Organic Consumers Association

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PR Firm Edleman Launches Charm Offensive for GMO Giant Monsanto

Not so long ago, I was an utterly obscure farmer-blogger dashing off indictments of industrial agriculture for some 30 loyal readers (many of them house-mates and relatives).

And then, evidently by the miracle of the Google search, a functionary from Monsanto's legal office discovered my blog and fired off a cease-and-desist letter. I published it, added a tart response, and alerted a few editors to the exchange. Within days, my site meter showed thousands of readers piling in. Within months I had a paid writing gig. Thanks, Monsanto! Evidently, the GMO seed giant is still paying folks to scan Google for blogs that dare criticize it -- only now it has evidently outsourced the task to the PR-flack powerhouse Edelman.

Just today, a week after we published a (highly sarcastic) guest post by Claire Hope Cummings titled "All Hail Monsanto," a gentleman from Edelman wrote to one of my Grist colleagues to offer his services "tracking down information or putting one of you in contact with a representative from Monsanto that can insightfully answer any questions you may have concerning the company and its sustainability goals."

You never know -- we might just take him up on that.

I have recently heard similar tales from other food-politics bloggers who have had the unbridled nerve to question Monsanto's benevolence: A cordial email from an Edelman employee offering informational services that might better explain Monsanto's intentions.

In her post that inspired the Edelman missive, Cummings had some fun at the expense of Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant for declaring that "Skepticism is a commodity the world can't afford right now." What he meant was: Let us benevolent experts take care of the food supply -- you consumers just shut up and eat!

Well, I'm here to inform our readers over at Edelman that while we're always open to new information, we'd prefer to keep our skepticism well-honed, thank you very much.

And while we're happy to engage in friendly email exchanges, we also remember that Monsanto is fully capable of turning that smile upside-down -- and even baring its fangs. I remember that cease-and-desist letter. I also note that, according to a 2005 Center for Food Safety report (PDF), Monsanto wields an "annual budget of $10 million and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers" deemed to violate its draconian gene-patent claims.

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