Term Paper: Lords of the Harvest Biotech Big Money and the Future of Food

Pages: 4 (1376 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Topic: Agriculture  ·  Buy This Paper

Lords of the Harvest: Big Money, And the Future of Food

ONE (Summary): The book by Daniel Charles brings attention to an issue that is vitally important to consumers, scientists, and political leaders, genetically engineered foods. Are these products safe to eat? Do they in any way harm the environment? These are the questions Charles poses and attempts to answer, although he says in his Prologue, "This book is not an argument. it's the product of a personal search for understanding." In that context, it is clear that Charles is not attempting to preach to his readers, or necessarily attack Monsanto and the other companies dabbling or diving into biotechnology.

But the information he provides, while not as provocative as a juicy novel, is valuable and worthwhile, albeit the book was published 7 years ago and in that amount of time a wealth of new information can become available on the topic. It is clear that Charles enjoys creating narrative that traces the steps of the people who were involved in manipulating the genes of seeds. He also enjoys describing the characters as though they were in a short story to be turned in for a grade. It is as if he wants to assure readers that this isn't just a story about good guys vs. bad guys. In fact some of the characters in his book that actually helped launch agricultural biotech were idealists who gained their optimism about feeding the world's hungry from their experiences in the Sixties. Examples included Harry Klee, Roger Beachy, among others; and in this way Charles shows the human side of a very controversial subject.

Among the most disheveled, unpolished faces" was Harry Klee (p. 32), who worked at Monsanto, where "the genetic transformation of plants rapidly became routine." And there was Roger Beachy, a young assistant professor at Washington University in St. Louis; he was "and remains, a gregarious, athletic man brimming with enthusiasm." He had been "intrigued by the ways that plants develop resistance to certain viruses" for a long time. Along with being intrigued he was obviously very bright and eager to use biotechnology "in bettering the diet and lives of the world's poor" (37). It turns out that even though Klee made some great discoveries at Monsanto, the powers in charge of Monsanto at the time didn't see his work as productive to the bottom line. This is not unique to Monsanto (wanting research to lead to profits) but the author uses that example to set the stage for Monsanto's ability to make good money later.

TWO (Commercialization): In order to promote their product Roundup Monsanto needed a commercial strategy that would get their items not just on the shelves of stores but into the consciousness of consumers. The company had a merchandizing wizard in their agricultural division named Robert Shapiro. He ("...slightly built, intense, but soft-spoken") (114) is the man who convinced Coca-Cola to allow the logo for NutraSweet to be printed on every bottle and every can of Diet Coke. Now, Shapiro was on Monsanto's team and was the right man to convince people that the Roundup Ready herbicide could "transform agriculture" (118).

This particular example of marketing is important to the story of Monsanto's success because marketing and managing an image matters in any kind of commercial enterprise, not just soft drinks or herbicides. It is also an interesting part of the author's presentation because the Pioneer company, a plant breeder but not into biotech engineering, didn't believe it needed Monsanto's Roundup Ready could add to the profits Pioneer was already enjoying. Finally Monsanto and Pioneer made a deal and when Pioneer agreed to print "Roundup Ready" on all the bags of seed they sold. Monsanto had its way in this case, and it turned into a profitable negotiation.

But on the other hand Monsanto had a way of succeeding even though it had been "scored and jeered within the industry" (156) early on in the development of a marketing platform for Roundup Ready. Monsanto had "long been a company with a chip on its shoulder," Charles writes (156). Monsanto had been "...headstrong and… [END OF PREVIEW]

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