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Monsanto playing God?
by Bob Hartzler

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January 10, 1997 -- The North Central Weed Science Society's annual meeting was recently held in St. Louis, headquarters of Monsanto. While chewing on a bagel at a nearby restaurant I was instantly attracted to the current issue of Riverfront Times, a local weekly newspaper. The cover article was titled "On the eighth day . . . " with the lead sentence of 'Monsanto's playing God with soybeans, genetically engineering them into a cash crop, but they may be creating more trouble than paradise'. The front page also had some nifty artwork. (click thumbnail for full size photo)

The article addressed the concerns many persons have with the introduction of genetically engineered crops, focusing on Monsanto's involvement with biotech - helping transform it from a science into an industry. They attributed the jump in Monsanto's stock (up 69 percent in 1996) due to approval of several of their biotech products.

The authors mentioned several issues that they feel have not been adequately addressed regarding biotechnology products, including:

1) efforts have been targeted towards products that will benefit the companies involved rather than the environment or the consumer;

2) companies have 'strong-armed' regulatory agencies into approving the biotech products while bypassing the desires of the consumer;

3) products are being introduced that will stick consumers on a 'biotech treadmill';

4) the potential for genes to move from 'biotech crops' to wild plants;

5) engineering crops for resistance to pests or herbicides will further move farmers from IPM practices;

Overall, I felt the article did a good job of presenting the concerns many persons have regarding biotechnology. Although there was nothing new presented, I'm sure the readership of this newspaper is not regularly exposed to the depth of the discussion in this article. However, I felt the best part of the article was the creative artwork on the front page, which is the main reason for summarizing it here.

Prepared by Bob Hartzler, extension weed management specialist, Department of Agronomy, Iowa State University

For more information contact:
ISU Extension Agronomy
2104 Agronomy Hall
Ames, Iowa 50011-1010
Voice: (515) 294-1923
Fax: (515) 294-9985
http://www.weeds.iastate.edu
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