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7-Misc: Monsanto in commercial relationship with Canadian government

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TITLE:  Ottawa mum on relationship with biotech firm
SOURCE: CBC Radio, Canada
DATE:   May 6, 1999

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Ottawa mum on relationship with biotech firm

Ottawa - Agriculture Canada has refused to release information about its commercial relationship with a biotech company, over the insistence of a senator studying food safety. Tory Senator Mira Spivak asked for details about research that Monsanto Canada is conducting at the department's facilities across Canada. But the minister says the information is confidential. Critics point to the minister's refusal as proof that the government has become too cozy with a biotech industry that it's supposed to be regulating. Even the government's own internal documents reflect the same concerns.

One document CBC News obtained under the Access to Information Act reads "The department's partnerships with industry, clients in doing biotech research will affect the public perception of our role." Spivak, a member of the Senate agriculture committee, has an interest in biotech issues and the relationship between the government and companies such as Monsanto. Among her questions for the department: What work was Monsanto doing at government research centres? And how much money has Agriculture accepted from the industry over the past 15 years. "The public is entitled to know everything there is to know about the research involving foods that they have to consume," she said.

Agriculture Minister Lyle Vanclief says everyone has a right to general information about the biotech industry. In fact, a big part of the government's biotech strategy includes talking about ways the technology benefits farmers, consumers and the environment. But Vanclief says Spivak is asking for commercial information about Monsanto's activities, and Canada's privacy law gives the government the right to keep the information secret. As for Monsanto Canada, its president says he won't comment on this issue.


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