GENTECH archive 8.96-97
Rick Roush wrote:
> In any case, the crucial question is not whether companies have the
> patent rights to prohibit safety research on controversial GE organisms but
> whether they exercise those rights.
Taken from Bio/Technology/Diversity Week
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
November 10, 1994
Volume 3, Number 21
WHOSE 'INTELLECTUAL' PROPERTY?
In the October 20 issue of NATURE magazine, British researchers Erik
Millstone, Eric Brunner and Ian White report on their investigation of
Monsanto data and the barriers they ran into trying to publish their
analysis. The three were interested in examining whether the use of
rBGH increases the somatic cell count (SCC) in milk. They got the idea
from an undergraduate, who concluded in his final project in 1989
that by pooling the data from eight Monsanto SCC studies, it was
possible to increase the sensitivity of a statistical analysis.
Millstone requested supplementary data from Monsanto to help with
an analysis of the pooled data and his request was fulfilled. From
the pooled data, the three concluded "that there was evidence that
the milk from cows treated with BST contains statistically increased
levels of somatic cells (or, more prosaically, pus)." Millstone noted
that some of Monsanto's published figures did not coincide with what
he had been given. He was told by Monsanto scientist Neil Craven
that the second set had been given to the British government but
neither set was correct due to arithmetical errors. Millstone was
then given a new set of data in hard copy and on a diskette. Two
weeks later, Dr. Craven wrote to explain why 10 cows that had begun
the trial were omitted from the final analysis. "We request that the
raw data be kept confidential. We hope that you will discuss any
interpretation of the data with us before disclosing it to third
parties," the letter said.
They decided to carry out a detailed analysis of the Monsanto data
they had in hand. They concluded that on average, cows treated
with rBGH produced a 19% increase in SCC relative to control cows.
The three say they recognize their analysis is imperfect because high
SCC and mastitis are related to high milk yield. And they have not
been able to distinguish between the effects of rBGH on SCC per se
and the effect of higher milk yield as a result of the use of rBGH.
They say until data on milk yield is available, such an analysis will
The three submitted their paper to the British Veterinary
Association's Veterinary Record, which said it would publish the
analysis only with Monsanto's permission. In 1991, Dr. Doug Hard of
Monsanto refused to allow the paper to be published, saying that it
was up to principle investigators and their institutions to publish
such data. After an appeal, Hard responded in 1992, "As the raw
data are confidential, all subsequent analyses are as well." They
wrote directly to the Journal of Dairy Science, inviting them to
publish their paper alongside Monsanto articles to stimulate debate.
The editor turned them down, saying "no papers have been
submitted to the Journal of Dairy Science by Dr. Hard on the topic of
BST and somatic cell counts." They then approached the editor at
The British Food Journal who said he would publish their paper
without requiring Monsanto's permission if it passed their peer
review process. The paper passed, but the journal then asked the
three to indemnify the journal against potential breach of copyright
allegations. The three researchers refused.
In March 1994, Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumer Policy Institute
brought up the researchers' work at a hearing on rBGH before the
Canadian Parliament's Committee on Agriculture. In response, Dr.
Robert Collier of Monsanto said, "When you take someone else's data
and you submit it without putting their names on it ... it's called
plagiarism." The three British researchers defend their analysis as
original while admitting the data is someone else's. "We entirely
reject any suggestion that we have plagiarized the work of
Monsanto's scientists. Our paper simply seeks to make public results
that Monsanto appears to be making little effort to publicize and that
we believe are of importance to the debate over the licensing of BST."
They say a forthcoming article in the Journal of Dairy Science by
Hard and others addresses the SCC issue; however, the data are taken
from 15 trials. The authors say Monsanto refused to provide them
the data from the other seven trials and that "some important
questions about the effects of BST on animal health will remain
unresolved" until the data reaches the public realm.
Monsanto says it has the right to control the publication of the data
AND any accompanying analysis. The Veterinary Record is still
waiting for Monsanto's permission to publish the paper. Said
Monsanto spokesperson Thomas McDermott, "They (the researchers)
have ruled themselves out of consideration by virtue of their
behavior." In a statement issued October 19, the company said,
"Monsanto stands by its rights, and the rights of its investigators, to
control the publication not only of raw data, but also of analyses of
these data by others." The three maintain that their agreement with
Monsanto only covered the raw data, and not their analysis. Cathy
Donnelly of Cornell University said, "As an institution, we would not
sign off on any contract that would not allow our faculty to publish
any work, regardless of sponsorship. Our whole business is to
publish results of our work so we can advance knowledge."
Source: Erik Millstone, Eric Brunner and Ian White, "Plagiarism or
Protecting Public Health?" NATURE, October 20, 1994; Aki Sofa,
"Scientists Doubt BST Test Data," BURLINGTON FREE PRESS, November