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How much have the biotech companies donated to the Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida?

Submitted by: Veronica


Expert response from Kevin Folta

Professor and Chairman, Horticultural Sciences Department, University of Florida

Thursday, 10/09/2014 16:29

We get this question a lot, mostly because U.F. faculty do take the time to help actively clarify biotech concepts for public audiences. Some folks immediately question the integrity of public scientists who step out of the lab and talk to the public, inferring some level of financial motivation. That’s sad, because communicating science is an important part of our job.  

But to answer the question: There are zero “donations.” At least during the last five years (all I checked), there are not even any grants or research agreements between the Horticultural Sciences Department at U.F. and any company selling biotech seeds. It is a horticulture department that focuses on traditional plant breeding, organic production, conventional production, physiology, biochemistry and genomics of fruits and vegetables—none of which are transgenic (GMO). The transgenic crops are corn, soy, alfalfa, etc.—stuff not really grown in Florida anyway, at least in terms of major acreage.


During the last five years, at the whole university, there were a total of $21,000 in Monsanto grants to one faculty member in the panhandle who studies weeds. That’s it for the whole university. 

Our records are all public, so anyone could have found this information. 

Fifteen years ago, the Monsanto Company provided funds to hire a professor. That person (Dr. Mark Settles) does work in cellular biology and development, and he is 100% government funded. He does no work related to biotech crops, and it is a good thing when companies finance positions to help educate our students and perform important research. 


The question asked raises an unfortunate point: the perception that some company can buy or control what public scientists say. You’ll never find a more independent group of scientists dedicated to working in the public interest than you’ll find here. There is no price tag on that commitment.