|Chronologically listed items for 2007 on this page in descending order - for items prior to 2007 go to USA - 2006 or USA 2003-2005:
GM rice - proposed class action - By David Bennett - Delta Farm Press, May 28 2007
Last August, markets reacted negatively when the USDA announced a Bayer CropScience GM trait had been found in the U.S. rice supply. Most thought lawsuits were inevitable. Now, nine months later, hundreds of suits have been filed and more are expected. Besides bringing a case alone, an option for a rice farmer is to join a proposed class action that's been moving through U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Perry's St. Louis courtroom since last December. For the plaintiffs, Perry named Don Downing of St. Louis law firm Gray, Ritter & Graham as co-lead counsel along with Adam Levitt of Chicago's Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz. Levitt has experience with agriculturally-related class actions, having worked on the StarLink contamination case.
Since last August, Downing has filed suit on behalf of over 200 Missouri and Arkansas rice farmers. In the proposed class action, there are now some 460 rice farmers representing over 248,000 acres of rice. In an April filing, Downing said total compensatory damages for plaintiffs and other members of the proposed classes may approach or exceed $1 billion - and that's before taking into account punitive or statutory damages. Recently Downing spoke with Delta Farm Press about his expectations for the case, timeframes for the litigation and how the plaintiffs' investigation into the contamination is progressing. Among his comments: "We have heard from farmers who have gone out of business - or gotten out of the farming business.
The toll on farmers
"Many farmers have decided to quit planting as much rice as they have in the past. That's for a variety of reasons, but one is the significant rice seed shortage caused by the contamination of the Cheniere and Clearfield 131 varieties...As a result, many farmers couldn't obtain the type of rice seed they needed. Or, they couldn't obtain sufficient quantities of it. Therefore, some farmers were forced to plant rice seed they feel will yield less than their preferred variety. Other farmers have been forced to plant crops that are substantially less lucrative than rice...Combine that with all the other problems the contamination has caused - the rice price isn't where it would have been had this not happened - and we've lost a chunk of our export market. I know there are a lot of efforts to minimize that problem. But the fact remains that the world price for U.S. rice is substantially lower than it would be if this hadn't happened. All U.S. long-grain rice farmers have been damaged in that regard....Other farmers have incurred costs of the decontamination of their equipment, of their grain bins and machinery. And the whole rice distribution system has also incurred decontamination costs that will ultimately be passed along to the rice producers. Those will come in the form of basis points they have to pay or other charges and fees that will be passed to them....At the end of the day, our view is the rice producers are left holding the bag because of the contamination. That's what this case is all about: obtaining compensation for rice producers for the economic losses they've suffered."
Do you have a figure yet on how much this has cost?
"No. On reason is some of the damages are continuing to accrue. (Getting a figure) will be part of what will be happening during litigation. We have retained economic experts that are looking into the damages suffered by rice producers as a whole."
On new cases
"Cases continue to be filed. The vast majority of them have been filed by rice producers. But there have been cases filed by mills, by exporters and importers and others that were sitting on a substantial quantity of rice that was devalued as a result of the contamination."
On the USDA investigation into the cause, or causes, of contamination
"Our understanding is their investigation is continuing. They haven't told us why it's taking so long...We are doing our own investigation. Once Judge Perry allows the discovery process to go forward - and we anticipate she'll allow the parties to begin this summer - we'll have the opportunity to issue subpoenas to get to the bottom of what happened, to do a full-scale investigation."
You're only going after Bayer?
"Bayer has been named in virtually all the cases. It was their GM (trait) that contaminated the U.S. rice and seed supply. But there are cases in the multi-district litigation that have named as defendants Riceland and LSU. They're part of the proceedings."
Best and worst-case guesses for when the trial will begin or a settlement is made?
"A settlement could happen anytime, but we don't look for one anytime this year. From our discussions with Bayer, it seems they want to pursue this through litigation for some time....We don't look for any final resolution during 2007. It?s possible something could be done in 2008 - I think that's the first opportunity for farmers to see a result. But it could be 2009, or beyond, before this winds down and is completed."
Decline in Corn Gluten Exports Weakens Ethanol Industry's Future - May 21 2007
Washington, DC -- The American Corn Growers Foundation (ACGF) surveyed 1,057 grain elevators during April 2007 in the eighteen (18) states that produce the majority of U. S. grain. "Only 26% of the elevators surveyed report that they require the segregation of GMO (genetically modified) varieties from Non-GMO varieties," reported Dan McGuire on May 21. McGuire is director of the ACGF Farmer Choice-Customer First program. This finding raises concerns about the ability of the U.S. to hold on to the critical corn gluten export market that is so important to the future health of our ethanol sector. "Both the ACGF and the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) are again warning U.S. corn farmers and the critically-important U.S. ethanol industry that key U.S. corn gluten export markets are being lost due to unapproved biotech varieties.....Specifically, an unapproved Bt corn variety was detected in U.S. cargoes of corn gluten feed and pellets in April 2007 at the Port of Rotterdam and shipped from New Orleans."
"According to USDA data for the current corn marketing year which began on September 1, 2006, U.S. corn gluten exports are 38.1% below the year earlier to the European Union-27 for the September to March period and the EU has been by far the most important export market for U.S. corn gluten feed and meal," said McGuire. "Foreign demand for U.S. corn gluten is extremely important for the economic future of corn processing ethanol plants.....As recently as the 1999-00 marketing year, the EU imported 5 million of the 5.8 million metric tons (MMT) of total U.S. corn gluten exports....By marketing year 2005-2006 U.S. corn gluten exports had dropped to only 3.6 MMT with the EU-27 importing only 2.655MMT....It's time to re-learn the marketing reality that 'the customer is always right' in deciding what they choose to buy."
"Farmers are realizing relatively strong corn prices as a welcome change due to growth in the domestic ethanol industry, which needs the export market for corn gluten as well as distillers dried grains (DDG)," said Larry Mitchell, ACGA Chief Executive.....Biotech companies have preached that the U.S. should be able to grow the grain varieties it wants, but given the failure and arrogance of U.S. 'export-oriented' farm policy over the past ten years of telling the world what they will buy, taken together with the grain export sector's ill-conceived attempts to 'privatize' export grain inspection at our ports, importers are losing
confidence in the U.S. system....It's time for both the biotech and export sectors to reconsider their arrogant policies."
For more information, call 202-835-
See Related Websites/Articles: American Corn Growers Association - http://www.acga.org
DJ CBOT Rice Review: Sharp Declines Amid Fund Liquidation - By Tom Polansek - DOW JONES NEWSWIRES, May 18 2007
CHICAGO (Dow Jones)--Chicago Board of Trade rice futures ended deep in negative territory Friday as fund liquidation uncovered sell stops that drove prices down, traders said. July rice dropped 30 cents to $10.11 1/2 per hundredweight, and November rice closed 27 cents lower at $10.78. The fund selling came in early and was met by some scale down buying from ED&F Man's commercial division, a trader said. There also was local scale down buying of July, he noted. Further fund liquidation came in, however, as the market realized it could not "get even close to unchanged," a trader said. That caused the funds to "give up" and sell more, he said. Overall estimated volume was 2,000 contracts.
It was unclear what caused the fund sell-off, traders said. There was pressure from technical signals and potentially from concerns over the inability of the U.S. to sell genetically-modified rice, a trader said. Bearish stories are circulating about GMO rice building up in Arkansas elevators, he said. The technical weakness may have come after the market was unable to rally after the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued a bullish report a week ago, the trader added. Long-term, the U.S. and world supply and demand situation look bullish, an analyst said. The new USDA world forecast numbers indicate another reduction of world rice stocks to multi-year lows, he added.
In Asian markets, physical rice export prices were unchanged at high levels Friday in thin trade, with Thai offers supported by a strong baht, exporters said. While traditional buyers continue to make inquiries, most of them are deterred from making deals by high freight rates, they added. Barring any major developments next week, prices are likely to remain steady, the exporter said. In Vietnam, prices were also unchanged at high levels, supported by strong demand in the local market as exporters are still aggressively buying paddy for shipment abroad, traders said.
States Introduce Numerous Bills to Regulate Genetically Modified Foods - by Britt Bailey
Following a two-year span during which the corporate farming sector lobbied heavily in support of state bills aimed at keeping local governments from regulating genetically modified organisms (GMOs), 2007 state legislatures are now filled with bills confirming farmer and consumer concerns about such foods and crops. It has been a decade since multinational corporations began blanketing the planet with their patented varieties of genetically modified seed. With little government oversight, poll after poll has shown that consumers would like to see greater supervision of genetic engineering including all-out limitations on their cultivation.
From late 2004-2006, nearly twenty state legislatures attempted to subdue the growing resistance to genetically modified organisms. In the wake of four California counties and numerous New England towns passing local measures restricting the growing of genetically engineered foods, states began passing "preemption" laws removing the ability of local governments to regulate seeds and plants.
Nearly every state hearing on the preemption bills erupted into an emotional discourse on the specific impacts of growing GMOs and the toll which this mode of farming exacts on the environment and public health. Inadequate federal oversight, economic impacts, risks to organic practices, lack of legal liability in the event of contamination, need for public notification, potential health concerns, and harm to natural resources were all listed as reasons why local communities should be able to decide whether genetically modified foods should or should not be grown. Thus far, Missouri is the only state that seems to be shoving the concerns related to genetic engineering under the rug. Unlike prior years, when state preemption bills had company, Missouri's SB364 is the only bill in 2007 introduced to remove local authority over anything related to farming.
Legislators seem to be responding to the wishes of the people. Already in 2007, state capitols are filled with bills aimed at protecting small family farming systems and consumers from the impacts of genetically modified foods. Perhaps it is a combination of continued public outcry, along with the rice contamination fiasco that occurred in August 2006 (when an unapproved genetically engineered rice variety caused billions of dollars of damage to farmers throughout the United States), that is giving legislators enough backbone to defy the wishes of the multinational corporate agriculture industry.
Under current US law, the makers of the genetically modified crops bear no responsibility for damages caused when the crops spread through environmental or human action. Now, four states are carrying bills making the agricultural biotechnology industry liable in the event another contamination occurs. Three states are hearing bills calling for a moratorium on food crops genetically engineered to produce pharmaceuticals. Illinois and Tennessee are calling for labeling of foods derived from genetically engineered crops. Five states, California, Hawaii, Minnesota, New York, and South Dakota, are calling for notification systems in which genetically modified foods become a part of the public record.
After ten years of national public debate over the effects of commercializing genetically modified organisms, we seem to be turning a regulatory corner. Perhaps State legislators have recognized that federal regulations are inadequate to protect their state farming interests. Perhaps they have recognized that the regulatory offices of Monsanto and Dow are simply too close to the offices of the USDA, FDA, and Congress. As states continue to introduce bills protecting against the impacts arising from growing genetically modified organisms, will the federal government act next to preempt the states?
All of this begs the question, where is the oversight of farming and agriculture best deliberated - at the local, state, or national level? Given the federal government's track record on the issue, we may want keep it local and allow communities and farmers to decide how best to regulate their soils and foods.
To stay up to date on GMO bills introduced in states across the United States, see Environmental Commons' "Food Democracy Tracker,"
Judge Declares GM Crop Illegal - Press Release, Cornucopia Institute and Center for Food Safety, 5 MAY 2007
FEDERAL COURT ORDERS FIRST-EVER HALT TO PLANTING OF A COMMERCIALIZED GENETICALLY-ALTERED CROP
Judge Orders Complete Environmental Review of Monsanto's Gene-Altered Alfalfa
A Federal judge on May 4 made a final ruling that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) 2005 approval of Monsanto?s genetically engineered (GE) "Roundup Ready" alfalfa was illegal. The Judge called on USDA to ban any further planting of the GE seed until it conducts a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the GE crop. In the decision, Judge Charles Breyer in the Federal Northern District of California affirmed his preliminary ruling, which echoed the Center for Food Safety's arguments in their lawsuit against USDA, that the crop could harm the environment and contaminate natural alfalfa. This ruling also requires Forage Genetics to provide the locations of all existing Roundup Ready alfalfa plots to USDA within 30 days. The Judge ordered USDA to make the location of these plots "publicly available as soon as practicable" so that growers of organic and conventional alfalfa "can test their own crops to determine if there has been contamination."
"This permanent halt to the planting of this risky crop is a great victory for the environment," said Will Rostov, a Senior Attorney for CFS. "Roundup Ready alfalfa poses threats to farmers, to our export markets, and to the environment. We expect the USDA to abide by the law and insure that American farmers are protected from genetic contamination." Today's decision is consistent with Judge Breyer's ruling of February 13th, in which the judge found that the USDA failed to address concerns that Roundup Ready alfalfa will contaminate conventional and organic alfalfa. In calling today for a permanent injunction, Judge Breyer noted that contamination of natural and organic alfalfa by the GE variety has already occurred, and noted that "Such contamination is irreparable environmental harm. The contamination cannot be undone." "This ruling is good news for organic farmers and most conventional farmers across the country," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. "This crop represents a very real threat to their crops and their livelihood. This ruling is a turning point in the regulation of biotech crops in this country," Kimbrell concluded.
The permanent injunction ordered today by Judge Breyer follows his ruling last month finding that USDA violated national environmental laws by approving GE alfalfa without a full Environmental Impact Statement. Monsanto and Forage Genetics, the developers of the GE alfalfa seed, failed to convince the Judge that their corporate interests outweighed the public interest in food safety, freedom to farm natural crops, and environmental protection. In fact, Judge Breyer specifically noted that Monsanto?s fear of lost sales "does not outweigh the potential irreparable damage to the environment." With the integrity of organic food, and conventional export markets at stake, farmers have been watching this court action carefully. Organic alfalfa seed producer Blaine Schmaltz, Rugby ND, said the ruling helps farmers in a time of uncertainty. "The judge's order to make public the location of Roundup Ready alfalfa fields is a critical part of the decision," said Schmalz. "It allows GM-free and organic producers like me make sound planting decisions."
Judge Breyer found that USDA failed to address the problem of Roundup-resistant "superweeds" that could follow commercial planting of GE alfalfa. Commenting on the agency's refusal to assess this risk, the judge stated, "Finally, the court rejects defendants' assertion that allowing an expansion in the Roundup Ready alfalfa market is in the public interest because it promotes the use of less toxic herbicides. The record reflects that organic and most conventional forage alfalfa is grown without the use of any herbicides. In any event, a finding that increasing the use of Roundup is in the public interest is premature in light of APHIS's failure to analyze the potential for the development of Roundup-resistant weeds." "This ruling protects the ability of farmers producing organic meat and milk to obtain non-GMO alfalfa seed to grow feed for their animals and preserve the organic integrity of their products," said Jim Munsch, a certified organic livestock producer from Coon Valley, Wisconsin who represents The Cornucopia Institute, one the plaintiffs. "This is precedent-setting. For the first time the courts have intervened on a USDA ruling to ensure that proper environmental evaluation and consideration for the livelihood of family farmers are accounted for and balance the desires of large companies," Munsch added.
The Center for Food Safety initiated the legal action resulting in today's ruling in February 2006, representing itself and the following co-plaintiffs in the suit: Western Organization of Resource Councils, National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides, Cornucopia Institute, Dakota Resource Council, Trask Family Seeds, and Geertson Seed Farms. "As a consumer of organic foods, I'm relieved to know that a U.S. District Court judge understands the regulatory role USDA plays, even though the agency itself seems to have forgotten," said Dean Hulse, an organic food consumer from Fargo and past chair of Dakota Resource Council. "Judge Breyer's ruling forces USDA to do its job - that is, to conduct the research necessary to determine the effects of Roundup Ready alfalfa on the environment." "I'm hopeful that Judge Breyer's precedent-setting ruling will induce a rebirth of values at the USDA, in particular, and federal regulatory agencies generally," added Hulse. "The USDA's role with respect to regulating transgenic crops should be that of watch dog, not lap dog."
"This landmark decision curtails a genetically engineered crop that, among other serious environmental problems, increases farmers' dependence on toxic weed killers that hurt farmers, food consumers, and the environment," said Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides. "This is a huge victory for family farmers in the livestock and diary industry," said Bill Wenzel, National Director Farmer to Farmer Campaign on GE. "It is unfortunate that it took lengthy and expensive litigation to achieve what should have been apparent to the bureaucrats at the USDA - that nobody but Monsanto benefits from the commercialization of GE Alfalfa."
For more information, please visit www.centerforfoodsafety.org or www.cornucopia.org
Judge prohibits planting of genetically engineered alfalfa - By Paul Elias - ASSOCIATED PRESS, May 3 2007
SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge on Thursday barred the planting of genetically engineered alfalfa nationwide, ruling that the government didn't adequately study the biotechnology crop's potential to mix with organic and conventional varieties. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer made permanent a temporary ban he ordered in March on alfalfa with genetic material from bacteria that makes the crop resistant to a popular weed killer.
The ruling is a major victory for anti-biotech crusaders, who have been fighting the proliferation of genetically engineered crops. It is the first ban placed on such crops since the first variety - the Flavr Savr tomato - was approved in 1994. Breyer said the U.S. Department of Agriculture must conduct a detailed scientific study of the crop's effect on the environment and other alfalfa varieties before deciding whether to approve it. USDA spokeswoman Rachel Iadicicco said the agency would conduct such a study.
Some 220,000 acres of genetically engineered alfalfa were planted this year before the judge's ban went into effect. Monsanto Inc., the St. Louis-based biotech firm company that developed the crop, had asked Judge Breyer to allow continued planting this year while the USDA compiled its report, which the agency said could take up to two years to complete. Breyer's order only affects alfalfa farmers, which grow the crop primarily for livestock feed. But many crops, including soy, corn and cotton, have been engineered with the same trait, which enables farmers to more easily spray herbicide over their fields.
Alfalfa is grown on about 21 million acres nationwide. California is the nation's largest alfalfa producer, growing the crop on about 1 million acres, primarily in the San Joaquin Valley. Monsanto and Forage Genetics Inc., the company licensed to sell its genetically engineered seed, argued that the biotech alfalfa - dubbed Roundup Ready because of its resistance to Monsanto's popular herbicide Roundup - would actually benefit the environment because fewer weed killers would be used. But Breyer sided with organic farmers and conventional growers who fear lost sales if their crops are contaminated by genetically engineered plants. "The harm to these farmers and consumers who do not want to purchase genetically engineered alfalfa or animals fed with such alfalfa outweighs the economic harm to Monsanto, Forage Genetics and those farmers who desire to switch to Roundup Ready alfalfa," Breyer wrote Thursday.
Monsanto officials didn't have an immediate comment Thursday. The company's share price rose 92 cents to $59.55 in afternoon trading. About 136.5 million acres of the nation's 445 million acres of farmland were used to grow biotech crops last year, an increase of 10 percent over 2005 plantings, according to the industry-backed nonprofit International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.
Judge mulls making alfalfa ban permanent - By Michael Kahn - SCIENCE NEWS - Reuters, April 27 2007
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - A U.S. judge questioned whether he should lift a ban on the sale and planting of Monsanto Co.'s genetically modified alfalfa without a government study of the crop's potential impact. U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer on Friday told lawyers defending the use of Monsanto's alfalfa that it was up to the government - not him -- to determine whether use of the seed posed a potential threat to the environment. He also said that lifting his preliminary injunction before such a study was complete could lead to greater harm to the environment. He challenged defense lawyers to show him case law establishing a precedent for him to do so.
Breyer, who has already ruled that the government acted illegally in approving the biotech alfalfa, issued the preliminary injunction in March and set April 27 as a date to consider whether to make it permanent. He did not indicate when he might make a final decision on the ban. "It is not the court's function to do an environmental impact study," Breyer said during the hearing. "That hasn't been done, and I don't know if the court ought to do it. The government ought to do it, and that is what I held.."
In March, Breyer issued a preliminary injunction banning the sale and planting of the alfalfa, which has been genetically altered to tolerate treatments of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide.
Many farmers, environmentalists and consumer activists fear the biotech alfalfa will contaminate organic and conventional varieties, create "superweeds" that don't respond to herbicide and damage export business. Alfalfa is a perennial livestock fodder crop and among the most widely grown crops in the United States. The judge's order in March said the USDA had not done a thorough job in evaluating the potential impact of the crop, and he vacated the USDA's 2005 approval of Monsanto's alfalfa. His decision marked the first time a federal court overturned USDA approval of a biotech seed and halted planting, according to The Center for Food Safety, among the groups seeking the injunction.
Lawyers defending use of the crop, however, urged the judge to lift his injunction, saying at the hearing on Friday that the important factor was that any likelihood of injury was low and that farmers relying on the seed would be harmed. "There are some significant environmental and beneficial effects in Roundup Ready Alfalfa," Janice Schneider, a lawyer representing Monsanto, told the judge.
Monsanto has presented testimony from scientists who say there is an "extremely low" risk that Roundup Ready Alfalfa would pollinate conventional crops if "appropriate stewardship measures" were taken. Monsanto has also argued that a continued ban on Roundup Ready seed would force farmers "to plant lower-yield alfalfa breeds that pose more complicated and costly weed control problems and require the use of more toxic or environmentally problematic herbicides." The Roundup Ready alfalfa genetic trait was developed by Monsanto and licensed to Forage Genetics International, which produces and markets the seeds.
Vigilance Still Needed on GM Rice Contamination
GM Freeze is calling on the Food Standards Agency, as well as food retailers and manufacturers, to be on maximum alert to prevent further imports of GM contaminated US long grain rice after Swedish authorities announced yesterday finding Bayer’s unauthorised GM LL601 in pre-packed US rice.
Sweden imported the rice in January 2007, five months after the US authorities informed the EU of the contamination they had first discovered in January 2006. Earlier this year another important variety of long grain rice in the US, BASF's non-GM Clearfield, was found to be contaminated with 4 GM traits developed by Bayer. GM contaminated rice was available for purchase in UK shops as late as January 2007, more than two months after the FSA claimed no contaminated rice remained on the market.
Commenting Pete Riley of GM Freeze said: “It is pretty clear that the GM contamination of US rice has not yet run its course. The whole of the UK's food industry, from supermarkets to catering establishments, needs to be very vigilant to prevent further contamination of our supply chains. The Food Standards Agency must ensure that the food chain is being adequately monitored to ensure that no contaminated lots get through and contaminated stocks are removed from the market.”
Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341065
 See http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/content/2007/03/CL131update3-9-07.shtml
Eve Mitchell, Co-ordinator, GM FREEZE CAMPAIGN, 94 White Lion Street, London, N1 9PF - Tel: 020 7837 0642 - Fax: 020 7837 1141
firstname.lastname@example.org - www.gmfreeze.org
Importers Question Purity of U.S. Crops - The Wall Street Journal, 26 March 2006
Recent breakdowns in the system meant to keep experimental genetically engineered plants from contaminating the hundreds of millions of acres of crops grown in the U.S. has farmers and import markets questioning the purity of U.S. goods. Mexico, the largest foreign market for U.S. rice, sent tremors through the U.S. sector midmonth when it stopped shipments on the border out of concern the U.S. can't keep its experimental transgenic long-grain rice out of commercial crops. California's medium-grain rice growers have demanded a statewide moratorium on any biotech field trials to avoid the contamination recently plaguing long-grain growers in the south. Those contaminations, California Rice Commission spokeswoman Beth Horan said, prompted farmers and millers to say, "Whoa, this isn't as isolated as we thought and really the system isn't working the way that we thought."
California relies on countries such as Japan and South Korea to buy as much as 30% of the state's harvest each year, and producers want to keep the experimental crops as far away from their fields as possible. That's getting harder, if not impossible, to do with so many field trials going on, said biotechnology experts at nonprofit consumer groups.
The U.S. is the largest producer of biotech crops in the world, with 135 million acres planted last year, according to the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications. European Union countries, which were big long-grain buyers, stopped importing when they realized the U.S. couldn't keep biotech rice out of exports.
Bee demise - Are GMOs the missing link? - Sierra Club press release, March 22 2007
Are honey bees the canary in the coal mine? What are honey bees trying to tell us that we should pay attention to?
One out of every three bites of food that we consume is due to the work of honeybees, serving as crucial pollinators. Yet food production may be severely impacted by the recently reported Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). Beekeepers are reporting estimates as high as 80% loss of their honey bee colonies.
There's a link that's not being investigated. Highly respected scientists believe that exposure to genetically engineered crops and their plant-produced pesticides merit serious consideration as either the cause or a contributory factor to the development and spread of CCD.
Laurel Hopwood, Sierra Club's Chair of the Genetic Engineering Committee states, "In searching for the cause of massive honey bee losses nationwide, we must leave no stone unturned to find the answer. Is the release of genetically engineered organisms the smoking gun?"
This past decade we are seeing releases into the environment that we have never before seen on this planet. Genetic engineering involves the artificial transfer of genes from one organism into another, bypassing the protective barrier between species. Scientists admit that unintended consequences may occur due to the lack of precision and specificity in the DNA sites on different plant chromosomes where the inserted genes randomly end up. According to the prominent biologist Dr. Barry Commoner, "Genetically engineered crops represent a huge uncontrolled experiment whose outcome is inherently unpredictable. The results could be catastrophic."
Regulators don't look, so they don't find. The USDA and EPA have failed to adequately assess the potential for lethal and sublethal impacts of engineered crop pesticides on pollinators like honey bees and wild bees, including the larvae brood and young bees. They have failed to study the effects of the practice of feeding honeybee colonies genetically engineered (GE) corn syrup and parts of recycled hives containing additional GE food residues.
Considering that loss of honeybee pollinators can leave a huge void in the kitchens of the American people and an estimated loss of 14 billion dollars to farmers, it would be prudent to use caution. If genetically engineered crops are killing honeybees, a moratorium on their planting should be strongly considered.
In a letter sent to the Senate and House Agriculture Committees sent yesterday, Sierra Club urges our elected officials to initiate investigations to determine if exposure to genetically engineered crops or corn syrup is the missing link.
To read the letter: http://www.sierraclub.org/biotech/whatsnew/whatsnew_2007-03-21.asp
Contact: Sierra Club - Laurel Hopwood - 216-371-9779 - email@example.com
Mexico Halts US Rice Over GMO Certification - REUTERS NEWS SERVICE, March 16 2007
Chicago Board of Trade rough rice futures took a nose dive Wednesday, falling nearly the 50-cent trading limit on talk of the trade disruption, traders said. US export sales were already lagging about 20 percent from a year ago as business has been hurt since a biotech gene material LLRICE601 was found in the US rice supply last summer. The US government has said the variety, which was engineered to resist herbicides, is safe for human consumption, but many countries now require certification that US rice contains only trace amounts of GMO. Three exporters of US milled rice had their shipments stopped, said Bob Cummings, the vice president of international policy at USA Rice Federation, a trade group. At least eight rail cars have been stopped at Laredo, Texas, he said.
Mexico is requiring certification from an approved laboratory that the grain is free of LLRICE601. "We are working to make sure that Mexico understands this is a safe product," Cummings said. "We have been able to do that in countries like Canada where we are selling rice. We'd like to be able to do the same thing in Mexico." Marco Antonio Meraz, who heads a federal biosecurity and GMO commission, said the Mexican government was testing for the LLRRICE601 strain which contaminated the US commercial supply last year. The Mexican Ministry of Health would publish the test results Friday or Monday, he said.
Mexico is the largest buyer of US rice and last year bought 805,500 tonnes of rice valued at US$205 million, USA Rice Federation said. "Mexico would have to be considered the stumbling block for American rice today," said Neauman Coleman, an analyst and rice broker from Brinkley, Arkansas. "Considering the magnitude of Mexico for American rice, any time you back up the flow, that just holds up overall consumption and tends to become a tad negative," Coleman added.
(Additional reporting by Christine Stebbins in Chicago)
GM Seeds May Face More Lawsuits - 14th March 2007
Opponents hope recent action on genetically-modified alfalfa could become a precedent for tighter regulatory controls at USDA.
By Scott R Kemper: DTN News Editor and Marcia Zarley Taylor: DTN Executive Editor
OMAHA (DTN) -- Opponents of biotech crops are gaining some ground in federal courts. If their legal attacks against USDA's regulatory procedures ultimately prevail, release of genetically modified (GM) seed could be thwarted in the future. Recently two federal courts have rendered opinions critical of USDA's regulatory oversight of Roundup Ready alfalfa and bentgrass. USDA approved the alfalfa product for use in 2005. On Monday, however, the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California issued a preliminary injunction barring new seed sales and forbidding growers nationwide from planting any Roundup Ready alfalfa after March 30. Existing stands of GM alfalfa - in excess of 200,000 acres - still could be harvested. The court had previously chastised USDA's "cavalier" attitude toward regulation of GM alfalfa and held that the department violated federal law by failing to properly assess possible environmental impacts before approving its release. "Part of the problem is the result of USDA pushing the introduction of biotech crops too quickly without adequate field testing and regulation," said Roger McEowen, a professor of agricultural law at Iowa State University. "The courts are serious about USDA following the law."
Will Rostov, a senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety in San Francisco, one of the groups which sued USDA, said the alfalfa victory "sets a precedent" that could be employed against new biotech seed releases and second-generation GM seeds, many of which the seed industry had expected to commercialize in the next three to five years. Plaintiffs selected the alfalfa case because it is the newest GM crop to come to market, Rostov said, but "other [USDA] decisions in the past have been equally challengeable."
One issue in the California case is whether genes from Roundup-tolerant plants could flow to nearby fields of organic or natural alfalfa. Environmental groups had claimed that gene transmission was possible, since bees pollinate alfalfa and they can spread pollen as much as two miles from the source. Besides risking sales of organic feed for beef and dairy cows, 75 percent of U.S. alfalfa is exported to Japan, which does not currently permit genetically modified glyphosate-tolerant varieties. Monsanto officials downplay the risks of stray pollen, noting that such environmental impacts were addressed in an extensive regulatory dossier and in grower stewardship agreements filed with USDA during the regulatory review. For example, growers are required to cut the crop before it flowers, a practice that prevents pollen formation and improves crop quality.
Just how much impact these legal challenges will have on biotech corn, wheat or soybean releases remains in question. McEowen believes USDA will need to force seed companies to take the extra time and expense to conduct environmental impact statements. "If they follow the rules and don't simply start doing field tests without determining impacts on other plants, determining it is not a nuisance, and fully assessing environmental impacts, they should be ok," McEowen says. "But USDA has not shown a great deal of interest in rules that will slow down the pace of introduction of GM crops."
California Rice Commission supports moratorium on GE field testing - California Rice Commission, March 14 2007
SACRAMENTO, CA - Following mounting concern over the discovery of trace levels of genetic material unapproved for commercialization in long grain rice seed outside of California, the California Rice Commission voted this morning to support a moratorium "on the field testing of all genetically modified (GM) rice cultivars in the State of California for the 2007 crop, and for future crops, until such time as research protocol and safeguards are acceptable to the California Rice Commission." It is the position of the industry that a moratorium on GM field testing in California would allow for an opportunity to evaluate federal regulations that safeguard the rice industry.
Following the August discovery of GM traits in long grain rice produced in southern rice growing states, the California rice industry undertook a comprehensive review of the impacts on markets and potential impacts on commercially grown rice in the state. The announcement by APHIS within recent weeks that two additional GM traits had been discovered in a variety of long grain rice, the California rice industry voted for a moratorium to evaluate the federal regulations that are the basis for all GM rice research in the state. "Based on the events of the last few months, it is clear that the federal regulatory process is not working for rice," commented Frank Rehermann, Chair of the CRC Board and a rice producer in Live Oak, California. "It is imperative that those systems are evaluated and approved."
California has tested is public seed four times since August, all with non-detect results for Liberty Link varieties LL601, LL62 and LL06. None of the GM events in question are present in California, and commercial production of GM rice is currently not occurring in California or elsewhere in the U.S. As a precautionary move to further reassure it markets of the integrity of state's rice, the AB 2622 Advisory Board, as authorized by the California Rice Certification Act, has adopted the requirement that all California rice variety owners submit samples for laboratory testing and confirm a non-detect status to approve those varieties for production in California during the 2007 crop year. California already has the strongest body of law in the U.S. to address market concerns. Passed in 2000, the California Rice Certification Act provides direction and establishes measures that enable the industry to regulate new rice variety introductions and research within the state.
On August 18, 2006, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced that trace amounts of regulated, genetically engineered (GE) rice were found in samples taken from commercially produced long grain rice. The trace amounts in question have only been identified in Southern long grain rice, in a variety that is not present in California.
For more information about the California Rice Commission and the California rice industry, go to www.calrice.org.
The California rice industry is based in the Sacramento Valley. Each year, California rice producers plant and harvest over 500,000 acres of rice, contributing a half-billion dollars to the economy and providing habitat and fodder for 235 species of wildlife along the Pacific Flyway.
Contact: Elizabeth Horan, Communications Manager, California Rice Commission - Office: 916/387-2264 - Cell: 916/205-5395 - firstname.lastname@example.org
Rice board spurns biotech - State commission worries test plants would cut sales overseas - By Jim Downing - Bee Staff Writer
Sacramento Bee, March 15 2007 http://www.sacbee.com/103/story/138155.html
The California Rice Commission on Wednesday called for a moratorium on experimental plantings of genetically modified rice in the state, saying federal controls meant to keep such varieties from contaminating commercial rice are inadequate. "We have to protect our industry at all costs," said Keith Davis, a Marysville-area rice farmer who is chairman of a group that has been reviewing the industry's genetic-engineering policy over the past several months. The vote is advisory, but Tim Johnson, president of the Rice Commission, said it is likely to carry weight with the AB 2622 Advisory Board, which controls nearly all test plantings of rice in the state. The decision by the 40-member group meeting in Colusa was driven largely by concerns that the contamination of the state's rice supplies with even a tiny amount of genetically engineered material could devastate sales to touchy export markets such as Japan and South Korea. The commission represents the state's roughly 1,000 rice farmers and processors.
As much as 40 percent of California's $200 million to $400 million annual rice harvest is sent overseas. Nearly all of the state's rice grows in the Sacramento Valley, where it is the most widely planted crop. Two still-unsolved contamination incidents in the past eight months elsewhere in the country have demonstrated the market hazards. Last summer, a rice variety containing a gene for herbicide tolerance was found in commercial rice in several Southern states. Futures prices for long-grain rice plunged as European importers demanded that each shipment be tested. Some other countries banned U.S. rice altogether. And on March 4, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued what amounted to a recall for the seed of a popular type of rice grown in the South because it was found to have been contaminated with genetic material not approved for human consumption. Board members say it was this incident that led to Wednesday's decision. "Nobody has been able to explain to us what happened in the South," Davis said. "We felt that we had a necessary stance to take." Johnson said that two experimental plantings of genetically engineered rice were approved in the state in 2006.
The DNA of genetically modified crops has been altered to yield traits such as herbicide resistance or enhanced nutritional content. Genetically modified crops are considered safe to eat, but they are opposed in many nations - including the United States - for ecological, moral and other reasons. The use of genetically modified seed has become widespread in the corn, soy and cotton industries, and the technology is broadly endorsed by mainstream farm groups. But due in large part to export concerns, genetically modified rice has not been planted by commercial farmers in the United States or in most other countries in the world. Last month, after a report documented the strong opposition to genetically modified rice in several key export markets, a group of 200 Northern California rice farmers called for an end to experimental plantings of such rice. Greg Massa, the leader of the group and a longtime opponent of genetic engineering in rice, seemed almost dazed after Wednesday's meeting. "I'm still shocked," said Massa, who also holds a seat on the Rice Commission board. "I went from fighting in this underdog position for the last 3 1/2 years to being in the majority literally overnight." Martina Newell-McGloughlin, who directs the Biotechnology Research and Education Program for the University of California system, had a mixed reaction. "Of course any group wants to protect its market," she said. "But I think this is fear rather than rational thought." Newell-McGloughlin said she believes that existing safeguards on research plantings are adequate.
The Rice Commission's stance could put it in a strange-bedfellows situation this year as the Legislature debates a bill that would make firms that produce genetically modified seeds liable for damages if their product contaminates a field. The state Farm Bureau opposes the bill. But the Rice Commission may find itself fighting for it alongside activist groups such as the Washington, D.C.-based Center for Food Safety. "If the mainstream is against these things, then maybe we aren't mainstream," said rice grower Don Bransford.
Mexico testing US rice for GMO strain: official - REUTERS, March 14, 2007 - http://www.reuters.com/article/scienceNews/idUSN1432075220070314
MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexico is conducting tests on U.S. rice imports to ensure it is free of genetic material not approved for human consumption, a government official said on Wednesday. Marco Antonio Meraz, who heads a federal biosecurity and GMO commission, said the government was testing for the LL Rice 601 strain, which contaminated the U.S. commercial supply last year. The USA Rice Federation said on Wednesday Mexican officials had stopped rice shipments at the border and were asking for certification that the grain is free of the genetically modified material.
USDA accused of lax food safety measures - Tuesday, March 13, 2007
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been accused of failing to protect the nation's food supply, following last week's withdrawal of a long-grain rice seed after possible contamination with genetically modified material.
"This latest incident of contamination-the third in the last six months-underscores the USDA's inability to keep unwanted and potentially harmful modified genes out of our food supply," said Karen Perry Stillerman, a food analyst at the non-profit group Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
The USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) last week issued 'emergency action notifications' to prevent the planting and distribution of a rice seed from German firm BASF. The variety, Clearfield CL 131, was not developed as a genetically engineered product, but the firm's own testing revealed that the seed may have been contaminated with a genetically modified strain. BASF last week notified the USDA of its findings, which are now due to be verified by further tests conducted by APHIS.
The US rice industry - and the USDA's regulatory standing - already suffered a major hit last year, after Bayer Crop Sciences in July notified the agency that it had discovered trace amounts of an unapproved GM rice in samples of commercial rice seed. The incident sparked a flow of reactions against the firm and the US rice export market, with food safety warnings and regulatory restrictions resonating globally. These two incidents together indicate that the agency is lacking in its protection of the US food supply, claimed UCS last week.
The organization, which says it combines independent scientific research and citizen action for a safer consumer environment, also said the USDA was taking consumer health risks by approving the first commercial production of a food crop - again rice - engineered with human genes. The new rice is genetically engineered to produce lactiva and lysomin - two proteins found naturally in breast milk, and reported to have significant potential against diarrhea. California-based Ventria Bioscience this month received approval from the agency to cultivate over 3,000 acres of the rice in Kansas. But the news sparked new concerns and fears from the global anti-GM lobby, and UCS added its voice to these. According to the group, pharmaceutical crops such as Ventria's rice pose a threat to the food supply and public health because the proteins they contain are intended to be biologically active in humans and may be harmful if eaten accidentally.
"When such compounds are produced in food crops grown outdoors, they are almost certain to contaminate the food supply," said UCS. "Growing pharmaceutical food crops outdoors is not worth the risk it poses to public health and the financial health of farmers and food companies. Because it is virtually impossible to produce pharma food crops outdoors safely, even if very strong regulatory systems were put in place, we are calling for a USDA ban," said Stillerman. According to Stillerman, a 2005 report by the USDA's internal auditor found that the agency's oversight of pharma crops was lax. "In some cases, regulators didn't know where pharma crops were grown or stored. Several recent court decisions also have lambasted the agency's risk assessment and regulatory systems for pharma and other genetically engineered crops."
© 2000/2007 Decision News Media SAS
Sales of genetically modified alfalfa seed to halt - Alex Pulaski - The Oregonian, March 12 2007
A federal judge Monday ordered an immediate halt to sales of genetically modified alfalfa seed. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer follows his decision last month that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had not fulfilled a requirement to prepare a full environmental impact statement before approving the crop's commercial release in June 2005. The alfalfa seed, developed by Monsanto Co. and Forage Genetics International, is designed to resist Monsanto's popular herbicide, Roundup.
The Center for Food Safety, based in Washington, D.C., filed the lawsuit challenging the agriculture department's approval. Among the plaintiffs are Phillip Geertson of Adrian, Ore., an alfalfa grower and seed producer. Conventional and organic alfalfa growers argued that the modified seed could crossbreed with conventional varieties, endangering export markets that prohibit genetically modified varieties.
Oregon ranks 11th among states in alfalfa production, with more than $230 million in sales.
Rice Industry Troubled by Genetic Contamination - By Rick Weiss - Washington Post Staff Writer - Washington Post, March 11 2007
When Fred Zaunbrecher heard in August that the popular variety of long-grain rice he was planning to grow had become contaminated with snippets of experimental, unapproved DNA, the Louisiana rice farmer took it in stride and ordered a different variety of seed for his spring planting. But when federal officials announced last week that the rice he and many others switched to was also contaminated - this time with a different unapproved gene - irritation grew to alarm. The two sidelined varieties accounted for about a third of last year's Southern rice crop, and planting was set to begin within days. "Everybody's been scrambling for seed," Zaunbrecher said. "I have no idea whether there will be enough or not."
The tremors going through the U.S. long-grain rice industry - amplified by the decision of many biotech-wary nations to restrict imports of U.S. rice until questions of purity are resolved - have revealed how vulnerable a $1 billion agricultural sector can be to the escape of something as small as a molecule of DNA. But rice is not the only crop being affected by genetic pollution. Eleven years after the first gene-altered crops got the go-ahead for U.S. planting, biotech acreage is at a record high. Almost 90 percent of U.S. soy and corn, as well as about 60 percent of U.S. cotton, is spiked with genes from other organisms, mostly to confer resistance to insects and to make the crops immune to weed-killing chemicals. Yet some of those genes have spread to weeds, making them tougher to control. Biotech crops approved only as animal feed have found their way into human food. And plants engineered to make medicines in their tissues have escaped from their test plots. "Something's not working," said Al Montna, who grows 2,500 acres of rice in California. "Something's got to change."
Some farmers are pointing fingers at biotech-seed producers, whose carelessness, they say, has allowed experimental DNA to drift into commercial varieties, transforming U.S. rice into a global pariah and sending the industry into its biggest crisis in memory. Others are fed up with the Agriculture Department, which in the past six months has been scolded in three federal courts for not keeping adequate tabs on the burgeoning business of genetically engineered crops. Whatever the root cause, the string of recent missteps has sullied an industry that, though long controversial in much of the world, has mostly grown under the radar in the United States.
Advocates say the biotech revolution has improved productivity while reducing the consumption of pesticides and tractor fuel. A report commissioned by industry leader Monsanto Co., released last week, estimated that biotech crops in 2005 allowed farmers to reduce their carbon dioxide emissions by 9 million tons - equivalent to removing 4 million cars from the roads. But increasingly, farmers are concluding that early assurances that engineered varieties could be kept segregated from conventional crops were overstated. So far, gene escapes have not had discernible effects on human or animal health, leading some proponents to suggest that the real problems are the strict rules in place from the early days of biotech, when safety was a major concern. "Most of these issues have been issues of regulatory compliance and quality control," said L. Val Giddings, president of PrometheusAB, a Silver Spring-based biotech consulting firm. "These are important, but they aren't safety concerns." Giddings and some others say it is time for more discriminating standards that would treat many biotech crops as environmentally friendly instead of criminalizing every smidgen of errant DNA.
Others see things differently.
"For years the industry said, 'This will never get out,' " said Joseph Mendelson III, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group that has won several legal challenges against the Agriculture Department's handling of biotech crops. "Now it's, 'It will get out, but what does it matter?' We can have a scientific debate about that, but in the meantime it certainly matters a lot economically, because so much of the world doesn't want this stuff."
U.S. farmers such as Zaunbrecher have been caught in the middle, fighting off domestic efforts to introduce gene-altered rice until international markets warm to the product. He was going to plant a conventional variety called Cheniere on at least 500 of his more than 2,000 acres, until he learned that it had become inexplicably tainted with a weedkiller-resistant gene created by Bayer CropScience of Research Triangle Park, N.C., that was unapproved for rice. In its place, he ordered Clearfield131, another non-engineered variety, developed by BASF of Germany. But on March 5, the USDA put out an emergency call to prevent all planting of that variety. Tests had found two laboratory-made genes not meant to be in it, one belonging to Bayer and one that has yet to be fully identified. "Everybody's frustrated," said Bobby Hanks, who employs about 100 workers at Louisiana Rice Mill near Crowley. "At this point, the industry has very little confidence in researchers to keep these things out of the food stream."
Cynthia Sagers, a plant ecologist at the University of Arkansas, said USDA rules on how to isolate experimental rice from other varieties have not been stringent enough. Textbooks say rice is a self-pollinating plant, meaning its pollen does not drift far. "But stand in an Arkansas rice field at 11:45 on a sunny day," Sagers said, "and you'll see a zillion billion pollen grains blowing around." Even if the pollen is contained, accidental mingling of engineered and conventional seeds occurs easily, especially when biotech varieties are not restricted to dedicated equipment and distribution streams. A string of recent court rulings has revealed regulatory shortcomings for other biotech crops. In August, a federal judge criticized the USDA, saying it had "utter disregard" for the risks posed by plantings of biotech corn and sugar cane that the agency had endorsed in Hawaii. Two rulings in February took the agency to task for not fully considering the risks posed by biotech alfalfa and turf grass.
In the absence of stricter federal rules, some states have taken matters into their own hands. When a company recently sought permission to grow rice endowed with human drug-producing genes in California, officials there said okay - if the company stayed at least 500 miles from the nearest rice field and waited for a special ruling from the state's Department of Food and Agriculture. When the company sought instead to plant in Missouri, that state's legislature withheld promised research money until the company gave up and moved to Kansas - a state that welcomed the project in part because no other rice is grown there. Cindy Smith, deputy administrator in charge of biotechnology regulation at the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, said that oversight has improved considerably in the past two years and that other changes are coming. Central among them is a risk-based system that will streamline approvals of biotech crops that are similar to others with proven safety records while raising the bar for those that pose the greatest risks. "The nature of our regulatory system is that it has to continually evolve . . . because we're regulating a technology that continues to evolve," Smith said. And though she said she "fully appreciates" the gravity of the occasional failing, Smith noted that the agency has overseen more than 13,500 field tests on nearly 80,000 locations nationwide, the vast majority without a hitch.
Yet in today's global market - in which biotech food is largely shunned, in part as a matter of "green" philosophy and in part as a covert means of trade protectionism - that may not be enough, said Montna, the California grower, who is chairman of the USA Rice Federation. "Everything is about market acceptance," Montna said, noting that the rice federation has pushed for stricter testing of all seed to prevent future surprises. That would help not only farmers but seed companies, too - some of which are now suffering from decreased sales because their varieties have become contaminated, and others of which are being sued for misplacing their genes. "I'm seeing a lot of very, very angry people," said Adam Levitt, a Chicago lawyer who is involved in a class-action lawsuit against Bayer that already includes hundreds of rice farmers and millers.
Bayer spokesman Greg Coffey said the company should not be blamed if the federal rules that it followed are inadequate. "We do believe our work has adhered to USDA regulatory guidelines," he said, completing the circle of blame that on many farms today is as familiar as the seasons.
Could genetically modified crops be killing bees? - John McDonald, Special to The Chronicle - San Francisco Chronicle, March 10 2007
With reports coming in about a scourge affecting honeybees, researchers are launching a drive to find the cause of the destruction. The reasons for rapid colony collapse are not clear. Old diseases, parasites and new diseases are being looked at. Over the past 100 or so years, beekeepers have experienced colony losses from bacterial agents (foulbrood), mites (varroa and tracheal) and other parasites and pathogens. Beekeepers have dealt with these problems by using antibiotics, miticides or integrated pest management. While losses, particularly in overwintering, are a chronic condition, most beekeepers have learned to limit their losses by staying on top of new advice from entomologists. Unlike the more common problems, this new die-off has been virtually instantaneous throughout the country, not spreading at the slower pace of conventional classical disease.
As an interested beekeeper with some background in biology, I think it might be fruitful to investigate the role of genetically modified or transgenic farm crops. Although we are assured by nearly every bit of research that these manipulations of the crop genome are safe for both human consumption and the environment, looking more closely at what is involved here might raise questions about those assumptions.
The most commonly transplanted segment of transgenic DNA involves genes from a well-known bacterium, bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which has been used for decades by farmers and gardeners to control butterflies that damage cole crops such as cabbage and broccoli. Instead of the bacterial solution being sprayed on the plant, where it is eaten by the target insect, the genes that contain the insecticidal traits are incorporated into the genome of the farm crop. As the transformed plant grows, these Bt genes are replicated along with the plant genes so that each cell contains its own poison pill that kills the target insect.
In the case of field corn, these insects are stem- and root-borers, lepidopterans (butterflies) that, in their larval stage, dine on some region of the corn plant, ingesting the bacterial gene, which eventually causes a crystallization effect in the guts of the borer larvae, thus killing them. What is not generally known to the public is that Bt variants are available that also target coleopterans (beetles) and dipterids (flies and mosquitoes). We are assured that the bee family, hymenopterans, is not affected. That there is Bt in beehives is not a question. Beekeepers spray Bt under hive lids sometimes to control the wax moth, an insect whose larval forms produce messy webs on honey. Canadian beekeepers have detected the disappearance of the wax moth in untreated hives, apparently a result of worker bees foraging in fields of transgenic canola plants. Bees forage heavily on corn flowers to obtain pollen for the rearing of young broods, and these pollen grains also contain the Bt gene of the parent plant, because they are present in the cells from which pollen forms. Is it not possible that while there is no lethal effect directly to the new bees, there might be some sublethal effect, such as immune suppression, acting as a slow killer?
The planting of transgenic corn and soybean has increased exponentially, according to statistics from farm states. Tens of millions of acres of transgenic crops are allowing Bt genes to move off crop fields. A quick and easy way to get an approximate answer would be to make a comparison of colony losses of bees from regions where no genetically modified crops are grown, and to put test hives in areas where modern farming practices are so distant from the hives that the foraging worker bees would have no exposure to them. Given that nearly every bite of food that we eat has a pollinator, the seriousness of this emerging problem could dwarf all previous food disruptions.
John McDonald is a beekeeper in Pennsylvania. He welcomes comments or questions about the bee problem at email@example.com. General comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article appeared on page F - 4 of the San Francisco Chronicle
INTERVIEW: EU Ag Chief Sees Increased Indian Rice Imports - Dow Jones, 6 March 2007 - http://www.cattlenetwork.com/content.asp?contentid=111246
NEW DELHI (Dow Jones) -The European Union's rice imports from Asian countries such as India may increase after consignments from the U.S. were found to have traces of unauthorized genetic modification last year, European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel said Tuesday. "We have asked the U.S. to provide us with evidence that rice consignments to E.U. doesn't contain the unapproved genetic modification," Boel told Dow Jones Newswires in an interview. "(Such U.S. consignments) become more expensive and therefore the E.U. is also looking eastwards at other markets (to buy rice)." India's rice exports to Europe are mostly restricted to basmati in husked or brown form, a type of rice famous for its aroma, grain length and cooking flavor but grown only in small pockets of the Indian subcontinent, including Pakistan.
Last year the E.U. placed control requirements on rice imports from the U.S. after shipments were found to contain an unauthorized biotech strain made by Bayer CropScience, a unit of German biochemical company Bayer AG (BAY). That GM rice - Liberty Link 601 - has since been approved and is now considered "deregulated" by the USDA but the E.U. has zero tolerance for such rice. India's rice exporters smell an opportunity in this development to ship non-Basmati rice to the E.U.
"I don't exclude that possibility (of higher rice imports from India) but they have to be...not low quality," Boel said. She said the E.U. won't relax its quality controls on GM crops including rice from the U.S. as it will harm consumer interests. "We have to be stringent to maintain confidence of the European consumers that when they buy something and it is not labeled, it is not derived from the GM product. This is crystal clear," said Boel. Boel said since Basmati is unique to the Indian subcontinent there needs to be strict tests to ensure there is no contamination in its shipments to the E.U. She said discussions are ongoing with Indian authorities with regards to testing of basmati.
India undertakes quality tests on Basmati consignments before they are shipped out of the country. However, Boel said the consignments need to be tested for authenticity in the E.U. as well. "We are looking into the possibility to be able to verify the value of the quality tests in the E.U.," said Boel. Brown basmati is subject to import tariff concessions because of its unique origin in the Indian subcontinent. To a query about whether the E.U. will consider granting such concessions on non-Basmati rice and white rice as well, Boel said such requests from India could be negotiated upon as part of a proposed comprehensive trade and investment agreement with India. The E.U. and India plan to negotiate a broadbased agreement on trade and investment under which import tariff on 90% of the commodities will be reduced to zero over a period of seven years. "Of course I am sure India will defend heavily to include rice in such an agreement," said Boel.
More biotech woes for U.S. rice - by Peter Shinn - Brownfield, March 6 2007
Audio related to this story
BASF Agricultural Products of Research Park Triangle, North Carolina, is pulling one number of its Clearfield rice seed off the market. USDA ordered the company to do so after BASF found trace amounts of a biotech event in the Clearfield rice following extensive testing. Ray Gilmer is group communications manager for the company. He said the likely suspects for the contamination are Liberty Link rice biotech traits that escaped into the environment into the late 1990s. But Gilmer pointed out nothing is known for sure right now. "We know we found a GM [genetically modified] event in a sample of Clearfield 131 rice," Gilmer said. "But we have not yet identified if it is in fact Liberty Link or anything else."
Gilmore said much detective work will have to be done before the source of the biotech contamination is known. But until it is, Clearfield 131 rice, a conventional variety, won't be sold. "Regrettably, we're sort of the victim here, and subject to USDA's authority," said Gilmer. "We want to make sure that the rice that we are selling, because it is conventionally bred it has the greatest acceptability for export or domestic consumption, but these are the steps that are necessary to withhold the spread of that genetic material, until we at least know what it is." Gilmer said most BASF Clearfield rice seed is not affected by the recall. He estimated losses to the company from the incident at between $1 million and $9 million dollars. "We're probably talking about single-digit in the millions of a financial hit," Gilmer surmised. "Thankfully, we have lots of other Clearfield varieties that are available to help fill the pipeline this year."
The discovery last year that unapproved biotech traits had been found in U.S. rice in six states disrupted export markets and prompted several class action lawsuits against Bayer CropScience, which bought the company that, in the late 1990s, originally released the unapproved biotech events. USDA has since approved those biotech varieties for animal and human consumption, but international approval hasn't followed suit.
BASF Agricultural Products - http://www.agproducts.basf.com
USDA statement on Clearfield rice - http://www.aphis.usda.gov/newsroom/content/2007/03/ge_riceseed_statement.shtml
Court decisions against USDA can hold up transgenetic approval - By Philip Brasher - Tuesday, March 06, 2007
Washington, D.C. - A series of court decisions is calling into question the U.S. Agriculture Department's regulation of genetically engineered crops. Three rulings challenge the USDA's handling of field trials and its process to approve the widespread cultivation of biotech crops. Depending on the government's response, the cases could lead to a slowdown in commercialization of new transgenic varieties, experts say. One possible outcome: USDA could be required to conduct environmental-impact studies before approving some crops. Studies can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars and take years to complete.
Biotech companies such as Pioneer Hi-Bred International and Monsanto Co. are using genetic engineering to make crops such as corn, soybeans and cotton resistant to insects and herbicides and better able to survive droughts. Companies also alter the genes of crops such as switchgrass that someday may be used to make ethanol.
Last August, a federal judge in Hawaii decided that USDA improperly allowed biotech companies to plant fields of corn and sugar cane that had been engineered to produce pharmaceutical products. On Feb. 5, a federal judge in Washington, D.C., ruled that USDA allowed field tests of a biotech turfgrass without considering adequately the potential environmental damage if the herbicide-resistant grass spread beyond the research fields. Then, a judge in San Francisco ruled USDA improperly approved the commercialization of herbicide-resistant alfalfa without doing an environmental-impact study. Among other things, the judge said, USDA should have looked at how organic alfalfa would be hurt if the crops were contaminated by pollen from biotech fields.
USDA "is going to have to take a real hard look at all of those impacts, biodiversity impacts, impacts on endangered species and organic impacts," said George Kimbrell, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety, a Washington-based advocacy group involved in bringing all three cases. "It will slow things down."
How much is the question.
USDA officials say they're still studying the rulings, including whether the cases will be appealed. The department has been working for more than three years on revisions to its regulations for biotech crops, a process that itself includes developing an environmental-impact statement. Officials say they expect to issue the proposed rules for public comment sometime this year. "The court cases seem to be coming across some procedural things that need to be addressed," said Mike Phillips, vice president of food and agriculture, science and regulatory policy for the Biotechnology Industry Organization, which represents biotech giants such as Monsanto Co. of St. Louis and Pioneer Hi-Bred International of Des Moines.
A report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, another advocacy group, found that USDA already has been taking longer to review crops before deciding whether to approve them. Before 2000, the approval process took an average of six months for each crop trait. From 2001 to 2005, the average exceeded 15 months. The process will almost certainly take longer if USDA is required to do more environmental-impact studies, as compared to its relatively brief "environmental assessments."
In one sense, the alfalfa case is unusual. Alfalfa is a perennial, unlike corn, soybeans and cotton that are the most widely cultivated biotech crops. And alfalfa is pollinated by bees, which can spread its pollen for miles. But some of the same complaints leveled against the genetically modified alfalfa have been made against other crops, including biotech corn. As with alfalfa, the potential for cross-pollination makes it hard to keep fields of conventional and organic corn free of biotech contamination.
The judge cited issues that he said merited an environmental-impact statement, including the possibility that the crop would "degrade the human environment by eliminating a farmer's choice to grow non-genetically engineered alfalfa and a consumer's choice to consume such food."
Requiring USDA to spend more time studying new biotech traits doesn't mean the ultimate outcome will be any different, legal experts say. But the point of genetic engineering is to speed up the development of new genetic traits. Get enough lawyers involved, and conventional breeding won't look so slow anymore.
Copyright © 2007, The Des Moines Register
Monsanto biotech alfalfa lawsuit ratchets up - By Carey Gillam - Monday, March 05, 2007
KANSAS CITY, Missouri - Biotech crop critics said they were asking for a permanent injunction to stop the planting of Monsanto Co.'s genetically modified alfalfa after failing to negotiate a settlement with U.S. regulators by a court-imposed deadline on Friday. Also Monsanto said it was filing a motion on Friday to intervene in the closely watched case, which is one in a string of recent court rulings criticizing U.S. government oversight of biotech crops. Monsanto said several farmers also plan to ask to intervene in the case.
In a February 13 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California in San Francisco criticized the USDA as "cavalier" and said the department violated the law by failing to adequately assess possible environmental impact before approving the alfalfa developed by Monsanto.
The judge gave the parties until Friday to work out a mutually acceptable remedy, but those efforts failed, said Will Rostov, a senior attorney for The Center for Food Safety. The center filed the lawsuit along with farmers, consumers, and environmentalists against officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and the Environmental Protection Agency. The group alleged that biotech alfalfa could create super weeds resistant to herbicide, hurt production of organic dairy and beef products because alfalfa is an important cattle feed and cause farmers to lose export business due to risks of contamination to natural and organic alfalfa.
The suit also alleged that contamination of conventionally grown alfalfa could force farmers to pay for Monsanto's patented gene technology whether they wanted it or not. Alfalfa, a perennial fodder crop cross-pollinated by bees and wind, is among the most widely grown crops in the United States, along with corn, soybeans, and wheat. The USDA, APHIS and EPA officials could not be reached for comment. Monsanto has said its biotech alfalfa, which was genetically altered to withstand applications of weed killer, has been approved by numerous regulatory agencies and has a confirmed safety record. "Monsanto is asking to intervene, because we believe it is important for hay growers to have the choice to use this beneficial technology," said Jerry Steiner, an executive vice president for the company, in a written statement.
The court ruling on alfalfa followed another court ruling against USDA issued on February 5. That case involves field tests approved for bentgrass genetically modified to resist Monsanto's Roundup herbicide in a collaboration between Monsanto and The Scotts Co. Bentgrass is commonly used on lawns, athletic fields and golf courses. In that case, U.S. District Judge Harold Kennedy for the District of Columbia said there is "substantial evidence that the field tests may have had the potential to affect significantly the quality of the human environment," and he said USDA could not process any further field test permits without conducting a more thorough review.
© Reuters 2007
Rice Recalled Over Gene Contamination - Rick Weiss, Washington Post Staff Writer - Washington Post, March 6 2007
The Agriculture Department last night took the unusual step of insisting that U.S. farmers refrain from planting a popular variety of long-grain rice because preliminary tests showed that its seed stock may be contaminated with a variety of gene-altered rice not approved for marketing in the United States The announcement marks the third time in six months that U.S. rice has been found to be inexplicably contaminated with engineered traits, and it comes just weeks before the spring planting season Adding to the potential disruption, the variety of rice affected is one that many farmers had planned to switch to this spring to avoid a different contaminated strain.
The new problem involves Clearfield CL131 seed, produced by BASF of Germany and marketed by Horizon Ag of Memphis. In an after-hours posting on the USDA Web site, agency officials did not say which unexpected genetic trait had been found in the rice. In August, Cheniere rice was found to be contaminated with an herbicide-resistance gene that had been under study in 2001 but was never approved or brought to market. The discovery continues to disrupt U.S. rice exports, even though the trait won speedy approval in December.
BASF Cooperates with USDA on CL131 Rice - Press Release - BASF Corporation, 6 Mar 2007
RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, NC, March 5 - PRNewswire - BASF Agricultural Products announced today it is cooperating with the United States Department of Agriculture to remove all CLEARFIELD(R) CL131 rice from the marketplace following discovery that some of the seed has been contaminated by an unidentified genetically modified (GM) event. BASF is taking this action in conjunction with USDA's March 4 issuance of an Emergency Action Notification on CL131 variety seed. The order calls for no planting or distribution of CL131 seed.
CLEARFIELD is conventionally bred (non-GM) rice containing BASF technology that allows growers to control red rice and other tough weeds. BASF asked for additional testing of CLEARFIELD rice following the recent discovery of trace amounts of LibertyLink(R) LL62 GM events in CLEARFIELD seed. LibertyLink technology is a product of Bayer CropScience. Ongoing testing of CL131 seed has been directed to detecting the presence of LL62, and another LibertyLink trait, LL601, both of which are deregulated and approved by federal authorities for human consumption.
On March 1, 2007, BASF notified USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of independent laboratory test findings on 2005 CL131 registered rice seed that indicated the presence of LibertyLink GM events, but tested negative for LL62 or LL601 - suggesting the presence of an unidentified and possibly regulated GM event. BASF is working with the USDA in an effort to identify the unknown event.
"BASF notified the USDA immediately after becoming aware of the laboratory findings and we continue to work cooperatively with USDA on this situation," said Andy Lee, Director of U.S. Business Operations, Crop Protection Products, for BASF. "BASF is steadfastly working to advance a clear and viable production environment for rice producers now and in future growing seasons."
BASF is in discussions with Bayer CropScience regarding technical assistance to expedite the identification of LL62, LL601 or other GM traits to help determine the scope and source of the GM presence in CLEARFIELD seed.
BASF remains firmly committed to CLEARFIELD technology and recognizes the substantial value that it offers rice producers. BASF is working with federal authorities and the seed industry to remove contamination from CLEARFIELD varieties as part of an ongoing responsible initiative to eliminate propagation of GM traits within those varieties.
Always read and follow label directions. CLEARFIELD is a registered trademark of BASF. LibertyLink is a registered trademark of Bayer CropScience.
Environmental regulation: U.S. courts say transgenic crops need tighter scrutiny - Dan Charles - Science, February 26 2007
http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/315/5815/1069 [subscription needed]
Citing a broad range of risks, U.S. federal judges in three separate cases have asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to examine genetically engineered crops more closely. The courts said the department had violated the National Environmental Protection Act (NEPA) in approving commercial sales of transgenic alfalfa and field trials of turf grass and plants engineered to produce pharmaceuticals.
Critics of genetically engineered crops say the decisions, two issued this month and one last August, will compel tighter regulation of transgenic crops. Will Rostov, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C., which filed all three lawsuits, called the alfalfa decision, rendered 12 February by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco, California, "another nail in the coffin for USDA's hands-off approach to regulation." But Stanley Abramson, a lawyer who represents several biotech companies, pointed out that the courts raised questions about USDA's procedures, not its substantive decisions. He predicted that USDA's final judgments would hold up in court.
The alfalfa verdict could have the most significant impact. In 2005, USDA approved the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa, jointly developed by Monsanto and Forage Genetics International, which can withstand the popular herbicide glyphosate. But last week, Breyer said that the department should have first prepared an environmental impact statement (EIS) as required under NEPA.
Joseph Mendelson of the Center for Food Safety said that his group may demand an end to sales of genetically engineered alfalfa or even a ban on planting transgenic seed already in farmers' hands. USDA officials declined to discuss the government's position or whether it plans to appeal. A spokesperson for Monsanto, which sells genetically engineered alfalfa but was not a party to the lawsuit, said he did not expect sales to be halted. Breyer gave both sides until next week to propose regulatory fixes.
The second verdict, handed down 5 February by a Washington, D.C., district judge, found that USDA should have carried out an EIS or a more modest environmental assessment before it allowed a 162-hectare field trial of transgenic turf grass near Madras, Oregon, in 2003. And last August, a federal court in Hawaii faulted USDA for approving field trials in Hawaii of corn and sugar cane engineered to produce experimental pharmaceuticals without considering the state's numerous endangered species.
In two of the cases, the judges expressed concerns about potential risks that USDA has dismissed as insignificant or outside its mandate. Breyer, for instance, complained that USDA ignored the cumulative impact of glyphosate-tolerant alfalfa, corn, and soybeans. Greater use of glyphosate increases the odds that weeds will develop resistance to it.
Breyer also said USDA erred when it dismissed as not "significant" the concerns of organic farmers who don't want Roundup Ready pollen or seeds spreading to their alfalfa fields. The possible replacement of traditional varieties is itself significant, he noted. "An action which eliminates or â?? greatly reduces the availability of a particular plant--here, nonengineered alfalfa--has a significant effect on the human environment," he wrote.
USDA argued that cross-pollination wasn't a serious problem in alfalfa, because farmers typically harvest their fields before the plants have a chance to flower, much less produce seeds. Producers of commercial alfalfa seed, however, would have to make sure their conventional and transgenic fields were widely separated. Alfalfa is pollinated by bees, which can carry pollen at least 3 kilometers.
In the turf grass case, Judge Henry Kennedy found that transgenic bentgrass from a large field trial in Oregon threatened a nearby area's "aesthetic and recreational" value. Pollen from the bentgrass spread up to 20 kilometers into the nearby Crooked River National Grassland.
Many scientists, including some critics of genetically engineered crops, say the bentgrass poses no real ecological threat in that area because it isn't well adapted to the region's arid climate. But the spread of this "confined" field trial proved embarrassing to the Scotts Co., which hopes eventually to sell bentgrass seed to golf courses.
Dan Charles is a Washington, D.C.-based science writer.
US group wants to halt herbicide-resistant alfalfa seed - By Jim Gransbery - Wednesday, February 21, 2007
A coalition of farmers, environmentalists and food safety organizations plans to ask a federal judge in California to halt the sale of Roundup Ready alfalfa seed, the group's lawyer said Tuesday. The request follows a decision released two weeks ago in which U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer in San Francisco ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to follow environmental law before approving the genetically modified forage. Breyer asked parties to the suit for proposals for remedies after he found that the USDA should have completed an environmental impact statement before giving its go-ahead for the crop in 2005. The proposed remedies are due Monday.
"The USDA approval is vacated" by the judge's decision, said Joseph Mendelson, an attorney for the Center for Food Safety in Washington, D.C. "So any new sales of seed and hay should be halted," he said. As for what to do with stands of the perennial already in the ground, Mendelson said, "It is hard to speculate. It is difficult to halt a harvest." In Montana and Wyoming, a decision to stop sales could directly affect seed producers and seed businesses. The Center for Food Safety represented itself and the co-plaintiffs in the suit, including the Western Organization of Resource Councils, which has headquarters in Billings. WORC is a coalition that includes the Northern Plains Resource Council and similar organizations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, Oregon and Colorado. Mendelson was asked if Roundup Ready alfalfa posed any threat to animal or human health or whether the suit focused on environmental and economic consequences. "Both," he said. "At this point on alfalfa we are unable to know (health threats) because USDA has not done an EIS."
Millions of acres of Roundup Ready soybeans, corn and canola are planted each year in the United States and are consumed by animals and humans. Genetic modification, as compared with hybridization or cross-breeding, involves inserting genes from one kind of an organism into the genes of an unrelated organism. Roundup Ready seeds contain genetic material that makes the plants resistant to the herbicide Roundup, thus reducing the costs of tilling and weed control. Monsanto Co., which produces Roundup and Roundup Ready seeds, discontinued its research plots of spring wheat varieties in Montana in 2004. The company said at the time that there were better business opportunities for its genetically modified strains of corn, cotton and oilseeds.
Monsanto and Forage Genetics of Nampa, Idaho, a partner in the development of the alfalfa strain, were not party to the case in California but are affected by the results of Breyer's decision. "We are working with seed producers and farmers," said Andrew Burchett, public affairs manager for Monsanto in St. Louis, Mo. "And we will work with USDA in seeing the regulatory requirements are satisfied. There is an extensive dossier already" on Roundup Ready alfalfa. Approved in Canada, Japan He noted that Canada and Japan have ruled Roundup Ready alfalfa safe. Jose Arias, of Forage Genetics, said he had no comment when informed that the Center for Food Safety intended to seek a halt of the sale of the seed. Burchett said the issue is procedural." The coexistence of Roundup Ready plants and organic is well-known. Roundup Ready soybeans, corn and canola all co-exist."
Blaine Schmaltz, of Rugby, N.D., rejects that argument. An independent seed grower and organic farmer, Schmaltz discontinued his sprouting seed sales because the "expense of testing lies on me." He said he has to prove that his seed is not contaminated by pollen from Roundup Ready plants. "Alfalfa is a perennial and is open-pollinated," he said. "And there is the liability issue. There is no insurance for it." Schmaltz was a co-plaintiff in the suit as an affected party. He provided written testimony in the case. He said the possibility of contamination from Roundup Ready alfalfa is "devastating the organic market, which is growing." He expressed concern that Roundup Ready plants are leading to "super-resistant" weeds because the herbicide is now used on so many crops.
The suit also affects Laurel seed producer John Wold, who raises seed for Forage Genetics. He said Monday that he has raised Roundup Ready alfalfa seed for two years. "It is very safe, in my opinion," he said. He questioned how the court could halt sales. "It would be pretty hard to do that," he said. "A tremendous amount is sold already."
Wold conceded that the issue is "a touchy subject." Seed purveyor and user Dan Downs said Roundup Ready "is just another tool in the box." "The question is, does it work for that field for the money?" Downs said. The seed carries a premium that goes to Monsanto as a royalty because it has a patent on the process. Downs owns and operates Montana Seed and Grain and Chemicals in Billings. "This is not a big issue for me," he said of the suit. "But for others it is big." Downs said he has sold less than three tons of seed in the past two years. "Roundup Ready can make a real difference in getting an early start," he said. "I planned on planting it this spring. I go seed when the ground is ready, and I get a 15 to 20-day head start." When the weeds emerge, Downs can use Roundup herbicide to kill them without injuring the alfalfa.
3rd most valuable crop
Alfalfa is grown on more than 21 million acres in the United States and is valued at $8 billion a year, making it the country's third most valuable and fourth most widely grown crop. It is the primary forage for dairy and beef cattle. Alfalfa seed production was worth $4.8 million in 2006 for Montana farmers, almost double its value in 2005. The 2006 increase was attributable to increased acres. In 2006, 10,700 acres were harvested, compared with 6,100 acres in 2005. The average price per hundredweight was $113 in both years.
Copyright © The Billings Gazette
US rice farmers take a hard line - By Jim Downing - The Sacramento Bee, 20 February 2007
A splinter group of more than 200 Sacramento Valley rice farmers is claiming that even experimental plantings of genetically modified rice jeopardize key export markets. The group, Rice Producers of California, plans to release today a market study that documents the powerful opposition to such technology in several key export destinations: Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Turkey. While the study generally reinforces conventional wisdom about these markets, the fact that the group saw fit to commission a study at all illustrates the anxiety that many export-dependent farmers continue to feel about genetically modified crops. The DNA of such crops has been altered to yield traits such as herbicide resistance or enhanced nutritional content.
Greg Massa, who farms rice near Chico and is the group's co-chairman, said he wants a ban on any outdoor planting of genetically modified rice. Due in large part to export concerns, transgenic rice, as it is known, has not been planted by commercial farmers in the United States or in most other countries in the world. But it has been planted in experimental plots, and last summer traces of a rice variety containing the herbicide-tolerance "Liberty Link" gene were found to have contaminated commercial rice in several Southern states. Futures prices for long-grain rice plunged as European importers reacted by demanding that each shipment be tested, and some other countries banned imports. Suits seeking classaction status have been filed on behalf of farmers against the German company that developed the rice, Bayer CropScience AG. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has yet to determine the source of that contamination. Bayer did not respond to a request for comment.
California farmers grow short- and medium-grain rice varieties, not long-grain, and were not affected by the Liberty Link incident. But the event reinforced for some farmers the fragility of export markets. "We have customers that want a very specific product," said Placer County rice farmer Nick Greco. And, he said, the risk to that product presented by outdoor test plots of transgenic rice - however small - is unacceptable. Only one small test plot of transgenic rice was planted statewide last year, said Kent McKenzie, who directs the grower-funded California Rice Experiment Station in Butte County and is on the state board that oversees the introduction of new rice varieties. As much as 40 percent of California's $200 million to $400 million rice harvest is sent overseas. Nearly all of the rice grows in the Sacramento Valley. Rice is the region's most widely planted crop.
Massa said his group commissioned the study being released today to bolster its position in a simmering dispute with the California Rice Commission over transgenic crop policies. "They have been too willing to be accommodating (to biotech crop interests), and not willing enough to protect the farmers," he said. Massa's members are all farmers, while the rice commission represents both firms that mill and sell rice, as well as the state's roughly 1,000 rice farmers. Tim Johnson, president of the California Rice Commission, said that his group is in the process of reviewing its policy on genetic engineering. That review, he said, would address the issue of contamination arising from test plantings. Johnson also noted that the rice commission pushed state legislation in 2000 that created a board with the authority to regulate the introduction of new rice seed varieties, genetically modified or otherwise. No other crop in the state is subject to such state-level oversight. "The California Rice Commission has been very proactive in addressing biotechnology and other issues in the industry," he said.
For the study, a consulting firm interviewed dozens of rice importers in the four countries that represent the leading markets for California rice. The conclusion: Buyers in Japan and South Korea would reject genetically modified rice, and buyers in Taiwan and Turkey have strong objections as well. Last week, farmers and activists seeking more thorough federal review of any new genetically modified crop won a significant court victory. A federal judge in San Francisco held that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had not properly considered the potential environmental and market impact of the introduction of a new variety of alfalfa developed by Monsanto Corp. The ruling could lead to a mandatory and far more exhaustive review of new genetically modified crops than has previously been required.
Herbicide resistance ominous threat to cotton - By Paul L. Hollis, Farm Press Editorial Staff - Southeast Farm Press, Feb 7 2007
"This Palmar amaranth stuff makes me glad I am 18 months from retirement." That recent quote from Alan York, North Carolina State University weed scientist, underscores the urgency of the current herbicide resistance problem facing U.S. cotton growers, says Stanley Culpepper, University of Georgia Extension weed scientist. Culpepper presented a herbicide resistance status report at the recent Beltwide Cotton Conferences held in New Orleans. Herbicide-resistant weeds are not a new problem, having been around for about 40 years, but the problem has grown rapidly since 1990, says Culpepper. Growers' reliance on a small number of herbicides across a wide range of crops has intensified the problem, he adds. The Weed Science Society of America, says Culpepper, defines herbicide resistance as an "inherited ability of a biotype of a weed to survive and reproduce following exposure to a dose of herbicide normally lethal to the wild type." That definition, he says, now applies to a significant number of troublesome weeds throughout most of the United States, but especially in the South.
The reported cases of herbicide-resistant weeds have exploded in recent years, he says, with the most recent numbers being triple that seen in the early 1990s. Some of the most significant cases included the discovery in 1973 of goosegrass that was resistant to dinitroaniline (Prowl, Treflan) in an area of North Carolina. By 1994, this resistance had been noted in seven Mid-South and Southeastern states. Then, in 1985, cocklebur resistant to MSMA and DSMA was discovered in South Carolina. By 1994, this resistance had been confirmed in seven Southern states.
From this history, resistance now has grown to be an issue of great significance, says Culpepper. "The current round of resistance includes tougher weeds, and they are resistant to a narrower selection of herbicides - mainly ALS herbicides and glyphosate - that are used by most farmers across multiple crops," he says. This resistance includes ALS-resistant pigweeds and glyphosate-resistant horseweed and ragweed. In addition, there's suspected but not confirmed resistance to glyphosate in lambsquarters and Italian ryegrass. But Culpepper saves the label "potentially devastating" for glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth or pigweed.
Palmer amaranth, he says, is in a class of its own in terms of herbicide resistance. Since 1991, ALS-resistant pigweed has been confirmed in 19 states, and it's found on an estimated 400,000 acres. Growers no longer can control the weed just by shifting among the various ALS-type compounds, he says. "Once you have ALS-resistant pigweed, none of the products on the ALS herbicide list works," he says. This list includes such commonly used products as Accent, Ally/Cimarron, Beacon, Beyond, Cadre, Classic, Envoke, Exceed, Express, Finesse, FirstRate, Glean, Harmony Extra, Maverick Pro, Osprey, Peak, Permit, Pursuit, Python, Scepter, Staple and Strongarm.
In a 2005 ALS-resistant pigweed survey that included 61 locations and 21 counties in Georgia, 84 percent of the treated plants survived, says Culpepper. "It's a tough competitor that makes a big plant with the means to propagate and survive. A lone female Palmer amaranth plant can produce 400,000 to 600,000 seed per plant," he says. Palmer amaranth also has shown resistance to glyphosate, and this could be a devastating development for growers, says Culpepper. Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth has now been confirmed in four locations in Georgia and five in North Carolina. Suspected examples also have been found in Arkansas, South Carolina and Tennessee. "As farmers continue to plant successive seasons of Roundup Ready cotton, Roundup Ready soybeans and Roundup Ready corn, it's only a matter of time before glyphosate resistance occurs," says Culpepper.
The adoption of Roundup Ready technology has been rapid in recent years, accounting for about 10 million acres of cotton in 2006. The percentage of cotton planted to Roundup Ready varieties has especially risen in the South. This past year, it's estimated that 100 percent of the cotton planted in South Carolina was Roundup Ready, while Tennessee and North Carolina planted 99 percent Roundup Ready technology. Georgia, Florida and Mississippi planted 98 percent Roundup Ready varieties and Alabama had 97 percent.
Yet another problem - glyphosate-resistant horseweed - has been confirmed in 14 states, says Culpepper. It was initially discovered in 2000. "Horseweed spreads easily, and it's light, wing-like seed are carried by wind, equipment and other means." Culpepper recommends that growers follow a preventative resistance management plan as they set their weed control programs for the 2007 crop. Among his recommendations are the following:
* Reducing herbicide reliance, as is practical.
* Diversifying modes of action (MOA), including using multiple MOAs within a crop and rotating crops to introduce new MOAs.
* Detecting resistance early to deal with problem populations before they can spread in a field.
FEDERAL COURT FINDS USDA ERRED IN APPROVING GENETICALLY ENGINEERED ALFALFA WITHOUT FULL ENVIRONMENTAL REVIEW
Precedent-setting Decision May Block Planting, Sales of Monsanto Alfalfa
Washington, DC (February 14, 2007)-In a decision handed down yesterday, a Federal Court has ruled, for the first time ever, that the U.S. Department of Agriculture failed to abide by federal environmental laws when it approved a genetically engineered crop without conducting a full Environment Impact Statement (EIS).
In what will likely be a precedent-setting ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California decided in favor of farmers, consumers, and environmentalists who filed a suit calling the USDA's approval of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa a threat to farmers' livelihoods and a risk to the environment. Judge Breyer ordered that a full Environmental Impact Statement must be carried out on "Roundup Ready" alfalfa, the GE variety developed by Monsanto and Forage Genetics. The decision may prevent this season's sales and planting of Monsanto's GE alfalfa and future submissions of other GE crops for commercial deregulation.
Judge Breyer concluded that the lawsuit, brought last year by a coalition of groups led by the Center for Food Safety, raised valid concerns about environmental impacts that the USDA failed to address before approving the commercialization and release of Roundup Ready alfalfa.
In his ruling, the judge consistently found USDA's arguments unconvincing, without scientific basis, and/or contrary to the law. For example:
· The judge found that plaintiffs' concerns that Roundup Ready alfalfa will contaminate natural and organic alfalfa are valid, stating that USDA's opposing arguments were "not convincing" and do not demonstrate the "hard look" required by federal environmental laws. The ruling went on to note that "...For those farmers who choose to grow non-genetically engineered alfalfa, the possibility that their crops will be infected with the engineered gene is tantamount to the elimination of all alfalfa; they cannot grow their chosen crop."
· USDA argued that, based on a legal technicality, the agency did not have to address the economic risks to organic and conventional growers whose alfalfa crop could be contaminated by Monsanto's GE variety. But the judge found that USDA "overstates the law...Economic effects are relevant "when they are 'interelated' with 'natural or physical environmental effects.'...Here, the economic effects on the organic and conventional farmers of the government's deregulation decision are interrelated with, and, indeed, a direct result of, the effect on the physical environment."
· Judge Breyer found that USDA failed to address the problem of Roundup-resistant "superweeds" that could follow commercial planting of GE alfalfa. Commenting on the agency's refusal to assess this risk, the judge noted that "Nothing in NEPA, the relevant regulations, or the caselaw support such a cavalier response."
"This is a major victory for farmers and the environment," said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. "Not only has a Federal Court recognized that USDA failed to consider the environmental and economic threats posed by GE alfalfa, but it has also questioned whether any agency in the federal government is looking at the cumulative impacts of GE crop approvals."
"This is another nail in the coffin for USDA's hands-off approach to regulations on these risky engineered crops," said Will Rostov, Senior Attorney of The Center for Food Safety, which just last week won another judgment calling for USDA to provide more environmental documentation for any new GE field trials.
"This ruling will help protect my rights as a consumer to choose, and I choose organic foods whenever and wherever I can," said Dean Hulse, Fargo, ND-based spokesperson for Dakota Resource Council and the Western Organization of Resource Councils. "The decision rejects Monsanto's claims that transgenic crops are safe for the environment. Many people have been skeptical of those claims, and now we have a judge who's skeptical as well - a judge who has actually studied the facts."
The suit also cited the urgent concerns of farmers who sell to export markets, Japan and South Korea, America's most important alfalfa customers, have warned that they will discontinue imports of U.S. alfalfa if a GE variety is grown in this country. U.S. alfalfa exports total nearly $480 million per year, with about 75% headed to Japan. The Court disagreed with USDA's assertion that exports to Japan would not be harmed by deregulation of GE alfalfa.
"Today's ruling reinforces what Sierra Club has been saying all along: the government should look before it leaps and examine how genetically engineered alfalfa could harm the environment before approving its widespread use," said Neil Carman of the Sierra Club's genetic engineering committee. "That's just plain common sense." Alfalfa is grown on over 21 million acres, and is worth $8 billion per year (not including the value of final products, such as dairy), making it the country's third most valuable and fourth most widely grown crop. Alfalfa is primarily used in feed for dairy cows and beef cattle, and it also greatly contributes to pork, lamb, sheep, and honey production. Consumers also eat alfalfa as sprouts in salads and other foods.
"We applaud the decision of the Court," said Bill Wenzel of the National Family Farm Coalition. "It's unfortunate that we have to turn to judges to do what's right for farmers while the USDA carries water for the biotech companies."
Pat Trask of Trask Family Seeds, a South Dakota conventional alfalfa grower and plaintiff in the case stated: "It's a great day for God's own alfalfa."
The Center for Food Safety represented itself and the following co-plaintiffs in the suit: Western Organization of Resource Councils, National Family Farm Coalition, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides, Cornucopia Institute, Dakota Resource Council, Trask Family Seeds, and Geertson Seed Farms.
Contact: Will Rostov, Center for Food Safety, 415-826-2770 - (415) 307-2154 (cell). Joseph Mendelson, Center for Food Safety (202) 547-9359 - (703) 244-1724 (cell)
(Note: Individual farmers and representatives of organizations who are plaintiffs in the lawsuit are available for comment).
For more information, please visit www.centerforfoodsafety.org - https://exchange.iatp.org/exchweb/bin/redir.asp?
U.S. Agency Violated Law in Seed Case, Judge Rules - Andrew Pollack - New York Times, February 14 2007
A federal judge ruled yesterday that the Agriculture Department violated the law by failing to adequately assess possible environmental impacts before approving Monsanto's genetically engineered alfalfa. Judge Charles R. Breyer of Federal District Court in San Francisco said the agency had been "cavalier" in deciding that a full environmental impact statement was not needed because the potential environmental and economic effects of the crop were not significant.
Plaintiffs in the case - some alfalfa seed companies and environmental and farm advocacy groups - said they would push to stop the sales and planting of the alfalfa, which is resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group that organized the lawsuit, said the decision by itself could block commercial sales of genetically engineered alfalfa seeds but that the plaintiffs would ask for an injunction to make sure. Judge Breyer asked the parties to meet and propose remedies to him by Feb. 26.
Christopher R. Horner, a spokesman for Monsanto, said the company had not seen the decision but thought it would not affect its business. Monsanto was not named in the suit, which was filed against the Agriculture Department. Calls to several spokesmen for the Agriculture Department were not returned. A recording in the department?s communications office said the government closed early yesterday because of expected bad weather in Washington.
A federal judge in Washington said last week that the Agriculture Department had not done adequate assessments before approving field trials of genetically engineered grass. And last August a federal judge in Hawaii, in a case involving field trials of crops engineered to produce pharmaceuticals, ruled that the Agriculture Department had not adequately assessed the possible impact on endangered species.
Mr. Mendelson of the Center for Food Safety said yesterday's decision could set a precedent that would require the Agriculture Department to do full impact statements for other biotech crops before they are approved. The Roundup Ready alfalfa was deregulated by the Agriculture Department in June 2005, meaning it could be grown outside of field trials. It was the first approval in years of a new genetically engineered crop. Because alfalfa is the fourth most widely planted crop in the United States, the action presented a big opportunity for Monsanto. The Agriculture Department had first done an environmental assessment, which concluded that a longer and more detailed environmental impact statement was not needed. This was in part, the agency said, because the implanted gene conferring herbicide resistance was harmless to people and livestock.
But Judge Breyer, in his 20-page opinion, said that the agency had not adequately considered the possibility that the gene could be transferred by pollen to organic or conventional alfalfa, hurting sales of organic farmers or exports to countries like Japan that did not want the genetically engineered variety. "An action which potentially eliminates or at least greatly reduces the availability of a particular plant - here, nonengineered alfalfa - has a significant effect on the human environment," he wrote. The judge also said that the Agriculture Department had too easily dismissed the possibility that planting Roundup-resistant alfalfa would lead to wider use of Roundup, which in turn would contribute to the development of weeds resistant to the popular herbicide. That is particularly a risk, he said, because many other crops like soybeans and corn are also resistant to Roundup, which is known generically as glyphosate. "One would expect that some federal agency is considering whether there is some risk to engineering all of America's crops to include the gene that confers resistance to glyphosate," he wrote.
US judge challenges Monsanto seed approval: NYT - Reuters, February 14 2006
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A federal judge has ruled that the U.S. Agriculture Department violated the law by failing to adequately assess possible environmental impacts before approving genetically-engineered alfalfa from Monsanto, the New York Times said on Wednesday.
The ruling, given on Tuesday by Judge Charles Breyer of the District Court in San Francisco, said the agency had been "cavalier" in deciding that a full environmental impact statement was not needed because the potential environmental and economic effects of the crop were not significant, the paper said.
The judge asked the plaintiffs, some alfalfa seed companies and environmental and farm advocacy groups, and the defendant, the Agriculture Dept., to meet and propose remedies to him by February 26, the paper said.
Monsanto was not named in the suit, the paper said. No one at the company could immediately be reached for comment.
USA: Federal Court Orders for the First Time a Halt to New Field Trials of GM Crops
Far-Reaching Decision Requires More Rigorous Environmental Review For Future Trials
Past Trials on Genetically Engineered Creeping Bentgrass Ruled Illegal
Center for Food Safety press release, 6 February 2007. - Contact: Joseph Mendelson (202) 547-9359
Washington, DC - In a decision broadly affecting field trials of genetically engineered crops a federal district judge ruled yesterday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) must halt approval of all new field trials until more rigorous environmental reviews are conducted. Citing potential threats to the environment, Judge Harold Kennedy found in favor of the Center for Food Safety that USDA's past approvals of field trials of herbicide tolerant, genetically engineered bentgrass were illegal.
"This is a significant victory. The decision requires far more thorough oversight of the environmental impact of these crops, " stated Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety. "The Court was clearly concerned that the agency has put our nation's environment at risk by exempting many of these field trials from environmental review. That's why the judge made the decision broadly apply to all future field trials of genetically engineered crops." Mendelson continued.
The federal lawsuit was filed by the Center for Food Safety, Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center and other individuals and organizations in 2003. At issue in the lawsuit are novel varieties of creeping bentgrass and Kentucky bluegrass manufactured by Scotts and Monsanto that have been genetically engineered to resist Roundup, Monsanto's popular herbicide. Currently, use of the Roundup weedkiller is limited to spot spraying of weeds in that the herbicide kills any grass with which it comes in contact. The new engineered grass has been altered to be resistant to the weedkiller so that users will be able to spray entire lawns, fields and golf courses with large amounts of the chemical without fear of hurting the grass. Large scale planting of the biotech grass would therefore significantly increase the amounts of herbicide used in home lawns, sports fields, schools and golf courses around the country.
In seminal studies concerning environmental contamination from genetically engineered creeping bentgrass, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency found multiple instances of the pollen from engineered bentgrass traveling several miles and transferring its traits to native grasses. Last year, EPA researchers found that the engineered grasses had escaped from field trials to contaminate a national grassland. "These field trials threaten our public land, our communities and our health," said Lesley Adams, Outreach Coordinator for plaintiff Klamath-Siskiyou Wildlands Center. "We will monitor the USDA very closely to make sure they don't allow any more of these tests until they've rigorously assessed their environmental impact," Adams concluded.
View the court's decision: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/GTBC_Doc_94_Opinion%202-5-07.pdf
GE rice industry facing meltdown as global tide of rejection grows - Bayer, global pusher of GE rice must admit defeat, says Greenpeace
Greenpeace press release, 6 February 2007.
Amsterdam 6 February 2007 - - The global rejection of genetically engineered rice is revealed today as 41 of the world’s biggest exporters, processors and retailers issued written commitments to stay GE free. The worldwide tide of opposition is reflected in the new Greenpeace report, "Rice Industry in Crisis". The report carries extracts of company statements covering Asia, Europe, Australia, and North and South America (1) and includes a commitment from the world's largest rice processor, Ebro Puleva, to stop buying US rice. This follows a major contamination incident in 2006, when the world's rice supply was contaminated with an experimental and illegal variety of GE rice produced by biotech company Bayer.
"Bayer is aggressively pursuing commercial approvals for its GE rice globally, including in Europe and Brazil, yet refuses to accept responsibility for the major financial damage its unauthorised GE rice has caused in the US and elsewhere. Indeed, Bayer is blaming hardworking farmers or 'acts of God' for these problems when all signs point to Bayer being at fault," (4) said Adam Levitt, a partner in the Chicago office of the law firm of Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz - one of the law firm's leading the prosecution of these cases against Bayer. "This global contamination and global market rejection of GE rice clearly shows the need for Bayer to withdraw from any further GE rice development," said Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International rice campaigner. "Bayer proves that GE rice is too risky. Through field trials alone Bayer caused massive financial damage to the global rice industry. The commercial growing of GE rice must never become a reality; the impact on the world's most important food crop world be disastrous."
The report also examines the significant economic implications of the Bayer contamination, including when rice futures prices plummeted $150 million -- the sharpest one-day decline in years. Experts have predicted that US rice exports may decline by as much as 16% in 2006/2007. (2) Several multi-million dollar class action lawsuits have been filed by US farmers who refuse to bear the financial burden of Bayer's irresponsible and negligent conduct. The farmers claim that Bayer is responsible for the contamination of rice supplies and the economic losses the U.S. rice farmers have suffered as a result and must compensate farmers for the monetary and other losses that they have sustained as a result of Bayer's improper conduct. (3) In addition to the class action lawsuits, several individual lawsuits have also been filed and there are also anecdotal reports that European traders contemplating legal action. As a result of the contamination of the rice supply with Bayer's GE rice farmers, millers, traders and retailers around the globe are facing massive financial costs, including testing and recall costs, cancelled orders, import bans, brand damage and consumer distrust - distrust that could last for years.
"Governments from around the world must respond to the economic, market and environmental damage caused by the 2006 GE rice contamination and reject outright any GE rice food and cultivation applications currently on the table," said Tager. "GE rice should not be developed as genetic engineering is an unnecessary, unwanted and outdated technology that threatens the world's most important staple food."
Greenpeace campaigns for GE-free crop and food production grounded on the principles of sustainability, protection of biodiversity and providing all people access to safe and nutritious food. Genetic engineering is an unnecessary and unwanted technology that contaminates the environment, threatens biodiversity and poses unacceptable risks to health.
For more information and interviews
Jeremy Tager, Greenpeace International GE campaigner, +31 6 4622 1185
Adam Levitt, partner, Wolf Haldenstein Adler Freeman & Herz LLC, +1 312-984-0000, U.S. lawyer representing rice farmers in U.S.-based class action litigation against Bayer
Mhairi Dunlop, Greenpeace International Communications: (M) +44 (0)7801 212 960
Notes to editors
(1) Company statements received from the following countries: Japan, Switzerland, France, Hong Kong, Germany, Australia, Pakistan, Thailand, India, Brazil, Spain, Canada and the UK. For statements see pages 7 - 12 of the Rice markets report: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/press/reports/rice-industry-in-crisis.
(2) Elias P. 2006. California growers fear biotech rice threat. Washington Post. 15 October, 2006:
(3) Weiss, R. 2006. Firm Blames Farmers, Act of GodÇ for Rice Contamination. Washington Post. 22 November, 2006: www.washingtonpost.com/ActofGod
Leonard, C. 2006. 13 Lawsuits Over Accidental Spread of Genetically Altered Rice Could Be Combined Into 1. Associated Press. 30, November, 2006:
(4) Countries in which Bayer CropScience has applied for authorization for cultivation or food/feed consumption. All approvals are for LL62 unless otherwise noted.
1. Australia - food and feed. Applied 2006
2. Brazil - cultivation, food and feed, seed import, additional field trials. Applied 2006
3. Canada - approval granted for food and feed 2006
4. European Union (25 states) - food and feed. Applied 2004
5. New Zealand - food and feed. Applied 2006
6. Philippines - food and feed. Applied 2006
7. South Africa - food and feed. Applied 2006
8. United States - approvals granted for cultivation, food and feed. Approvals - LL601, 62, 06 (2006, 2002)
Farmers discard Bt GM Variety - Radhakrishna Rao, INFA - Central Chronicle, Thursday February 1 2007
The sustained and no-holds-barred campaign by Indian farmers against the "backdoor and sly" move to introduce the genetically modified GM rice variety into the country, has resulted in the farmers in parts of Haryana and Tamil Nadu destroying the trial plots of GM rice. These experimental rice fields were being monitored by the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco) on behalf of the American agro-business outfit Monsanto.
The increasing tempo of the countrywide opposition to GM rice has derived strength from the decision of the EU countries to ban the import of American rice, fearing contamination by the GM rice strain Liberty Line (LL-601). In fact, it was the detection of few grains of GM rice in the American rice consignments that proded the EU countries to suspend the trading in American rice. Following this episode, the world's largest rice importer Ebro Puleva stopped trading in the US grown rice. In fact, there is a vehement public distrust of GM variety of food in Europe even as the USA is trying to hardsell the theory that GM food varieties are safe for human consumption.
According to a well-known agricultural scientist, "Bt (GM) rice proponent might argue that since rice is a self-pollinated crop, genetic contamination is excluded. But genes travel to related plots on their own which is called gene flow. In 1966, gene flow was discovered to be much more common than it was previously thought. The process of putting alien genes into plants and animals to favour certain traits or confer resistance is, at best, an inexact science, with unpredictable consequences. Genes don't necessarily control a single trait".
Clearly and apparently, the European countries' decision to stop importing American grown rice could be utilized by the Indian rice exporters to fill this "vital gap". The EU countries used to import about 300,000 tonnes of rice from the USA to meet a part of its annual requirement running upto 12,000,00 tonnes. And the rice of Indian and Pakistani origin imported by the EU countries used to account for around 3,00,000 tonnes. "Since Indian rice is free from the GM contamination, this gap in supply certainly open up vistas for additional market access for Indian exporters", says K.S. Money, Chairman of the New Delhi-based Agricultural Products and Processed Food Export Development Authority (APEDA).
Indian exporters of Basmati rice who have already established a presence in the EU countries hope to boost their export by expanding their portfolios to include non-basmati rice varieties. Pakistan and Thailand are the other major exporters of rice to the EU countries. And in terms of quality and price, Indian rice has certain advantages over its Asian competitors.
Meanwhile, with a view to step up rice production to meet the needs of a fast-growing population, India is laying special emphasis on increasing the area under hybrid rice cultivation. Currently, over a million hectares of land under hybrid rice in India. And this is a far cry from just 10,000 hectares in 1995. But in the neighbouring China around 15-million hectares are under hybrid rice cultivation and this constitutes 50% of the total area under rice cultivation in this most populous country in the world.
"Hybrid rice is an option that could come handy at a time when India will have to increase rice production by at least 2 million tonnes by 2011-12", says B.C. Viraktamath, Project Director of the Directorate of Rice Research in Hyderabad. Incidentally, India is the second country in the world to develop and commercialize hybrid rice. Researchers, on their part, point out that the potential in the country for raising hybrid rice varieties, is anywhere between 8 million and 15 million hectares.
In the meantime, the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) has signed an agreement with the Las Banos-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for collaboration in research which includes genetic enhancement of rice in terms of yield and quality. The main objective of collaboration is to apply genomics and bioinformatics to discover new and novel genes capable of pushing up the rice yield.
As it is, in India the productivity of rice has now touched 2,000 kg per hectare and the country continues to occupy second position in rice export, next only to Thailand. But then in India there is a growing realization of the need to boost rice production without bringing in ore land under cultivation.
As such, the focus is on surmounting the technological challenges in breaking the genetic yield barriers, improving input yield efficiency and developing environmentally acceptable strategies for decreasing the losses due to pest attacks and diseases. There is also a growing concern in the country over the steady control exerted by the big and powerful multinational corporations (MNCs) over the genetic resources of rice.
Navadanaya, a New Delhi-based NGO (Non-Government Organisation) has together with farmers from nine Indian States developed a register documenting over 2,000 indigenous rice varieties. According to Navadanya, the genetically modified rice strains are not only costly to cultivate but also are a poor match to the native strains in fighting pests, diseases and environmental fluctuations. Several indigenous rice strains adopted by the Indian farmers can withstand extremes of climatic conditions, survive submergence for a fortnight and even withstand salinity with a high degree of success.
According to Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) all through the last decade, global production increased at rates marginally higher than those of the population growth. Right now, China and India account for more than half of the world rice yield. As it offers food security, rice is one of the commodities that remains widely subject to Government intervention.
As rice continues to be one of the most traded commodities, under protection, it presents considerable scope for further liberalization. However, due to its importance in income generation and political stability, Governments are often reluctant to lower their control over the rice sector. There is also a concern in rice growing countries including India that the global warming could adversely affect the yield of the rice crop in the years ahead. As such, the need for devising an appropriate strategy to blunt the threat of global warming to the rice crop, is being felt acutely.
Corn pest expansion consequence of transgenic crops? - FarmWeek, January 17 2007
A corn pest that can devastate yields may be increasing in prevalence across Illinois and other states because Bt crops are reducing predators that once kept the pest at bay. That was the word from an Iowa State University researcher who spoke during the recent Illinois Crop Protection Technology Conference, Urbana. Western bean cutworms, a major pest in Nebraska and Colorado, was first detected in Illinois in 2004 and has spread to 49 counties, according to Marlin Rice, an Extension entomologist at Iowa State. Rice and his colleagues attempted to learn why a pest that was rare in Iowa six years ago has spread as far east as central Ohio.
In laboratory experiments and field studies, Rice tested the bean cutworm's survival when placed together with corn earworm, which is the more aggressive of the two pests and will kill the bean cutworm. Both pests were allowed to feed on silks from Herculex and YieldGard plants [YieldGard is a Monsanto GM rootworm-resistant corn]. The bean cutworms had better survival rates when they fed on YieldGard, which is not labeled for cutworm control, compared to Herculex, which is. Both hybrids are labeled for corn earworm control. "Our theory is that increased (use) of Bt cotton and YieldGard corn has suppressed (populations) of corn earworms, which are predators of western bean cutworms. This allows (more) bean cutworms to survive," Rice said. "YieldGard corn may be one of the reasons for more damage from western bean cutworm," Rice said. "It may be influencing (pest) competition in the field."
Bean cutworms have become established in Illinois, "but we'll have to wait a couple of years to see if it is an economic problem," Rice said. He recommended farmers scout their fields and time insecticide treatments for when eggs or young larvae reach economic thresholds. If western bean cutworm becomes an economically damaging pest, farmers should consider planting Herculex hybrids, he said. - Kay Shipman
For More Info Contact: David McClelland, Editor of Publications - Phone (309) 557-3156 Fax (800) 640-1995 E-mail email@example.com
Giant ragweed added to glyphosate resistant list - January 03, 2007
COLUMBUS, OHIO - Giant ragweed soon could cast a giant shadow on the world's most popular herbicide. Researchers at Ohio State and Purdue universities have confirmed glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed populations in Indiana and Ohio. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in herbicides such as Roundup and Touchdown, which are used for burndown weed control in no-till cropping systems and postemergence in Roundup Ready soybeans and corn. The weed species is the seventh in the United States to show resistance to glyphosate. "We've identified one giant ragweed population in Indiana and a few in Ohio that are showing resistance to glyphosate," said Bill Johnson, Purdue Extension weed scientist. "The population in Indiana is located in Noble County, which is northwest of Fort Wayne. The field in which it was located had been in soybeans six out of the last seven years, and the producer relied solely on glyphosate for giant ragweed control." The three Ohio fields with glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed are in central and southwest counties. Johnson and Mark Loux, Ohio State University Extension weed scientist, urge farmers to alter their weed control strategies in 2007 to slow the development of glyphosate-resistant weed populations. They recommend starting with a weed-free cropfield at planting and using a program of pre-emergence herbicides, followed by a series of timely postemergence herbicide treatments.
Giant ragweed is the most competitive broadleaf weed in Indiana soybean production, Johnson said. The weed can grow as tall as 15 feet, if left undisturbed. Populations of three to four giant ragweed plants per square yard can reduce crop yields by as much as 70 percent, he said. Farmers annually plant millions of acres in crops genetically modified to withstand glyphosate applications. While giant ragweed can complicate corn production, it is a bigger problem in soybeans because there are few alternative herbicides that provide effective control. "The reason this is a problem in soybeans is because we have only four effective postemergence herbicides for giant ragweed," Johnson said. "Those are glyphosate, Flexstar, Cobra and FirstRate. If the giant ragweed population is resistant to ALS inhibitors, we are left with only glyphosate, Flexstar or Cobra. If the populations are resistant to glyphosate and
FirstRate, then we're left with either Flexstar or Cobra as a post-treatment." Like glyphosate, aceto-lactase synthase (ALS) inhibitors kill weeds by preventing them from producing essential amino acids necessary for growth. FirstRate is an ALS inhibitor. Flexstar and Cobra are postemergence contact herbicides that attack a plant's cell walls.
Johnson and Loux have monitored suspected glyphosate-resistant giant ragweed since 2004, when farmers in Indiana and Ohio reported weed populations that were responding poorly to glyphosate applications. In some cases, producers were treating their fields with the herbicide three or four times the same year or when giant ragweed populations had reached 15-25 inches tall. "Our on-farm field research in 2006 demonstrated that resistant populations were not adequately controlled by glyphosate-based programs that have been effective in other populations," Loux said. Johnson and Loux expect glyphosate resistance to show up in more giant ragweed, although it might not spread as easily as it has in marestail, another problem weed. "The wind can blow marestail seeds longer distances than giant ragweed," Johnson said. "Giant ragweed seeds are large and heavy, so we don't think seed movement is going to be a huge issue. It is unknown whether the resistance trait might be able to spread in giant ragweed pollen." Producers have a big role to play in managing weeds to avoid glyphosate resistance, Johnson said. They should start before planting their 2007 crop, he said.
"If growers have fields with a history of poor control of giant ragweed with glyphosate, they need to change their management tactics," Johnson said. "One big key is to start out with a clean field, with tillage or an effective burndown, which includes 2,4-D. Other keys to control include using a residual herbicide, and targeting the first in-crop postemergence treatment when the giant ragweed is between six inches and 12 inches tall. "For the first postemergence treatment on 6- to 12-inch-tall giant ragweed, they also should use the maximum labeled rate of 1.5 pounds of acid equivalent per acre of glyphosate, or substitute tank mix FirstRate, Flexstar or Cobra for glyphosate in that first treatment." If plants survive the initial postemergence treatment, a second postemergence treatment should be made three to four weeks after the first treatment, before the weeds start to poke through the top of the soybean canopy, Johnson said.
Additional recommendations can be found in "Management of Giant Ragweed in Roundup Ready Soybean Fields with a History of Poor Control," by Johnson, Loux, Purdue weed scientist Glenn Nice and OSU weed scientist Jeff Stachler. The article can be downloaded at http://agcrops.osu.edu/weeds. The recommendations also are included in the 2007 Weed Control Guide for Ohio and Indiana, available through the OSU publications distribution center by calling (614) 292-1607.
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