Judge and Jury: Monsanto loses in court but may get a chance to explain in public - GM food is a highly emotive subject, but while Monsanto was unable to convince a jury of its case, a proposed code of practice may finally win the company public backing,

Taking court action is always a risky business. Win and you’re right, lose and you’re wrong. This reality is the latest difficulty facing Monsanto.

Taking court action is always a risky business. Win and you’re

right, lose and you’re wrong. This reality is the latest difficulty

facing Monsanto.



Coverage of its failure in the High Court last week to secure a

permanent injunction against campaigners digging up GM test crops

inevitably aired the reasons for the judgment.



This was Monsanto’s second legal setback in as many months. In February,

it was fined in connection with the management of a GM trial site in a

widely-reported case. The company now finds itself trying to win over

public confidence while it is losing legal arguments which touch the

very heart of the GM foods debate.



Effective environmental regulation and monitoring of crops are vital

issues for both sides of the argument. The biotech industry has now

drafted a code of practice for commercial growth.



Not surprisingly, the code has been heavily criticised by the likes of

Friends of the Earth for lacking proper safeguards. And it is not hard

to imagine pressure groups lobbying hard to stop any attempts by the

biotech industry to police itself.



Nevertheless, the prospect of a voluntary code seems to be gaining

support with the Government. Agriculture minister Jeff Rooker has said

that such an approach is needed because there is no Parliamentary time

to give the code legal teeth. However, the biotech companies will have

to show they have put their houses in order if they are to persuade a

sceptical public that self-regulation is a feasible option.



Winning hearts and minds in Westminster is crucial. But the politicians

will keep a close eye on the public mood.



The problem for Monsanto and others continues to be how to simplify a

complex scientific issue into language that people understand.



In contrast, the Green lobby has cleverly sown the seeds of fear and

uncertainty by talking on an emotional level - the label ’Frankenstein

Food’ is proving a hard nickname to shake off.



At the start of its campaign, Monsanto said it wanted to stimulate open

debate. With the expectation of a full trial in the wake of the High

Court ruling, and the certainty of high-profile media interest in the

expert opinions for and against GM foods, it looks as though the company

is going to get just that.



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