GENTECH archive 8.96-97


Re: Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro interview (fwd)

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This is it:

Excerpts only, as it is copyright but you can read it yourself at

Business Ethics Magazine: 

Interview: Robert Shapiro, CEO of Monsanto, Co. 

Monsanto's Brave New World: Can we trust the maker of Agent
Orange to genetically engineer our food? Monsanto's CEO speaks

by: Mary Scott Issue: January/February 1996 

... now directing its vast resources to develop more efficient
and sustainable food production techniques. To reach these ends,
it has plunged headfirst into the uncharted waters of
biologically engineered foods. And after ten years of work, it
now holds the leading position in this field, having developed a
hormone that, when injected into cows, increases milk production;
potatoes and cotton that can grow without the use of pesticides;
and tomatoes that are biologically altered to ripen slowly. 


With the expiration of Monsanto's patents on Roundup and
aspartame, the company hopes that biotechnology will help create
a new wave of stellar-performing products. 


Add to that the negative image of a "chemical company" with an
admittedly checkered past, and you end up with the question: How
can the nation's fourth largest chemical company, whose products
have historically harmed people and the environment, now be
trusted with one of science's newest, potentially dangerous

The firm was a major producer of Agent Orange, the military term
for a combination of herbicides which was available commercially
throughout the 1950s and 1960s. More than one hundred million
pounds were used to clear jungles during the Vietnam War.
Soldiers exposed to Agent Orange who suffered severe health
problems now blame the herbicide. Monsanto also manufactured
pcbs-the chemicals which have been proven to cause cancer and
birth defects. 


product that is most responsible for Monsanto's controversial
headline news during the past several years-and the one that best
demonstrates the conflict inherent in Monsanto's vision-is the
bovine growth hormone (bgh), the company's first biotech progeny.
Also known as bovine somatotropin, or bst, the hormone is
injected into a cow's pituitary gland every two weeks to
replicate a naturally occurring hormone-increasing milk output by
up to 25 percent. 

... Monsanto has diligently fought off all attempts to have the
government require that milk from bst-injected cows be labelled.
Monsanto also has used lawsuits and threats of lawsuits to
prevent dairy farmers and retailers who want to identify their
milk as bst-free. 

... such a lofty investment can be justified by the fact the
company considers Posilac (BGH) the pioneer that will precede dozens 
of other genetically engineered agriculture products it plans to
introduce in the years ahead. 


"It's ironic they picked milk," says Mark Kastel, director of
governmental affairs for the Wisconsin Farmers Union in La Farge,
Wisconsin. "It's one of the freshest, unadulterated products
available and has a fuzzy romantic image, particularly among
mothers. The dairy farmers are incensed that Monsanto tarnished
this image." 


Another reason why many farmers have no interest in injecting
their cows with bst is the fact that consumers don't want
genetically engineered foods. 


"No one would buy a product if it was labelled as being
genetically engineered." Halloran adds that, in her opinion,
Monsanto's actions "tamper with people's fundamental sense of
order and trust. It removes the consumers' right to know, and the
farmers' right to tell." 

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