By Aimee Hood
Regulatory Policy and Scientific Affairs
I am the mother of two boys, and, like you, know that the safety and nutrition of the food that my family eats is very important. I am also an employee at Monsanto, and as a member of the Regulatory Team I work closely with dedicated scientists who spend their time thinking about and assessing the safety of every product we develop.
At any time a study can be published that has a new finding or draws a new conclusion about one of our products. From time to time, my family and friends will hear or read about one of these studies related to our products and ask me questions. We also will get questions from regulatory agencies (like the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), politicians and even other scientists. They all want to know the same thing: what does Monsanto think about those studies?
Fortunately, our scientists do not just review our own studies – they review the available information about every study involving our products. We must know and understand the research that is being done surrounding our products – regardless of what the results are. A few people have suggested we act as a “discredit bureau” to respond to science or results we don’t like. But, that’s simply not true.
We take every study about our products seriously and approach each one with an open mind. Sometimes we may find that a study has a design flaw, such as a lack of an appropriate control – and we note that when it occurs. But sometimes the finding can be novel and results in a need for additional follow-up.
For example, Dr. Aaron Gassmann from Iowa State University published a paper on corn rootworm resistance to one of our Bt corn traits. We met with Dr. Gassmann to understand what he was seeing in the lab and we compared it to what farmers were seeing in the field. Based on those discussions, we expanded our program to increase farmer adoption of best management practices that could minimize the potential for corn rootworm resistance in the field.
Another example is a 2012 paper that suggested “cross kingdom” transfer of micro RNAi, which is type of gene regulation. This paper got a lot of attention in the scientific world as well as in the popular press. One of their findings was that mice fed large amounts of rice (similar to a human eating nothing but 30 kg of rice per day) had increased circulating LDL – the “bad” kind of cholesterol. Several scientists were perplexed by this finding.
So, Monsanto collaborated with other scientists to repeat the study. The repeat study showed similar LDL response when rice was fed to rats. But, an additional treatment group was added to the study design. Rats were also fed a rice diet that had added protein, and the LDL effect went away. This was a very important contribution because the LDL effect was the result of an imbalanced diet. Since that time, Monsanto scientists have authored or co-authored six follow-up studies that have been published as a result of the original paper ,,,,,.
Other independent scientists have also published their own research and come to similar conclusions based on their follow-up studies. Research like this is expensive, but following up on the work of other scientists is a huge part of the scientific process in all fields of science and is an essential part of our continued commitment to product safety and stewardship.
Additionally, most of our commercial biotech (GMO) and chemistry products are re-reviewed by global authorities on a routine basis. For renewal of biotech products, one of the requirements is a summary and review of all literature related to the product. So the scientific reviews described above not only expand the breadth of knowledge on our products, but are required by law in several countries.
Currently, glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup® brand herbicides, is undergoing re-registration in Europe and the US. As part of these reviews, regulators scrutinize all of the recently published scientific articles related to the products. They base their re-registration (or renewal) decision on the entire body of data that they review.
I am proud to work with the outstanding scientists at Monsanto. Product and food safety is our top priority. We are dedicated to the work we do to ensure your family and mine have safe and accessible food to place on our dinner table each night.
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