Members of the Regional Business Council’s Young Professionals Network were given an exclusive opportunity to get a behind the scenes tour of agricultural and biotechnology leader Monsanto Company‘s labs, greenhouses and chemical production facilities, as well as hear a presentation on topics including industry technologies such as plant breeding, demystifying myths about the company, and how Monsanto is committed to shaping the future of agriculture.
This event was sponsored in part by the Monsanto Young Professionals Network, a group of Monsanto employees that collaborates to do community service, networking events, and professional development outside of the workplace.
The tour and presentation ended in the Monsanto main lobby where attendees enjoyed a networking reception with members of the RBC YPN, Monsanto YPN, BMO Harris Young Professionals as well as senior leaders of RBC and Monsanto.
We were able to catch up with two of the organizers of this event that are helping to connect Monsanto young professionals to the community, as well as help shed any confusion about the global vision of Monsanto: Raegan Johnson, Environmental Safety & Health Project Manager, and coordinator for the Monsanto Young Professionals group, and Linda Jing, Director, Global Breeding Strategy & Operations. Here’s what they had to say about how Monsanto is making a difference in the agribusiness industry and in local communities:
Monsanto is obviously one of the region’s largest and most visible corporations. For a company with thousands of employees, personal development and growth must be a key to success. What exactly is the Monsanto Young Professionals Network and what does it do?
Johnson: The Monsanto Young Professionals Network was launched in 2012, and currently has more than 700 members within St. Louis. It is one of nine diversity networks at Monsanto. The network’s purpose is to connect young professionals—both in age and at heart—to Monsanto’s global business, leadership opportunities, the community, and their peers.
How is the MYPN benefiting young professionals in your company and other companies in the region? What are they doing to make an impact in the community?
Johnson: The network provides unique professional, personal and networking opportunities individuals might not otherwise experience. For the past three years, we have hosted a Career Expo on campus. All company functions and diversity networks are represented during the event. Hundreds of employees attend, network, and learn more about different facets of the company.
In addition to professional development, our network is adamant about connecting to the communities where we live and work. Almost monthly, we host a service project. The list of projects is diverse—from participation in World Food Day and community gardening to partnerships with the St. Louis Arc and the Queen of Peace Center.
By providing a range of opportunities, we are able to address the diverse interests of our network members and connect with a variety of organizations. The hope is that beyond the network’s projects, individuals will get more involved in their community through volunteerism.
What are three things that Monsanto is doing to change the way we think about biotech in our society? How is Monsanto demystifying the preconceived ideas of GMOs and plant breeding?
Jing: 1) We are committed to engaging in broad dialogue about our business with many stakeholders. The nearly 23,000 people who work at Monsanto have strong values that drive our business in agriculture, and we are dedicated to providing transparency about what we do.
2) We partner and collaborate with farmers and organizations around the world, like Conservation International, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, the Clinton Global Initiative and the U.S. Agency for International Development. We believe in approaching global challenges like food security holistically and in collaboration with others to achieve the best solutions for today and tomorrow.
3) We strive to play a positive role in the communities where we work and live. The Monsanto Fund is the philanthropic arm of Monsanto Company. The Monsanto Fund provides basic education support designed to improve education in farming communities around the world, including supporting schools, libraries, science centers, farmer training programs and academic programs that enrich or supplement school programs.
Monsanto plays a large role in the overall production of much of the world’s food supply. Are foods or crops that are produced through biotechnology (or GMOs) safe to consume? Are there any known long-term health effects of crops with GMOS?
Jing: GMO foods or crops that are de-regulated by government agencies for commercialization are safe to consume. Over 600 independent studies by scientists from around the world have resulted in broad consensus that GMO crops are as safe as any other crops. Currently, only eight GM crops are available to farmers. These crops are: corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, alfalfa, sugar beets, papaya and summer squash. The vast majority of fresh food available in your produce aisle is not derived from GMOs. There is no known long-term health effect of GMO crops.