Clif Bar compares family farmers to crack addicts for using GMOs

Clif Bar’s director of agricultural policy, Matthew Dillon, is concerned about the consolidation of the seed industry. It concerns me too. I don’t really want to see the US company Monsanto sold off to Bayer in Europe what with the loss of domestic jobs that it would most likely result in. As a proponent of biotechnology, I worry that it will become harder and harder for smaller companies to innovate and compete using the technology. These really are legitimate concerns worthy of discussion.

In an interview for Civil Eats, Dillon explains his rationale for the creation of an animated video for their non-profit Seed Matters. “The video challenges the myth that giant agrochemical companies are feeding the world. Fewer choices for farmers (no matter what type of farmer) increases risk for all farmers.”

Unfortunately, the animation fails to actually bring up these concerns. Instead it serves to perpetuate myths and demonize conventional family farms, while promoting the organic industry that funded the video.

The video begins with imagery of a flying zombie fish and a sign reading “Welcome to the Pharm”. One is left wondering why they are bringing the pharmaceutical industry into this. Do they oppose the use of using biotechnology to engineer crops that produce disease preventing vaccines? The organic industry has had a long history of working with the anti-vaccination movement, so the connection would not be surprising. This scene is very quickly setting the tone that this video has nothing to do with the consolidation of the seed industry, but the demonization of technology the organic industry is opposed to.

Next we meet the star of the cartoon, Mr. Seed. Our new friend goes on to state that, “Unlike those chem seed mother-f***ers, we don’t dirty ourselves with all those pesticides.” This foul mouthed seed is repeating one of the greatest lies about organic agriculture. Organic farmers certainly use pesticides, the rule being they must be “natural” rather than “synthetic”. But merely being synthetic does not make a chemical inherently safer or more dangerous than a natural one.

Mr. Seed continues his misinformation campaign by drinking a pitcher of manure, presumably to demonstrate that manure is somehow better than synthetic fertilizers for the environment. Clif Bar should be the last company to be promoting the use of manure, considering their recent recall for listeria contamination. If all farming used such fertilizer, it is estimated that we would need an additional 6–7 billion heads of cattle, requiring massive deforestation for grazing.

What organic propaganda video would be complete without scaring the viewer about genetically engineered crops? Mr. Seed brings us to a gym where he is surrounded by genetically engineered seeds, and compares them to athletes who use steroids. Perhaps in an attempt to perpetuate the myth about terminator traits in GE crops (none exist on the market) he actually compares “penis” sizes. And here I thought using locker room scenes of men to sell a completely unrelated product went the way of the cigarette ad.

The final part of the locker room scene is the one that should be the most offensive to family farmers everywhere. Here we have two genetically engineered seeds snorting a satirical version of Roundup as if it were crack. Clearly this appears to demonstrate that farmers using this product are either equivalent to crack addicts themselves or the “dealers” providing it to the seed. This is what Clif Bar seems not to understand. By spreading this misinformation about genetic engineering and Roundup, they are directly insulting the countless farmers around the world who choose to buy these products for their family farms.

Clif Bar’s indoctrination video finally ends with Mr. Seed claiming that organic seeds never see the inside of a lab, are adapted to their environment, and are 100% natural. This of course shows a complete and utter lack of comprehension in how selective breeding works. There is nothing natural about selective breeding. Humans do not select traits that help crops survive in nature, we select traits that benefit humans. If we did breed crops to help them survive better in nature, they would become invasive species.

It is also false that only genetically engineered seeds are created in a lab. Organic seedless watermelons could not exist without a lab, nor could the organic pluot created by Zaiger Genetics.

The next time the organic industry wants to promote itself, the least it could do is to be honest while doing so. When confronted, they even pretended to be the ones being victimized. No one said organic plant breeding isn’t a thing, we ask to stop attacking family farmers who do not wish to use organic practices in their fields.

(By the way, the example of the “work” they fund was referring to a paper describing why organic breeding programs should exist, not to an actual plant breeding program. I was amazed that I was actually able to find examples of actual organic plant breeding they funded, when they were not.)

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