St. Louis Post-Dispatch; 03/12/99
After meetings in St. Louis this week, the international relief agency CARE
said it would not enter a partnership with Monsanto Co. because of worries
by farmers in developing countries about Monsanto's genetically engineered
Milo Stanojevich, CARE's chief of staff, said Thursday that it became clear
at the end of two days of discussions that brought CARE representatives
from around the world that his organization had no interest in an alliance
that St. Louis-based Monsanto was suggesting.
The partnership could have meant contributions from Monsant for CARE's
projects. The rejection is a setback for Monsanto, which stood to boost its
image around the world and perhaps counter suspicion of its genetic
technologies that exists widely outside of North America.
But Stanojevich said his organization wasn't persuaded that genetically
modified crops would benefit subsistence farmers in developing countries
where CARE works. He said the concerns reflected fears by many farmers that
they could become dependent on Monsanto if the use of modified seeds
becomes dominant in farming.
"There are concerns about the dependence it may create on one company,"
Stanojevich said, speaking by telephone from Atlanta. "What we said was
that at this point, there are open questions about this technology and
that we didn't really see how continued bilateral talks would be fruitful."
But he added that CARE hopes to involve other organizations in future
discussions about genetic engineering with biotechnology companies.
CARE is one of the world's largest privately run relief and development
organizations, operating in 60 countries. It was founded in 1946 as a means
to help European survivors of World War II.
Monsanto's chief operating officer, Robert B. Shapiro, had suggested the
St. Louis meetings, which drew a 10-member CARE delegation to St. Louis
from as far away as Africa and Asia. Shapiro also took part in the
Monsanto asserts that its technologies can help farmers in developing
countries to combat pests and drought, and that farmers will always have a
choice in the seeds they plant.
Philip Angell, **Monsanto**'s chief of corporate communications, described
the meetings with CARE as preliminary. He said that they were not aimed at
reaching an agreement on details of a partnership, although such an
arrangement might have evolved later. "It was designed to start these two
organizations talking to each other," he said.
A partnership, Angell added, "would only have been a decision after
dialogue and more back and forth."
Soybeans, corn and other crops modified by genetic engineering are rapidly
taking root in the United States. But in most of the rest of the world, it
is another story. Europe and many developing countries have erected
barriers to commercial production of modified crops. They worry that the
safety hasn't been demonstrated over time and that its introduction could
disrupt their farm economies and give a few companies too much control over
their food and farmers.
Those concerns were voiced loudly last month at U.N. biosafety negotiations
in South America. In those talks, the United States, Canada and a handful
of allies blocked a drive to establish global regulations governing the
trade in modified organisms.
Monsanto tried last year to establish an alliance with another respected
international entity - the Grameen Bank of Bangladesh. The Grameen Bank is
famous in development and lending circles for "microcredit" - loans to
small farmers and the disadvantaged. But after being scolded by advocacy
groups around the world, the bank backed out of an arrangement in which
Monsanto had promised $150,000 to support its activities.
Exactly what kind of partnership that Monsanto and CARE were talking about
was unclear. CARE's Stanojevich said that "philanthropy" by Monsanto had
been discussed but that the talks hadn't reached the point of specifics.
CARE has a range of partnerships from licensing agreements in which
companies use CARE's name on their products to simpler deals in which
companies donate to help with projects in parts of the world where they do
business. Two of CARE's best-known partnerships are with Starbucks and
The main critic of **Monsanto**'s attempted alliances is Rural Advancement
Foundation International, an advocacy group with offices in the United
States and Canada. With its e-mail and fax network, the foundation already
had begun to pressure CARE to avoid an alliance with Monsanto.
Rural Advancement's executive director, Pat Mooney, said: "I think some of
this is quite genuine on Monsanto's part and that they might have something
to help solve problems. The danger in working with farmers who are the
poorest of the poor is giving them loans tied to Monsanto's technology."
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