Guest blogger Raoul Adamchak on corporate transparency

posted in: Science | 3

Science based information is critical to Sustainable Agriculture.

Agricultural scientists (26) from corn producing states have sent a letter to the EPA criticizing GE seed companies for limiting access to seeds for scientific research.  (Pollack, Andrew, NYT, 2/20/09)
All of the scientists have been active participants of the Regional Research Projects NCCC-46 “Development, Optimization, and Delivery of Management Strategies for Corn Rootworms and Other Below-ground Insect Pests of Maize” and/or related projects with corn insect pests.  The comment appears as follows:

“Technology/stewardship agreements required for the purchase of genetically modified seed explicitly prohibit research. These agreements inhibit public scientists from pursuing their mandated role on behalf of the public good, unless the research is approved by industry. As a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology, its performance, its management implications, IRM, and its interactions with insect biology. Consequently, data flowing to an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel from the public sector is unduly limited.”

It appears that the leaders at these seed companies have not yet embraced the idea that the acceptance of GE crops is dependent upon peer-reviewed, scientific research that evaluates effectiveness, safety, or impact on non-target species.  Without access and transparency and evaluation by independent scientists, it becomes impossible to determine the suitability of GE crops for agriculture.  Hopefully, in the light of these comments to the EPA, the companies will develop methods to facilitate access by university researchers who are a necessary part of our system of scientific checks and balances.

In this specific case, the evaluation of effectiveness of BT corn for rootworm control is critical in helping farmers determine if the extra cost of the GE seed is justified by increased yield due to presence of the BT toxin gene. One reason that BT corn has been adapted at a lower rate (@35%) than herbicide tolerant soybeans (@90%), is that in some regions of the U.S. the pests (European Corn Borer or corn root worm) do not attack corn in sufficiently high numbers to reach the economic threshold that justifies the expense of BT corn.  Research done by land grant university scientists has been essential in determining the economic thresholds for these pests.  This work helps reduce farmer expenses and increases economic return, an important goal of a sustainable ag system.

Science based information is critical to Sustainable Agriculture.

Agricultural scientists (26) from corn producing states have sent a letter to the EPA criticizing GE seed companies for limiting access to seeds for scientific research.  (Pollack, Andrew, NYT, 2/20/09)
All of the scientists have been active participants of the Regional Research Projects NCCC-46 “Development, Optimization, and Delivery of Management Strategies for Corn Rootworms and Other Below-ground Insect Pests of Maize” and/or related projects with corn insect pests.  The comment appears as follows:

“Technology/stewardship agreements required for the purchase of genetically modified seed explicitly prohibit research. These agreements inhibit public scientists from pursuing their mandated role on behalf of the public good, unless the research is approved by industry. As a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology, its performance, its management implications, IRM, and its interactions with insect biology. Consequently, data flowing to an EPA Scientific Advisory Panel from the public sector is unduly limited.”

It appears that the leaders at these seed companies have not yet embraced the idea that the acceptance of GE crops is dependent upon peer-reviewed, scientific research that evaluates effectiveness, safety, or impact on non-target species.  Without access and transparency and evaluation by independent scientists, it becomes impossible to determine the suitability of GE crops for agriculture.  Hopefully, in the light of these comments to the EPA, the companies will develop methods to facilitate access by university researchers who are a necessary part of our system of scientific checks and balances.

In this specific case, the evaluation of effectiveness of BT corn for rootworm control is critical in helping farmers determine if the extra cost of the GE seed is justified by increased yield due to presence of the BT toxin gene. One reason that BT corn has been adapted at a lower rate (@35%) than herbicide tolerant soybeans (@90%), is that in some regions of the U.S. the pests (European Corn Borer or corn root worm) do not attack corn in sufficiently high numbers to reach the economic threshold that justifies the expense of BT corn.  Research done by land grant university scientists has been essential in determining the economic thresholds for these pests.  This work helps reduce farmer expenses and increases economic return, an important goal of a sustainable ag system.

Raoul Adamchak is co-author of Tomorrow’s Table: Organic Farming, Genetics and the Future of Food”. He has grown organic crops for twenty years, part of the time as a partner in Full Belly Farm, a private 150-acre organic vegetable farm that provided weekly produce boxes to over five hundred subscribers. Raoul has sold produce at three high-volume farmers’ markets, and to wholesalers and retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area and Sacramento. He has also spent many hours discussing organic certification issues as a member and president of California Certified Organic Farmers (CCOF) and Board of Directors and inspected over one hundred organic farms for CCOF. He received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Clark University and also received a master of science degree in International Agricultural Development from the University of California, Davis, where he also studied entomology. He now works at the University of California, Davis Student Farm, where he teaches organic production practices and manages a five-acre market garden.

Follow Pamela Ronald:

Pamela Ronald is Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis, where she studies the role that genes play in a plant’s response to its environment. Her research focuses on the genetics of rice. With her husband, she co-wrote Tomorrow's Table:organic farming, genetics and the future of food. She writes a blog of the same name.

  • Monsanto is aware of the recent comments made by some researchers regarding testing GM crops and we are taking their comments seriously. We understand the value of public and private research for developing new technology. In fact, Monsanto has enabled hundreds of research studies by independent experts to better understand the efficacy, value and safety of GM crops. We have enabled several universities in the US to expand knowledge in the areas of pest biology and IRM. These efforts help build the scientific knowledge, expertise and the opportunity for scientific peer review and relevant discussions regarding the science. We continually evaluate our process for supporting this research. The comments made by these academic researchers is an opportunity to better understand their research needs and address the transparency of the process.

    Signed,

    Rob Nixon
    Monsanto Director of Stewardship

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  • Corporate Transparency is difficult to define but you did a wonderful job!