Monsanto in Harrisonburg

Last Friday I met up with friends, Rich and Carol Ann, and went to a Biotechnology Symposium at Eastern Mennonite High School in Harrisonburg, Virginia. It featured keynote speaker, Donn Commings, a scientist from Monsanto Company and a response from seminar speaker, Jeffrey Smith, writer of, Seeds of Deception: Exposing Industry and Government Lies about the Safety of the Genetically Engineered Foods You’re Eating. 

It started off with Donn Cummings speaking for about an hour.  The topic was “Feeding the 5000 Million”  and although he did touch lightly on this topic, he mostly spoke about irrelevant things like his family, the progress of technology in general (he spoke about the Commodore Computer at length) and his professional background.  He managed to fill his hour up talking slowly with long pauses and only touching lightly on the topic.  He did have a Monsanto power point that showed smiling children, big tractors and presented quotes from food scientists in the 1800s. 

Following this, Jeffrey Smith gave an animated 20 minute response, repeating his respect for Donn Cummings frequently, but letting the audience knowing that he is not a fan of GMOs or Monsanto Company.  He was well spoken, almost of car salesman quality, he seemed confident and comfortable on the stage and had many facts and figures prepared and on hand. 

The response was followed with a twenty minute question and answer session, with students asking prepared questions of one or both of the speakers.  The students’ questions were well thought out, pointed and amazingly mature and informed.  Cummings was tripped up frequently, answered off topic, or avoiding the question all together.  He often asked the student to repeat the question, effectively grabbing for time, and intimidated some by repeatedly stating he did not understand the question.  His answer to more than one question conflicted directly with his earlier presentation, leaving many wrinkled foreheads and his discomfort was obvious as he huffed and rolled his eyes on more than one occasion. 

As a spectator I went with an open mind, hoping Cummings could give me any reason not to detest and distrust Monsanto to the degree I previously did, which was greatly.  But instead, he managed to throw more distrust and dislike on an already surmountable pile, confirming my fears of this multinational company. 

Already being aware of Jeff’s point of view and information, I was glad to see someone able convey this to the audience, and while being polite to Cummings, getting his facts across.  At one comical point, a student asked about the fears associated with GMOs to which Conn Cummings responded, “if these fears were really to be taken seriously, don’t you think there would be more of an uproar?” to which Jeffrey Smith responded “Well I can speak louder if you like.” This was met with uproarious laughter and applause from the audience. 

I was proud to hear one of my friends, who is highly educated and a solid thinking individual, but also one who was not previously aware of the spectacular crimes Monsanto is leveling on the world’s population, and her response to the event.   

I strongly believe in giving an open mind and ear to both sides of a situation and to really investigate, yourself, if you feel strongly about something.  Not to just take Facebook posts, right and left wing media sites, and various propaganda to heart without delving for the truth.  Monsanto had the opportunity to adjust my perception of them, and they did, but to a even less favorable perception, which I did not think was possible! 

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