Marie-Monique Robin and Me

April 6, 2009

With a nod to a documentary about GM (that would be General Motors, not genetic modification)

World According to Monsanto

By Chris

Back in 2006 I heard from my colleagues in Europe that a French filmmaker named Marie-Monique Robin was pestering them to participate in a film she was making.  The topic?  Globalization.

Globalization?  Yeah, right.

If you have the misfortune of slogging through all 109 minutes of the anti-Monsanto rant that is “The World According to Monsanto,” (which consists largely of Ms. Robin typing Google searches into her computer), you’ll get to a brief audio cameo of me over the closing credits.  It’s about 10 seconds of a five-minute phone conversation that apparently was recorded without my knowledge or consent.  During that call, I gave her all the reasons that Monsanto wasn’t going to participate in her movie (summarized below).  The only one she chose to use was that we didn’t think the movie would be “positive” toward Monsanto (good example of the selective editing she uses throughout the film).

Sounds like the punch line to a bad joke, right?  “I picked up the phone, and the next thing I knew, I was in a French movie.”  So how did this happen?

Here’s a brief history of our numerous interactions with Ms. Robin:

She contacted our public affairs person in France about participating in the movie.  He said, “Non.”

Then she approached our lead public affairs person in Europe.  He said, “Non.”

Then she tried our headquarters here in St. Louis, where she reached me.  I said, “Non.”

Like the kid who asks Mom after Dad says no, she tracked down several of my colleagues in St. Louis.  They all said, “Non.”

By this time, you’re probably wondering, “How come they’re all saying, ‘Non’?  Could it be that…Monsanto has something to hide?”

Hardly.

The reality is that documentary films like this one are a rigged game in which the filmmakers hold all the cards, and the targets who participate are taking a sucker’s bet.

Here’s how it works:  a filmmaker gets an idea and does some research (perhaps using Google searches).  That research presumably provides enough information to develop a thesis, and the filmmaker then lines up interviews intended to prove that thesis.  If the filmmaker is lucky or persistent enough, she can convince the target of the film to participate, lending an illusion of objectivity to an enterprise that had its mind made up before it even started.  If we had said “Oui” instead of “Non,” it would have appeared that we were condoning or cooperating in Ms. Robin’s hatchet job.

Not only that, but Ms. Robin brought her own baggage with her.  While many online biographies tout her award of the Albert Londres prize for her film on purported organ theft, “Voleurs d’yeu” (“Eye Thieves”), few note that the award was subsequently suspended because of reservations about the film’s accuracy.  Read more here and here.

As long as Ms. Robin controlled the editing tools, we knew that Monsanto wasn’t going to get fair treatment, so we declined to participate.

After cajoling us to participate in order to provide balance (as if), all she was left with was a highly edited tape of a phone conversation and some footage of our campus.

Ms. Robin’s film has become something of a minor sensation in Europe, and she’s now a folk hero of sorts.  But before you idolize her as Heroine of the Republic or finalize your views of Monsanto based on her movie, consider the facts – the facts she conveniently edited from her movie (which can be found on our Web site at For The Record; the facts she ignored in the face of direct contact with me; and the fact that her portrayal of Monsanto is completely one-sided.  Given these facts , can any of her claims about Monsanto in the movie be taken seriously?

Don’t bet on it.

Chris is a regular guy whose approach to each day involves trying to be the best husband, father, friend and co-worker he can – often with mixed results.  He works with the scientists in Monsanto’s Technology organization, which meshes with his skill of translating complex concepts in to easily understandable language.  He loves the written word and laments the quality of writing generally found on the Internet.  He tries not to take himself, or the opponents of Monsanto, too seriously.  He enjoys poking fun at the foibles of self-styled activist groups such as Greenpeace and PETA, a hobby he shares with his college-aged children.  He is a proud member of the Monsanto Mavericks bicycling team, which raises about $100,000 per year for multiple sclerosis research.  His philosophy of life can be summed up in the Shakespearean quote, “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.”

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109 Responses to “Marie-Monique Robin and Me”

  1. Adam Says:

    Wait… so, would you also suggest that it might not be wise to do the majority of my research about your corporation on Wikipedia? Seemed pretty legit to me. And it tends to line up with most of Mme. Robin’s film. So… ball’s in your court.

    Looking forward to more!

  2. Lara Joseph Says:

    Hi

    What is the point of a blog when you say only non threatening comments will be posted.

    “All comments are moderated and reviewed regularly. Only non-threatening and non-profane comments will be posted.”

    Who do you think you’re fooling.

    • Kathleen Says:

      Thanks for the comment Lara. If you look through the threads of the other posts off the front page you will see that comments both positive and negative are allowed. The only way to start great dialogue is to have a difference of opinion. In order to have a good conversation about any topic respect is key.

  3. Anonymous Says:

    Pfft!
    So Monsanto has a blog now… Perhaps to fix their awful image?
    I would hope that anyone with half a brain would be able to see through a little bit of clever PR.

  4. Jean Marie Erickson Says:

    Monsanto, we’re going to bring you down!!! The truth is out.

  5. Mica Says:

    At the very least, I’m glad this forum gave Chris a chance to explain what happened behind the scenes.

    For most outside observers, it’s easy to point the finger and say that we MUST have had something to hide by not participating. But as Chris so articulately stated above, you’re a fool if you participate in something so blatantly one-sided.

  6. Carey Michelle Says:

    It would be helpful if Chris had given a specific link to the inaccuracies that he attributed to Ms. Robin instead of directing us to a page that had no clear link to them (I prefer not to spend too much time on Monsanto’s website, since I have no respect for anything anyone from the company says (after all the deception, bribes, and flat-out lies, who would?). Even better, he could have briefly mentioned some of the points that were brought up by Ms. Robin that were inaccurate; for example, did Monsanto really NOT poison the town of Anniston, Alabama with PCBs and then LIE ABOUT IT TO THE CITIZENS THERE WHILE THEY FISHED IN THE CREEKS AND GREW GARDENS IN THE POLLUTED SOIL? I guess it is common knowledge that this actually occurred, so there is no use disputing it, since the company was sued by so many of the town’s residents, who won what was it, $750 million in damages? (PEOPLE IN THE KNOW UNDERSTAND THAT SOLUTIA IS JUST A SPIN OFF COMPANY FOR MONSANTO, TO KEEP FROM SOILING THE NAME OF THIS “RELATIVELY NEW AGRICULTURAL COMPANY”). Or was it the fact that the company has been accused of false advertising for stating that Roundup is biodegradable? That happened not once, but TWICE, by my count, in New York and France. Why should anyone in their right mind believe anything a representative from this company says? Or maybe it is the fact that the company states that it wants to help “feed the world,” yet it comes up with these Terminator Seeds (with a green light from the US government). How does this make sense? Regardless of whether these organisms are being used commercially, we have seen that if there are field trials, cross contamination is inevitable! How will your company feed the world with suicide seeds? It makes absolutely NO SENSE! Your other seeds are spliced together with viruses and bacteria, and Monsanto has fought to keep the public from being able to make an informed choice about what they are purchasing. Could that possibly be due to the fact that PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO EAT GENETICALLY ALTERED VIRUSES AND BACTERIA DESPITE THE CONVENINECE IT PROVIDES TO THE FARMERS WHO ARE STUPID ENOUGH TO DO BUSINESS WITH YOUR COMPANY? WE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW. It is offensive that your company should try so hard to prevent important information from reaching consumers! People in the know do not trust your company, and no amount of blogs or social marketing tools are going to change that. Instead of fostering trust, it just shows that the company is getting a little scared about the fact that everyone hates it so much — damage control, anyone? I can’t wait to use this site for my next freelance article! I look forward to viewing this comment on your site, since there is nothing threatening or profane about it. Thanks!

  7. Carey Michelle Says:

    MORE LIES BY MONSANTO!

    As far as the sustainability the company brags about on its website, here is a paragraph (most assuredly not the ENTIRE article) from an editorial in the Molokai Times (Hawaii)that seems to throw that claim into dispute:

    Monsanto Could be its Own Worst Enemy
    Thursday 7-24-08
    Filed Under: Letters & Opinions
    Using too much water could force the company to downsize.

    Editorial by Todd Yamashita

    There are some who will have you think that Monsanto employees are in danger of losing their jobs at the hands of environmentalist and activists. The biggest threat to Monsanto however, is its own growth and thirst for more water.

    Doesn’t sound too sustainable to me…actually, just the opposite!

    Here is the link: http://www.themolokaidispatch.com/node/2290

  8. Krusty Says:

    I find it interesting that you moderate the comments on your blog (i have yet to see anyone do this till now), i would hasten a bet that were you to not that the overwhelming number of posts would read something like “the devil may offer a mask, but it is still the devil…” Simply because your company is ruthless in its campaign, sets its jaws into the federal gov’t, and kills all proposed studies in the US that may determine GM foods as anything but liberators of the free world, you can not escape the fact that you are responsible for every single thing you do against nature …every baby who is born with a compromised immune system, every farmer that is forced to purchase your seed year after year, every maintenance worker who is bedridden…each of you is responsible for this crime against humanity. It may not be instant but karma is going to get you…

  9. Chris Says:

    Adam, books could be (and probably should be) written about information anarchy on Wikipedia. I counsel my kids not to use Wikipedia as a primary source in their schoolwork because Wikipedia’s anyone-can-edit environment means the information there can’t be taken at face value. Monsanto’s Wikipedia entry is a prime example. Parts of the entry (including three paragraphs on Robin’s movie) read as if it was written by a bunch of Greenpeace cronies (in fact, part of the Monsanto Wikipedia entry at one point included an announcement of a Greenpeace anti-Monsanto rally in France). You’ll probably see more about Wikipedia on this blog in the future, but, no, at this time Wikipedia is not a credible source of information about Monsanto.

  10. Chris Says:

    Lara, look no further than Jean Marie Erickson’s post as a partial response to your comment. While “bring you down” may not be a threat in and of itself, that kind of comment can quickly devolve into threats of physical harm against Monsanto employees, their families and their property; I’ve seen way too much of that in the blogosphere. That’s one reason we’re emphasizing here that Monsanto is actually 22,000 individuals, not a nameless, faceless corporation. If it gives people pause before engaging in what I call casual anti-Monsanto piling on, then it’s worth it.

    Krusty, many sites moderate comments, mainly to elevate the level of discourse. Your comments and Carey’s, though decidedly critical of Monsanto and filled with inaccuracies (but not threats or profanity), were posted.

    To Kathleen’s point, profanity-laced invective and physical threats don’t have any place in civil discourse, even on a blog.

    Finally, Jean Marie, what, specifically, have any of Monsanto’s 22,000 employees done to you, personally, that cause you to want to bring us down?

  11. Lara Joseph Says:

    Krusty you took the words right out of my mouth!! Amen!!

  12. Alex Says:

    Krusty,

    I could not have said it better… Monsanto should take your words very seriously!

    Devil = Monsanto

  13. Brad Says:

    Just to clarify (again), the policy of this blog is to post all comments unless they contain profanity or are threatening. Threatening does not mean that they contain criticism – it means they suggest or otherwise warn of physical harm.

    Note that we have posted all of the comments of Krusty and Lara, both of whom seem to be accusing us of deleting replies that are critical of Monsanto – and both of whom are critical of Monsanto.

    To date, there have been three replies that we have have not posted, all due to profanity – one of which was from a Monsanto employee.

    We have only edited one reply. It contained a single word that some could find offensive. We edited the single word. This was from a Monsanto employee.

    Krusty, these actions are pretty common practice on most blogs. Many readers simply don’t want to be exposed to profanity and there is the potential for kids to come on here looking for info on research papers, etc.

  14. Kerry Says:

    Chris,
    You should try to change your tone. The snarky, sarcastic comments only make you and Monsanto seem even more disrespectful than everyone thinks you are. If you really believe you have a great product then prove it! Instead, there appears to be mountain of evidence suggesting that your products are, at the very least, toxic to small animals. I applaud your effort here to allow criticism but Monsanto is hardly an open book. It seems at every turn your response to questions about the ethics and safety of your products is to classify the critic as a fringe element of a larger hysterical vegan movement. Quite the opposite is true in that people everywhere from every walk of life question the use of products like Round Up and genetically modified seeds because we are invested in the health of ourselves and our planet. Wake up and smell the organic coffee! Be a progressive company and instead of digging in your heels and becoming more and more combative why don’t you address these concerns and FIX THE PROBLEM! Nobody wants the 22,000 Monsanto employees to be out of work, we all want you to run a compassionate, careful, responsive, ecological and sustainable business. Be proactive, be leaders, be profitable, just stop selling toxic, thoughtless, reprehensible garbage. Invest in the future of agribusiness; responsible, sustainable, non-toxic, fresh, honorable products or get left behind.

  15. Chris Says:

    Alex: very insightful. Could you be a bit more specific?

  16. Ewan Ross Says:

    Kerry – in response to this segment

    “run a compassionate, careful, responsive, ecological and sustainable business. Be proactive, be leaders, be profitable, just stop selling toxic, thoughtless, reprehensible garbage.”

    In response to the first points – we do – Monsanto’s main objective is to improve farmer’s lives, the products we sell have been carefully tested (10 year product cycle with testing throughout), are ecologically sound (compare RR crop herbicide use to non RR herbicide use to justify this statement, the use of our products in helping advance no-till farming (not the only method but an important tool), our expenditure on developing nitrogen efficient transgenics and drought tolerant transgenics, the huge reduction in pesticide use which is possible when using Bt expressing transgenics)

    To my knowledge we don’t sell anything that thoughtless (the amount of thought that goes into any given GM product (or roundup formulation for that matter) would probably keep an academic institution in research papers for quite some time) or reprehensible (unless striving to make good on our commitment to double crop yields by 2030 is a particularly reprehensible act). I had initially wanted to also say that we don’t sell anything that is toxic, but as a colleague pointed out to me, the first rule of toxicology is that ‘all substances are toxic’, and this therefore isn’t entirely true (I should have known this from repeatedly stating that roundup is 3 or more times less toxic than other commonly used herbicides).

    I am of course keeping our current product portfolio in mind as no doubt the comeback will be based around PCBs and Agent orange and possibly other product manufactured decades ago when Monsanto was a chemical company rather than a seed company.

  17. Bill Says:

    Kerry,
    I’m concerned about your comment that “there appears to be mountain of evidence suggesting that your products are, at the very least, toxic to small animals.” I would like to read more about this. Can you direct me to the publications demonstrating the toxicity of biotech crops to small animals?

  18. Jessica Says:

    Carey Michelle made the following statement in her response:

    “Could that possibly be due to the fact that PEOPLE DON’T WANT TO EAT GENETICALLY ALTERED VIRUSES AND BACTERIA DESPITE THE CONVENINECE IT PROVIDES TO THE FARMERS”

    This shows an obvious misunderstanding of the technology used to create genetically modified crops. Seeds are not spliced together with viruses and bacteria, small pieces of DNA are introducted and incorporated into the plant genome. DNA is DNA is DNA, you, as a human, share some of the same genes with plants, bacteria and viruses. In some cases those genes are very very similar, in others they are different, in all cases they are made up of the same 4 base units.

    It’s all good and well to have an opinion, but you will be taken more seriously if you have an informed and educated opinion.

  19. Mica Says:

    Kerry says:

    “We all want you to run a compassionate, careful, responsive, ecological and sustainable business. Be proactive, be leaders, be profitable.”

    Funny because that’s how I view my company today and what I tell people about us.

  20. Adam Says:

    It’s unfortunate that so many people have an image of Monsanto that’s mostly co-opted straight from Michael Clayton.

    Regardless, it is worth inquiring as to how many critics of Monsanto understand the true nature of genetically modified organisms, whether they be seeds or bacteria or even mice. One would be hard-pressed to find anything resembling a significant number of biochemists, or even medical doctors, that can attest to any cataclysmic harm resultant from the principal genomic modifications utilized by Monsanto and similar companies. (Small example: What proportion of corn do you think is genetically modified? Try not to have a meltdown!) Try not to conflate chemical toxicity, such as in the event of an accident, with the ‘effects’ of ingesting foods containing modified nucleic acids. As will be consistently pointed out, no such effects can exist.

    The reality is that these modifications are the only sustainable foundation upon which agricultural production and delivery can be appreciably increased to meet the ballooning demands of the world’s population. Remember, this beloved doctrine of sustainability implies not only ‘fair’ prices paid to farmers in Guatemala to have small and inconsistent harvests, but also the ‘fair’ taxes levied upon citizens of the developing world to facilitate such programs. What will ultimately be more important to you: Mitigating the effects of famine, or allowing the problem to propagate appreciably in order to mudsling at some corporation? While it is certainly in vogue to be hating on those ‘evil’ corporations, this trend does a marvelous job of showing the true colors, and true ignorance, of the most bellicose critics.

    It seems to me that the best use of comments on this blog would be to address the material that Chris is presenting in a specific post, and not just blindly foaming about Monsanto in general; it would probably make your audience take you a bit more seriously.

  21. Chris Says:

    Thanks, Adam.

    Kerry, sorry if anything I’ve written comes off as “snarky.” When someone equates my employer (which, to Mica’s point, I consider to be “compassionate, careful, responsive, ecological and sustainable”) to the devil, remaining upbeat can be a challenge.

  22. Kelly Says:

    I have to agree with Mica. I also view my company as compassionate, careful, responsive, ecological and sustainable. This is a great company to be employed with. It’s one of the very few that I have seen and worked for that actually care about their employees, care about what the future holds, and honestly? I am proud to say that I am a member of the Monsanto family.

  23. omer Says:

    hello,
    Why the company Monsanto did not answer faster and more officially the assertions of this “journalist”?

  24. Carey Michelle Says:

    Ewan, how does suing farmers like the Nelsons and Schmeisers (and apparently many more, enough to have a bill passed to protect them from your company in California) help farmers? If farmers don’t want to pull weeds (or pay someone else to, providing jobs) and instead they would rather cover our food crops with toxic herbicide, I do not want to eat the food they grow!

    Jessica, are you saying that Monsanto does not use gene altered viruses and bacteria as promoters for their GMOs? The Monsanto representative I spoke with at HPU on November 7, 2008 told me that is what was used, so if I was inaccurate, that is because one of your representatives gave me inaccurate information at the debate I attended where he was also adamant that GMO crops do not increase yields…

  25. Carey Michelle Says:

    Let me just be very clear about my feelings on GMOs and how they are made. Regardless of what is done with the gene-altered viruses and bacteria that I have been told were used as promoters, I DO NOT WANT THEM IN MY FOOD! I DON’T CARE IF THE PIECES OF THE DNA ARE THE SMALLEST THINGS IN EXISTENCE, I DON’T WANT TO EAT THEM ONCE THEY HAVE BEEN MANIPULATED BY A COMPANY THAT POISONED A TOWN AND THEN LIED ABOUT IT FOR DECADES! Why should anyone trust any person who works for a company with that kind of track record? I am not a scientist, and I don’t profess to know how your creepy company does its dirty work (it is apparently a big secret, just like the location of the field trials). I do know that viruses and bacteria are used (and this is from a Monsanto rep, but maybe I should not even trust him on that) and that is enough for me to know it sounds gross and I don’t want to eat it. I don’t need to get all scientific about it. Why would anyone choose to eat food with even the tiniest particles of these potentially dangerous organisms when they have the opportunity to eat food grown without them? What is the incentive for consumers to eat these “foods” that contain gene-altered germs? Just tell me there are no viruses and bacteria used in any way, form or fashion, and I’ll drop it. Otherwise, I think most folks would agree that the better choice is the one without the gene-altered germs.

  26. Carey Michelle Says:

    Jessica, if the only inaccuracy in my post was stating that the viruses and bacteria are used to “splice,” does that really discount the argument that people don’t want to eat them regardless of what they are used for? I don’t think normal consumers are not going to take the argument seriously because of semantics. WHO CARES WHAT THEY ARE USED FOR? I DON’T WANT TO EAT THEM AT ALL! Especially in light of everything else I said (the pollution, deception, lies, etc…) Is anyone from the company going to dispute any of this important information, or are you just going to insult my intelligence by fixating on some irrelevant wording error by a poster who does not claim to be a scientist? If this is all you can come up with to discredit me, you might want to address the entire issue as opposed to one small and really irrelevant part of it. Seriously, does anyone who is not taking money from Monsanto want to eat gene-altered germs in any form? I would love to hear from anyone who is not being paid by Monsanto to respond that my comments are not being taken seriously.

  27. little billy Says:

    I agree, as a consumer, i do not want to eat any foreign bacteria or viral dna in my food regardless of the size of the amount or how it is being used.

  28. Kutter Says:

    I agree, as a consumer, I do not want to eat ANY foreign bacterial or vital DNA in my food regardless of the size of the amount or how it is being used. Humans did not eat his crap back in the day so why should we have to do it now?

  29. andrew Says:

    i agree, as a consumer, i do not want to eat any foreign bacterial or viral DNA in my food regardless of the size of the amount or how it is being used

  30. becky brown Says:

    I agree, as a consumer, I do not want to eat ANY foreign bacterial or viral DNA in my food regardless of the size of tha amount or how it is being used.

  31. Josh Says:

    I dont think any one be allowed to genetically modified foods because it can be harmfull to Americans as a whole.

  32. Brad Says:

    I agree, as a consumer, I do not want to eat ANY foreign bacterial or viral DNA in my food regardless of the size of the amount or how it is being used! I would rather starve to death!

  33. Shawn Says:

    The European countries have banned the GM seeds all together, so why would we want to consume or use these products for agricultural purposes? Germany just banned them after ten years of testing the effects on local wildlife and agriculture. If they affect their ecosystem then why would it not affect ours?????

  34. Fred Says:

    Any amount of bacteria in the food that is marketed by a multi-billion corporation such as monsanto, who can afford to go the extra mile to actually make it healthy and safe to ingest, is absolutely unacceptable. Anyone who would try to undermine the company Monsanto has valid reason and every right. Monsanto has, in almost every way, commited crimes of fraud. Go burn in your genetically engineered hell and take your sarcastic comments with you.

  35. Deborah Rubin Says:

    Adam Says:

    April 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    The reality is that these modifications are the only sustainable foundation upon which agricultural production and delivery can be appreciably increased to meet the ballooning demands of the world’s population. Remember, this beloved doctrine of sustainability implies not only ‘fair’ prices paid to farmers in Guatemala to have small and inconsistent harvests, but also the ‘fair’ taxes levied upon citizens of the developing world to facilitate such programs. What will ultimately be more important to you: Mitigating the effects of famine, or allowing the problem to propagate appreciably in order to mudsling at some corporation? While it is certainly in vogue to be hating on those ‘evil’ corporations, this trend does a marvelous job of showing the true colors, and true ignorance, of the most bellicose critics.
    ————————-
    The only what? “sustainable foundation upon which agricultural production and delivery can be appreciably increased to meet the ballooning demands of the world’s population.” You have got to be kidding! What is true sustainability, environmental and social justice, food security? There is so much counter-evidence to your unsupported statement:

    I read recently that food flows in the direction of economic demand, not hunger—and that I believe.

    In 2050, you say we will feed more people than we can actually feed now, people we have the food for, but choose not to feed, or can not/WILL not get food to–but at the same time, we can invade distant countries, bail out Wall Street with a trillion plus dollars, launch satellites, genetically engineer food crops and burn them up for fuel while people are starving to death right now…And Monsanto is pushing South Africa and other nations to grow biofuels.

    From Environmental Science: Toward a Sustainable Future, 2008, Richard T. Wright:

    “Although India has been self-sufficient in food since 1990, one-fifth of the population suffers from malnutrition because they can’t afford to purchase the food they need, and there is no safety net….
    No new science or technology is needed to alleviate hunger and at the same time promote sustainability as we grow our food. The solutions lie in the realm of political and social action at all levels of responsibility… If we respect human dignity and have a sense of social justice, we must agree that hunger is an affront to both. The right to food must be considered a basic human right.”
    ++++++++++++++

    Devinder Sharma said, “In 2000, India had record food surplus of 44 million tons. By 2002, the surplus had grown to 65 million tons, not due to excess production, but because more and more people [at least 1/5 of the Indian population is malnourished, 1/2 of all Indian Children are malnourished] are unable to buy the grain that lies stockpiled.” [contrast, 1/4 or 25% in the US are Clinically Obese–there is a problem other than a shortage of food!]
    ++++++++++++++++
    According to Miguel A. Altieri, “In 1999, enough grain was produced globally to FEED A POPULATION of EIGHT BILLION PEOPLE [and that is just grain, not fruits, and vegetables, legumes, etc]…By channeling one-third of the grain produced world-wide to needy people, hunger would cease instantly.
    *******************
    http://www.alternet.org/healthwellness/129727/u.n._seeks_a_green_revolution_in_food/

    “Changing the ways in which food is produced, handled and disposed of across the globe — from farm to store and from fridge to landfill — can both feed the world’s rising population and help the environmental services that are the foundation of agricultural productivity in the first place,” says a new study titled ‘The Environmental Food Crisis’ released by the U.N. Environment Program (UNEP).

    The major findings of the study include:

    The 100-year trend of falling food prices may be at an end, and food prices may increase by 30-50 percent within decades, with critical impacts for those living in extreme poverty who spend up to 90 percent of their income on food.

    Up to 25 percent of the world’s food production may be lost due to ‘environmental breakdowns’ by 2050 unless action is taken. Already, cereal yields have stagnated worldwide and fish catches are declining.

    Today, over one third of the world’s cereals are being used as animal feed, rising to 50 percent by 2050. Continuing to feed cereals to growing numbers of livestock will aggravate poverty and environmental degradation.

    The amount of fish bycatch currently discarded at sea — estimated at 30 million tonnes annually — could alone sustain more than a 50 percent increase in fish farming and aquaculture production, which is needed to maintain per capita fish consumption at current levels by 2050 without increasing pressure on an already stressed marine environment.

    Losses and food waste in the United States could be as high as 40-50 percent, according to some recent estimates. Up to one quarter of all fresh fruits and vegetables in the U.S. is lost between the field and the table.

    In Australia, it is estimated that food waste makes up half of that country’s landfill. Almost one-third of all food purchased in Britain every year is not eaten.

    Food losses in the developing world are also considerable, mainly due to spoilage and pests. For instance, in Africa, the total amount of fish lost through discards, post-harvest loss and spoilage may be around 30 percent of landings.
    —————-
    Please see the IAASTD report 2008:
    http://www.agassessment.org/

    and

    United Nations Conference on Trade and Development United Nations Environment Programme 2008

    http://www.unctad.org/trade_env/test1/publications/UNCTAD_DITC_TED_2007_15.pdf

    ***********************
    http://scidev.net/en/news/conservation-agriculture-boosts-yields-and-incom.html

    Poor farmers in developing countries can substantially improve both their yields and livelihoods by adopting resource-conserving practices, says a large international study to be published next month.

    The study reviewed 286 recent attempts to introduce such practices on more than 12 million farms in 57 countries, mostly in Africa.

    It assessed how yields change when farmers using approaches such as less tilling to conserve soil, integrated pest management — which favours ecological pest control over pesticide spraying — and improved management of soil nutrients.

    According to the study, adopting such approaches meant yields increased by an average of 79 per cent and harvests of some crops such as maize, potatoes and beans doubled.

    As well as causing less damage to the environment, ‘conservation agriculture’ also improved farmers’ wealth by, for instance, reducing their reliance on costly pesticides.

    Sustainable farming practices also demand less water, says lead researcher Jules Pretty of the University of Essex, United Kingdom, who points out that by 2025 most developing countries are predicted to face water shortages.

    The study concludes that while it is not clear whether these techniques can meet future food needs in developing countries, poor households have most to gain from adopting them.

  36. Courtney Dobbs Says:

    I do NOT think genetically altered food should be allowed in our food supply. People did just fine with out eating all the foods with bacteria and viruses in the past, so we can do just fine with out them now. People would be healthier if we were eating organic foods.

  37. sergio Says:

    i agree, as a consumer, i do not want to eat any food thats being made with bacteria and viruses and that later on in time is going to affect our body system in a harmfull way and maybe even kill us!!

  38. amy Says:

    Your sarcastic tone in this article only makes the company look worse then it already looks.
    The thought of eating foreign bacteria and viral DNA in our food is disgusting, and the thought that the own company knows and could care less is even lower.

  39. Deborah Rubin Says:

    More articles for Adam about biotech as the only option to feed the world:

    http://ngin.tripod.com/feedtheworld.htm

    “If anyone tells you that GM is going to feed the world, tell them that it is not…”
    – Steve Smith, head of Novartis Seeds,
    meeting at Tittleshall in Norfolk, March 2000

  40. Concerned Citizen Says:

    I as well do not want to eat any kind of foreign bacterial or viral DNA in my food what so ever. I dont care of the size of it or even how it is being used. I dont want to eat it at all, it is wrong no matter what.

  41. Concerned Citizen Says:

    I agree, as a consumer and health nut I wouldnt want to eat ANY unnatural DNA or supposidly small ammounts of viruses or bacteria.
    This is food, not a vaccine.

  42. Stephanie Lopez Says:

    I do not AGREE with any one affiliated with this horrible company!!! I want to know if the people who work with this company actually allow their own familes to eat these horrible bacterial contaminating foods!!! EWWW Stop poising our food!!!!!!!

  43. Taylor Laine Says:

    I can not believe that people would even go as far to want to actually poisening our food! If you really think about it, do the people that alter these foods even eat what they destroy…I mean, help our economy with more production of food!!! I am positive that they don’t!!!!

  44. Danielle Says:

    I do not want to eat any kind of bacteria or viral dna in my food no matter how much it is or what it is used for!

  45. Jennifer Shipley Says:

    I agree, as a consumer, I do not want to eat ANY foreign bacterial or viral DNA in my food regardless of the size of the amount used or how it is incorporated. This company is slowly killing us all off by feeding us this GARBAGE they have created out of greed. It is an absolute DISGRACE as a human being and as Americans to be associated with this company and its products since they do not value the health and safety of any of any body…all they want it that all mighty buck and it is pathetic!

  46. John Says:

    As a consumer, I do NOT want any viral DNA in any of my food. In doing this I think your company is the biggest waste. Therefore, I hope this company will perish and make us safer as consumers.

  47. monty Says:

    I believe if you have nothing to hide, then why were you so worried about a ten minute phone conversation at the end. You sound kind of scared i guess she made an impact on you. bam

  48. Brent Forester Says:

    I don’t agree with Monsanto sueing the farmers when it was mother nature who actually put your seeds or pollen or whatever it is in their field. What do you want them to do? Put a big bubble around their fields or why don’t you if you think that your seeds or pollen or whatever is so valuable. You have all the money you need you don’t need anymore. So why don’t you just stop with all this sueing bs and just live life and not worry about what other people say!!! Also if you actually said what all was in your foods then people wouldn’t buy crap from you and they would actually go to those farmers who you shut down and try to get stuff under the table because they don’t want your crap in their body.

  49. sheldon Says:

    im really not a fan of eating food that has been through more science labs than most cloned animals. i do not wish to consume lab created bacteria or any dna that has been messed around with.

  50. Laurie Says:

    I strongly agree!!! As consumers we shouldn’t eat any foreign bacterial or viral DNA in our food regardless of the size of the amount or how it is being used. Monsanto has worn a mask upon the US and it needs to come off now! Once this material gets in our bodies we are infected as well as our children and generations that follows. How can these people provide us with food that will cause diseases further in our lives!

  51. Aidee Perez Says:

    I agree with the not consumption of bacterias in the food i eat everyday. Because old people and kids are the most affected with this kinds of bacterias and viral DNA, their body and organs are not strong enough.

  52. Brad Says:

    OK, so who has said that GM will feed the world? The link above is to anti-biotech activists who said it won’t.

    I don’t know who Steve Smith was talking about in his reference to “anyone’, but it is no one in the biotech industry that I am aware of, particularly not Monsanto. I am frequently in a role as Monsanto spokesperson and have said on numerous occassions, publicly, that biotech is no sivler bullet to poverty or hunger. Example at:

    http://www.blnz.com/news/2008/05/21/Will_Genetically_Modified_Crops_Make_6710.html

    Biotech is however a very useful tool in agriculture and, as already proven on numerous farms worldwide, has increased yields and decreased the inputs necessary to grow crops.

    Biotech is, and will continue to be a PART of the solution to challenges facing farmers in feeding the world, using fewer resources to do so.

  53. Brad Says:

    I am one of the reviewers of blog comments and get to see IP addresses and email addresses of commenters. I notice that most of the comments on “viruses and bacteria” come from the same college. You guys might want to consider taking a biology course if your school offers one.

    A few points:

    1. There are no whole viruses nor bacteria in GM food, unless it got there long after the genetic modification was done.
    2. A lot of the food we eat has some microbes (small yellow snack cake with indefinite shelf-life not withstanding). Food ain’t usually sterile guys.
    3. DNA is NEVER toxic. All DNA is made up of various combinations of 4 compounds (C,A,T,G -remember?). None of the 4 compounds are toxic and you can’t arrange them to be toxic. A good example of this is the Japanese puffer fish. This is a delicacy in Japan, but if you prepare it wrong it will kill you because there is a potent toxin in some of its organs. Now most of the cells you do ingest from properly prepared puffer contain the DNA for the production of this toxin, but the DNA can’t hurt you.
    4. DNA is present in all living things, and almost all food (especially the healthy suff. Each cell contains about 9 feet of DNA and every meal approximately 93,205 miles of DNA.

  54. jon Says:

    So, let me get this straight…there are absolutely NO viruses or bacteria used in the making of genetically engineered crops? None at all? Because I have read many articles claiming that that is what is used for promoters.

    Good eye on the IP addresses. The same tactic was used to determine that Andura Smetacek had ties to Monsanto when she posted online smearing Ignacio Chapela when he published his article in Nature. Nice work Sherlock! Good to know Monsanto has learned (something from its past mistakes!)

  55. Brad Says:

    I did not say there were no viruses or bacterium utilized in biotech. I said there are no whole viruses or bacteria within GM plants. I went on to say that DNA is not toxic as a seperate substance.

    Bacterial DNA is used to produce Bt toxin in biotech crops. The same DNA is present in the BT sprays used on crops as well, including organic.

    Bacterial DNA is used to convey glyphosate resistance to Roundup ready crops.

    Viral vectors are sometimes used to introduce DNA into cell (happens in nature too by the way).

    The end result though is DNA and whatever property for which it encodes. As I said quite clearly, there are no viruses or bacterium in the plants. Think puffer fish.

    The conspiracy theory around Andura Smetacek never added up. It centers around the site AgBioView, which is very much a pro-biotech Web forum. There would be no need to concoct info or a pseudonymn to get the AgBioView scientists riled about flawed research, which was what was ultimately determined about the Chapela data.

  56. Deborah Rubin Says:

    Brad Says:

    April 15, 2009 at 11:21 am
    OK, so who has said that GM will feed the world? The link above is to anti-biotech activists who said it won’t.
    +++++++++

    This was addressed to Adam, my first comment to him has not posted yet. The one before yours is an addendum of sorts. Maybe my original is lost in cyberspace; I can repost if it does not show up soon. Here was his post:

    Adam Says:

    April 9, 2009 at 1:29 pm

    The reality is that these modifications are the only sustainable foundation upon which agricultural production and delivery can be appreciably increased to meet the ballooning demands of the world’s population. Remember, this beloved doctrine of sustainability implies not only ‘fair’ prices paid to farmers in Guatemala to have small and inconsistent harvests, but also the ‘fair’ taxes levied upon citizens of the developing world to facilitate such programs. What will ultimately be more important to you: Mitigating the effects of famine, or allowing the problem to propagate appreciably in order to mudsling at some corporation?

  57. Kathleen Says:

    Please note: Comments on this thread have been deleted that were personally attacking individuals. We do not tolerate personal attacks of any kind. Thank you.

  58. Ewan Ross Says:

    Carey Michelle –

    I think some of the misunderstanding around what exactly is engineered into GM products needs to be explained a little better to the general public (as it does to a certain extent involve both bacteria and viruses there is still a chance that you’ll feel totally disgusted by the whole process, although hopefully the clarification will at least reduce this aversion for some people)

    Firstly – a (simplified) explanation of what a gene is (depending on what scientific field you work in this can be many different things, so I apologize if its oversimplified or appears wrong) – for the purposes of this explanation a gene is a stretch of DNA which codes for a protein – literally a digital message which tells the cellular machinery how to build a protein based on the order of 4 DNA bases(basic building blocks of DNA – your DNA, my DNA, a banana’s DNA, a bacterium’s DNA and a viruses DNA are all made of these same 4 building blocks). These bases are arranged in sets of 3 which correspond to the protein building blocks they code for – this code is preserved across all life as we know it. The coding part of one species, read out by the machinery in the cell in any other species, will spit out exactly the same protein molecule (although what happens to this molecule subsequently may vary)

    So essentially, once a gene is no longer in a given organism, it does not contain a ‘flavor’ of that organism – a bacterial gene ceases to be bacterial, and I’d say a better explanation is that it is sourced from a bacteria (although I can see that this distinction wont necessarily sway anybody)

    Next lets (very simplistically) explain how a transgenic organism is produced using any given gene (as explained above) – the coding sequence of the gene needs to be incorporated into the genome of the target organism – to do this there are a few different methods (from the relatively archaic method of literally firing the DNA into cells in what amounts to a shotgun blast, to modern methodologies which utilize bacterial transformation – essentially using a bacterium which would normally insery one of its own genes into a plant genome and tricking it to insert a gene we’d like in the plant instead (essentially switching the plants regular inserted gene with the coding sequence we’d like to use) – to this extent the bacterium is simply a tool.

    Simple right? However, simply getting a coding sequence into a plant isn’t enough – a coding sequence by itself will sit and do nothing, ever, all genes have associated DNA sequences which tell the cellular machinery “decode me now!” – under various circumstances, these circumstances may be as simple as decoding the DNA all the time, or only when it is light, to only in a specific cell type under a certain stress after a certain developmental stage. So our inserted gene requires an additional non-coding sequence which will activate it in the plant – this is where viral DNA may (or may not) become involved – viral DNA isnt particularly picky about where and when it gets decoded – viral genes will generally just yell “DECODE ME NOW NOW NOW” to the cellular machinery – ensuring that they get decoded as much as possible in all tissue types – this makes the sequences that do this particularly useful if you want to be sure of generating your protein (decoding your gene) pretty much everywhere in the plant – hence the use of this particular type of sequence (termed promoter) in conjunction with coding sequences.

    So yes, we use bacteria to effect gene transfer into plants, and yes we use DNA sourced from a virus to get these genes to be active in the tissues of the plant.

    Gene sourcing may also involve taking single coding regions of DNA (and attaching perhaps a viral promoter, perhaps plant) from bacteria, or plants, or fungi – however each of these genetic elements should not be seen as ‘bacterial’ or ‘viral’ or indeed as say, ‘soy’ or ‘corn’ or ‘sorghum’ – they should be looked at in terms of what their functionality is – promoter functionality is to get a gene to express in a given tissue at a given time (in the case of viral promoters this is generally all tissues, all the time), gene functionality is the activity of the protein (in glyphosate tolerance for instance the protein has identical function to a plant native protein, only it is not ‘turned off’ by the application of glyphosate – the fact the protein is coded by a sequence of chemical letters which was originally discovered in a soil bacterium is neither here nor there in terms of functionality or in terms of how this protein will effect anything)

    Big breath… hopefully havent completely lost everyone by this point, as I am going to change track somewhat.

    How does sueing patent infringers help farmers? Well, by enforcing patent law courts globally maintain an environment in which there is an incentive to invest in research and development – take away the patents and you take away the technology. Simple as that. Perhaps this is a harsh reality of living in a capitalist society, but when $100M+ has to be invested to get a particular product to market – why bother if once you take it to market anyone can sell it? Obviously for this reason the cessation of all biotech patents plays directly into the hands of anti-GM campaigners – its not about helping farmer Joe save his seed (which he cant legally do under patent law using conventionally patented non-biotech hybrid crops (well not if he wants to sell them))

    To everyone who doesnt want to eat bacteria or viruses:- every bite you take, of every food you eat, is covered in a vast number of different bacteria and viruses, any food you eat most likely contains whole genomes of multiple different insect species, your own body has more bacteria residing in it than there are people on the planet – not withstanding the fact that the ‘bacteria and viruses’ you consume when you eat a GM food are in reality nothing more than sections of DNA which were sourced from said bacteria/virus which have no ‘essence’ of bacterial or viral nature whatsoever.

    There are no gene altered germs in GM food – although gene altered ‘germs’ (bacteria) are used at one point in the process entirely as a tool to get DNA into an organsim.

  59. Mica Says:

    Just to chime in. I work at Monsanto, eat conventional food and feed my family, including my 8-month old son the same food as everyone else. I found it humorous that a post on a different blog article had a conspiracy theory that Monsanto employees (or at least their management) ate a “secret” different food supply, not produced through biotech. Too funny. Where do these guys come up with stuff??

  60. Carey Michelle Says:

    Ok, so PARTS of viruses and bacteria, then. Did you notice the responses that indicate that the size of the viral or bacterial component did not matter to the poster? I just love the way you people split hairs! Also, from what I have read, the protective coating of the viral genes is removed before the procedure, which makes me feel even more uncomfortable. With regard to the Bt toxin, at least we can wash the spray off; when it is engineered into the plant’s genome, that is not an option.

    This is how Cornell University describes what happens with the viruses and bacteria:

    “What is genetic engineering?
    The process of copying a gene from one living thing (bacteria, plant, or animal) and adding it to another living thing using
    biotechnological methods.
    …In addition to their own DNA, genetically engineered plants also contain one or a few genes copied from common soil
    bacteria, plant viruses, or other plants. No GE foods on the market today have genes copied from animals.”

    Again, I agree with the numerous posters here who have stated that they want no part of eating anything containing viruses or bacteria whether the whole organism or even a tiny part (DNA) or whatever it is that you people use.

    I don’t care if it is a whole virus or just viral DNA. I don’t want to eat plants that CONTAIN it! I feel comfortable eating foods that have been proven safe (whether they are sterile or not is not an issue)by centuries of people eating them!

    Here is the link to this site which clearly states that there are GENES from these viruses and bacteria IN (which is pretty synonymus with “contain”)the genetically engineered plants!

    http://www.geo-pie.cornell.edu/educators/downloads/flier1.pdf

    I also have read that a European government study found that the gene-altered material appeared in the gut of several subjects who had colostomy bags and ate GM soy products.

    Here is one link on that:
    http://www.i-sis.org.uk/horizontalGeneTransfer.php

    What kinds of viral vectors are used to introduce DNA into cell(s)in nature? What kinds of cells are we talking about here? UM, CANCER?
    That is the only one that comes to my mind… Do you want consumers to equate what Monsanto does with viral DNA in our food to how people get cancer? I am speaking particularly of the HPV virus that causes cervical cancer. I could be way off base with this, so if you want to elaborate on your last post with regard to this, I would love to see what you had in mind. Again, I am just a consumer, not a scientist, so examples regular people can understand would be helpful. What happens in nature should not be compared with what you people do in your labs. It is not the same thing.
    So, let me be even more clear: I DO NOT WANT TO EAT ANY PLANT THAT “contain(S)one or a few genes copied from common soil
    bacteria, plant viruses, or other plants.” Now you can feel free to discuss irrelevant semantics with Cornell since that is where I got my information besides the debate I attended in Honolulu when I got the info from a Monsanto rep.
    Thank you for the opportunity to post.

  61. Dr Moore MD Says:

    What Monsanto Hath Wrought
    http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/270101

    Monsanto GM-corn harvest fails massively in South Africa

    Please tell me again why we need GM foods.

    NOT!

  62. Dr Moore MD Says:

    DNA in and of itself is not toxic. HOWEVER, the proteins generated as a result of it’s expression may very well be. Bottom line – WE CANNOT NOT KNOW WITH ANY DEGREE OF CERTAINTY HOW DNA FRAGMENTS WILL MUTATE OVER TIME OR HOW THEY WILL ULTIMATELY BE EXPRESSED. I DO NOT WANT IT AND WILL NOT EAT IT!! ALMOST ALL OF EUROPE HAS REFUSED IT (MOST RECENTLY GERMANY), AND IN SPITE OF YOUR ORGANIZATIONS ASSURANCES, THE NATIVE CORN IN MEXICO, WHERE IT HAS NEVER BEEN GROWN, IS NOW CONTAMINATED WITH YOUR CRAP. JUST STOP IT ALREADY!

  63. Ewan Ross Says:

    Casey – reread the cornell quote.

    “In addition to their own DNA, genetically engineered plants also contain one or a few genes copied from common soil
    bacteria, plant viruses, OR other plants.”

    (emphasis mine)

    and take into account that this description covers all genetically engineered plants – from those used purely in research, to those that end up getting processed and put into Soda, corn starch, chicken McNuggets etc etc.

    From what you have read even the protective coating is taken off the virus? Erm, ok, I’m not 100% sure how the DNA sequence is put together (I have a suspicion that things like viral promoters may well be totally synthesised rather than cut out of viruses, but as I havent personally done any cloning or transforming (yet) this might not be accurate) but a virus without a ‘protective coat’ is a lot less scary than a virus with its ‘protective coat’ as the ‘protective coat’ is in every case that I am aware of what allows a virus to get into a cell (and thus cause an infection) – a virus with a protective coat… is a virus, a virus without a protective coat is… a naked piece of DNA (or RNA depending on virus type)

    The current GM crops on the marked assuredly do not contain viral genes. They may contain viral promoters (plant viral promoters) but this is a huge distinction – a promoter simply being a sequence of DNA before a gene that causes it to be expressed in some specific manner.

    In nature… every virus introduces DNA (or RNA) into cells. This is how viruses work. They trick cells into making viral proteins (protective coats) and viral DNA (genes for protective coats, and various others) – the kind of cells we are talking about here are every type of cell which can be infected by a virus. Each and every one of these cells would be utterly unaffected by the presence of a viral promoter – without all the other viral genes present and correctly aligned with said promoter.

    The bacterial vector which is used normally inserts copies of a gene into the DNA of plant cells to cause callus growth in the plant in which the bacterium will parisitize the plant.

    I’ll pre-empt your response that you dont want callus growths by reminding you that the bacterium responsible for inserting the genes is no longer present – and the gene that is inserted is not the tumor inducing gene (we cut that out of the bacterial DNA and insert whatever DNA we wish to be inserted into its spot – thus ‘tricking’ the bacteria to insert our selected DNA rather than its callus inducing DNA)

    The semantics here arent irrelevant. You are clearly taking the wrong message from the Cornell statement. The Cornell statement is a factual statement, but your reading of it skews the meaning.

    Dr Moore – I refer you to http://blog.monsantoblog.com/2009/04/02/gm-corn-in-south-africa/

    (which you’ve already responded to) – I’d question whether or not a 10% reduction in pollination over 25% of planted acres truly amounts to a massive failure.

    I’d also question that we cnnot know with any degree of certainty how DNA fragments will mutate over time. Given how uncommon a meaningful DNA mutation is in any given generation, and given the selective pressure for traits such as roundup tolerance to not mutate (if a Roundup tolerance gene mutates in any given plant then that plant is going to have a pretty hard time surviving a spray of roundup) I dont particularly see what the worry there is – given the polyploid nature of plant genomes, and the huge number of duplicated genes in any given genome random mutation could equally effect any of these genes – and yet, over the course of recorded human history, I’m not aware that any mutations to these genes have ever caused any issues)

  64. Ewan Ross Says:

    As an aside – I particularly enjoy the phrase used in the first paragraph of the article you linked Dr M –

    “82,000 hectares of genetically-manipulated corn (maize) failed to produce hardly any seeds.”

    I assume that in failing to produce hardly any seeds they did a lot better than similar crops which succeeded in producing hardly any seeds? (I wasnt aware that producing hardly any seeds was a trait that was worth developing, but maybe…)

  65. Nancy Says:

    In the interest of full disclosure: I work for Monsanto.

    I eat GM food, so do my kids. I also buy “organic” food from my local farmers’ market. I believe that sustainable agriculture needs many solutions, and that GM is part of that.

    As a scientist, I believe that debate is good, and that dissenting opinions are good, and that all contribute to what is right for our planet. I’m just wondering when we can all discuss rational facts in a logical manner, and discuss the issues that everyone is concerned about without employing histronics and half-truths, and without contaminating the debate with irrelevant mudslinging.

    The goal is not to convince everyone that GM foods are the answer to everything – the goal is to encourage dialog, respect and answer questions that people have, and be transparent in how we do business.

    If you want to see for real what Monsanto and our products are all about, we give tours all the time to schools, farmers, public groups. All of us who work here are genuinely excited about the great products that we are developing, and committed to making this world a better place. We live here too! Come see for yourself!

  66. Carey Michelle Says:

    Ewan, thanks so much for your thoughtful answer. You are right. I am still disgusted by the process, but I do appreciate your taking the time to clarify.

    Here is the part I remember most about what you said, and it is the part I will be repeating to everyone I know:

    “So yes, we use bacteria to effect gene transfer into plants, and yes we use DNA sourced from a virus to get these genes to be active in the tissues of the plant.”

    I honestly feel more comfortable eating the entire germ (as you say we do all the time) than eating a crop that has been made using a portion of its DNA (its building blocks), which has been manipulated by a company that has such a terrible reputation (and has had many problems with the technology, read: South African corn, Southern cotton farmers who were paid millions due to crop loss, Indian Bt Cotton problems, etc…), especially when one company representative (Phil Angell in the New York Times Magazine, I believe)has stated that “Monsanto should not have to vouchsafe the safety of its GM foods, our interest is in selling as much of it as possible, assuring its safety is the FDA’s job.” THAT DOES NOT MAKE ME WANT TO TRUST YOUR COMPANY! It shows that all Monsanto cares about is profits, not safety! Obviously, this person was very arrogant and did not care how he came across to a skeptical public. What are we supposed to think? I mean, if Monsanto hadn’t poisoned Anniston, Alabama and lied about it for decades (according to the Washington Post), hadn’t tried to bribe officials in Indonesia to accept GMOs (and now the guy in charge of the division which included Indonesia during the bribes, Hugh Grant, is your company’s current CEO), if Monsanto hadn’t been in trouble in both NYC and France for false advertising read: LYING, and hadn’t been accused of falsifying information on reports numerous times (not to mention the fact that your company’s representatives have infiltrated our regulatory agencies and universities (regardless of whether it is legal or not, I realize it helps your company tremendously, but as far as public opinion goes, it looks VERY BAD) then maybe, just maybe, I could see trusting what you say, that these crops are safe. If your company had not spent millions of dollars to prevent American consumers from knowing by what process our food is made (when it involves these genetically altered pieces of germ DNA), and please don’t say that in the US foods are only labeled on a need-to-know basis (because why would anyone really need to know the origin of the food they eat, as is now indicated on the labels?).

    My point is that the gene-altered germ DNA used in the production of food crops that find their way to our dinner table covered in herbicide is just one tiny issue in the whole problem.

    I would love to know your thoughts on all these other issues as well!

    Again, thank you for your consideration!

  67. Dr Moore MD Says:

    Are your so sure that your splicing techniques do not include any end genetic segments that may at some point via mutation decide to express themselves (gene splicing is not as precise as you think)? Can you guarantee that mutations, however infrequent (your opinion not mine) will not occur? Can you be sure that such an occurrence will offer no threat to the biosphere? Can you guarantee that the promoter segments will not over time promote expression from other areas of the genome? Can your techniques account for random gene swapping which is known to occur in nature in both prokaryotes and eukaryotes? NO, NO, NO,NO,NO, NOT!; you can’t. You know it and I know it. LABEL YOUR FOODS GIVE THE PUBLIC A CHOICE! Stop playing russian roulette with the biosphere. CAN YOU SAY TERMINATOR SEEDS? Your genie is already out in Mexico. One case of contamination is one case too many.

  68. Dan S Says:

    To Carey Michelle,

    In the interest of full-disclosure, I am nearing the end of an internship with Monsanto after which I will return to school. When I graduate, I may seek full-time employment with Monsanto and I may not. The ethical issues that you have raised questions are important to me as well; I would not want to work for a company that routinely violates my personal ethics.

    One thing that I was not aware of before I started work with Monsanto, which you also may not be aware of is its corporate history: namely with respect to the Anniston and Indonesia issues.

    For instance, I was not aware that Monsanto spun off its chemical divison in 1997, which then became the company known as Solutia. I also didn’t know that Monsanto itself was bought out by Pharmacia in 2000. Between 2000 and 2002, Monsanto didn’t even exist! In 2002, Pharmacia decided that they didn’t want to deal with the whole seed-producing aspect and spun off a portion of their company, which became Monsanto as it is today.

    What does it all mean? Those issued occured in a different time, with different leadership in what was officially a different company. A corporation is made up of people and who those people are changes all the time. I don’t feel that it’s fair that I should take flak for something that a company with the same name as mine stopped doing 20 years before I was born (and started doing long before my parents were born). The issues in Indonesia (which again occured when Monsanto was a part of Pharmacia and were uncovered by an internal investigation) happened when I and many of my coworkers were still in grade school.

    Bottom line: when I decide whether or not I apply for a job at Monsanto it’s going to based on what the company is now, not what it used to be or what people say about it.

  69. Ewan Ross Says:

    Carey Michelle:-

    I’m glad that I’ve given you a somewhat better understanding of what goes on – I read back through what I wrote and would like to add the caveat that the promoter need not always be from a virus – I had intended to get that into the original posting, but I guess I forgot.

    On the other issues you brought up – the issues with the technology have been discussed ad nauseum on other blogs – the issues brought up mostly have nothing to do with genetic modification of the crops (India, SA, not sure on southern coton farmers) which have in my eyes seen a remarkably smooth introduction into widespread use.

    The comment from Phill Angell is unfortunate, and I believe its been stated elsewhere in the blog that it has been taken out of context – in reality there is nothing not true about his statement – the FDA *should* assure food safety – if we try to take a product to market which is proven to be dangerous then the FDA should prevent this – however the undertone that this suggests we should not be concerned about safety and should throw anything we think will be profitable at the FDA is unfortunate, and I’m guessing not intended in this case (I’d be interested in seeing the full interview rather than the one liner in Pollen’s article) – I can assure you that even from my perspective (doing research in the very initial stages of our transgenic ‘pipeline’) in Monsanto there is a great deal of care taken in ensuring that no toxic or allergenic proteins even make it into testing, nevermind into more advanced stages of product development.

    The pollution in Anniston I’ll admit up front that I really dont know much about – from everything I can read, and from the huge amounts of cash Monsanto and Solutia have either paid out or pledged to pay out it is obviously a terrible situation – my take on it, from the perspective of Monsanto as a seed producer rather than a chemical company, is that I dont see the company I work for now, and the Monsanto which ran the plant in Anniston, as the same company (same name, different company) – I can see that this doesnt necessarily persuade everyone, but in perspective these are acts comitted by a (different) company over 3 decades ago – although it is obvious that the beating Monsanto’s name took over this is a very good reason to be involved in open dialogue at present (kinda hoping someone with a little more internal knowledge might also chime in on this one a little)

    The company has accepted full responsiblity around the Indonesian bribery case – from an internal perspective this is something that is kept as a high profile example of how not to conduct business – whether or not the general public is willing to believe it all Monsanto employees are constantly being asked to ‘live the pledge’ (rather than brainwashing employees to acknowledge product safety the closest to brainwashing the company comes is in getting employees to follow the pledge in everything we do

    http://www.monsanto.com/responsibility/our_pledge/monsanto_pledge.asp

    again – not something the company should expect people to believe without showing them the reality every day – hopefully this is an initiative which will help shift public opinion of the company over coming decades (that and the continued safety of our products and future releases of truly game changing traits)

    On infiltration of universities and regulatory agencies, I’m not 100% sure I fully understand this – you may have to enlighten me on this somewhat. I’m going to go ahead and guess this is around the practice of universities and regulatory agencies hiring folk who have worked at Monsanto. My take on this is less that this is some form of conspiracy, and more that for jobs that require experience in a given field, Monsanto employees are probably in a pretty good position experience wise – especially in terms of research, but I’d guess also in knowledge of regulatory issues – I’m going to go ahead and assume that you’ve been employed by more than one employer in your career – do you hold such strong loyalty to prior employers that you’d bias your current work towards them? Why the expectation that ex-Monsanto employees would do the same?

    Another possible area where people may see undue influence is in university funding – but again, is this truly undue influence, or is it just an easy point to score? My take on the funding that Monsanto provides to research and education is that it is a genuine attempt to help improve agriculture globally – in line with what we try to do on a day to day basis, although not necessarily by methods which will prove profitable.

    FDA labelling remains safety based need to know. The country of origin labelling is USDA enforced and as far as I know is essentially an advertising tool – great for US agriculture, especially in times of economic woe. It seems poinless to me, and a waste of resources – if there is definite knowledge that food from a given geographical location is less safe than it should be then the government should be putting the resources into preventing it entering the food supply in the first place.

    If you’ve made it this far, I think a pertinent counter question would be – what can Monsanto, as a company, realistically do to increase your level of trust and to persuade you of the safety of the products we put out? I’m not sure if the disconnect is simply that of a time lag (the pledge has only been around for 9 years if I remember correctly), or if the company has more that we could be doing but arent.

  70. Ewan Ross Says:

    Dr Moore, can you guarantee that any given non coding sequence in any given crop will not ‘decide’ to express itself? Can you be sure that mutations in natural genes will not be a threat to the biosphere? Can you be sure that the tens of thousands of promoters embedded in every genome (including those inserted by viruses throughout evolutionary history) will not over time promote expression from other areas of genomes? Does the random swapping of genes between prokaryotes (relatively frequent) and Eukaryotes (a rarity which one only observes on evolutionary timescales) pose any threat in nature (given that all the genes we use are taken from natural species which one would assume have this exact same risk of gene swapping)

    Can I say terminator seed? I think so. Can I mention that a) Monsanto has no products with terminator seeds in, and no plans to develop these. and b) it remains my personal belief that properly used terminator technology would infact be as much a boon to the concerns of environmentalists as to seed manufacturers.

  71. Brad Says:

    On Indonesia, Monsanto affilliates did make illegal or improper payments to government officials between ’97 and ’02. When Monsanto became aware of the problem, we notified the appropriate officials in the US government. The responsible employees were terminated. We paid a fine and implemented a program to make sure this never happens again.

    You can read about it in more detail on our Web site at http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto_today/for_the_record/monsanto_business_practice_indonesia.asp

  72. Dr. J. at UMSL Says:

    You won t catch me eating DNA
    This is addressed to those folks trying to scare me about genes in food. Don’t get stuck on stupid. And please stop trying to make some political point with trumped up science claims. It’s virtually IMPOSSIBLE to eat without eating DNA. Every organism contains genes and organisms are everywhere. Organisms are food, yes, but there are also plenty of organisms in and on food. So when you eat that delicious free-trade organically grown banana, you’re also eating the bacteria and fungi and all their viruses that come along with it. When you eat anything organic (i.e., something that was alive), you eat its DNA, genes and all. The same goes even for eating meat, even in the raw kibee I love. “Foreign” genes have been eaten by people since there were people. Frankly, even though they’re loaded with carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, DNAs are so relatively scarce in food that they’re not even a good source for those nutrients. The value of DNA disappears when it’s in food. DNA’s only value in life is as a code and as soon as the code is broken it has no value. Eaten DNAs don’t have any effect on us because they are digested. Even if small bits of DNA could manage to survive, the cells themselves house defenses that chew it to pieces.
    I appreciate the take on it that the faculty at Colorado State put together.
    http://www.cls.casa.colostate.edu/TransgenicCrops/eating.html It’s predictably “academic” and, of course calls for more research, but pretty even-handed. I’m skeptical as to the value of any more research into this “eating DNA” question – seems like a waste of time, resources, and brain power.

  73. Deborah Rubin Says:

    Ewan Ross Says:

    April 16, 2009 at 7:06 pm

    FDA labelling remains safety based need to know. The country of origin labelling is USDA enforced and as far as I know is essentially an advertising tool – great for US agriculture, especially in times of economic woe. It seems poinless to me, and a waste of resources
    —————–
    Another label from North Dakota Dept of Ag that may or may not be appearing soon: “Sustainably grown.” There is still hope for a gmo label and support in Congress as well.

    http://www.legis.nd.gov/assembly/61-2009/bill-text/JCCH0400.pdf

    The USDA seems like a better avenue for gmo labeling than the FDA–unless more studies tip the burden of evidence with safety study reviews. Then labeling, the right to labels, will have to be recognized for the safety issue that it is.

  74. Dr. Cho MD Says:

    what are some good things that monsanto does?

  75. Brad Says:

    Deb,

    There are plenty of promotional marketing labels, such as the ND “sustainably grown” one you refer to. This is marketing, and nothing new.

    As you correctly point out, there is a lack of evidence to suggest the need for GM labeling. It’s going to take A LOT of more studies to tip the evidence in favor of labeling.

    USDA does not, under existing authority (laws) have the ability to label GMO food for safety reasons.

    Food manufacturers currently have the the right to to label food as GM-Free (or equivalent) so long as the labeling is not misleading.

    Laws can always change, for right or wrong, better or worse.

  76. Danny Says:

    Carey Michelle,

    In your post you claim that “stupid farmers” support Monsanto. I guess that I fall into that catogery because I use Monsanto products. Thanks to Monsanto I can no till most of my ground which means the less trips across my fields the less fossil fuels I burn, and more importantly less tillage equals less erosion I have. Another advantage I see with Monsanto is that they are the only American owned ag company left. but I’m just a stupid farmer.

  77. Deborah Rubin Says:

    Brad Says:

    April 22, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    As you correctly point out, there is a lack of evidence to suggest the need for GM labeling. It’s going to take A LOT of more studies to tip the evidence in favor of labeling.
    =========================
    How can you be so sure of that? Perhaps this is why Monsanto will not give independent scientists access to seeds for study? Any study showing a significant safety issue should be carefully considered by a responsible governmental regulating body. Scientifically speaking, that is. To do otherwise would not be scientific or responsible.

  78. Carey Michelle Says:

    Danny, I would appreciate if you would not put quotation marks around words that I did not write and then attribute them to me. The correct way to quote me would have been to say: “farmers who are stupid enough to do business with your company.” If you feel like being offended over a general statement about the stupidity of farmers who buy Monsanto’s toxic herbicide (it’s toxic or it would not be called herbicide, right?)and then sell it to consumers to eat and feed their families, then I am not going to try to stop you. I suppose we should all give you a great big cookie for spraying poison! There are plenty of farmers who care what consumers think and are willing to accommodate us by not spraying poison all over our food to get out of weeding their fields. Our own president has an ORGANIC garden at the White House. I hope you grow cotton, like my family members do in Hermleigh, Texas, so no one I know has to eat the food you sell covered in glyphosate.

    Monsanto people:
    I guess DNA is DNA just like milk is milk (although some milk contains more pus, IGF-1, and rBST than others)? If it is all the same, why not just use DNA from a more benign organism? Then people may not be so creeped out! And yes, I am familiar with the fact that these are not the only organisms used as promoters. I did read the whole article, but who cares!? That doesn’t negate the fact that viral and bacterial DNA are used the rest of the time. I don’t know who said they would never eat DNA, but it wasn’t me.

    Intern, companies change their names all the time (many times for shady reasons, read: travel scam companies in Florida)and Monsanto’s other offenses weren’t so long ago, were they? They were in trouble for false advertising in the ’90s in New York, and in this decade false advertising charges in France, http://www.biotech-info.net/monsanto_propaganda1.html and lying about MON863 (caused damages in rats) http://www.mathaba.net/news/?x=556517 in South Africa!? And the Indonesia situation was a bit more recent too, no? My point about the current head of the company being responsible for the division that the bribes occurred in obviously went over your heads, but that looks pretty bad to us regular folks who read about it in the Guardian. Personally, I value my reputation too much to ever work for a company that has been accused and charged with such atrocities. I mean, there are people out there who devote entire websites to hating Monsanto! Regardless of the company’s spinning off the chemicals division into Solutia, Monsanto (the company as it exists NOW) is to be held financially responsible if Solutia fails to pay on the hundreds of millions of dollars the company must pay the thousands of citizens of Anniston (and by the way, the lies about the dangers of the leaked and dumped PCBs continued well into the ’90s when a lawsuit FORCED it to be made public.) for destroying their town and keeping it a secret for decades (one internal memo read “we can’t afford to lose one dollar of business”)according to the Washington Post. Sounds kind of like the quote from Mr. Angell, but maybe that was taken out of context too? (Right! :) Here is a link to that article for those of you who work for Monsanto. That way you can familiarize yourself with the facts. Y’all seem like a decent bunch of people, but I just can’t see how anyone with a concern for integrity could be associated with a company with this sort of reputation.

    Best
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/ac2/wp-dyn?pagename=article&contentId=A46648-2001Dec31

    CORRECTION (Jan. 11) — A clarification that appeared Jan. 5 regarding a Jan. 1 article mistakenly stated that the new Monsanto Co. had “no role” in an ongoing lawsuit over PCB pollution created by the old Monsanto Co. in Anniston, Ala. Solutia Inc., the company formed from the old Monsanto’s chemical operations, is the lead defendant in that case. Although officials from the new Monsanto entity told The Washington Post that they had no liability and no connection to the Anniston case, the corporation’s public securities disclosures state that it is liable for any judgments Solutia is unable to pay. (MORE LIES BY MONSANTO?) Monsanto officials declined to comment on the disclosures, citing a gag order in the Alabama case and federal securities regulations.

    CLARIFICATION (Jan. 5) — A Jan. 1 article on PCB pollution in Anniston, Ala., mentioned a lawsuit scheduled to go to trial Monday. The defendant in that lawsuit is Solutia Inc., the company formed when the former Monsanto Co.’s chemical operations were spun off in 1997. The current Monsanto Co., which produces agricultural products, has no role in the litigation.

  79. Darren Smith Says:

    I do believe in a balanced view of things, which is why, after watching the movie, I came to this blog.

    I have to say though, that takes a punch at the French journalist, it doesn’t really address they issues raised in the movie.

    Chris, you claim that you simply said “Non” to the journalist but then say that she edited all this other stuff out. This is your opportunity to explain what you set and put the record straight, if you feel that’s what needs to be done.

    After watching the movie, and having look at Monsanto’s material, I am remain convinced that patented GM food crops are not the solution to world food issues.

    The responsibility for food policy and food distribution lies with democratic government. Accountable and responsible government is the tool for managing food. Patented technology from corporations is not.

  80. Antoine Says:

    I agree, as a consumer, I do not want to eat ANY foreign bacterial or viral DNA in my food regardless of the size of the amount used or how it is incorporated. This company is slowly killing us all off by feeding us this GARBAGE they have created out of greed. It is an absolute DISGRACE as a human being and as Americans to be associated with this company and its products since they do not value the health and safety of any of any body…all they want it that all mighty buck and it is pathetic!

  81. Ewan Ross Says:

    Carey Michelle:-

    I’m a little confused by the idea that any given organism is more or less “benign” than another – in human terms none of the genes currently used come from anything other than benign species (Humans are not a target species of Cauliflower Mosaic Virus, or the soil bacterium which produces Bt toxins, or Agrobacterium) – all the species currently used are as benign to humans as the plants the genes are engineered into (indeed there is more evidence that plants in general are more harmful to humans than the organisms genes are sourced from – ask anyone with gluten intolerance, soy allergies, etc etc)

    Bacteria and viruses aren’t malign (well it could be argued that in general viruses are, although in a species specific manner) by nature of what they are – the biotic world would come to a crashing halt if all bacteria were to cease to exist, not to mention that the bacterial world harbors biochemistry so diverse as to make the whole of the eukaryotic world (everything multicellular plus a bunch of single celled organisms) look pretty much like a one trick pony – to discount such a wealth of potential genes due to a misguided perception that bacteria are ‘yucky’ would be a pretty sad path to follow.

    Danny :- it’s great to hear that you use Monsanto products and get value from them – I’m sure everyone involved in these discussions would gain a lot from hearing how our technologies have helped you, in the real world, rather than seeing how, on paper, in drab scientific journals, people one step removed from the field think these technologies either do, or do not, make a difference.

  82. Drew Says:

    In the interest of full-disclosure I do not work for Monsanto in any way shape or form, nor does any of the research I do depend on any funding or co-operation with Monsanto. I am a scientist.

    Carey,

    Different genes encode for proteins of a certain function. If you want to take a specified function and put it into a new plant (or any organism for that matter) the simplest way is to find that function somewhere in nature and take the gene that codes for it. It’s far easier to do this than to attempt to create it from scratch. There is no reason to think that the fact a single gene may come from a bacterial species is worse than if it were to come from a plant or a duck-billed platypus. And as to the fears of promoter sequences coming from viruses…I can’t be certain since I’m not one of their employees…but since it seems as though they want to control in what part of the plant the gene is turned on, that they would use promoters from the same plant that they’re transforming. You see all that promoters do is control under what conditions and in which tissues the genes are turned on. They encode no proteins of their own. They only turn things on and off. That’s all. Period.

    I find it difficult to say this without sounding condescending, but if you were to take a genetics course you would learn why your concerns were unjustified. I would suggest that anyone learn about genetics it’s fascinating.

    Additionally, to Dr. Moore M.D.
    Actually I can guarantee you that mutations will happen. I can tell you how infrequent mutations are. 10^-8 or 10^-9 (at least according to my high school biology text this is the case, but that was many years ago). What does that mean? It means that, on average, one base pair in every 100 million to 1 billion base pairs will be mismatched. Now knowing that, does including these genes cause a higher risk of a mutation causing major problems? Since most transferred genes generally range in the length of thousands of base pairs (especially those from prokaryotes which are smaller than eukaryotic genes due to the fact that they do not contain introns, but for the sake of math we’ll say ten thousand) the chance of a mutation occurring in the transfered gene is approx 1 in 10,000 to 1 in 100,000. Easily occurred statistically in a single plant. Most mutations will have no effect, I can say this because anyone who has taken a standard genetics course knows about codon redundancies. Most of the remaining ones will have a negative impact on the protein…cause it to be terminated early, or fold wrong and trigger degradation…in which case the plant will be functionally the same as if the transgene isn’t present. In a very few cases the protein will be stable enough to continue existing and function in some different way. Of these cases, it first must not be damaging to the plant (smaller numbers)…in order to be continued on in the lineage it must also be present in a gamete (continue reducing the probability calculations). In order for the protein product to be harmful to the individual eating it would require so many mutations that the transgene would no longer be identifiable as the one that was introduced in the first place, I can say this because the protein would have to alter itself to resist the effects of proteinases in the gut of whatever is eating it (not a trivial process). Now this would require several thousands of successive generations, plus some survival advantage given to the plants producing them…but all that being the case it’s just as likely that some naturally occurring gene in the corn could do the same thing.

    You want to know if the material might contain extra information that might decide to express itself due to some mutation, the answer to that is no. In general in these techniques (again cannot be certain as I don’t work for Monsanto but utilizing general Molecular biology techniques) the sequences you insert into the target are targeted, and random insertions are screened for very early in the process so that the transformants that contain them are eliminated. This targetted process is called homologous recombination. The end genetic material is lost, as is the material that was removed (again random insertions are screened for and culled from the process). In some cases they do decide to attempt random insertion though, and when they do this they find the location of insertion and again screen very heavily for favorable insertions.

    As to your concern of “random gene swapping”. It’s not as random as you think. Genes can be “swapped” between chromosomes in only very specific ways. One of these occurs in meiosis (production of gametes) and is generally referred to as “crossing over”. This event occurs only between matched chromosomes. And because development of these lines usually includes breeding to homozygosity (all plants are genetically identical) this process only exchanges itself for another copy of itself. The other way this can happen is by what are commonly called “jumping genes” or transposons. These sequences contain very specific tell-tale patterns and can be avoided in the targeting sequence, and again can be screened against in the selection process. Now for that incredibly minute percentage of chances that it is duplicated in the replication process excised and reinserted in another place in the genome (and for this to happen requires a very specific sequence of extremely unlikely events) what could happen is that the promoter disrupts an existing gene in which case it’s going to cause the gene it disrupts to produce an aberrant protein which is usually a non-functional truncation. Or it’s going to insert itself into a spot that causes the plant to start expressing proteins when it shouldn’t, usually this will cause it to form tumors, in which case nature will select against the self diseasing plants. Or it’s going to insert itself into a spot in the genome that is always tightly coiled up and never expressed. But again this is going to require several generations to occur.

    But then, having the education of an M.D. you should know all of this information.

  83. Carey Michelle Says:

    Well, I was thinking of the E. Coli bacteria that were used in the making of rBGH. From what I have heard (and no, I am not a geneticist, but I am a consumer, and as a consumer, I don’t think I need an understanding of how viral and bacterial DNA work as promoters. If I have another option for sustenance that does not force me to eat crops made with viral and bacterial DNA, I am going to choose that form of sustenance whenever possible. Regardless of whether or not it is safe, it is just plain weird and gross! ~ How is that for scientific? You people may want to step down from your scientific pedestals for a second to just try to relate to us consumers. For example, what are the benefits of eating GMOs? Are there any? What is my incentive to eat them? For most consumers, the very IDEA of eating foods that have been made by what many would consider to be the world’s most evil company using DNA from germs is enough for them to want to avoid it when given the choice. Your company seems to understand that, since they are spending millions to prevent consumers from having that choice, despite the fact that 90% of consumers polled say they want it!) E. Coli bacteria kills people. Is that not a fact? I am well aware that not all bacteria is bad, but if you don’t understand why consumers would want to avoid eating anything that has been made using E. Coli bacterial DNA there is absolutely no use in communicating with you.

    As a consumer, I should not have to take a course to determine whether or not I want to purchase or consume a food. Just the fact that you suggest a course is needed should indicate to you that the normal, everyday consumer is not going to be willing or (according to the previous poster) able to feel comfortable eating these “foods!” When the initial feeling is utter repulsion, there is no amount of explanation in the world that is going to make me change my mind IF I HAVE THE CHOICE OF EATING SOMETHING THAT DOES NOT REQUIRE SUCH EXPLANATION! THIS IS WHY YOUR COMPANY DOES NOT WANT TO GIVE CONSUMERS THAT CHOICE AND I WILL BE HONEST: THAT MAKES ME VERY ANGRY AND RESENTFUL. You may say that it is not Monsanto’s decision on how to label, but that does not stop your company from spending millions to influence how the folks who do make the decisions decide, does it? I am not usually the kind to say, “don’t confuse me with the facts; I have already made up my mind,” but in this case, when I have another option, I am going to go with that option. Besides, even after all the long scientific explanations given on this blog, I still feel that sense of repulsion when I think about the bacterial and viral DNA used in making the organisms. Then I start to think about the glyphosate the foods are covered in or the fact that there is pesticide I cannot wash off in every cell of the corn. You almost don’t even need to think about the germ DNA to get grossed out! People do not want to eat your science experiments!

    What about all the other stuff I mentioned, all the charges of misconduct? No one wants to comment on the false advertising charges or the fact that Hugh Grant was rewarded for running a corrupt division which included Indonesia by being named CEO? What about the lies about MON863? What about how Monsanto is using all the water in Molokai yet claims it is an environmentally friendly company? Why was the company denied four patents recently? What about the lie that was told to the Washington Post about financial responsibility for Solutia? Intern, I am waiting to hear what you have to say about all this recent stuff! You were very quick to dismiss the Anniston story because part of it happened so long ago, but you have not weighed in on this other, more recent activity. Lies and deception abound wherever Monsanto is involved.

  84. Brad Says:

    I am not sure whether e coli was used to make rBST. I do know however that it has been genetically modified to make human inuslin much to the benefit of diabetics everywhere who, prior to biotech produced insulin, faced issues wiht having to use porcine insulin.

  85. Deborah Rubin Says:

    Brad Says:

    April 28, 2009 at 5:58 pm
    You have a choice. Buy certified organic. Others choose not to spend the extra money. Where’s the problem here?

    ________________
    Over and over we have went over the fact that buying organic does not guarantee the product is gmo free due to genetic contamination. If the organic crop was planted and grown using specified techniques, it may still be certified even though it is contaminated by no fault of the organic farmer. GM is eliminating our choices. Why do you keep saying that buying organic is an option? The more farmers using gm, the more likely organic will be contaminated.

  86. Dan S Says:

    To Carey Michelle,

    First of all, I have a name and it’s not “intern”. Don’t expect me to reply to you again unless you start using it. To address some of the points you made:

    “E. Coli bacteria kills people. Is that not a fact? I am well aware that not all bacteria is bad, but if you don’t understand why consumers would want to avoid eating anything that has been made using E. Coli bacterial DNA there is absolutely no use in communicating with you. ”

    If you feel a “sense of revulsion” when thinking of GM food, then it’s certainly your prerogative not to eat them. However, statements like the above are the reason why you shouldn’t be trying to influence other people making that decision. If you HAD taken a class and learned a little more about biology, you might know that E coli (and other bacteria) actually live naturally within the human body. In fact, without these microbes people can develop serious health problems. Bacterial cells in the human body outnumber animal cells 9 to 1!

    As for the other things you asked me about, I don’t see the point in trying to explain them to you until you demonstrate that you’re willing to open your mind and listen to both sides of the issue. You’ve already dismissed out-of-hand all of the scientific explanation that’s been given to you, so why should I waste my time telling you something else that you’re just going to ignore? Tell me that you’re willing to learn a little biology first, then I’ll tell you what I think of Hugh Grant and MON863.

  87. Ewan Ross Says:

    Carey Michelle –

    I think that if a certain technology invokes an unfounded feeling of unease or fear in anybody then learning more about it is always a good idea – I dont think anyone needs to go to the extent of taking organized courses in genetics or molecular biology to gain enough understanding to make an informed decision – there should be a level of communication from the people developing these technologies which can communicate the technology to the general public (something which this blog is attempting to do I think, although in general public understanding of science projects arent generally very high profile – they should be)

    At present the primary benefits of eating GMOs are entirely cost related – it costs farmers less (or they profit more) to utilize GMOs in their fields, secondarily they reduce the levels of harmful pesticides and herbicides used on the food thus reducing the quantities of herbicide and pesticide that ends up making it to the end consumer – while you protest that you dont want to eat food “covered in” glyphosate it is a safe bet that any food not labelled as “organic” will have been exposed to some other herbicide, and to the best of my knowledge glyphosate is safer than other commercially used herbicides. Equally the pesticide “in every cell” replaces pesticides proven to be dangerous (class I pesticides) with a pesticide which has been proven safe. To (almost)completely avoid pesticide and herbicide residues (at levels deemed safe) your best bet is to buy certified organic – aswell as there being no labelling laws for GM foods, there are equally no laws for foods sprayed with herbicides, pesticides, fungicides etc (or indeed for conventional plants mutated with radiation or other mutagenic substances during “conventional” breeding)

    Potential benefits (not yet realized) of GMOs include improved nutritional values (altered balances of omega oils, increased mineral content, reduced toxin content (cassava – a main starch for millions which has the downside of containing such high levels of cyanide that improper preparation can kill whole villages), improved environmental impact (nitrogen efficient crops are targetted to reduce fertilizer inputs by 30-60lbs of applied N per acre – not yet available but an area of investment which shows great promise)

    Does E.coli kill people? Certain strains of E.Coli can cause illness which occasionally leads to death, yes. However, and this will no doubt really freak you out, in an average healthy human there are between 10 to the power 5 and 10 to the power 8 E.coli cells/g faeces (thats a whole bunch of E.coli)

    I understand why some consumers would want to avoid eating anything produced by E.coli – I just dont agree with the reasoning, I feel that it is either down to a misunderstanding of what these products are, or a misunderstanding of what E.coli and bacteria are.

    On the charges of misconduct – if it is true that Hugh Grant ran the division in which an employee was involved in bribery (I honestly dont know) – this is in my opinion a good thing – because, as you will no doubt be aware, Monsanto blew the whistle on itself. After becoming aware of corruption the company reported itself to the US govt – I’m pretty sure that a pathologically evil company, as you appear to presume we are, would have put the shredders in overdrive, slapped a non-disclosure agreement on the guilty party, and moved on without anyone outside the company having any knowledge of any wrong doing (unless lies and deception charges include confessing wrongdoing to an authority which can and will punish said wrongdoing, although I cant quite see how that fits)

    Which lies about MON863?

    The company categorically doesnt use all the water on Molokai – we’re an Ag company, our hawaii operations produce seed, to produce seed you need to produce plants, to produce plants you need to use water. If we discover corn that grows without water that’d be great but until that point any seed production facility is going to have pretty heavy water useage.

  88. Johnny Says:

    Now, I just love the fact that you compare a lifesaving medical tool with MILK! I don’t remember the last time someone had to drink milk to save their life. If someone is facing death without taking insulin made from E. Coli, that is a very different situation than a biotech company using the DNA from the lethal bacteria to make our milk, no? You are very much comparing apples to oranges, and it is very obvious. I have no problem with medical biotechnology. It saves lives! We are discussing agricultural biotechnology here, and that is a very, very different topic! Your lame attempt to liken E. Coli bacterial DNA in our milk to its use in life-saving insulin is insulting to consumers’ intelligence. Just for the record, if I were going to DIE without consuming E. Coli DNA in the form of a life-saving hormone, I would. If I am just deciding on which milk to buy, I would definitely choose the milk made without using E. Coli bacterial DNA. Can you not get that? That was just a really, really lame argument, Brad

    And as far as Deborah’s comment on buying organic goes, what about eating out? Consumers should not have to contact management at every restaurant they visit to see if they use organic ingredients (although I do many times to let them know that I don’t want Monsanto’s products in my food). It is so funny that your company is so arrogant that it thinks consumers should have to find ways to avoid its products instead of labeling them like they do in other countries. It is like saying that because Monsanto wants to spread its venereal disease all over our nation, the rest of us have to use condoms! We don’t appreciate it one bit! BTW, Brad, what kind of bacteria are used as promoters in Roundup Ready crops? Can you please find out what kind of bacteria were used in Monsanto’s production of rBST before it sold (probably at a loss after all the “research” and labelling lawsuits!) to Eli Lilly for what was it, $300 million? I would really like you to clarify that for us all if at all possible instead of just saying you don’t know, which seems like a total cop-out! I’ll bet I can find it myself with one google search, but I would much rather hear it from the horse’s mouth, so to speak. I am counting on you, Brad, to provide us with that information.

    Still none of you want to discuss all the other issues Carey Michelle raised? Come on guys? Bring it on! Defend your awesome company from all these charges of deception and lies! WE ARE WAITING TO HEAR YOUR RESPONSE!!!

  89. Johnny Says:

    One more thing, I would like to know how much the company’s sales of glyphosate have risen since the introduction of RR crops. Monsanto keeps saying these crops cut down on chemical use, but that makes no sense whatsoever seeing as how they are made to be used with chemicals! And regarding the superweeds that your company has created, how are farmers dealing with that? By using harsher chemicals that have been banned in other nations like 2-4-D? Why is your company using all the water on Molokai if it is so sustainable? What would we do without Monsanto!?

  90. Carey Michelle Says:

    Brad, I would appreciate it if you would look into what type of bacteria Monsanto used (before it sold the technology to Eli Lilly) in making rBGH, just to see what methods the company deems acceptable.

    I would also like to know what kinds of bacterial or viral DNA are used as promoters in Roundup Ready and Bt crops; is that the soil bacterium mentioned by Ewan above, or are there other bacteria used as promotors?

    Finally, despite Ewan’s inability to see why many consumers might consider some bacteria (like E. Coli) and viruses (like the Epstein Barre virus I suffer from, which makes me tired all the time, my glands swollen, and reduces the effectiveness of my immune system, and yes, I know you are not using that particular virus in the crops, but you can hopefully see my point! I am sure your DNA is DNA argument would be interesting to apply here)to be malign, the fact that E. Coli bacteria (a well-known germ that has killed many people)is being used or was being used to produce rBGH or any other product we eat would most likely bother many consumers. So, please provide us with that information as soon as possible, so we can continue the discussion. I would think you could find that information out pretty easily, so please don’t cop out by just saying you don’t know: FIND OUT!
    Thanks!

  91. Kate Says:

    Carey Michelle,
    This is directly from the http://www.posilac.com website. Monsanto no longer owns the product and I wasn’t involved with Posilac so that’s the best I can do for now, but I think that answers your question about which strain was used.

    The process developed by Genentech is the basic process used to produce several products other than bST, such as human insulin, interferons, and human and animal somatotropins. This technology enables new strains of bacteria to produce products that could otherwise only be produced in the host or target animal. To manufacture POSILAC, the gene that produces bST in the pituitary gland of the cow is spliced into the genetic information of an E. coli K-12 bacterium. This organism is a well-studied laboratory strain, which is modified so it cannot survive outside a carefully controlled laboratory environment and is commonly used to produce other drugs (eg, insulin). E. coli K-12 possesses a small circular piece of DNA (plasmid) into which the bovine DNA is inserted. After the vector DNA carrying the bST gene is introduced into the E. coli cells, the cells make the protein coded for by the bST gene using their own protein synthesis machinery (Figure 1)2.

    As to the other comments, it’s my understanding that agrobacterium is used as a transfer agent for DNA for IR and HT traits. The agrobacterium is a transport vehicle to insert the targeted DNA. Keep in mind that DNA is just adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine (I had to look those up, I can’t claim that I knew them off the top of my head). A DNA segment, once removed from a sequence it’s not really anything but code, sort of similar to a lego. That lego may have been part of a castle, but once you remove that lego its no longer a castle, it’s simply a lego. Like you, I am not a geneticist but I think it’s helpful to think of DNA this way.

    Of course I’m concerned about e.coli and salmonella in my foods but I don’t worry about it getting in there from biotechnology. Regardless where the DNA came from once it’s removed it’s no longer part of the original thing, it’s just a set of instructions. I am more concerned about e.coli and salmonella getting into my food from other sources… poor food handling, improper cleaning, or organic foods. And, I’m not trying to say that there is anything wrong with organic or that all organic foods are going to cause salmonella or e.coli outbreaks but if animal manure is used for fertilizer then it can be a source, but like I said, there are several sources for bacteria contamination.

    The truth is that all foods have the risk of bacteria or virus contamination but it’s not from biotechnology, and that’s why I always wash my fruits/veggies (even if it’s prewashed) and thoroughly cook my meat.

    PS. I’m sorry to hear you suffer from Epstein Barr. I did some quick research – is it correct that it is a life-long dormant infection that will reactivate at times?

  92. Kate Says:

    Johnny,
    Just keep in mind that no one who comments or writes on the blog for Monsanto is getting paid to do so. We have other jobs here at Monsanto, just check out our profiles on About the Bloggers, and we blog and answer questions when we have time between our normal workloads. So, I don’t want to speak for Brad, but he may have just been too busy to gather that research for you at the time.

    I think I may have answered your question about rBST in my reply to Carey Michelle. See my comment above.

    “How much the company’s sales of glyphosate have risen since the introduction of RR crops”
    The company’s sales of glyphosate have risen because the popularity of RR crops, not because people are increasing the amount of herbicide that they spray. Glyphosate is not used on crops that are not Roundup Ready, so before RR crops the herbicide would not have been widely used in farming. RR crops cuts down on chemical use because while most farmers with RR crops use glyphosate they use less of it than they would use if they were using other herbicides. The ability to use glyphosate on RR crops has also contributed to the adoption of no-till farming, which prevents erosion and leaching. I might also mention that the patent on Roundup has expired and generic glyphosate is also available.

    As to the ‘superweeds’, we certainly did not create them, if that’s what you are suggesting. Most farmers follow very practical approaches to weed resistance management: http://www.weedresistancemanagement.com/

    I would remind you that farmers are both scientists and shrude business men. Farming is always a gamble and they do not make their product choices without significant research and knowledge. The choice of seed is not a decision that they take very lightly. I’m proud to work for a company that provides products that farmers find beneficial.

    “What would we do without Monsanto?”
    Well, without the biotech traits developed by Monsanto and other biotech companies, additional plantings in excess of 9 million ha of core crops would have to be grown to maintain current global production levels. So I think we’d either have more than 963 million people in the world that are undernourished (which is the current level, btw) and/or we’d be short 9 million ha which is roughly the size of the entire state of Maine.

  93. Danny Says:

    Carey Michelle,

    My apologies for miss quoting you. I do get frustrated when people question my intellagence because I support a company.

    Ewan Ross,

    Monsanto technologies helps me in multiple ways. The biggest being your corn germplasm. I have found that on my farm Dekalb genetics are always the best yielding and driest come harvest. Along with the genetics, the rootworm trait has lowered my use of insecticides by 80%. The less insecticide I handle the safer I am, and the less insecticide that goes into the enviroment. On the gmo vs. organic debate I just don’t see how we has farmers could feed a world with 9 billion people on it if all farms were organic. Every year we loss more tillable acres to development. Its a fact that yields are lowerd in organic production. Losing land and losing yield equals less food.

  94. Ewan Ross Says:

    Carey – hopefully my previous post (which posted at the same time as yours… one of the downsides of moderated posts I guess) conveys better my feelings on E.coli etc.

    Johnny – the only time E.coli DNA had anything to do with rBST was during the actual production of the rBST itself – the E.coli (which as discussed in my previous post are a perfectly innocent bacterial species 99.99% of the time) was engineered to express a protein identical to regular BST, after its extraction from the bacterial medium it is indistinguishable from BST. No E.coli DNA would find its way into your milk (firstly the DNA wouldnt be present in the rBST, secondly the rBST is injected into the cow, entering the bloodstream where any foreign DNA that were present would be broken down, and finally the hormone which is accused of being present in elevated levels in rBST milk isnt even rBST itself but IGF-1 (which is present in human saliva at ~10000 times the concentrations found in any milk if memory serves)

    What kind of bacteria are used as promoters? Easy answer. Bacteria and viruses arent used as promoters. It is possible that small segments of DNA from viruses which precede genes may be used (I’m convinced that in doing so the sequences would just be synthesized in the lab rather than cut out of a viral genome and pasted – although this is conjecture on my part, just seems easier) can be used – and indeed are in many transgenics both commercial and academic (I believe that the Cauliflower Mosaic Virus promoter is the most commonly used)

    On reductions in chemical applications – all chemicals are not created equally. Roundup is categorically a safer chemical to apply to crops than say, atrazine. If you look at environmental impact studies of switches to roundup ready cropping systems within conventional agriculture there is a (again relying on memory here, the actual paper is posted in one of the blogs somewhere) 30% reduction in the Environmental Impact Quotient. With Bt crops the reductions can be even more significant (specifically reduction in type I pesticide useage in India)

    I believe “superweeds” are covered elsewhere (short story is farmers are dealing with it just fine, and the roundup ready system is still a useful tool, soon to be supplemented with additional herbicide resistance traits to make evolution of tolerance far less likely)

  95. Brad Says:

    Johnny,

    It is a factual statement that insulin is made from ecoli. I pointed this out to address a misconception that the involvement of ecoli (some strains of which are highly pathogenic) in biotechnology, does not render the resulting product dangerous by association – whether it be rBST or insulin.

    I do not believe there is ecoli DNA in either posilac or insulin – the protein is purified out.

    Organic restaurants seem relatively abundant for those who want to avoid GM, etc. I suspect the abundance of them in a given area is market driven.

    Your VD analogy is inaccurate. Numerous regulatory authorities worldwide have found currently registered GM crops to be safe. They are not dangerous or infective as is VD.

    What you are suggesting is that because a vocal minority of individuals do not believe the science or regulatory authorities that GM food is safe, that we should violate existing labeling laws which are risk-based rather than value-based.

    Change the law if you will – it is your legal right to attempt to do so. But don’t expect Monsanto, or anyone else to cater to your preferences in the interim.

  96. Carey Michelle Says:

    Kate, thanks for asking about Epstein Barre. Yes, it is an awful virus that I got from having mono when I was in second grade, when I was ill for five weeks (this is what my specialist tells me causes it). It goes away and then can flare up without warning (stress is a big factor). The gland under my chin (I am guessing it is a gland) gets so swollen it has a point and is painful to touch. I can get blisters like shingles on my face, on which I use a cream, but then it just moves to another spot on my face, so I have to apply cream there too. You can feel it moving around inside you in this manner, and it is really, really disturbing, not to mention painful. I am still not sure what the difference is between this virus and chicken pox, facial herpes, etc, but I think they are all very similar (and awful!) That is the major reason I am concerned about viruses being used in the creation of the organism, not to mention they seem gross, which I know is not a scientific argument at all, but it still seems valid. To me, although a virus has no personality, it seems a very sinister organism that can cause a lot of hurt to some folks.

    That is why I don’t understand why a company would want to use viral DNA to make our food. Can someone tell me why this sort of DNA in particular is used as opposed to a (seemingly, Ewan) more benign one?

    I would like to expand on Johnny’s comment and say that I think he meant to ask what kind of viral or bacterial DNA are used in making RR crops? Does that help you answer the question a little bit better? I can see that unless questions are worded just exactly right that they tend to go unanswered, but you must start looking at this issue from a consumer not a scientist standpoint if this blog is going to be worthwhile.

    Kate, thank you for providing me with the link to the posilac site. It seems that E. Coli is used in the making of rBGH from what I read from Ewan’s blog, so he answered my question about that. Apparently, Monsanto did use DNA from deadly bacteria to make rBGH. I think all you sciency types just need to stop looking at it from a science-minded view and start trying to see it as we consumers do: A company that lied to a town for decades (and has been in trouble recently for deception, bribery, and data manipultion) is using DNA from (sometimes) deadly bacteria and viruses to make our food! I mean even investors are warned not to buy stock in Monsanto (see ethicalinvesting.com), so how are we, as consumers, supposed to feel comfortable (short of taking a class in genetics) feeding your products to our families? I mean, if the company lied about Roundup being biodegradable, and the current CEO was in charge of a division where bribery (to the tune of more than 100 payments to Indonesian officials to accept GMOs) was rampant, and the company lied to South African officials about the ownership of MON863 (not to mention the thirty years worth of lies told to the residents of Anniston), why should anyone trust anything a company representative (paid or not) would say? There is a huge trust issue that needs to be addressed here, and I am not seeing it being addressed. What I am seeing a lot of is arrogance, like in Brad’s post that we should not “expect Monsanto…to cater to your preferences in the interim.” And dancing around the subject by nitpicking posters to death because they are not wording their questions perfectly; there is a lot of that too!

    Consumers know Monsanto does not care one bit about what we think because the company has paid off so many government officials (through lobbyists or whatever) that they do whatever the company wants despite what we tell them to do, but it just seems like really bad manners to rub that in our faces. It does nothing to assuage our fears and distrust of your company.
    If I had millions of dollars to change laws by paying off officials through campaign contributions or whatever else, I most certainly would! Easy for you to say, isn’t it Brad?

  97. Kate Says:

    Carey Michelle,
    I understand your concern as a consumer, especially if you currently suffer from a painful virus, even if it’s not caused by biotechnology. I’m a consumer too, I get food from the grocery store just like you (I’m assuming you shop at grocery stores). I’m also not a scientist.

    As to your question about viruses – I’m not sure if viral DNA is the correct term – I believe viruses are used because viruses work by attaching to a cell and inserting DNA into that cell. By definition its a transportation vehicle and it’s very easy to control what DNA gets inserted.

    HT or herbicide tolerant plants contain genetic material from common soil bacteria (I’m sorry but I don’t know the name off the top of my head). IR (Insect resistant) crops contain genetic material from a bacterium that attacks certain insects – Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Bt is expressed in the plant and targets specific insects–and is not harmful to humans. BT is actually used in organic farming too, but it’s sprayed on the plants.

    On rBGH, I don’t think E. coli K-12 is harmful or deadly. E. coli K-12 is often used in lab experiments in high schools and colleges. It’s very safe to handle (http://www.microbiologyonline.org.uk/ecoli.htm).

    I do agree that there is a trust issue but we are trying, we’re actually very transparent with all our safety studies. I am not aware of any recent “deception, bribery, and data manipultion” but I do know that we self-reported the incident in Indonesia (http://www.monsanto.com/monsanto_today/for_the_record/monsanto_business_practice_indonesia.asp).

    And, for what it’s worth, I do think Monsanto cares about consumers. Everyone eats and we want to know what we’re eating is safe. I understand that it might be hard to believe a company representative but I think if you keep in mind that we all eat the same foods and feed them to our families then maybe that might lend to our credibility.

    If you’re interested on more product safety related to Monsanto products here are some links:

    How We Establish Biotech Crop Safety: Product Characterization
    How We Establish Biotech Crop Safety: Product Safety for Food and Feed
    Product Safety Summaries

  98. Ewan Ross Says:

    Carey – to put viruses in general into perspective a little – some viruses are definitely “sinister” to humans, others not so much.

    To fear all viruses because some are harmful to humans would be akin to fearing all mammals because tigers are scary and have been known to kill people.

    The reason viral promoters other than more “benign” species promoters are used is because they are “designed” to operate in a fashion that is most useful to biotech – they essentially guarantee that a given protein is expressed in every cell (pretty much) – there is absolutely no reason to expect a bacterial promoter, promoter from another plant, or indeed any of the promoters from the same plant species to perform as well as a viral promoter if what you want is non-specific high expression (ie lots of the protein you’re engineering in, in as much of the plant as you can get it into) – if better promoters were available, especially from a more PR friendly point of view, I can guarantee we’d be using them (assuming someone else didnt have the patent of course!)

    As Kate says, and as I alluded to, not all strains of E.coli are deadly, just as you shouldnt fear a shitzu because of the reputation pitbulls have, you equally shouldnt lump all E.coli into the ‘deadly’ category (considering the fact every human on the planet contains billions of E.coli it should be obvious that being deadly is the exception not the rule for E.coli)

    I’m sorry if I appear to be nitpicking when correcting some of the ways questions are posed – I honestly feel that when people phrase their questions in a manner which expresses the facts incorrectly that there is a real need to at least correct the facts so that an understanding can be arrived at – so long as people believe that actual viruses and bacteria are being inserted into plants, and go on propagating such assumptions, biotech remains looking sinister.

  99. Carey Michelle Says:

    Here is another reason I am uncomfortable eating foods produced by biotechnology: The inability of people associated with Monsanto to see the big picture. This is evidenced on this very blog in that people keep writing in and saying that it really creeps them out that this company that has been accused of all these atrocities (50 superfund sites due to pollution, false advertising charges, lies about the ownership of MON863) is using germ DNA to make foods that have been reported to be unstable (I read that RR soybeans were found in 2001 to have some mysterious DNA. According to my source, the company claimed it was native to the plant, but later it was found to be the result of the transformation process). This is from the book Uncertain Peril by Claire Hope Cummings.

    On this blog, if a poster does not word their question perfectly the answer gets distorted or no answer is even given. You guys all seem to want to focus on either one issue or another at at time, and no one who works there seems to be aware of all the recent occurrences in which the company has been accused and charged with misconduct, which is the bigger part of the issue, rather than splitting hairs over how we should make sure to say viral DNA is used as opposed to viruses and bacteria, but really, the whole germs are used because that is where you get the DNA!

    Here are some exerpts and links for you all to visit to see what your company has been charged with, and I am looking forward to your comments on these specific issues:
    This is from 2007:
    As recent legal actions against the company demonstrate, failure of the management to oversee these issues can lead to significant liabilities. In 2005, Monsanto was forced to pay a $1.5 million fine to settle allegations that employees bribed Indonesian officials to bypass environmental laws. In January of this year, a French court fined Monsanto Agriculture France SAS and Monsanto’s French distributor, Scotts France, after a former chairman of Monsanto Agriculture France was found guilty of false advertising. Then, in February of this year, it was reported that the British Environment Agency had begun an investigation into “one of the most contaminated sites in Wales” – a former Monsanto dump that could cost more than $200 million to clean up according to a reported estimate. In October of this year, Monsanto was sued by dozens of West Virginians alleging that pollution from a now-defunct Monsanto factory caused them to contract various types of cancer; they are seeking $5 million each in compensatory damages and $300 million in punitive damages. This lawsuit is particularly worrisome to investors because it is reminiscent of a 2002 settlement in which the company agreed to pay the preponderance of a $700 million settlement to offset damages to human health and the natural environment in Anniston, Alabama.
    http://www.csrwire.com/News/10407.html

    YOU KNOW THE MOST SICKENING PART OF ALL THIS IS THAT THE COMPANY NEVER ADMITS GUILT OR APOLOGIZES! THAT WOULD GO A LONG WAY IN SMOOTHING THIS STUFF OVER, BUT THE ARROGANCE OF YOUR COMPANY PREVENTS THIS FROM EVER TAKING PLACE. I SUPPOSE IF THE COURTS FIND YOU GUILTY AS HAS HAPPENED IN SOME OF THESE CASES THAT IS ALL THE ADMISSION OF GUILT WE SHOULD REQUIRE?

    HERE’S SOME MORE:

    Monsanto addressed the ASA at length and submitted inter alia that it had a strict code of conduct and that MON 863 was not their product.

    The facts are that MON 863 is indeed a product of Monsanto and that Monsanto had suppressed the evidence of serious damage to the liver and kidneys of rats in their own GM maize trials until ordered to release this evidence by a German Court. Furthermore Monsanto had applied to the South African GM regulatory authority for a commodity release permit for MON 863.
    http://www.mathaba.net/news/?x=556517

    Here is an excerpt from an article from The New York Times that describes exactly what I mean by your company cannot see the big picture:

    THE $73.5 billion global biotech business may soon have to grapple with a discovery that calls into question the scientific principles on which it was founded.

    Last month, a consortium of scientists published findings that challenge the traditional view of how genes function. The exhaustive four-year effort was organized by the United States National Human Genome Research Institute and carried out by 35 groups from 80 organizations around the world. To their surprise, researchers found that the human genome might not be a ”tidy collection of independent genes” after all, with each sequence of DNA linked to a single function, such as a predisposition to diabetes or heart disease.

    Instead, genes appear to operate in a complex network, and interact and overlap with one another and with other components in ways not yet fully understood. According to the institute, these findings will challenge scientists ”to rethink some long-held views about what genes are and what they do.

    Biologists have recorded these network effects for many years in other organisms. But in the world of science, discoveries often do not become part of mainstream thought until they are linked to humans.

    With that link now in place, the report is likely to have repercussions far beyond the laboratory. The presumption that genes operate independently has been institutionalized since 1976, when the first biotech company was founded. In fact, it is the economic and regulatory foundation on which the entire biotechnology industry is built.

    http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9D0DE4DA1731F932A35754C0A9619C8B63&scp=13&sq=%22denise+caruso%22&st=nyt

    Here is what Cummings says about the “central dogma of biotechnology” “The principal presumption behind GE is the idea that DNA is the ‘secret to life’ and that there is a linear relationship between a gene and a trait. Dr. Richard Strohman, emeritus professor of molecular and cell biology at Berkely, says that this notion has been discredited…that, in fact, ‘the idea that there is a direct relatonship between a single gene and a single trait is completely erroneous’. He calls this idea ‘the myth of genetic determinism.”

    What about the new genetic material found in the soybeans?

    What about the other two sites above regarding the false advertising charges and lies about the ownership of MON863?

    If Monsanto cares about consumers so much, why the arrogant comments by Brad that we should not expect the company to “cater to your preferences?” Your company does not care about consumers because it has not had to in the past, but there are some things in the works that may change that.

    BTW, despite the fact that you guys are not being paid to blog here, you are still being paid by the company, and that is obviously going to skew your opinions. Again, you guys are not seeing the big picture!

    One more question: How can you guys patent these “novel” organisms if they are considered to be the same as regular foods? It seems for patent purposes, they are brand new organisms, but for regulatory purposes they are nothing new at all? How can that be?

    • Kathleen Says:

      Carey,

      You bring up a lot of the same kinds of questions other people may have as well. We have a suggestion page on the blog, and we are looking to our readers to see what kinds of content they want. Its hard to address the same kinds of questions over and over again and allow blog posts to get off topic so a way of remedying that is by addressing these questions in blog posts. You can post all of your suggestions for future posts here. Thanks again for reading!

  100. Ewan Ross Says:

    Casey,

    I’d contest that the “big picture” arguement could equally apply to either side of the debate – you may not feel that some of the questions asked are being covered in a manner you’d like, we (I’m guessing I’m not the only one) feel that in general only the negative aspects of what Monsanto has done as a company are being held up as a representative sample of the company as a whole – the big picture is a lot more complex than this, and not really possible to cover in any single post (I’m sure that despite the length of your previous post there are things you may have wanted to add but didnt, just as in my overly wordy replies I’ve often deleted a paragraph or four in an attempt to make them readable) – hopefully a lot of the topics you are bringing up will get their own blog entries at some point (a lot of the accusations getting thrown around there are news to me, and considering the source you cite I have a feeling they dont necessarily paint the whole picture) – definitely take Kathleen’s advice and catalogue them all in the suggestions section, it may take a while for a response, but at least the questions will be captured in an area where they are most likely to get looked at in depth.

    I think most of the questions which have been asked here (and then corrected for errors in their content) have also received answers – ie what DNA is used, why it is used – just with general corrections to the way questions are asked to attempt to better inform people about the topic – even if you still disagree with what is being done at least what you disagree with is something real rather than imagined.

    How we can patent our discoveries is worthy of a blog in its own right – I attempted to cover it a little in a response to the “pig” blog, and will rehash some of that here….

    Firstly, we dont patent an organism, we patent the introduction of a gene into an organism to achieve a desired outcome – patent law requires that patentable material needs specificity of purpose and non-obviousness (although obviousness here is a strictly defined legal term, as I’d imagine it is pretty obvious to anybody who gives it any thought that inserting a gene for herbicide resistance would be a good way to make a plant herbicide resistant… I guess the non-obvious part of this is which gene, and how to get it expressed).

    As I discuss in the other post, when developing an invention a company has a handful of options available to it with regards to that invention, these being – keep its workings secret, patent it, release the information for anyone to use.

    Keeping things secret is a great option so long as nobody else figures out how to do what you did – as soon as they do your competitive advantage is wiped out. It is also scientifically selfish as if nobody else does work it out then the invention adds nothing to the advancement of human knowledge.
    Equally releasing the information instantly wipes out your competitive advantage. On the up side it advances human knowledge.
    Patenting an invention gives you a legally binding competitive advantage for a limited period of time (10-20 years ish) for a full public disclosure of the science behind the invention – a win win situation in terms of profitability and the advancement of knowledge.

    Keep in mind that the current estimated cost of getting a biotech trait to market is probably close to $100M – if this investment was completely unprotected then it is unlikely that it would ever occur (a main reason in my opinion for the “green” movements vehement oppostion of patent law – destroy the law, destroy the technology)

    The novelty lies not in a complete restructuring of the organism (which would make it not equivalent to regular food) but in the insertion of a particular sequence of DNA which will cause the organism to produce a particular protein for a particular purpose – substantially altering one aspect of how the plant itself behaves under certain circumstances (ie insect predation, or herbicide application) while not substantially altering its nutritional value.

  101. jg Says:

    Carey,

    I understand why you have strong aversions to viruses and bacteria, given your painful experience with mono. My sister had some of the same problems with swollen lymph in her neck after her bout with mono. She even had a slightly botched neck surgery to that was supposed to help her. The surgeon cut through some muscle, creating more pain and complications. I think she is over the worst of it, but can still have flair ups. I, myself, was suffering for fatigue symptoms for years and finally figured out I had a constant case of tonsillitis and had my tonsils removed. I am still working on regaining my strength is had lost those years. I know my situation is not close to what you and my sister have.

    I also have empathy for you because of the fear you have of the processes for which the biotech crops come to be. It is really one of the things that frustrates me the most. I don’t want anyone to have to be afraid, worry or panic. It is very difficult to give a clear, easy to understand short explanation of what this is to people what this is. You have seen in the blog comments, suggestions to ‘ take a biology course’. It can really take that much knowledge to understand what DNA, bacteria, proteins, promoters etc, where they are, what they come from. And, it takes advanced degree and years of experience to fully understand it. It really does tie into you medical diagnosis, too. Doctors often cannot (or will not) explain things to their patients because it is too complicated or they don’t know themselves. Then, as a patient, it is hard to understand what is going on. I count myself as very fortunate, with my education, I can usually look up medical things from good sources and figure out what is going on pretty quickly. There is a lot of bad sources of information out there. Even the what you would think in a good source can be convoluted with opinions, sensationalism and even some fear-mongering. It makes me pretty angry when I hear or see bad information the I know will cause people fear and worry.

    Now that I have commiserated a bit, I will offer my personal experience with these things you fear and don’t understand. Perhaps is will give some insight in why these things are being done by the people who are doing them. I have been working in the biotech / molecular biology/microbiology field for over a decade. I have worked in labs using E.coli, yeast, fungus, plants, and animal tissues, and not just at Monsanto. I have worked with DNA, RNA, proteins and other cell parts studying various things. First let me say, the biology of how a cell works is amazing, complicate and reminds me of the miracle that life exists at all.

    I can tell you in my years, of experience the E. coli used in these biotech processes is not deadly. I have been around it, in contact with it and am not dead and never got sick. In my opinion, it is pretty wussy . It has to be babied. We have to grow it in a special environment to protect it from the other bacteria and fungus that is around everywhere. Because I worked with this, I know a lot about where other bacteria is. If you really want to be grossed out, try googleing ‘gut flora’ or ‘ kitchen microbes’. I am much more scared of bacteria I would find in the world, than in the lab. Another gross fact, if you don’t want to eat bacteria (even E.coli) you will have to stop eating. (Don’t think about this too much, I try not to) There is a lot of beneficial bacteria too. Your digestive system actually needs bacteria to function. Bacteria is used to make good foods, like yogurt.

    Having worked in virus lab (specifically an attenuated virus related to small pox),having to be concern about viruses that would kill bacteria I was trying to grow, and being sick form cold viruses a few times , I do have some personal experiences with those too. I am definitely not a fan of the last two. The first one was a version used to study viruses and learn more about them. The benefit of this attenuated version, is that virus mechanisms could be studied, without making the researchers sick. Viruses tend to be very host specific and need every bit of the DNA they have to work in a malignant way. That is why we could work with the attenuated version in the lab. Again, in my opinion, nature does a much better job of creating nasty ones.

    Now about the DNA and coding. DNA is everywhere too. The molecular mechanism that make genes work is very complicated. (That is why you see the back and forth in the blog entries of people correcting each other about the details of the science.) DNA coding used in biotech process comes from anywhere that the genes are known about. All organisms used the same DNA ‘alphabet’, it is just different ‘words’ making the genes work. So when you say ‘DNA’ is coming from somewhere, you are taking the knowledge of the DNA ‘words’ and ‘alphabet’ and using it in a new way. It is not so easy to get it to work. Nature mixes DNA around and there are natural things that cause DNA changes (like the Sun). Nature is pretty random. Biotech processes try to reduce the randomness to fit human needs. Other beneficial biotech processes include vaccines and drugs.

    I have to say one of my disappointments after coming to work at Monsanto was learning about the backlash against the technology. I have not quite figured out why environment advocates and human rights people are so against it. I am so excited about it. I was excited about it before I new the name Monsanto. Breeding and biotech work is such a step forward from heavy chemistry methods. The whole point of forwarding agriculture technology is to reduce the risk of famine. Nature itself provides some big challenges for humankind to over come – blight, rot, drought, swarms of insects, bad weather (hail, wind). Having secure food production is very important. When you expect each farmer to provided food for at least 75 people, they are going to need some good tools to do it with.

    Respect fully,
    -JG –
    My disclosure: Woman, mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend, scientist, biochemist, Boiler, Monsanto employee, gardener, cook, nature lover …

  102. Chris H. Says:

    Carey,

    The allegations you keep repeating sounded familiar, so I checked out the CSR link you included above. It’s a press release issued by an activist investor group who states in that very release that they are targeting Monsanto. They’ve cherry-picked the worst headlines in order to present a distorted view of our company.

    However, in the interest of building trust, let me briefly address the issues you’ve raised.

    Indonesia: you seem to be looking for an apology. Our general counsel did just that in a widely distributed news release more than four years ago:
    http://monsanto.mediaroom.com/index.php?s=43&item=278
    Wales: we and other responsible parties are working with environmental authorities on a cleanup plan.
    West Virginia: this release parrots the allegations of a plaintiffs’ attorney who is driving a class-action lawsuit.
    Advertising: it’s not uncommon for these types of agencies to have differences of opinion with the companies they oversee. You seem to be implying that, because these agencies disagree with the content of our advertising, nothing that any of our 22,000 employees say can be trusted – ever. That’s quite a leap.
    MON 863: of course it’s a Monsanto product. More popularly known as YieldGard Rootworm, it’s saved farmers like Danny millions of dollars in insecticides they no longer spray on corn. Allegations of health effects in rats made by Greenpeace were repudiated by regulatory agencies around the world, including the European Food Safety Authority.

    Here’s the big picture: if you get your information from sources that campaign against Monsanto or biotech, you’re going to have a “glass half full” (or glass empty) view of our company – or have difficulty trusting anyone who works here. Please get a balanced perspective. This blog is one of our attempts to provide that balance.

  103. Julian Purvis Says:

    why should i believe a word of what you say if you can’t even be bothered to check how to spell the french word for ‘eyes’?

  104. Ewan Ross Says:

    I’d guess for similar reasons that people would read your post despite the fact you didn’t capitalize the first letter or the “i” – grammar and spelling have spectacularly little to do with the truth of a statement.

  105. Christa Says:

    I was really looking for an apology for the people of Anniston, Alabama for the PCBs and lies. And an explanation of why the guy who was supposed to be in charge of the division that included Indonesia during the time of the bribes, allowing more than 100 payments to be made to Indonesian officials to approve GMOs, is now the current CEO. It would seem that the company rewards managers whose divisions are corrupt and deceptive with promotions. If he had been doing his job in a competent and ethical manner, there would not have been any bribes for your company to “self report!”

    Regardless of how much my sources hate your company, does that make the headlines false? If they are true, then what was your point again? I mean, if the only problem with the supposed credibility of these sources is that they are against Monsanto, then that is not much of a blow to that credibility! Maybe come up with something else to use against them, but I figure if you could find anything worthwhile to cite, you would have done so already.

    Regarding MON863, I brought that up because a Monsanto representative is reported as having said the product did not come from Monsanto, when it obviously did. Chris, please take the time to actually read the provided links. That is why I took the time to include them. The issue was not with the safety of MON863(even though that was mentioned), but the deception of yet another company representative!

    Finally, it would be much easier to balance my perspective if there wasn’t so much negative information about Monsanto out there! Seriously, if you do a google search, the first few sites are your company’s and the rest are all about how horrible your company is!

  106. Anonymous Says:

    Wow! This is Monsanto’s reply to Marie-Monique Robin documentary?! Absolutely awesome! It clearly shows how irresponsible this company is.


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