Monsanto Acquires Big Data Company – Food Activists Concerned
On Wednesday, Monsanto announced its plan to purchase the climate data company, Climate Corporation. The controversial biotech giant claims that this will help the company in its goal to help farmers maximize production using a minimum of natural resources, and with an eye to climate change, which the company has spoken against since 2009. In fact, the merger represents yet another step in the centralization of the agriculture industry.
Climate Corp., was founded by a group of engineers from companies like Google, and funded by Google Ventures, the Founders Fund, Index Ventures and others. The company got its start collecting vast amounts of localized climate data and using that to provide information and weather insurance to farmers, house painters, and other people whose professions relied on the weather. It will continue these and other services with Monsanto.
Monsanto will use Climate Corp.’s data to create online and mobile device information which will tell farmers when, how deep, and how far apart to plan their crops for maximum productivity. They predict that this will help increase productivity by up to 7%. The company would also ask farmers to share data about their own farms so they can provide customized recommendations.
The combination of data collection about individual farms and farmers, as well as software and mobile technology combines with Monsanto’s already vast political and economic presence in the agriculture industry. The company has already come under scrutiny, not only for its genetically modified seeds, but also for its ruthless and corrupt business practices. In recent years, the company has been protected from lawsuits regarding health problems and sued farmers whose organic crops it had contaminated. Numerous “Monsanto Protection Acts” have emerged at both the state and federal levels.
Other government actions have also helped to damage small American farms, both organic and not, in recent years. Estate taxes, for instance, render it virtually impossible to pass family farms down from one generation to the next. Increasing government regulations, such as those preventing farmers’ children from working on the farm, requiring commercial drivers’ licenses, and even tax changes in Obamacare have all helped to push farming toward a corporatized state by making family farms virtually impossible to sustain.
Monsanto’s actions and growing influence are only helping to solidify that trend. Along with organic food advocates, anyone who opposes crony capitalism, corruption and corporatization of traditionally family-based industries must oppose the growth of Monsanto. Climate Corp. executives also expressed the hope that the merger would allow for more to be done to create “sustainable” farming practices, whether or not those practices are truly helpful for people, animals, or the environment.
Monsanto’s purchase of Climate Corporation illustrates a few things. It is a facet of the ever more centralized and corporatized agriculture industry. It shows the connections of large industries to each other, and combined with prior knowledge of Monsanto and other corporations’ connections to government, perfectly represents the relationship between corporations and government which effectively eliminate the say of American citizens in matters as personal as what we eat.