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Speaking to the UK newspaper The Independent last month, Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant made some remarks that are just as hard to swallow as the company’s gene engineered food crops.

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For one thing, he blamed the widespread public opposition to eating genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on lack of attention to marketing during the rollout of the technology. Never mind that other new technologies launched without coordinated marketing campaigns have done just fine as far as public opinion goes. (Cell phones, anybody? The Internet?) Never mind the numerous perfectly legitimate concerns about tampering with the DNA of what we eat. No, obviously the ad agency’s fault.

Grant’s probably not too bothered by anti-GMO consumer advocates, though, because he doesn’t believe that people have any choice but to eat Monsanto products. “Can you [feed the world’s increasing population] without biotech? I don’t think so,” he said. “If not this, then what? How are we going to crack this thing? If Monsanto and this entire industry did not exist then what would the alternative look like?”

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Well, maybe Hugh can’t figure it out, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Let’s help him out a little bit here. Farmers in many parts of the world are still using traditional agricultural methods that are surprisingly congruent with the modern concept of permaculture. Intercropping, organic pest control, soil conservation, and other sustainable practices all feature prominently.

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All well and good, Grant might say, but it’ll never produce enough food to feed nine billion people. But in that case he’d be on the wrong side of a comprehensive 30-year study by the Rodale Institute comparing the effectiveness of organic versus chemical agriculture. Rodale found that organic farming produced at least as much – and in many cases more – food as modern industrial methods. Their conclusion was that “organic farming is better equipped to feed us . . . it’s clear that organic farming is sustainable, while current conventional practices are not.”

How do you like them apples, Mr. Grant?

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