Mother Jones’ Tom Philpott visits Monsanto headquarters

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I normally cover the agrichemical industry from afar. . . But on a recent afternoon, I found myself plunged into the industry’s very bosom: Monsanto‘s global R&D center in suburban St. Louis.

. . .I spent five hours. . . speaking with researchers, scientists, and managers . . .bookended by interviews . . . with Monsanto’s chief technology officer Robb Fraley. . .

. . . .

My entire visit was on the record, and Fraley and other Monsanto workers spoke freely. Here are some things I learned.

The company doesn’t seem too keen on old-school GMOs anymore.

. . . .

But that doesn’t mean Monsanto is giving up on cutting-edge techniques.

While downplaying the role of gene transfer, Fraley and other Monsanto employees embraced other genetic methods for altering crops: gene silencing, or RNAi (which I’ve discussed at length here), and gene-editing techniques, like the much-ballyhooed CRISPR-Cas9. . . .

. . . .

Soil microbiota supplements are hot! . . .

My favorite episode of our trip was our stop at Monsanto’s emerging soil microbial unit, which develops supplements meant to boost soil health and produce more robust crops.

. . . .

I was happy to see Monsanto was thinking in terms adding life to soil, not dousing it with chemicals designed to stamp out life. So what I saw next made my jaw drop. . . .

. . .

. . . “biological” products were being marketed under biocide labels. . . . “What we’ve done is taken biological products and put it on top of the fungicides and insecticides most [corn and soybean] growers are using today,” [the researcher] said.

. . . .

. . .I greatly appreciated the access and transparency granted to me. In our conversations, Fraley repeatedly mentioned the importance of open dialogue between Monsanto and its critics, and I agree. I hope we can continue it.

Read full, original post: Inside the Country’s Most Controversial Company

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