Cult of Green
The Monsanto Co. is leading Big Ag’s PR offensive against Food Inc., the searing documentary on industrial agriculture that opened Friday. That’s not surprising. The chemical giant comes off as the biggest bogeyman in the film, which focuses on the company’s genetic seed patents, alleged bullying of farmers and efforts to influence politicians.
What is surprising is that Monsanto is tying its response to the movie to a discredited front group called the Center for Consumer Freedom. It seems too obviously payback for at least $200,000 that Monsanto has contributed to the supposedly nonprofit organization.
The company’s PR offensive against Food Inc. is no ham-handed reaction. It includes a very slick (of course) web page featuring an interactive seven-question quiz and the following characterization of the movie:
Food, Inc. is a one-sided, biased film that the creators claim will “lift the veil on our nation’s food industry, exposing the highly mechanized underbelly that’s been hidden from the American consumer.” Unfortunately, Food, Inc. is counter-productive to the serious dialogue surrounding the critical topic of our nation’s food supply.
A couple of points may undermine Monsanto’s message, however. A core theme on the company’s site is that Food Inc. “demonizes American farmers.” But the movie actually positions itself as siding with family farms against agribusiness and accuses the ag industry of doing precisely what Monsanto is doing in response to the movie: conflating its interests with those of small farmers.
Maybe this is smart on Monsanto’s part. Both sides in the Great Food Debate brandish the “family farmer” as a talisman against the claim that they’re elitists. But Monsanto inherently will have a more difficult time maintaining that it’s the friend of farmers — especially, family farmers — at the same time it’s aggressively going after farmers in lawsuits.
And that standing-up-for-the-little-ol’-farmer line gets a bit harder to take when you consider that Monsanto is directing readers from its own website to the Center for Consumer Freedom. The center is one of a dozen or so front groups created by Washington lobbyist Rick Berman to push the interests of some of America’s least popular industries.
You may have read about Berman earlier this year, when his son, former Silver Jews front man David Berman, quit his band on the same day that he wrote a statement calling his father “a despicable man” and “sort of human molester” for the “evil” work he does.
He props up fast food/soda/factory farming/childhood obesity and diabetes/drunk driving/secondhand smoke.
He attacks animal lovers, ecologists, civil action attorneys, scientists, dieticians, doctors, teachers.
His clients include everyone from the makers of Agent Orange to the Tanning Salon Owners of America.
Among other causes, Rick Berman has fought against minimum wage increases, tougher drunk-driving laws and tobacco regulations. He’s claimed the nation’s rising obesity rate is a “myth” created by “food police” and that there’s a “lack of evidence that second-hand smoke causes cancer.” More…