Seed News

DuPont/Pioneer Concerns USDA Secretary

Date Posted: March 30, 1999

San Francisco - U.S. Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman has expressed concern that DuPont Co.’s acquisition of Pioneer Hi-Bred International could fuel the fire of skeptics of genetically modified crops, the head of Pioneer said. Charles Johnson, Pioneer’s chairman, chief executive officer and president, said in a “friendly” meeting with Glickman last week the secretary said he was concerned the acquisition by the chemical giant would raise “red flags” for those who opposed genetically modified food.

Glickman thought the purchase of Pioneer, the nation’s largest seed breeder, would be “another argument to the evil, the negative” that is being touted in some countries, especially in Europe, about GMO’s, Johnson said at the National Grain and Feed Association’s conference. The secretary did not express that he would make any attempt to block the buy, Johnson said. Genetically modified commodities have been a topic of bitter resistance abroad, especially in Europe and in some African nations, where the crops are often seen as a threat to public health. Carol Brookins, chairman and CEO of World Perspectives, Inc., said there is also a growing campaign against GMO’s in Asia, a campaign that the United States has yet to counter. Brookins suggested that agreeing to labeling may be a way to gain GMO acceptance in Europe. “It is time for the U.S. government to stop fighting labeling,” she said.

Johnson suggested that the United States needs to wage a war against the GMO propaganda, but suggested that the responsibility should not rest on the companies that sell the seeds. “We’ve got a serious problem but the problem is not something the seed industry can resolve,” he said. “Maybe the marketplace has to decide. We have to think very carefully how to approach this.”

After the speech, Johnson told reporters that it will not be easy to turn Europe around. “I don’t think they are going to be easily convinced,” he said. Johnson suggested that the United States should reach out to Europeans and other foreign consumers to determine what they want so that U.S. companies can provide products that avoid the GMO controversy altogether. “We need to listen enough to understand what in their food system could be improved,” while staying in their “value system,” he said.

more SEED NEWS...