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December 1, 2000
Monsanto Offers Environmental Responsibility Pledge
WASHINGTON--In a speech given to the Nov. 27 Farm Journal Conferencehere, Monsanto president and chief executive officer, Hendrik Verfaillie,expressed a new pledge about the relationship between agriculture andbiotechnology. This pledge also included issues that had been highlighted by theAventis CropScience StarLink corn debacle.
Verfaillie began his speech by expounding on the benefits of biotechnologyfor the agro-business world; namely, that this technology reduced the need forchemical pesticides by five percent in five years and which translated into millionsand millions of pounds of pesticide. However, he noted that Monsanto had nottaken into account the issues and concerns the world held for biotechnology.
We missed the fact that this technology raises major issues forpeople--issues of ethics, of choice of trust, even of democracy andglobalization, Verfaillie said. He then offered Monsantos pledge,consisting of five elements: dialogue, transparency, sharing, deliveringbenefits and respect.
Under each element, various promises were made: Monsanto would create anexternal Biotechnology Advisory Council under dialogue; scientific data onproduct safety and benefits would become available to the public under transparency;the company would share technology and agricultural innovations with publicinstitutions, non-profits and local industry under sharing; and thecompany would educate growers on soil conservation and other benefits ofbiotechnology under the aptly named benefits section.
However, under the respect section, Monsanto took some pot shots atAventis and its unfortunate StarLink corn. Under this pledge, Monsanto 1) willcommercialize grain products only after being approved for human and animalconsumption; 2) will not use genes from animals or humans for products intendedfor food or feed; 3) will never commercialize a product where a known allergenhas been introduced; 4) will not pursue technologies that result in sterileseed; and 5) will use alternatives to antibiotic resistance genes as soon as thetechnology has been proven to be safe and effective.
In addition, Monsanto announced that it will restrict sales of a certaingenetically modified (GM) corn and will delay commercialization until 2002 ofanother variety that is toxic to the corn rootworm.
For more information about Monsantos pledge, visit www.monsanto.com.
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