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7-Misc: US Agriculture Secretary is unhappy about DuPont-Pioneer merger

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Glickman concerned Pioneer-DuPont deal to harm GMO
By Barbara Hagenbaugh

SAN FRANCISCO, March 23 (Reuters) - U.S.Agriculture Secretary Dan 
Glickman has expressed concern that DuPont Co.'s acquisition of Pioneer 
Hi-Bred International could fuel the fire of skeptics of genetically 
modified crops, the head of Pioneer said on Tuesday. Charles Johnson, 
Pioneer's chairman, chief executive officer and president, said in a 
"friendly" meeting with Glickman last week the secretary said he was 
concerned the acquisition by the chemical giant would raise "red flags" 
for those who opposed genetically modified food. The DuPont-Pioneer 
acquisition has not been finalized.
Glickman thought the purchase of Pioneer, the nation's largest seed 
breeder, would be "another argument to the evil, the negative" that is 
being touted in some countries, especially in Europe, about GMO's, 
Johnson said at the National Grain and Feed Association's conference. The 
secretary did not express that he would make any attempt to block the 
buy, Johnson said. Genetically modified commodities have been a topic of 
bitter resistance abroad, especially in Europe and in some African 
nations, where the crops are often seen as a threat to public health.
Carol Brookins, chairman and CEO of World Perspectives, Inc., said there 
is also a growing campaign against GMO's in Asia, a campaign that the 
United States has yet to counter. Brookins suggested that agreeing to 
labeling may be a way to gain GMO acceptance in Europe. "It is time for 
the U.S. government to stop fighting labeling," she said.
Johnson suggested that the United States needs to wage a war against the 
GMO propaganda, but suggested that the responsibility should not rest on 
the companies that sell the seeds. "We've got a serious problem but the 
problem is not something the seed industry can resolve," he said. "Maybe 
the marketplace has to decide. We have to think very carefully how to 
approach this." After the speech, Johnson told reporters that it will not 
be easy to turn Europe around. "I don't think they are going to be easily 
convinced," he said.
Johnson suggested that the United States should reach out to Europeans 
and other foreign consumers to determine what they want so that U.S. 
companies can provide products that avoid the GMO controversy altogether. 
"We need to listen enough to understand what in their food system could 
be improved," while staying in their "value system," he said. When asked 
if Pioneer planned to enter the grain business, Johnson said that he did 
not see that as "a logical place" for the company he has worked at for 
nearly 34 years. "If we can work in a partnership, then I'd much rather 
approach it that way," he said.
Regarding the merger with DuPont that was announced early last week, 
Johnson said he did not think the merger threatens competition in any 
way, but will help Pioneer to gain the financial backing to develop new 
technology and remain a front- runner in the seed business, rather than 
fall behind other companies who have been gunning to take away his 
company's market share. "We didn't put two seed companies together," he 
said. "We will be able to be in a position to have equal footing with the 
other companies."

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