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Date: Wed, 25 Nov 1998 23:29:55 +0100
From: Richard Wolfson <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Monsanto denies testing seed with high-yield gene in india
November 23, 1998
NEW DELHI - AP World News via NewsEdge Corporation : Responding to threats
from a militant farmers' group, Monsanto Co. denied Friday it was locally
testing seeds altered with a gene that promotes greater yields but renders
the plants sterile.
``Since the so-called terminator gene does not exist today in any plant in
any country in the world, the question of its involvement in the field
trials currently on in India does not arise,'' the agricultural and
pharmaceutical products giant said in a statement.
Delta and Pine Land Co. of Scott, Missouri _ the largest cotton seed
company in the world recently acquired by Monsanto _ developed and patented
the gene, which produces higher yields but its crops have sterile seeds.
Critics say seeds altered with the gene would force farmers to repeatedly
buy new seeds rather than saving seeds for successive crops, eventually
giving companies unprecedented control of the world's food supply.
The Wall Street Journal Europe (WSJE)
Succumbing to Green Scare Tactics, By Frank Furedi 11/23/98
(Copyright (c) 1998, Dow Jones & Company, Inc.)
Monsanto, one of the world's leading food companies, has become the major
casualty of a bitter environmentalist campaign against genetically modified
food in Europe. Last week, in a coup for anti-technology lobby groups
everywhere, Greenpeace circulated two Monsanto internal memos revealing a
collapse of public support for the U.S.-based company's genetic technology
in Britain and Germany. The memos, written by Stan Greenberg, chairman of
Greenberg Research for Monsanto, paint a sad picture of a beleaguered
industry. "Over the past year, the situation has deteriorated steadily and
perhaps at an accelerating pace," writes Mr. Greenberg. He goes on to warn
that the situation is likely to get worse.
Monsanto is particularly worried about flagging enthusiasm for its products
among major retailers and opinion makers. Its strategy for introducing
genetically modified food into Europe was strongly criticized at a series
of meetings held in September with corporate leaders, scientific advisors
and senior buyers and managers at large retailers such as Marks & Spencer,
Waitrose, Tesco, CWS, Asda and Safeway. Many retailers supported a
moratorium on the introduction of genetically modified food because they
feared attracting negative publicity.
Genetic engineering: When Monsanto asked Stanley Greenberg to analyse its
situation in Britain, he found public acceptance of its genetically
modified foods falling dramatically, but support amongst MPs increasing. We
print edited extracts of the leaked document ,
By Stanley Greenberg
Wednesday November 25, 1998
Biotechnology and Monsanto face their toughest European test in Britain
where the broad climate is extremely inhospitable to biotechnology
acceptance. Over the past year, the situation has deteriorated steadily and
is perhaps even accelerating, with the latest survey showing an ongoing
collapse of public support for biotechnology and genetically modified (GM)
At each point in this project, we keep thinking that we have reached the
low point and that public thinking will stabilise, but, apparently, that
has not happened yet.
The public feels increasingly negative about nearly all the terms
associated with genetic modification, and a similar pattern is evident for
genetic engineering and biotechnology.
Overall feeling towards foods with genetically modified ingredients have
grown dramatically more negative, which is probably the best measure of our
declining fortunes in Britain. Only about 12 per cent have reacted
positively over the last year, but negative feelings have risen from 38 per
cent a year ago, to 51 per cent today. A third of the public is now
extremely negative, up from 20 per cent.
The number of people who think such ingredients are 'acceptable' has
declined somewhat (from 33 to 25 per cent over the year); and more than
ever are saying such products are 'unacceptable': 35 per cent last year,
rising to 44 per cent before the summer and to 51 per cent now.
A growing number now say GM has no place in plants: the percentage saying
it is 'unacceptable' has risen from 22 to 26 to 38 per cent - up 12 points
over the summer when the press has paid increasing attention to issues
related to field trials.
>From the survey it is evident that there has been a collapse of public
support in Britain, which has worsened over the summer. There are clearly
large forces at work that are making public acceptance in Britain
The public collapse is paralleled and probably exaggerated by the hostility
of the press to biotechnology and GM foods and seeds. We conducted
interviews with members of the media (though not the correspondents
directly writing on the issue) to ascertain their position.
What emerged was that the media elites are strongly hostile to
biotechnology and Monsanto. They think the Government is being too lax and
believe they must expose the dangers - which they increasingly see as
environmental. While individual reporters may have improved their
knowledge, there is no evidence of that among the media elites - who do not
seem informed on the issue.
The press in Britain thinks these products are being introduced without
serious regulation and labelling for the consumer. They see no commission
being set up, no code of standards, no initiatives for further testing -
even as the public has become more and more alarmed. Neither do they see
the food manufacturers doing very much. Zeneca has been low key; Monsanto
has communicated in a limited manner; and retailers are watching to see the
In that context the media elites think they have an obligation to highlight
the dangers. They think these products are being introduced in the midst of
an information vacuum. We face a media elite that is very supportive of
strong regulatory measures.
Retailers are critical arbiters since they have very high credibility in
Britain and because they believe Monsanto has handed off to them the task
of winning public acceptance. They carry with them their resentment of
Monsanto for badly mismanaging the introduction of biotechnology in Europe
and for allowing the issue to be decided in the supermarkets. As a result
they are anxious for someone else to move on to the front line, preferably
Monsanto has made some progress among the retailers. Those we spoke with
are quite well briefed, in some cases citing Monsanto briefing statistics
word for word. They are largely comfortable with the use of biotechnology
in foods. In contrast to a year ago, when we conducted similar interviews,
they no longer seem focused on safety concerns, but are beginning to talk
about the environmental impact from crop introductions. At the end of the
day however, they believe in the technology and think the long-term
benefits outweigh the risks.
The networks that most directly influence the decision makers in Britain -
the super socio-economic AB segment - are hardly leading the way for
biotechnology acceptance. They are at least as negative on the subject as
the general public. This is the opposite of the pattern in the United
States where college and post-graduates and elites have helped forge the
way for biotechnology.
Feelings about food with GM ingredients among the AB classes began
negatively (15 per cent positive and 47 per cent negative) and grew
astonishingly negative by June of this year (14 per cent positive and an
astonishing 57 per cent negative.
Fortunately there is some evidence of stabilisation among the group.
Negative sentiments about GM food have risen only marginally since June. At
the same time these elite segments have pulled back somewhat from
environmental groups and, perhaps most interesting, seem less uniformly
hostile to Monsanto.
Over the course of the summer we have seen only slight increases in
negativity within the ABs, and nothing comparable to the general public's
lack of acceptance.
The one issue where there is genuine progress among the ABs (and maybe with
the public as a whole) is in attitudes toward Monsanto. The intense 5-1
negativity about Monsanto a year ago has dissipated considerably. Reactions
to Monsanto among the ABs is now 2-1 negative.
Amidst the overall collapse with the general public, Monsanto's position
has stabilised over the year and in the most recent period. The 2-1
negative image at the outset of the year remains unchanged. Monsanto began
as an issue, but despite all the news coverage and general collapse, it has
been able to stabilise its position.
During September we conducted face-to-face interviews with 14 MPs (mostly
Labour) and upper-level civil servants, including chief scientists. A year
ago the same research found a political establishment open to
biotechnology, but critical of Monsanto and uncertain of the benefits. At
the same time just a third of the elite respondents saw the benefits as
But among the political elite today, there is clear evidence of progress.
Fully half of the MPs see benefits outweighing risks, 70 per cent of the
MPs reacted positively to GM foods. These members of the elite saw the
advertising and clearly understood the messages.
When asked whether the introduction of GM foods should be allowed or
stopped in Britain, they became quite articulate about the future of
biotechnology. Frankly, a moratorium gets little support among the MPs and
On the other hand, political leaders remember the introduction of soya and
GM foods and have not forgotten many of their feelings about Monsanto. The
company's main work in Britain is in still trying to overcome the strong
negative reaction to the way it introduced this issue.
When asked about the introduction, the MPs and civil servants had little
trouble recalling the detail and have little doubt that over the long term
things will work out, with a typical comment being: 'I'm sure in five years
time, everybody will be happily eating genetically modified apples, plums,
peaches and peas.' Stanley B Greenberg is chairman and chief executive of
Greenberg Research; he has also served as an advisor to Bill Clinton,
Nelson Mandela and Tony Blair. These are edited extracts of a Monsanto
document leaked without his knowledge to Greenpeace last week.
Richard Wolfson, PhD
Consumer Right to Know Campaign,
for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term
Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods,
500 Wilbrod Street
Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2
tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
contains more information on genetic engineering as well as
previous genetic engineering news items
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