The Wall Street Journal sat down with Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant in what were probably some very nice chairs for this comfy little edited Q&A. The global agriculture giant is “battered, bruised, and still growing,” according to the WSJ, whose cup runneth over with pathos for poor Hugh. The interview kicks off with: “What’s the harm in disclosing genetically modified ingredients to consumers?” Yes, Hugh, please tell us about the harm.
Grant says California’s Proposition 37 — which would have required GMO foods to be labeled, and which Monsanto spent millions to defeat (weird, WSJ, y’all left that bit out!) — “befuddled the issue.” But Grant says he’s personally “up for the dialogue around labeling.” Why? Because he thinks GMOs are so great of course! (Come on, you knew that answer.)
They’re the most-tested food product that the world has ever seen. Europe set up its own Food Standards Agency, which has now spent €300 million ($403.7 million), and has concluded that these technologies are safe. [Recently] France determined there’s no safety issue on a corn line we submitted there. So there’s always a great deal of political noise and turmoil. If you strip that back and you get to the science, the science is very strong around these technologies.
GMO haters gonna GMO hate! And Grant would rather be in the future than in the past. “I think some of the criticism comes with being first in a lot of these spaces. I’d rather be there than at the back of the pack.” On the whole, Monsanto has “mended a lot of fences” and “turned things around” recently with the general public, according to Grant, in part because of “consistent messaging.” I will give him that!
One of Grant’s and Monsanto’s messages, apparently: Vegetables taste crappy. This should definitely help the company with the 18-and-under crowd, at least.
Fresh fruit and high quality vegetables are becoming more important than they ever were. So we see an opportunity there, but the opportunity in veggies is going to be driven by where we are spending our money. We are spending our money on nutrition and taste. A lot of veggies look great, but they don’t taste like much. We think the consumer will pay a premium for improved nutrition and improved taste.
Grant says Monsanto spends a billion-and-a-quarter dollars a year on research and development but only “took a look at” climate change a couple years ago (!!), asking scientists if it was “fact or fiction?”
The conclusions that came back were, ‘There’s definitely something there. This isn’t an anomaly. There’s enough evidence to suggest that it’s getting warmer.’ For agriculture that’s going to absolutely present challenges, at the very time we need to produce more, it’s an environment that’s heated. In the much longer term, we’re going to have to focus on breeding to accommodate those temperature shifts.
Climate change: It’s bad for business. That’s actually not a terrible slogan to reach right-wing climate deniers. Thanks, Monsanto.