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Can scientists who recieve funding from Monsanto be considered independent

Submitted by: dreamboy43


Expert response from Community Manager

Moderator for

Friday, 11/09/2015 18:14

In our opinion, yes, the scientists who receive funding from any of the biotech companies who fund the GMO Answers initiative are, and remain, independent (and it’s not just us - this aligns with long-held and widely accepted standards of public-private collaboration). We understand there is skepticism around this notion of academia and the private sector working together, both in our industry and in the number of other industries who work closely with public academics, so we’ll address a few key considerations:


First, for decades, across many industries and scientific disciplines, people have considered and debated if collaborations and interactions between public universities and private industry impact a public scientist's independence. Your question is not unique to agriculture and GMOs, but is the case for many research-driven industries (for example healthcare, renewable energy, etc.).


Second, public-private collaborations are often considered essential to driving innovation and increasing public understanding of research. In fact, public-sector research scientists are expected, and in some cases required, to collaborate with others working in the field, as science is – at its core – a collaborative process. 


Did you know?

Many faculty members have 9 month appointments because universities often encourage faculty to use 3 months a year to collaborate with others. Likewise, universities encourage faculty to take periodic sabbaticals during their career. These can be with other research labs or be with the industry.


Third, financial support from biotech companies for public sector research and education is appropriate, commonplace and necessary.  However, such support must be transparent and done under the strict ethical guidelines of the public institutions that are benefiting from the contributions. Universities typically need to approve all external relationships and regularly review them for adherence to ethical standards and absence of conflict of interest.


How does this relate to GMO Answers?

On, we engage experts to answer your questions who have specific and highly-recognized expertise in their fields.  Because of that expertise, some of these experts may – as part of their work – interact with scientists from biotech companies on defined scientific research programs such as field trials on potential products, or on biotech and scientific outreach, such as professional symposia or industry education efforts like speaking engagements.


If you have specific questions regarding partnerships, experts who contribute to this site or anything you have seen in the media regarding academia and private sector working together, please ask.


From GMO Answers' perspective, we recognize these interactions occur, and from the beginning, we have strived to maintain each individual’s independence through several common practices:

  • We do not compensate for answers. In fact that is why it may take a few weeks to get a response to your questions, because the experts volunteer their time to author them, and as such, are under no obligation to provide us an answer, much less on a specific timeline. 
  • Experts approve all responses and GMO Answers encourages those experts to submit answers that are completely their own. More on how the Q&A works here.
  • We include biographies on each expert to provide information that demonstrates the depth and breadth of their expertise so you can see who’s answering your question and why.

Current public discussions and questions like yours have caused us to consider if we can do more to increase our transparency.  That’s why GMO Answers will continue to work on ways we can offer even more information about the experts responding to your questions on the site, as well as keep looking for other solutions to be more transparent. If you have specific ideas on how we can do this, please contact us.


GMO Answers was started because we know you have questions about GMOs and we wanted to answer those questions – whatever they may be. Now, more than ever, that is our commitment. As this conversation continues, we encourage you to continue to ask hard questions and examine this issue with a critical eye – from both sides of the debate.


Looking for more information?

Check out our Stand up for Science series – which addresses public-private collaboration and why companies fund higher education.