Do you wonder what it’s like inside Monsanto? Are they the world’s evil-doers? Are they Satan in disguise? Are they out to destroy the world? Well, sit back and have an open mind by taking a “behind the scenes” tour of Monsanto . . .  And you may be surprised . . . 

Why did I tour Monsanto?

USFRA
USFRA Digital Voices

I am a member of the USFRA Digital Voices Council. The council is a small, mixed group of registered dieticians and people representing agriculture. Our newly formed group met in St. Louis for an Immersion session. During our Immersion session, we met and learned a bit about each other and learned about USFRA (United States Farmers and Ranchers Alliance) and . . .  

We toured Monsanto!

Traveling to the Chesterfield Monsanto office, we soon realized that our tour would take us to their research facility.

Monsanto
Monsanto Research Facility

After arriving at Monsanto we were told we could take any pictures or videos that we wanted. And that shocked me. Most companies I have toured do not allow any pictures taken and when you think about the public’s perception of Monsanto, I thought for sure we would not be allowed to take any pictures.

But . . .  I was wrong. So I took pictures. Lots of pictures

This facility employs about 1700 employees.

We visited a number of different areas of the facility and I will highlight a few of those areas.

First, I must say that our tour guide was phenomenal. She is a scientist but her ability to communicate science to non-science people was unbelievable. After the tour, I told her agriculture needed to clone her 900,000 times! 

I really loved her explanation of GMO technology. Here is a video of her explaining it.

Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of this research facility is the biotechnology research or more specifically, GMO (genetically modified organisms) research. On our farm, we choose to use GMOs because they work best for us. This does not mean it is the right choice for everyone, but it is for us. 

The pictured display case below contains three soybeans, two of which are non-GMO and one which is GMO . . . and some insects. It’s fairly easy to see which plants are GMO and non-GMO. Notice the party the insects are having on the non-GMO soybean plants. 

soybean plants
Soybean plants

And here is how our tour guide explained the GMO soybeans.

So let’s talk a bit about biotechnology or GMOs. Why do we need them? Well, part of the answer is to feed a growing and hungry world. In 2011, the world population hit 7 billion people. The world population by 2050 is projected to hit 9 billion people. That’s a lot of mouths to feed. And thankfully, Monsanto along with many other biotech companies are stepping up to the plate and helping agriculture feed these mouths. Biotechnology is just one tool in the toolbox to feed our growing population.

We can grow more food with fewer pesticides, which makes us all winners

There were examples of traditional cross-breeding research in their greenhouse. Because corn plants contain both male and female parts, they put these paper bags on the corn plants so they wouldn’t breed. Think of it as a corn “condom.” 

corn breeding
Corn breeding research

Monsanto also uses a seed chipper. And being the non-science person I am, I had not heard about that technology. Basically a seed chipper punches a small chip out of a seed, which is used to extract DNA. Using this method allows scientists to know exactly what the DNA (for research) is immediately instead of waiting for the plant to grow to extract the DNA from plant tissues. Monsanto estimates the seed chipper takes about two years off the process by not having to wait for a plant to grow plant tissue. And the seed is able to grow as if no chip was taken out of the seed. 

seed chipper
Seed Chipper

Despite what people think, Monsanto does care about the environment. Monsanto is not killing honey bees! Honey bee health is being affected by varroa mite, weather, and disease. Again, Monsanto has stepped up to the plate and is doing research on honey bee health and providing solutions to improve their health.

Honey bees
Honey bees

The tour was also a good reminder of how our foods have changed over many years. Take note of the chart below. Imagine cauliflower, broccoli, kale, cabbage, brussel sprouts, and kohlrabi all originating from the yellow mustard plant. 

Food evolution
Foods evolved from yellow mustard plant

I, as a farmer, appreciate the research coming from Monsanto. We are not required to plant Monsanto seed, but we want to plant biotechnology seeds because of the benefits of the technology. Biotechnology has greatly improved our efficiencies and productivity as farmers and all with being more environmentally friendly.

Here is their wall lined with patents as a result of their research. 

patents
Monsanto patents
patent
Example of patent

If you could ask Monsanto any question, what would it be?

Other reads on GMOs:

This is Why it’s Okay to Feed your Family GMOs

How to Critically Think about GMOs without a science background

What you may not know about GMOs


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12 Comments

  1. Thank you for another outstanding article on the science of agriculture. This one is another addition to my collection of “stats and science” material to refer to when dealing with someone who is peddling or consuming anti-ag propaganda. Since I can’t figure out what is wrong with those folks, I see my role as being a well informed consumer with ammo at the ready to counter the popular myths, inaccuracies, pseudoscience, and often vicious attacks on those who feed us and the support troops that make it possible to feed ever-more people with fewer resources. I am grateful to all who make these wonders happen, and especially to those who find time in their busy lives to explain the realities to the rest of us.

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  4. Sorry, Not buying into the “Why it is okay to feed your family GMO’s.”. I would like to ask with your family farm, what is your benefit with working with Monsanto? Have you ever watched Food Inc.? They do go after the farmer who wants to use their own seeds. Very easy now a days to view any court records in any state. I call bull on this.
    I am not saying you are a bad person, but I am saying do your homework and check into this before you put information out there for people who are not 100% sure and looking for advise.
    Monsanto 100% has sued and harassed the farmers. Maybe not you, your farmer friends, ect. but go check the court records.
    I personally would not eat anything that is a GMO. Not because I am some city nut. I grew up on a farm, I know what it use to be like. I understand that Nature is not a chemical or people playing God to gain more volume.
    I am not saying you, as I do not know, but anyone who supports Monsanto, well all you have to do is follow the money trail. I highly suggest you watch Food Inc, and check the court records for Monsanto as the plaintiff.

    1. Shelia Heston, Do you clone movies and music (many people do, but it is illegal). Think of a patented plant as a movie DVD or music CD that can replicate. Just because it replicated, does not give you the rights to the new cloned movies or music. Monsanto has sued a very few farmers that have tried to cheat the system and use Monsanto Technology for free, when honest farmers pay for the right to use the technology. They know it is worth the licensing fees as the vast majority of the years, the gmo technology saves them more money than the licensing fee. Food Inc is basically supporting criminals in their film. If a farmer wants to use non-patented plants and save seeds, they have every right to do that. They cannot however save seed from patented technology and replant it and use the technology.

      1. Bill, Seriously read my post. I am not talking about a Monsanto seed. I am speaking of farmers who choose NOT to use a Monsanto seed. They patented the corn seed and are now going after farmers who want to clean their own seeds, that WERE NEVER MONSANTO seeds. Super simple to stop and instead of typing some response to me, go look for yourself in oh about 27 states. Easy to do, go to the states court documents ALL AVAILABLE ONLINE. You found this so I assume you can find that. 2013, 410 farmers sued by Monsanto in 27 states. Now there are more records of the big almighty Monsanto suing and harassing small farmers who do not want their seeds and want to continue to clean and use their seeds. I tell ya what, make a day out of this research and go and look at all the people who have their hands tied up in Monsanto. Do your homework.

        1. Sheila, they only way farmers are being sued is if they intentionally saved seed back to plant. They sign an agreement that says they can’t save the seed. I have farmed for 40 years and we have never save seed. Nor do we want to. We only harvest one crop a year and we want it to be the best, with the best technology.

    2. All of your response is not true. I work for Monsanto (as an intern) and my plant sits right down the road from a Pioneer plant and I’ve watched people walk out of there with bills of sales.

      My family farm does not plant Monsanto seeds. Sadly, Monsanto is not out to get anyone or destroy the Earth. Since farmers are responsible for feeding the world, they have to do something to make up for the growing population.

      We are all entitled to our own opinions, but this blogger had a first hand look at what goes on behind the scenes and Food, Inc gives Monsanto a negative look because it was written by people who got most of their information from people who got their information from people who know absolutely nothing about agriculture or the practices of major Ag companies.

      1. Danielle, Please, no need for response. Of course you are going to bat for your employer, ESPECIALLY as an Intern. If you would like to stay on after the internship, of course you are going to be a cheerleader for them.

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