Corporate Monopoly of Science

ISIS Report 08/04/09

Corporations are aiming for an absolute stranglehold on scientific research and the flow of scientific information; that’s why patents on GM crops should be abolished Prof. Peter Saunders

Scientists blocked from independent research on GM crops As you may already know, you can’t just go into a store and buy genetically modified (GM) seeds. You have to sign an agreement with the company that produced them, and one of the conditions is that you may not save the seeds from your harvest. Anyone growing GM crops has to buy seeds from the company every year, which is a problem for all farmers, but especially for those in the Third World; as Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser’s epic battle with Monsanto so clearly brings home to us [1] (Who Owns Life, Not Monsanto? SiS 42).

What is less well known is that the agreements also prohibit you from using the seeds for research. That may not matter to most farmers, but it is important because it means that research into GM crops can be done only by the biotech companies or with their approval. If they don’t want a particular piece of research carried out, they can refuse permission to use their seeds. Even when they have given permission, if they don’t like the way the research is turning out they can stop it, or prevent the results from being published. Consequently, important decisions on GM crops and all GM organisms (GMOs) are increasingly based on evidence selected by the companies to put them and their products in the best possible light.

That’s why when the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) invited comments from the public in advance of two meetings on GM crops it was holding earlier this year, twenty six scientists submitted a statement protesting the “technology/stewardship agreements” they have to sign, which inhibit them from doing research for the public good. [2] As a result, “no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology”. The full statement is reproduced in the Box.

Scientists’ Statement to US EPA

Docket EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0836

The following statement has been submitted by 26 leading corn insect scientists working at public research institutions located in 16 corn producing states. 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 statement may be applicable to all EPA decisions on PIPs, not just for the current SAP. It should not be interpreted that the actions and opinions of these 26 scientists represent those of the entire group of scientists participating in NCCC-46. The names of the scientists have been withheld from the public docket because virtually all of us require cooperation from industry at some level to conduct our research.


"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."

All the scientists have been active researchers into corn insect pests, and many of them are in favour of GM crops, but they are very concerned about the restrictions placed on them by the industry that effectively stop independent research, and the resulting bias in the evidence being presented to the EPA and other regulatory agencies. This does not surprise those of us who have been complaining about the lack of independent research and regulators that routinely ignore and dismiss all evidence of hazards [3]
(see GM Food Nightmare Unfolding in the Regulatory Sham, ISIS Scientific Publication).

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