University in talks with GM food firm
By Robert Mendick
01 July 2001
Monsanto, the controversial firm that is the world's leading producer of genetically modified crops, has held meetings with a British university over potential support for its research on GM food. According to a confidential official e-mail, Nottingham University met Monsanto representatives in March. Nottingham recently founded the Institute for the Study of Genetics, Bio-risks and Society, which is believed to be seeking funds. Part of the institute's research includes the study of public attitudes to genetically modified crops.
In the e-mail to staff, marked "strictly confidential", Robert Dingwall, a sociology professor who heads the new institute, states: "I have been asked to a meeting on March 1 arranged by the vice-chancellor with representatives of Monsanto. They are interested in a briefing about IbiS [the institute]. However, it would be naive to assume that there is no possibility that this could lead to discussions about financial support."
Nottingham attracted widespread condemnation recently when it was revealed that it had accepted [pounds]3.8m from a tobacco company. A university spokesman last week confirmed Nottingham had held talks with Monsanto, but only about scientific innovations. Monsanto denied it was in funding talks.
Monsanto runs 26 farm-scale trials in the UK, including two at Meden Vale in Nottinghamshire. The university has been at the forefront of GM food science. One of its professors produced the first GM food tomatoes subsequently sold in supermarkets worldwide.
The university's dialogue with Monsanto follows the furore over its deal with British American Tobacco, which donated [pounds]3.8m to fund the study of ethics at the university's business school. It has led to a number of staff quitting the university, including Professor David Thurston, a leading cancer researcher, who took his team to London University, while the Cancer Research Campaign dropped plans to raise [pounds]1.5m for new university buildings because of the deal.Friends of the Earth's GM food campaigner Adrian Bebb said: "One would have to question the partiality of any results."