Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dole, Monsanto, and the GMO – genetically-modified food war

Monsanto Company through a June 23, 2009 press release announced a “collaboration agreement” with Dole Fresh Vegetables, Inc. “to develop new products that will enhance consumer vegetable choices.” Brace for the next round in the GMO War that has been raging for over a decade.

The Monsanto-Dole agreement is for five years of collaboration with a focus on developing new versions of spinach, cauliflower, broccoli, and lettuce. Their goal is to “improve” the taste, texture, flavor, aroma, and even the nutrition of these foods. Monsanto brings expertise in making rapid advances in agricultural development to the table, while Dole excels in marketing the fruit of big agriculture to the public. Pun intended.

Genetically-modified food (GM), also known as genetically-modified organisms (GMO) has become a battleground between “natural” food proponents and the big agriculture “biotech” business. As with all battles of this type, there is bound to be plenty of misinformation and exaggeration on both sides, and with accusations flying it can be difficult to detect the sane and thoughtful voices among them. The issue is complex and worthy of study.

Monsanto is firmly in the biotech camp, with a stated commitment to the development of modern agricultural practices to increase crop production, thereby conserving resources. Dole has taken some steps to straddle the fence with consumers by offering organic prepackaged salad greens, pineapples, and bananas, along with their traditionally grown produce. It will be interesting to see what if any effect this move to produce new versions of vegetables will have on Dole’s organic consumers.

Monsanto is a dominant player in the development and advancement of biotech agricultural methods and is closely watched by opponents to the genetic engineering of food. Perhaps for this reason, Monsanto spokeswoman Riddhi Trivedi-St. Clair was quick to state that this agreement between Monsanto and Dole will involve breeding research and will not involve the genetic engineering that Monsanto employs with its herbicides, soybean, and corn products. According to Ian Sherr of Reuters in his article, Monsanto, Dole to collaborate on veggies, this is one more step in Monsanto's efforts to expand the vegetable segment of their business.

Mary Ann Lien

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