The chief of leading agricultural biotechnology firm Monsanto today admitted that the company had failed to listen enough to criticisms of its development of genetically modified (GM) crops and pledged the firm to engage in discussions "openly, honestly and non-defensively". Robert Shapiro told a Greenpeace conference in London via a video link from the USA that Monsanto was now seeking to move from "debate" to "dialogue" on GM crop issues. This shift, he said, was behind the company's announcement on Monday that it had withdrawn plans to commercialise so-called "terminator" or sterile seeds, the prospect of which has caused widespread protests in developing countries. Mr Shapiro's olive branch to critics cut no ice with the head of Greenpeace UK, Peter Melchett, who responded with strong criticisms of Monsanto. The company behaved as a "bully" and was offering a "failed vision," Mr Melchett said. "Everything we have actually seen of GM food and farming so far is bad, and is taking us in the wrong direct ion." Greenpeace would happily work with Monsanto, he ended, but only if it would "stop developing GM crops, get out of producing pesticides, and reject the idea of patenting life forms".
Monsanto, tel: +32 2 776 4111; Greenpeace UK, tel: +44 171 865 8100.
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