Friday, May 29, 2009

Is NPR Still Reliable?

Below is the copy of an e-mail that I sent to the producers of NPR's Marketplace show. I can't figure out how to put a link here, but in case you want to also be a part of this e-mailing campaign you can go to the following website: you can't just click on it. Try cutting and pasting into your browser.

I have to say that I was totally blown away when I heard Monsanto's
sponsorship of NPR on the radio the other day. I love NPR and I listen to
it for an hour each way to work every day. I also go out of my way to
stay informed about agriculture, organics, food safety and biological
engineering of plants and animals. If I was not't an informed consumer, I
would believe that Monsanto was an ethical company committed to
environmental integrity based upon the sponsorship ad that NPR has chosen
to run for them.

I understand that public media badly need the money provided by
sponsorships from individuals and companies, but I have always believed
that NPR was an ethical, fair and discerning media source. Taking money
to run a lie does not fit that description. Make no mistake about it,
Monsanto did not give you money to support a worthy nonprofit media
source. Monsanto gave you money for one reason and one reason only: to
run an ad to try to derail the factual information that many NPR listeners
know to be true about Monsanto's unethical environmental and economic

I find it hard to believe that NPR can continue to be fully informative
regarding food safety and agricultural issues. Stories such as:
genetically modified rice being grown to keep third world countries
dependent upon American large agribusinesses, our dependence upon foreign
oil to manufacture chemical fertilizers and herbicides and to ship our
food an average of 1500 to get to our plate, the contamination of
municipal compost due to herbicides used on people's lawns which is made
by companies like Monsanto, studies that show that organic growers have
greater or similar yields to those who use expensive and dangerous
chemicals, the contamination of traditional crops by the bioengineered
crops produced by Monsanto and similar companies, the importance of
genetic diversity among every species of all living things.

I was wondering why I haven't heard any hard hitting stories on NPR lately
regarding these issues. Instead, my information has been coming NOT from
my main news source (NPR), but from groups like Union of Concerned
Scientists, Organic Consumers Association, Mother Earth News, etc. I
don't want to have to rely on such obviously biased resources for my sole
source of information on such important subjects. But I'm afraid that I
may no longer be able to consider NPR a neutral and reliable resource for
information. I hope that I don't ever have to put NPR in the same
category as Fox News or, on the other extreme, MSNBC. NPR has not reached
Fox News' extremist position yet, but I see it drifting in that direction
and I have a feeling that the money trail may be the reason. I will
definitely be paying attention.

The rest of this e-mail includes the text that I'm sure you are getting
from other people, that text that was written as a e-mailing campaign. I
felt it was important that you understand that many of us sending this are
actual listeners and supporters of NPR, not just clicking on some
bandwagon chain mail. (Although this one is very well written, it is
definitely worth a read if you haven't yet read it.)

Thank you for paying attention. Please continue to pay attention so that
you may maintain your historically high standards for news coverage and
other information.

I listen to an NPR station that carries the program Marketplace, and I've
been troubled by the 12 second ad that Monsanto has been running that
says, "Marketplace is supported by Monsanto, committed to sustainable
agriculture, creating hybrid and bio tech seeds designed to increase crop
yields and conserve natural resources. Learn more at"

American Public Media, which produces the Marketplace program, solicits
the support of companies like Monsanto with the slogan, "Leverage our
reputation. Magnify your reach."

Monsanto has clearly taken you up on your offer and, in doing so, has
leveraged Marketplace's reputation for journalistic integrity.

For its April 14, 2009, story "Germany says no to Monsanto's corn,"
Marketplace reporters interviewed a Monsanto spokesperson along with one
representative of a group opposed to genetic engineering and one in
support, giving the pro-GE side two-thirds of the air-time and failing to
mention that the pro-GE group, CropGen is funded by Monsanto.

On August 27, 2008, Monsanto's CEO Hugh Grant was featured in Kai
Ryssdal's "Corner Office" segment, in pieces called "Using technology to
grow more food" and "Seeding markets for food, fuel and feed." The
interview was front-loaded with softballs like, "There's a satisfaction I
imagine in essentially helping to feed the world. But it's not all
altruism. You guys make a lot of money doing it."

None of his questions could be described as "hard-hitting," but Ryssdal
didn't entirely avoid touching on the core of Monsanto's business model,
herbicide-tolerant crops. He asked, "You make a Round-Up resistant corn
and then you also make Round-Up so that the farmer can spray the Round-Up
on the corn. Not hurt the corn, but kill the weeds. That's a pretty good
business model." Ryssdal might have mentioned that herbicide use in the US
was up 138 million pounds in the first nine years after Monsanto's Roundup
Ready crops were introduced, and this increase is accelerating, with
approximately 120 million more pounds used in years 10 and 11.

Marketplace could deleverage its damaged reputation by covering a new
report from Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists
showing that “transgenic herbicide-tolerant soybeans and corn have not
increased operational yields.” The study, called Failure to Yield,
contradicts Monsanto's advertising campaign which claims that the
company’s genetically modified seeds significantly increase crop yields.

The only agricultural practice proven to sustainably increase crop yields
while improving the soil's water-holding capacity is organic.

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