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Scientist leading GM crop test defends links to US biotech giant Monsanto
Research professor Jonathan Jones says his verdict on a potato trial in Norfolk will not be influenced by his past commercial ties to Monsanto
Jamie Doward The Observer, Sunday 18 July 2010
The scientist in charge of a taxpayer-funded trial that may determine whether genetically modified crops will be grown in the UK has been attacked for his close links to the US biotech giant Monsanto.
Professor Jonathan Jones, head of the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre, the UK's leading plant research centre, has shrugged off the controversy, insisting he has never tried to hide his business relationship with Monsanto or the GM industry.
But as the scientist overseeing the first UK trials of a GM potato, Jones has found himself at the centre of a storm after anti-GM campaigners used social networking sites such as Twitter to highlight the close links between a company he founded, Mendel Biotechnology, and Monsanto.
Mendel's website states: "Mendel's most important customer and collaborator for our technology business is Monsanto, the leading agricultural biotechnology company in the world."
Jonathan Matthews, spokesman for GM Watch, which campaigns against the technology, said: "The frontman for the latest GM push in the UK is being portrayed as a dedicated public servant doing science in the public interest, but it now appears he not only has vested interests in the success of GM but even commercial connections to Monsanto."
Jones made no reference to the links in an article he wrote recently for the BBC website that attacked anti-GM campaigners as "fussy eaters".
Kem Ralph, a Tennessee farmer was sued by Monsanto and sentenced to eight months in prison for lying about a truckload of cotton seed he concealed for a friend. In addition to the prison sentence, the court ordered Ralph to pay Monsanto more than $1.7 million dollars. Anonymous tips pitting farmer against farmer, have been the mother lode for Monsanto in pursuing farmers using its seeds.
$500,000 Damages in Genetic Rice Trial
By JOE HARRIS
ST. LOUIS (CN) - A federal jury awarded a rice farmer $500,000 for his claim that genetically modified rice contaminated his crop. It was the third of five "bellwether" trials involving hundreds of lawsuits that farmers have filed against Bayer CropScience. The complaints are the result of an August 2006 announcement that LibertyLink, a herbicide-resistant rice, had somehow been released from testing facilities. The rice had not yet been approved for sale for human consumption, causing rice futures to plunge.
The rice has been approved, but is not being commercially marketed.
Denny Deshotels claimed that he and his family lost more than $1 million when the market dropped, and he incurred more costs by switching crops and cleaning his equipment of the LibertyLink rice. He sought $1.5 million in damages.
Bayer lawyers admitted that Deshotels lost some money, but denied he lost as much as he claimed. Bayer's attorneys argued that even though the rice market initially plunged, it quickly recovered and farmers who held their rice until the market recovered suffered few losses.
The five bellwether federal trials were initially set up to allow one case apiece in Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
The outcomes were to give plaintiffs and defendants an idea about similar pending cases, giving them opportunities to work out settlements. Two of the cases have been consolidated.
Deshotels' attorney, Don Downing, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that jurors in two state trials in Arkansas also have ruled in favor of the farmers.