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Seeds

Managing public perception

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

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Kirk Azevedo lands a job with the Monsanto Company. Young and idealistic, he is later described by author Jeffrey Smith as the “perfect candidate to project the company’s ‘Save the world through genetic engineering’ image.” He is fascinated with the company’s CEO, Robert Shapiro, who talks about genetically modified organisms being used to “reduce the in-process waste from manufacturing, turn our fields into factories and produce anything from lifesaving drugs to insect-resistant plants,” Azevedo later recalls. But three months after taking the job, after a meeting at the company’s headquarters in St. Louis, a vice president tells him, “What [CEO] Robert Shapiro says is one thing. But what we do is something else. We are here to make money. He is the front man who tells a story. We don’t even understand what he is saying.” [Spilling the Beans, 6/2006]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Kirk Azevedo

Category Tags: Perception management, Monsanto

A group of Monsanto-hired consultants urge some of Africa’s most prominent academics and politicians to sign a public statement titled, “Let the Harvest Begin.” It would be published “in major European newspapers in early June.” The statement argues that biotechnology is the answer to world hunger. “Many of our needs have an ally in biotechnology and the promising advances it offers for our future,” the statement reads. “With these advances, we prosper; without them, we cannot thrive… Slowing its acceptance is a luxury our hungry world cannot afford.” Monsanto’s name appears on the draft declaration in tiny text. According to reporter and columnist George Monbiot, “readers could be forgiven for imagining that the statement is the initiative of the signatories, rather than the company.” [Global Business Access Ltd, n.d.; Guardian, 6/4/1998]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Category Tags: Perception management, Monsanto

Darwin Murrell of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) emails a memo informing the department’s scientists that any research into terminator technology must now be reviewed by senior managers. The USDA jointly holds a patent on the technology with Delta & Pine Land (see March 3, 1998). This is a “sensitive issue,” Murrell says. “Imposing an extra level of review for this research will not create undue delays nor will it restrict the creative talents of our scientists, but it will help them avoid potential political and legal pitfalls.” [New Scientist, 10/10/1998]

Entity Tags: US Department of Agriculture, Clinton administration

Category Tags: Public-private collaboration, Delta & Pine Land, Terminator seeds, Perception management

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