Monsanto Company: Ethical Dilemmas
Monsanto is one of the leading multinational firms that is dedicated to producing variety, conserving the environment as well as improving the lives of people across the whole world. At Monsanto, integrity is at the heart of all business operations. The company’s code of conduct has been a critical tool that helps in achieving its goals and objectives. In order to completely and closely address ethical challenges, Monsanto refreshes its code of conduct on a yearly basis. Monsanto believes that there is need to always do what is ethically right since all operations affects directly its customers, community, shareholders and the partners. Monsanto’s code of conduct provides clear guidelines that helps stakeholders to make right choices even when faced with challenges that are not provided for by particular laws and regulations. The management encourages all stakeholders to take their time in understanding the company’s code of conduct as well as following it (Ferrell, John and Linda 24). Monsanto also encourages everyone to raise any ethical concerns that touches or violates its code of conduct. Monsanto believes that it is the responsibility of every stakeholder to demonstrate high level of integrity in order to accomplish its vision of supporting farmers across the whole world. This paper comprises of an in-depth look of Monsanto’s ethical dilemmas that have been a threat to the company due to its inability to address them appropriately.
Genetically modified (GM) food is one of the controversial ethical issue that was raised concerning Monsanto. The company took advantage of engineering crops as a way of controlling huge share of seeds market not aware that eventually people may fail to consume genetically modified foods. Monsanto dedicated billions of dollars in order to make plants engineering a reality. It came across major scientific challenges ranging from inserting strange genes on normal plants to breeding of a variety of genes capable of performing perfectly well. In addition, Monsanto had to design a mechanism for preventing farmers from copying its invented technology. With regard to this, the company designed a well-crafted business and marketing strategy that involved treating crop engineering like it was manufacturing a new type of a vehicle (Brummer 115). This invention became a cash cow to the shareholders of the company but the benefits to consumers, members of the public and farmers in general was not clear. In its announcement of the GM crops project, Monsanto did not include a clause to demonstrate its commitment to help farmers, consumers and the public who are its target group.
Opponents of genetically modified plants argue that on average, the negative implications largely outweigh the associated benefits. Prior to invention of genetically modified crops, Monsanto did not sufficiently address the ethical dilemmas in their business and marketing strategy. Failure to incorporate possible ethical concerns in its business model became a severe threat to the growth, commercialization and development of genetically modified crops (Brummer 116). Although most genetically modified foods are not a major threat to human life or the ecosystem at large, the way in which Monsanto continued during the engineering of genetically modified foods and thereafter did totally nothing to instill confidence during its pronouncement that the GM plants as well as foods produced did not pose any risk. Monsanto’s decision to protect the engineering and modification of GM crops as well as failure to label crops and foods with GM sent an impression to consumers that something was being hidden. Further, the federal government at that time did not have any regulations in place to govern GM crops. The industry also had no rules to regulate genetically modified crop plants and foods.
Truly, genetic modification is the scientific way of developing crops that are capable of yielding more harvest even under adverse weather conditions and this may be a major boost to food security and safety across the whole world. However, from the Monsanto’s business model the ultimate goal was to increase profitability from the release of GM foods. The rationale behind engineering GM crops was profit but not unselfishness and this has raised ethical concerns about Monsanto. In a nutshell, food security and safety were not among the first considerations by Monsanto when it initially modified genetically modified crops. In its initial modification, Monsanto target traits included pests and herbicides resistance. Truly, these traits have successfully managed to improve crops management and this is the reason farmers have uniformly adopted them. However, although the advancements especially those initiated during the twentieth century such as fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides have helped in solving previous crop management issue, they are the major causes of new set of problems (Brummer 116). Arguably, diseases and pest challenges have worsened over time since the start of modification process. Undoubtedly, today’s GM crop technology’s solutions will be the birth of tomorrow’s new challenges.
Further, two major ethical issues that have arose from Monsanto’s genetically modified crops significant project include the curtailing of farmers’ freedom to use crops based on their consent as well as the free exchange among themselves of genetic plants. This has occurred for the first time in the history of United States and is expected to spread to other parts of the world where Monsanto has established business. These issues are likely to have negative implications in the future in crop improvement process as they are selective in addressing challenges at hand. Monsanto requires farmers to enter into contractual agreements with farmers who buy and grow their genetically modified crop plants (Brummer 117). These two limitations imply that Monsanto has monopoly power over what farmers’ plant in their farms as well as the consumers of these crops more than there before.
In conclusion, Monsanto’s genetically modified crop plant business and marketing strategies only succeeded in capturing the strength of its biotechnology. However, it did not succeed in addressing the major challenges including food safety and security to farmers across the world. The latter is because it failed in instilling confidence to the members of the public by boldly pronouncing that the genetically modified crops did not pose any threat to humanity. In my opinion, Monsanto’s GM crops project would not have raised ethical concerns if it was more educating by including labels in all their GM crops (Ferrell, John and Linda 38). This way consumers would have no doubt in their minds that Monsanto is true and not trying to hide anything. They would have an impression that the genetically modified foods have been tested and proven safe for humankind. Further, Monsanto’s GM crops project would have been a success if it was more selfless. Instead of focusing more on generating more income to the shareholders, it should have focused on the core challenges affecting farmers and consumers; food safety and security.
Ferrell, O.C, John Fraedrich, and Linda Ferrell. Business Ethics: Ethical Decision Making and Cases. s.l.: Cengage learning, 2015.
Brummer, E C. “Response to Monsanto and Intellectual Property.” Teaching Ethics. 2.1, 2001. 115-117.