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Beyond the Rows is a Monsanto Company blog focused on one of the world’s most important industries, agriculture. Monsanto employees write about Monsanto’s business, the agriculture industry, and the farmer.
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Monsanto Supports Independent Research on Seed Products

Monsanto currently supports, and has supported in the past, the freedom to conduct wide-ranging research with its commercial products. That includes research that compares Monsanto products to those of its competitors.

Last summer, Scientific American ran an editorial criticizing seed companies for inhibiting independent research of GM (biotech) crops. The editorial was prompted by public comments from university scientists to the EPA, who stated they felt the contractual agreements required for purchasing commercial seed prohibited them from conducting their research.

Not long after the article ran, I read many outraged comments on Twitter and received quite a few inquiries. I was surprised by the backlash because it was my understanding that Monsanto allows independent research with products—and not just research that Monsanto believed would end with positive results. Heck, I’ve had to handle communications on studies where Monsanto didn’t agree with the conclusion. So what’s the deal?

In talking with scientists and seed industry counterparts through the American Seed Trade Association, Monsanto realized that there were misperceptions and misunderstandings around what agreements Monsanto had in place to support research. We also discovered disparity between how each seed company in the industry handled research requests.

The bottom line: Monsanto currently supports, and has supported in the past, the freedom to conduct wide-ranging research with its commercial products. That includes research that compares Monsanto products to those of its competitors.

For nearly a decade, Monsanto has had blanket agreements with universities that enable university scientists to work with our products without contacting us or signing a separate contract. Some scientists weren’t or aren’t aware of this. They may have purchased seed, saw the grower agreement prohibiting research, and assumed that was the end of their line. The public comments to the EPA regarding industry practices made us realize that we needed to communicate more broadly, and clearly, how we handle these research requests.

In addition to improving our own processes, Monsanto employees spent time working with ASTA and our contemporaries on a set of principles across the industry that we have all committed to abide by. Monsanto has posted these principles in a web post entitled “Academic Research Agreements” in the “For the Record” section on the Monsanto Web site.

6 Responses to "Monsanto Supports Independent Research on Seed Products"

  1. “Some scientists weren’t or aren’t aware of this. They may have purchased seed, saw the grower agreement prohibiting research, and assumed that was the end of their line.”

    You would think that these scientists wouldn’t let something like a grower agreement hold them back or that they would seek out a second opinion in the name of exploration.

    Reply
  2. I was a bit surprised by the contents of this article. I have carried out research in a public university for over 30 years. During those years I used commercial maize hybrids from private companies as well as hybrids produced from public maize inbred lines. I should preface my comments by stating that I never used Monsanto hybrids, so I cannot comment on the Monsanto policy. In the past, when I wanted to use a proprietary commercial hybrid, all I had to do is to call my company contact and they would send me as much seed as I wanted. The rules have changed, however. In my last dealings with proprietary commercial hybrids I had to sign various company and University documents in which I promissed not to publish results of the studies with their hybrids before submitting the results to the company. The studies involved the examination of physiological mechanisms underlying grain yield formation, and this was not a big deal for me. This practice did not restrict me in any way, nor am I judgemental of the practice, but I can understand how the practice could open the door for criticism.

    Reply
  3. Matthijs –

    Our agreements with universities allow for comparisons between our commercial hybrids and those from other seed companies, and do not require the researcher to submit the results to us prior to publication. In fact, the researcher is not required to contact us all.

    Mica

    Reply
    • Mica:

      That is great! I like to emphasize that I do not object to the procedure I described in my note (as it is the right of the owner of a product), but that it may not be good PR. Maybe Monsanto can take advantage of the questionable PR of its competitors?

      Reply
  4. Funny you should ask that. I had the same question when this issue originally came up, not because I wanted to point out what our competitors were doing (or not doing), but because I wanted to tell people about the way Monsanto handled academic research.

    However, sometimes it’s better to work with the industry so everyone pulls their process up to snuff rather than throw other companies under the bus. In this case, we decided it was best to work across the industry to come to a set of principles we could all agree to. We should now all be abiding by the same rules.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Monsanto Supports Independent Research on Seed ProductsBeyond the Rows | Beyond the Rows | Agronomy Man' blogs

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