It’s the stuff that conspiracy theories are made of: Monsanto is responsible for producing the majority of genetically engineered crops, but its cafeteria, some people may tell you, is GMO-free. If employees won’t eat the transgene foods they’re paid to develop, manufacture and disseminate, then there must be something they aren’t telling us, right?
As Julie Murpree, an employee of the Arizona Farm Bureau points out in a recent blog post, “If you Google ‘Monsanto’s Cafeteria has gone GMO-Free,’ you get 11,100 results at last count.” Murphree writes that when she visited Monsanto headquarters in St. Louis, MO, last year, she ate lunch in the corporate cafeteria. There were a variety of options, “But there is no distinction, signage and effort to keep Monsanto employees from eating GMO-laced foods.”
The first hit for the search term Murphree references is from Crisisboom (“the more you know, the better off you will be…”), a blog that mixes End Days theology with broadly anti-government politics couched in Matrix-like terms: “I chose the red pill and I’m glad that I did because now I know the truth.” The 2011 post “GM foods Not Served in Monsanto Cafeteria” is an unaccredited, undated reposting of a CBCNews story from 2000 that reads, in part, “The Independent newspaper reports that there is a notice in the cafeteria of the Monsanto pharmaceutical factory is High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, advising customers ‘as far as practicable, GM soya and maize (has been removed) from all food products served in our restaurant. We have taken the steps to ensure that you, the customer, can feel confident in the food we serve.’ ”
The third hit is a 2012 post on the website of conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, who links to the plagiarized Crisisboom piece. The text, itself reported from Greenpeace, reads, “Although it has never been proved, Monsanto constantly claims that GE food is harmless—so why wasn’t it serving it in its own office?”
Murphree writes that “the data on this story is weak and of course, filled more with fear than fact.” But in attempting to debunk the GMO-free cafeteria claim, she seems to have glossed over the facts quite a bit too. The Independent references one Monsanto facility in England—there’s no mention about the company headquarters in Missouri. If she had read some of those Google hits instead of just noting the quantity of them, she might have seen a thorough takedown of the myth on the messageboard Metabunk.org—the second hit on the page.
The author, who posted his well-cited takedown under the username “Stupid” in 2012, points toward a Monsanto blog post that describes how Greenpeace, “always interested in recycling,” resurfaced the story 13 years after it initially ran in The Independent. This is a common occurrence in GMO “news,” like the story about the Hungarian government destroying a GMO test plot that pops up every now and then. Murphree links to the same Monsanto blog post, essentially reducing her account to trolling status.
Debating old, bad news—or engaging in conversations about any conspiracy theories surrounding GMOs, for that matter—is a petty waste of time. Now, if you want to discuss something substantial—the issues of GMO corn being planted in the region maize is native to, for example, or the financial burden licensing seeds puts on farmers—then we can talk.