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Dole and Monsanto join forces to develop new breeds of veggies

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  1. I agree with the article's skeptic.

    1. I see no reason for alarmism. Humans have bred for specific qualities since the dawn of agriculture. Most of the modern wheat we consume has been hybridized over the course of history. Should farmers now be prohibited from utilizing the principles of heredity to produce crops that not only taste better, but are better for you? Should we be limited to the shelf-stable, tasteless vegetables that dominate supermarket shelves? If Dole and Monsanto want to reverse the trend towards more shelf-stable and visually-appealing vegetables and select for nutrition and flavor, I say kudos to them.

      2 Replies
      1. re: JungMann

        Agreed. This seems like very basic cross-breeding that has been used for ages. If Montsanto really wants to go for something more flavorful, I'm all for it. What should it really matter if the reasoning seems to be a switch from Monsanto's prior thought process. The reality is that a lot of people aren't eating a lot of fruits and vegetables. For many, those grown on industrial megafarms are all that's really accessible and affordable, so one can see why that flavorless tomato might not be an appealing choice. Maybe if people had the option to taste veggies/fruits with more flavor, they would be more willing to buy.

        1. re: JungMann

          It is not alarmism. And yes, farmers should be allowed to grow whatever they choose. Monsanto refuses to sell fertilizer to foreign farmers (mostly India) who refuse to use their terminal seeds. Meaning they will have to buy seeds every year instead of using the seeds from the previous year's harvest. Makes me thankful for seed savers.

          How would you feel about corn engineered to induce infertility? It is here and now. Did you know it has escaped its contained area. Seeds do that.

          I love improving seed health and nutrition, but I am not a trusting sheep.

        2. This guy actually gets sniffy over their doing something good! The comments are also luddite.
          "When you have big, industrialized agri-business promising to produce more flavor and more nutrients, it goes against the entire history of food industrialization," he said. ".... Historically, that is not where their interests have been."

          So, maybe they got religion. Isn't that what the food activists have been demanding?

          1. I would be somewhat concerned about this not so much for the genetics/new breeds angle as much as for the corporate involvement and potential legal issues. I don't know quite how to word this question so it makes sense, but doesn't Monsanto have a history of aggressively suing and either attempting to take over, or actually taking over, farmer's produce/land whenever their seeds might have accidentally crossbred with existing crops? Not to sound like an alarmist or paranoid, but what hypothetically happens if, in the future, Monsanto can show, for whatever reason, that almost every carrot grown has some genetic attachment to their 'newtype' carrot they created in a lab and own the patent (or whatever) to?

            For all I know one corporation already owns all the rights to, say, Granny Smith apples, so this may not be a new situation, but I was curious what other folks thought. And I don't mean to single Monsanto out, because it may be that all companies in the same situation would be as litigious. Anyway, sorry to ramble on.

            2 Replies
            1. re: blackoak

              All owners of copyrights, patents, and trademarks have to defend them.
              There are many discussions even on CH about the rights to postings here, and whether blogs, newspapers, etc., are free to quote them without payment of some kind or without permission. Also about whether recipes can be copyrighted, trademarked, whatever.
              It is reasonable that any company which spends a great deal of money on research and development would want to protect its investment. Monsanto is no different than World Wildlife Fund suing World Wrestling over the use of the initials WWF.

              You probably already purchase many protected fruits, vegetables, and food products, whose growers and manufacturers defend their ownership of brands, production or distribution methods, or genetics. Even many heirloom foods are named and protected, as are wines, beers, and spirits. Ex: San Marzano tomatoes, anything from the EU with regional designation, Boca Burgers, etc.

              1. re: blackoak

                Yes, Monsanto is known partly for its aggressive legal battles against farmers:
                http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/fe...

                It is true that many fruit and vegetable varieties are already patented so that their use is limited. (For example, Stemilt Growers owns the U.S. rights to grow Pinata apples.)

              2. Old School Evil joins up with New School Evil to do good? Both have horrible track records when it comes to reputations. Both have a lot to make up for. Let's hope they're on the up & up.

                7 Replies
                1. re: bulavinaka

                  I hardly think that pineapple and seed producers constitute the new Axis of Evil. To the extent that Dole has come under fire for allegedly exploitative wage practices and fraudulent accusations from disgruntled labor and to the extent that Monsanto is controversial for developing hardy crops that alleviate hunger but scare pliable activists and strenuously defending its patents, there is nothing in their "horible track records" to suggest that they would not both benefit from producing more healthful and flavorful produce. Not only would it improve their image, but it would respond to a growing consumer segment and increase their market share: a win-win for all of us.

                  1. re: JungMann

                    Just to draw a parallel here: certainly nothing prevents Exxon-Mobil from developing green energy. However...

                    1. re: RicRios

                      Nothing prevents Exxon-Mobil from manufacturing bicycles either, but they're a petroleum company.
                      Dole and Monsanto are not only capable of doing the task at hand and doing it well, but it is within their area of business.

                      1. re: MakingSense

                        >>Nothing prevents Exxon-Mobil from manufacturing bicycles either, but they're a petroleum company.<<

                        Never underestimate the planning horizon of companies like Exxon-Mobil. I don't know if I would label them just as a petroleum company. Yes, that is where they are most heavily invested, but I would consider them more a part of an oligopoly of energy providers. This relatively small group has a much better idea of where energy needs and resources are headed, and what they should do to plan for the time when petroleum becomes obsolete for what ever reason (eg, too expensive to extract, quality too low to refine, supply so low that it's no longer a reliable or feasible source of energy) and what the next best large scale alternative will be. They won't give up their stranglehold on consumers. They know the addiction will continue - it's just a matter of what will be the the energy source of the future.

                        Likewise with C&C/Monsanto. They understand how creating and holding patent rights to these various agricultural products will be valuable on a worldwide scale. Getting a piece of the action from just about every farming concern is their goal. Reality? I don' t know. But you can imagine if these two can pull this off on multiples of fruit and vegetable varieties.

                        1. re: bulavinaka

                          Energy generation is only part of what we use petroleum for. Gasoline is less than 40%.
                          We need it for paints, solvents, lubricants, plastics, pharmaceuticals, agricultural and manufacturing chemicals, fabrics, coatings, etc.
                          Agricultural engineers are looking for ways to duplicate some of these using plant products since we now have surpluses due to global grain output tripling since the 1970s.
                          So I guess when Exxon-Mobil sells less petroleum, Monsanto may pick up the slack.
                          One way or the other, it's going to be "better living through chemistry."

                    2. re: JungMann

                      I'll try to keep this brief as possible, as a dissertation can be written on either of these evil-doers. Murdock. Need I say more? Dole is owned by Castle & Cooke, if my memory serves me correctly. And Murdock owns just about everything having to do with Castle & Cooke. The history of Dole and Castle & Cooke abusing folks goes beyond simple wage abuse. They started back in the 1800s, and have never shed this reputation. Serious bullies when it comes to small farmers, landowners, immigrants, indigenous peoples, etc. These companies - basically agribusiness and landholding companies - often pushed legislation through back in the early 1900s that often were anti-fill-in-the-blank. My great grandfather and grandfather lost their farms in large part to Dole's and Castle & Cooke's underhandedness. They were small farmers, of minority, and owned farmland in areas that were highly desirable.

                      Monsanto started evil-doing in earnest around the 40s. But as young as they are compared to Castle & Cooke/Dole, they've accumulated a massive track record for (again) bullying farmers of all sorts, being responsible for dozens of Superfund sites, creating numerous chemicals that they misrepresented as safe, and practically invented PCBs. Agent Orange, anyone?

                      So I'm not sure why I should warm up to either of these corps until they have proven without a doubt that they are actually trying to do something that would truly benefit society. I admire your optimism, but in this case, I side with serious caution.

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        I couldn't agree more. Neither of these companies has any history of acting on behalf of anything except its own financial self-interests with no concern about who was hurt by it.

                        Be skeptical. Be very skeptical.

                  2. Dole & Monsanto are joining forces to use traditional breeding (not hybidization) to improve taste and nutrition. No big deal. They and many others have been doing such research for a long, long time. Molecular marker trechnology has been very useful in helping with crop improvement in the public, international sector.

                    As to taste and nutrition, taste is often a trade-off with other characteristics. Birds, bugs, and other pests often enjoy better tasting crop varieites. The supermarketization of the US brought with it a need for shelf life and crops able to be transported. You all grew up with this and have eaten really, really well for really little money compared to folks elsewhere on the plante. Quit your bitching and whining.

                    Nutrition is much trickier to improve. Our (public, not for profit) research institutes within the global Consulative Group on International Agricultural Research have been working for several years on biofortification of the major crops using traditional breeding. The goal is to increase levels of iron, zinc, pro-vitiman A, and more. It has been a long, difficult, but globally needed slog.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      >>Quit your bitching and whining.<<

                      Wow - totally out of character. Peace to you, Sam.

                      1. re: bulavinaka

                        Sorry, I did get carried away. And I wasn't taking aim at you. I'm no fan of big ag; and we've (the CGIAR) have had to even fight American ag when they tried to patent a traditional Mexican bean (we won). But let's all pick our battles: that big ag uses traditional breeding to improve flavor and nutrition is a good thing in the relative scheme of things.

                        1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                          I feel everything you mentioned above has great truth and/or knowledge to it. My problem is not the effort being made on a grand scale. This is encouraging, and it would and should be highly lauded if it weren't for those who are behind it. I would love for Dole and Monsanto to have a 180-change in their culture, but it would be like Robert Mugabi and Kim Jong-il telling the world that they are joining forces to create a foundation that will explore human rights. What is the motive?

                          You are the rare ultimate vertically-integrated Hound who has the combined wisdom, knowledge, experience and love for food (and life!) who has seen, done, and tasted so much and lived to tell us about it. I for one will always enjoy and respect you and your posts. I'm guessing you felt that we were losing sight of the great importance of this effort and its scale. Maybe we did. I know many on this board are anti-big business, always rooting for the Little Guy, and in many cases justifiably so. And I think this is a classic case where many will have a knee-jerk reaction to this project. The reputations of those involved bring great suspicion and concern to the table. Hopefully, concerned forces like you, your org, and others like you folks will be the watchdogs and firewalls that can keep those who might have ulterior motives in check. But my biggest concern are the vast legal and influential resources these huge corps have.

                          Somewhat off-topic but very relevant is a discussion I had with a friend's new-found boyfriend back in the early 90s. He was a lawyer, the kind of lawyer that gives lawyers a bad name. How my friend saw his personality attractive is another discussion. But this person was a lawyer who worked for one of (I am sure) many law firms that was on a multimillion dollar retainer for Standard Oil. He reveled in his stories about how he and his employer loved the game of squashing any and all resistance against Standard Oil. The money, the power, so intoxicating. I could see it in his eyes, like he was really pumped. "These environmentalist punks have no idea what they're up against... If they push, we push back 10 times as hard... We have so much money to fight them off that it's a joke..." I am sure guys like this infest law firms that represent the interests of businesses like Dole, C&C and Monsanto. And this is why I hope that the joint efforts of these major companies is actually for the good of society.

                          1. re: bulavinaka

                            One thing that has changed over the past 50 years is that countries are harder to push around. The Doles and Monsantos can't get away with nearly as much in most of the world.

                            What set me off, however, was seeing a few Americans being interviewed by CNN regarding climate change. The people basically said that CC is not that much of a problem, that the US was doing more than other countries, and that the US couldn't afford to do more. So wrong, so ignorant. American consumerism, American food waste, American entitlement - just got me down. Cement plants are a big part of climate change - and India now has modern efficient plants that the US does not. People point the finger at China, but China is ahead in clean coal plants - way, way, ahead of the US.

                            1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                              Want an outrage against our planet. Look at Big Sugar and other Big Ag. effect on the everglades and Florida Bay. They are killing off the eco system down there. The fertilizer and run off are killing the grasses and coral. You know what happens when they do that?

                              When enviro groups tried to get them to stop, U.S. Sugar and others bussed folks to their plants, gave them a tour, products and some cash then interviewed them for TV ads touting the care and benefits of their business and how people should vote against their regulation.

                              it worked.

                              http://www.pulitzer.org/archives/6017

                              Meanwhile I live in an area that is overwrought over dog poop getting into the stormwater drainage system. Never you mind the billions of birds and other animals.

                              Where are the sensible people? I need to know there are sensible people.

                        2. re: bulavinaka

                          That IS out of character. I don't think he meant that.

                          I love better nutrition. I do not love Dole or Monsanto. Period. BTW - it will always be for the betterment of man. The altruists. I see Nobel Peace Prizes for each.