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Monsanto, a giant agricultural biotechnology corporation, has control over the foods that millions of Americans eat daily. This corporation produces genetically modified seeds, including corn, wheat, soybean, and cotton seeds. These GMOs, or genetically modified organisms, benefit the food industry and remains in line with the business as usual model. GMOs get engineered to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or insecticide, which allows for more overall profit of the food industry. When crops have been genetically engineered, they can grow in rows that stand closer together without having to worry about weeds or insects disrupting commercial agricultural production. An increasing amount of studies done on GMOs show that the consumption of GMOs leads to a range of health problems. Monsanto consistently and effectively silences family farmers, organic advocacy organizations, seed companies, and health freedom activists who question Monsanto’s products and try to stand up for the rights of consumers and farmers.

Similar to the unsuccessful attempts of the Stakeholder Evaluation Group (SEG) to examine the environmental impact of the plan of the Georgia Port Authority (GPA) to deepen the Savannah River in order for large container ships to enter the city’s harbor mentioned by Robert Cox in “Conflict Resolution and Collaboration in Environmental Disputes,” these various groups in line with public interests that try to discuss the rights of farmers and consumers in relation to the production of GMOs get silenced by those in power. In both cases, the industry had greater authority and voice than the stakeholders and stakeholders lacked the ability to address certain topics. In the Savannah River case, the GPA’s representatives pushed the SEG’s concerns to the side by saying that their concerns “had already been adequately addressed and that they were ‘historical issues'” (132). Industry ends up dominating over issues at hand. These cases exemplify “the clash between the technical sphere and the public sphere” (133). An uneven balance of power does not allow for any constructive kind of collaboration to exist.

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3 responses »

  1. So you’ve outlined power as a barrier to communication and collaboration– based on those same readings, what are some options for dealing with power?

    • I find this question difficult to answer. In the readings, Cox mentions that participants must develop a problem-solving approach, all voices need to be respected and have opportunities to contribute and influence the situation, decisions should be reached through consensus, and all participants must have equal access to research and meetings. Also, in class, we came up with using the method of confrontation, which entails basically pointing out the unequal power structures. However, in the case of Monsanto versus various groups in line with public health interests, how can these groups get to the step of having a collaborative process with Monsanto when Monsanto uses its power and money to stay in its place and refuses to entertain these groups?

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