You don’t have to spend much time talking to friends in urban areas to learn their view of modern agriculture is often colored by what they see and hear from environmental activist groups.
Thus it wasn’t a surprise when Monsanto representatives felt compelled to issue a statement that neither their company nor its products have any connection with the Zika virus or the outbreak of microcephaly that has devastated families in Brazil.
Here’s what the company said in a blog that was later distributed to media outlets:
“You may have seen misinformation and rumors on social media regarding Monsanto, the Zika virus and microcephaly. Unfortunately, this misinformation causes unwarranted fear and distracts from the health crisis at hand and how you can take steps to protect you and your family. Here are some facts:
“Neither Monsanto nor our products have any connection to the Zika virus or microcephaly.
“Monsanto does not manufacture or sell Pyriproxyfen.
“Monsanto does not own Sumitomo Chemical Company. However, Sumitomo Chemical Company is one of our business partners in the area of crop protection.
“Glyphosate is not connected in any way to the Zika virus or microcephaly.
“GMOs have no role in the Zika virus or microcephaly.
“The Zika virus is a tragic and critical health issue. Dealing effectively with such an important health threat requires a focus on the facts. As a science-based company working to help meet some of the world’s biggest challenges we support all efforts to combat this health crisis. We hope all efforts will be taken based on the facts, not rumors.”
Think the statement is an overreaction? The blog was followed by a report that one of the southernmost states in Brazil has banned the use of a mosquito larvicide after an Argentine doctors group issued a warning the compound, Pyriproxyfen, could be causing the outbreak of microcephaly.
One of the doctors said the group has no evidence to back up its claim; that the warning was a “preventative measure” because “we think it is likely that Pyriproxyfen is the problem.”
The Brazilian government and U.S. health authorities say the claim is nonsense, saying the cause is the mosquito-borne Zika virus that is rapidly spreading across Brazil and into other countries.
The irony is that halting the spraying of Pyriproxyfen means more mosquitoes are likely to spread the virus, infecting even more families and leading to more cases of the virus.