I had an exchange on #Twitter with one of my #Profood counterparts last night in which a few others joined in on the discussion, well a loosely defined discussion.
It all started with just an "innocent" (quotes for a reason) tweet from Rob Smart as follows, including some of the back and forth between he and I:
@Jambutter: Curious @MonsantoCo if Norman Borlaug held any seed patents or was all of his intellectual property in the public domain?
@natejtaylor: @Jambutter why would U ask a question you can find the answer to by an internet search Rob? (cc @MonsantoCo)
@Jambutter: Pretty simple @natejtaylor, I wanted to know if @MonsantoCo knew the answer. Did you run the search?
@natejtaylor: @Jambutter I did not. And nothing with #food is simple. I took that as baiting and antagonistic. Not what we need in food debate.
@Jambutter: @natejtaylor Monsanto tweeted about Mr. Borlaug and feeding world's hungry. He approached challenge in much different way, so I responded.
From there the conversation went down hill quite rapidly. It then became a question as to why I cam to the
"rescue" and "defense" of Monsanto. What? My response as noted above was why ask a silly question like that. The answer is to illicit a response. In my view, what took place was exactly what the intent was; to have a conversation in which one "side" would win. To me, this is not a healthy approach to advancing agriculture in these unprecendented times.
To be very clear on my position. We currently live in a time where supercapitalism rules. This is not healthy for our society or economy. The outcome of our capitalistic system ends with consolidation of power and markets akin to either an oligopoly or flat out monopoly. It is just how the capitalistic system works. This, by no means, makes it right and we should all continue to fight against consolidation and inject competition into the market place. Competition is where family and specialty farms can show what they do, how they do it and why, and begin to get a fair price for their work and products. I can find common ground with my ProFood counterparts on this particular issue. That is why I support farmers markets, CSA's, and strong local food economies. We need all of those, as well as a strong, scalable, agricultural industry for our vast world.
At the end of the day, is Monsanto a benevolent company? No, and neither is Wal Mart, Oracle, Toyota, ADM, Cargill or any other large organization. Publicly traded companies are amoral; meaning that their purpose is to obtain capital and add Shareholder Value Add (SVA), otherwise called increasing the stock price. That doesn't automatically correlate to spawns of Satan working at these companies. I know plenty of people working at, for example, Monsanto that believe in what they are trying to do. They want to ensure an adequate, safe, food supply for everyone. I am glad they are in my life from both a professional and personal standpoint. It also means that the citizens need to push back on companies and legislators in every marketplace to ensure healthy competition. I work at a small business and we deal with entering new markets constantly. The barriers are vast, but that is where the innovation takes place and where I WANT to be. Isn't that part of the ProFood ideals?
To answer the question posed of my "defense" of Monsanto, I offer this; I felt it inappropriate to put forth an antagonistic question on the back of Norman Bourlag. That is all, nothing else. Why do that when we all have much more important things to worry about. Some things are better to let roll off your back so the focus can be maintained. Practitioners of circuitry will tell you that noise is unwanted signals. We should stop focusing on the noise. Let's focus on, for example, how we are going to find common ground to advance safe, healthy food production? How can we integrate what existing farmers are doing into, say a CSA? How do we develop strong, versatile, local food economies? These are pressing issues that every single farmer I interact with would be more than happy to talk about. There are also other macro-economic issues we must deal with that are just so complicated that no one group, company, NGO, or government is going to solve by it's lonesome; multiple approaches are required. I will also address the other chats that took place regarding the assumption that I thought everyone should just be silent regarding Monsanto. On the contrary, we ALL need to be vocal about our beliefs and ideals. It is, after all, how we progress.
I propose that we do away with baiting, antagonistic questions. Anyone else in favor of that? Where is it going to get us? How can #ProFood expect to get "conventional" farmers on board and participating? This also applies to my #ag counterparts also, including myself. Why does there always have to be a "beef" when there is disagreement? None of that makes any sense to me......at all. I still stand by my previous post about the middle of the road, although I hear that post is no longer valid after last night's heated interaction. I find that a down-right shame. It is not "us" against "them." Until that has been dealt with, we can't even begin to define the parameters for a decent discussion.
In conclusion, I need to apologize to Rob Smart (@jambutter) for stating:
@Jambutter And I answered Rob. I am not defending Monsanto. I think your approach is ALL WRONG and I am sure you don't like that.
I should follow what I preach. That comment above was rude and assumes I know Rob's approach. So in an effort to get back on track, accept my apology Rob. Now, let's get back to providing safe, healthy, food for not only our country, but others as well. Time is short, so focusing on the noise rather than outcomes creates a vicious circle that leads us back to the same eroded ground. And we all know how well eroded ground performs. All it does is allow arguments, instead of debates, to fester. There is a vast difference between an argument and a debate. As Gay Hendricks stated:
Arguments are often like melodramas -- they have a predictable beginning, middle, and end.Here is hoping we progress this week!