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2-Plants: Monsanto launches "plant version of the moon shot"



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TITLE:  A Mission Launched
SOURCE: St Louis Post-Dispatch, USA, Editorial
        sent by AgBioView, USA
DATE:   November 2, 2001

------------------ archive: http://www.gene.ch/genet.html ------------------


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Americans, the world's healthiest, wealthiest people, can do something 
better to feed the world's starving people than give them our food. We can 
give them our science. [   ] A country that cannot feed its own people has 
a foundation for chaos of every sort.
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A Mission Launched

Challenged to overcome our grief, tame our fear and fight for the "hearts 
and minds" of those who distrust us, Americans can take pride in one small 
group of people from many countries who will begin work today in Creve 
Coeur to help feed the world. The opening of the Donald Danforth Plant 
Science Center is a small occasion of great hope. Its multicultural, 
humanitarian mission deserves our encouragement.

The underlying premise of the center is ambitious and new. Americans, the 
world's healthiest, wealthiest people, can do something better to feed the 
world's starving people than give them our food. We can give them our 
science. We can discover and share methods of genetically altering crops to 
make them more nutritious and easier to grow in hostile soil and weather. 
When we give countries the technology to grow their own food, we give them 
self-determination. A country that cannot feed its own people has a 
foundation for chaos of every sort. Afghanistan certainly comes to mind.

To succeed, the center must take on tricky challenges that have nothing to 
do with coaxing cassavas from drought-parched soil. It must place ethics 
above all else -- even as it solicits money to fund the ongoing operation. 
At the center, there must be one startling invention that defies history: a 
free lunch.

Scientists sometimes operate in a vacuum, then struggle when societal 
hurdles arise. Some feel betrayed by unanticipated public backlash. To 
short-circuit that possibility, the center must meet, head-on, the public's 
misgivings about genetically modified foods. It must consider the safety of 
these foods to be a sacred trust and communicate this to a mass audience 
that has, unfortunately, the skimpiest of scientific understanding. The 
center also must work in conjunction with some knowledgeable entities that 
can explore cultural and political barriers to implementing its discoveries 
overseas. Such questions have arisen over whether Asian nations that attach 
religious significance to the whiteness of rice would grow yellow-colored 
"golden rice," which is genetically modified to increase vitamin A content.

Most of all, the center must be aggressively vigilant in maintaining a 
measure of independence from those who fund it, especially private 
corporations such as Monsanto that undoubtedly will turn the center's 
discoveries into marketable products. Most of the center's $146 million in 
start-up money comes from Monsanto Co., the Monsanto Fund and the Danforth 
Foundation. The center is a joint project of the Missouri Botanical Garden, 
Monsanto, Washington University, the University of Missouri, Purdue 
University and the University of Illinois.

Roger Beachy, president of the center, told Post-Dispatch editorial page 
writers that the center will attempt to walk the fine line of maintaining 
some intellectual property rights while retaining humanitarian licenses to 
share critical information with developing countries.

None of this will be easy work. It is the plant version of the moon shot, a 
visionary, courageous undertaking with no guarantee of success. In other 
words, it's the type of thing America does best.



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