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Monsanto's Success and Consumer's Dismay

Monsanto (MON) shares may be riding high, but so is opposition among our readers to the genetically engineered plant seeds the company produces. That much is clear from the response to "Monsanto: Winning the Ground War," our Dec. 17 Cover Story about Monsanto's benefiting from the proliferation of GMO crops. The (mostly civil) pro-and-con posts on our message boards also delved into an issue the story touched on: labeling. In the U.S., foods containing GMOs don't have to be labeled as such, some noted. That's true. For now, consumers must buy organic if they want to be certain their food is biotech-free.

If these GMO crops weren't subsidized, they would have disappeared a long time ago—because consumers in Asia and Europe don't want them, and because the international media hasn't suppressed [discussion of] the health and environmental risks they pose. People in the U.S. would avoid GMO foods, too, if they knew they were consuming them.

Screen name: Erica

As a farmer using Monsanto's system, I'm a strong believer in the ability of GMO technology to increase production while allowing me to decrease the amount of pesticides I spray. The most disturbing part of the GMO debate is that it is being held without farmers' input. GMOs make up an important technology that needs to be responsibly developed. That said, I don't like having to pay the $15-per-acre "technical use agreement" for the Monsanto product. The science is awesome—it's the issue of ownership that causes me the most fear.

Screen name: WarrenS

Look at the profits Monsanto is reaping. Look at which corporate farms benefit from the U.S. Farm Bill, and ask yourself: "Does the world need more corn syrup?"

Screen name: Tom Tyler

Genetically modified seeds are treated like CDs and movies—as intellectual property. Farmers must buy patented seeds from Monsanto. No matter how you spin it, it's ludicrous to have corporations effectively in control of our food supply. But that's the road we're heading down.

Screen name: eric

What about the long-term effects? Could genetically modified crops cause cancer 40 years down the line? Let's not play with our food this way. We don't need GMOs. People who are starving can be better fed by, among other things, changing incentives in the farming sector by getting rid of subsidies. The future is organic, not GMO.

Screen name: Bob

Monsanto defends its products with the argument that GMO agribusiness [holds the key to] feeding the world. But the company fails to mention that its products do not provide nutrients to the world. Any nutritionist can tell you that you cannot survive on corn syrup and soybean oil. Monsanto is NOT feeding the world.

Screen name: Rachel Brinker

Is the market always right? Just because everybody gorges themselves at McDonald's (MCD) doesn't make it a good idea to do so, no matter how good the company may be as an investment.

Screen name: John Luster

For farmers who still want to produce non-GMO corn for the premium-priced export market, it is nearly impossible. Why? Dust from a neighbor's GMO field—carried by the wind when it's blowing in the right direction—can land on other crops. And that's enough for a crop to fail the non-GMO test.

Screen name: Bart

GMO ingredients are not labeled for the consumer, and if anyone has ever had an adverse reaction to such ingredients, there is no way to trace the cause.

Screen name: Paul

World hunger cannot be used as an argument for GMOs. Starvation is a political problem. A shortage of goods is not the cause of hunger in the world: Poverty is. According to World Hunger: Twelve Myths, co-authored by Frances Moore Lappé (1998): "The world today produces enough grain alone to provide every human being on the planet with thirty-five hundred calories a day." It does no good to grow more food if people can't afford it.

Screen name: Kate

Environmentalists imagine a 1950s sci-fi flick: freakish alien life forms waiting to unleash a plague on humanity. But genetically altered crops aren't very different from their natural counterparts. They have an extra gene or two replaced, a process that happens in nature all the time when plants reproduce.

Screen name: random

Washington Lacks the Guts to Raise Gas Taxes

When the price of oil pushes gasoline to $4 a gallon, we don't like it. But we pay it—and that economic rent goes to people we don't want to finance ("A primed political pump," News, Dec. 17). We could have tacked on that extra premium as a kind of tax, and demand would drop.

Using CAFE (corporate average fuel economy) standards is a clumsy and indirect way of dealing with the problem [of consuming less oil] because politicians don't have the guts to tax. Increase the price at the pump, and fleet efficiency and consumer behavior will take care of themselves.

Edward Beardsworth


I'm tired of the White House's political exploitation of the U.S. reliance on foreign oil. It incites animosity of average Americans toward the Middle East, and it's working against us. We have friends in the region. But now everyone falls for the line that money from buying a barrel of oil from the region somehow goes directly into Osama's 401(k). What a bunch of hooey. Let's stop repeating lies and start finding solutions.

Ramon Cardona


Corporate Slogans: Cut. Them. Out.

I have one more prediction to add to Jon Fine's list in the Media Centric column ("Media predictions for 2008," Opinion, Dec. 10). O.K., it's more of a wish than a prophesy: Congress and the Federal Communications Commission will pass legislation to ban all those ubiquitous, three-word corporate slogans, thereby putting dozens of lazy Madison Avenue "writers" out of work. Repetitive. Unimaginative. Moronic.

Pierre Devaux


Why Not Freeze My Teaser Credit-Card Rate?

U.S. Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson proposes to rescue troubled homeowners by locking in place the teaser interest rates that were agreed upon when the mortgages were first drawn up ("Help may be on the way," News, Dec. 10).

Many financial institutions give consumers a low introductory interest rate, charging exorbitant rates thereafter. So does this mean that it's O.K. for us to tell our credit-card issuers: "Oh, shucks. I didn't realize I was getting in over my head. Could you please extend my initial 0% APR for an additional five years once the introductory period expires?"

David Schwartz


Got an Opinion? You, Too, Can Be a CMO!

I witnessed firsthand many of the points made in "The short life of the chief marketing officer" (What's Next, Dec. 10). Nobody questions the chief information officer, for instance, as long as the company's e-mail and phone systems are working.

And nobody bothers with human resources: There's no glamour in deciding if it's better to say "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays."

Being a chief marketing officer is like being a food critic. The feeling is that anybody can do the job because it's more about opinions than right or wrong answers.

Alfred Chow


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