The company the world needs. But the company the world deserves?

As the world nears a population of 9.5 billion people by the year 2050 and the world’s climate continues to become more volatile, Monsanto will work to provide the necessary resources to feed the world’s population. Monsanto is an industry leader in agriculture as it produces products in two segments: Seeds and Genomics, and Agricultural Productivity. The company has over 21,000 employees in facilities in sixty-six countries. In the Seeds and Genomics Segment, Monsanto researches, develops and sells normal seeds for crops like corn and soybeans as well as genetically modified seeds (GMOs) that incorporate certain traits in a seed to help the crop flourish. In the Agricultural Productivity Segment, Monsanto produces and sells chemicals like herbicides to its customers.

The products that Monsanto and its competitors sell can be credited with increasing the health and overall yield of crops around the world. While population will continue to increase, although at a slower rate, total farming acreage around the world will decrease. This means that the crop yields will have to increase significantly. Monsanto and its competitors will be at the forefront of this problem.

While it seems that Monsanto is truly needed in the future, there are a number of people who are against Monsanto and its competitors. There are groups of people who are against GMOs altogether based on an ethical standpoint. There are also people who question GMOs safety and propose to add labels to all products containing GMOs. The problem with this is that the majority of the population is not informed on GMOs and would not be able to make educated decisions. GMOs are also in many of the everyday products we consumer. Around 90% of corn and 90% of soybean in the United States are GMO corn or soybean. In addition, we are not able to prove that GMOs are in fact a danger to the public.

The necessity of companies like Monsanto and some backlash these companies have been met with provide an interesting case to research and discuss the ethical dilemma at the center of the debate. This ethical dilemma largely revolves around safety, environment and litigation, yet there these areas have a part in a number of larger debates in our society.

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5 thoughts on “The company the world needs. But the company the world deserves?”

  1. I think we have shaped a world that sees companies like Monsanto as a necessity for living hood of our food system. It will be interesting to see how these companies will start to change as they receive more backlash from the public about GMOs and how we can step away from relying on these companies.


  2. Monsanto may be a necessary evil in our ever population-increasing, globalized world. I believe the more important question is how will we feed 9.5 billion people? We can not even feed the 7 billion people on the planet today. Though I personally oppose GMOs and non-explicit labeling, GMOs may be necessary to feed the world’s population. From an ethical standpoint, Monsanto should research and limit the risks and negative health consequences that result from GMOs.


  3. Monsanto’s practices are dangerous. The lack of diversity in its crops are the cause of many environmental issues in the midwest. They make no efforts to contain pesticide, They are destroying the environment. They exploit the tax reforms that they can and do not have a corporate conscience. While they are responsible for producing unbelievable amounts of food, there has to be a better alternative than Monsanto.


  4. Very even-handed! You can not prove GMO doesn’t har, You can only prove it does. Just speaking to methods here.

    Usually, I am more worried about the business model of Monsanto products in the way that it produces dependencies on the firm for farmers. Also, it forces them to continue to use pesticides which seems like the wrong direction we need to be headed for agriculture.


  5. So, there are several possibilities for ethical angle. One, I think, is deontology. If we follow on Donaldson’s approach about minimal duties, does Monsanto’s model with GMO seeds, or its practices, deprive or help to deprive workers of property? of subsistence? I don’t want you all to try to cover too many ethical theories in one paper, but you do have the makings of a classical ethical conundrum here withe the consequentialist saying “look, to feed the world, a good, you have to overlook the harm” versus the deontologist saying “we can never violate these rights no matter the supposed benefits. There has to be another way.”

    One aspect of this approach gets back to how Monsanto got DNA to be “property” such that when the seed reproduces, the “information” in the seed is still Monsanto property. I think you can defend or attack this also to get around Monsanto or someone saying “it is the law.” I mean when you as a company work to change the law, than those actions are open to ethical analysis too.

    Monsanto, as I understand, has a record that may make it easy to criticize their past choices. Making weapons or nasty chemicals or something? SOmething to be aware of.

    As to policy angles for the WHite Paper, there are many here. You can look at the whole bioethics of GM (or maybe get into bioethics for Paper 2). You can look at the question of food production and what is needed to increase yields, reduce hunger, and be sustainable. I have seen researchers point out that we already have enough food to feed the world. It is not that we don’t produce enough calories and nutrients. We have distribution problems… not production problems. You can also look at development and the idea of encouraging self-sufficiency or dependence in developipng countries. One of the concerns about Monsanto and agribusiness is that rather than foster self-sufficiency globally for farmers, they recreate dependency that extracts wealth from the poor countries to the rich rather than build up local wealth.


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