Organisation - September 24, 2009

Bino cited study funded by industry

Information given to Minister Verburg about GMO crops was based on Monsanto study. Former director of Plant Sciences Group advocates genetic modification.

Raoul Bino during his farewell at Wageningen UR
Raoul Bino, the director of the Plant Sciences Group up until 1 September, advised minister Verburg that GMO crops are more sustainable than conventional crops on the basis of a report financed by Monsanto. That was the conclusion drawn by the newspaper NRC Handelsblad last weekend.
Bino gave a talk in June during a symposium on genetic crops organised by agriculture minister Verburg. In it, he advocated the use of cisgenic potatoes that are resistant to the disease Phytophthora, as well as crops made resistant to drought through genetic modification. He also referred to a scientific publication by the economists Brookes and Barfoot in Ag-Bioforum, in which they calculate that existing GMOs (such as maize, soya and cotton) have positive economic and environmental effects. The authors base this on their own report, which was financed by Monsanto.
That is not independent research according to the NRC; Monsanto's interests, dressed up as science, cast their shadow over the advice given to Verburg.
Raoul Bino is not available for comment but Simon Vink, spokesman for Wageningen UR, is. He says the journal Ag-Bioforum is a peer reviewed journal where scientists review the articles without being given the authors' names. 'Scientists have reviewed this article and found it to be of scientific relevance,' says Vink. That quality assessment means Bino can assume the article is in order, contends Vink; it is not feasible for him to check all the sources of his sources.
The report in question by Brookes and Barfoot contains a large amount of quantitative data provided by Monsanto. They also state: 'The authors acknowledge that funding towards the researching of this paper was provided by Monsanto.'
Bino has now distanced himself from the report funded by Monsanto, but that report was not the only source on which Bino based his advice, says Vink. 'If he had known this, he would have used another article.' Raoul Bino remains a supporter of genetic modification as a way of making plants more resistant to disease and increasing their yield, given the challenge faced in continuing to feed the growing world population. He has held that opinion for years. Last year, for example, he wrote an article putting forward that point of view in NRC Handelsblad.

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