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Biotechnology Advisory Panel Report: Assessment

August 2002

From the Biotechnology Advisory Panel

The following comments are our consensus reflections regarding our participation on DuPont's Biotechnology Advisory Panel. This is our frank assessment based on our collective experience over the last three years on the Panel. As of July 2002, we have met with DuPont a total of five times to discuss specific topics identified by both DuPont and the Panel. Each of us is in contact with Paul Tebo, Vice President for Safety, Health and Environment at DuPont, through the interim periods and we additionally work with other members of DuPont on site-specific and on-going topics as they arise. We have been very satisfied with our participation on the Panel and look forward to continuing to provide input and guidance to DuPont. We hope to share with you the flavor of our interactions with the DuPont Team and our level of satisfaction as members of this Panel.

As a Panel we offer the following collective thoughts.

DuPont Is Clearly Very Committed to This Process.

As each of us assessed the invitation from DuPont to participate on this Panel, we carefully considered where our time was best spent regarding the biotechnology issue. We have each been a part of advisory panels that have proven to be ineffectual, or that were convened for the purposes of paying lip service to stakeholder involvement, or hoping that panel members would "rubber stamp" particular practices and policies. Ultimately, we have found none of these to be the case with the DuPont Biotechnology Advisory Panel. The Advisory Panel's approach has, in part, been set up for success due to the following characteristics:

  •  Meaningful Participation.
    We have experienced focused and meaningful participation from all Panel members, as well as access and real participation from highest levels of leadership across DuPont. DuPont has been able to dialogue along side other Panel members as we all vet issues, raise questions, voice concerns, and problem-solve where appropriate. A neutral facilitator assists in this process.
  • All Topics Are Considered "On the Table" For Discussion.
    Agendas are created with our influence and input. We have discussed such issues as: what it means to be a responsible leader in the area of biotechnology; labeling; bio-based materials and processes; biodiversity and biosafety; and the ethical, cultural, and moral issues pertaining to biotechnology.
  • DuPont Often Solicits Our Thoughts and Advice in the Formative Stages of Policy and Product Development.
    We recognize that product and policy development are extremely sensitive to corporations. And yet, it is crucial that advisors have access to such information at the formative stages, if a company is sincere about stakeholder involvement and its ability to influence. DuPont has been open in sharing information regarding product development, as well as policies that are in the formative stages, and thus the Panel has maximum potential to influence direction.

Our Advice Has Affected Significant and Incremental Change at DuPont Corporation.

  • Increased Appreciation for Transparency and External Perspectives.
    We believe DuPont has an increased appreciation for the importance of transparency when working with those outside the company and for the value external perspectives bring when developing business in a global world.
  • DuPont Uses Their Influence in Industry Initiatives and in Other Forums to Increase Transparency and Include External Perspectives in Discussions.
    While sometimes meeting with limited success, DuPont works to influence and shape the perspective of other industry leaders based on Panel advice.
  • Design of a Science Knowledge Assessment.
    In our first meeting, we emphasized to DuPont that top priority be placed on the safety of biotechnology. As a result, DuPont prepared a comprehensive review of the science and reviewed this with the Panel. Following our discussion and suggestions for improvements to make the assessment more "user friendly," DuPont is placing this assessment on their biotechnology website.
  • Development of a DuPont Biodiversity Position.
    The Panel has urged DuPont to carefully consider what role biotechnology plays as it interfaces with issues of biodiversity. The Panel encouraged DuPont to develop an official position regarding biodiversity, and DuPont is nearing completion of its official position, with our input on several drafts.
  • Exercising the Precautionary Principle.
    The Panel has increased DuPont's sensitivity in issues such as allergenicity and antibiotic markers that require a company to exercise precaution.
  • Examining Lessons Learned and Application of Lessons to Emerging Issues.
    The Panel has urged DuPont to prepare themselves for the inevitable lessons that will emerge as the use of biotechnology continues to grow. We have had rich discussions regarding the potential for genetic introgression of native maize species and how lessons might be applied to future situations.
  • Identification of New Issues.
    The Panel members have helped to raise emerging issues as they relate to biotechnology. For example, Biodiversity was a Panel-driven discussion. Additionally the Panel has raised the important issue of credible educational materials regarding biotechnology. We look forward to future discussions on this topic.

There Are Areas We Would Like to Continue to Challenge DuPont's Thinking On in the Future.

  • More Aggressive Biodiversity Position.
    We are pleased DuPont is developing a position on biodiversity, but will continue to push their thinking on what kinds of actions might continue to illustrate such a commitment. Additionally, we continue to urge DuPont to think of diversity broadly - both biologically and the importance of preserving cultural diversity. The impact of the Biodiversity Position will depend on DuPont's consistency and thoroughness in implementing it throughout its operations. The Panel looks forward to evaluating DuPont's progress in the future.
  • The Responsible Response.
    With significant evidence emerging that genetic introgression of native maize species has occurred in Mexico, the Panel is working with DuPont in thinking about what is a responsible response by a corporation in these situations and how such circumstances might be avoided in the future.
  • Access and Benefit Sharing of Plant Genetic Resources.
    The Panel feels that issues such as access to genetic resources; patents; and intellectual property rights are vitally important. The Panel recommends that DuPont consider convening additional, auxiliary conversations on these topics. The Panel is committed to helping DuPont think about how best to do this.
  • Biotechnology in Developing Countries.
    The Panel looks forward to continuing to work with DuPont on how biotechnology might address issues of poverty and hunger in developing nations. A crucial element will be the involvement of the company in more projects in developing countries, which in the immediate future builds local capacity for sustainable food security in those countries, and in the long-term develops business value.