In the run up to the March Against Monsanto, I, along with a few dozen of my colleagues, had our names and work phone numbers posted to the internet. Mine were probably lifted from a news release I distributed two jobs and seven years ago.
Predictably, this posting resulted in some calls. Interestingly, the first two callers both mentioned my kids. The first asked whether I feed my kids foods made from GMO crops. Well, yeah. I eat these foods, and my kids eat these foods (and, yes, contrary to internet mythology, these foods are served in Monsanto’s cafeteria). In feeding our kids, my wife and I followed a philosophy of “all things in moderation.” We balanced processed foods (many of which contained ingredients from GM crops) with fruits and vegetables (very few of which have been genetically modified, contrary to what some of my callers believe). The kids are not only surviving, they’re thriving.
In addition to feeding my kids food made from GMO crops, one of the other things I’ve done is teach them critical thinking. When they hear a preposterous statement like “Monsanto’s products have killed millions of people,” instead of taking it at face value, they’re inclined to ask questions such as, what people were killed? When did this happen? Where did this happen?
Unfortunately, the callers I talked to seemed more interested in repeating inaccurate allegations they found on the internet than finding out the real facts about GM crops and Monsanto’s business practices. (At least the woman in Florida who was marching because she “doesn’t like capitalism” admitted that she didn’t have both sides of the issues because all she knew was what she read on the internet.)
Finally, I’ve raised my kids to be good listeners. That’s a skill that seemed to be sorely lacking in the people that I talked to. Maybe they expected to be able to harangue me via voice mail (which some did). Aside from that, why would you call someone if you assume that he’s a liar just because he works for Monsanto? (Another woman from Maryland who said, “We’re just calling to annoy you,” was refreshing in her honesty.) If that’s your assumption, you’re not going to believe me when I mention facts like: the safety of GM crops have been confirmed by hundreds of independent studies and dozens of regulatory agencies around the world, sterile “Terminator” seeds never existed, or Monsanto doesn’t sue farmers when seeds blow off a truck into their fields.
Probably the most positive conversations I had was with Angela from Connecticut, who seemed genuinely interested in learning more about the issue and comparing Monsanto’s position with what she had heard elsewhere. I extended to her the same invitation I extend to anyone who wants to find out more about GM crops and how Monsanto does business: come to one of facilities and meet our people. It’s the passion, purpose, and integrity of my colleagues that keeps me positive when a small but shrill segment of the population is directing their anger at me.
Oh, and to the guy from New Hampshire who wanted to know if my kids were proud of what I do for a living, I did a quick poll: They’re really proud of me, more than I realized. Thanks for asking.