CONVENIENT MARRIAGE PRODUCES GREEN CARD

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Politics may make for strange bedfellows, but politics spiced with environmentalism and consumerism elevate the status of some unions to the truly bizarre.

Witness the marriage of convenience between rabidly anti-plastic Greenpeace and Monsanto Co., the same company responsible for products that make many ``Greens'' cringe (bovine growth hormones, Agent Orange, genetically engineered soybeans, etc.).

Greenpeace wants eco-conscious consumers to buy tons of stuff with a credit card emblazoned with an image of the Rainbow Warrior. No doubt Greenpeace also is looking forward to getting its cut of the money people spend using the card.

Monsanto is eager to get some sort of return on its investment in Biopol, a biodegradable plastic technology and business it bought last year. So far, commercial applications for the resin, which costs five to 10 times more than PVC, have been rather scarce.

The point where these divergent entities meet is the Greenpeace credit card, recently unveiled by a British bank. The convergence creates abundant ironies. Greenpeace's push to rid the world of PVC and other chlorine-based chemicals has pushed it right into the arms of one of its corporate enemies: Monsanto.

The Greenpeace Web site (http://www.greenpeace.org) contains at least 90 documents attacking Monsanto. Did anyone within Greenpeace remember its campaign to rid the world of Monsanto's genetically engineered, herbicide-resistant soybeans?

Another result of the group's concerted attack on PVC is its apparent embrace of something it otherwise abhors: biotechnology.

Did anyone within the organization really check into what it takes to make the Biopol resin being used for the cards? Greenpeace's own press release announcing the card conveniently fails to mention Monsanto or the details of how Biopol is made. The group merely says the resin comes from ``grain sugars.''

Well, for their information, Biopol comes from vats of bacteria that are cultivated on meat extracts and other substances until they are ready to feast on biotechnically enhanced grain sugars. In the process of devouring their favorite food, the little bugs store polymers like humans store fat. Does Greenpeace care that billions of the bacteria die to make Biopol, their little bodies crushed by a whirring centrifuge as their precious stores are harvested?

The ironies don't end at Greenpeace.

Monsanto, by supplying its resin, is indirectly supplying Greenpeace with funds the group can turn around and use to help damage and defame large chunks of the company's businesss.

It's difficult to dispute the advantages of developing new markets for a remarkable new plastic. It's also imperative that groups like Greenpeace exist as a counter to those who would totally ignore the environmental impact of their deeds and products. But it's hard to see how the Greenpeace-Monsanto team can withstand the pressures of its own, inherent contradictions.

One day, perhaps, the world will be filled with wonderful, environmentally perfect products, and legions of happy, environmentally perfect people will enjoy them. Perhaps one day Monsanto even will be an official Greenpeace sponsor.

But until that regrettably distant time comes, it's hard to imagine either of the strange bedfellows reaping any long-term benefit from their current entanglement.