Wait. Monsanto Isn't the Devil?

My Generation

An email from a friend reminds me that our world – and the farm arguments we hear – aren't so black and white.

Published on: May 16, 2012

I got an email this morning that reminded me of a truth that just keeps popping up these days: life is not always black and white. This is neither rocket science nor a surprise, but I'll be darned if something doesn't remind me of that just about every day. Maybe it's my age. Maybe it's the phase of the moon. Maybe it's the times. I don't know.

The email was innocent enough and was heartening on its own. It was from my friend, Doug Schemmer, announcing his last day at work and sharing his future contact information. Doug has spent 21 years working with Monsanto and is quitting in order to farm full-time instead. His father retired from their central Illinois farm following last fall's harvest, and in true fashion, Doug has carefully planned his exit from Monsanto, making sure all his obligations are fulfilled. Doug was involved with our Cultivating Master Farmers program from the very earliest discussions (I'm pretty sure Peggy Kaye called him "Dougie" in those meetings), and has contributed in endless ways to making the program successful.

But here's the thing. As I reflected on his email and what a wonderful opportunity this is for him, and on what a genuinely really very nice guy he is, another conversation came to mind. A conversation with a Chicago mom during our meetup last summer, where she blamed Monsanto for everything from controlling our food supply to killing our bees.

Indeed, she thought Monsanto might actually be Satan himself. And then Emily Webel shared with her how as farmers, we know some of the people who work for Monsanto. And they're really nice. They're our friends from college. They have little kids, just like we do. Sometimes they live down the road from us. They're the Doug Schemmers and the Andy Bartlows of the world.

And as I scroll through comment sections on food articles across the web, there are lots of people making the same case our Chicago mom friend did. Painting a single corporation with a large brush, blaming it for every evil of this world.

But the thing is, it's just not that easy. It's not that black and white. Behind that corporation – behind any number of corporations – are a lot of really good people. People like Doug Schemmer – a guy who grew up on a farm and who just wants to do a good job.

A friend shared a quote on Facebook yesterday, "The most erroneous stories are those we think we know best – and therefore never scrutinize or question."

That's the danger in an argument that paints with a large brush, isn't it? That you might miss the truth because your beliefs won't allow it? Let's try not to do that in agriculture; let's look and think and don't assume the black and white.

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  1. Heat Moon says:

    I don't know Doug but I don't have any doubt that he is a very nice person. Your sentiment however raises a point that I've had a problem with lately. How and why do nice people like Doug become co-opted and dicked around by companies and management who pervert their intelligence and good intentions?

  2. writing services of topseocopywriting.com says:

    Daniel, yea I can see what you probably did there. i seriously favored that half, but hehe I am not that harsh like my father with these things. He at all times tells me loopy stories back within the day and calls me a loser. i suppose it's time I move out of my mother and father' basement LOL. Anyways, what about you? what does your dad suppose xD"

  3. John says:

    Will Doug be growing an organic farm? Also where have all the bees gone? Did pulling gods finger start the big bang? I hope you all enjoy the end times, and please explain to your children your work to make it happen. You are fools and ignorant in your experiments, I hope to be the one saying I told you so on the day of judgement.

  4. Anonymous says:

    You can be a nice person and work for a completely horrible company, no? Monsanto is clearly the devil regardless of what kinds of nice normal people it employs, just like Walmart, Exxon etc.

  5. Anonymous says:

    I worked under Doug the last couple years and glad to be part of the team. The guy was a tremendous work horse and glad to see him take this opportunity to be a farmer and spend more time with his family. I have worked for the company for +15 years and have never heard anybody say anything bad about Doug. He is a first class guy and glad to have him in my career. If the world was made up of Doug's we would have a lot less problems.

  6. Anonymous says:

    I am proud to say I worked side by side with Doug a few years ago, you will never find a more honest and caring person on this earth. He worked for Monsanto with integrity and compassion. He grew up on a farm and as he is showing he loves the farming heritage. Corporations live in cycles, one may lead the pack today and be following them in 10 years, that is just business, but as long as there are people like Doug steering the ship Agriculture will be in good hands. His are some very large shoes to fill let's hope someone fills them that cares as much about our industry as he does.