While the influence that Monsanto and other corporations can have over the legislation process can be alarming at times, an interesting article was recently published by the Huffington Post, which shed some light on one way legislation is actually currently being used to keep Monsanto and other organizations in check: through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
As a journalism major who had heard about FOIA previously numerous times in journalism and media classes, the article particularly piqued by interest. In a nutshell, the Freedom of Information Act allows for the release of government documents, often to journalists and the media, effectively providing both media and citizens with transparency. It turns out, that FOIA has played a huge part in exposing Monsanto’s questionable lobbying practices. The article describes how, through documents obtained via FOIA, New York Times journalist Eric Lipton published an article revealing the ways in which Monsanto and other agrichemical companies have been paying publicly-funded scientists to lobby in favor of their products. According to the documents Lipton obtained, Monsanto had been paying a University of Florida professor $25,000 to lobby in favor of the company. When asked, the scientist reportedly denied his ties to the company, suggesting that this information would not have been revealed without the help of FOIA.
Personally, I find this information to be extremely reassuring. While it’s scary that Monsanto can find ways to commercialize science, we can take comfort in the fact that there are laws like FOIA as well as journalists and the media which allow us to remain informed about corporations and their business practices. While many laws provide benefits in favor of large corporation, laws like FOIA keep them in check.