In defense of Monsanto and Dick Mahoney
As a Wash. U. alumni and a Monsanto employee, I was disappointed to read Amanda Wolff’s opinion piece about our university awarding Dick Mahoney an honorary degree. It is unfortunate that Ms. Wolff chose to focus on recycling urban myths about Monsanto rather than doing some research and sharing some thoughtful commentary about Dick Mahoney. I think Mahoney is deserving of the award, and the university can be proud to honor him. What did he do as CEO of Monsanto? Consider that he had the vision, leadership and perseverance to lead the development of a new agricultural technology, agricultural biotechnology. In 1999, Monsanto scientists received the National Medal of Technology, the nation’s highest honor for technological achievement, from President Clinton for contributions to the development of agricultural biotechnology. Today, over 16 million farmers in 29 countries are using this technology, 15 million of them small farmers in developing countries. A recent report by the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences concluded U.S. farmers growing biotech crops “…are realizing substantial economic and environmental benefits—such as lower production costs, fewer pest problems, reduced use of pesticides and better yields—compared with conventional crops.” Biotech wasn’t the only notable legacy of Mahoney at Monsanto. He worked with environmental leaders to find compromise leading to improvements in the nation’s law to clean up abandoned hazardous waste sites, the Superfund. Mahoney’s “Monsanto Pledge” in 1990 to reduce toxic air emissions by 90 percent in 4 years (a goal that was met) led the chemical industry in an overall commitment and program to reduce emissions. The company’s commitment to wildlife habitat restoration and maintenance started under his leadership. I disagree with Ms. Wolff’s dogmatic characterization of Monsanto, but what is more discouraging is that this preoccupation has blinded her from seeing the remarkable achievements of this man.