by Marion Nestle
Dec 6 2013

Monsanto has a public image problem? A surprise?

Thanks to Politico for alerting us to Monsanto’s sudden discovery:  it has just recognized—can you believe this?—that it has a public image problem.

In recent months the company has shaken up its senior public relations staff, upped its relationship with one of the nation’s largest public relations firms and helped launch a website designed to combat the fallacies surrounding genetically modified organisms.

Monsanto revealed its public image worries in its annual filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission.  The SEC requires companies to list societal factors that create risk to its profitability. Monsanto’s first three:

1.  Threats to patent rights

Efforts to protect our intellectual property rights and to defend claims against us can increase our costs and will not always succeed; any failures could adversely affect sales and profitability or restrict our ability to do business.

Intellectual property rights are crucial to our business, particularly our Seeds and Genomics segment. We endeavor to obtain and protect our intellectual property rights in jurisdictions in which our products are produced or used and in jurisdictions into which our products are imported.

2. Too much regulation

We are subject to extensive regulation affecting our seed biotechnology and agricultural products and our research and manufacturing processes, which affects our sales and profitability.

Regulatory and legislative requirements affect the development, manufacture and distribution of our products, including the testing and planting of seeds containing our biotechnology traits and the import of crops grown from those seeds, and non-compliance can harm our sales and profitability.

3. Bad public relations

The degree of public acceptance or perceived public acceptance of our biotechnology products can affect our sales and results of operations by affecting planting approvals, regulatory requirements and customer purchase decisions.

Some opponents of our technology actively raise public concern about the potential for adverse effects of our products on human or animal health, other plants and the environment. .. Public concern can affect the timing of, and whether we are able to obtain, government approvals.

Even after approvals are granted, public concern may lead to increased regulation or legislation or litigation…which could affect our sales and results of operations by affecting planting approvals, and may adversely affect sales of our products to farmers, due to their concerns about available markets for the sale of crops or other products derived from biotechnology.

Maybe if the company was less aggressive about defending itself against risks #1 and #2, public relations would be less of an issue.

Do the close calls on labeling initiatives in California and  Washington worry Monsanto?  Of course they do.  They should.

I was on the FDA food advisory committee in 1994 and witnessed Monsanto’s aggressive opposition to labeling.

If public image is a problem for the company, it has nobody to blame but itself. 

The only surprise:  Why did public demands for labeling take so long?

  • Novagene

    I do appreciate your role as watchdog against large food corporations.

    However, your silence on the organizations spreading pseudo-science and disinformation signals tacit consent.

    Monsanto doesn’t have poor public relations entirely all by itself. There is a concerted propaganda network, very often funded by Monsanto’s smaller food competitors, that disseminates a wide gamut of half-truths and outright lies. They prey on and magnify consumer fear.

    Searching your blog, there is no mention of many of these people or organizations and no challenge to their various specious claims. This is odd considering how vocal and influential they are, and the weight your voice would have in lessening their distorting impact and informing the public with accurate information.

    Until you acknowledge these actors you are telling a one-sided story.

  • Aina Hunter

    Interested in Novagene’s critique. Is there really a “concerted propaganda network” funded by Monsanto’s competition? Perhaps erroneously I’ve always thought Monsanto did a pretty good job angering people by their lawsuits targeting small farmers, poisoning our water and air, their ruthless intimidation tactics in the 3rd world, their war against pollinators . . .

  • rbthe4th2

    I have seen what Novagene discusses in other groups also. They use fear, rather than simple truth, logic, and science, and that’s truly all that is needed. The pseudo science stuff only hurts the cause of the opposition and is something Monsanto and like companies can take advantage of. That’s not what is needed.

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  • Jake

    Hey lol, I don’t care what monsanto wants. They will never have a positive image because anyone who knows them knows they only care about profit and they cause death!!

    Watch about Monsanto truth!

  • Jake

    Hey lol, I don’t care what monsanto wants. They will never have a positive image because anyone who knows them knows they only care about profit and they cause death!!

    Watch about Monsanto truth!

  • Pingback: Monday December 9, 2013 - Crop Protection Canada()

  • Novagene

    Thank you Jake. I couldn’t have wished for a better example of what I was referring to.

    And your delivery was sensational. Bravo! My only hesitation is that your performance was so well done, I’m not sure whether you are the genuine article or if you are an anonymous ally playing a part in Internet theatrics.

    I suppose it doesn’t matter. Such videos and articles—and the enthusiasm people demonstrate linking to them as reputable arbiters of information—are abundant.

    Nestle, It’s troubling when a person with your credentials either pretends these actors don’t exist or promote associated websites that perpetuate such messengers of outlandish claims and questionable science without offering your own expert analysis.

    Monsanto is no saint, but with such disinformation perpetuated on the Internet people are being radicalized into believing that Monsanto is a Great Satan.

  • The are many studies funded by third party independent researches that show the Monsanto’s GMO practices are harmful.

  • They don’t represent God work. They represents man’s work outside of the nature of God to play God.