By Stacy Malkan
The world’s largest pesticide and seed companies want you to believe they are on the side of science. High-tech foods are the future, they say, and people who raise concerns about their pesticides and genetically engineered seeds are “anti-science.”
The Atlantic magazine will provide a platform to those industry talking points in exchange for corporate cash at a February 2018 event titled, “Harvest: Transforming the Food We Eat” sponsored by DowDuPont (the merged pesticide firms have since changed their name to Corteva).
The fluff Atlantic forum agenda has “farmers, foodies, techies and tinkerers” discussing how the latest food technologies will transform the way we cultivate crops and animals.
Will any of the participants ask why DowDuPont continues to push a dangerous pesticide despite strong scientific evidence that it harms children’s brains? Will they ask why DuPont covered up the health risks of the Teflon chemical linked to birth defects? Will they ask why Dow has refused to help victims or even clean up the chemical contamination caused by a 1984 chemical accident at their plant in Bhopal ?
What’s next? Would The Atlantic host a “transforming climate” event with ExxonMobil; or a “transforming health” event sponsored by Phillip Morris?
The Atlantic’s rent-a-food-summit model
They might. In 2015, The Atlantic Food Summit was underwritten by Elanco, a division of Eli Lilly that makes ractopamine, a growth-promoting chemical used in meat production that is banned in 100 countries due to health concerns, but still used in food animals here.
As Tom Philpott reported in Mother Jones, Elanco’s President Jeff Simmons delivered a sponsored speech at the event, in which “he complained that a group he labeled the ‘fringe 1 percent,’ agitating for increased regulation on meat producers, is driving the national debate around food.”
Simmons’ 15-minute speech featured an emotional video of a mother who attended an Elanco / American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics program to learn about “the importance of protein” and eating more meat as a way to improve her family’s health.
Read our fact sheet: The corporate capture of the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
Purchasing the Food Narrative
With its rent-a-food-summit model, The Atlantic is helping corporations shape how we think about our food system. That is fundamentally incompatible with The Atlantic’s guiding commitment to “look for the truth.”
All the brands participating in this week’s “Transforming Food” event – Food Tank, Land O’Lakes and New Harvest, too – are giving DowDuPont cover to present themselves as champions of science while framing the food debate around the technologies they sell.
But the facts of history are important to any honest discussion about the future, and DowDuPont is no champion of science.
Both Dow and Dupont have long histories of covering up science, suppressing science, knowingly selling dangerous products, covering up health concerns, failing to clean up their messes, and engaging in other scandals, crimes and wrongdoings – whatever it took to protect the bottom line.
Protecting reliable profit streams, rather than innovating what’s best for people and the environment, will motivate these companies into the future, too.
GMO pesticide profit treadmill
To understand how DowDuPont and other pesticide/seed conglomerates are likely to impact the future of our food system, consider how these companies are using patented food technologies right now.
Most GMO foods on the market today are engineered for use with specific pesticides, which has led to increasing use of those pesticides, the proliferation of weeds resistant to those pesticides, and an aggressive effort to sell more and worse pesticides that are damaging farmland across the Midwest.
To understand what needs to change to have a healthier food system, ask farmers, not DowDuPont. Ask the communities that are fighting for their health and their right to know about the pesticides they are drinking and breathing.
In Hawaii and Argentina, where genetically engineered crops are grown intensively, doctors are raising concerns about increases in birth defects and other illnesses they suspect may be related to pesticides. In Iowa, another leading GMO producer, water supplies have been polluted by chemical runoff from corn and animal farms.
The future of high-tech food, under the stewardship of companies like DowDuPont and Elanco, is easy to guess: more of what those companies are already selling – more seeds genetically engineered to survive pesticides, more pesticides, and food animals engineered to grow faster and fit better in crowded conditions, with pharmaceuticals to help.
Purchased media forums such as The Atlantic’s “transforming food,” and the articles and debates about the “future of food” that Syngenta was just caught buying in London, and other covert industry PR projects to sell GMOs, are efforts to distract from the facts of history and the truth on the ground.
Let’s give them what they want: a healthy food system that prioritizes protecting our children’s brains over the profits of DowDuPont
That’s the discussion we need to have about transforming the food we eat.
- Letter to The Atlantic from the Hawaii Alliance for Progressive Action: “Our community has repeatedly attempted to enact common sense regulations at the county and state level, only to be thwarted by DowDuPont and the agrochemical industry … As a reader of your publication, it is unsettling to learn that The Atlantic would align its brand with an industry that has so recklessly endangered the health and safety of our communities. I hope you will reconsider DowDuPont’s sponsorship, and stand in solidarity with our communities who are living on the frontline of these environmental injustices.”