Friday, February 1, 2013

Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant Interview

The Wall Street Journal sat Hugh Grant (not that Hugh Grant, the other one, the CEO of Monsanto) down for a little chat. Some of the intersting comments that were made:
WSJ: What's the harm in disclosing genetically modified ingredients to consumers?
Mr. Grant: Under the headline of transparency and open access, [Prop 37] befuddled the issue in our view more than explained it. A much better job needs to be done, I think, by the industry in general, in communicating how, where and who produces that food, and the safety and integrity of it.
I'd be up for the dialogue around labeling. Maybe we'll look back and say [Prop 37] was the start of a more reasonable debate. But it was a confusing proposition.
 "I'd be up for the dialogue around labeling." Wow. Really? After all those millions you spent defeating Prop 37? I swear, these guys honestly don't believe that anyone is paying attention. They really think we can't check on what they've said and done.
WSJ: At the heart of this debate is safety. How do we know that GMOs are safe?
Mr. Grant: They're the most-tested food product that the world has ever seen. Europe set up its own Food Standards Agency, which has now spent €300 million ($403.7 million), and has concluded that these technologies are safe. [Recently] France determined there's no safety issue on a corn line we submitted there. So there's always a great deal of political noise and turmoil. If you strip that back and you get to the science, the science is very strong around these technologies.

WSJ: Two of your top executives have a background in the vegetable business. Is that a coincidence? How do you see the business growing?
Mr. Grant: Fresh fruit and high quality vegetables are becoming more important than they ever were. So we see an opportunity there, but the opportunity in veggies is going to be driven by where we are spending our money. We are spending our money on nutrition and taste. A lot of veggies look great, but they don't taste like much. We think the consumer will pay a premium for improved nutrition and improved taste.
Personally, I already do--it's called organic produce. Or I grow it myself.

WSJ: There have been growing reports of weeds developing resistance to your glyphosate herbicide and bugs developing resistance to your genetically modified corn. Did Monsanto push too hard convincing farmers to use these products?
Mr. Grant: It's 20-20 hindsight. If you look, the [herbicide] product is 35, nearly 40 years old. Resistance is still limited to a handful of species. If you look at resistance to other products in the industry, it's not unusual to see resistance to 200, 250 species. That's not an excuse. When you talk to farmers, these are technologies they do not want to lose.
You know, I'm just at a loss for words. This is the worst kind of hack journalism--there's no fact-checking (oh, sorry. An earlier version f the article quoted the CEO as saying Monsanto spent a quarter billlion a year on reseach when in fact it's a billion and a quarter). There's no insight. There's just the repeating of corporate spin. 
The thing is, Hugh Grant probably believes what he's saying. It's what makes him a good face for the corporation: the ability to believe their own narrative.

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