Does Monsanto prevent independent researchers from doing studies on the safety of GM seeds?

Each week, we will answer a question from our readers regarding our operations and community outreach in the State of Hawaii. Submit your question by visiting the contact page. Thanks for reading. Mahalo!

Q: Does Monsanto prevent independent researchers (at universities, for example) from doing adequate research on the safety and efficacy of GM seeds? Do patent limitations from companies limit this type of research?

No.

Monsanto fully supports public sector research with commercial products and fully endorses comparisons with competitors’ commercial products.

In June 2009, corn entomologists from public universities and the U.S. government met with representatives of the country’s seed companies – including Monsanto – in Ames, Iowa. The topic of the meeting, coordinated by the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), was academic research; specifically, how to strike a balance between the seed companies’ desire for well-designed scientific studies and the public scientists’ desire to conduct hassle-free research on transgenic seed. The ensuing discussion led to the development of a set of principles aimed at bringing a better understanding of the companies’ commitment to and support of wide-ranging research with GM crops.

Monsanto has agreements with universities that enable researchers to conduct independent research programs with our commercial products. These researchers have conducted well-designed, well-controlled studies and published their results in peer-reviewed scientific journals. On occasion, these researchers have come to conclusions with which we do not agree. Their conclusions have been published and we continue to work with and supply seed for their research.

Why does Monsanto continue to work with researchers with whose conclusions we don’t agree? We do it because independent research conducted by third parties at all stages of a product’s life cycle provides important information for the developers, regulators, farmers, consumers and the public at large. Studies that raise new questions or validate prior findings are reviewed and assessed to determine what additional research and development may be needed and help inform decisions on future products.

We believe that one of the reasons we’ve enjoyed a positive relationship with public sector scientists is because of our blanket agreements with universities. Years ago, each time a scientist or group of scientists from a university wanted to study Monsanto’s products, both parties would sign a contract specific to that study. The sheer number of such studies for which we provided our seed made that model of contract signing cumbersome for both parties.

The blanket agreement allows university scientists to work with Monsanto’s commercial seed products without contacting the company or signing a separate contract for each study. This blanket agreement – the Academic Research License (ARL) – enables academic researchers to do research with commercialized products with as few constraints as possible. ARLs are in place with all major agriculturally-focused US universities – about 100 in total.