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Monsanto Attempts to Woo 'New Yorker' Readers

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Monsanto, often a magnet for criticism among green advocacy groups because of its support for genetically modified food, is attempting to woo some thought leaders with a new ad campaign.

The print campaign, which broke in September, was stepped up in January with placements in publications like The New Republic, The Atlantic Monthly and the back-page of The New Yorker’s current issue. The ads make the argument that the world is currently using all its arable land and future food production depends on technology breakthroughs from companies like Monsanto. “How can we squeeze more food from a raindrop?” asks one ad, which goes on to say that the answer involves “putting the latest science-based tools in farmers’ hands.”

Mark Halton, global corporate marketing lead for Monsanto, said the ad campaign is an outgrowth of Monsanto’s “sustainable yield initiative,” a program the company introduced last year to help farmers increase food production by creating more efficiencies from the three primary tools of agriculture: soil, fertilizer and water.

Halton said the effort, via Blue, Washington, is the first campaign from Monsanto in years. Since the goal is to not only influence policy but to engage thought leaders, the media plan includes both political titles and general interest magazines like The New Yorker. Halton said the latter placement is an effort to reach readers who might be influenced by writers such as Michael Pollan, author of the best-selling book Omnivore’s Dilemma that criticizes the agriculture industry’s reliance on corn and soy, which Pollan argues limits natural diversity.

Since Monsanto is closely associated with the genetically modified food issue and a U.S. company to boot, it often bears the brunt of criticism against GM. Though the Center for Science in the Public Interest has reprimanded Monsanto over the issue in the past, Gregory Jaffe, director of the CSPI’s biotech project, held a fairly positive view of the sustainable yield initiative. “I think the technology they’re using has some potential to solve our agricultural problems,” though he added, “I would not say that their technology is a silver bullet.”