“You Don’t Want to Hear What I Have to Say”

By Milton Stokes

Monsanto's Director of Global Health & Nutrition Outreach

Milton and friends.
Milton and friends.

My friends and family know how much I love my job, and some of you who read my previous post know that I never sought Monsanto. I didn’t envision a career in agriculture; it sort of found me after I called Monsanto with a question. Once I understood the potential to affect global food and nutrition security, saying yes to the opportunity was easy.

In my role, I reach out to food and nutrition professionals around the world. I get to engage with dietitians and nutritionists, chefs and culinary personalities, foodservice professionals, and professors who train all those groups. I share information about today’s farmer with an emphasis on innovation in agriculture, and inclusivity in ag. Despite what some may think, it’s not “biotech or bust.” I don’t sprinkle GMOs around the globe at various dietitian meetings. In fact, I have no expectation that everyone I encounter will support ag biotechnology—even if the same folks already embrace it in medicine, like insulin, or in food, like hard cheese and bread.

Long before Monsanto found me, I was a restaurateur and then a dietitian in healthcare. In both career fields, understanding and respect for culture guided my practice. I didn’t like eating bone-in fried catfish fiddlers, a Kentucky favorite, but I cooked them for hungry customers. As a carnivore dietitian, I didn’t insist vegetarian clients add meat to their diets. I met them where they were on the nutrition spectrum, and I worked with what they offered me.

Whether it’s an organic cropping system or biotech, I’m confident that farmers strive to make the best decisions to steward their land. Some farmers even employ more than one system in the same operation, and they exemplify the principle of co-existence by talking with farmer neighbors about what they are planting and when. Farmers have been talking to each other for a long time.

So when a dietitian at a professional conference says to me, “You don’t want to hear what I have to say,” I’m compelled to invite any and all comments. Not only is that my job, it’s just my nature. I worked with the public for a decade serving food. I’ve seen and heard plenty! Food evokes emotion with passionate display. I embrace that emotion because I know we all want the safest food supply possible.

Let’s talk about it.

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