Lobbying and Advertising
Monsanto outspends all other agribusinesses on efforts to persuade Congress and the public to maintain the industrial agriculture status quo.
Like many other corporations and organizations, Monsanto engages in a variety of activities to influence policy makers and opinion leaders. From lobbying members of Congress and other federal officials and contributing to their election campaigns, to advertising aimed at reaching those officials and their constituents, the company spends millions of dollars every year pushing an agenda that runs counter to sustainable agriculture.
Monsanto Spends Big to Defeat State Labeling Initiative
Monsanto's efforts to shape the food policy conversation with dollars don't stop at the federal level. The company was also a big-spending opponent of Proposition 37, the California ballot measure that would have required labeling of most food products containing genetically engineered ingredients.
Monsanto's $8.1 million was the single largest contribution to the effort to defeat Prop. 37, and amounted to 17.6% of the total raised by the measure's opponents. Despite a blitz of Monsanto-funded TV commercials late in the campaign, Prop. 37 lost by just 3 percent of the statewide vote.
According to Center for Food Safety, nearly half of all U.S. states introduced bills requiring labeling or prohibiting genetically engineered foods in 2013—including Washington state, where Initiative 522 gained momentum but lost 51 to 49 in the November 2013 election, as the No campaign was backed heavily by food and biotech industry money – over $30 million was spent to defeat the initiative.
Lobbying Congress and Federal Agencies
Monsanto consistently outspends all other agribusiness companies and interest groups to protect and maintain industrial agriculture’s dominance over our food system.
In 2008—the year the previous federal Farm Bill was completed—the company reported a whopping $8.8 million in lobbying expenditures (see table below) intended to influence decisions in Congress, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and other federal agencies.
Between Farm Bills, Monsanto’s lobbying efforts didn’t let up. The company racked up $8 million in lobbying expenses in 2010, another $6.37 million in 2011, and nearly $6 million more in 2012. Monsanto lobbied for approval of its RoundupReady alfalfa and sugarbeets, the widespread planting of which will further increase application of the company’s Roundup herbicide and could cause additional resistant weeds.
In addition, Monsanto reported lobbying in early 2011 for the creation of a so-called “modern agriculture” caucus in Congress. Unsurprisingly, in February of that year, the Congressional Caucus on Modern Agriculture was established.
Advertising to Shape Public and Decision-Maker Opinions
In addition to lobbying officials directly, Monsanto also spends many millions of dollars in advertising to influence public opinion.
According to documents the company filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission, it spent $100 million on advertising in fiscal year 2011, $87 million in FY 2012, and $95 million in FY 2013.
These ads are often strategically placed to reach Washington decision-makers, showing up at DC airports and train stations and near federal office buildings. They tell a story of heroic farmers who "grow our economy, provide us with jobs and protect our environment"— even as Monsanto lobbies for policies that will make it harder for farmers to do those things.
As part of the UCS effort to set the record straight, in 2012 we ran our own ad campaign pointing out how Monsanto's ads fail to tell the real story about the impacts of the company's products.
Contributions to Politicians
Monsanto also wields influence on policy makers through campaign contributions. According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the company consistently ranks among the top political check-writers in the agricultural services and products industry. Monsanto gave more than $420,000 in campaign gifts during the 2010 Congressional election cycle, topped the half-million mark in 2012, and had given more than $216,000 for 2014 as of December 2013.
Monsanto Federal Lobbying Expenditures, 2008-2012