By Ruth Conniff
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A problem with trophies is that they tend to tarnish over time. But one that Monsanto recently received came already tarnished -- by Monsanto itself.
This was the World Food Prize, intended to promote sustainable practices that help alleviate hunger in impoverished lands. But Monsanto is a predatory, profiteering proliferator of expensive, genetically-altered seeds designed for crops that require large amounts of pesticides and water -- the exact opposite of sustainability!
Why in the world would it get such a prize? Because Monsanto is a major funder of the foundation that awards this trophy. It even contributed $5 million to restore the foundation's august headquarters in Iowa. So, having given, Monsanto got.
The biotech seed manipulator had hoped the prize would help transform its corporate image from an abusive peddler of Frankenseeds to an altruistic crusader against global hunger. In particular, it wants the Catholic Church to bless its effort to hook poor, Third World farmers on its pricy, pesticide-dependent seeds. Monsanto hopes that a World Food Prize will buff its image and impress the Vatican.
But that might be a harder sell than the giant first imagined, for -- hello -- there's a new guy in Rome, and he seems a bit wary of the worldly intentions of the Big, Rich & Powerful. In fact, Pope Francis could've had Monsanto in mind earlier this year when he declared: "The worship of the golden calf of old has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal."
Ironically, the only one getting an image makeover was the foundation, which has rather grandly tried to label its award the "Nobel Prize for Agriculture." But selling it to the profiteer, however, they turned the trophy into the "Ignoble Prize."
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