During the twentieth century, the development of pesticides was in full force to combat pests and diseases, as well as increase agricultural production of crops. The invention of pesticides was the future of providing food stability; however, research eventually discovered the negative consequences from the use of pesticides. Monsanto was known as a chemical company that created saccharin, aspartame, DDT, agent orange, and PCBs. Today, Monsanto is known for the creation of glyphosate and genetically modified organisms (GMOs), due to their advancement in genetic engineering, biotechnology, and agriculture. Monsanto claims GMO crops ensure food stability and avoid food crises; however, Monsanto’s history of deception, manipulation, and corruption shows this corporation is a real-life monster.

Monsanto and Poison.jpg

In Marie Monique Robin’s documentary, “The World According to Monsanto,” she illustrates Monsanto’s controversial actions of hiding pollution of PCBs in Anniston, Alabama; lying about the safety of GMOs within the United States Food and Drug Administration; bribing researchers in Canada; misrepresenting research on toxic chemicals; such as the research on the Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH); false advertising on products, such as claiming Round-Up is biodegradable; and threatening researchers, farmers and politicians.

First off, Robin’s documentary and research is credible because she interviewed various researchers, farmers, and politicians around the world, proving the negative effects of Monsanto. In addition, Robin interviewed a farmer who supports Monsanto, a few politicians associated with Monsanto, and Monsanto employees. Secondly, the documentary is credible because she reviews past researches and studies from independent parties, as well as Robin addresses an unreliable research sponsored by Monsanto. The documentary covers a range of chemicals created by Monsanto (i.e. GMOs, PCBs, glyphosate, rBGH, and aspartame) and reviews the negative health risks from consuming these chemicals, as well as the lack of reliable research on GMOs within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). The documentary also addresses Monsanto’s lobbying power and economic monopoly is causing this company to have a lot of control within the United States government.

During the 1980s, Monsanto started using biotechnology to created GMOs. According to Jeffrey Jerome Cohen’s Monster Culture: Seven Theses, Monsanto can be considered a monster due to their actions (i.e. bribing, falsifying or misrepresenting research, lying, etc.,). In thesis three, Cohen explains that, “the monster is the harbinger of category crisis,” (6). Monsanto demonstrates this because their creation of GMOs defies nature and threaten human health. In Claire Robinson’s article, “Don’t Look, Don’t Find: Health Hazards of Genetically Modified Food,” she states, “almost all commercially available GM crops are engineered to tolerate being sprayed with herbicide or to express a pesticide, or both,” (17). This defies nature because if a non-GMO crop was sprayed with pesticides or herbicides it would die, whereas GMO crops are able to withstand pesticides and herbicides. Similarly, GMO crops are able to withstand pesticides, but what about us? As a result, GMO foods are left with residue from pesticides, which threatens our health because we could be consuming toxic chemicals whenever we eat GMO food. Overall, this is a monstrosity because it is not normal for plants to survive exposure from pesticides and it is dangerous for human consumption.

Environmental Consequences:

lets bee clear

The use of agricultural chemicals is one of the factors leading to the decline of bees. First off, in Nigel E. Raine and Richard J. Gill’s article, “Tasteless Pesticides Affect Bees in the Field,” the authors researched if bees are able to detect pesticides and if bees are adversely affects by pesticides, as well as explained the necessity of bees. The authors noted, “Bees are crucial for the pollination of agricultural crops and wild plants, helping to ensure food security and maintain biodiversity,” (Raine and Gill 38). Bees are extremely important in order to continue producing crops; therefore, the possible threat pesticides pose to bees addresses one of the negative environmental effects from pesticides. According to Maria Vanegas’s article, “The Silent Beehive: How the Decline of Honey Bee Populations Shifted the Environmental Protection Agency’s Pesticide Policy towards Pollinators,” she explains the rise of pesticides, how bees encounter pesticides, and the negative relationship between bees and pesticides. Vanegas states, “Many of the insecticides used are broad-spectrum pesticides, which kill both target and non-target pests. These nondiscriminatory pesticides can cause population declines in beneficial insects such as bees,” (321). Unfortunately, the use of pesticides, whether sprayed or seed infused, can cause adverse effects on bees. If bees are introduced to a large amount of pesticides, bees can die. On the other hand, a continuous small amount of pesticides can, “weaken a bee’s immune system, but also impairs a bee’s brain function, which affects behavior, learning ability, and colony development,” (Vanegas 322). Overall, the use of pesticides is one of the factors that poses a threat to bees; therefore, pesticide use should be limited in order to help save the bees.

Rachel Carson Studying
Rachel Carson looking into a microscope.

The first Environmental Movement started after Rachel Carson’s book, Silent Spring. In 1962, Carson published her research on the dangers of pesticides on the environment, living creatures, and humans. Eight years later, the United States Congress created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in order to start protecting the environment and humans by adding regulations on pesticides, chemicals, and pollution. Carson’s research mainly focused on the common substance, DDT. Eventually, the EPA banned the use of DDT and PCBs because of the adverse health effects on humans and the environment. Unsurprisingly, Monsanto created and produced both chemicals. In order for Monsanto to stay in business, they started developing genetically modified crops and biotechnology. This is the cause that triggered the effect, as known as a precipitating cause because Monsanto would have developed other chemicals; however, the ban on their top two chemicals pushed them faster towards developing GMOs, Monsanto’s new evil creation.

Health Risks:

Monsanto started the production of food additives, specifically known for saccharin and aspartame. Saccharin has been classified as a human carcinogen (causes cancer); however, continues to be on the market with a warning label. As seen in Robin’s documentary, “The World According to Monsanto,” Monsanto’s past history of misrepresent research, concealment of important health risks, and false advertising, worries many consumers of the foods on the market containing GMOs and pesticides. According to Claire Robinson’s article, she discusses the possible health risks GMOs and glyphosate pose to humans. Firstly, Robinson acknowledges a study on, “GM Roundup-tolerant soy will necessarily contain elevated levels of Roundup herbicide. Far from being benign, Roundup has been linked in laboratory and epidemiological studies and clinical reports to serious health effects, including endocrine disruption, DNA damage, birth defects, cancer, and neurological disorders. Some toxic effects have been found at low doses comparable to those found in food and feed crops and drinking water,” (23). This study proves the adverse health effects from genetically modified crops and Monsanto’s Roundup, that contains glyphosate. As a result, the plant was not affected by the pesticide because it was a genetically modified crop; however, the crop contained glyphosate, which is a known human carcinogen. Additionally, Robinson acknowledged that, “the genetic engineering process is inherently imprecise and causes widespread disruption to the genome, which can lead to unintended effects. These can include the creation of novel toxins or allergens or altered nutrient value,” (Robinson, 18). As a result, genetically modified foods can intensify allergies and are not beneficial sources of food due to the lack of vitamins, proteins, and minerals. Ultimately, if we produce symptoms of an allergy our bodies could be rejecting these foods. Lastly, many researches on GMOs study the long-term health effects. As consumers, we are consuming GMO crops and foods, but do not know or understand the health risks of GMOs because we lack credible research and information concerning GMOs and human health.

Many of the chemicals created by Monsanto, such as GMOs, aspartame, and saccharin, are commonly found in food items that people often crave for. Cohen’s thesis six explains that, “the monster is continually linked to forbidden practices, in order to normalize and to enforce. The monster also attracts,” (16). To illustrate, eating junk food is not advised by doctors and is considered an unhealthy diet; therefore, this is considered a, “forbidden [practice],” (16). Cohen explains that, “the monster awakens one to the pleasures of the body,” (17) which means the monster encourages or introduces humans to satisfy their desires such as satisfying their craving and delighting themselves to a treat. Monsanto creates the desire of their own chemicals because healthy food is not as appealing as products with GMOs, aspartame, and saccharin. On the other hand, Monsanto creates the fear of their own chemicals because many consumers are addicted to consuming products containing chemicals that could cause health risks (i.e. cancer, reproductive problems, etc.,). For example, majority of diets sodas contain aspartame or saccharin and have warning labels stating, “this product may cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive problems.”

Warning label

Political and Economic Impact:

Out of all the countries in the world, Monsanto has the most control of the United States even though the company is extremely controversial. In the encyclopedia of American Economic History: A Dictionary and Chronology, summarizes the history and controversy of Monsanto. The authors explain, “it has drawn vast criticism for it use and enforcement of biological patents, which worry many in the public over the ownership of produce and other agricultural products. Its ability to lobby government agencies and it significant political clout in the enacting of legislation have also drawn public concern,” (Olson and Mendoza) which means Monsanto has huge political impact in the United States government. For instance, Si Affron’s news article, “Maui vs. Monsanto: The Battle Over GMOs in Hawaii,” he explains Monsanto’s political and economic involvement in the possible ban of GMOs in Hawaii. Monsanto’s political involvement in the ban on GMOs in Hawaii was because Monsanto “executives sprang into action trying to block the referendum,” (Affron). As a result, Monsanto’s involvement proved to help because “just one day after the moratorium was successful at the ballot box, Federal Judge Susan Oki Mollway stepped in and blocked the ban on GMOs from taking effect. Mollway stressed that her decision was not because of the context of the bill, but rather because such a ban preempted state and federal laws,” (Affron). Politically, Monsanto was able to prevent the ban of GMOs in Hawaii. On the other hand, economically, Monsanto’s involvement proved to be ineffective in deterring Hawaii residents to vote no on the ban. Affron notes, “anti-GMO groups raised and spent about $60,000 in total, Monsanto and Dow Agrosciences spent nearly $7 million.” Sadly, Hawaii citizen’s won the vote to ban GMOs, but ultimately Monsanto prevented the ban by using their political strategies.

Monsanto illustrates this concept because GMOs led to genetically modified foods that are different, and possibly dangerous. In thesis four, Cohen explains how, “the monster dwells at the gates of difference,” (7). Cohen states, “Because it is a body across which difference has been repeatedly written, the monster (like Frankenstein’s creature, that combination of odd somatic pieces stitched together from a community of cadavers),” (12). Similar to Frankenstein, Monsanto’s creation of GMOs proves science is not always the best option in order to increase progress. Uniquely, Monsanto has used Cohen’s thesis four for their benefit by portraying whistleblowers (Anti-GMO supporters) as different and against scientific advancement. To illustrate, Monsanto constantly attacks independent researchers who find their products to cause adverse effect towards living creatures and the environment. Monsanto and pro-GMO supporters claim these researches are false, and against science and progress.

In the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the agency focuses on ensuring that foods, cosmetics, and drugs are safety for human consumption. In Robin’s documentary, she explains how the FDA determined the safety and regulations of GMOs. As a result, the FDA concluded that GMOs are Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS); however, the FDA lacks credible evidence proving they are safe. In the documentary, one of the interviews is with Michael Hansen. In the video, he compares the regulation of food additives and preservatives to GMOs. Food additives and preservatives require pre-safety assessments, whereas GMOs require no pre-safety assessments, yet have questionable aspects regarding safety.

Monsanto monster.jpg

Monsanto represents our culture because currently Monsanto is one of the main agrochemical industries and has a huge amount of control over politicians, farmers, and consumers. In thesis one, Cohen states, “The monster is born only at this metaphoric crossroads, as an embodiment of a certain cultural moment- of a time, a feeling, and a place,” (4). In today’s society, Monsanto has been very influential in the United States government, as demonstrated within the FDA’s approval of GMOs. In Robin’s documentary, she discussed Monsanto’s “revolving doors,” which means that Monsanto employees become government employees and vice versa. This strengthens Monsanto’s political agenda, power, and control within the United States government. In addition, Robin revealed that, “Monsanto played a role in how genetic engineering was dealt with and the approval of Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH),” (00:31:50) because Monsanto’s pre-safety testing on the hormone was misrepresented, avoided important safety questions, and hid research. These monstrous actions show us that Monsanto is only focused on making profits and disregard the health of their consumers. Ultimately, Monsanto has political ties within the government to influence the decision-making processes on certain topics and escape punishment due to unethical practices. Furthermore, farmers who purchases genetically modified seeds are in danger of being dependent on Monsanto products because they have to use the genetically modified seeds and pesticides, such as Round-Up, in order to keep away pests and weeds, and produce crops.  According to Robin’s documentary, she notes that, “ninety percent of GMOs grown on the planet belong to [Monsanto],” and “seventy percent of the food in American stores contain bioengineered elements.” Both farmers and consumers in the United States are becoming dependent on Monsanto for seeds and food because Monsanto is gaining more power as we continue to purchase from them. In the United States, products that contain GMOs are not required to be acknowledged on labels. There have been various marches and activist groups, such as the U.S. Right to Know, believe consumers have the right to know if GMOs are or are not in a product. According to Claire Robinson’s article, she notes that, “the European Union and other countries require GM foods to be labelled, but the United States, where the bulk of GM foods are grown and consumed, does not,” (17). As a result, GMOs have been culturally accepted among many people in the United States; therefore, giving Monsanto more power to control the world’s food supply and become a bigger monopoly. Monsanto is a cultural monster because it has signified the advancement of genetically modified foods that has the capability to threaten our health and environment, while influencing Americans view of GMOs.

Right 2 Know March.jpg

In thesis two of Cohen’s book, he illustrates that, “the monster always escapes,” (4). According to the documentary, genetically modified seeds have contaminated farmers seeds in other countries. For instance, farmers in Paraguay, Mexico, and India have been negatively affected by Monsanto’s push towards genetically modified seeds. The video displays the contamination of genetically modified crops in farmer’s fields. Similarly, farmers in the United States have been negatively affected by Monsanto’s patents. In the United States, farmers have been threatened by the “gene police,” (Robin) which are Monsanto employees inspecting farms due to Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified crops. Before Monsanto, farmers were able to reuse seeds to continue producing crops. Due to Monsanto’s patents on their seeds, farmers cannot reuse those seeds; therefore, farmers have to continue purchasing Monsanto’s seeds, pesticides, and herbicides in order to produce crops, and could become possible targets of Monsanto’s, “gene police,” (Robin).

Monsanto actively participates in using their economic power, political control, and world domination in order to persuade or threaten farmers, activists, and whistleblowers to not question their practices or creations. According to thesis five, Cohen explains that, “the monster policies the borders of the possible,” (12). Specifically, Monsanto demonstrates Cohen’s concept that monsters are used to, “discourage further exploration,” (13), because Monsanto convinces people to not question their research, to not increase research, and to not trust independent researches. Robin’s documentary exposes Monsanto’s threats to whistleblowers, such as being fired, harassed, and sued. Ultimately, “the monster is … a lawbreaker; and so the monster and all that it embodies must be exile or destroyed,” (Cohen 16); similarly, Monsanto and its chemical creation must be stopped, but in the meantime, Monsanto’s economic power and political control is a huge disadvantage for whistleblowers.

Monsanto has been given the ability to influence our culture, politics, and economy. Lastly, in Cohen’s thesis seven, he explains that, “the monster stands at the threshold… of becoming,” (20). As a result, our children can grow up and learn that the chemicals created by Monsanto are acceptable to eat or eating healthy is unnecessary. As Cohen states, “these monsters ask us how we perceive the world, and how we have misrepresented what we have attempted to place,” (20). In our society, we need to question Monsanto’s practices as the science for GMOs and pesticides continue to increase and possibly threaten us and our world. In order to prevent becoming the monster, we need to understand the effects of Monsanto’s creations and determine the necessity of their creations.

Overall, Monsanto is a real-life monster because of the adverse consequences on the environment, the adverse health risks on humans, their unethical political involvement, and economic dominance. Hopefully, future studies will continue to monitor Monsanto’s negative effects produced from their products, as well as research the long-term health risks of GMOs and pesticides in order to make informed decision on the foods we consume and ensure food safety.

Annotated Bibliography:


Affron, Si. “Maui vs. Monsanto: The Battle over GMOs in Hawaii.” The Politic, March 29, 2017. Accessed May 6, 2018. http://thepolitic.org/maui-vs-monsanto-the-battle-over-gmos-in-hawaii/. This article discusses the attempt to ban GMOs in Maui due to the possibility of adverse environmental and health effects. The author illustrates the perspectives of pro-GMOs and anti-GMOs supporters; however, acknowledges the lack of credible scientific evidence for those against genetically modified organisms. Additionally, this article mentions Monsanto’s heavy involvement in the elections to prevent a ban on GMOs. In my essay, this article is used to demonstrate the effects on politics and GMOs, as well as the effect on the agricultural and food industry. This source is credible because the author reports on the event without prejudices.

Carson, Rachel. Silent Spring. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 28 September 1962. In Carson’s book, she reviewed and researched the toxic effects on the environment, humans, and mammals from using pesticides during the 1900s. This book started the environmental movement in the United States and inspired Congress to create the Environmental Protection Agency. The most detailed chemicals she covered was DDT, which Congress banned years following her book. In my essay, this article is used to illustrate the toxicity of pesticides and the dangers of combining chemicals. The United States has progressed to limit harmful chemicals and enforce safety regulations on pesticides; however, in today’s society, new chemicals are being created and lack safety assessments. This source is credible because Carson studied marine biology and cited all of her sources used throughout her book. Additionally, Carson’s book is a scholarly source.

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Culture (Seven Theses). Monster Theory: Reading Culture. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996, pp. 3-20. This scholarly journal illustrates that monsters, both real and non-real, represent our past and current culture. In addition, Cohen how monsters deter us from certain actions, never goes away, produces fears and desires, and acknowledges differences. In my essay, I use all seven theses in order to illustrate that Monsanto is a real-life monster because of their unethical actions and creation of harmful chemicals. I connect the theses to Monsanto’s effects on the environment, human health, politics, and economics. This source is credible because Cohen studied the creation, causes, and effects of monsters.

Eisenstaedt, Alfred. “Rachel Carson, field biologist, at work.” Time and Life Pictures / Getty Images. https://www.fws.gov/midwest/insider3/Sept12Story4.htm. Accessed 21 May 2018. This is a photo is before paragraph six. The image is of Rachel Carson studying.

Greensefa. “Let’s Bee Clear.” April 1, 2013, Flickr, https://www.flickr.com/photos/greensefa/13581201364. This is the photo before paragraph five. A group of people are protesting to protect bees from pesticides. This captures that pesticides negatively affect bees due to pesticides.  

Kwong, Ed. Mad Monsanto Monster. 17 July 2013. http://blog.edkwong.com/2013/07/mad-monsanto-monster.html. Accessed 21 May 2018. This image is found before paragraph twelve. This cartoon shows the positive idea Monsanto portrays; however, in reality, Monsanto is a greedy corporation. This images also illustrates the dangers of their pesticides.

Landrigan, Philip J., and Charles Benbrook. “GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health.” New England Journal of Medicine,no. 8, Aug 20, 2015, pp. 693-695. Accessed May 3, 2018.https://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1505660.In this article, the authors illustrate the possible health risks with pesticides, such as 2,4-D, and glyphosate. The articles claim that the EPA fails to accurately research the possible dangerous of these chemicals. Additionally, the EPA uses the research done by the pesticide company rather than a third party; meaning, researchers who are not bias towards this topic (anti-GMOs verse Pro-GMOs). The authors conclude with suggestions for the United States EPA to consider, such as requiring labeling of GMOs. In my essay, I use this source to address the issue with chemical combinations, as well as the increase in allergies. Additionally, I use this source to illustrate this increased use of GMOs and pesticides. I this source is credible because Landrigan has a degree in Preventive Medicine and Benbrook has a degree in Crops and Soil Sciences, and it is a scholarly journal.

Lobo, Daniel. “Right 2 Know March (GMO Labeling).” October 16, 2011. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/daquellamanera/6303167472. Accessed 21 May 2018. This image is located before paragraph thirteen. This is a demonstration of a march for GMO labeling.

Martin, Geoff. “Picture of saccharin warning on a diet Dr. Pepper can.” 15 February 2006. Accessed 21 May 2018. This image is located after paragraph eight. I use this image to show an example of a warning label found on products we consume.

Olson, James S., Abraham O. Mendoza. “Monsanto.” American Economic History: A Dictionary and Chronology, Greenwood, 1stedition, 2015. Credeo Reference. Accessed 11 May 2018. https://search.credoreference.com/content/entry/greenwoodlgr/monsanto/0?institutionld=5312. In this encyclopedia, the authors briefly review the history and controversy of Monsanto. In my essay, I use this source to illustrate why Monsanto is controversial. This source is credible because it reviews American history and includes its source.

Robin, Maria-Monique. “The World According to Monsanto (Full Documentary).” YouTube, uploaded by ajvaughan3 Documentary Films, 2 August 2015, Accessed 2 May 2018. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zfOSFaaLx_oIn Robin’s documentary, she reviews the negative history of Monsanto by illustrating their participation in bribing, misrepresenting research, falsifying labels, threatening whistleblowers, and creating harmful chemicals. In my essay, I use this documentary as my primary source on Monsanto and I use this is support my claim that Monsanto is real-life monster due to their creation of GMOs, aspartame, PCBs, glyphosate and saccharin. Furthermore, I use the documentary to illustrate the negative effects produced from Monsanto concerning human health, the environment, politics, and economics. This source is credible because Robin interviews various people around the world. Additionally, she interviews people with ties to Monsanto.

Robinson, Claire. “Don’t Look, Don’t Find: Health Hazards of Genetically Modified Food.” Journal of the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors, Spring 2013, pp. 17-24. Accessed on May 3, 2018. http://farmwars.info/wp-content/uploads/2013/05/GM_Food.pdf. In this article, Claire Robinson discusses the controversy findings in safety studies of GMOs by pesticide companies compared to scientists or researchers not affiliated with these companies. Additionally, she questions the lack of regulation of pesticides and safety tests in the United States Food and Drug Administration concerning GMOs. Robinson overviews the findings of various studies supporting that GMOs could be harmful to humans by long-term effects; however, the author explains the urgency to perform more research on GMOs concerning the long-term health risks. In my essay, I use this article to list the possible adverse effects from consuming GMOs and explain the findings on Monsanto’s glyphosate.

Waywuwei. “Monsanto IS Poisoning You.” Union Square to Washington Square, New York, NY. May 25, 2013. Flickr. https://www.flickr.com/photos/waywuwei/8891851408. Accessed 21 May 2018. This image is before paragraph two. This is a photo a sign from a march protesting against Monsanto.