1.Professor Drops Tenure Lawsuit Against UC Berkeley
2.Monsanto scientists reflect on influential field trial
"I look forward to continue challenging, in the best forums that I can find, what I believe is a corrupt and illegitimate takeover of the public university away from its public mandate." - Dr Ignacio Chapela
Here's 2 contrasting pieces - the first about a public scientist who challenged corporate control and has been put through hell but is still fighting; the second about a bunch of corporate scientists who have caused mayhem around the globe and are feted and given national medals.
1.Professor Drops Tenure Lawsuit Against UC Berkeley
By Charlotte Buchen
Special to the Planet
Berkeley Daily Planet, October 25, 2005
Ignacio Chapela, the UC Berkeley professor whose tenure battle came to symbolize the movement to protect scientific research from corporate interests, withdrew his lawsuit against the school last week, but promised to continue to "expose a deeply damaging miscarriage of the university's mandate."
Chapela sued the UC Regents last spring for wrongfully denying him tenure because of his opposition to the university's deal with pharmaceutical company Novartis. A month after he filed suit Chapela was granted tenure, but he did not withdraw his suit.
Chapela said he hoped the suit would expose the mishandling of his tenure case but came to realize, after meeting with his lawyer and supporters for six months, that he must find other means to that end.
"The claims I made are still valid," said Chapela in an interview, "but I realized people will get the image that I got what I wanted and am still whining. That's the opposite of what I wanted, which was to create a chink in the armor of this massive system that is UC."
UC Berkeley Counsel Michael Smith said, "We hope the dispute is settled and behind us."
Chapela said he will not abandon his efforts to hold the university accountable. In a statement he said, "I look forward to continue challenging, in the best forums that I can find, what I believe is a corrupt and illegitimate takeover of the public university away from its public mandate."
Now, however, he faces the world from a new vantage point.
"My decision to take tenure was my decision to become an insider when I wasn't," Chapela said, "And that brings in a whole set of conflicts of interest."
"He's not uncomfortable being out on his own," said Michael Pollan, a science and food writer who teaches at UC Berkeley's Graduate School of Journalism. "It took a certain strength being in opposition, and in some ways being accepted is harder for him."
Chapela, 45, with a cherubic face beneath a shock of gray hair, became a hero to some and an agitator to others when he loudly opposed the College of Natural Resources' contract with Novartis, a company where he had worked years earlier. He generated international debate on the issue of genetic engineering when he co-authored a controversial article about GMO-tainted native corn in Mexico.
Chapela sees himself as an outsider, a "mutt," he said. Born in Mexico City, he received his B.S. from Mexico’s Universidad Autonoma and then completed a doctorate in mycology (the study of fungi) in Wales. Chapela worked for Sandoz Agra, a pharmaceutical subsidiary of Novartis in Switzerland and then for the United States Department of Agriculture and the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C. He took his current position at UC Berkeley in 1996.
"I am not a thoroughbred academic in any possible way," said Chapela. "I am committed to doing science that has public relevance, and the only way I can do that is if I am heard and seen by the public."
Chapela said his new ambition is to create a system of interactive maps that chart the presence of genetically modified organisms (plants which contain genes from other plants or animals, such as herbicide-tolerant soybeans) in crops around the world. Funding the maps will require generating venture capital.
"I will have to make sure I am not doing the very thing I have been complaining about other people doing," Chapela said.
The transgenic maps would document the consequences of genetic engineering, he said. Chapela said he realized that such a project could upset his supporters. If, for example, he identifies transgenic material in organic fields, he could embarrass and anger organic farmers.
"I could make many people unhappy," Chapela said. "But that doesn't mean I shouldn't do it. That is why I'm tenured, to ask this kind of question."
2.Scientists reflect on influential field trial
Southwest Farm Press, Oct 25, 2005
The team members Jaworski, Robert T. Fraley, Robert B. Horsch and Steve Rogers received the National Medal of Technology for their work in 1999.
When Ernie Jaworski became the leader of Monsanto's first biotechnology team in 1979, he had no idea that 25 years later farmers would be planting 200 million acres of genetically engineered crops.
For all Jaworski knew, he and his team were embarking on a search that could have led them to a dead-end that would jeopardize their scientific careers and waste millions of dollars of Monsanto's money.
"Could you put corn DNA in a plant and keep it stable? Could a trait that you put in a plant be inherited? All of those were unknowns at the time," he said. "It took several years of hard work to find out whether we could solve the scientific issues that made all this possible."
Jaworski and other members of the team had a chance to reminisce about those early days at a recent ceremony at the Jerseyville Agronomy Center near Jerseyville, Ill. The Monsanto facility was the site of the first agricultural biotechnology field trial in June 1987.
The team members Jaworski, Robert T. Fraley, Robert B. Horsch and Steve Rogers received the National Medal of Technology for their work in 1999. Jaworski and Rogers are retired while Fraley is executive vice president and chief technology officer at Monsanto and Horsch is vice president for international development partnerships at the company.
Only place "This was the only place in the country where you could see genetically engineered crops for several years," said Rogers, referring to the expanse of soybeans behind a metal building where the team members spoke along with representatives of farm groups from the United States, Spain and South Africa.
"The first time we came here to put in the first genetically engineered crop tomatoes we had a lot of questions, and we got a lot of questions from neighboring farmers over the next few years," said Rogers.
"Our work actually started in petunias," said Horsch, who specialized in tissue culture research for the team. Horsch, Rogers and Fraley were among the first scientists to successfully transfer a resistant gene (kanamycin) into a small portion of a petunia leaf.
"This work revolutionized biology," he noted. "It's been estimated that an extra 5 billion pounds of food and fiber are being grown today as a result of this research. Something like 82 percent of research papers now involves some form of plant transformation." From petunias, the team's research evolved to tomatoes and eventually to corn, soybeans, cotton, alfalfa, wheat and other crops.
Someone with Monsanto took photos of that first field trial being planted at Jerseyville in 1987. Horsch is shown along with Rogers riding on the planter and loading transplants into the feeder tray.
Another photo shows Rogers; Roger Beachy, a scientist with Washington University in St. Louis who worked with Monsanto on the project; Horsch; and Fraley. (Jaworski, who joined Monsanto in 1952 and worked on Lasso and other herbicides before leading the biotech team, retired before the field trials began.)
"Could this new science be applied to agriculture and have any fit? That’s what brought this team together," said Fraley. "That was part of the challenge to bring a group together to do something no one had ever done."
RR Flex cotton
From that first trial in 1987, Monsanto’s scientists went on to the testing and introduction of genetically engineered crops such as Bollgard cotton in 1995 and Roundup Ready corn and soybeans in 1996. Then came Yieldgard corn and Roundup Ready cotton and alfalfa. The company recently launched its second generation of Bt cotton, Bollgard II, and is planning to introduce its new Roundup Ready Flex cotton in 2006.
Genetically engineered crops are now being planted on between 200 million and 250 million acres of cropland or about 10 percent of the world’s arable land, according to Fraley. But scientists are still in the beginning stages of the new science.
"Where we are today is like being in computers in the 1960s," he says. "One of the best parts of my job is to see the new products that are in the pipeline. The other exciting part is talking to farmers who are using this technology all over the world.
"I’ve talked to farmers in India who used to make 15 or 20 sprays before they switched to Bollgard cotton. Now they’re making more money, they can buy a house and they can send their kids to college."
Part of the observance in Jerseyville included remarks by Leon Corzine, president of the National Corn Growers Association; John Long, former president of the American Soybean Association; Jose Manuel Pomar, a farmer from Spain; and Thandiwe Myeni, a farmer from South Africa.
"When we planted our first bag of Roundup Ready soybeans 10 years ago, I told myself this will change the way we farm," said Long, a cotton, soybean and corn producer from Newberry, S.C. "I had forgotten the word Lasso until today.
"Since 1997, we’ve grown 100 percent Roundup Ready soybeans, 100 percent Roundup Ready cotton and 96 percent Bt cotton, and we’re now 100 percent no-till" Long noted.
"Next year I plan to qualify for Level III of the Conservation Security Program. I couldn’t do that without no-till, and I couldn’t do that without biotech crops."
"It has been marvelous to see the growth in biotechnology," said Jaworski. "We had a lot of fun in those early days. Could we have predicted these results? Not in our wildest dreams."