Monsanto's 'Director of Millennial Engagement' Says GMOs Are Really Cool
Monsanto, clearly worried about increasing concern for climate change and personal health among young people, hired a "director of millennial engagement," to convince them that GMOs are great and Monsanto is cooler than the latest hipster band out of Brooklyn.
Thirty-two-year-old Vance Crowe has his work cut out for him. But he sounded like a good little "better living through (big corporate) science" soldier in an NPR interview last week. Monsanto is just a really, really cool place to work, he told the NPR audience.
"Monsanto is a place, just like many companies, where if you don't actually know someone from the company, the only thing you see is the brand," said Crowe. "Before I started working here, I thought everyone would be wearing dark suits and Matrix-style sunglasses. When I came for my job interview, I was greeted at the door by a woman in a sweater and ponytail, who eventually became my boss."
The company is filled with hip young people from top to bottom too.
"One of the first things I did on the job was ride along with a Monsanto seed salesman," said Crowe. "He is in his 30s, and has a big handlebar mustache and college education on breeding corn. He took me around and introduced me to farmers he's been selling to. Many of the farmers were 50-plus years old, but they had a son or nephew learning from them. These are the millennial farmers who grew up on the farm and went away to school. When they come back to the farm, they're pushing limits with more technology, and different ideas about cover crops."
When the interviewer asked Crowe, "Are you charged with trying to change millennials' perceptions of GMOs? If so, how will you do it?," he responded, "We are listening and making sure the concerns we are trying to address are the ones people have. To me the science on GMOs is very clear, so why do people have trouble with this?"
Possibly they "have trouble," because clear science on GMOs doesn't exist, and they're resistant to a company with a financial stake saying science has been settled on their side. In fact, science has already shown that some of the claims about GMOs super-productivity are overblown and that they have led to "superweeds" and increased pesticide use. As for whether GMO foods themselves are harmful to those who ingest them, there's little solid science yet either way.
Another issue Crowe may have trouble with is Monsanto's reputation for suing farmers, including some whose fields have been accidentally contaminated by GMO seeds, and a high-profile battle that ended up in the Supreme Court between Monsanto and farmers trying to ward off its aggressive tactics.
"A lot of people believe Monsanto is in the habit of suing farmers," he said. "But it's not true. We have sued farmers who violated contracts, but it's something we hate to do. So one of the ways Monsanto has tried to demonstrate this is by explaining that all the money that's adjudicated to us in a settlement is donated to the communities where the former customers are. We've taken zero dollars in profit from the cases that we win."
Crowe's attitude that GMO opponents are merely "loud" and a little irrational and just need some friendly conversation to make them see things Monsanto's way hardly seems in line with his claim that "we are listening" and addressing peoples' concerns.
"It's been pretty clear for a long time that Monsanto has been really good at talking to and selling seeds to farmers and talking to Wall Street about our progress and growth," he said. "But in between those two poles are consumers, and the company didn't have a robust strategy for talking to them. It's clear consumers have some strong feelings about how food should be produced and what sustainability is. And the tenor has gotten kind of loud."
He said he found while attending this year's SXSW Eco conference in Austin, Texas that "some people have really strong views against GMOs and some people are very comfortable with them. There were over 100 hours of programming, but people got worked up over GMOs. The challenge with something like SXSW Eco is that it doesn't do anybody any good if people are so passionate that they're yelling. The challenge is how can we enter the conversation so that people don't feel like they have to yell to be heard?"
Maybe not treating them like they're merely "worked up" and "so passionate that they're yelling" for no good reason and really exploring why this issue was the one that engaged them would help.
But in Crowe's world, all is going as planned. He implies that he was treated like a rock star when he and a colleague attended another panel there. "[We] went to a panel on sustainable fashion. Afterward, a huge group wanted to talk with him and how it was that he came to work at Monsanto. They invited us to go to a party, and by the end of it they were saying, 'You need to get out and make sure people know your side of that story.'"
The problem is that for many people, millennials and otherwise, that side of the story doesn't ring true.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The Washington Redskins will retire their controversial name and logo, the National Football League (NFL) team announced Monday.
By Alyssa Murdoch, Chrystal Mantyka-Pringle and Sapna Sharma
Summer has finally arrived in the northern reaches of Canada and Alaska, liberating hundreds of thousands of northern stream fish from their wintering habitats.
A Good News Story?<p>On the surface, the <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/fwb.13569" target="_blank">results from our study</a> appear to provide a "good news" story. Warming temperatures were linked to higher numbers of fish, more species overall and, therefore, potentially more fishing opportunities for northerners.</p><p>Initially, we were surprised to learn that warming was increasing the distribution of cold-adapted fish. We reasoned that modest amounts of warming could lead to benefits such as increased food and winter habitat availability without reaching stressful levels for many species.</p>
Photo of Arctic grayling (left) and Dolly Varden trout (right). Alyssa Murdoch / Lilian Tran / Nunavik Research Centre and Tracey Loewen / Fisheries and Oceans Canada<p>Yet, not all fish species fared equally well. Ecologically unique northern species — those that have evolved in colder, more nutrient-poor environments, such as Arctic grayling and Dolly Varden trout — were showing declines with warming.</p>
Fish Strandings and Buried Eggs<p>Recent news headlines run the gamut for Pacific salmon — from their increased escapades <a href="https://nunatsiaq.com/stories/article/more-pacific-salmon-showing-up-in-western-arctic-waters/" target="_blank">into the Arctic</a> to <a href="https://www.juneauempire.com/news/warm-waters-across-alaska-cause-salmon-die-offs/" target="_blank">massive pre-spawning die-offs</a> in central Alaska. Similarly, results from our study revealed different outcomes for fish depending on local climatic conditions, including Pacific salmon.</p><p>We found that warmer spring and fall temperatures may be helping juvenile salmon by providing a longer and more plentiful growing season, and by supporting early egg development in northern regions that were previously too cold for survival.</p><p>In contrast, salmon declined in regions that were experiencing wetter fall conditions, pointing to an increased risk of flooding and sedimentation that could bury or dislodge incubating eggs.</p>
Headwaters of the Wind River within the largely intact Peel River watershed in northern Canada. Don Reid / Wildlife Conservation Society Canada / Author provided<p>Interestingly, we found that certain climatic combinations, such as warmer summer water temperatures with decreased summer rainfall, were important in determining where Pacific salmon could survive. Summer warming in drier watersheds led to declines, suggesting that lowered streamflows may have increased the risk of fish becoming stranded in subpar habitats that were too warm and crowded.</p>
The Fate of Northern Fisheries<p>The promise of a warmer and more accessible Arctic has attracted mounting interest in new economic opportunities, <a href="https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpol.2019.103637" target="_blank">including fisheries</a>. As warming rates at higher latitudes are already <a href="https://www.ipcc.ch/sr15/" target="_blank">two to three times global levels</a>, it seems probable that northern biodiversity will experience dramatic shifts in the coming decades.</p><p>Despite the many unknowns surrounding the future of Pacific salmon, many fisheries are currently <a href="https://doi.org/10.1080/03632415.2017.1374251" target="_blank">thriving following warmer and more productive northern oceans</a>, and some <a href="https://doi.org/10.14430/arctic68876" target="_blank">Arctic Indigenous communities are developing new salmon fisheries</a>.</p><p>As warming continues, the commercial salmon fishing industry is poised to expand northwards, but its success will largely depend on extenuating factors such as <a href="https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060023067" target="_blank">changes to marine habitat and food sources</a> and <a href="https://www.yukon-news.com/news/promising-chinook-salmon-run-failed-to-materialize-in-the-yukon-river-panel-hears/" target="_blank">how many fish are caught during the freshwater stages of their journey</a>.</p><p>Even with the potential for increased northern biodiversity, it is important to recognize that some northern communities may be unable to adapt or may <a href="https://thenarwhal.ca/searching-for-the-yukon-rivers-missing-chinook/" target="_blank">lose individual species that are associated with important cultural values</a>.</p>
- New England Fishing Communities Being Destroyed by 'Climate ... ›
- Shrimp Fishing Banned in Gulf of Maine Due to Ocean Warming ... ›
- Atlantic Salmon Is All But Extinct as a Genetically Eroded Version of ... ›
A heat wave that set in over the South and Southwest left much of the U.S. blanketed in record-breaking triple digit temperatures over the weekend. The widespread and intense heat wave will last for weeks, making the magnitude and duration of its heat impressive, according to The Washington Post.
- Hot Weather and COVID-19: Added Threats of Reopening States in ... ›
- 50 Million Americans Are Currently Living Under Some Type of Heat ... ›
- Second Major Heat Wave This Summer Smashes Records Across ... ›
By Joni Sweet
If you get a call from a number you don't recognize, don't hit decline — it might be a contact tracer calling to let you know that someone you've been near has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Interviews With Contact Tracers<p>Contact tracing is a public health strategy that involves identifying everyone who may have been in contact with a person who has the coronavirus. Contact tracers collect information and provide guidance to help contain the transmission of disease.</p><p>It's been used during outbreaks of sexually transmitted infections (STIs), Ebola, measles, and now the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.</p><p>It starts when the local department of health gets a report of a confirmed case of the coronavirus in its community and gives that person a call. The contact tracer usually provides information on how to isolate and when to get treatment, then tries to figure out who else the person may have exposed.</p><p>"We ask who they've been in contact with in the 48 hours prior to symptom onset, or 2 days before the date of their positive test if they don't have symptoms," said <a href="https://case.edu/medicine/healthintegration/people/heidi-gullett" target="_blank">Dr. Heidi Gullett</a>, associate director of the Center for Community Health Integration at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine and medical director of the Cuyahoga County Board of Health in Ohio.</p>
“You’ve Been Exposed”<p>After the case interview, contact tracers will get to work calling the folks who may have been exposed to the coronavirus by the person who tested positive.</p><p>"We give them recommendations about quarantining or isolating, getting tested, and what to do if they become sick. If they're not already sick, we still want them to self-quarantine so that they don't spread the disease to anyone else if they were to become sick," said Labus.</p><p>Generally, the contact tracer won't ask for additional contacts unless they happen to call someone who is sick or has a confirmed case of the virus. They will help ensure the contact has the resources they need to isolate themselves, if necessary. The contact tracer may continue to stay in touch with that person over the next 14 days.</p><p>"We follow the percentage of people that were contacts, then converted into being actual cases of the virus. It's an important marker to help us understand what kind of transmission happens in our community and how to control the virus," said Gullett.</p>
Why You Should Participate (and What Happens If You Don’t)<p>A <a href="https://www.thelancet.com/journals/laninf/article/PIIS1473-3099(20)30457-6/fulltext" target="_blank">Lancet study</a> from June 16, which looked at data from more than 40,000 people, found that COVID-19 transmission could be reduced by 64 percent through isolating those who have the coronavirus, quarantining their household, and contacting the people they may have exposed.</p><p>The combination strategy was significantly more effective than mass random testing or just isolating the sick person and members of their household.</p><p>However, contact tracing is only as effective as people's willingness to participate, and a small number of people who've contracted the coronavirus or were potentially exposed are reluctant to talk.</p><p>"Contact tracers have all been hung up on, cussed at, yelled at," said Gullet.</p><p>The hesitation to talk to contact tracers often stems from concerns over privacy — a serious issue in healthcare.</p>
- Anti-Racism Protests Are Not Driving Coronavirus Spikes, Data ... ›
- Cell Phone Tracking Analysis Shows Where Florida Springbreakers ... ›
NASA scientists say that warmer than average surface sea temperatures in the North Atlantic raise the concern for a more active hurricane season, as well as for wildfires in the Amazon thousands of miles away, according to Newsweek.
By Andrea Germanos
Oxfam International warned Thursday that up to 12,000 people could die each day by the end of the year as a result of hunger linked to the coronavirus pandemic—a daily death toll surpassing the daily mortality rate from Covid-19 itself.
- These 6 Men Have as Much Wealth as Half the World's Population ... ›
- Climate Change Forces 20 Million People to Flee Each Year, Oxfam ... ›
By Jun N. Aguirre
An oil spill on July 3 threatens a mangrove forest on the Philippine island of Guimaras, an area only just recovering from the country's largest spill in 2006.
- 15,000 Gallon Oil Spill Threatens River and Drinking Water in Native ... ›
- Mysterious Oil Spill on Massachusetts' Charles River Spurs Major ... ›
- Disastrous Russian Oil Spill Reaches Pristine Arctic Lake - EcoWatch ›