An Ad Campaign for Organics

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(Full disclosure before I begin: Monsanto bought me dinner once. Their researcher reminded me to be kind to them.)

Could someone give me Monsanto's advertising budget, please?

Monsanto is a very smart company, and they have one savvy marketing director. In the first hundred days of the new administration, Washington D.C. was plastered with their billboards. I've seen this advertisement in Union Station, where many House and Senate staffers alight each morning for work: "9 billion people to feed. Climate change. Now what?"

What do we put on our virtual billboard?

The gigantic boards and glossy one-pagers in the New Yorker and New York Times promise that Monsanto is at the ready. They capitalize on our big anxieties: climate change and global hunger. But these ads use facts related to fears that are unrelated to the product they produce.

Maybe they reflect Monsanto's own fears, as they've been watching the strong, steady creep of the nation's eaters into farmers' markets.

The U.N. has been touting the productivity of organic farms for more than a decade. Studies at the University of Michigan and elsewhere indicate that organic farming methods can yield as much food as conventional ones, while mitigating the effects of climate change and sequestering more carbon in soil.

The U.N., of course, doesn't have Monsanto's ad budget, and neither researchers from the University of Michigan, who recently found that food production could double or triple in developing countries using organic methods rather than conventional ones. The authors also found that those yields could be accomplished using existing quantities of organic fertilizers, without putting more farmland into production.

Your turn. What do we put on our virtual billboard? Design suggestions welcome too.

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Melina Shannon-DiPietro is the director of the Yale Sustainable Food Project, which oversees sustainable dining at Yale, manages an organic farm on campus, and runs programs that support academic inquiry related to food and agriculture. More

Melina Shannon-DiPietro is an organic farmer turned executive director. In 2003 she traded in her stirrup hoe for a laptop and joined Yale to help found the Sustainable Food Project. For the past seven years, she has worked with colleagues, faculty, and students to create meaningful opportunities for college students in food, agriculture, and sustainability. Her biggest compliment came last year, when a student called her Yale's Dean of Food.
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