Monsanto, the multinational seed and chemical company known for its genetically modified seeds and best-selling glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup, says it will be “carbon neutral” by 2021.
The chemically intensive U.S. agricultural industry currently contributes about ten percent to U.S. greenhouse gas emissions while organic farming is being looked to as a long-term viable alternative that can actually capture carbon in the soil as well as reduce overall greenhouse gas output. But Monsanto says its agrochemicals and GMO seeds can play a role in a sustainable future for farming.
“This is a really good beginning, because it allows agriculture to become potentially a piece of the solution, rather than a part of the problem,” Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant said in an interview. “It’s easy to declare these things from day one. The proof is in the delivery, but from the work we’ve done so far, I’m optimistic.”
The move comes as numerous big food brands make similar pledges to reduce greenhouse gases and employ more sustainable production techniques. Monsanto says it will work to make its seed business more carbon neutral by way of “breeding, plant biotechnology, conservation tillage and cover cropping systems,” reports USA Today, as well as employing “energy improvements and emission reductions in its vehicles and facilities.”
But Monsanto’s announcement is being met with criticism from environmental and health advocacy groups as an environmental pledge conflicts with the company’s current products and technologies.
"While Monsanto is claiming to be an important factor in protecting farmers from climate change and drought, the truth is they are a major cause of the problem,” Moms Across America founder Zen Honeycutt said in a statement. “Toxic chemicals sprayed on almost 90% of GMOs destroy the microbes in the soil, which prevents carbon from being absorbed.”
From the Organic Authority Files
Monsanto’s agricultural practices are contentious; numerous studies have shown damaging effects of genetically modified crops and companion herbicides on the environment and human health. The World Health Organization recently listed glyphosate, the main ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, as being a likely cause of cancer. Glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, has been directly linked to a decrease in monarch butterfly populations—important pollinators—because it targets milkweed, the monarch’s main food source.
The cultivation of GMO crops is banned or restricted in more than 60 countries.
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