GENTECH archive


Monsanto leaked document on GM(genetically manipulated) foods

3 items from the (london) Guardian,- a leaked Monsanto document, - a
comment for GM -- and one against GM foods

   Genetic engineering: When Monsanto asked Stanley Greenberg to analyse
        its situation in Britain, he found public acceptance of its
    genetically modified foods falling dramatically, but support amongst
    MPs increasing. We print edited extracts of the leaked document with
       commentary by Peter Melchett of Greenpeace and Ann Foster from
                            By Stanley Greenberg
Guardian (london)                        Wednesday November 25, 1998
      Biotechnology and Monsanto face their toughest European test in
        Britain where the broad climate is extremely inhospitable to
      biotechnology acceptance. Over the past year, the situation has
      deteriorated steadily and is perhaps even accelerating, with the
      latest survey showing an ongoing collapse of public support for
             biotechnology and genetically modified (GM) foods.
    At each point in this project, we keep thinking that we have reached
        the low point and that public thinking will stabilise, but,
                   apparently, that has not happened yet.
     The public feels increasingly negative about nearly all the terms
   associated with genetic modification, and a similar pattern is evident
                 for genetic engineering and biotechnology.
    Overall feeling towards foods with genetically modified ingredients
     have grown dramatically more negative, which is probably the best
    measure of our declining fortunes in Britain. Only about 12 per cent
   have reacted positively over the last year, but negative feelings have
    risen from 38 per cent a year ago, to 51 per cent today. A third of
         the public is now extremely negative, up from 20 per cent.
    The number of people who think such ingredients are 'acceptable' has
     declined somewhat (from 33 to 25 per cent over the year); and more
     than ever are saying such products are 'unacceptable': 35 per cent
   last year, rising to 44 per cent before the summer and to 51 per cent
     A growing number now say GM has no place in plants: the percentage
    saying it is 'unacceptable' has risen from 22 to 26 to 38 per cent -
      up 12 points over the summer when the press has paid increasing
                attention to issues related to field trials.
   From the survey it is evident that there has been a collapse of public
     support in Britain, which has worsened over the summer. There are
     clearly large forces at work that are making public acceptance in
                            Britain problematic.
     The public collapse is paralleled and probably exaggerated by the
     hostility of the press to biotechnology and GM foods and seeds. We
       conducted interviews with members of the media (though not the
      correspondents directly writing on the issue) to ascertain their
       What emerged was that the media elites are strongly hostile to
   biotechnology and Monsanto. They think the Government is being too lax
   and believe they must expose the dangers - which they increasingly see
    as environmental. While individual reporters may have improved their
    knowledge, there is no evidence of that among the media elites - who
                     do not seem informed on the issue.
      The press in Britain thinks these products are being introduced
   without serious regulation and labelling for the consumer. They see no
     commission being set up, no code of standards, no initiatives for
   further testing - even as the public has become more and more alarmed.
   Neither do they see the food manufacturers doing very much. Zeneca has
      been low key; Monsanto has communicated in a limited manner; and
             retailers are watching to see the public reaction.
     In that context the media elites think they have an obligation to
   highlight the dangers. They think these products are being introduced
    in the midst of an information vacuum. We face a media elite that is
               very supportive of strong regulatory measures.
   Retailers are critical arbiters since they have very high credibility
    in Britain and because they believe Monsanto has handed off to them
     the task of winning public acceptance. They carry with them their
      resentment of Monsanto for badly mismanaging the introduction of
    biotechnology in Europe and for allowing the issue to be decided in
     the supermarkets. As a result they are anxious for someone else to
           move on to the front line, preferably the Government.
    Monsanto has made some progress among the retailers. Those we spoke
    with are quite well briefed, in some cases citing Monsanto briefing
   statistics word for word. They are largely comfortable with the use of
    biotechnology in foods. In contrast to a year ago, when we conducted
    similar interviews, they no longer seem focused on safety concerns,
     but are beginning to talk about the environmental impact from crop
     introductions. At the end of the day however, they believe in the
      technology and think the long-term benefits outweigh the risks.
      The networks that most directly influence the decision makers in
   Britain - the super socio-economic AB segment - are hardly leading the
   way for biotechnology acceptance. They are at least as negative on the
   subject as the general public. This is the opposite of the pattern in
     the United States where college and post-graduates and elites have
                  helped forge the way for biotechnology.
     Feelings about food with GM ingredients among the AB classes began
    negatively (15 per cent positive and 47 per cent negative) and grew
   astonishingly negative by June of this year (14 per cent positive and
                    an astonishing 57 per cent negative.
    Fortunately there is some evidence of stabilisation among the group.
     Negative sentiments about GM food have risen only marginally since
   June. At the same time these elite segments have pulled back somewhat
     from environmental groups and, perhaps most interesting, seem less
                       uniformly hostile to Monsanto.
    Over the course of the summer we have seen only slight increases in
      negativity within the ABs, and nothing comparable to the general
                        public's lack of acceptance.
   The one issue where there is genuine progress among the ABs (and maybe
      with the public as a whole) is in attitudes toward Monsanto. The
      intense 5-1 negativity about Monsanto a year ago has dissipated
   considerably. Reactions to Monsanto among the ABs is now 2-1 negative.
      Amidst the overall collapse with the general public, Monsanto's
    position has stabilised over the year and in the most recent period.
    The 2-1 negative image at the outset of the year remains unchanged.
     Monsanto began as an issue, but despite all the news coverage and
       general collapse, it has been able to stabilise its position.
     During September we conducted face-to-face interviews with 14 MPs
      (mostly Labour) and upper-level civil servants, including chief
         scientists. A year ago the same research found a political
     establishment open to biotechnology, but critical of Monsanto and
   uncertain of the benefits. At the same time just a third of the elite
                respondents saw the benefits as predominant.
      But among the political elite today, there is clear evidence of
   progress. Fully half of the MPs see benefits outweighing risks, 70 per
    cent of the MPs reacted positively to GM foods. These members of the
       elite saw the advertising and clearly understood the messages.
    When asked whether the introduction of GM foods should be allowed or
    stopped in Britain, they became quite articulate about the future of
   biotechnology. Frankly, a moratorium gets little support among the MPs
                            and civil servants.
   On the other hand, political leaders remember the introduction of soya
      and GM foods and have not forgotten many of their feelings about
     Monsanto. The company's main work in Britain is in still trying to
    overcome the strong negative reaction to the way it introduced this
     When asked about the introduction, the MPs and civil servants had
    little trouble recalling the detail and have little doubt that over
   the long term things will work out, with a typical comment being: 'I'm
   sure in five years time, everybody will be happily eating genetically
     modified apples, plums, peaches and peas.' Stanley B Greenberg is
   chairman and chief executive of Greenberg Research; he has also served
    as an advisor to Bill Clinton, Nelson Mandela and Tony Blair. These
       are edited extracts of a Monsanto document leaked without his
                     knowledge to Greenpeace last week.

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest
in receiving the included information for research and educational
purposes. **


                             GM food: against

                       By Peter Melchett, Greenpeace
                        Wednesday November 25, 1998

   The public is right. Stanley Greenberg's reports for Monsanto confirm
   that there is an 'ongoing collapse of public support' for genetically
     engineered food in the UK. The number of people 'saying that these
   products are 'unacceptable' has skyrocketed' and public feelings 'have
                     grown dramatically more negative'.

     The reports, which were leaked to Greenpeace last week, make clear
       that to get all of us eating genetically engineered (GE) food,
    Monsanto believes that all they have to do is to persuade what they
     call 'the upper socio-economic' and political and media elites of
                    British society to accept the stuff.

   Sadly, they could be right. There is a strong assumption in the debate
   about GE foods that public concern and opposition is simply something
   to be 'managed' through more information, more education, or (what is
     more sinister), through the infiltration of GE products on to the
     supermarket shelves and into our diets. What is not considered, by
       most of the press or politicians, still less by scientists or
    multinational chemical companies, is the possibility that the public
                                 are right.

   Politicians, scientists and corporations want the public to believe GE
       food is safe, reliable and, above all, predictable. It is not.
    Unpredictability is inherent in the technology. Genetic engineering
     involves a disruption in the functioning of DNA in the heart of a
     cell, and potential disruption in the chemistry of what's going on
                  within the cell - with unknown effects.

      Genetic engineering crosses a fundamental threshold in the human
      manipulation of the planet - changing the nature of life itself.
     Because it deals with living organisms which can reproduce, these
   'mistakes' cannot be recalled. Agricultural and allied applications of
      genetic engineering are designed to be put into the environment.

       Government ministers, supermarkets and some other elements of
    Monsanto's 'upper socio-economic' elite respond to public concern by
   calling for more research, tighter regulations, better monitoring and
    clearer labelling. All are irrelevant in the face of the uncertainty
   inherent in the technology. The more information people are given, the
                        more concerned they become.

    The message Tony Blair is being given by the 'upper socio-economic'
      elite of British science and British business is that GE is the
    future. Are we still this powerless in the face of technology? Do we
   really have no choice? This report from Monsanto tells us that we are
   not as powerless as those in power assume. There is a message of hope
     buried in the hype, cynicism and self-interest. Monsanto talked to
    supermarkets. We learn that more than one of these major supermarket
    chains think there is a '50-50' chance of losing the argument for GE
    food. At least one said that genetic engineering of food could turn
         out like irradiation of food: 'which is, you don't do it!'

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest
in receiving the included information for research and educational
purposes. **


                               GM food: for

                          By Ann Foster, Monsanto
                        Wednesday November 25, 1998

   A recent report commissioned by Monsanto paints a bleak view of public
    reaction to genetically modified (GM) food. It shows that there has
    been an ongoing collapse of support for biotechnology and GM foods.
       And it also reveals that, post the BSE crisis, consumers lack
     confidence in scientists and regulatory bodies. Indeed, the report
     found the British public to be the most sceptical in Europe about
                            scientific progress.

   But, while this report makes sobering reading, does it really tell us
    anything new? And is it as damning as some of our critics would have
                       us think? I don't believe so.

   Opposition to GM food in Britain has been widely reported for over two
     years. Much of this discussion has focused on one outcome. You're
    either for it or against it. And many have decided they are against.

   But on what grounds? Sadly, much of the discussion about biotechnology
   has been dominated by scaremongering and wildly inaccurate, but highly
    emotional language. And claims that animal and fish genes have been
    put into plants have been used to convince consumers that their food
                          is unsafe and unnatural.

   GM foods are some of the most highly regulated products on the market.
   GM soya was reviewed by over 20 independent scientific bodies, all of
     which approved it as safe to eat. And none of Monsanto's GM crops
    contain fish or animal genes. In fact, before any GM foods can go on
     sale in the UK, they are carefully scrutinised by four government
        departments and up to seven different independent scientific

    Unfortunately, until there is a proper, scientific-based discussion
    about biotechnology, the current polarisation of views will persist.
   This is why we decided to advertise in the press over the summer. Not
        because we thought it would change public opinion overnight.

   Environmental benefits such as the 850,000 gallons of insecticide that
     American cotton growers have not had to spray over the past three
   years as a result of using GM cotton seeds. And health benefits, like
    helping tackle night blindness in developing countries by growing a
     new GM oil seed rape that produces beta-carotene, a precursor for
   vitamin A. At present it is estimated that 10 million children a year
                        die of vitamin A deficiency.

    A science-based discussion is crucial if we are to properly explain
   these benefits. Of course calm, rational discussion of the technology
    doesn't make good headlines. But it is the only way to sort out fact
    from fiction. In the meantime, we will continue to support moves to
   provide the consumer with more information on GM foods. And we welcome
   the Government's recent decision to set up a new ministerial group on
        biotechnology and genetic modification and an environmental
                  stakeholders forum to discuss GM issues.

    I believe this is the right direction for a proper discussion about
     biotechnoloy. And we will continue to be part of that discussion.

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material
is distributed without profit to those who have expressed a prior interest
in receiving the included information for research and educational
purposes. **