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Monsanto and Maine: A Look at Maine's Sometimes Fractious Relationship with the GMO Giant

For Related Articles and More Information, Please Visit OCA's Genetic Engineering Page, Millions Against Monsanto Page and our Maine News Page.

David Gustafson, a scientist with agricultural biotech giant Monsanto, was sweating a little. There he was on the stage at the 2014 Camden Conference, talking food policy for the future, but all the Mainers in the audience wanted to do was ask him questions about Monsanto's past and present. He deflected neatly. He made a few self-effacing science-guy jokes, and he admitted that the company has not always been its own best public relations representative.

Members of the audience, a mix of well-heeled types and students, grilled him. What are the moral implications of genetically engineering crops? What did Gustafson really mean when he talked about Monsanto's effort to create "better seeds"? And what about the company's reputation for suing farmers for patent infringement when, according to the farmers, their crops have been pollinated accidentally by Monsanto's altered strains?

"That's not who we are," he protested.

Gustafson offered that there were things Monsanto might be able to learn from organic farmers. He invited one questioner to come visit Monsanto in St. Louis. He acknowledged that the company has often failed to engage in conversation with critics.

Later, on the street when the session was over, he said he supposed it made sense for there to be so many tough questions "here in this part of the country in particular."