When Monsanto Co. purchased Climate Corp. for $930 million last year, it got a San Francisco-based startup that crunches weather data to improve crop yields and design insurance. It also got David Friedberg, the company’s 34-year-old co-founder, who may prove an even more valuable asset.
Friedberg, a former Google Inc. executive, now oversees the “precision agriculture” services Monsanto sells to farmers, a major initiative encompassing high-tech planting equipment, soil and seed analysis, and weather modeling. The lifelong vegetarian has also emerged as an unlikely champion of Monsanto at a time when the company—and the business of genetically engineering crops that it pioneered—face intensifying attacks.
Enter Friedberg, whose Silicon Valley pedigree helps him advocate for Monsanto in a region that helped to cultivate the organic food movement and to launch California’s 2012 ballot initiative to require GMO food labeling—an effort that failed, but generated the “March Against Monsanto” crusade.
Genetically modified seeds, in Friedberg’s view, enable farmers to grow larger crops with less resources and represent a way to help sustain the growing world population. Some of Monsanto’s critics “want to live in a natural world where we’re all living in treehouses in the rainforest and picking coconuts out of the tree,” Friedberg said. “Maybe it would be possible if we had 100,000 people living on earth, but that’s not the reality that we’re living in today.”
Read the full, original article: Monsanto, under attack for GMOs, has a new defender