Hackers from the Anonymous collective, a group dedicated to hacking into government and corporate websites and databases, claimed responsibility for Wednesday's disabling of the corporate website of Monsanto, the biotech agricultural giant. Monsanto has recently been the subject of several large international protests due to its production of genetically modified food products. On March 25, over two million activists throughout the world joined together for the “March Against Monsanto” movement. The march consisted of activists marching through major cities in six continents, 52 nations, and 48 U.S. states, protesting the production and sale of genetically engineered and genetically modified foods. However, protesters seem willing to compromise with Monsanto, offering simple solutions such as labeling of GE/GMO food products so that consumers are rightfully informed about what they are purchasing.
Anonymous stated that in full support of the Monsanto protests, they hacked into Monsanto’s website because “they are altering the nature of our food supply without concern for long-term effects on human health.” This is not the first time that Anonymous has taken a stance against Monsanto. In June 2011, Anonymous hacked into Monsanto’s website, posting information on 2,500 Monsanto employees, disabling their mail servers, and taking down their main websites. This attack was committed because of Monsanto’s “corrupt, unethical, and downright evil” business practices.
However, this most recent cyber attack against Monsanto seems to be fueled by more than just an ethical argument. Anonymous is also vigorously protesting the Monsanto Protection Act. The act, drafted by legislators in conjunction with Monsanto, was passed by Congress in March and prevents federal courts from banning the sale or production of genetically modified or genetically engineered foods, despite what health problems may be caused by them. Apparently many members of Congress were unaware of this act, as it was hidden within another bill that was focused on federal budgeting, although over 250,000 citizens signed a petition against the bill and grassroots groups, such as Food Democracy Now, protested the bill in front of the White House. However, Congress still passed the bill and shortly after, President Obama signed it into law.
It seems that one of Anonymous’s main issues is that this bill was passed because Monsanto donated a large amount of funds to politicians in order to keep the truth about their food products in the dark. Anonymous believes that consumers deserve to know the truth about the products they are buying and that Monsanto should not be allowed to buy its way out of legal responsibilities for its actions. Anonymous claims the best way to hold companies like Monsanto responsible for their unethical practices is through “direct communication, grassroots journalism, and social media.” Although governments and corporations like Monsanto are attempting to bar Anonymous and other protesters from bringing these important issues to light, I think in the end, social media will help to educate consumers and justify the reasoning behind Anonymous’s cyber attacks on Monsanto.