Yes, Monsanto has a pediatrician; I have been with Monsanto for 15 years, and it has been, at many levels, a gratifying experience. As a pediatrician and as a parent, I understand how deeply mothers and fathers care about the well-being of their children. In light of recent allegations about plant biotechnology and children’s health, I want to take a moment to talk about how I got here and what I do to everyday to protect the health and safety of those who may come into contact with our products, including children.
How does a pediatrician end up at Monsanto? Following my training in pediatrics, I entered a fellowship training program in pediatric pharmacology – the study of drugs and drug treatment- and medical toxicology – the assessment and management of human exposures to materials in the environment. For a dozen years afterwards I was in private practice, doing a mixture of emergency pediatrics, critical care toxicology and consulting for government and industry.
One afternoon, I spotted an advertisement in a toxicology journal- Monsanto was looking for a medical toxicologist to assist with a wide range of issues from product safety and labeling to employee training and public communications. It was an interesting opportunity which only became more interesting when I visited St. Louis. I had never seen a greater depth of expertise in chemistry, toxicology, industrial hygiene, pharmacology (G.D. Searle was part of Monsanto then), nutrition and health collected in one place… and all accessible to me as a medical toxicologist thanks to Monsanto’s network approach.
Five weeks later, I was at Monsanto.
What do I do? A lot of different things, some of which ended up surprising even me. My big concern coming to Monsanto was that I would lose my connection to colleagues in pediatrics and medical toxicology. Nothing could be further from the truth. Monsanto has encouraged me to maintain and grow these connections, and I find myself more involved in the communities of medical toxicology and children’s environmental health on a national and even international level.
My day-to-day focus, however, is on product safety. On the chemical side, I see the information on every chemical that enters our manufacturing facilities and sign off on the “recipe” and material safety data sheet for every product we sell around the globe. On the biotechnology side, I see and understand all of our commercial products from the ground up – starting with the selection of genetic material appropriate for food and feed use and following through to the extensive compositional and safety testing which assures that our genetically modified crops are as safe as their conventional equivalents.
That’s my conclusion on GM crops, but I am not alone – many other physicians, including the American Medical Association (AMA), American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), and even the European Union’s Chief Science Advisor (Prof. Anne Glover) agree.
I arrived here with two items that grace the walls of my office and that sometimes perplex my colleagues. I consider them indispensible guideposts. One is a portrait of a gentleman who died of asbestosis. It is a reminder of the very human consequences that arise when we collectively “get it wrong.” The other is the Physician’s Oath of Maimonides – a reminder how to “get it right.” It’s about maintaining your focus on what really matters: in the afflicted, let me see only the sufferer.
In the end, I’m a doctor. My first and foremost commitment is, and must always be, to public health – most particularly as it related to the safety and health of those who make and use our chemical products as well as those who use and consume the crops that grow from our conventional and biotechnology seed.
As I’ve said, I’m a pediatrician and a parent; I understand how deeply mothers and fathers care about the well-being of their children. My instinct is to pay particular attention to the health and safety of children. It’s a responsibility that I take personally. I stand behind the safety of our products every day for every customer – big or small, young or old, every place they are sold. Monsanto expects nothing less.
Dr. Goldstein is a Senior Science Fellow and Lead, Medical Sciences and Outreach. He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American College of Medical Toxicology, and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
Photograph by Kim Newberg via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.