What does it mean for Monsanto to be going organic?

Part of the beauty of nature lies in its imperfection.

Monsanto is very aware of people’s increasing interest in what they eat. Consumers not only want to eat they’re veggies, but they also want to know where these veggies came from and how they were produced. Put on top of that the fact that GMOs don’t have the best reputation nowadays and boom, you have the perfect scenario for what the company is doing right now: growing organics in the search for the perfect veggie.

In the USDA words: a produce can be called organic if it’s certified to have grown on soil that had no prohibited substances applied for three years prior to harvest. Prohibited substances include most synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.

Growing organics sounds like a quite ironic thing to do for a company that has made its name by selling genetically modified crops that are resistant to herbicides (herbicides that are, by the way, also sold by them).

While it may sound great that Monsanto is “changing for the best” by making their products less harmful for humans and for the environment and also allowing more people to have access to that kind of food, I am very much concerned that this situation may lead us to a even more standardized agricultural system. I say this because Monsanto’s crops are grown from an industrial perspective: farmers can trust in a reliable and stable system in which every potato that they harvest will look and taste the same. Isn’t that great? From one perspective yes, but if we are thinking in terms of variety of potatoes, we are certainly loosing a lot.

In 1903, we had almost 500 varieties of lettuce. By 1983, we had just 36. Radishes, peas, and beets have fared no better. It’s a shame to lose so many intricacies of nature’s tastiest gifts:

food-variety-tree-754

There is also the fact that it is going to be really hard for an organic farmer who doesn’t want to grow Monsanto’s organics to compete with other producers that are working with the company’s seeds. Same thing that happened to other crops years ago may just happen to the organics. I am thinking that this will be the case where organic farmers will have no choice other than joining Monsanto’s team and abandoning their own practices. I am thinking that we could be seeing a lot of changes in the entire food system in the next years.

So my main question here is: if Monsanto is growing organics in the search of the perfect veggie, what actually makes a perfect veggie? To me, these images of the Peruvian variety of potato and corn are the reflection of what perfect veggies could mean, but I guess my point of view is very different from the company’s one.

PapaVariedades peru corn

One thought on “What does it mean for Monsanto to be going organic?

  1. Great post Michelle. I agree with your skepticism about Monsanto – we’ll talk more about the company and its context this week. I also appreciate your neutrality about GMO’s in terms of their reputation rather than their label as good or evil – that is something else we’ll talk about. You posted two of my most favorite images and stars of most of my presentation decks. They illuminate both the scope and beauty of heirloom cultivars and the importance of maintaining as much biodiversity as possible – for flavor as well as human and environmental health.

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