As the system now stands, biotech companies bring their own research to the government body overseeing their products.“We don’t have the whole picture. That’s no accident. Multibillion-dollar agricultural corporations, including Monsanto and Syngenta, have restricted independent research on their genetically-engineered crops. They have often refused to provide independent scientists with seeds, or they’ve set restrictive conditions that severely limit research options,” wrote Doug Gurion-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists in a February 2011 Los Angeles Times op-ed.20 Concern about lack of independent review extends to university-level research, which is often partly funded and/or controlled by the agrochemical companies, which often gives agrochemical companies exclusive rights to academic discoveries—even though universities are taxpayer-funded.It seems unlikely that scientists whose research is designed and paid for by agrochemical companies would choose to conduct studies that may reduce or remove that funding, even if they could obtain the seeds they needed to do truly independent research.
Moreover, the agrochemical companies refuse to release their own research, citing concern that “proprietary information” could be disclosed.Scientific American called on biotech companies to end restrictions on outside research in a 2009 editorial. “Food safety and environmental protection depend on making plant products available to regular scientific scrutiny,” the magazine’s editors wrote. “Agricultural technology companies should therefore immediately remove the restriction on research from their end-user agreements. Going forward, the EPA should also require … that independent researchers have unfettered access to all products currently on the market.”When scientists have obtained agrochemical companies’ research data, usually through freedom-of-information requests, they have found entirely different conclusions than the company did. Three French scientists analyzed the raw data from three 2009 Monsanto studies on rats and found that three genetically modified corn varieties caused liver and kidney toxicity and other kinds of organ damage. The European Food Safety Authority, at the request of the European Commission, reviewed the French report and said that it “does not raise any new safety concerns,” although other scientists continue to insist the French report is correct. All three corn varieties are now in the human food chain in the United States.