Board should reconsider deal with Monsanto

To the editor:

Is the county board really considering assisting the Monsanto corporation? After this multinational corporation turned its back on our county from the moment it purchased DeKalb Ag in 1998? DeKalb Ag had more than 500 full-time employees when it was sold. Under terms of its agreement with DeKalb Genetics, it kept the employees for one year but by 2000 the number of employees was down to 200, and by 2004 down to 65. I hope the board is not operating under any illusion that Monsanto may increase the number of employees at the Waterman site.

Monsanto broke ground in September 2008 to build a $90-million facility to produce and bag DeKalb seed corn in Independence, Iowa. The plant is expected to employ 1,000 seasonal workers. (Buchanan County, Iowa, where the plant is being built, does not have an enterprise zone.)

The board should move slower down this path with Monsanto. One could fill pages with details of Monsanto's troubled history. One could ask one of the thousands of farmers who have been investigated or sued by Monsanto since 1996 when it first introduced its genetically modified (G.M.) seeds. Or ask the folks of Pilot Grove, Mo., population 750, where the only grain elevator in town has been drawn into a damaging court battle with Monsanto over its patented seed. Or ask the citizens of Anniston, Ala., where 37 years after Monsanto ceased production of PCBs, the area around the old Monsanto plant is still one of the most polluted in the United States. Monsanto has been identified by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as being the "potentially responsible party" for 56 contaminated sites in the U.S.

Wouldn't the safety of DeKalb County citizens be more protected if the board looked closer at this deal with a company with such a clouded history?

The board should consider a study entitled "State Enterprise Zone Programs: Have They Worked?" conducted by the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research. The report covered enterprise zones in 13 states, including Illinois. The researchers found "there is a lot of business turnover in enterprise zones, and zone incentives have minimal impact on new investment." One other finding of note is that the "incentives favor capital rather than labor."

It is dangerous to rush into one-sided agreements with large corporations thinking it will produce jobs. A look at the history of Monsanto and the history of enterprise zones would indicate otherwise.

Dan Kenney