Friday, December 24, 2004

The Long Arm of Monsanto

Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a professor at the University of California in Berkeley, was denied tenure after he published a paper in Nature on biotech contamination of native Mexican corn varieties.

Investigative reporters have traced the attacks against Chapela to a front group with strong connections to Monsanto and the far-right Competitive Enterprise Institute:

The result of our research was a whole series of articles that appeared in The Ecologist, The Guardian, New Scientist, Wired News and elsewhere, as well as stuff on radio and TV. Importantly, a lot of the coverage not only questioned the way in which the Berkeley scientists had been attacked and the role of Prakash, AgBioView, Monsanto's PR firm and so on, it also brought into question the wider campaign to overturn the research and why that had succeeded to the extent it had. The editor of Nature faced some pretty tough questions about why he'd buckled when the majority of the peer reviewers supported the principal conclusions of the original paper, and a lot came out about the threats against Chapela even before he published his research.
It seems that an additional strike against Chapela is that he objected to a $50,000,000 grant to the university from biotech giant Novartis, which would've given them the right to the first review of papers produced by Chapela's department.

Nature itself details other improprieties and conflicts of interest in the Chapela case. Interestingly enough, conservatives and libertarians were livid over Chapela's involvement with anti-pesticide and anti-GMO groups, which they said rendered his conclusions suspect. However, conflicts of interest involving connections to biotech firms didn't seem to bother these commentators at all (and in fact, the initial attacks along these lines came from operatives at the Bivings Group, which was Monsanto's PR firm).

If you're so inclined, you can sign a petition here to urge UC chancellors to review Dr. Chapela's tenure denial.


Anonymous said...


Damn you, just when I think my outrage meter has pegged out, you have to put this one out there. This really puts snap in my garters.

I reminded them that academic honesty trumps corporate payoffs, any day, and that they owe it to the citizens of California to offer them the best education in the world. Not the best corporate cock-sucking. (Okay, I said the cock-sucking in nicer terms).

So... Email sent.


Aquaria said...

--Ignore this post--

I'm testing my blogger ID.

Went through my mail the other day and realized I'd forgotten about creating a blogger account a while back--and a blog, too. No, I won't blogwhore.

Wanna see if I did this right. I'm so out of it, I'm not sure.