27 February 1998
Monsanto says its sorry over GM soya introduction in EU
By Robert Harris
MONSANTO has apologised publicly for the way it introduced genetically modified soya beans into Europe last year. The policy caused uproar among consumer groups which believed the technology was being forced onto the public.
The companys policy of mixing modified beans with conventional varieties caused no problems in the USA, where public confidence in the technology was high. But Monsanto had underestimated the strength of feeling in Europe.
Inadequate efforts were made to keep the food industry, opinion formers and the public informed of developments, Monsanto Europe senior director Carlos Joly admitted at the Sentry Farming/farmers weekly conference in Cambs last week.
The slow pace of biotechnology development in the EU compared with the Americas was partly to blame, he said. But the company was also at fault.
“Monsanto also made a mistake and we acknowledge it. We are not farmers, food manufacturers or food retailers, so we didnt think through to the ultimate consumer.
“Weve heard the reaction, loud and clear. We will respond by being more open, more informative and more pro-active towards European public opinion.”
Deirde Hutton, vice-chairman of the National Consumer Council, was surprised at the apology. “This is totally new language from Monsanto. I certainly welcome much of what Mr Joly had to say,” Mrs Hutton said.
MAFF was also pleased to hear Monsantos apology. “I think the industry has, on reflection, been a bit gung-ho,” said permanent secretary Richard Packer. “This sort of approach, if adopted industry-wide, would help to bring about more confidence all round.”
For this and other stories, see Farmers Weekly, 27 February-5 March, 1998