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Argumentum ad Monsantium

by Brian Dunning, Nov 08 2012

It’s my favorite new logical fallacy, the “Appeal to Monsanto”, the world’s largest producer of biotech agriculture seeds. This is the logic that compels many anti-GMO activists to reply to any argument in support of biotech crops with “So you love Monsanto?”

It’s so wonderful because it combines many other logical fallacies into one, and is thus a great time saver. For example:

  • It poisons the well (cloaks a viewpoint with negative weasel words) by associating the scary, evil word Monsanto.
  • It’s a non-sequitur (a logical association that does not follow). IF (a) THEREFORE (b). IF (genes can be used to confer traits such as drought resistance) THEREFORE (I love Monsanto).
  • It’s a straw man (misrepresenting what I said into something that’s easy to argue against). If I had actually said “I love Monsanto”, then plenty of rational arguments are available to show that’s a bad idea.
  • It’s an ad hominem attack on my argument (the argument is wrong because of who the person is that made it). Whatever I said about biotech must be wrong since “I love Monsanto”.
  • It’s a red herring (an irrelevancy to distract from the subject under discussion). Monsanto does not necessarily have anything to do with any given science-based discussion of the merits of what can and should be done with direct genetic manipulation.

Also, the Appeal to Monsanto comes in many different forms. Here are some Appeals to Monsanto from my first episode on organic food (, which did not mention Monsanto at all:

Brian is basically an uninformed apologist for big agro-business. I would not be surprised if he is pulling a salary from Monsanto or Cargill.
G William Shea, 2/2/2008

well, actually [Brian] is very very very uninformed on a lot of subjects, including the scientific method! anyway, another one to see about GM and a real eye-opener in my eye ;) “The world according to Monsanto”
Pindar, 2/10/2009

check out the documentary, “The World According to Monsanto” you can find it on the popular video sites out there for free.
Justan, 2/24/2009

But the problem is not to justify the status quo; the problem is dealing with the implications of monoculture, the ownership of biological processes, the desertification or sterility of fertile land, the multifarious effects of carbon-intensive cultivation, and the implications of unfair government subsidies for certain crops (which hurt the farmer, especially the corn farmer, the most, and help Cargill, Coca Cola, and Monsanto, the most).
Jay, 2/24/2009

I will gladly pay more for organic food if it means I’m not a lab rat for Monsanto.
Erin, 10/2/2009

Its not a matter of IF but WHEN it hurts [Brian] and his family will something be done. I’d try to see his point of view but I just cant put my head that far up my A**! I wonder if he is being paid by Monsanto.
Paul, 2/24/2010

i dont know what you are trying to accomplish by this blog but you seem to have all ur facts skewed. who do you work for monsanto?
MATT, 5/2/2010

Claiming that organic foods are less healthy is the most obvious farce in your article as well as your blind belief that pesticides and herbicides are healthy and biodegradable.  They might biodegrade, but not within a million years.  If you are a “skeptic” then why would you believe monsanto funded studies.
Tyler K., 12/12/2010

You don’t work for someone like Monsanto do you?
Phi, 4/6/2011

I have heard that often farmers who buy genetically modified seeds enter into a contract with Monsanto and are only allowed to use Roundup products.
J.O., 9/20/2011

If genetically modified foods are that much better than why has just recently been articles about the fact that the corn that Monsanto has produced having problems with the very pests that it was modified to not be affected by.
Steve, 10/21/2011

“To feed a growing population …” This is an argument used by corporations such as Monsanto.
Eric B, 10/27/2011

Couldn’t have written a more obviously emotionally biased article if Monsanto covered your expenses.
Samuel, 7/18/2012

Monsanto is owned by the zionist jews
AmericanPower, 9/9/2012

The Appeal to Monsanto was also employed in response to my episode on detoxification ( did not mention Monsanto at all:

Cam, I like how you say [Brian] is promoting “diet” and “water” as if he has some sort of patent on fruits and vegetables (like GE corn from Monsanto) and water which can only be bought from him.
Joe Shmoe, 1/25/2011

Even my episode on genetically modified organisms ( did not mention Monsanto at all, as I was trying to stick with the science and avoid readers’ obvious ideological complications:

My major concern is a legal concern with such giants as Monsanto.
Justin Zimmer, 2/15/2012

A must see, The World according to Monsanto” on you tube.  A bit unsettling and disheartening.
Betty Bate, 10/13/2012

An acquaintance of mine who works with a scientific testing company has heard numerous first-hand reports of Monsanto's threatening to stop funding university agriculture departments [i.e., withhold grant money] if they did any health/safety testing on GMO technology.
John, 10/18/2012

My episode on aspartame ( did not mention Monsanto at all, mainly because the two have nothing whatsoever to do with each other. Yet:

Aspartame is poison period. It’s made by the biggest bunch of criminals in the world. Monsanto is determined to rule the world and might be. I get Gout as soon as I use and Aspartame.
Dean Slater, 8/27/2009

Even my episode on high fructose corn syrup (, which was basically a chemical discussion and did not mention Monsanto, came down to hitting me with the Appeal to Monsanto:

You totally miss the point, HFC is made with GMO corn and is helping to eliminate biodiversity. Not to mention the downright evil business practices of Monsanto et al.
Mark, 3/24/2011

My episode comparing organic vs. conventional agriculture ( did not mention Monsanto at all, as it was about the comparative sciences:

I couldn’t afford organic food for the life of me. But what about good old Round-Up Ready crops like Soy and Corn? Monsanto is taking over the bloody world, and they are going to soon OWN our food supply and all patents to it.
Kimberly, 8/12/2009

I wonder what you would think about our food supply if you had to shut all the windows in your home and flee the area several times a year while the crops are being sprayed with round up and other poisons.  I wonder if you would appreciate Monsanto and their schemes to dominate every farmer you know.
kadie, 11/21/2009

we’re all gonna die if this path is follwed much longer, but thankfully many people unlike yourself are waking up to the REALITY of chemical agriculture and not just stupidly DEFENDING it for no reason like you are. thanks for nothing, and thank goodness not everyone blindly defends monsanto and big AG like you and your fellow skeptoids.
mike, 12/17/2010

My episode on morgellons disease ( had nothing remotely to do with Monsanto. Yet:

Who pays you to be such an idiot? Monsanto?
Colleen, 9/25/2012

My episode on the things we eat ( was a discussion of the basic building blocks of nutrition and so, naturally, did not mention Monsanto:

The vast majority of our food (whether plant or animal) comes from factory farms. This is not healthy and it’s a business model that cannot sustain itself. Thanks to WalMart, Monsanto, and other mega-giants for that debilitating trend!
Joe Boudreault, 7/30/2010

Somehow even my episode on the Bilderberg Group ( conspiracy theory fell prey to the dreaded Appeal to Monsanto:

This problem started in 1930 with President FDR signing a treaty allowing the taking of a limited amount of human specimens for research purposes. In exchange the Grey’s gave us the perfected “sonar technology” in exchange. Since that time they have taken over our Dem & Rep parties. They have managed to infiltrate our manufacturing facilities, have bought out Proctor & Gamble and created the Monsanto Company.
David Kaas, 6/19/2011

There was a listener feedback ( episode that made one mention of aspartame (which has nothing to do with Monsanto) and yet got this:

We live in a messed up world…we all better open our eyes and make a stand…because our health is in the hands of Monsanto and other giants…maybe we should look at Bill S510 but I’m sure everyone here is in favorite of that one lol
BJ, 11/18/2010

It would never have occurred to me that the Appeal to Monsanto can even be used to justify the antisemitism of the Zionist Conspiracy (, but so it can:

Brian, your opening statement on this subject says that “anti semitisim is institutionalized by world super powers” ? ??   Brian you are blind,  what would you call Aipac?, ADL? IDF? Mossad? Monsanto? ect ect (all Zionist owned.)
Jim White, 10/13/2012

And finally, the Appeal to Monsanto can even be used to stain the reputation of those who are already stained, like Joe Mercola who was featured in the episode on the 10 worst anti-science websites (

Have you heard about Mercola’s link to an Indian company that makes pesticides, fertilizers, and bisphenol A and invests in Monsanto seed products? ;-)
ejwillingham, 11/8/2011

So, blog commenters, keep this tool handy. The Appeal to Monsanto can apparently be used anytime, anywhere, to argue anything, and it need have no relationship to biotech at all. Enjoy.

62 Responses to “Argumentum ad Monsantium”

  1. Jack Satin says:

    Your conclusion gave me quite the chuckle. Thanks for doing what you do, sir.

  2. AL says:

    If aspartame is deadly or gives you gout, I would have died from massive join inflammation a long, long time ago….

  3. Daniel says:

    You could replace Monsanto with “oil companies” or “Koch Brothers” and the post could have been describing Prothero.

    • Janet Camp says:

      You need to study Brian’s bullet points on logical fallacies at the beginning of the post.

    • Daniel says:

      Having trouble figuring out who the “you” is? Monsanto? Dunning? Koch Brothers? Me? (There are no civil or criminal cases pending against me that I know about).

      And Prothero could and does spill a lot of ink here about “capitalism run amok”. Besides often bordering on the bizarre (the Enron/CA gasoline shortage one from last week), “capitalism running amok” doesn’t have anything to do with skepticism or science. He might as well be posting a treatise on why Adam Sandler movies usually suck.

      Janet, many of Dunning’s bullet points apply to Prothero’s entries viz. oilmen and the Koch brothers.

  4. Willy says:

    Well I do work for Monsanto. OK, more like they work for me as I own some stock. I do not apologize. They do good as well as bad. Almost all companies do. Maybe even all companies – OK make that all people. Sorry – make that all people and all governments. Just more liberal “I hate companies” rhetoric. Nothing new to see here. Move along.

    • Student says:

      Did you even read the article? Nowhere did Dunning even bother criticizing Monsanto. He was listing the absurd accusation of association with Monsanto used by the stupid and deluded, which encompasses numerous logical fallacies, against topics not even related to it.

    • Søren Furbo Skov says:

      Do you have a link to support that?
      When people mentions this, they are usually referring to a case where the farmer was doing it on purpose, such as the Schmeiser case, or where the farmer had entered into a contract with Monsanto to be able to use GMO crop. Every time I run into these kinds of claims, I inquire into the source, but I have yet to find a case that can be described as “the farmers not wanting the seed”. Usually, I don’t even get a reply. Perhaps this will be my lucky day?

    • Graham Strouts says:

      Yes that is correct- Monsanto do not sue farmers whose seed is accidentally cross-pollinated- this is one of the enduring myths about them:

  5. Kevin Folta says:

    Brian, I’m an academic research scientist that has been interested in transgenics for 25 years. Any time I speak in public about the benefits of transgenic plants I get the same responses– I’m just a shill for Monsanto, drawing a paycheck to sell out my scientific integrity.

    The worst part is, I work for them and still get the heat– just for reporting science!

    I wrote a blog on this too that I think spells it out nicely.

    Thanks for a cool blog and great podcast.


    • Kevin Folta says:

      To clarify… I don’t work for Monsanto… when I say “I work for them” I mean I work for the public. It doesn’t matter.

      They always find a way to link my university to big companies that have GMO interests and tell me that “everything I research or study needs approval from Monsanto/Pepsi/etc” Totally insane!

      It is funny that they know more about my research, publication and funding than I do!

  6. badrescher says:

    What you wrote for non-sequitor doesn’t make sense. You combined a conditional The non-sequitor argument is logically valid, but contains a faulty premise:

    “If A(you argue that genes can be used to confer traits such as drought resistance), THEN B(you must love Monsanto). A, therefore B.”

    • badrescher says:

      Well, there are a number of ways for it to be a non-sequitor, but the way you wrote it isn’t one of them. Another might be:

      “Someone who loves Monsanto would argue that genes can be used to confer traits such as drought resistance. You argued that genes can be used to confer traits such as drought resistance, therefore you love Monsanto.” That’s an invalid argument.

  7. Max says:

    There’s the argument that industry shills, front groups like ACSH, and industry-funded product safety studies are likely to be biased.
    And there’s the insult that someone is so biased in favor of some product that he sounds like a shill.

  8. oldebabe says:

    Here in Calif. at least, `it’s all over but the shouting’, Brian, i.e. the proposition on the Nov. ballot for labeling any potential GM products, Monsanto’s or anybody’s, as such, if they are to be sold in grocery stores, did not pass.

    I don’t know why your name is being attached to Monsanto’s, but maybe using the M word is just a catch-all for some people, and has just become part of the current conversation, like the words `you know’…

    • Max says:

      Prop 37 didn’t pass largely thanks to a saturation of Monsanto-funded negative ads threatening higher grocery bills and focusing on how it would allow “special interests” to make labeling exceptions for certain products.

      • Brian says:

        I saw way more ads for vote yes on prop 37 than those that said no. I voted no because that labeling scheme was basically a scare tactic against GMO’s. The label would not actually provide any information as to what genes were changed or what they do, just a blanket statement of “GMO”, which I think would only serve to further harm the public opinion of the biotech industry.

      • Max says:

        I thought there were way more No on 37 ads.
        The “Organic” label is even more of a blanket statement than “Genetically Engineered,” yet it’s not a scare tactic but just the opposite.
        Do you argue that if you can’t label everything, then you can’t label anything? That can become absurd. You can’t label calories from carbs unless you subdivide carbs into sugar and fiber, and subdivide sugar into types of sugar, and subdivide fiber into soluble and insoluble, and subdivide insoluble fiber into fermentable and non-fermentable, etc.

      • Max says:

        Nobody is stopping companies from providing information as to what genes were changed and what they do. If it’s not scary, they’d have an incentive to do just that.

      • Tom says:

        How comprehensive would the labels have been? For example, would they have required statements on milk such as, “This milk was produced by Holstein cows, which have been genetically modified over the past 3,000 years by selective breeding.”

      • Max says:

        “Genetically engineered” means any food that is produced from an organism or organisms in which the genetic material has been changed through the application of:
        (A) In vitro nucleic acid techniques, including recombinant deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) techniques and the direct injection of nucleic acid into cells or organelles, or
        (B) Fusion of cells, including protoplast fusion, or hybridization techniques that overcome natural physiological, reproductive, or recombination barriers, where the donor cells/protoplasts do not fall within the same taxonomic family, in a way that does not occur by natural multiplication or natural recombination.

      • Søren Furbo Skov says:

        Is anything today stopping companies from putting a “does not contain GMO” label on their products?

        If companies can do that, I don’t get the whole “consumer information” angle. The non-GMO producer could put that information out there by labeling their own products, no government intervention required.

        If they can’t, isn’t that what should be changed?

      • Ignatius says:

        “I saw way more ads for vote yes on prop 37 than those that said no.” This does not seem to me a very scientific analysis of the ads for and against!

    • CountryGirl says:

      Prop 37 was a trial lawyers wet dream. It would have done very little to help anyone find GMO free food but would have been a legal trap for any producer or seller of foods who wanted to sell GMO free food. Ironically the intent was to harm food producers and sellers who did market foods with GMO content but the effect would have been the opposite. But fear not. California is going down the drain and the propositions that did pass will just accelerate the flushing of the golden state down the cesspool of big government bankruptcy.

      • Crissa says:

        …And here we have exactly the argument deployed by the no-on-37 shills. Follow the money, and that’s where the argument came from. You don’t need to be personally paid to be using a disingenuous argument provided by those paid to spread it.

        Added to that, an anti-California rant, which is exactly what we get from conservative trolls…

  9. d brown says:

    As a ex farmer and many other farmers don’t like Monsanto. OK their G M seeds up food production, some. But the pollen drifts with the wind and gets into the next guys crops. Then Monsanto has sued the farmer who did not want or buy their seeds for using their patent. I don’t care much about G M food. But Monsanto has acted like worse kind of big business pigs, so to say.

    • Søren Furbo Skov says:

      Do you have a link where I can read more?
      When people mentions this, they are usually referring to a case where the farmer was doing it on purpose, such as the Schmeiser case, or where the farmer had entered into a contract with Monsanto to be able to use GMO crop. Every time I run into these kinds of claims, I inquire into the source, but I have yet to find a case that can be described as “the farmers not wanting the seed”. Usually, I don’t even get a reply. Perhaps this will be my lucky day?

  10. Archie Clebberdale says:

    I think it should either be ‘Monsantonem’ or if you follow the etymology ‘Monsantum’ (from ‘Montem Sanctum’).

  11. Venom says:

    Awesome blogpost!

  12. Brian Utterback says:

    I think you are right, Brian. For instance, to paraphrase a recently released poem:

    Roses are red.
    GMO corn is yellow.
    Poetry is hard.


  13. Foster Boondoggle says:

    Looks like you’ve got another version of Godwin’s law. In any discussion of production or policy, the probability of someone invoking monsanto approaches one.

    • spectator says:

      Yes, should we call it “Boondoggle’s Law?” Or “Dunning’s Law?”
      Speaking of boondoggles and California politics, are you a shill for the Bullet train?
      We can’t fund the public employee union pensions. But damn if we can’t go into debt building a train from nowhere to nowhere that is going to turn a profit someday?

  14. Phea says:

    So Bri… ARE you getting paid by Monsato?

  15. fuz says:

    So any mention of Monsanto invalidates all other points in an argument? Aren’t you applying straw man yourself?

    • Ben E says:

      If you can’t make your case without calling on the “appeal to Monsanto”, when the argument is not specifically about Monsanto, then you deserve to lose the argument.

  16. stanhope says:

    Great blog post!!! I have been called a Monsanto Shill so many times I’ve started looking for paychecks from the big “M”. Their human resources must have a special “shills” department.

  17. Matthew says:

    Unfortunately you did not take one important factor into account, which invalidates your entire blog. Monsanto.


  18. Kel says:

    Monsanto is to organic proponents what Big Pharma is to CAM supporters. Yep, I’ve come across this fallacy a number of times before – and usually just shrug it off for the red herring that it is.

  19. spectator says:

    It doesn’t help when the company has such bad PR. They ought to look into sponsoring some altruistic endeavor. Or at least do some taste-tests.
    Vegetables taste so much better than they did 20 years ago. Of course, nothing beats something you grow in your backyard. For those of us who want to eat healthy and get our kids to consume something healthy and nutritious, but have a brown thumb or nowhere to plant, I am grateful to agricultural science.
    I don’t care if they did this with good old-fashioned hybridization or at the molecular level, taste is ultimately what matters. If nobody wants to eat it, it’s a waste of resources, IMO.

  20. Lulu says:

    Brian, are you cherry-picking? Maybe you should also feature the other side’s arguments to balance your list. Maybe you can call it “Monsanto’s appeal to the public”

  21. Karel says:

    You’re right, but Monsanto.

  22. PrKing says:


    You don’t get it. Monsanto controls over 90% of global GMO acreage, so if you advocate for GMO crops then you are advocating for a truly evil corporation to design and control the planet’s food supply.

    You also need to learn about the latest research showing GMO crops are a dumb idea:

    * European Environment Agency peer-reviewed report. GM crops provide no direct benefit to consumers, are over-hyped, not necessarily safe and are largely unsuitable for the great majority of the world’s farmers. “Evidence is accumulating of inflated benefit claims and of adverse effects. The benefits that may have been overstated are the reduction in pesticide use, the reduced use of more toxic pesticides, higher yields and farmer income. The safety of GM crops is presumed when there is a lack of evidence of harm, as if this were equivalent to evidence of lack of harm, when it clearly is not. Hence many of the safety conclusions … are assumption-based, rather than evidence-based, reasoning.”

    • Crissa says:

      But… That doesn’t have anything to do with the article!

    • seborgarsen says:

      “GM crops provide no direct benefit to consumers, are over-hyped, not necessarily safe and are largely unsuitable for the great majority of the world’s farmers.” Wow, that is the exact same thing I have concluded on “organic”.

    • Brian Marten says:

      I can tell that the above poster didn’t actually read the whole article. There is a lot of blather about how you can’t prove GMOs are safe when, in fact they are proven the safest of all crops in the world. OK, that isn’t actually difficult as no other crops have been actually proven to be safe, either.

      But you allowed your own preformed conclusions to direct your statements. The reason I say this is that after all of that negative type in the article the last paragraph says that GM products aren’t bad per se, but that they are being used in the wrong manner. Hardly a damming article on the whole.

      Also this is one orgaisation and there are over 100 individual peer reviewed studies in the EU alone that pretty much state what you don’t want to hear, which is that GMO technology is safe and effective as it is currently being implemented.

      PS. Ever compare the death rate of GMOs to nuclear, automotive, petroleum based, coal fired, electrical technologies? You won’t because there are no proven deaths or even injuries that can be put at the feet of GMO technology at this time. Nor do I expect there to be any in the near or distant future.

  23. Bob says:

    I’m skeptic of Monsanto based on the fact it’s gmos haven’t been researched by any peers. Isn’t that one of the most flawed aspects of science? To not have anyone else repeat experimental research is not the scientific method. Debating logical fallacies doesn’t fix this.

  24. Mike M says:

    Sounds similar to Argumentun ad Kochtopussium.

  25. Pieter says:

    It’s becoming clear to me that Godwin’s Law is being replaced by Monsanto’s Law.

    “As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Monsanto approaches”

  26. KP says:

    Haha what’s really hilarious is that Monsanto is merely the most recent version of this so-called “debate”. What it really comes down to is people not being able to tell the difference between science and politics. What half of them are railing against is unregulated corporate culture that allows them to use technology in whatever way they see fit, and that includes irresponsibly. They should be on political blogs, not scientific blogs – the fact that they don’t trust corporations (for good reason, I would argue) has absolutely nothing to do with the science behind the technology itself. Oh humans… you make me laugh.

  27. stogy says:

    Monsanto paid you to mention their name so many times in this thread, I think.


  28. Markus says:

    So, you’re just another lackey of the Evil Overlord. Still defending all the badass badness done by [insert BIG COMPANY thingy here]. How could you? Any kid knows: The defeat of the Jedi! The One Ring! My D in Biology in 10th grade – all that evil done by Monsanto! How can one live and yet not see? ;)

    Just kidding. Keep up the good work, I love your site! Gives me something to think about almost every day. And if not so, at least something to laugh about. e.g. how many people apparently are allowed to have internet access without having any active braincells whatsoever… ^^

  29. De says:

    While I disagree with Monsanto’s apparent policy of trademarking all food crops I think that GM foods are going to be essential if we want to feed earth’s population, especially in areas where growing conditions are less than ideal.

  30. Simon says:

    Monsanto, beside its history, has it’s nowadays background, which is public. The information about their political games is available for who wishes to be informed about it.
    And let’s be pragmatic here – If there’s no problem concerning human health etc, then why there’s opposition for labelling these products?

    I understand that some concerns about patents of seeds, and about if this method is really an advantage considering its characteristics, monoculture. Also about the industrial methods in general, while there are very efficient alternatives without the use of pesticides and other products harmful for human health.
    Seeds patents, will never be advantageous for small farmers that keep their seeds. Mono-cultures exhaust the soil and will not improve the life of small farmers all around the world who plant everyday small pieces of land, cropping products for their consumption.
    Also the world produces more food than what is needed for the human consumption, and there’s the issue of what is wasted and what is the amount of waste that can be reduced.

    Apart from it, analysing GMOs: What studies and under what conditions have been they made? How can studies be effectively peer-reviewed when there are obstacles to the “independent” studies or entities interested on the public acceptance of these techniques and products?

    What is the ecological impact over the ecosystem, other plants and animals? What will happen to the plans as we know now, after these GMOs being planted everywhere? For sure you have heard about cross-polinization. Will one day all our agriculture and plants be dependent on pesticides to survive?
    We all know what happened when certain plants and animals were brought from one continent to the other… What will these “invasive” GMO plants will do, to other plants, to insects…? So is it the technique really beneficial? How will our planet be in 100 years, a friendly home/ecosystem?

  31. matt says:

    Excellent article: but one mistake. Aspartame was invented by Searle, which was purchased by Monsanto in 1985 and operated as a wholly owned separate company, “Nutrasweet Co”. It was spun out in 2000 after the expiration of the patent. So Nutrasweet and Monsanto are related, at least over that 15 year period. Driving Lovers Lane in Augusta, GA, you will see the two facilities (Nutrasweet and Monsanto) basically side by side.