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Seeds

Experimental GM Crops

Project: Genetic Engineering and the Privatization of Seeds
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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Kirk Azevedo, Monsanto’s facilitator for genetically modified cotton sales in California and Arizona, will later say that around this time he discovered that Monsanto is feeding GM cotton plants from test fields to cattle. “I had great issue with this. I had worked for Abbot Laboratories doing research, doing test plots using Bt sprays from bacteria. We would never take a test plot and put [it] into the food supply, even with somewhat benign chemistries. We would always destroy the test plot material and not let anything into the food supply.” When he explains to the Ph.D. in charge of the test plot that feeding experimental plants containing unknown proteins (see 1996) to cows is a potential health risk to humans, the scientist refuses to end the practice. “Well that’s what we’re doing everywhere else and that’s what we’re doing here,” Azevedo recalls the scientist saying. Azevedo then raises his concerns with other employees in Monsanto. “I approached pretty much everyone on my team in Monsanto” but no one seemed interested, and in fact, people started to ignore him. Next, he contacts California agriculture commissioners whose responsibility it is to ensure that the management and design of test plots do not pose any risks to public health. But, “once again, even at the Ag commissioner level, they were dealing with a new technology that was beyond their comprehension,” Azevedo later explains. “They did not really grasp what untoward effects might be created by the genetic engineering process itself.” He also tries unsuccessfully to speak with people at the University of California. Frustrated with the company and the government’s apparent lack of concern, he quits his job at Monsanto in early January 1998. [Spilling the Beans, 6/2006]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Kirk Azevedo

Category Tags: Public Health, Biotech/seed industry, Public Health, Experimental GM Crops, Biotech/seed industry, Monsanto, Public Health, Cotton

The USDA Office of Inspector General releases a report concluding that the USDA has failed to provide adequate oversight and regulation of field trials for experimental genetically modified crops, especially high-risk crops that have been engineered to produce chemicals. The agency’s failure to provide effective oversight, according to the report, increases “the risk that regulated genetically engineered organisms (GEO) will inadvertently persist in the environment before they are deemed safe to grow without regulation.”
bullet The USDA failed to record the locations of field trial sites and conduct the required inspections.
bullet The agency’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) “lacks formal, risk-based process for selecting individual sites for inspection.”
bullet The USDA’s Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) failed to complete all of the inspections requested by Biotechnology Regulatory Services, including inspections of fields planted with crops designed to produce pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals.
bullet The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) “currently does not have legislative authority to hold applicants financially responsible for costs incurred by USDA due to an unauthorized release of regulated GEOs.” Consequently, taxpayers would have to “bear the expense of removing GE material from the environment in the event of an unintentional release.” [US Department of Agriculture, 12/29/2005 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Office of the Inspector General (USDA)

Category Tags: Experimental GM Crops, Experimental GM Crops, Studies-government

Federal Judge J. Michael Seabright rules that the US Department of Agriculture violated both the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it allowed the cultivation of drug-producing GM crops in Hawaii. The court says the USDA acted in “utter disregard” of the two laws because it failed even to conduct preliminary investigations before granting approval for the growing of these crops. The Hawaii islands are home to 329 endangered and threatened species. Seabright’s ruling is the first court decision regarding plants that have been genetically modified to produce pharmaceutical drugs or industrial compounds. The case primarily concerned four permits that had been issued to Monsanto, ProdiGene, Garst Seed Company, and the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center allowing them to grow drug-producing corn and sugarcane at various locations in Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, and Maui between 2001 and 2003. The plaintiffs in the case—Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Action Network North America, and KAHEA (the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance)—also challenged the USDA’s practice of refusing to disclose the locations where experimental chemical-producing GM plants are being grown and what substances those plants are being developed to produce. [Center for Food Safety, et al. v. Mike Johanns, et al., 8/10/2006 pdf file; Center for Food Safety, 8/14/2006]

Entity Tags: Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Center for Food Safety, Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, US Department of Agriculture, Monsanto, Pesticide Action Network North America, J. Michael Seabright, ProdiGene, Garst Seed Company

Category Tags: Experimental GM Crops, Court decisions, Environment

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