto offering me an internship last November, I was pumped.  Not only was this a chance to get my feet wet in the real world, but I’d get to work in an area that I think is almost as cool as cruising the cosmos with a guitar.  I’m talking about biotech and the way that organizations like Monsanto can use it to help people.

Now after that last sentence I’ve probably got some of you rolling your eyes.  “Monsanto doesn’t help people; Monsanto is an evil company and the world would be better off without it,” right?  Well, hear me out.  Before I came here, I didn’t know very much about the company; I read the same blogs and saw the same YouTube videos that you all did.  But when I walked through those doors in January, I was given a perspective that a lot of you haven’t got.  And if you let me, I’ll try and share it with you.

First of all, everyone I’ve met here gives 110 percent.  They’re all willing to do whatever it takes to put out the best product possible and make sure it meets all of the required standards for quality and safety.  There’s no grand deception or conspiracy at play here that’s making Monsanto the market leader, just hard work and exceptional workers.  In the end, that’s just how you run a business. You can’t make a profit if your product hurts your customers.  If half of the bad things I’ve heard about this company were true, they wouldn’t make it to the end of the year!

Now, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t valid concerns about Monsanto (or any company), just that the debate about Monsanto and biotech in general needs to be informed, intelligent and open-minded.  At the end of the day the enemy isn’t GM food or organic food–the enemy is hunger and starvation.  It’s not an enemy that can be fought with bickering, politics and drama but with ideas, cooperation, and yes–a little profit-driven innovation.  Sure, Monsanto is a company that’s trying to improve their bottom line.  But they’re doing it with a little more care and compassion nowadays than many people give them credit for.

Just one more thought before I leave you. For those of you who might be thinking “of course you’d say that; you work for them!”  Keep in mind that I’m an intern here and I don’t get any end-of-year bonus for writing this post.  If you come ask me this July, when my name is off the company payroll and their parking sticker is just a gluey spot on my windshield, I’ll still tell you that Monsanto is a fine company and the people I met there are good people.


Dan is a student of the Missouri University of Science and Technology with a major in Biological Sciences and minors in Computer Science and Bioinformatics.  He was offered a co-op with Monsanto in January of 2009 and brought on as an Application Support Specialist.  A confessed nerd, Dan can usually be found in front of a computer or behind a book but he occasionally ventures out to dabble with writing or to play the bass guitar (badly).  He has a profound love of science and relishes any opportunity to flex his creative muscles.

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14 Responses to “Confessions of a Monsanto Co-Op”


  1. Interesting post. I think one of the issues that a lot of people have with Monsanto may have more to do with how the intellectual property rights laws are written than anything else.

    When you have a company prosecuting a person onto who’s property a patented seed falls, and sprouts, causing that person to be found guilty of patent infringement, even though they had nothing what so ever to do with that seed getting onto the property in the first place, something’s wrong. It’d be as if I bought a bull, let the bull jump the fence and then took you to court when I find out that your cows are pregnant. That’s the biggest problem I have with GM crops, other than those used to produce pharmaceuticals. But as I said, I think the problem is rooted in the patent laws, not intrinsicly in Monsanto. The patent laws need to be rewritten to protect people from being sued in a situation like this, while allowing them to save the seed from the contaminated crops if they so choose.

  2. Blue Says:

    Rose Coloured Glasses.

    Kid.

  3. Laura Says:

    Joanne,

    Please see the articles below for information on saved-seed lawsuits.

    http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto_today/for_the_record/monsanto_saved_seed_lawsuits.asp

    http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto_today/for_the_record/monsanto_farmer_lawsuits_followup.asp

    http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto_today/for_the_record/percy_schmeiser.asp

    In particular, please note: “In the past 10 years, we [Monsanto] have only filed suit against farmers 138 times. This may sound like a lot, but when you consider that we sell seed to about 250,000 farmers a year, it’s really a small number. Of these, we’ve proceeded through trial with only nine farmers. All nine cases were found in Monsanto’s favor.” And “…the proceeds are donated to youth leadership initiatives including scholarship programs.”

    So, let’s do the math: 250,000 farmer customers a year times 10 years = 2.5 million opportunities for farmers to save seed or for a neighboring farm’s crops to be impacted by a customer’s. 138/2.5 million = 0.000055. That’s a risk of 1 in 20,000. The odds of being struck by lightning at some point in your lifetime are 1 in 5,000 (NOAA, National Weather Service Lightning Safety).

    Please consider that if there ever actually was a case like the situation you describe, and Monsanto sued such a farmer, it would be a PR nightmare and damage our customer relationships.

    Just look at the negative attention we receive as it is without conducting business in such a manner.

    Disclaimer – I am a proud scientist working for Monsanto.


  4. Dear Monsanto,

    there is a peculiar yet familiar scent emanating from this blog. could this be an elaborate ruse to deceive the public? say it ain’t so, monsanto!

    If you haven’t read Cluetrain, guys, it’s never too late to get a clue, although it may be too late for this blog.

    Some rules from Cluetrain:

    #19 Companies can now communicate with their markets directly. If they blow it, it could be their last chance. (oops!)

    #20 Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them. (yes, yes we are.)

    #26 Public Relations does not relate to the public. Companies are deeply afraid of their markets. (i can smell the fear in your blog.)

    #33 Learning to speak with a human voice is not a parlor trick. It can’t be “picked up” at some tony conference. (oops again!)

    You didn’t do your homework, but this isn’t school, this is real, and you don’t get to just “try again.”

    FAIL!


  5. Laura,

    It would help if Monsanto didn’t sue people like Percy Schmieser, and that suit does have PR implicaitons for Monsanto. Unfortunately, because of the way the patent laws, and copyright, trademark, laws are written, if you don’t defend your intellectual property rights, you loose them eventually. That’s the point I was making. Holders of patents, and in some cases copyrights, are put in a catch 22. If you prosecute for a violation in some situations you come off as the bad guy, but if you don’t prosecute you may loose your pattent, copyright, etc.

    A lot of people settle out of court because they don’t have the money to defend themselves. Some settle because they are actually, willfully in violation of the laws. It’s my understanding that Monsanto, in out of court settlements does obtain a gag order. In the case of Percy, he had patented plants show up on his property, through no action of his own, was prosecuted in the Canadian legal system, and was found guilty of violation of intellectual property laws, although he wasn’t fined, and he wasn’t forced into a gag order.

    On the other hand, there was a favorable outcome to the suit against Schmeiser which Monsanto could use to their favor, and perhaps could lead to changes in the intellectual property laws that could reduce the incidents of these types of law suits.

    http://www.percyschmeiser.com/

    Joanne Rigutto

  6. Bev Says:

    All I would like to say or rattle your cage about is a program called Know the Cause. If one cannot find it on tv, type it in Google and click on the link Today’s Show..
    .. Now Streaming. I am sure it would change your perspective. Just wanted to give other points of view equal time. Thank you for the opportunity. Just a healthy 63 yr. old who does not look her age. I dare you to check this out. Doug Kaufmann is host of the show. Bev

  7. Bev Says:

    I do not know what awaiting moderation means, but you may tell me. BB

  8. Marcio Dal Bo Says:

    Hi Dan the Co-op!

    It is funny how many turns one subject can do.

    It is even funnier how much people opposing GMOs or just against Monsanto deny all information provided by court decisions, or by anyone that tries to defend Monsanto and the biotech business.

    I am here to say that I have finished my Co-op at Monsanto and today I work as a Monsanto Contract. I chose to work here because all the 30+ people I know that work there have ever said anything negative about the company. On the contrary, they would only make compliments! I wanted to be part of this family and here I am today! I have only wonderful things to say about the company, and to my knowledge, all we are trying to do is to make sure that 10, 20, 30 years down the line we all (the world) will be able to feed our families despite location, poor weather condition, or economic challenges.

    Dan, I hope you can join our family and hope you can contribute to our ultimate goal; to help feeding the world.

    Good luck!

  9. scared stiff Says:

    IT IS ABOUT TIME DOCTORS IN THIS COUNTRY START TELLING IT LIKE IT IS!!!!!!

    GM IS POISONOUS AND BAD FOR EVERYTHING AND EVERYONE>

    F. William Engdahl
    Global Research,
    Friday, May 22, 2009

    US Doctors’ association calls for Moratorium on GMO Foods

    The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has just issued a call for an immediate moratorium on Genetically Manipulated (GMO) Foods.

    In a just-released position paper on GMO foods, the AAEM states that ‘GM foods pose a serious health risk’ and calls for a moratorium on GMO foods. Citing several animal studies, the AAEM concludes ‘there is more than a casual association between GMO foods and adverse health effects’ and that ‘GM foods pose a serious health risk in the areas of toxicology, allergy and immune function, reproductive health, and metabolic, physiologic and genetic health.’ The report is a devastating blow to the multibillion dollar international agribusiness industry, most especially to Monsanto Corporation, the world’s leading purveyor of GMO seeds and related herbicides.

    In a press release dated May 19, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, which describes itself as ‘an international association of physicians and other professionals dedicated to addressing the clinical aspects of environmental health,’ called immediately for the following emergency measures to be taken regarding human consumption of GMO foods:

    * A moratorium on GMO food; implementation of immediate long term safety testing and labelling of GMO food.

    * Physicians to educate their patients, the medical community and the public to avoid GMO foods.

    * Physicians to consider the role of GMO foods in their patients’ disease processes.

    * More independent long term scientific studies to begin gathering data to investigate the role of GMO foods on human health.

    The AAEM chairperson, Dr Amy Dean notes that ‘Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients’ and the public’s health.’ The President of the AAEM, Dr Jennifer Armstrong stressed that ‘Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions. The most common foods in North America which are consumed that are GMO are corn, soy, canola, and cottonseed oil.’ The AAEM’s position paper on Genetically Modified foods can be found at http:aaemonline.org.

    The paper further states that Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) technology ‘abrogates natural reproductive processes, selection occurs at the single cell level, the procedure is highly mutagenic and routinely breeches genera barriers, and the technique has only been used commercially for 10 years.’

    The AAEM paper further states, ‘several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food consumption including infertility, immune dysregulation, accelerated aging, dysregulation of genes associated with cholesterol synthesis, insulin regulation, cell signalling, and protein formation, and changes in the liver, kidney, spleen and gastrointestinal system.’

    They add, ‘There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation as defined by Hill’s Criteria in the areas of strength of association, consistency, specificity, biological gradient, and biological plausibility. The strength of association and consistency between GM foods and disease is confirmed in several animal studies.’

    GMO is toxic

    The AAEM paper should give grounds for official rethinking of the current quasi laissez faire regulatory stance to GMO in which the solemn word of the GMO seed companies such as Monsanto is regarded as scientifically valid proof of safety. The AAEM study is worth citing in detail in this regard:

    ‘Specificity of the association of GM foods and specific disease processes is also supported. Multiple animal studies show significant immune dysregulation, including upregulation of cytokines associated with asthma, allergy, and inflammation. Animal studies also show altered structure and function of the liver, including altered lipid and carbohydrate metabolism as well as cellular changes that could lead to accelerated aging and possibly lead to the accumulation of reactive oxygen species (ROS). Changes in the kidney, pancreas and spleen have also been documented. A recent 2008 study links GM corn with infertility, showing a significant decrease in offspring over time and significantly lower litter weight in mice fed GM corn. This study also found that over 400 genes were found to be expressed differently in the mice fed GM corn. These are genes known to control protein synthesis and modification, cell signalling, cholesterol synthesis, and insulin regulation. Studies also show intestinal damage in animals fed GM foods, including proliferative cell growth and disruption of the intestinal immune system. ‘

  10. books Says:

    Dear Monsanto,
    Its an interesting post. All I would like to say I am sure it would change your perspective.Thank you for the information.

  11. Mariusz Says:

    More facts please! You didn’t write any concrete.

  12. Pareidolius Says:

    Scared Stiff (a revealing name in itself)
    You might try digging a little deeper into your “academy”. Look and see who’s sponsoring them. Supplement manufacturers and purveyors of “detox” products. Oh and Doctor’s Data, they support the whole antivaccine lunacy going on over at AoA.


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