Corporate espionage. You have probably heard of this term in the news or in movies or TV shows. You have probably also heard of the fraud that occurs in corporate America. Why and how often does it happen? Why has our society gotten used to the greed in big business? Why doesn’t the media talk about it more often? It’s very difficult to answer these questions. Since determining my blog focus to be about the ethics of Monsanto’s business practices, I have come to realize the topic of business ethics starts with one’s definition of capitalism. Many people believe in a pure free market economy with little government regulation as possible. Forget ethics when the point of business is to profit at all costs. But I think people often forget how a company’s business decisions can affect society as a whole.
In 2005, Monsanto was charged with bribing Indonesian government officials to omit their genetically engineered (GE) cotton from environmental assessment tests. Records ranging from 1997-2002 showed that Monsanto spent around $700,000 to bribe senior officials. There was little dispute and Monsanto agreed to pay a fine of $1.5 million to the U.S. Department of Justice. Though I’m not sure a $1.5 million fine was a harsh enough punishment, I think it’s worth noting that Monsanto took full responsibility of the issue and even created an individual page on their website that addresses this investigation.
So why did Monsanto want to risk their already dark reputation? There have been reports their GE products are contaminated (report link here). In the end, it all comes down to protecting their high market share. This article by Greenpeace highlights Monsanto’s near-monopolies in developing countries. If Monsanto had been approved of their GE crops in Indonesia, it would have opened up a new market for them and left small farmers in the dust.
While others see it as Monsanto creating its own opportunity in a free market system, others may see it as an exploitation of labor in a weak economy. Where do you stand?