Is NPR Promoting Monsanto?

Is NPR promoting Monsanto?

Outspoken consumer advocacy group, The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) is urging NPR listeners to take action over accusations that the news agency is acquiescing to Monsanto’s influence.

The group made the request after a report airing on the NPR program Marketplace called “The Non-Organic Future” sounded as if “Monsanto itself had written it,” according to a stament from the OCA.

In the report, claims were made suggesting the only practical way to feed the world’s hungry–some 1.2 billion people–is to provide poor farmers with genetically modified seeds. Monsanto is the largest manufacturer of patented GM seeds and companion pesticide, the glyphosate based Roundup Ready.

Furthering the accusations, Diet for a Hot Planet author, Anna Lappé commented on the Marketplace website, suggesting that their reporting failed to consider an important report from 2009—the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) Report, a joint project of the U.N. and the World Bank. Lappé wrote that the groundbreaking study, which brought together 400 experts, concluded findings in direct opposition to the suggestions made in the segment supporting GM seeds—that the chemicals and other risks involved with biotech and large-scale farming may further the problems, not solve them. “Business as usual is not an option, was the radical consensus. Instead, small-scale and mid-scale agroecological farming holds our best hope for feeding the world safe, healthy food, all without undermining our natural capital.”

A response to the comments on the segment from Marketplace editor George Judson defended the piece, saying ” Genetic modification of crops will play a role. Mark Rosegrant of the International Food Policy Research Institute said some crops will need modification to withstand drought and heat from global warming,” and that, ” In practice, Marketplace, like most news organizations, thinks of its coverage as ongoing and cumulative,” stating that they will do more stories on organic farming, as they’ve done in the past. There was no mention of affiliation with Monsanto in Judson’s comments.

In 2009, a statement from NPR said they were not taking any funding from Monsanto, but that programs such as Marketplace were running corporate underwriting spots from Monsanto like this one: “Marketplace is supported by Monsanto, committed to sustainable agriculture: creating hybrid and biotech seeds designed to increase crop yields and conserve natural resources. Produce more conserve more dot com.”

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Jill Ettinger

Jill Ettinger is a Los Angeles-based journalist and editor focused on the global food system and how it intersects with our cultural traditions, diet preferences, health, and politics. She is the senior editor for sister websites and, and works as a research associate and editor with the Cornucopia Institute, the organic industry watchdog group. Jill has been featured in The Huffington Post, MTV, Reality Sandwich, and Eat Drink Better.