Monsanto invests in apple study
September 15, 2015
Monsanto, a company part of the alliance that is suing Vermont for passing genetically modified organism food labeling laws, funded a small part of an ongoing study in UVM’s plant and soil department.
Terence Bradshaw, tree and viticulture specialist at UVM and lead researcher of the study, said Monsanto is listed as an investor in a Feb. 15, 2015 presentation of the study.
Monsanto maintains a partnership with biotech company Novozymes.
Novozymes makes fungicides for managing soil diseases and had given a grant to the study a year and a half ago, he said.
“[Monsanto] wrote one check and that’s it,” Bradshaw said.
Out of the $470,000 that Bradshaw has received in funding for the study, $9,000 was from Monsanto, he said.
“There’s no way I would compromise my integrity for 2 percent of my funding,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw’s study is on the effects various organic materials have on the reduction of Apple Replant Disease, which causes poor growth and delayed cropping in apple trees planted in old orchard sites, he said.
In Vermont, apple orchards contribute almost $20 million to the local economy, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s 2007 Census of Agriculture.
Three treatments are being tested at an apple farm about four miles from campus to see if Apple Replant Disease can be prevented or reduced, according to the study’s 2014 annual report. One of the three treatments being tested is called Actinovate, according to the report.
Bradshaw’s study is still incomplete, so he doesn’t know if Actinovate works or not yet, he said.
“If it doesn’t work, I write up that it doesn’t work and that’s how the scientific process works,” Bradshaw said.
The treatments are injected into the soil and the trees’ drip line, according to the report.
Bradshaw said this $470,000 study is a very small project in the grand scheme of things.
Bradshaw said he has been working on organic apple production for the past 10 years. Highlighting the fact that Monsanto happens to fund part of this study doesn’t accurately represent his last 10 years of work, he said.
Monsanto is the largest seed company in the world, according to a November 2008 study conducted by the action group on erosion, technology and concentration.
Bradshaw said that in the last week or two there’s been a lot of press about researchers who work with industry and typically work with Monsanto and there’s been some freedom of information act requests that have gone out.
A Sept. 5 New York Times article discussed Monsanto’s funding of academic research and linked it to the GMO lobbying war that is happening not only in Vermont, but in other states. The Grocery Manufacturers’ Association, which Monsanto is a member of, filed a lawsuit against Vermont’s law to require GMO food labels, according to the GMA’s website.
“The University’s name is out there and no university wants to have their name smeared, especially for a $9,000 grant,” Bradshaw said.
All UVM research projects go through the Sponsored Project Administration, which oversees all research at the University, Bradshaw said. Richard Galbraith, vice provost of research at UVM, is one of the authorizing officials for the Sponsored Project Administration.
“We welcome research investments from reputable sources that are targeted within the expertise of our faculty and the strategic priorities of the university,” Galbraith said. “We will not accept funding from any source, including industry, that attempts to limit in any way the academic freedom of our faculty and their right to publish results.”
UVM received an average of $104 million per year in federal research grant money between fiscal year 2011 and 2013, according to UVM’s 2014 Research Report. The direct and indirect impact of UVM’s research projects on Vermont’s economy was a little over $1 billion, according to the report.
UVM received $101 million in support of research projects during fiscal year 2015, Galbraith said. Less than 2 percent of that total was from industry or corporations, and less than 2 percent was from foundations, he said.
Over 90 percent of funding for research projects is from federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation, Galbraith said. The remaining balance was funded by the state of Vermont or other universities, he said.
[Editor’s Note: In the original article published Sept. 16, the Cynic wrote that Monsanto is suing the state of Vermont. Monsanto is a part of groups that are suing Vermont, but not suing the state directly.]