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Monsanto Takes The Gloves Off

In this month's Vanity Fair, Donald Barlett and James Steele have a long and interesting profile of Monsanto, the agricultural-biotechnology giant that utterly dominates the global food chain. They rehash the now-familiar tale of how Monsanto made a fortune selling both its weed-killer Roundup and its patented Roundup-resistant seeds to farmers, who then have to buy new seeds from the company each year—lest they get bludgeoned by Monsanto's legal department. (We had an earlier thread that went into this topic in loads more depth.)

But the piece also goes through the long, often-sordid history of the company, and adds a tale I hadn't heard before. In recent years, small dairy farmers have started slapping labels on their milk that say stuff like: "From cows not treated with rBGH"—i.e., an artificial growth hormone. Monsanto manufactures the hormone and, obviously, doesn't like what those stickers are implying, so the firm's waged a very aggressive campaign to force farmers to stop using those labels. It's not clear whether rBGH harms humans (though it does appear to take a gruesome toll on the cows), but Monsanto's losing this round despite all its efforts, as organic dairy products grow in popularity. But I'm sure the company will pull through all the same...

--Bradford Plumer