A question for Monsanto: Got transparency?

My friend and colleague Jeanette Drake has an op-ed piece in the Akron Beacon Journal today, and it’s a “must read” for any PR professional who cares about ethics and transparency in this business.

drakemug.jpgIt’s a story about a campaign, led by the chemical giant, Monsanto, to keep important information about our milk supply out of the public eye. At center stage is Monsanto’s rBGH, bovine growth hormone, a genetically engineered substance that increases a cow’s milk production.

Monsanto says rBGH is no threat to public health and is lobbying the Ohio Dept. of Agriculture for new regulations that would “restrict what dairies can say about the milk they produce.” Under current rules, dairies may label their milk as rBGH-free. Many have, and consumers have responded.

Says Dr. Drake:

When it comes to food we eat and the milk we serve our families, preventing full disclosure flies in the face of free-market democratic principles and common sense.

Jeanette’s essay makes a great case for transparency and for the role that public relations should play in the promotion of public discourse. If this issue piques your interest, run a Google search on “rGBH Monsanto,” then thank your maker that you aren’t the lead PR counselor on this one!

6 Responses to A question for Monsanto: Got transparency?

  1. […] on behalf of their clients. My friend and mentor, professor Bill Sledzik at Kent State University, posted a blog about his colleague’s article in the Akron Beacon Journal today questioning a chemical company’s public relations […]

  2. tastyburger says:

    Bill-

    I enjoyed this post – but was not surprised. In fact, I wrote something similar earlier this month when I discussed the recent FDA approval of meat and milk from cloned animals (http://tastyburger.wordpress.com/2008/01/18/cloned-its-whats-for-dinner/)

    Apparently our government is ok with us not knowing what’s in the food we eat. They say you are what you eat. I’m not sure I want to know what I am.

    -Ben

  3. The word that comes to mind is “sinister.” This case represents some of the worst impulses of business, impulses that threaten the foundations of public trust. It is, however, all too predictible. It’s a bit like debating global warming. As long as a company claims there are no data to support the claim that global warming is bad, they can continue with impunity to foul the air. Monsanto says there are no data that these hormones are bad, and they don’t like losing the capitalist battle on this front. The fact is, in the case of hormones, the market is speaking — it doesn’t want this milk. But if your business model depends on hormones, it’s “tampering with the primal forces” to paraphrase something Paddy Chayefsky once wrote.

  4. Judy Gombita says:

    That’s an excellent article by your colleague. It reminded me very much of a show I watched several years ago on TV (I think it was one of the investigative reporting ones, W5 or something) about the Monsanto milk industry in the U.S. In my mind I can still see the images of the “overworked” cows with their udders extended and sometimes dripping pus into the milk trays. I tell you (in all honesty), I resolved to try and avoid drinking milk whenever I travelled to the US, for fear that it would be some of the Monsanto variety. (And I hope to hell that bovine growth hormones are *never* approved in Canada.)

    The other thing that really bothered me about the report (which honestly wasn’t overly “sensationalist,” it was very factual) was that the USA produces far more milk than its citizens could ever consume. That’s why there did not appear to be a compelling need for the growth hormones, unless it came to Monsanto’s profits. (Like that multinational behemoth needs to make more money!)

    I had a quick search around and couldn’t find that show, but I did run across this snippet posted on YouTube: Fox News Kills Monsanto Milk Story.

    The other film that I would highly, highly recommend is the 2005 documentary (from Austria), We Feed the World.

    Be careful what you drink down there, y’all hear?

  5. […] debate reveals the cloudy nature of ‘transparency’ Last month I wrote about the milk labeling debate here in Ohio. If comments measure interest, no one cares. So let’s try […]

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