Pies Fly over University's Deals on Genetically Altered Foods

By Elias, Thomas D. | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), December 4, 1998 | Go to article overview

Pies Fly over University's Deals on Genetically Altered Foods


Elias, Thomas D., The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


BERKELEY, Calif. - Protesters inspired by the Green Party twice in the past two weeks threw pies at the faces of top University of California officials for making big-money deals with companies that market genetically engineered food products.

Two pie tossers were arrested when they tried to pelt Gordon Rausser, dean of UC Berkeley's College of Natural Resources, with pumpkin pies as he signed a deal for $25 million a year giving Swiss food and pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG first negotiating rights to any discoveries stemming from research funded by the agreement.

While commercial firms often sponsor university research, the Berkeley-Novartis pact is believed to be the first ever committing the full intellectual output of an entire college to one company.

Berkeley's natural resources college has pioneered development of genetically altered strawberries and tomatoes, producing fruits and vegetables that last weeks longer on store shelves and in consumers' refrigerators than natural products.

The university can now use all Novartis proprietary technology for its advanced research, while the company essentially gets the right of first refusal on acquiring the rights to any new products. Berkeley keeps both the patents for any inventions and the right to collect royalties on them.

The pie tossers deny formal affiliation with the Green political party, but the party makes no secret of its opposition to both the Berkeley deal and a similar agreement in the works between the university's Davis campus and Monsanto Corp., which also makes genetically engineered crops.

Davis chancellor Larry Vanderhoef was hit in the face with a banana cream pie at a lunch briefing on that campus during his negotiations just a day before the Berkeley contract was announced. The pie thrower there has not been caught or identified, although the groups claiming responsibility for the Berkeley attack also say they hit Mr. Vanderhoef.

Those groups include the so-called Hexterminators and the Biotic Baking Brigade.

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