The man behind the Rainbow

Sweet, juicy papaya (image originally posted on elephant journal)

The curious case of the genetically modified papaya.

By Jennifer Mo.

Stop by the farmers’ market in Hilo, Hawaii, and you’ll find knobby cherimoyas, avocadoes the size of eggplants, and mounds of papayas sunset-fleshed and as smooth and sweet as custard.

That wasn’t always the case. Back in the 90s, Hawaiian papaya farmers were faced with devastation from ringspot virus, a plant virus that reduced papaya production by 50 percent within six years and just kept spreading. Small farmers faced losing their livelihoods when one plant pathologist developed a virus-resistant variety called the Rainbow and distributed the seeds to struggling farmers—for free. Fourteen years later, Hawaii’s small papaya farmers are flourishing.

There’s a lot to like about this story—the altruism of the researcher, the success of independent local farmers. But there’s one detail that could change everything about how you see it: the Rainbow papaya is genetically modified.

A gene from the ringspot virus was inserted into the papaya, where it acts like a built-in vaccine against the virus. In other words, it’s Frankenfood. Or is it?

I say GMO, you think: Monsanto, Big Ag, lobbyists, corporate interests. But none of these played a major role in the GM Rainbow papaya. And for me, that led to an important realization. Genetic engineering technology is not the same thing as Monsanto/Big Ag policy. It’s a tool. And like all tools, it can be used for good or bad ends.

Dr. Gonsalves (image originally posted on elephant journal)

I’m a skeptic, so I scoured the web for info—agricultural news sites, activist sites, USDA releases, science journals and blogs. Then I took my questions to the man who developed the Rainbow, Dr. Dennis Gonsalves, retired Professor Emeritus of Plant Pathology at Cornell and now the director of the USDA’s Pacific Basin Agricultural Center.

He’s a straight shooter, detailing the successes and challenges of the project with peer reviewed articles and independently verifiable facts. Halfway through our exchange, it hits me:

Why shouldn’t we always address our science questions to scientists, not lobbyists or activists?

In that spirit, I’ve included his answers to my questions below.

Q: How did you get started with your work on the transgenic papaya?

I was born and raised on a sugar plantation on Hawaii Island but never aspired to be a scientist until I worked as a technician under Dr. Eduardo Trujillo of the University of Hawaii. He let me loose trying to figure out what was causing a disease of papaya and that experience convinced me that I wanted to be a plant pathologist. Dr. Trujillo was a mentor and an inspiration to me as he would periodically tell me: “Dennis, don’t just be a test tube scientist, but do things to help people.” […]

The feeling of joy was incredible when I first inoculated the transgenic papaya in the greenhouse and it showed resistance to PRSV [papaya ringspot virus]. However, that was nice science but how could we translate it to helping people? Naturally, the challenge came when PRSV invaded the Puna district and within a couple of years the Hawaiian papaya industry was in deep trouble. We had a potential solution, had published some nice papers, but did we have the guts to try to help the industry survive?

We had never attempted to deregulate a transgenic product, as the common thought was that this was the purview of the big companies. But somebody had to do it, and thus we got out of our comfort zone in order to help the farmers.

Q: Did you really give out GE (genetically engineered) papaya seeds for free to farmers?

The seeds were initially distributed free to the growers because I believe the industry (Papaya Administrative Committee) got some grant funds from the state to produce the seeds. Now, the industry produces the seeds and sells them at cost to the growers.

Q: What non-GE methods were used to attempt to combat ringspot virus on Hawaii?

People have been trying to do classical breeding to get resistance for a long time. In Carica papaya, there is no resistance. Some tolerance is found and people have been trying to incorporate these in some lines. The tolerance is “quantitative” so it can get diluted. Bottom line, this has not worked for Hawaiian papaya.

Crops rotation, lower densities, etc. have been tried but they do not work because the virus is rapidly transmitted by aphids. One way that can work economically is to go into virgin areas where it is far from the nearest virus infected papaya, and continually pull out trees as symptoms develop on the new planting. […] Naturally, the more isolated you are the longer for the virus to “find” the papaya field.

One question is: Environmentally, is it better to clear virgin forest or land to plant papaya than growing virus resistant GE papaya where papaya growing areas already exist?

Q: Could transgenic papayas eventually lose their immunity to ringspot virus? Is it true that GE papaya is more susceptible to fungal infections?

We always had the concern that our GE papaya would break down by new strains of the virus. Thus, we tested many isolates of the virus collected in Hawaii to see if strains that could break down the resistance were already in existence. Our results showed that our papaya were resistant to strains in Hawaii. However, we tested strains from outside of Hawaii and did find that our transgenic papaya were susceptible to a number of the strains outside of Hawaii, for example from Thailand, Taiwan, China, etc. […] As you probably know, we have not had breakdown of resistance in Hawaii since Rainbow was released in 1998.

Susceptibility to black spot fungus is not determined by its transgenic nature. If you crossed non-GE Sunset with non-GE Kapoho the susceptibility of the papaya to black spot would be the same as the Rainbow cross, which is GE Sunset crossed with non-GE Kapoho.

Q: Is it safe for humans to eat ringspot virus?

PRSV breaks down in three seconds in the human stomach. Ringspot virus has been around a long time and people have been eating virus infected produce for many, many years. As mentioned earlier, papaya infected with the mild strain PRSV were grown widely to combat the disease and infected fruit were eaten and commercially marketed, especially in Taiwan. […] In the mid 1990s when PRSV was devastating the industry in Hawaii, a great majority of the papaya were infected, and they were being consumed by people.

Q: Have there been any reports on allergies related to GE papayas since they were introduced in 1998?

We have done very thorough studies on allergenicity potential of GE papaya and found none. These studies are published in refereed journals. Don’t know of any verified reports.

Q: What is the rate of hybridization and what problems does hybridization between non-GE and GE varieties pose to human health and environment?

We recently completed a very thorough gene flow study under commercial conditions where the GE field was adjacent to non-GE field.  In non-GE papaya fields separated from GE field by a 12 foot road, the rate of gene flow to the non-GE papaya row that bordered the road was about one percent. Further in the field we did not detect any gene flow. The bottom line is the pollen flow can occur, but it is very low.

In my opinion, we absolutely expected gene flow to occur, the very low rate likely due to the fact that commercial papaya in Hawaii is hermaphrodite (flower has male and female parts) such that the flowers are largely self-pollinated at the time it is opened.

Hybridization of the GE papaya to non-GE papaya will not pose any human health problems. We have thoroughly studied the potential health issues of the GE papaya and have found none.

Q: Monsanto has a patent on the transgenic technology you used to develop the Rainbow papaya. Does that mean that organic papaya farmers who experience hybridization can be sued by Monsanto?

Monsanto issued the license of these technologies to the Hawaiian papaya industry (Papaya Administrative Committee […] and later transferred to the HPIA (Hawaii papaya industry association). Thus, organic papaya farmers’ crops hybridizing with GE varieties will not result in lawsuit from Monsanto since they licensed the technology to the above organizations to commercialize the papaya in Hawaii.

Q: Japan approved GE papayas for import in late 2011. How do Japan’s safety standards for GE foods differ from the U.S.’s and what additional testing did the Rainbow undergo to receive approval?

The Japanese were very interested in allergenicity, and food safety, and knowing the host sequences bordering the “transgene inserts.” Additional field testing we did were to determine the nutritional content of the papaya at different stages after picking.

Q:  What kind of long term impact do you think the GE papaya will have on humans and the environment?

The transgenic papaya has been grown commercially in Hawaii since 1998 and there has been no impact of human safety and the environment. In fact, in relation to the environment, it has had a positive impact because it allows the farmers to continually grow papaya in the historic areas where papaya was grown commercially and not force the farmers to go to virgin lands to escape the virus. […]

From the human health side, papaya is one of the most nutritious and economical fruit crops in the world. If PRSV had taken over in Hawaii, the fruit would have been largely unavailable, virus infected and very expensive. Now, you can go to farmers’ markets and buy four transgenic papaya for one dollar! Can you imagine that! That is a very cheap source of good tasting and nutritious fruit crop.

Q: What does the future hold for virus-resistant transgenics?

I am currently on a scientific advisory board of a Danforth Foundation grant from the Gates Foundation that is aimed at developing virus resistant cassava for Africa. The data looks extremely promising and no doubt the virus resistant transgenic cassava could help people in dire need. Soon we will face the moment of truth for such an important crop—will they be required to go through unnecessary tests and take unnecessary time and so forth just because of politics and philosophical views, even though the data shows that it is safe?

As I draw my career to a close and retire at the end of this year, the transgenic era has indeed been a wonder scientific research era, it has shown great promise especially for virus resistant crops, but so few products have been commercialized to help the people. It will be interesting to see what the next 25 years will bring.

This work has not made me rich but has brought great satisfaction in seeing that people have been helped. Some people are philosophically against GMOs, and that is okay. My aim was to do good science and make a scientific judgment on the safety of the transgenic papaya for humans and that it did not pose risks to the environment.

We have gotten much publicity on this work, but one of my most satisfying feelings came from the following incident. Several years ago, I was in the hospital [when] a Filipino hospital custodian came to me and said, “I know you, you are Dr. Gonsalves and I am so happy because I can still grow papaya because of papaya you developed.” The next day, he brought his family to see me in the hospital. This is what I call satisfaction in following Dr. Trujillo’s advice, “Dennis, don’t just be a test tube scientist, do something to help people.”

I think it’s fair to have some lingering questions about the GE papaya—questions about monocropping, labeling, long term effects.

After all, it’s impossible to anticipate the full impact of any of our actions, including a technology as complex and powerful as genetic engineering. I also think it’s fair to check up on the facts Dr. Gonsalves provides and to insist on published articles in peer-reviewed science journals. But after reading these articles and listening to arguments on both sides, I’m persuaded that the Rainbow was an appropriate and, yes, ethical use of genetic engineering that has had more benefits than drawbacks. This doesn’t mean I’m pro-GMO or pro-Monsanto. I’m pro asking questions and looking at situations on a case-by-case basis.

When I was in Hawaii recently, I did something that would have been unthinkable for me a few years ago. I bought papayas at the Hilo farmers’ market that I knew to be genetically engineered and ate them. They were delicious.

What questions do you have about the transgenic papaya? Would you eat one?

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Jennifer Mo is a concerned global citizen and a long time cat/book/tree person. You can follow her green journey at It’s Not Easy to be Green.

This is a repost with permission of the author from Elephant Journal.
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33 comments to The man behind the Rainbow

  • Kristen

    Great article. Thanks!

  • Amazing article! Loved every word! Had those papayas in January every morning for breakfast when I was in Hawaii, and I agree, they were great!

  • I’d be interested to know how much it cost to get regulatory approval, and who paid for this – seems to me there’s likely to be a far mroe accurate parsing out of development costs and regulatory costs for a project like this – would be nice to have a figure that isn’t totally industry based, also nice to know what avenues academic researchers have open to them to get approvals on the global stage.

  • Hi Ewan,

    I’ll pass your question on to Dr. Gonsalves. He’s very responsive and happy to talk about his work, so you could also email him yourself with more specific questions.

  • meg caprino

    Who did the study showing that the virus breaks down in the human stomach in “3 seconds.” Please post that study.

    Genetic engineers are using human beings as unwitting and unknowing guinea pigs. Anyone who feeds GMO-modified food to their children is either ignorant or irresponsible.

    • Genetic engineers are using human beings as unwitting and unknowing guinea pigs. Anyone who feeds GMO-modified food to their children is either ignorant or irresponsible.

      I’m betting I can make a similar claim of ignorance and irresponsibility with more certainty about someone who makes a statement like that.

    • Richard R

      Funny thing, the ring spot Virus that breaks down in 3 seconds…the one you are apparently concerned about, exists in the non-GE papaya.

      “people have been eating virus infected produce for many, many years. As mentioned earlier, papaya infected with the mild strain PRSV were grown widely to combat the disease and infected fruit were eaten and commercially marketed, especially in Taiwan. […] In the mid 1990s when PRSV was devastating the industry in Hawaii, a great majority of the papaya were infected, and they were being consumed by people”

      A gene from that virus inoculates the GE papaya against the virus increasing yield.

      Why does it matter how long it takes to break down the virus contained in the non-GE papaya?

    • Meg, the resistant GE papaya contains only the gene sequence encoding the coat protein, I believe in the opposite direction. In other words, it does not actually even create the coat protein, let alone the virus. It does mean that GE papaya has far less resident virus than non-GE. Dr. Goncalves refers to the virus itself. I believe this is a correct interpretation.

      Ignorant and irresponsible? Exactly the opposite. Scientifically informed and responsible, not just following what anti-science websites and activists say. That is ignorant and irresponsible.

      • Charles M. Rader

        Kevin, are you sure that transgenic papaya uses the reverse of the gene sequence for the papaya ringspot coat protein? I thought that the gene sequence in the transgenic papaya is the same as in the virus except for the CAMV promoter, and the transgenic papaya produces coat protein.

      • I can shed some light on this. I, too, once thought it was an RNAi or a more primitive antisense approach, but I later learned in one of my classes that it was a coat protein gene in the normal orientation. As I understand it, the idea behind the papaya was to produce the coat protein which would block the receptors that the functional virus needs to infect the cells. I read more about it and I discovered that one paper found evidence of a silencing effect as well. Subsequent experiments in Thailand have involved non-translatable forms of the coat protein, which I imagine would achieve the silencing effect without even producing the coat protein itself. It is a little confusing since we normally think of RNA going in the wrong direction as inducing a silencing effect, but if you remember from its discovery in petunias, adding more of a pigment gene in its normal orientation ended up silencing the normal gene, making the petals white.

  • Its not like theres going to be an increase in the number of genetic illnesses?

    Make hay: I know theres a big difference between a synthesised copy of a gene and a gene. One reason I know is there is a big difference between LSD derived from ergot, and synthesised LSD. Scientists can say its the same. By a long distance its not.

    With papya and the ringspot virus, the two means of transition are mechanical and greenfly. The correct thing to do would be to target the mechanical transition.

    • Ewan R

      One reason I know is there is a big difference between LSD derived from ergot, and synthesised LSD.

      This explains a lot.

      • As does the signature “acid casualty” in the forums….

        For the record, Orph, Ergot, being a complete fungal organism, is a mix of a great many alkaloids and goodies. LSD is just one of them. Interestingly, many plants and fungi produce it as well.

        • I’m refering only to quality. Different batches had different quality to the extent of the difference between living and dead. There is LSD which gives a definate impression of being living, which I believe is the LSD derived from ergot. Various methods of manufacture may make a difference, but I believe the main difference is ergot. I reckon that if you are going to take LSD you want ergot via the cold method.

          According to scientists, it should be all the same.

          pdiff, there are scientists who do not take ergot as the start:

          ‘LSD can be made from lysergic acid derived from either morning-glory seeds or ergot, or from compounds made from ergot – including ergotamine tartrate, a pharmaceutical drug used in treating migraine headaches. LSD can also be synthesized totally from organic chemicals. No matter what process is used, if it is carried forth correctly, the resultant molecule is LSD.’

          http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/lsd/lsd_writings1.shtml

          I would like to make it clear that I am not refering to any other substance masquerading as LSD (I had come across it), I am saying (and would expect scientists to disagree) there are different types of LSD molecules. Specifically, there are dead LSD molecules and living LSD molecules.

          This may seem a diversion but I believe its relevant to synthetic genes.

          Seperating commonsence from science, the commonsence would be that the living LSD comes from the living entity which would be ergot, (morning glory is heavily processed). Theres 2 possible scientific explanations of which I can think. One is the subatomic particles are different.

          • Richard R

            So what you are saying is you have had different experiences with LSD, some good and some bad. These differences in experience, in your analysis, appear to be dependent on whether it was derived from what you assess to be a “living” molecule or a “dead” molecule. The differences in experience had nothing to do with differences in the quality of the bathroom in which they were made or whether the Rolling Stones had a really tight set that night.

            No wonder sugar from a Roundup Ready sugar beet should be labeled GMO. It must be a dead sugar molecule.

            • I mentioned I believed the method of manufacture was an albeit smaller issue.

              ‘I first tried acid about 12 years ago and have taken it a total of around 40 times. I’ve had blotter, microdots, and liquid LSD. The quality has varied from time to time and batch to batch, with some notable paper seeming to be clearly different than others and some seeming better.’

              http://www.erowid.org/chemicals/lsd/lsd_article2.shtml

              I agree. Yet according to scientists, LSD is LSD. Again, I would suggest that the stuff that was better was ergot.

              • Yet according to scientists, LSD is LSD.

                Not exactly. If you read carefully, you will see that manufacture of a product like this can result in different chiral or stereo-chemical forms. Each of these may or may not have similar pharmaceutical properties. An organism will almost always make only one form of a product. Lab production often produces a mix of forms. A good chemist or scientist is aware of this and can and will isolate the correct form, if necessary. It could be you are referring to a difference like this.

                And, no, you may not ask why I have an old, but acute knowledge of such things …….

                • It appears you refer to:

                  ‘There are further speculations about whether even minute impurities could affect the receptor binding of LSD and therefore change the experience, or how LSD degrades over time, possibly converting active LSD into lumi-LSD, iso-LSD, or other less-well-known degradation products that might alter the effects of the material.’

                  Whether it is dealt with in your post (I guess its not), I’m quite sure that if you had pure chemical LSD and pure ergot LSD, its different.

                  • I’m guessing you didn’t pass chemistry. The effects you imply could equally alter either.

                    Maybe it’s a homeopathic effect? :-)

                    To get back to your original premise that products from genetically altered things are “different” from “natural” ones, perhaps we could engineer an e. coli beasty to make it for you, using ergot genes. Would that be “different”? I seriously doubt users of insulin find their e. coli product “different” than an animal source.

                    • Twominds

                      They do. They find it much better, because it’s human insuline that e-coli produces, not pig insuline that’s slightly different and doesn’t work so well in the human body.

    • WonderWerb

      Interesting thread, because to me, intuitively, of course there is a difference. It is not binary – LSD or not LSD, organic apple or a representation of one. Things tend to lie on a continuum. Most Western science is based on a reductionist, mechanical, and materialistic paradigm that isolates, labels and measures and is limited by it’s tools. It seems to me the difference is LIFE FORCE, which can be passed on but not synthesized. Tachyon energy, orgone, spin – whatever you want to call it. Quantum physics is taking us closer to a discussion of metaphysical concepts within a scientific context. And no, never did LSD, more interested in trying magic mushrooms – but my brain just operates that way. “I don’t do drugs: I am drugs.” (me and Salvador Domingo Felipe Jacinto Dalí i Domènech :)

      • Tachyons are a fictitious particle from Star Trek, and “Orgone” is a pseudoscientific buzzword with no meaning. “Life force” is the same thing – two real words with real meanings mashed together to become something that has no meaning at all. If “Life Force” can only be “passed on” as you say, you should understand that the GMO papaya was never itself wholly synthesized. It was a living organism, and never ceased to be a living organism the whole time – except now it has an added gene. Therefore, the GMO papaya should still have a “life force” if ever such a thing existed. How could you tell whether or not something has or does not have a “life force?” I will wager real money that in a double-blind test that you could not guess which one was GMO any better than random chance. Science studies and tests things that are real, and the concepts you describe are not. I would be happy to be proven wrong on this by a future experiment that reliably detects any of these pseudoscientific concepts that you describe. Hand-waving at Quantum Physics is something entirely different from explaining and demonstrating what you describe.
        Instead, I think you are confusing cultural meaning with a scientific phenomenon. You find something empty in the concept of a GMO, and it is a personal, subjective view. I, on the other hand, find an organism that has been given new abilities that allow it to protect itself from a ravenous pathogen to have a strength of life that is both real and and symbolic.

  • MikeB

    Terrific article. Delicious. Enlightening. I wish I could go out and buy a Hawaiian papaya, but there all “from away” around here.

  • Hi Ewan,

    Dr. Gonsalves got back to me about your question about how much the deregulation process cost, and this is what he had to say:

    The work that we did to deregulate the transgenic papaya in the US and in Japan was done almost entirely by the investigators’ lab funds and also by contributed work by graduate students and post docs that were working on papaya but not specifically for the deregulation process.

    I look at our efforts as similar to getting a series of grants to pursue a project. The initial project was to see if we could develop a transgenic papaya that was resistant to PRSV, and when we got it, we then pursued deregulation. To develop the deregulation package for US and Japan, we had to numerous experiments to answer questions that were asked by the regulators. Well, some of the questions simply involved characterizing the transgenic papaya in more detail which we would have done as part of our normal round of research to learn more about the transgenic papaya. So, I cannot put a dedicated dollar amount of funds that were used to deregulate the transgenic papaya. I can tell you that it did not cost millions of dollars. The specific funds we got to help deregulate the papaya in Japan were: $60,000 from the state of Hawaii, $33,000 from the papaya industry association who got the funds from a grant from the USDA/Foreign Ag Service, and $20,000 from a grant directly from the USDA/Foreign Service. Definitely, we spent more money than that to do the experiments, etc. But these were the only dedicated funds for deregulation that I received.

    • Thanks Jennifer – that’s pretty fascinating actually – so $113k specifically for the Japanese deregulation (One assumes that this would likely end up being the top end of the spectrum based on conversations with folk in regulatory – Japan is the toughest nut to crack (anecdotally at least – which to me is also a tad surprising as one might expect Europe to be toughest given the stance of the EU in general))

      Does Dr Gonsalves (and appologies here for not first attempting google-fu; it’s still no coffee for me o’clock) have an approximate figure for the end to end cost of the project (As far as I recall in Industry the split is something nuts like 10% pre reg 90% reg (numbers cited from the journal of proctological statistics), but that is in large part because many of the characterization experiments are rolled into the regulatory cost rather than prior to that) – this would again be interesting to compare to the ~$100M cost oft cited by industry (it’d also be of interest to see how many markets the papaya is deregulated in and use this as some sort of multiplicative factor to make some sort of assumption on cost of getting something accepted globally) – not sure how Papaya viability works, but for row crops success hinges on deregulation in pretty much all markets.

      You can apologize also to Dr.Gonsalves for me – obviously the money side is massively tedious compared to the coolness of the science done, alas however I feel that I have a relatively good grasp on that side and feel the $ figures may add something to the overall discussion (and possibly the drive for other labs to do similar – if industry consistently tells everyone it costs $100M to get a product to market (which it probably does *for them* (being a behemoth doesn’t necessarily make you do things either cheaply or efficiently – and there is also the possibility that you end up doing more than is needed (y’know the whole hoo-ha about much of the US regulatory stuff being voluntary))) when it can actually be 100x less than this… well, different ball game.

      Would also be interesting to see what the costs were due to look like for Pam Ronald’s flood tolerant rice – if memory serves they had to go the breeding route specifically due to cost – is $120k (ish) enough to do this, or was that due to be a lot more costly?

  • One year on it’s rightfully called what it is – a success (http://hawaiitribune-herald.com/sections/news/local-news/papaya-gmo-success-story.html ). Just don’t mind the article comment thread…

  • T

    Great article. I was wondering what genetic material was incorporated into the papaya since I had eaten hundreds over the past few years. All I can say is that they seem relatively innocuous. Does anyone know much about the Bacillus thuringiensis endotoxin expressed in GM corn?

  • Beth Lande

    Is it not true that Mr. Gonsalves co-holds several patents that have Cornell and Seminis Vegetable Seed Company or Asgrow Seed as the assignees? Those patents are now owned by Monsanto who bought Seminis and Asgrow.
    Once the GMO papayas were field tested I read Mr. Gonsalves statements that he actually filled out the paperwork to the USDA and other agencies for deregulation and at that same time he was still on the USDA task force. Do you see this as a conflict of interest? And after the deregulation was done and the seeds were passed on to the farmers in 1998 Mr. Gosalves left Cornell. In 1999 the patents were approved. In 2002 Mr Gonsalves was appointed Director of the USDA Pacific Basin Agricultural Research Center. Seems timing was likely due to IP rights and patent conflicts. A
    lso, Mr. Gonsalves credits R. Beachy for work on GMO tomato and Sanford worked with him on that project developing the gene gun that Gonsalves used. Beachy was at Cornell on a post-doctoral fellowship at the same time as Gonsalves in 1977 when he started his work on the GMO papaya.
    In 1978 Beachy went to Washington U and pursued research funding for his tomato project from Monsanto. Later, Beachy became the founding President of Danforth. According to its website, the center “was founded in 1998 through gifts from the St. Louis-based Danforth Foundation, the Monsanto Fund (a philanthropic foundation), and a tax credit from the State of Missouri” (Danforth, 1998)
    The chairman of the board at Danforth was Dr. William H. Danforth a highly trained physician who served on the Institute of Health council in 1977-79, and who was the chancellor of Washington University and Chair of BioStL a medical Biotech company (Danforth, 1998).
    On the Board of Trustees of Danforth were Monsanto’s CEO Hugh Grant, along Jim McDonnell of defense giant McDonnell Douglas, P. Roy Vagelos CEO of big pharmaceutical Merck from 1985-1994, and Alfonso Romo who owned the world’s largest vegetable seed company Seminis that he sold to Monsanto in 2005 (Western Farm Press, 2005)
    Beachy is still listed as an active researcher at Danforth, was hired as the head of National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the main research arm of the USDA in 2009. I don’t see how our Governmental Safety Regulatory Agencies can remain unbiased when those who serve on them stand to make royalties off the very products they are supposed to be regulating.
    I am not clear on how it is not a conflict of interest to be so tight with large Monocrop GMO companies who spend billions of dollars on research for R&D (which could be grant funding for work like developing a GMO papaya)and co-hold on patents with the developers and producers.
    And how is it safe when the burden to determine safety falls on the people who develope or produce the product–if they spend all that money for R&D will they really want to report any findings that their product may not be safe? I’m not buying it.
    [editor's note - paragraph breaks added to make this comment easier to read]

    • Being in the same place at the same time does not indicate a connection. Without additional evidence, this sounds like conspiracy theory, in my opinion. One thing I would like to point out is that government departments are not single entities. They are made up of agencies and sub agencies that often don’t have a lot of connections to each other.

  • [...] Leave a Comment In a recent interview with the man who saved the Hawaiian payapa industry, the writer, Jennifer Mo raised an interesting, [...]

  • [...] all genetically engineered crops are controlled by large companies like Monsanto. For instance, the rainbow papaya, genetically engineered for disease resistance, was developed by publicly funded scientists, and [...]

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