Anaylsis: Business vs ethics

During the recession, many of the big banks and automotive companies were considered “too big to fail.” Monsanto is no different than any too big to fail company. Some companies are founded to help people live a better or more sustainable life. Even though these companies may look good on the outside, they may be really hurting more than helping. Monsanto Company is a provider of Agricultural products to farmers worldwide. They produce seeds, biotechnology trait products (chemical systems to help maintain crops), and herbicides. They are by far the leading company in the agricultural field. To put this into perspective, Monsanto is worth $42 billion. They made $15 billion last year in revenue and brought in an income of about $2.3 billion. This is a huge amount for any company, but for a company that is supposed to be for the people, it is a little worrisome. Is Monsanto operating for profit first before the safety of the consumer? Do they really care about the lives of farmers and whether or not farmers have a living wage? The issue at debate is Monsanto and farmers are at conflict due to different business ideas and morals.

Any company that must be saved by the government and citizens whenever it has trouble should not operate in business. Small businesses fail all the time with little government assistance. If the United States helped out every business whenever it needed help, our debt problem would be much worse. Also, corruption would exist more because more companies would take advantage of the opportunity to ask for help even when they don’t exactly need it. Even Neil Young got in on the Monsanto being too big action. Companies like Monsanto do higher risk activities because they know that the government will assist them when needed. Farmers only receive government assistance when growing seasons are bad. Some of the unsuccessful growing seasons might actually be Monsanto’s fault. Since Monsanto sells supplies farmers use, can Monsanto be the blame for farmer’s failures? Most farmers enter the business because they are trying to put food on the table for themselves and others while making enough money to be middle class citizens. Monsanto sells products with the goals of giving their shareholders the most money they can.

Many people rely on Monsanto indirect and direct ways. Many people also rely on farmers in the same way. Monsanto has many employees and many suppliers who also have employees. When Monsanto has a bad quarter, or even a bad year, employees know that they better start looking for a new job. Monsanto is looking at eliminating 12% of their employees over the next two years. Dramatic cuts like that will lose a lot of respect and trust from people. Usually, when companies receive aid, it is to keep workers around. Monsanto instead is like a big bank, they will accept the cash, let go of many employees, and in the end, they will return back to “normalcy” in regards to sales. Farmers understand that some seasons are worse than others. They also understand that their workers depend on them day in and day out to also feed their family. When farmers are having a tough time, they don’t think about shareholders who will ask for the CEO to be fired. They are their own CEO, and their shareholders are themselves. Farmers take the hit with their workers. Many will take a hit in profit for the year to keep employees. Also, some might cut employees pay but they are also doing the same to their own pocket. Farmers understand that the economy is cyclical, preparation during the good times prepares for the bad.

Monsanto is ruthless in their business operations. Some of their tactics might be closely similar to the same ones used by John D. Rockefeller, who founded Standard Oil, a monopoly. Monsanto sometimes goes over the line with their fear tactics. Since Monsanto makes money from seed sales, they make farmers sign contracts saying that they won’t reuse seeds and that they will not sell them to others. The result of this is Monsanto has private investigators travel the country to make sure no one is breaking their contract rules. Sometimes the private investigators get a little out of hand, such as when they attack people who never even have been in contact with the seeds. Even if Monsanto knew that this man did not sell seeds, it proved a point. Monsanto was able to scare other farmers in the town. In a small town like this one in the article, news like this spreads like wildfire. It puts fear into the farmers to know that Monsanto does have an eye on people who want to break the rules. Monsanto does not deny that they go on and attack farmers. On their website they say they do it to best protect their business. The only problem is, Monsanto seems to go too far with it. Even at times, attacking the wrong people. Monsanto should go about practice legal and ethical business tactics in order to be a respectable company.

Farmers do their best to feed people at a reasonable cost. Monsanto makes this difficult. This article highlights some of the problems attributed to Monsanto. Monsanto products cost farmers much more. Many, if not all of the costs are pushed back onto the consumer. Most farmers do not farm for the money but do it because it is what they like or what they were born into. Therefore, they usually only will raise costs when they have to. Things such as soil erosion cause great harm to farmers and surrounding communities. Dust clouds that form from chemical application take away soil. These dust clouds blow chemicals around the community and create an area where chemicals are on the farm (which is usually no longer productive) and in neighborhoods. In this next article,  Monsanto is shown how they capture long-term customers. Monsanto created seeds that require the herbicide, Roundup, this way customers will buy the seeds and then will have to buy the herbicide a well. Roundup is the most used herbicide in the world, and some backlash exists about the dangers of it. Also, this article shows that genetically modified seeds do not make farmer’s lives easier and that Monsanto’s famous public relations scheme attracts and then keeps farmers attached to their products. Genetically modified seeds are also hard to get rid of for farmers. Many farms that did not plant the seeds now have them. This is because of wind blowing GMO seeds and those seeds mixing with traditional seeds. The added cost to farmers from this makes food much higher, but adds money to Monsanto’s pockets because farmers, who usually don’t buy Roundup, now have to. Since 2001, Monsanto has doubled the price of soybean and corn seeds. The average cost for farming one acre with soybean seeds has increased by 325% since 1995. This would be why things such as government subsidies to farmers increased, but also why food prices increase. If Monsanto becomes the 100% supplier of seeds, what will that do to prices?

The amount of firepower in terms of lawyers and lobbyists Monsanto has is way greater than any farmer. Monsanto is constantly winning lawsuits against farmers. This hurts the bottom line of food prices since it adds extra expenses to farmers. In a more recent lawsuit , Monsanto won the right to sue farmers who unintentionally have their seeds on their farm. This case reached the U.S. Supreme Court and was ultimately given in Monsanto’s favor. It would have been helpful for farmers if they won this case, because it would have allowed for Monsanto to get off of organic farmer’s backs. Farmers just wanted protections because they knew how Monsanto reacted when they found seeds on noncustomers’ farms. Monsanto has had lawsuits with over 140 customers for this reason and settled with 700 other farmers without going to court. In another article, the writer goes more in depth about Monsanto’s legal history. Monsanto has made over $23 million in lawsuits against farmers and small businesses. They investigate over 500 farmers in year in regards to contract issues. In California, farmers apart of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association tried to gather enough signatures for a ballot in the 2012 election year for a mandate that would require labeling of products that had GMOs. California is the eighth largest economy in the world. Lots of food is exported all around the country from the state. Unfortunately for the farmers, the ballot never took place. The biggest donors for the campaign were Monsanto and DuPont. The amount of power Monsanto has not only affects farmers that use their products, but also organic farmers who just want to sell healthier products to the public.

Monsanto has a presence on the local level as well. In 2013, a law was trying to be passed that denied employment to whistleblowers that applied for the position only to expose the company. This law is not for any company in particular, but it certainly applies to people who may try getting jobs for Monsanto. Since Monsanto is such a big company with such controversy. People against this law say that it is against human rights to have this as a law. Companies that deserve to be exposed for acting unethical should be exposed. North Carolina is not exempt from the impact Monsanto or farmers have on the economy.

A failed business deserves to fail. One that is too big to fail does not deserve to exist. Monsanto did get their bailout from The European Bank For Reconstruction and Development (EBRD). Financial loses attributed to bad contracts by farmers gave the EBRD a reason to give Monsanto millions. Farmers in Europe signed the same type of contracts as farmers in the United States. The difference is, people in Europe are more educated on the food they are consuming. Lots of public outbreak caused farmers who signed the contracts to lose money and they were not able to pay Monsanto. The EBRD came in to save Monsanto and the farmers and paid the company before they would take the farmers to court. Bailouts and farmers struggling should never happen. It is understood that some years might be less profitable due to weather or other events, but business people should be prepared for that. A way to fix the different opinions and business strategies farmers and Monsanto have would be to give farmers more choices. Right now, Monsanto has too much power. In the best interest of the farmers and people, Monsanto should be split up in the same way Standard Oil was split up when it was considered a monopoly. This allows for a more stable economy and it makes business more fair for everyone involved. Food is a product that should be taken seriously and it should be sold as a product to better the users, not the company.


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