Biotech Companies Gear Up to Defeat Anti-GE Coalition in the USA

September 28, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Monsanto Inc., Du Pont Co., Novartis AG and other companies that produce
genetically modified foods are, according to this story, gearing up to
defend their products as safety concerns gain momentum in the United
States. For
these companies, which have staked their future on biotechnology, U.S.
acceptance is crucial. Health concerns have, the story says, led
Europeans and the Japanese to spurn the technology, which inserts new
genes into crops to make them more resistant to pests and weed killers.
The companies
hope to stave off similar sentiments in the United States,
where much of the food supply already contains genetically
modified ingredients. Half of the U.S. soybean acres and 38
percent of corn acres were planted with genetically altered
seeds this year. About 60 percent of packaged foods contain
soy, a source of oil and protein, while corn, a source of
starch, oil and sweeteners, is found in about 13 percent of
Ed Shonsey, president and CEO of Novartis Seeds Inc., a U.S. subsidiary
of the Swiss drug and agriculture giant, was quoted as saying, "With all
the static in the air, we need to make our own statement. We have to
reassure (the public) and be activists somewhat ourselves."
About 40 religious, farm owner, environmental and other
activist groups in the United States are participating in
Genetic Engineering Action Network USA, which held a two-day
retreat outside San Francisco in August. The groups plan a
campaign questioning the environmental and health effects of
gene-altered foods. They also intend to lobby Congress and
state legislatures for stricter regulations on testing and
labeling. Separately, Greenpeace, which has crusaded
against genetically engineered food in Europe, started a
U.S. campaign this year, asking 50 food companies whether
ingredients in their products had been genetically
modified. Novartis' Gerber unit and H.J. Heinz Co. said
this year that they will not use the ingredients in their
baby-food products.
Du Pont spokeswoman Kathy Forte was cited as acknowledging that U.S.
environmental groups are becoming more vocal in their opposition, adding,
"The intensity has increased in the United States. It's not at the
level of Europe, but we can't assume it won't be."