The Biotechnology Knowledge Center
Charting the future of public relations
Holmes Report

The Biotechnology Knowledge Center

The Biotech Knowledge Center, designed on behalf of Monsanto Corporation, is the most comprehensive, content-rich resource of its kind on the web.

Paul Holmes


The Biotech Knowledge Center, designed on behalf of Monsanto Corporation, is the most comprehensive, content-rich resource of its kind on the web. It has managed to become instrumental in educating the public and influencing public opinion on the contentious issue of using biotechnology in agriculture.


In recent years the genetic modification (GM) of plants for agricultural purposes has emerged globally as one of the most controversial issues worldwide, specifically in Europe, India and Japan.  With the issue getting momentum in the United States as well, environmentalist movements have intensified the controversy by staging protests, engaging in letter-writing campaigns and creating anti-GM web sites in order to increase public resentment.

The Monsanto Corporation, the world's leading producer of genetically modified seeds, has followed a strategy to provide a variety of opinions to the broad public, so that every one will be able to make an informed decision about the benefits of GM crops.


Research, conducted by independent organizations has shown that people react more positively towards this technology when they understand its present benefits and its future applications.

In accordance with these findings, The Bivings Group created and launched an on-line database that contained agbiotech-related documents from around the world. To be effective the web site had to:

Provide current, up-to-date content, including newspaper articles, government reports, scientific studies, press releases, corporate reports, technical reports, fact sheets, speeches and other related documents.
Allow a wide range of users -- from enlightened policymakers to the average man on the street -- to easily search the database.
Implement the users' native languages by featuring news and information in English, French, German, Spanish and Italian.  
Address issues, which are relevant to specific world regions and countries, while at the same time trying to avoid exposing these issues in places where they are not a matter of concern.
Involve the public by encouraging visitors to take part in on-line discussions, sign up to receive periodic news updates and to send questions and comments to Monsanto.
RESPONSE: The Biotech Knowledge Center (

The Biotech Knowledge Center (formerly known as the Life Sciences Knowledge Center), a multilingual site, offers separate interfaces for users from different countries and regions. Each interface prominently highlights three recent news items from independent sources which are relevant to a particular country or region in the respective native language. For example, the homepage of the French interface gives three articles in French.  This feature allows Monsanto to address issues applicable to certain countries or regions and to simultaneously avoid exposing these issues in places where they are not deemed problematic. Each interface includes:

  • Search functions by keyword or by topic category, allowing users to access news items, scientific documents, technical reports, speeches, press releases and other useful documents. 
  • An editable Topic Library which provides background information and important documents about pertinent country-specific subjects. 
  • An Online Discussion in five different languages. 
  • A Newsboard, which allows people to post documents to the site for others to see. 
  • Forms by which people can submit questions and comments to Monsanto, and sign up for periodic news updates via email. 
  • Prominent links to the Biotech Basics web site (, the online version of Glossary of Biotechnology Terms (, and the individual Monsanto country sites.


The Biotech Knowledge Center is the most comprehensive, content-rich agbiotech resource on the web since:

  • It currently contains more than 4,000 documents. 
  • It has generated over 500,000 user sessions in the year 2000 alone, with nearly 60,000 since November 2000. 
  • Visitors to the site -- including students, educators, politicians, scientists and others -- have used it to obtain a variety of information, to exchange views and contact Monsanto 
  • The site has also given all Monsanto employees all over the world the resources they need to answer questions and provide sources of further information. 
  • Over 40,000 people have signed on to receive periodic news updates via Monsanto listserv messages.

Hundreds of other web sites link to the Biotech Knowledge Center, including such notable sites as's Genetically Modified Food Debate, (Spanish) and (German). It received the Advocacy Award from the New Statesman, which described as being "Interesting. Openness in the face of controversy." It was also designated a "Cool" site by the Open Directory Project (, and featured in Wired News (See attached article).

Participants in focus group studies were impressed by the availability of information in five different languages.  They appreciated that they could conduct their own searches and thus form their own opinions. Today, the Biotech Knowledge Center is a key tool in educating the public about the use of biotechnology in agriculture and effectively influencing public opinion on a global scale.

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