Monsanto executive board member and SDSU president David Chicoine has provided no explanation for Catangui's firing or for the university's apparent violation of due process that could get the university in hot water again with the American Association of University Professors.
A professor is fired for expressing views based on his peer-reviewed, published research. It just doesn't add up. That's why I've kept wondering if this case is revealing the fruits of Monsanto's corporate control over our land-grant university. Is there some way in which Catangui's research could be damaging to Monsanto?
Stop right there. I rail against other conspiracy theorists for seeing plots and cabals (and liberal media monsters) where there are none. But we all see what we want. I may be looking for a grand design where there is none. Cantangui's dismissal could well be just what the university said it was: "performance deficiencies" and insubordination. For all we know, Catangui may have mooned the boss.
So let me be clear: I have no documents to prove that Monsanto ordered Catangui's dismissal. I only have some casual Googling and reading well out of my field that establish that Catangui's research includes some findings relevant to a Monsanto product. I have pieces, but no finished puzzle... and not even evidence that there is a puzzle to finish.
But there are pieces. It's a lot of science, so I'll boil it down and then provide you with the bibliography.
Dr. Catangui has done research on the spread of western bean cutworm. This pest used to be no big deal. But since the introduction and widespread planting of Monsanto's genetically engineered Bt corn, western bean cutworm has been cropping up in higher numbers and in new places. Bt corn also appears to be an inviting home for corn leaf aphids. The western bean cutworms and corn leaf aphids appear to be benefiting from pest replacement: the toxins in Bt corn wipe out targeted competitor species, allowing previously minor pests to pig out and flourish. Monsanto and other corporations then trap farmers on a treadmill of new pesticides and seeds engineered to tackle the new pests... and all the while we dine on a revolving smorgasbord of tasty toxins.
Now Catangui isn't the only guy saying these things, so one could argue that Monsanto wouldn't benefit by targeting one professor in South Dakota. But Monsanto does have a history of going after small operators, and corporations do profit by maximizing every marginal percentage. When Monsanto wants 100% control and zero competition, even one less set of critical scientific eyes on their products may be worth the effort. And hey, you don't buy control of a major land-grant university for nothing.
- Catangui, M.A., and Berg, R.K. (2006). "Western Bean Cutworm, Striacosta albicosta (Smith (Lepidoptera: Noctuidae), as a Potential Pest of Transgenic Cry1Ab Bacillus thuringiensis Corn Hybrids in South Dakota," Environmental Entomology, 35(5): 1439–1452.
- Collins, S. (2003 Aug 3). "Bt Doesn't Control Me," Corn & Soybean Digest.
- Faria, C.A., Wäckers, F.L., Pritchard, J., Barrett, D.A., Turlings, T.C. (2007) "High Susceptibility of Bt Maize to Aphids Enhances the Performance of Parasitoids of Lepidopteran Pests," PLoS ONE, 2(7): e600. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0000600
- Schafer, S. (2010 Mar 27). "Insect Outlook," Farm Journal:AgWeb.
- SDSU (2008 Jul 21). "Corn Producers Now Should Scout for Leaf Aphids," Plant Management Network: Plant Health Progress.
- Then, C. (2010 Mar). "New Plant Pest Caused by Genetically Engineered Corn," TestBiotech report.
- Tonneson, L. (2009 Feb). "Corn Leaf Aphids Threaten Corn," DakotaFarmer.com.