Reuters: Monsanto new bio-tech philosophy

Gary Greenberg Gary.Greenberg at Duke.Edu
Tue Nov 28 06:17:13 EST 2000

UPDATE - US bio-crop giant says to heed critics

See full story at:

USA: November 28, 2000

WASHINGTON - Agricultural biotechnology giant Monsanto Co., accused of
being tone deaf about the marketing of its seeds, said Monday it
supported more regulation of bio-crops and would never put human genes
into plants used as food. 

The "New Monsanto Pledge" was unveiled by Hendrik Verfaillie, chief
executive of Monsanto, an 85 percent owned subsidiary of Pharmacia
Corp.. He said Monsanto was, "knowingly and deliberately taking a
different path" than in the past.

An early developer of biotechnology in agriculture, Monsanto was blinded
at times by its enthusiasm and did not recognize public skepticism about
the gene-splicing science and its own products, he said.

"When we tried to explain the benefits, the science and the safety, we
did not understand that our tone - our very approach - was seen as
arrogant," Verfaillie said. "We were still in the 'trust me' mode when
the expectation was 'show me'."


The five-part pledge presented by Verfaillie calls for steps that
include creation of an external Biotechnology Advisory Council to
discuss biotech issues, sharing Monsanto research with universities,
supporting a requirement for firms to notify U.S. regulators about plans
to market a biotech product, seeking global standards on biotech seed,
grain and food products, and selling only grain products approved as
human food and livestock feed.

The St. Louis-based company also promises not to use "genes taken from
animal or human sources in our agricultural products intended for food
or feed."

Monsanto also would launch new bio-crops in the United States only if
they have U.S. and Japanese approval for animal feed and human food.
Europe would be included as soon as it establishes a new regulatory

Larry Bohlen of the environmental group Friends of the Earth, who also
spoke at a conference sponsored by Farm Journal magazine, said there was
an emerging "convergence" between biotech firms and critics, such as
requiring all products to have human food and animal feed approval.

Friends of the Earth, a strong biotech critic, wants labeling on all
foods containing biotech ingredients. It also would suspend planting of
so-called Bt crops, which contain a naturally occurring pesticide that
drives off a common cotton and corn pest. Bohlen said prevention of
"bio-pollution" was one of the group's top three goals worldwide.


Story by Charles Abbott 

Gary N. Greenberg, MD MPH    Sysop / Moderator Occ-Env-Med-L MailList
gary.greenberg at duke.edu     Duke Occupat, Environ, Int & Fam Medicine
OEM-L Maillist Website:                      http://occhealthnews.com


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