June 5, 2012
I love to track down and destroy Internet memes — those stories that are repeated so often, they soon get a life of their own. Here's one from www.crisisboom.com that was referenced recently in a popular natural health site. I questioned it and was told to "just Google it" because "it's all over Google." I took up the challenge. Here's what I found.
GM foods not served in Monsanto cafeteria
August 22, 2011
As reported in the Independent newspaper (no date): A sign posted by the Sutcliffe Catering Group in a cafeteria at a Monsanto pharmaceutical factory in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire [England] advises customers that “as far as practicable, GM soya and maize (has been removed) from all food products served in our restaurant. We have taken the steps to insure that you, the customer, can feel confident in the food we serve.” Monsanto confirms the authenticity of the notice, but company spokesman Tony Coombes says the only reason for the GM-free foods is because the company “believes in choice.” Coombes says in other Monsanto locations employees are happy to eat GM foods because they are “sprayed with fewer chemicals.”
All other Google stories repeat the original one, complete with typo:
http://www.greenpeace.org: Monsanto had its pants pulled down by Friends of the Earth in 1999, who revealed that the company was refusing to serve to its own staff the very same GE food that it incessantly foists upon impoverished nations...
http://templestream.blogspot.com: Monsanto employees are on their heels this month attempting to stave off negative press arising from a recirculation of the 1999 story of how Monsanto genetically modified foods were banned from their very own factory cafeteria in Britain (since closed down due to protests). The original story gives referenced quotes with named sources but the Monsanto blog says the story "wasn't true".
But here’s the original story from the Independent, By Michael McCarthy , Environment Correspondent, Wednesday 22 December 1999 (http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/gm-food-banned-in-monsanto-canteen-737948.html):
GM food banned in Monsanto canteen:
Monsanto, the biggest promoter of genetically modified food, was hoist with its own petar when it was disclosed that it has a staff canteen in which GM produce is banned.
The firm running the canteen at Monsanto's pharmaceuticals factory at High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire, serves only GM-free meals, Friends of the Earth said. In a notice in the canteen, Sutcliffe Catering, owned by the Granada Group, said it had taken the decision "to remove, as far as practicable, GM soya and maize from all food products served in our restaurant. We have taken the above steps to ensure that you, the customer, can feel confident in the food we serve."
Monsanto confirmed the position. "Yes, this is the case, and it is because we believe in choice," said the company's spokesman, Tony Coombes. But employees at Monsanto's agribusiness plant at Cambridge were happy to eat GM produce, he said. "The notice in the restaurant there says some products may contain GMOs [genetically modified organisms] - because our staff are happy to eat food sprayed with fewer chemicals."
Now, fast-forward to February 10, 2012 , to a blog post by Monsantoco (http://monsantoblog.com/2012/02/10/whats-served-in-monsantos-cafeterias/):
A caterer in the United Kingdom tells the Independent newspaper that it doesn’t use GM food, which would have been difficult in the U.K. in 1999 since there wasn’t any to exclude, but that’s another story. The Independent reports it as “GM Food Banned in Monsanto Canteen.” GM critics have a field day.
Flash forward 13 years. Greenpeace, always interested in recycling, recycles this 1999 news story. People get excited, and tweet it as a current story.
The fact is, it wasn’t true in 1999, and it’s not true today.
All foods can be found in Monsanto cafeterias – conventional and organic. None of it is singled out as conventional or organic. It’s just food served in our cafeterias, the same food that everyone else eats.
In fact, the only time any food was removed from Monsanto cafeterias was a few years back, when a produce company announced a voluntary recall of spinach because of possible E. coli contamination. We remember it because spinach leaves suddenly disappeared from our salad bars.
Last year, there was a more limited recall of spinach because of concerns over possible Listeria contamination, but that didn’t affect our cafeterias, or most of them.
And, for the record, the spinach in question in both cases was – organic.
So there it is, the complete history. I'll let you readers decide just where you think the truth lies, but it's clear from the original story that this was not "a Monsanto cafeteria" but a caterer hired by the company in one of its locations. My point is that one story, true or false (including an unforgivable misspelling), will get picked up and perpetuated all over the Web until the bewildered surfer thinks, "It must be true, I've read it in so many places!"