Biotech Seed Companies Thwarting Good Science

Posted by Miwa at Feb 23, 2009 08:52 PM |
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From Miwa:

We’re getting closer to knowing why we don’t know what we don’t know–in an unusual statement issued earlier this month, 26 leading corn insect scientists expressed their opposition to industry stranglehold on research of genetically modified crops.

“No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions,” the statement says.

The blurring line between business, government, and academic science appear to have produced a system where all three are unable to fulfill their kuleana to serve (or at least, not to damage) the public good–including local economies, public health, and the environment.

Hawaii has more experimental field trials of genetic engineering than any other state in the nation, and seed corn is now Hawaii’s top crop. Permits granted for field trials include: corn engineered with human genes (Dow), corn engineered with jellyfish genes (Stanford University), and corn engineered with hepatitis virus genes (Prodigene).

Excerpt from Andrew Pollack’s article in the New York Times:

The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. But the agreements also prohibit growing the crops for research purposes.

Such agreements have long been a problem, the scientists said, but they are going public now because frustration has been building.

“If a company can control the research that appears in the public domain, they can reduce the potential negatives that can come out of any research,” said Ken Ostlie, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota, who was one of the scientists who had signed the statement.

Dr. Shields of Cornell said financing for agricultural research had gradually shifted from the public sector to the private sector. That makes many scientists at universities dependent on financing or technical cooperation from the big seed companies.

“People are afraid of being blacklisted,” he said. “If your sole job is to work on corn insects and you need the latest corn varieties and the companies decide not to give it to you, you can’t do your job.”

See the full article at:

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