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
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