"University spokesman John Danakas would not say what restrictions the university would place on how the video is screened, because those details have not yet been discussed with the researchers."

That's 3 years after the film, which the the University of Manitoba are worried might offend Monsanto, was made.

That needs to be set in the context of just how far some Canadian universities allow their staff to go in operating as propagandists for the biotech industry. A situation which has lead one Canadian academic to comment, "what some are doing today under the umbrella of academic freedom is actually not far removed from the proclamations of Orwell's Ministry of Truth."

Such academic propagandists, of course, can attract significant industry funding. Witness the Food Safety Network at the University of Guelph which has attracted funding from Monsanto, DuPont, Eli Lilly, Syngenta, Pioneer Hi-Bred, ConAgra, McCain, McDonald's, Nestle, Ag-West Biotech, Bioniche Life Sciences Inc., Southern Crop Protection Association, Pharmacia, AgCare, the (biotech industry funded) Council for Biotechnology Information, etc., etc.

Researchers say University of Manitoba blocked video on GM crops
September 12, 2005
Helen Fallding
CP Wire [via Agnet]

WINNIPEG -- Stephane McLachlan, an environment professor at the University of Manitoba, and his PhD student Ian Mauro, were cited as accusing the university of blocking the release of their video exploring the risks of genetically modified crops while at the same time courting funds from biotech companies.

The story explains that the two completed a feature-length documentary in 2002 with help from independent Winnipeg filmmaker Jim Sanders, and is based on interviews with Prairie farmers about their experiences -- good and bad -- with genetically modified canola.

But the Seeds of Change video has never been screened because the university and the researchers, who share the copyright, have been unable to negotiate an agreement on its release.

The story explains that the university originally demanded assurances it would not be liable if anyone sued. One insurer demanded a $50,000 deductible for any lawsuits by crop marketer Monsanto, which has a reputation for protecting its interests vigorously through the courts.

The company is featured in the documentary because of its legal battle with a Saskatchewan farmer and its development of genetically modified wheat. Monsanto Canada spokeswoman Trish Jordan was quoted as saying, "Obviously, we've never seen (the video), so I'm not sure how these guys could assume that we would sue them."

Now that a private investor has pulled out of the Seeds of Change project and the filmmakers have made it clear they don't intend to make a profit, the lawsuit issue has apparently been dropped by the university.

Alan Simms, who represented the university in early negotiations before going on to head the university's Smartpark research complex, was quoted as saying, "I've seen (the video) and I think it's fair. It's not a biased kind of thing."

But McLachlan said the university is still demanding control over where and when the video is shown, while at the same time requiring a disclaimer indicating the project has nothing to do with the university.

University spokesman John Danakas would not say what restrictions the university would place on how the video is screened, because those details have not yet been discussed with the researchers.

The university wants to make sure the documentary is only used for educational purposes, he said.