|Chronologically listed items on this page in descending order:
Illinois Attorney General Probes Monsanto Pricing
Busch to boycott state's rice if genetic alterations allowed
Brooklin Votes to Become Maine's First GMO-Free Zone
US officials fret over South Korea's response to GM corn mix-up - 3/31/2005
Commission seeks clarification on Bt10 from US authorities and Syngenta
US launches probe into sales of unapproved transgenic corn - 22 March 2005
A Center for Food Safety Call to Action
Monsanto Assault on U.S. farmers detailed in new report
One More California county bans genetically engineered organisms
Report could put a crimp in corn exports - Chicago Tribune, September 29, 2004
Material Risks of Genetic Engineering Undisclosed by Food Companies
Flat soybean yields since the mid '90s, followed by a drastic drop in 2003
Seed buying contracts may become state issue
Douglas signs nation's first GMO labeling law
EU Biotech Labeling and Traceability Requirements 'Will Be a Serious Barrier to International Trade.'
GMO ballot measure approved - Associated Press, 16th April 2004
Vermont Bill is first-in-the-nation to hold biotech corporations accountable for contamination by genetically engineered crops.
Judge Allows Antitrust Case Against Seed Producers
A Statement of the Rural Life Committee of the North Dakota Conference of Churches - March 2003
INVESTORS WARNED OF 2.3 BILLION DOLLAR THREAT TO MONSANTO
From Ignacio Chapela - 26 June 2003
11 arrested in protest (24/6/03)
Beauty and fear mark Day 3 in Sacramento
Scepticism and opposition is also intensifying in the northern Great Plains over Monsanto's Roundup Ready GM wheat.
Support S.18 - Rutland Herald - December 31, 2005 - http://www.rutlandherald.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051231/NEWS/512310315/1037
When the legislature reconvenes this week, the House of Representatives will consider the Farmer Protection Act, which the Senate passed last year on a vote of 29-1. The bill states that the manufacturers of genetically engineered seeds are liable for any damages that occur in Vermont as a result of use of the seeds. Known damages from GM crops include contamination of crops grown by traditional and organic farmers, with resulting loss of marketability. Currently, Vermont's farmers who never actually own the genetically engineered seeds are being forced to bear the full burden of liability for unintended damages to neighboring crops. Please encourage your state Representatives to support a version of the Farmer Protection Act which contains strict liability provisions, ensuring that manufacturers of these seeds - huge conglomerates such as Dow and Monsanto - are held strictly liable for any economic damage caused to farmers by contamination from use of the seeds.
ABIGAIL SESSIONS - Cornwall
Farmer protection: Liability bill among first to the House floor - Vermont Guardian, Dec 30 2005 - http://www.vermontguardian.com/local/122005/LegPreview.shtml
The contentious Farmer Protection Act is expected to heat up the 2006 session early. After passing the Senate last year 26-1, a compromise version of the measure - which omits the "strict liability" provision in the original bill - is headed to the floor of the House during the first or second day of the new session, where it's likely to reinvigorate a debate that has not softened over the break. Instead, opposing viewpoints have germinated over the fall and summer, sprouting even more resolve on the part of supporters to amend the bill to protect farmers from the influence of genetically modified (GM) crops. Likewise, opponents, among them the Douglas administration, have dug in their heels with equal vigor, fueled by the belief that a liability measure could actually hurt conventional farmers and would send the wrong message nationally and internationally.
"We're aiming at the wrong target," contends Agriculture Secretary Steve Kerr, an impassioned supporter of GM technology. A Vermont law would do nothing to protect farmers along the borders, where drift from GM crops in New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, or Canada could contaminate their crops, Kerr argues. Instead, supporters should be lobbying Congress to examine the issues of corporate control of seed genomes and decreasing genetic diversity, he said. But House Agriculture Committee Chairman David Zuckerman, P-Burlington, maintains that it is imperative to protect Vermont farmers with a bill that puts liability for GM contamination not on fellow farmers, but on the seed dealers. "Farmers are the ones really having their necks put on the line because of the contracts they sign either with ink or by opening the bag," said Zuckerman.
Soy and corn are believed to be the only GM crops currently grown in Vermont, but their prevalence has increased steadily for the third consecutive year, according to Agriculture Agency statistics. Sales of GM corn increased 12 percent in 2004, while GM soybeans increased 46 percent. Anti-GM activists say this growth adds urgency to their quest for legislation to minimize the potential negative impact on farmers seeking to keep their crops GM free.
The Farmer Protection Act is the most recent manifestation of a years-long push to limit the influence of genetically modified crops in Vermont. In 2004, the Legislature passed the nation's first seed-labeling law, but left implementation open to interpretation by the Department of Agriculture. Kerr has chosen to enforce the spirit, but not the letter of the law, critics say. Hence, seed manufacturers have been deemed to meet the requirements with phrases like "pest resistant" or "virus resistant." Clearly defining liability rules would have the added bonus of clearer labeling, said Zuckerman. "Ultimately, if the liability bill passes with some strong teeth, seed companies will make sure people know that they're planting I think by default, more clear labeling will occur."
New Scientist, issue 2530 - Letter to the Editor, 17 December 2005 - Crop testing - Bill Freese, Washington DC, US
When expressed in transgenic peas, an innocuous bean protein elicits immune reactions in mice, reviving concerns about the allergenic potential of genetically modified foods (26 November, p 3 and p 5). These "surprising results" from researchers in Australia raise several intriguing questions.
Should regulators require the use of animal models? Allergenicity assessments of transgenic proteins in GM crops are usually limited to in vitro tests of digestive stability, database searches for sequence similarities to known allergens, and in some cases a heat stability test. While certainly cheap and convenient for GM crop developers, such tests provide no direct immunological information and cannot rule out allergenic proteins. Both the BALB/c mouse strain used in the Australian pea study and the brown Norway rat have shown promise as predictors of human allergic response.
Also, at present, all testing is performed on a bacterial surrogate of the protein, rather than that produced by the plant. GM crop developers complain that it is too inconvenient to extract sufficient quantities of transgenic protein from their plant. But if peas and beans - both legumes - can generate immunologically distinct proteins from the same gene, surely the same is true of bacterium and plant. Thus, results of testing on bacterial surrogates may not reflect the toxic or allergenic profile of the in planta protein people are exposed to.
Other factors also argue against use of bacterial surrogates. For example, allergenic proteins are often glycosylated, and plant glycosylation patterns have been implicated in allergenicity. Bacteria, in contrast, seldom glycosylate proteins.
Finally, perhaps regulators should demand full sequencing of the transgenic proteins in plants. At present, the standard practice is to sequence just 5 to 25 amino acids at the N-terminal as a demonstration of "identity", even if the putative protein is 600-plus residues long. Since the transformation process - the insertion of foreign DNA to a cell - can be sloppy and even point mutations can transform an innocuous protein into an immunogenic/aggregating one, it is unclear why this basic information is not required.
Export as you would be exported to - New Scientist, Issue 2526, 19 November 2005 - Editorial: page 3
THE genetically modified chickens are coming home to roost. Having spent the past decade insisting that it should be free to export GM crops and foods derived from them, the US is waking up to the possibility that it may soon be asked to accept imports of similar GM material from other countries, such as China and Argentina, which are now producing more than they consume.
This month, the issues raised by this hitherto remote possibility were discussed in Washington DC at a seminar held by an independent think tank, the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology. The US is shockingly unprepared. As things stand, anyone wishing to bring a GM product into the country will need to notify the authorities only if it is intended for planting on US soil. Anything else can sail though without any of the mandatory pre-marketing scrutiny demanded in Europe.
Delegates had lots to discuss. How will US consumers react if foreign farmers start sending shipments of GM rice, soy and other commodities? Are new regulations needed to safeguard health and the environment? What if GM seeds intended for consumption rather than planting spill onto US soil? And what if US consumers do not want to eat foreign GM produce?
These and a host of other questions will need some adroit answers from the politicians and business people who have slammed Europe for its "irrational" aversion to GM. They will be have to tread a careful path to avoid accusations of hypocrisy once those chickens start to arrive.
ELECTION 2005: THE BAY AREA, SONOMA COUNTY
Backers of ban on bioengineered crops regroup after failure at polls. Future efforts may deal with labeling, blocking state law
Jim Doyle, Chronicle Staff Writer, San Francisco Chronicle, November 10, 2005 - http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/11/10/BAGGCFLS2C1.DTL
Supporters of the defeated ballot initiative to ban genetically engineered crops in Sonoma County vowed Wednesday to pursue additional strategies to block biotechnology's advances into farming. But the initiative's chief author, Dave Henson, said he has no plans to pursue another ballot measure to ban bioengineered crops. Measure M, which would have established a 10-year moratorium on the cultivation, sale or distribution of bioengineered crops, seeds and organisms, was flatly rejected by Sonoma County voters.
Opponents of Measure M got off to a strong start, garnering a 3-to-2 lead in the 76,433 absentee votes counted. The initiative drew support from outlying precincts, especially in west Sonoma County. But with all precincts counted, it failed by a decisive ratio of 55.6 percent to 44.4 percent. "The Farm Bureau and biotech companies will spend whatever it takes and say whatever it takes to defeat these initiatives ... to make sure that these 'GE-free zones' don't spread," Henson said. "We got over 60,000 votes in this county for yes on M. A couple of months ago, there were probably 200 people who could have given you an educated opinion about genetic engineering." His campaign rallied more than 500 volunteers, including salmon fishermen, conventional and organic farmers, restaurateurs and environmentalists. Henson said future campaigns may focus on securing labels for genetically modified organisms in food products and lobbying to defeat state legislation that would pre-empt counties from outlawing such crops.
Marin, Mendocino and Trinity counties have such bans. A dozen or so California counties have passed resolutions promoting genetically modified crops. Critics of Measure M included the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, the directors of the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, and the Santa Rosa and Petaluma chambers of commerce. "I believe that the electorate spoke out for agriculture in Sonoma County," said Rob Muelrath, a consultant for the opposition, "and that family farmers and ranchers in Sonoma County will continue to have the choices they need to sustain their operations." Lex McCorvey, who heads the County Farm Bureau, credited the opposition's victory with "slowly building momentum based on science and facts."
Together the two sides reported raising more than $900,000. Opponents appeared to outspend supporters by almost 2 to 1, relying heavily on TV and radio ads. Henson said one turning point in the campaign involved a decision by the Redwood Empire Veterinary Medical Association to oppose Measure M. The group warned that the initiative could prevent livestock and pets from receiving certain vaccines, which Measure M's supporters denied. "They'll have to sit back and analyze what direction they'll go in," McCorvey said of Measure M's sponsors. "We also realize that this is their nucleus in Sonoma County. That's why it's important that it's stopped here."
E-mail Jim Doyle at email@example.com.
Resistant pigweed plagues central Georgia cotton - By Brad Haire, University of Georgia - Southeast Farm Press, Oct 27, 2005
Earlier this year Georgia confirmed the world's first population of Palmer amaranth resistant to glyphosate, a herbicide commonly sold under the brand name Roundup. This will cause problems for cotton farmers, says a University of Georgia weed specialist. Right now, glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth is known to infest about 500 acres of cotton in central Georgia. Stanley Culpepper, a UGA Cooperative Extension weed scientist studying the outbreak, said seeds from at least 100 fields in the area have been harvested to determine any further distribution. "This could be a real threat to future cotton production in our region," he says. "It's the one weed cotton farmers didn't want resistant to Roundup."
Palmer amaranth, also called pigweed, is found throughout the state. The troublesome weed can quickly grow more than 8 feet tall with a thick stalk and suck valuable nutrients from nearby plants. It can clog a cotton picker, too, making it hard to harvest the crop. In 1997, farmers started planting cotton that was developed to stay healthy when sprayed with Roundup. They could spray the herbicide over-the-top of this cotton, killing weeds, but not the cotton. This saved farmers time and money because they didn't have to repeatedly plow between rows to kill weeds. Roundup Ready varieties cost more than conventional cottons. But farmers gladly embraced the new technology, Culpepper says. About 94 percent of Georgia's 1.21 million acres of cotton this year is Roundup Ready.
"Roundup has been our most effective tool to manage this weed in Roundup Ready crops," he says. "Most alternative control options are much less effective than Roundup in controlling a normal population of Palmer amaranth." Each year, some Georgia farmers have to deal with some Palmer amaranth plants that continue to grow after a spray with Roundup. This usually happens due to weather conditions or improper spraying. Specialists with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences last fall suspected some Palmer amaranth weeds in central Georgia had resistance to Roundup. Many field and greenhouse trials and heritability studies now show that the Palmer amaranth population in central Georgia has true resistance, he says.
Scientists with Monsanto, registrant of Roundup Ready, are providing technical expertise and other help to address the problem, Culpepper says. Farmers need to watch their fields carefully this year and remove any Palmer amaranth not hurt after a spray with Roundup, he says. This could help keep resistant plants from spreading. It's too early to say what long-term effect this will have on cotton production in Georgia. But if farmers are no longer able to control this weed with Roundup, things will have to change. Farmers may once again have to plow fields to manage pigweed, Culpepper says. This will cost them time and money. The resistant weed could keep farmers from using conservation-tillage, too. Farmers have relied too heavily on Roundup to control weeds in cotton, Culpepper says. This has given nature the upper hand. Herbicides don't cause a plant like Palmer amaranth to change genetically or become a resistant mutant, he says. All it takes is one weed plant in a field to be genetically different - in this case, resistant to glyphosate. All the other weeds are killed when sprayed, but not the resistant one. It makes seeds. The next year, a few more resistant plants grow from those seeds. If the process is allowed to continue, the offspring of that one resistant weed could eventually cover the field. This is what has happened in central Georgia. But it could happen anywhere, Culpepper says.
Prove U.S. maize isn't modified strain: EU - By Jeremy Smith - REUTERS - 27 October, 2005
BRUSSELS - EU biotech experts on Thursday extended controls on imports of U.S. maize products, saying they need proof shipments are free of an illegal genetically modified organism (GMO), a spokesman said. In April the EU said U.S. exports to Europe of corn gluten feed and brewers grains, a by-product of ethanol, must be certified by an internationally accredited laboratory to prove the absence of Bt-10 maize, a GMO not authorized in Europe. U.S. exporters send 3.5 million tonnes of corn gluten feed to EU markets each year, a trade worth some 350 million euros. The EU restrictions were to due to expire at the end of October and have now been extended for three months, said Philip Tod, the European Commission's health and food safety spokesman. "The standing committee (of experts) discussed today the Commission's decision on Bt-10 and its implementation, and member states agreed with the Commission that the measures should remain in force as the Commission had proposed," he said.
In March, Swiss agrochemicals group Syngenta said some of its maize seeds sent to the EU from the United States were mistakenly mixed with Bt-10. The Bt-10 insect-resistant strain is similar to Bt-11, a different GMO strain that won EU approval for distribution as food and feed in 1998. Washington says the EU measures are an over-reaction and insists there are no hazards to health, safety or the environment related to Bt-10 maize. In Europe, consumers have been far more reluctant than those in the United States to accept GMO products, but GMO food manufacturers insist they are safe. Small amounts of seed arrived in France and Spain from U.S. suppliers for research purposes, and all were destroyed. Some 1,000 tonnes of Bt-10 maize also entered the EU as food and animal feed. Around 70 percent of this was animal feed.
Tennessee Researchers Confirm Glyphosate-Resistant Pigweed - By - Staff Reports - Business Journal, September 24, 2005
JACKSON, TENN. - Researchers with the University of Tennessee Agricultural Experiment Station and UT Extension have confirmed that two populations of Palmer pigweed have survived properly applied applications of the herbicide glyphosate. The weeds populations exist in West Tennessee in Lauderdale and Crockett counties. Larry Steckel, Ph.D. and UT Extension weed specialist, conducted the field trials. "We have been watching these fields since first receiving reports in 2004 of Palmer pigweed not killed by Roundup," Steckel reported. "Our results last year indicated a very small number of pigweed plants survived our applications, but this year Palmer pigweeds at both locations survived a full 22 ounces of Roundup WeatherMax." Steckel said plants at one location survived a 2X application rate (44 fluid ounces).
UT weed scientist Tom Mueller, a professor in the Department of Plant Sciences, coordinated greenhouse and laboratory studies of the tolerant populations. "In some ways the Palmer pigweed appears to be similar to glyphosate-tolerant horseweed/mare's tail," he said. "All the treated Palmer pigweed plants look the same for two or three days after application. They all wilt and turn yellow." Mueller said about four days after spraying the tolerant plants stop wilting and start new growth from lateral buds. "Our preliminary laboratory analysis indicates the mechanism of action, or how the plant tolerates the glyphosate, appears to be the same in the Palmer pigweed and in the glyphosate-tolerant horseweed," he said.
Their findings provide confirmation of an announcement earlier this year by University of Georgia scientists and Monsanto. Both UT scientists agree that this is an important development for farmers throughout the state and nation. "Palmer pigweed that is not killed by glyphosate will cause major yield losses and harvest headaches for soybean, cotton and other row crop producers," Mueller said. Although glyphosate-tolerant horseweed spread rapidly over large areas of the Mid-south, Mueller and Steckel hope the weight of the Palmer pigweed seeds will slow the spread of the new herbicide-resistant pest. "It is less likely to spread on equipment and on the wind," said Mueller.
Because of the weed's widespread resistance to glyphosate, horseweed has become a major production problem, but good control options are in place for all crops, especially on fields that can be tilled. "The proper application of herbicides such as Clarity, 2,4-D, Gramoxone Max or Ignite allows farmers to produce pretty clean crops," Steckel said. "However, we expect resistant Palmer pigweed will pose more problems for producers than horseweed." The University of Tennessee discovery reinforces the importance of managing weed resistance to herbicides. "It is essential to use more than one herbicidal mode of action on your fields," said Mueller.
More details on this finding and recommendations on how to deal with glyphosate-resistant Palmer pigweed are available at the Web site: http://UTcrops.com.
Glyphosate-tolerant pigweed confirmed in West Tennessee - By David Bennett - Delta Farm Press, Sep 23, 2005 - http://deltafarmpress.com/news/050923-tolerant-pigweed/
Glyphosate-tolerant Palmer pigweed has been found in west Tennessee's Lauderdale and Crockett counties. The announcement comes on the heels of a similar finding in Georgia pigweed earlier this summer. "The fields were in continuous, Roundup Ready cotton for many years - at least from the late 1990s on," Larry Steckel, Tennessee Extension weed scientist, said Sept. 23. "Roundup was the primary weed control on them although there have been some post-directed chemistries on them as well."
Were rates and sprayings properly applied?
"To my knowledge, correct, full-label rates were used. I'm very familiar with the farmers involved. They're very good at growing crops and don't cut rates. I'm confident this wasn't human error......Nowadays, we're putting Roundup on everything. It's led to unprecedented selection pressure. We were bound to find genes that could handle the chemistry." Called to the fields in 2004, Steckel said it was immediately evident something wasn't right. "The way it looked - live pigweeds side-by-side with dead pigweeds at the same height - raised a red flag with me. When I checked the fields, pigweed was all that wasn't being controlled. My first thought was, 'Well, this could be the real deal.'" There were plenty of pigweed in both fields. However, that alone didn't cause Steckel much worry. "Western Tennessee is covered up with Palmer pigweed. It isn't uncommon to see fields with a bunch of it. I get called to a lot of fields on suspicious weeds. After investigating, most of the time the escapes are due to rain after application, surfactant issues or something else. But none of that applied here."
This past spring, Steckel and colleagues decided to put out a number of trials: two in the questionable fields and two placed randomly in the counties. Normally, Palmer pigweed less than 6 inches tall can be "smoked" with a half rate of glyphosate, said Steckel. "So in these tests, we looked at a half-rate, a full rate, a double rate and a 4X rate. At the two random sites, we got complete control on everything with the low rates." In the two suspect fields that wasn't the case. "At the half-rate of Roundup WeatherMax, control was around 50 percent. At the full rate (22 ounces), control was around 80 percent. At the 44-ounce rate, we still had some escapes. At the 4X rate (88 ounces), everything was killed."
Tom Mueller coordinated greenhouse and laboratory studies of the tolerant pigweed populations. "In some ways the Palmer pigweed appears to be similar to glyphosate-tolerant horseweed (marestail)," said Mueller in a press release. "All the treated Palmer pigweed plants look the same for two or three days after application; they all wilt and turn yellow. However, at about four days after spraying, the tolerant plants stop wilting and start new growth from lateral buds. Our preliminary laboratory analysis indicates the mechanism of action, or how the plant tolerates the glyphosate, appears to be the same in the Palmer pigweed and in the glyphosate-tolerant horseweed."
In light of the test results, what are Steckel's recommendations?
"First, producers need to get more chemistry in the tank, more modes of action. And that's already been happening.....I just did an informal survey of some retailers and, in the last year, they believe around 90 percent of our cotton had a pre-emerge (herbicide) put on. Primarily, the reason for that was control of glyphosate-resistant horseweed." "Dual over-the-top of cotton postemergence will be a terrific tool. We'll be preaching that." "Most importantly, Roundup rates shouldn't be cut. Producers must use the full rate and get good coverage."
Could the finding impact no-till acres?
"With glyphosate-resistant horseweed we've already seen a reduction in no-till acres. However, as successful as we've been with using pre-emerge herbicides, I think we'll see no-till acres rebound - especially when you consider the cost of diesel. Even with this new threat, I see that happening."
Monsanto confirms case of superweeds - Monsanto press release 13/9/05
Investigation Confirms Case Of Glyphosate-Resistant Palmer Pigweed In Georgia
ST. LOUIS (Sept. 13, 2005) - Dr. Stanley Culpepper, a University of Georgia weed scientist, and Monsanto have determined that Palmer amaranth (Palmer pigweed) at specific sites in central Georgia is resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup® agricultural herbicides. Numerous field and greenhouse trials completed earlier this year indicated probable resistance; however, heritability studies to determine whether the lack of control is passed on to the next generation are now complete and confirm this Palmer amaranth population as resistant.
"This Palmer amaranth population has tolerated extremely high rates of glyphosate applied in the field under excellent growing conditions," says Culpepper. The resistant population infests 500 acres of Roundup Ready® cotton in central Georgia. Additional herbicide products have provided effective control of the resistant population. Dr. Culpepper and Monsanto are surveying the surrounding area this season to determine if this biotype has spread.
When glyphosate resistant weed biotypes have been identified in the past, they have been effectively managed with other herbicides and/or cultural practices, such as tillage. Based on the data available today, Monsanto recommends that farmers growing Roundup Ready cotton or Roundup Ready Flex® cotton who have glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth on their farm do the following for 2006:
• Use a pre-emergence residual herbicide such as Prowl®
• Apply Roundup agricultural herbicide plus metolachlor early post-emergence
• Apply Roundup agricultural herbicide plus diuron at lay-by
In case of weed escapes, there are other herbicide products available as well. Growers should always read and follow herbicide label directions. Monsanto will continue to work with the University of Georgia to research the best options for control of glyphosate resistant Palmer amaranth and will modify these recommendations as new information becomes available.
"We have ongoing research planned to investigate Palmer amaranth management systems for a number of crops," says Culpepper. "We won't be sure what the best recommendation is until after the cotton harvest."
For growers that do not have confirmed glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth, Monsanto is recommending they use a pre-emergence residual that is active on Palmer amaranth, such as Prowl, in addition to a Roundup agricultural herbicide.
"Using a residual helps reduce early season weed competition and reduces the number and size of weeds when the first application of Roundup is made," says David Heering, Roundup Technical Manager. "In cotton, it is also important to add a residual at lay-by such as diuron to control weeds that emerge between lay-by and harvest."
Growers who are planting other Roundup Ready crops, such as corn or soybeans, should also use a pre-emergence residual if they have Palmer amaranth in their fields. Additionally, using the right rate of glyphosate for the right size weed at the right time is critical in an effective weed control program. The use of lower than recommended rates of glyphosate has been a contributing factor in previous cases of confirmed glyphosate resistant weeds. Growers should also consider using additional weed control tools that may be necessary for the weed spectrum on their farm.
The research on Palmer amaranth will be submitted to the International Survey of Herbicide Resistant Weeds at www.weedscience.com. for inclusion on the official list of glyphosate-resistant weeds. Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.
For more information on Monsanto, see: www.monsanto.com
Monsanto lobbies to keep the status quo for gene-altered crops - Monday, September 12, 2005 - By Bill Lambrecht and Deirdre Shesgreen
Sometimes a company's Iobbying success is best measured by what doesn't happen: tighter regulations kept 0ff the books, tax Ioopholes left open, hot-bulon issues never debated or investigated. Take, for example, Monsanto Co., the agricultural and biotech giant ased in Creve Coeur. Despite years of controversy over Monsanto's genetically modified seeds, there hasn't been a single congressional hearing on legislation calling for abeling genetically modified foods, even as much of Europe, Japan and several other nations adopted labeling Iaws. Monsanto Iobbyists have worked hard to preserve the current system in which its gene-altered products are treated as essentially equivalent to regular crops -- and therefore don't need any additional labeling. Among area companies, Monsanto was by far the biggest spender an Iobbying, dishing out more than $18.5 million from 1999 through 2004. In 200L, Monsanto had nine in-house Washington Iobbyists on its payroll, along with another 13 at private firms. Over the years, Monsanto has become known for its connections in Washington, hiring high-ranking government officials and a former member of Congress,_Rep. Toby Moffett, D-Conn. Among those Iobbying for Monsanto last year were Peter Scher, who served in the administration of President Bill Clinton as the top negotiator and troubieshooter on global agriculture trade deals in which Monsanto had a huge stake.
Monsanto has generaily deployed its phalanx of lobbyists on three fronts: shaping regulations that apply to its geneticaliy modified crops; prying open European and other foreign markets for genetically modified foods; and winning Iegislative batties to tailor the federal agriculture budget criticai to its business. More than other St. Louis companies, Monsanto and its lobbyists have to navigate Washington's regulatory maze because three federal agencies regulate its gene-aitered farm products. Michael Dykes, a top Monsanto in-house advocate, said the compariy's iobbyists didn't try to influence the scientific review process (their scientists dc that). But they do try to shape the policies that dictate how those reviews unfoid -- what steps are necessary to get a new biotech product to market, for example. Even as European nations continue to maintain a ban on most genetically modified crops, Monsanto has pressed for more government-approved uses of its technology in the United States. In June, the company won approvai from the Agricuiture Department for its latest product - alfalfa that is genetically engineered to tolerate a Monsanto-developed herbicide that kills weeds but not the alfalfa.
The agriculture giant is now in the midst of a controversial battle to commercialize a herbicide-tolerant grass that couid be a big seiler to golf courses. Monsanto is working with another company, Scotts Co., on that issue, and they have already run into opposition. Because grasses are wind-pollirating perennial piants, they are difficult to contain and could pose a contamnation threat, critics say. Bill Freese, a research analyst for the environmental group Friends of the Earth, said the grass couid produce "Super weeds" that are resistant to herbicides.
Monsanto lobbyists exercise considerable infiuence over the regulatory process, Freese said, even though the rule-making might appear to be more driven by facts and less by politics. "They have tremendous clout with the government," Freese said.
Monsanto's Dykes said his work on the special grass focused on keeping interested lawmakers abreast of the approval process, not on talking to regulators. "We would brief legislators and staff . . . on what the process is, what we're doing, how our scientists are engaged," he said.
Monsanto has a track record of political victories. Three years ago, for example, the White House sided with the company and others in the industry in their effort to avoid costly recalls and other repercussions if thee's accidental contamination during field trials of gene-altered crops. The effort by Monsanto and others in the biotech business began after the StarLink scandal in 2000, when discovery in human food of genetically modified corn approved only for animals sparked a recall of dozens of foods and a financial disaster for a company, Aventis CropScience. The biotech companies' efforts paid off: In 2002, President George W. Bush's administration issued a directive to three federal agencies asking them to write regulations allowing unapproved materials in commercial seed and commodities "if they pose no unacceptable environmental risk."
Although it was a key win for the biotech industry, the battle isn't over. Critics argue that the policy prejudged environmental tests and posed health threats to consumers, and they are now Iobbying the agencies to write tight rules an the issue. "We don't want to see a blanket approval for contamination," Freese said. Monsanto, of course, is also weighing in. "We're trying to advocate a sound regulatory process as to how to effectively manage this issue," Dykes said.
Shareowner Resolution Asks Monsanto to Create Ethics Oversight Committee - by William Baue - SocialFunds.com, August 26, 2005
(SocialFunds.com is "the largest personal finance site dedicated to socially responsible investing")
The company stonewalls inquiries related to the resolution, which springs from a $1.5 million settlement with the SEC and DOJ earlier this year regarding a bribe Monstanto paid in Indonesia.
SocialFunds.com - Earlier this week, Harrington Investments Inc. (HII) filed a shareowner resolution with Monsanto (ticker: MON) asking its board to create an ethics oversight committee of independent directors to monitor compliance with laws as well as the Monsanto Pledge and Code of Business Conduct. Why make such a request? The resolution recounts the company's $1.5 million settlement with the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in January 2005 over violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). In a nutshell, a senior Monsanto manager authorized a $50,000 bribe to get a senior Indonesian Ministry of Environment official to repeal a 2001 environmental impact assessment decree obstructing market entry for genetically engineered crops. "Although the payment was made, the unfavorable decree was not repealed," notes the SEC enforcement document without commentary on this irony. "In addition, from 1997 to 2002, Monsanto inaccurately recorded, or failed to record, in its books and records approximately $700,000 of illegal or questionable payments made to various Indonesian government officials."
Such breaches of corporate ethics are unfortunately not anomalous. On Monday of this week, the SEC charged former Bristol-Myers Squibb (BMY) CFO and another officer with orchestrating a fraudulent earnings management scheme to the tune of $1.5 billion. On Tuesday, the commission charged the former Kmart (KM) CEO and CFO with financial fraud leading up to the company's declaration of bankruptcy.
"Bribery is illegal, and Monsanto's violation of federal law and the company's own voluntary code of conduct prove that management cannot be trusted to protect shareholders," said John Harrington, CEO of HII, a Napa, California-based socially responsible investment (SRI) firm. "Monsanto's management has once again shown its disregard for its fiduciary duties and for U.S. law."
After several attempts to contact Monsanto for comment, SocialFunds.com spoke briefly with Monsanto Public Affairs Director Chris Horner. The phone call abruptly ended before Mr. Horner answered any questions and he did not respond to follow-up phone calls and email.
The DOJ/SEC settlement requires Monsanto to retain an independent compliance expert. A search of SEC filings posted on Monsanto's website since January 6, 2005 did not disclose the retention of an independent compliance expert, so it is unclear whether the company has fulfilled this requirement. The SEC enforcement document asserts that Monsanto "lacked internal controls sufficient to detect or prevent the illicit payment schemes operated by the Indonesian affiliates." "In fact, from 1996 to 2001 Monsanto did not conduct any internal audits of its Indonesian affiliates," the document continues. "The absence of effective internal controls enabled the Indonesian management team to conceal their illicit payment scheme."
It is unclear what changes Monsanto has made to its internal controls in the wake of the settlement, if any. Monsanto's January 10 First Quarter 2005 Form 10Q, the most recent SEC filing posted on its website addressing the bribe in Indonesia, does not mention any changes in internal controls. The Monsanto Pledge, which is "the foundation of all that we do," states that "integrity includes honesty, decency, consistency, and courage." The Pledge also commits the company to several intentions, including transparency. "We will ensure that information is available, accessible, and understandable," the Pledge states.
Concerns continue over Monsanto's biotech wheat - Tue Aug 30, 2005 2:09 PM ET - By Carey Gillam
KANSAS CITY, Mo., Aug 30 (Reuters) - Monsanto Co.'s genetically modified wheat program could cost U.S. wheat farmers more than $100 million in lost income if it is commercialized, according to a study released Tuesday. The report, which was commissioned by the Western Organization for Resource Councils (WORC), warned of costly consequences if Monsanto Co. <MON.N> revives its controversial technology to genetically alter types of spring wheat.
St. Louis-based Monsanto said in May 2004 that opposition to the project forced it to delay an introduction indefinitely. And in March of this year, the company reiterated that it did had no near-term revival plans for Roundup Ready wheat, which is genetically altered to make the wheat resistant to treatments of the Roundup weedkiller.
But debate within the industry has continued to fester and earlier this month National Association of Wheat Growers president Sherman Reece further spurred discussion by saying it "was time to move forward" with biotech wheat. The WORC report issued Tuesday takes the opposite approach, warning that moving forward would prove costly to wheat farmers, who are already doing a good job managing weeds and garnering profits. Weed resistance, disease resistance and crop rotation problems are likely if Roundup Ready wheat is adopted, according to the analysis by Idaho agricultural consultant Charles Benbrook.
His analysis found that farmers would have to spend three times more money on wheat seed and apply up to a pound an acre more herbicide if they elected to use Monsanto's Roundup Ready wheat. He projects that across about 13 million acres of U.S. hard red spring wheat acreage, losses would run between $7.23 and $20.94 an acre, or $94 million to $272 million. "This is a technology for which there is no compelling need," said Benbrook. "There are some substantial risks that go along with this technology."
Monsanto officials could not be reached for comment Tuesday, but they have billed Roundup Ready wheat as a way for farmers to grow wheat more efficiently. The company's Roundup Ready soybeans have proven popular with U.S. farmers and now dominate U.S. soybean acreage.
Biotech wheat has been hotly debated in the U.S. wheat industry for years between those who say biotechnology could make wheat a more profitable crop, and those who say foreign resistance to biotech tinkering would kill exports.
"It is definitely still out there, something that is being talked about with wheat organizations," said Todd Leake, a North Dakota farmer active in WORC.
Monsanto already has FDA approval for the Roundup Ready wheat, but would still need approval from the Agriculture Department and the U.S. EPA before it could move forward.
Corporate-sponsored PBS Documentary Riles Small Farming Advocates - by Christopher Getzan - The New Standard
Environment, consumer, agriculture and media watchdogs say the production of upcoming PBS show America's Heartland exemplifies the problem of major corporations driving television journalism.
Aug 23 - A new television series set for distribution this fall to public TV stations across the country is drawing fire from activists who say its funders exploit a model of factory farming that has profoundly undermined the same rustic lifestyle the program is meant to showcase. The telecast, America's Heartland, consists of twenty half-hour episodes produced by PBS affiliate KVIE in Sacramento and is based on a popular, long-running KVIE broadcast called California Heartland. While the bulk of the new national program's underwriting will be provided by the farming trade group the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and biotech giant Monsanto, the show is also receiving financial support from other large farming associations such as the National Cotton Council, United Soybean Board and the US Grains Council.
While the Department of Agriculture noted in 2001 that the vast majority of farms are still family-run, half of all agricultural sales were concentrated among just two percent of farms. Without actually having seen the show, which producers are keeping under wraps, advocates for family farming and the environment are engaged in a campaign to dissuade local television stations from running the series. They cite the main financiers' involvement in technologies and policies that undermine small farmers as cause for their assumption that the programming will offer a distorted picture in documentary form.
"Our opposition really stems from how they went about finding funding for the program," said Chris Cooper, a spokesperson for Global Resource Action Center for the Environment (GRACE), which has been organizing around the announcement of the program. "While it might be fine for Exxon to fund a program on Masterpiece Theatre, it wouldn't be for a documentary on oil." More importantly, Cooper said, GRACE believes the pastoral theme of the program will breed misconceptions about the state of rural life to the urban and suburban audiences for which the America's Heartland will likely serve as a primary window into agrarian life in the US. "The problem is that when you're talking about farmers or rural America, it's impossible to tell an accurate story without telling about the role of agribusiness," said Ben Lilliston, Communications Director at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP), "The sponsors of that program are kind of the spearheads behind the movement for factory farming."
The number of US farms has been rapidly declining since the 1960s. While the Department of Agriculture noted in 2001 that the vast majority of farms are still family-run, half of all agricultural sales were concentrated among just two percent of farms. Lilliston said Monsanto and the major farming trade associations "rely on the mythological view of the farmer to sell their products." In a letter sent to public television managers about America's Heartland, 70 groups - including IATP, Public Citizen, Friends of the Earth, and the Organic Consumers Association - suggest stations should either forego showing the series or schedule complementary programming to expose Heartland as a "piece of propaganda." The coalition leveled a harsh critique of what it expects the controversial new series entails.
"The destruction of America's rural communities and the disappearance of its small farmers is an important story that needs to be told," the letter reads. "This story, one of rural depopulation, dwindling economic opportunities, industrial levels of pollution and their attendant health and social concerns, is the ugly reality of the excesses that come from the unregulated large-scale industrialized agricultural system promoted by corporate America." The signatories say they are concerned that Heartland is "being produced to put a friendly face on the very forces that are causing these problems." They point out that Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau promote policies that "place the US food supply into the hands of a few major corporations" by pressuring politicians to keep federal subsidies flowing to large agribusinesses. "A significant part of these subsidies then flows directly to Monsanto from the purchase of genetically modified seed and artificial hormones to increase milk production at mega-dairies that put small farmers out of business," they write.
But the documentary's creators say that criticism is premature. Jim O'Donnell, director of program marketing for KVIE, said the only difference between his station's parent program and the new America's Heartland spin-off is "geographical coverage." "The tone, style, and content of the show, the mission of the show, was well-established in the eight years" it ran on KVIE, said O'Donnell. "When we contemplated a relationship with Monsanto, KVIE exercised due diligence and found them to be acceptable to the goals of the show. Their mission in this is the same thing as the show's." That mission, according to O'Donnell, is to "educate a non-farm audience about how food gets from farm to table. It's not an issues-based show." GRACE's criticism, O'Donnell said, is baseless for two reasons. First, he says, California Heartland's educational value is proven by the large audiences in California's largest, most highly concentrated urban TV markets, like San Francisco. Additionally, the farm community?s response to the program was "overwhelmingly positive." Second, says O'Donnell, is that no one outside of KVIE has actually seen America's Heartland. "I'm surprised at the criticism," said O'Donnell. "Nobody's seen the show" The criticism, he said, "is not based in any factual review of the program. I don't know how they do it. If you haven't seen the example, I'm not sure how anybody who has any opinion is basing that in fact."
Monsanto spokesperson Lee Quarles defended the company's involvement in the funding. "If you look at why we got involved, by far the most important reason was that farmers wanted their stories to be told," he said. "We recognized we have a role to play because we are in the agriculture industry." O'Donnell, Monsanto and the American Farm Bureau Federation refused to furnish The NewStandard with figures on the funding corporate big-leaguers are injecting into Heartland, but O'Donnell said the only "deliverables" returned to Monsanto or AFBF are underwriting credit on the show. "We have a relationship, clearly, but it doesn?t include content," O'Donnell said. "We are enjoined in a regulatory manner and a very strict guideline manner." O'Donnell said that even Monsanto and the Farm Bureau have only seen the trailer for America's Heartland. "And certainly," he said, "Monsanto and the Farm Bureau would have an interest in a program that would have an interest to their constituencies," noting that "the content will speak for itself."
Cooper acknowledged that GRACE and its partner groups had not seen America's Heartland yet, but "there's at least the perception the content?s going to be biased," he said. "We don't want to come across as fundamentalists, but it seems to violate the guidelines of [distributors American Public Television] and PBS." Lilliston said Monsanto and the major farming trade associations "rely on the mythological view of the farmer to sell their products," and that the big agribusiness firms are using the program to "create this kind of sense among the urban audience that they're supporting farmers when they buy or use" Monsanto products or goods backed by the large trade councils.
Sheldon Rampton, research director at the Center for Media and Democracy, a media watchdog group, said a series like America's Heartland can poison news-gathering at cash-strapped and politically insecure PBS stations. "The [funders] understand [station programmers] have a limited news hole," he said, and "when someone else proposes programming [on a similar subject], they can say we've already covered that topic." While the program's underwriters may not exert control over editorial content, Rampton said he is "sure that Monsanto and company have a pretty good idea about what shows are going to be broadcast." He added, "I think they can feel confident the program they're sponsoring is not going to sponsor investigative journalism about genetic engineering or pesticide use." Bottom line, Rampton said, "They get their name[s] associated with the phrase 'America's heartland,' and just by virtue of sponsoring this, the programming being sponsored fits their vision of the world."
Lower cottonseed weights troubling - By Hembree Brandon - Delta Farm Press, Aug 18, 2005 [shortened]
BILOXI, Miss. -- In a perfect world, says Randy Dismuke, a cotton variety would satisfy everyone's demands - growers, ginners, oil mills, textile spinners, and other downstream users. "Unfortunately, it's not a perfect world and we don't yet have a variety that's a 'perfect 10,'" the senior vice president for Delta and Pine Land Co., Scott, Miss., told members of the Southern Cotton Ginners Association at their summer conference. The ginners, many of whom are also growers, had asked a panel of industry leaders to address the issue of why hugely popular, and widely-planted, new cotton varieties have significantly less seed turnout than conventional varieties.
Cottonseed removed in the ginning process represents a significant source of revenue to ginners, and reduced seed tonnage from newer genetically modified varieties has been cutting into their bottom line. Also, traditionally, the seed retained by the gin has offset the cost of ginning for the grower, a scenario that's becoming more difficult to maintain as ginning costs rise and seed weights/revenues decline. "A Cottonseed Digest study shows the 10-year trendline is down," Dismuke said, with a 14 percent decrease from 1995-96 to 2004-05. From 2003-04 to 2004-05, there was an 8 percent decline in seed yield.
Oil mill perspective
"One of the biggest challenges I see facing oil mills and the ginning industry is the seed derived from today?s popular genetically modified varieties," said Sammy Wright, vice president, Chickasha of Georgia, Tifton, Ga. Seed weights per bale "have dropped fairly dramatically" in some areas of the country, he said. "These smaller seed are much more difficult to delint and dehull in the milling process, and they contain quite a bit less oil. This reduces the value of the seed to the crusher." In the Southeast, he said, "We've been averaging 300-305 pounds of oil per ton of cottonseed; now, we're down to about 280 pounds of oil. "With 25-cent oil, that means roughly $5 to $6 less in crush value per ton of cottonseed. While that may not sound like a lot, in tight market times it can be the difference between making money and losing money. Lower seed weights also reduce the amount of seed available to ginners to convert to cash flow income."
In many cases today, returns to ginners from seed will not cover the cost of ginning, Wright said. "How much longer can the ginning industry operate under the scenario of ginning for the seed, when the seed don't return adequate value." "I wish I had the answer, but I don't," he said. ?I think it's safe to say, though, if we don't see a drastic change upward in seed yields, economics will force us to make some hard decisions as to how we operate our gins, or we won't be able to survive."
In 1980, Wright said, there were 74 operating oil mills in the U.S.; today, only 13. "These numbers speak to the radical change we've seen in our business." What does this mean to ginners? "For one thing, if you're not in close proximity to a major milk shed, you'd better hope you can keep a viable oil mill presence to help consume some of that seed. If not, the fundamental laws of supply and demand can get pretty ugly."
Attack of the 12-foot horseweed - Herbicide-resistant strains plague California farmers - By Juliana Barbassa, Associated Press
Horseweed was once merely a nuisance to farmers hard to pull out, quick to sprout back after cutting, and capable of towering over tractors. Now, it's becoming a full-blown nightmare worthy of an agricultural horror flick. Scientists in California have found clusters of the weed that are resistant to scores of herbicides, leaving farmers to fight an increasingly formidable and costly foe. Pete Christensen said he watched his costs soar as the most popular herbicide became increasingly powerless to stop the weeds from choking the grapes on his 75-acre vineyard near Selma. About five years ago, he started noticing that Roundup wasn't withering the weed as usual. Three years later, he had tripled the concentration of the herbicide, and had doubled the applications, but the weeds were growing thicker than ever, rising over his vines and competing with them for water, nutrients and sunshine. "It was dominant in the landscape,' Christensen said.
The weed, also known as mare's tail, has always been around, but it wasn't until last month that University of California researchers confirmed that some strains of it had become resistant to herbicides, posing a threat to the nation's most productive farmland. Researchers were alarmed by the weed's rapid proliferation. Its spindly stalks can be seen poking out of Napa Valley vineyards in the North, along highways and pastures in the Central Valley and in Southern California fields. Farmers elsewhere have been dealing with resistance to the chemical glyphosate. First found in Delaware in 2000, glyphosate-resistant horseweed has since been found in 10 other states in the East and South. Farmers dealing with the problem have been forced to repeatedly till their fields, rely on weeding, or on more toxic herbicides to control the tall, fast-growing pest.
Developing resistance to a chemical isn't unusual among plants and animals, scientists said. What makes the horseweed adaptation such a nuisance is how fast it reproduces and how big it grows, sucking up scarce water and nutrients as it stretces 10 or 12 feet tall. As a relative of the dandelion, each weed produces up to 200,000 tiny airborne seeds a season on fluffy yellow flowers. For decades, growers, gardeners and anyone looking for an easy way to beat back weeds have relied on glyphosate. It's inexpensive, works on several types of weeds and is less toxic than other pest-control ingredients. Farmers planting Roundup-Ready crops such as corn, soybeans or cotton that have been genetically engineered to survive the chemical could spray it liberally over their entire field, killing all weeds and leaving only their crops standing. The herbicide's popularity may be partly to blame for breeding the resistance, researchers said. By killing nonresistant weeds, it allows only the survivors those few naturally resistant plants to thrive.
"They've created a problem by relying on one solution to solve all problems,' said weed ecologist Anil Shrestha of the University of California's Kearney Agricultural Center. Some scientists said the development wasn't surprising. Systems like Monsanto's Roundup-Ready crops, which promise an easy, one-chemical solution to the age-old problem of weed control, only work for a short time, said Margaret Mellon, director for the Food and Environment Program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. "When you expand the use of an herbicide dramatically, resistant weeds start moving in," said Mellon.
Bob Prys, a manager for the 13,000-acre Borba Farms, said the weed became a problem just three or four years after they started growing Roundup-Ready cotton on the 500-acre ranch. They sprayed the field, killing everything but the cotton plants, and saving money by having to till their fields less frequently. Now Prys said they're relying on weeding again and adding other chemicals to their herbicide mix adding unexpected costs to the higher price they pay for Roundup-Ready seed. "It's caused us to re-evaluate our Roundup-Ready cotton,' Prys said.
Monsanto researchers recommend mixing in other chemicals to eliminate the threat before there is a problem, said David Heering, the Roundup technical manager for Monsanto. "At the end of the day, they'll still have fewer passes through the fields, and fewer weed-control problems,' Heering said. The UC scientists recommended rotating crops, cultivating the land with farm equipment, weeding, and using herbicides that kill the seeds in the soil before they germinate. Those measures will increase costs for farmers, but will prevent a more serious and costly problem later on.
See article below as well
Roundup Ready alfalfa worries growers - By Anna King, Herald staff writer - TriCityHerald, August 5th, 2005
Alfalfa growers in the Mid-Columbia say they aren't ready to grow Roundup Ready alfalfa because they're worried that if they do their export markets in Japan could ban Washington hay. The genetically modified plants have a resistance to the weed killer Roundup, enabling farmers to spray fields for weeds without killing the crop. However, the perception, growers say, is that the product is unnatural and could affect milk and people. Monsanto and Forage Genetics International, which jointly produce the product, received U.S. Department of Agriculture approval for the hay in July and have started selling the seed in every state but Washington. The companies are poised to release the seed in the state as early as spring 2006, and the first crop could be cut and baled that summer. But those in Washington who export high-value hay say their customers in Japan don't want the alfalfa in their dairy feed troughs.
Columbia Basin growers export about $140 million in alfalfa to Japan a year. And hay is the largest export by volume in the Pacific Northwest, shipped out of the ports of Tacoma, Seattle, Portland and Oakland, Calif. "There is no possible way that the Japanese customer will accept it," said Chep Gauntt, president of the Washington State Hay Growers Association and a Burbank-area hay grower. "We stand the chance of losing all of our export market." However, Monsanto spokeswoman Jennifer Garrett said the company expects the Japanese government to approve Roundup Ready alfalfa by the end of the year. But Gauntt said even with government approval, if the Japanese dairymen don't like the product, they won't import it or allow it in shipments. And that means big-money losses for the Mid-Columbia hay exporters.
Talks between Monsanto, Forage Genetics and the hay association have been going on for a few years. But with the date of the seed release edging forward, the situation is becoming increasingly tense. This week, Gauntt said he learned that a longtime member of the association's board of directors, William "Bill" Ford, is being paid by Monsanto, which raises ethics concerns. Ford is a retired Washington State University agronomist who worked out of the Pasco extension office for about 34 years. He helped test new alfalfa varieties in the area and has worked extensively with area growers and exporters. "He's had the trust of everyone, and no one even questioned it," Gauntt said.
Ford said he's been working as a consultant for the company for about two or three years and didn't see it as a conflict of interest because he has never voted on the subject at association meetings. "All I did was to work with them and put them in contact with the major exporters here in Washington," he said. Ford and the companies declined to discuss how much he had been paid. Mark McCaslin, president of Forage Genetics, said his company did compensate Ford for travel expenses but that he worked only as a liaison between the companies and Washington hay exporters to set up meetings. Gauntt said he's mainly concerned with what Ford may have shared from confidential discussions among association members about Monsanto and Forage Genetics. This week, the association issued a statement asking Monsanto to delay its seed release in Washington for another year.
"He comes and listens as we are very candid," Gauntt said. "He is listening and bringing that back to Monsanto. He's capitalized on that in the form of money." But Gauntt said the association has no formal policy about disclosure of directors' compensation from companies. "I had no idea that it was this deep," he said. "We're businessmen and we're not naive, but maybe in a way we have been."
Brent Evans, international sales manager for Eckenberg Farms of Mattawa, said he's not worried about Roundup Ready alfalfa as a product, but he is extremely concerned about the Japanese perception. Evans lived in Japan for about six years and said consumers and farmers there are very health-conscious and will ban anything they view as contaminated or dangerous. In 1995, he worked for the Washington State Apple Commission in Japan when the Japanese shut down imports of all Washington apples after a chemical residue was discovered on less than 1 percent of the fruit. "It's an underlying fear that we are messing with nature," he said. Evans said Eckenberg Farms ships about 5,000 shipping containers of alfalfa to Japan each year. That exported hay is the most expensive sold in Washington, he said, and a disruption in that market would have dismal effect on hay prices in the Northwest. Evans said his company would like the product better if the companies would help the growers educate their consumers in Japan. He said that might take an additional year or two. But make a wrong move, and it could take years to resolve, he said. "If you think they won't stop alfalfa from Washington State, all you have to do is to look at beef," Evans said, referring to the trade embargo on U.S. beef after mad cow disease was discovered in a slaughtered Mabton cow. "They can't get the Japanese to budge."
More than just a food fight - Zack Pelta-Heller - http://www.alternet.org/envirohealth/23884/
The debate over genetically modified organisms just got a lot hotter in California. Last month, Democratic State Senator Dean Florez introduced an amendment that would effectively remove a community's control over its food supply. Florez's amendment reads, in part, "no ordinance or regulation of any political subdivision may prohibit or in any way attempt to regulate any matter relating to the registration, labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, notification of use, or use of field crops." It seems harmless enough, couched in legalese as it is. But this controversial overhaul comes in response to three California counties and two cities that banned the raising of genetically engineered crops and livestock. Activist groups like Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, Environmental Commons, and the Sierra Club are up in arms over the proposed legislation, calling it an affront to local democracy. It's easy to see why. Since California currently does not have any GMO regulations at the state level, the proposed law will successfully eliminate the only limitations that prevent biotech giants like Monsanto and Syngenta from moving in with their patented GE seeds. Moreover, the bill, known as SB 1056, takes pre-emptive measures to preclude people from raising concerns about GMOs in the future, and in doing so deprives the public of any chance debate on this hot-button issue.
Becky Tarbotton, campaign coordinator for Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, says, "If SB 1056 or a bill with similar pre-emptive language passes in California, it will effectively override the ability of local communities, including farmers, to make decisions about whether or not they want to grow genetically engineered crops." In addition to an infringement on civil liberties, the fundamental problem that environmental groups have with SB 1056 is that farmers who plant genetically engineered (GE) seeds can't guarantee that their seeds will not contaminate GE-free farms. According to Laurel Hopwood of the Sierra Club, "What's unfortunate for farmers, especially organic farmers, is that pollen can move from place to place, so the spread of GMO gene traits is inevitable." Hopwood adds, "What's different about this form of pollution from any other form of pollution is that it's alive. These new life forms multiply, spread, and cannot be recalled. ... Not only are organic farmers not allowed to call their crop 'organic' when it becomes contaminated, but also farmers can't sell their crops overseas where GMOs are not accepted."
California is the nation's largest agricultural producer, raising hundreds of crops for large-scale export and domestic use. The issue of organic farms losing certification because of GE seed contamination, then, is just the tip of the iceberg. The European Union and other major importers of Californian goods like Japan have strict policies that forbid the purchase or sale of GE crops. Environmentalists fear the economic repercussions of GE seed contamination could be disastrous for the both California agricultural community and the U.S. economy.
Beyond the Golden State
But if you think the debate over local control is just going on in California, think again. Britt Bailey, the director of Environmental Commons, explained that fourteen states have already passed provisions limiting local control, and North Carolina is still considering a similar measure. Bailey says, "When I contacted the Georgia and Oklahoma legislatures, specifically the authors of the seed preemption bills, and asked them why the bills were introduced, the authors responded by saying the bills were in response to the three California counties that had passed initiatives restricting genetically modified organisms." In March of 2004, Mendocino County in Northern California passed a law prohibiting GE seeds from being planted within the county lines, the first of its kind. Eight months later, four more counties voted on similar bans, but in the face of opposition heavily funded by the biotech industry and promoted by state and national farm groups, only one ban passed. Many more counties in California and across the country are in the process of bringing GMO bans to the voters. But proponents of these seed preemption bills, in California and elsewhere, believe that seed laws belong uniformly at the state or federal level and shouldn't be in the hands of a patchwork of local restrictions. As Charles Margulis of the Center for Food Safety points out, however, states that oppose local restrictions to GMOs tend to have regulations in place at the state level. California does not.
On the other side of SB 1056 are groups like the California Farm Bureau Federation (CFBF), a non-profit that represents farm interests throughout the state. While spokesman Dave Kranz was unwilling to take an official stance on SB 1056, he says, "Our position has been that we support technology that offers potential for family farmers to be innovative and keep up with market trends." Like other supporters of this pre-emptive legislation, CFBF feels that farmers ought to have the flexibility to respond to local situations and should not be prevented from raising GE-crops simply because their property falls within a certain county line. "We oppose county-by-county bans on biotech crops just as we would oppose county-by-county bans on organic crops if those were to occur," concludes Kranz. In an recent op-ed piece in the San Francisco Chronicle, CFBF President Bill Pauli lays out a clear case for GE foods. "[Californians] are among the most progressive farmers in the United States, and we play a vital role in providing safe and healthy food throughout the world. That's why I can't understand all the misinformation associated with biotechnology, an established practice of modern farming that makes our food more plentiful, longer-lasting and, yes, healthier than ever."
Pauli devotes most of his article to assuring readers that no one (neither people nor animals) has become sick from biotech foods since their inception in the mid-nineties. On the federal level, biotech crops are subject to inspection by the Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and the Food and Drug Administration. Research has suggested that GE foods have the curative properties and the potential to improve nutrition worldwide. "A 2004 report from the National Academy of Sciences," asserts Pauli, "concluded that foods from biotech crops are as safe as any other foods in your supermarket." The question remains though, after reading Pauli's article, why would he spend so much energy convincing the public that GE foods are safe for consumption? Is it because consumers fear the possibly toxic effects of herbicides, which can be sprayed at will on the 70 percent of GE crops that are herbicide-resistant? Or perhaps the answer lies in the recent failures of federal regulatory agencies to ensure the safety of biotech crops. Anuradha Mittal, Executive Director of The Oakland Institute, exclaims, "The EPA, USDA, and FDA were asleep at the wheel during the StarLink controversy." The StarLink fiasco resulted in an enormous recall on corn products, heightened concerns over biotech products, and was an economic black eye for the U.S. when Japan and South Korea were forced to turn to China for corn supplies. Since the FDA already determined that genetic engineering is only an extension of agriculture, and that GE foods are not significantly different from traditionally grown foods, their methodology for determining safety seems suspect. Mittal and Margulis of the Center for Food Safety also emphasize that none of the federal regulatory agencies have conducted long-term tests to determine the lasting effects of GE foods on consumers and the environment. Margulis maintains that the studies Pauli mentions in his op-ed are "ludicrous" and broad-ranged. "None of those studies were conducted by independent organizations; none fed animals just GE foods and saw what happened." And, he says, the biotech corporations would prefer it that way.
The End of Local Control?
Concerns over GE food safety aside, the true transgression being perpetrated by SB 1056 is that California legislators are turning a blind eye to public safety and debate in favor of biotech corporations. "By taking away the sovereign powers of communities," Mittal concludes, "legislators are rendering the elected officials in these communities basically impotent." To say nothing of the rights of farmers and citizens that this pre-emptive legislation will strip away. Mittal adds, "The interests of the family farmers are being sold off, while bigger farmers receive subsidies and are therefore more likely to support the bill." Of course, the debate over local control doesn't center solely on GMOs. Britt Bailey says, "Twenty states have laws restricting local governments from passing tobacco-free ordinances, 40 states have laws removing local control of pesticides, and I think there are 20 or so states with preemptive gun laws." The result is that when communities raise concerns on these topics at the local level, industry swoops in at the state level to ensure these concerns fall on deaf ears. Ironically, Sen. Florez currently supports a measure to give his district the power to decide whether or not to apply sewage sludge to agricultural land, the same kind of local control prohibited by his seed bill.
While activist groups are calling for labels on products containing GMOs or higher standards for regulatory testing, others have not thrown in the towel yet on the local control debate. Mary Zepernick, a coordinator at the Program on Corporations, Law & Democracy, feels a new take on this fight might be necessary. "We need to reframe these issues as rights-based struggles rather than harms-based. Looking at things that way -- abuse by abuse, corporation by corporation -- will keep these issues mired in the regulatory regime." Instead, she says, activists should show how the attack on GMO bans are part of a larger attack on communities' ability to stand up to corporations. Similarly, Britt Bailey and the Environmental Commons want to see a constitutional challenge to the bans on local control. "If we want to secure local authority of issues related to health, safety, and welfare," Bailey argues, "we could build case law by placing the intent of a local authority to govern within the local ordinances and resolutions we develop and pass. This way, if state preemption occurs, a local government has the intent and therefore standing to challenge. We could also choose to amend the constitution." Such a step might be the only way for farmers to keep locally grown food viable and for the dialogue over GMOs to continue.
Zack Pelta-Heller is a freelance writer living in Astoria, NY. Currently, he's an assistant editor for Dell Magazines.
UC scientists find herbicide-resistant horseweed in California - http://news.ucanr.org/newsstorymain.cfm?story=690
A weed that five years ago was seen only occasionally in California is now growing prolifically on irrigation canal banks, vacant lots, orchard and vineyard floors, roadsides and gardens. One reason, University of California scientists can now confirm, is that biotypes of horseweed have evolved that are unaffected by the most commonly used herbicide - glyphosate. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in 55 brand-name and generic herbicides registered for use in California. The most common brand is Roundup. According to the California Department of Food and Agriculture, 5.7 million pounds of glyphosate were used by the agricultural industry in 2003.
Horseweed is a particularly sinister vegetative foe. Also known as mare's tail and by its botanical name Conyza Canadensis, it grows straight upright on a central stem surrounded by long, thin leaves. Horseweed is difficult to pull. Mowing makes the problem worse instead of better. Unabated, it grows 8 to 10 feet tall, competing with agricultural crops for water, nutrients and sun, and getting in the way of farm equipment and laborers. In untended yards or vacant lots, horseweed forms a tangled jungle. And perhaps most ominously, each plant produces 150,000 to 200,000 seeds on yellowish fluffy flowers that a breeze will spread for hundreds of yards.
UC Integrated Pest Management weed ecologist Anil Shrestha and UC Cooperative Extension weed management farm advisor Kurt Hembree, both based in Fresno County, began to suspect the herbicide resistance in horseweed a few years ago when the distinctive plant became more prevalent. "You see it everywhere now," Hembree said. "In 2000, I had a garlic field with just a few horseweeds. Now it is completely infested. That is just one example on the west side of the (San Joaquin) valley. On the east side, it is common especially between the rows in orchards and vineyards. Large numbers of horseweed are now popping up from Napa County in the north down through Southern California."
A call from a Dinuba irrigation district manager spurred the research project at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center (KREC) near Parlier. The irrigation district was controlling weeds in a Pest Management Zone, an area where most herbicides are banned because they threaten groundwater contamination. Glyphosate is the only herbicide permitted in these zones since the chemical is considered environmentally benign. "The irrigation district was using glyphosate year after year," Shrestha said. "This continuous use was, in effect, selecting for horseweed that was resistant to the chemical."
The scientists collected horseweed seed from the Dinuba site to compare with horseweed seed collected in western Fresno where glyphosate had seldom been used. The weed seeds were planted in pots in a greenhouse at KREC and treated with three rates of glyphosate at five different growth stages. Generally, the weeds from west Fresno died when exposed to the herbicide. The plants from Dinuba grew robustly, even when sprayed with four times the recommended amount of glyphosate.
Glyphosate-resistant horseweed was first reported in 2000 in Delaware. It has since been found in ten other states. This is the first confirmation of the resistant weed in California. Even though the study focused on weeds from the Dinuba site, Hembree and Shrestha believe that glyphosate-resistant horseweed may exist in other areas as well. They have heard from farm advisors, farmers, pest control advisors and other land managers from several parts of the south Central Valley that glyphosate isn't killing horseweed like it used to.
The scientists believe that another weed, hairy fleabane, may also be evolving glyphosate resistance, a phenomenon that has been confirmed in hairy fleabane in only two other areas worldwide - one in Spain and the other in South Africa. Hairy fleabane and horseweed look similar when immature and grow under similar conditions, but hairy fleabane reaches just three feet in height. Farmers and other land managers who notice a great number of horseweed or hairy fleabane should begin using a diversity of methods to bring them under control. By any means, make sure the weeds do not go to seed, Hembree said. Cultivation, hand pulling and pre-emergent herbicides will control the pest. Crop rotation will also be a valuable tool. The glyphosate-resistant horseweed can be a problem when farmers grow Roundup Ready crops. In this growing system, farmers plant seed that has been genetically modified to be resistant to glyphosate. Then the herbicide may be sprayed over the top of the crop, leaving the desired plants unaffected and killing the weeds. However, now that a glyphosate-resistant weed is known in California, farmers must watch for weeds that are surviving the herbicide treatment. "We are lucky we can grow so many crops in California. Crop rotation is a factor in our favor that they don?t have in the Midwest," Hembree said. "If resistant horseweed turns up on a farm, the grower will want to avoid glyphosate-resistant crops and vigilantly monitor horseweed until it is under control."
Editors: The two UC scientists who discovered that horseweed resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (such as Roundup) is growing in California will be available for interviews and to show their research project at 10 a.m. Thursday, July 21, in a greenhouse at the UC Kearney Research and Extension Center, 9240 S. Riverbend Ave., just east of Parlier.
Integrated Pest Management weed ecologist Anil Shrestha (a-neal shray-sta) and UC Cooperative Extension weed farm advisor Kurt Hembree will show both the non-resistant weeds that were killed by glyphosate, and the resistant weeds, which were sprayed with glyphosate but are still growing vigorously. After becoming familiar with the weeds in the greenhouse, reporters and photographers will see horseweed growing rampantly on roadsides, orchards, vacant lots and street medians.
The scientists will give advice on controlling the resistant weeds.
It pays to grow non-GM crops - Monday, 11 July , 2005 - http://sify.com/finance/fullstory.php?id=13893042
Dan Heffelmire, President of H&B Specialities Inc that deals with food quality grain products, is one who personally has no problems with genetically modified (GM) food. But when it comes to business, his problems have only increased with more farmers in the US taking to cultivation of GM crops. "Our problems have increased with the rise in GM crops. We export corn grown traditionally to Japan and South Korea. Both these countries do not accept GM crops. As a result, we are now left doing more paperwork to ensure that our products are accepted by our buyers," Heffelmire told a group of visiting journalists. The paperwork for those exporting corn or soyabean to countries such as the European Union, Japan and Korea begin from the farmgate. First, the farmer has to sign papers saying the crop has not been contaminated with any GM material. Then, the silo owner who buys the crop has to give a similar undertaking before the shipper gives his. "We also have to carefully agree on our contracts. We sign in a way that says these crops will conform to norms at the delivery point. The buyers too come here to check before taking delivery," says a corn exporter. The delivery point means the place where the crop is filled in a barge that is sent by river to the nearest port, which in case of places such as Bloomington could be some 750 km away. The barges are tightly sealed and secured from being contaminated by any foreign material. The additional paperwork pays since the importers are willing to pay some premium for ensuring GM-free products. Corn bought by Japan and Korea is converted into snacks, while it is also used for making starch.
"This sort of check and balance has helped in ensuring that our consignments have less contamination. Though our contracts allow for about five per cent contamination and trash, the level of foreign material in our shipments has come down to around one per cent," the exporter says. On the farmers' side, firms such as H&B Specialities have to ensure that the crop is properly insured from contamination by GM crops. "We ensure that there is a proper refuge area or buffer area," Heffelmire said. Corn growers are asked to have a refuge area of 20 per cent. This means towards the end of the area where corn is sown, it is mandatory for farmers to grow 20 per cent non-GM crop at the end of the farm to ensure that neighbouring farms are not affected due to pollination of GM crops. "We have to keep an eye at every stage to ensure that the shipments to our consumers conform to the stipulated norms," said Heffelmire. "But we get a premium ranging between 5 and 25 per cent for the products and growers also benefit from this," he said.
Another exporter said corn traders in the US were now confident of exporting to the EU. "We can meet even a lower level of contamination/trash. But the problem is that the EU buyers demand that these conditions be met at the point of delivery, which we are sceptical of," he said. The problem is because the trash/contamination level could differ from what it is at the point of loading and point of delivery. "It could be higher at the delivery port for no fault of ours," he added. But exporters, experts and growers agree that growing a traditional or GM crop variety depends on what is economically beneficial to farmers.
Biotech crop bans face 'hijack' threat - Keri Brenner - Marin Independent Journal, July 6 2005 - http://www.marinij.com/marin/ci_2842594
Marin's biotech crop ban, approved by voters last November, could be threatened by "hijacking" attempts in the state Legislature that would pre-empt county ordinances, local activists said. "They're trying to sneak it in at the end of the legislative session," said Mark Squire, leader of GMO Free Marin, which spearheaded the successful Measure B initiative last year. "The end of the Legislature (session) is traditionally the way to sneak things in so there's not time for opposition to build or for the public to make a lot of comment." Squire, owner of Good Earth Natural Foods in Fairfax, made his comments in the wake of last week's two attempts by legislators to amend bills in the state Assembly and Senate.
The process of cutting and pasting bills to insert new language is referred to as "hijacking." The amended bills, which are slated to be heard again this week, would remove local government authority over any seed regulations. "We feel it's typical of the way the biotech industry has attempted to market their technology by avoiding public debate," Squire said.
Genetically engineered crops - also called GMOs for genetically modified organisms, or biotech crops - refer to crops in which the DNA in seeds has been altered to add a specific quality, such as resistance to pesticides or disease. Proponents say genetically modified crops - such as some types of corn, wheat, soy and rice - increase farm production and streamline farming costs. Opponents, however, say the biotech industry's interest in the altered crops is financial. If the companies can control the seed patents, they can force farmers to pay for new seeds every year, critics say.
Marin is one of three counties, along with Mendocino and Trinity, with a ban on cultivation of genetically altered crops.
Fairfax Councilman Frank Egger said he will introduce an item at tonight's Town Council meeting to oppose any "GMO pre-emption legislation." He is organizing Marin activists to appear in Sacramento this week to request the Legislature vote "no" on the two bills. "The sneaky move is similar to the pesticide industry's pre-empting the right of Mendocino County to prohibit aerial pesticide spraying after the California Supreme Court upheld their voters' right to that ban," Egger said. "That legislative pre-emption then covered all 478 cities and 58 counties in California."
Squire's and Egger's comments come as a new statewide farm group, the California Healthy Foods Coalition, announced it was forming to provide more public education and grassroots programs on the benefits of biotechnology. "Family farmers understand some people have questions about biotechnology," said California Farm Bureau President Bill Pauli. "Our coalition will provide people with the facts and will support agricultural innovations that will improve the quality of life for California consumers." The group has engaged a public relations firm, Sacramento-based River City Communications, to launch a series of media announcements explaining the coalition's intent and purpose. "California's family farmers serve an important role in providing safe and healthy food to consumers around the world," said River City President Marko Mlikotin.
At issue in the current campaign is a genetically engineered crop ban initiative approved for the November ballot in Sonoma County. Sonoma's ballot measure was withdrawn last year after a technical flaw, but it has been revamped and reintroduced. Farm bureaus across the state - including the Marin County Farm Bureau - opposed the series of biotech crop bans on the California ballot last November. Marin farm officials said even though Marin does not have any biotech crops, they wanted to have the flexibility to use any new technologies they felt could be helpful in their operations. A ban was approved in Marin by 61 percent of voters, but similar measures were defeated in Butte and San Luis Obispo counties. "Measure B won by 61 percent after an open public discourse around the GMO issue," Squire said. "When people have a chance to hear the story, they do the right thing."
Renata Brillinger of Californians for GE-Free Agriculture of Occidental said the legislative attempts in Sacramento were "part of a nationally coordinated highjacking of local democratic rights by the biotechnology industry." Similar laws have been attempted or passed into law in 15 other states, she said. "The measure is driven by narrow private interests seeking to protect their economic stake by convincing members of the Legislature to strip away the democratic rights of their own constituents," Brillinger said. The state bills in question are Assembly Bill 1508 and Senate Bill 1056. Assemblymen Simon Salinas, D-Salinas, and Juan Arambula, D-Fresno, and Sen. Dean Florez, D-Bakersfield, wrote the amendments. "We feel that Marin does have the right to protect our health, farms and environment from GMOs that the state and federal governments regulate so poorly," Squire said. "It is obvious that the federal government, whose job it is to protect us from such risky technologies, is asleep at the wheel."
US says Cyprus ties could suffer over GMO plan - Reuters, 06 Jul 2005 - http://www.alertnet.org/thenews/newsdesk/L06117419.htm
NICOSIA, July 6 (Reuters) - A plan by Cyprus to put genetically modified food on separate supermarket shelves angered the United States on Wednesday, as Washington warned the move could harm bilateral ties.
The U.S. had sent a letter to the Cypriot parliament warning that the move by the European Union country would stigmatise biotech goods and could contravene Cyprus' obligations as a World Trade Organisation member, deputies said. A U.S. diplomat did not deny the existence of the note and said Washington regularly shared views with Cyprus on issues of concern. Under EU legislation, each state is free to display biotech food as it wishes. The bloc has tough rules for the labelling of food that contains genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. If conventional food contains more than 0.9 percent of authorised GMOs, it must be labelled as such throughout the 25-nation bloc.
"We want to put better information at consumers' disposal on what they are buying," said George Perdikis, a member of the Greens' Party which tabled the proposal in parliament. A note which Perdikis said was released by the American Embassy in Nicosia, and which was seen by Reuters, urged parliamentarians to oppose passage of the bill. "The bill is in essence a poke in the eye of the U.S., which is the leading developer and producer of agricultural biotech products," the note read. "The bill is tantamount to a non-tariff barrier to trade in biotech goods and as such is in violation of your obligations as a member of the WTO. It may also be inconsistent with your obligations as an EU member," the note states.
Perdikis, a junior partner in Cyprus's centre-left government coalition, said he came across the note in his parliamentary documents. "This is blackmail. It speaks of harming bilateral relations. It is very serious," he said.
A U.S. embassy spokesperson said: "The United States shares the goal of the parliament and the government of the Republic of Cyprus to protect the health and well-being of all Cypriots but it is of course up to the parliament to decide what laws to pass. "We do however regularly share our views with Cypriot officials on issues of concern."
European public opinion is consistently hostile to genetically modified products, fearing negative health and environmental effects. Advocates of biotechnology say it is safe and will help eradicate world hunger by improving food supply.
Don't Fall for the Hype Over Biotech - Todd Leake - Grand Forks Herald, June 27, 2005 - http://www.grandforks.com/mld/grandforks/news/opinion/11987971.htm
EMERADO, N.D.: Pro-biotech activists such as Al Skogen get pretty frothed up about the alleged wonders of biotechnology. But after 10 years, the real questions are, "Where's the science?" And "Where's the economics?" Are the markets there for biotech wheat? Of course not. Otherwise, it probably would be on the market now. Wheat customers both in the United States and abroad categorically rejected the proposal of genetically modified wheat. Monsanto responded to massive market rejection of its proposed Roundup Ready hard red spring wheat in May 2004 by suspending field trials and withdrawing permit applications. It was the only rational thing to do. Lucky for wheat farmers that Skogen wasn't in charge at Monsanto. Lucky for Monsanto, too. He probably would have run both wheat farmers and Monsanto out of business - and blaming the customers who didn't want the product wouldn't have been much consolation.
Speaking of consumers, their attitudes aren't changing very fast, despite the propaganda efforts of Skogen and others. According to a report issued by agricultural economist Dr. Robert Wisner of Iowa State University one year after Monsanto pulled the plug, U.S. farmers still stand to lose one-half of foreign markets and one-third of their wheat price if Roundup Ready wheat were to be introduced. Also last week, Japan rejected shipments of U.S. corn contaminated with Syngenta Corp.'s BT-10 corn, an unapproved variety suspected of health problems. Many countries around the world have been buying only corn guaranteed free of BT-10, cutting U.S. corn farmers out of those markets and decreasing family farm income.
So, are biotech products safe to eat? There's not much proof - because not much research has been done, and what has been done has been kept secret. Only last week, a British court ordered Monsanto to release a 1,139-page report it kept secret, indicating that a genetically modified corn variety caused disease in rats fed the corn. Hiding research of negative health impacts of genetically modified crops does nothing but instill suspicion of the integrity of the science and public heath regulatory process behind GM foods, and rightly so. In spite of Skogen's claims, no federal agency conducts scientific research to determine the safety of new biotech crops before they are introduced, and that's the way the companies that market GM crops want it. Other independent research also is rare. Two Norwegian researchers published a review in 2003 of the scanty research on biotech safety and concluded that "much more scientific effort and investigation is necessary before we can be satisfied that eating foods containing GM material in the long term is not likely to provoke any form of health problems."
But at least biotech crops cut down on pesticide, right? Not according to independent researcher Charles Benbrook, whose October 2004 report found that Roundup Ready crops have increased herbicide use on corn, soybeans and cotton by 138 million pounds since 1996 - about nine times the 15.6 million-pound decrease in insecticide applications due to Bt corn and cotton.
Most of the hype surrounding GM foods is just that: hype. It is hype to promote corporate products despite the concerns of food safety and the adverse economic impact to farmers. It's well past time for the United States to catch up on the safety and economic scrutiny of GM foods.
Leake is an Emerado farmer and member of the Dakota Resources Council.
Battle Over GMO's Reaches Sonoma Ballot - Jun 19, 2005 - http://cbs5.com/topstories/local_story_170144951.html
(KCBS) - Between the television ads and the billboards, the debate over genetically modified organisms has become almost impossible to miss in Sonoma county where voters will have to decide this November whether to approve an initiative that would ban all genetically modified organisms in Sonoma County. Supporters of the ban - who gathered a record 45,000 signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot--argue that the quality of Sonoma county's agricultural products is at stake. Opponents say the ban is too broad and would have far reaching effects beyond the county's farms. "People know the value of what's grown here," Daniel Solnit told KCBS's Larry Chiaroni. "We wanted to protect that." Solnit is the campaign director for GE Free Sonoma County, the organization that got the ordinance onto the fall ballot.
The Sonoma County Farm Bureau disagrees however, and is campaigning vigorously against the ordinance, which would ban not only genetically modified crops but any genetically engineered product. "The common West Nile virus vaccine now would be prohibited in Sonoma County," said Lex McCorvey, executive director of the Farm Bureau. "Pet vaccines like for rabies, feline leukemia. Those would be prohibited." McCorvey said his organization spent ten months studying transgenic science before coming out against the ban on genetically modified organisms. "There's no question that the potential benefits of genetic engineering, genetically modified products of all types far out-weighed any of the perceived risks that were being suggested out there," McCorvey said.
But Solnit insisted that the long term effects of genetically engineered plants on the eco-system remains largely unknown, pointing out that once modified genes enter the wild, the genie cannot go back in the laboratory. "Once you release these things and they start spreading and contaminating other crops and wild plants," McCorvey said, "you can't call them back. There's no recall." Solnit also said the influence of large-scale agri-businesses on the debate should not be ignored. "The only people who benefit from genetically engineering crops are the stock holders of Monsanto," Solnit said. "It really does nothing long-term for the farmer."
While McCorvey's arguments center around plants, the Farm Bureau focused on other products which would be unavailable to people, such as certain cancer treatments. If approved, Sonoma would become the fourth county in the state to ban genetically modified organisms.
ILLEGAL US GM MAIZE FOUND IN JAPANESE IMPORTS as international talks on the safety of GM crops reach crucial stage - Friends of the Earth Press Release - Immediate release: Thursday 2 June 2005
Unapproved genetically modified (GM) maize, originating from the United States, has been found in shipments arriving in Japan, according to reports . The contamination incident comes as key United Nations negotiations in Montreal, Canada, reach a crucial point in agreeing regulations for a safe trade in GM foods and crops.
Japanese officials said that a shipment of corn from the US was found to be contaminated by an illegal experimental GM maize, called Bt10. The Swiss-based biotech company, Syngenta, admitted in March that it had mistakenly sold the wrong maize to farmers in the US for the last four years . The EU introduced emergency measures to stop shipments of contaminated corn-based animal feeds in April and last week a contaminated shipment was detected and blocked in Ireland .
Japan, the biggest importer of US maize, said that they will now test every shipment for illegal contamination. Trade sources claimed that the shipment is likely to be sent back to the US, at Syngenta's expense.
In Montreal, UN negotiations on the Biosafety Protocol , are discussing the issue of the export of GM crops that are not licensed in the importing country. The talks are at a critical stage with a small number of countries - New Zealand, Brazil, Mexico and Peru - holding up progress that would reduce contamination from GM crops. An agreement is expected in the next 24 hours, despite the huge lobbying by the GM industry for weaker rules.
Friends of the Earth's GM Campaigner Clare Oxborrow said: "The biotech industry clearly needs to be brought under control. Every new contamination incident highlights the urgent need for strong international laws. Unless we have strict controls then the contamination of our foods will continue and our environment will be put at risk. The Biosafety Protocol negotiations taking place in Montreal are key to solving these problems."
On Monday, Friends of the Earth International released a report showing that tougher measures are needed to prevent contamination from GM crops .
 For more information on Biosafety Protocol and the "Second meeting of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety" go to the official UN website: http://www.biodiv.org/biosafety
 The report, Tackling GMO Contamination can be found here: http://www.foecanada.org
UH vows to hold off genetic tests with Hawaiian taro - Researchers will consult with native Hawaiians on cultural concerns - By Diana Leone - firstname.lastname@example.org
Hawaiian varieties of taro will not be used in any University of Hawaii genetic engineering research until native Hawaiians advise scientists about cultural concerns, a university dean said yesterday. The promise is an attempt to stave off controversy and foster dialogue between the university and the native Hawaiian community, said Andrew Hashimoto, dean of the College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources. The dialogue is expected to take place through a process being organized by the Royal Order of Kamehameha on all islands. To solidify the promise, Hashimoto signed a one-page statement about the university's intentions with taro research yesterday at a taro patch at the UH Center for Hawaiian Studies. "We have encountered perceptions in the community that CTAHR's taro research focuses entirely on genetic engineering and that the college sells or gives away genetically engineered taro huli (shoots). These perceptions are incorrect," the statement said. "The CTAHR scientists currently involved in genetic engineering research on taro have no plans to modify Hawaiian taro varieties." The only ongoing genetic engineering of taro at the UH is of a Chinese variety and is being done only in a lab setting, not in greenhouses or open fields, Hashimoto said.
Genetic engineering involves the placement of a gene from one species of plant or animal into a different species. For example a disease-resistant gene in rice could be added to taro. Genetic engineering is much faster than traditional cross-breeding, Hashimoto said. Opponents of genetic engineering worry that open-field test crops could escape test plots and affect native plants or other nongenetically engineered crops nearby, said Kat Brady of the environmental group Life of the Land. But for taro, the cultural factor is an additional concern.
The connection between Hawaiians and taro goes beyond its historical use as a staple food to a "mystical, mythological parable that all Hawaiians are attached," said kumu John Lake, who chanted in Hawaiian, then spoke in English at yesterday's event. "Kalo (taro) is intrinsically part and parcel of Hawaiians and of ohana," he said. In Hawaiian mythology, the gods Wakea and Ho'ohokukalani's first child, Haloanakalaukapalili, was stillborn. When he was buried in the ground, he became the first taro plant, said Nalei Kahakalau, a teacher at the Big Island public charter school Kanu O Ka Aina. The couple's next child, Haloa, was the founder of the Hawaiian people, according to the legend. Visiting students from the Big Island charter school chanted about the legend for those attending the event.
The prospect of genetically altering taro is "kind of scary," said Ernest Tottori, president of Honolulu Poi Co., one of the islands' largest taro growers and processors. For example, taro is known to be tolerated by people with allergies to wheat and rice, but Tottori asked what if it lost that quality under genetic engineering? "You want to be very cautious about anything like that," he said.
Anyone with concerns about genetic engineering of Hawaiian taro varieties can contact William Souza, of the Royal Order of Kamehameha, at 282-6005, or Andrew Hashimoto, dean of the University of Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, at 956-8234.
State Rejects Proposal For Genetically Engineered Algae - Hawaii Channel, May 24, 2005 - http://www.thehawaiichannel.com/news/4527896/detail.html
HONOLULU - A local biotechnology company's plans to grow a genetically engineered strain of algae ran into a roadblock Tuesday. Mera Pharmaceuticals wanted to bring the algae to its facilities in Kailua-Kona, to see if it can be grown in large quantities. The company needed approval from the state Board of Agriculture to bring the algae to the islands. Mera said the algae can be grown to develop therapeutic drugs for such conditions as herpes and tumors. Company officials said it would not be able to harm the environment if samples got out of its facility. "The proof is in the pudding. Algae did not escape and invade an environment. It's very tough for them. It's actually very tough to grow them in large scale," said Dr. Miguel Olaizola of Mera Pharmaceuticals. However, opponents are not convinced. "Really they haven't had a good look yet at whether this can escape into the wild, whether it can survive in the wild, in fresh water, and whether there might be any health or environmental concerns, any impacts," project opponent Elisha Goodman said. The board voted 6-3 against the company's request. Mera has applied to bring seven other algae strains to Hawaii Islands. The board expects to handle that issue at a later meeting.
Leaked Monsanto GM report causes uproar - 25/05/2005 - http://www.foodnavigator-usa.com/news/news-ng.asp?n=60214-leaked-monsanto-gm
Published details of a Monsanto report are at the center of a new storm over whether genetically modified (GM) food could be harmful to human health, writes Anthony Fletcher. Details of the report, published by the Independent on Sunday in the UK, are alleged to show that rats fed the genetically modified (GM) corn MON 863 developed internal abnormalities, while these health problems were absent from another batch of rodents fed non-GM food as part of the research project. The controversy comes as the Cartagena Biosafety Protocol summit meets in Montreal this week to discuss issues such as bulk labeling of GM crops and state liability in cases of contamination. Unsurprisingly therefore, food safety campaigners have pounced on the disclosure.
"Monsanto's refusal to hand over animal feeding studies concerning its biotech corn is outrageous" Bill Freese, research analyst for Friends of the Earth US told FoodNavigator-USA.com. "I think it's fair to ask: Would Monsanto be hiding its safety studies if it didn't have something to hide?" He points out that controversy surrounding the rat study was first broken by French daily Le Monde over a year ago, and that Monstanto is still refusing to release the study in its entirety. Nonethlesess, it appears that this most recent disclosure has hit Monsanto hard. Shares were down 34 cents at $57.66 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Monday. But the US biotech giant insists that it supplied all required information to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) prior to EFSA's 2004 favorable scientific opinion on the company's MON 863 corn. What's more, the company is adamant that there is no new information about MON 863, modified to protect itself against corn rootworm, which has not been submitted to EU regulators.
"That is not the case," said Jerry Hjelle, vice president for Monsanto Worldwide Regulatory Affairs. "Monsanto has provided all required data and studies, including the subject rat study, to European regulatory authorities, and EFSA reviewed these studies before issuing its opinion." Monsanto said that the product, which has been grown commercially in the United States and Canada since 2003, is safe, and that EFSA's Scientific Panel on Genetically Modified Organisms even published a statement on 29 October 2004 verifying this. The company insists therefore that the research does not provide evidence of any hidden dangers in biotechnology, only inconsequential differences in kidney size and blood composition in the animals used. It has also defended its right not to disclose the full study as it "could be of commercial use to our competitors and exploited by others for commercial advantage, if made available." It insists that all the information about its MON 863 maize, which was sent to the Independent on Sunday many weeks ago, is available http://www.monsanto.co.uk/news/ukshowlib.phtml?uid=8846
Monsanto, based in St. Louis, Missouri, is the world's leading developer of genetic modifications for corn, soybeans, cotton and canola. It argues that GM corn resistant to corn rootworm larvae could save US business millions of dollars; the US Department of Agriculture estimates that this pest causes $1 billion in lost revenue annually to the US maize crop. U.S. farmers have largely embraced new bitechnology. But other countries, notably in the European Union, have been slow to approve the products because of questions about how genetic changes in the plants affect humans and animals. Monsanto is still seeking approval to import the biotech corn for use in processed foods and derived food products, but the EU's 25 governments remain deadlocked over the issue.
North Dakota's GMO bill sets stage for 'a fine mess' - By Dean Hulse, The Forum = Thursday, May 19, 2005 -
Janell Cole deserves kudos for her succinct reporting of the 2005 North Dakota Legislative session in the Saturday, April 30, edition of The Forum (A12). However, nitpicker that I am, I feel compelled to point out that Cole shortchanges readers when, under the heading "GMO Crops," she mentions only "lawmakers" and doesn't identify the players behind this particular piece of legislation-that is, SB 2277. Sen. Tim Flakoll and Rep. Rick Berg, both Fargo Republicans, were among the sponsors of this bill, which, as Cole reports, will prohibit cities and counties from enacting local laws to restrict the growing of crops containing genetically modified organisms.
I attended the hearing when SB 2277 was before the House Agriculture Committee, chaired by Rep. Eugene Nicholas, R-Cando, another of the bill's sponsors. Upon opening the hearing, Nicholas spoke of how some states have literally zoned agriculture right out of production. When testifying on behalf of his own bill, Sen. Flakoll produced a colorful map of California, demonstrating how activists have been successful at achieving local seed regulation.
Sounds ominous. But what if the entity wanting to overrule planting decisions isn't a legislative body or a well-established environmental group or even a loosely organized muddle-minded activist organization, but rather, a numbers-crunching, consumer-focused corporation?
Consider: Sacramento-based Ventria Bioscience recently moved its GMO rice operations to Missouri, home to beer giant Anheuser-Busch Cos., which just so happens to use rice in its beer. Fearing that Ventria's GMO rice might somehow contaminate Missouri's conventional rice, Anheuser-Busch - the biggest rice buyer in the nation - threatened to boycott Missouri rice. In the end, Anheuser- Busch and Ventria reached an agreement, whereby the beer giant won't boycott Missouri rice if the bioscience company moves its GMO rice fields at least 120 miles away from the state's conventional rice- growing region.
Consider: In 2003, North Dakota led the nation in the production of hard red spring wheat, durum wheat, oats, barley, flaxseed, navy beans, pinto beans, peas, oil sunflower, confection sunflower and canola. In the case of flax, for example, North Dakota produced 95 percent of the nation's supply.
Now, what if a major purchaser of any of those North Dakota commodities came to the state and said it would boycott our grains or pulses or oilseed crops if we didn't separate GMO crops from conventional crops by at least 120miles?
Based on Sen. Flakoll's and Rep. Berg's role in grinding out SB 2277, I'd feel a bit like Oliver Hardy, and to those lawmakers, I'd say, "Here's another fine mess you've gotten me into."
Hulse, Fargo, is chairman of the Dakota Resource Council. E-mail - email@example.com
May 19, 2005 3:00 AM - A growing stake in the biotech crops debate - http://www.newsobserver.com/opinion/columns/story/2420322p-8797890c.html
By HOPE SHAND - News and Observer
CARRBORO -- Goodness grows in North Carolina? Not if the General Assembly approves bills that would pre-empt local regulations on genetically modified crops and trees.
House Bill 671 and Senate Bill 631 aim to prevent towns, counties or cities from passing any ordinance, regulation or resolution to control any kind of plant or plant pest (including invasive plant species). The bills would usurp local control by making the state Department of Agriculture the only body in North Carolina with the authority to regulate plants.
These bills are not a homegrown initiative, but part of a nationwide biotech industry campaign. Similar bills, containing identical language, have cropped up in at least nine other states as part of a campaign by industry to prevent citizen initiatives like those passed in three California counties last year that prohibited cultivation of genetically modified crops. Proponents of the seed pre-emption bills, including the Agriculture Department, are championing the interests of corporate "gene giants" such as Monsanto and Syngenta - not citizens. Whether you're for or against genetically modified seeds, the pre-emption bills represent an anti-democratic measure to take control away from communities. Just as the corporate hog industry won legislation to prohibit local jurisdictions from keeping out supersize hog farms in North Carolina, now the gene giants are trying to muzzle debate by eliminating options for local regulation of genetically modified crops.
The issue has immediate relevance in Eastern North Carolina, where Ventria Bioscience has a permit to grow an open-air, experimental plot of rice engineered with synthetic human genes (to produce artificial human milk proteins) near the state Agriculture Department's Tidewater Research Station in Plymouth, in Washington County. Two earlier attempts by Ventria to grow its genetically modified "pharma rice" - a crop that yields drugs for use in human and veterinary medicines - were opposed by farmers, food companies and environmentalists in California and Missouri because of concerns that the genetically altered pharma rice could cross-pollinate with conventional rice, thus contaminating the food supply.
Last month, California-based Ventria Bioscience requested a permit from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grow up to 70 acres of pharma rice on two additional plots in Eastern North Carolina. If the pre-emption bills pass, communities would have no authority to regulate genetically modified crops.
Everyone agrees that unintended gene flow from genetically modified plants is unavoidable. The organic food market is the fastest-growing segment of the farm economy, but organic farmers risk losing organic certification, and markets, if genetically modified DNA contaminates their fields. Local governments should have the ability to protect growers who worry about contamination.
The biotech industry and federal regulators have repeatedly failed to contain and control genetically modified organisms. The science journal Nature revealed in March that Syngenta had inadvertently sold an unapproved strain of genetically modified corn to farmers for four years. During that period, 146,000 tons of the corn were marketed as animal feed and corn flour in the U.S., in Europe and in Asia. Syngenta informed federal authorities about the illegal corn in late 2004, but the public and unsuspecting farmers were in the dark until four months later. To keep out the unlicensed strain, the European Union threatened to boycott U.S. corn imports valued at $347 million. As usual, farmers were left holding the bag. Syngenta was let off with a fine. This was not the first time genetically modified corn has entered the food supply. In 2000, Starlink corn, approved only for use as animal feed, was found in taco shells, causing a nationwide recall of food products containing yellow corn.
Eliminating options for local authority over plants/seeds is risky business. The farm biotech business is controlled by five multinationals, the world's largest seed and agrochemical companies: Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Bayer and Dow. Monsanto's genetically modified seed technology accounted for about 90 percent of the total worldwide area devoted to such crops last year. Seed industry concentration means fewer choices for farmers and consumers and unacceptable levels of control over the seed supply.
For all these reasons, North Carolina towns and communities must preserve options for local regulation of plants, and for public debate of genetically modified crops and trees.
(Hope Shand is research director of the ETC Group in Carrboro, a non-profit focusing on socioeconomic impacts of new agricultural technologies.)
Ignacio Chapela wins tenure - Berkeley. Wednesday, 18 May 2005.
Dear friends, dear colleagues,
I am proud to contact you with extraordinary news. Yesterday afternoon, the Dean of the College of Natural Resources at Berkeley communicated to me the intention of our new Chancellor to grant tenure to my position at Berkeley.
This decision is a clear message of vindication not only of myself, but also of the innumerable individual and collective efforts put into this process by all of you. You have generously added your voices to the many questions raised around my tenure review and demanded a process free of conflict of interest or undue influence, and for this I am thankful. I foresee no official recognition of your presence, but you should know that it was precisely that which in the end achieved this result.
As happened two years ago, when I received an important communication once I had decided to bring my office out into the street in front of California Hall, the tenure decision reached me while in the midst of another street intervention seeking to cast public light upon the newest incarnation of the bioengineering edifice. A small number of us have been using our bicycles all week to circulate messages about the hull of the bioengineering building on the Berkeley campus, which will soon reach completion (see http://www.pulseofscience.org).
The cycling has been difficult at times, not least because of highly unseasonable rain in Berkeley, but this has not stopped us from continuing to be present, in the measure that we can, to represent our positions in the face of the biotech dream. We will continue with this event, now in the light of the news about my tenure. Please come to celebrate and maintain the questioning with us..............
Whither my biology
The tenure decision has come in a manner to be expected: during one of the quietest weeks on campus. The significance and implications of this news is only slowly seeping into my consciousness, since I find myself once again in a state of exhaustion while performing in a physically strenuous street intervention.
So it is that I will need some time fully to grasp the new situation, to consider what this decision brings as options, and to restructure my personal and professional life around them. Nevertheless, I must admit to a deep concern that the rare privilege of a tenured position in such a university as UC Berkeley may become a muzzle. I am very aware that becoming a vested member in the club of the tenured could cause me to measure my words and thoughts more carefully. I have seen it happen, as I have also watched the glint in the eye of colleagues dim, as they fitted themselves to the academic cloth. But I have also seen the sharpness undulled in those few among our large number who have maintained a critical and uncompromising engagement with the real, an engagement that is the straw in the shoe reminding them of the privilege granted them through tenure by the generosity of the public, and not by pomp and ritual, nor by autocratic decision, nor by presumed birthright.
I know of no other case where the public's role in the conferring of tenure has been more evident. There is no doubt in my mind that I owe this tenure to you, as well as to others beyond yourselves who, without knowing, have been prodigal in support of a place to think and speak freely. I trust that you, and those who will come in your wake, will help me bear the burden of responsibility to public service that tenure in this university entails. No doubt I will need your support now more than ever.
Tenure should not stop our questioning - yours and mine - any more than rain has stopped our circulation of meaning around and about the bioengineering edifice this week.........
Recall Urged for Illegal Biotech Corn
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - May 11, 2005
Contact: Craig Culp, Center for Food Safety, (202) 547-9359; Bill Freese, Friends of the Earth, (301) 985-3011
Government Must Come Clean on Secret Dealings with Crop Developer
WASHINGTON - Environmental and food safety groups today demanded in a letter to the heads of three U.S. regulatory agencies that the government
remove unapproved genetically engineered corn from the nation's food and seed supply pending a thorough risk assessment. The groups also called for the public release of details surrounding the government's secret dealings with the crop's developer, Switzerland-based Syngenta Seeds Inc. The letter was delivered to Stephen Johnson, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, Lester Crawford, Acting Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, and Michael Johanns, Secretary of the Department of Agriculture.
Several hundred tons of the unapproved Bt10 corn, enough to plant 37,000 acres, were mistakenly sold to U.S. farmers under the name of an approved variety from 2001 to 2004. The resultant harvest of an estimated 165,000 tons have been sold as food or feed in the U.S. and abroad. Syngenta first informed the U.S. government of the mix-up in December 2004, but federal regulatory officials did not inform the U.S. public that they were eating the untested corn until the story leaked four months later. U.S. trading partners were also kept in the dark about possible importation of the corn.
"The potential for yet undetected contamination of other corn varieties via cross-pollination or seed mix-ups means the unapproved corn could persist in the food supply for years," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist with Center for Food Safety and a former risk assessment scientist with EPA. "This happened because the U.S. regulatory agencies have not followed their own risk assessment procedures for allowing commercialization of genetically engineered foods."
Although the U.S. agencies have claimed that the corn is safe, they have not conducted a full risk assessment as has been performed for all previous commercialized genetically engineered crops. "The regulatory agencies have accepted Syngenta's uncorroborated assertions that contamination is not continuing, despite the hollowness of such assurances in the past," added Gurian-Sherman. "If contamination continues, exposure of the public and environment, and the potential risks, would be higher than the agencies assume." The errant corn is genetically engineered to produce a pesticidal toxin in its kernels and other tissues.
The EPA has claimed that the protein in Bt10 corn is the same as that in previously approved genetically engineered corn but has not disclosed the supporting data, contrary to previous risk assessments for genetically engineered foods. In addition, regulation of genetically engineered foods also typically includes risk assessments for environmental impacts and for so-called "unintended effects," or unexpected changes in the crop that are known to occur with genetic engineering that may be harmful. Neither types of risk have been evaluated for Bt10.
"Syngenta's genetically engineered Bt10 corn has not been tested or approved for human consumption anywhere in the world," said Bill Freese, research analyst with Friends of the Earth and an expert on Bt crops. "Plants engineered to produce pesticides, pharmaceuticals, and hundreds of other untested compounds are being grown right now on tens of thousands of acres in the U.S., and our federal regulators seem unable or unwilling to control them."
The prestigious science journal Nature, which broke the story in March, recently published a scathing editorial reflecting the furor aroused in Europe by Syngenta's wrong-doing and the U.S. government's lackadaisical response. The incident has aggravated tensions between the U.S. and European trading partners over controversial genetically engineered crops.
"One would think that given the skepticism over the safety of genetically engineered crops, the U.S. authorities would do everything in their power to ensure the safety of Bt10 rather than watering down the regulatory process," remarked Joseph Mendelson, legal director of Center for Food Safety. "Shortchanging its own regulatory framework is no way to assure the public that genetically engineered foods are safe."
The groups are demanding that the U.S. regulatory agencies submit Bt10 to the full regulatory risk assessment that would usually be performed for genetically engineered crops, perform thorough testing of the corn seed supply to accurately determine the extent of contamination, and remove contaminated corn pending a complete risk assessment process.
View letter <http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/pubs/LetterBt10toAgencies5.11.2005.PDF>
Genetically Modified Wheat Still Risky One Year after Monsanto Shelves Plan - Update Says European and Asian Consumers Still Not Round-up Ready- Tuesday, May 10, 2005
(BILLINGS, MONT.) - Prospects for introducing genetically modified (GM) wheat in the U.S. haven't improved since Monsanto shelved its research and development plans one year ago, according to Dr. Robert Wisner, a leading grain market economist. Introduction of genetically modified wheat in the U.S. still risks the loss of up to half U.S. wheat export markets and a one-third drop in price, according to the latest update of an October 2003 report, Market Risks of Genetically Modified Wheat, released today by the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC). Dr. Wisner is the University Professor of Economics at Iowa State University.
"One year after Monsanto's decision, consumers in Europe and Asia remain resistant to GM crops," said Todd Leake, a wheat grower from Grand Forks, N.D., and WORC spokesperson. "Introducing GM wheat would open the door for our competitors to take more of the export market and depress prices paid to U.S. wheat growers."
The report covers policy changes, trends, and other developments that may affect market risk, including:
* Some European Union (EU) policies on GM crops and food are changing, but so far, consumer attitudes have not.
* Ten central and eastern European nations joined the EU, increasing the number of countries with food labeling programs. Labeling allows consumers in these countries to show their preferences about GM food to food companies, wheat producers and to the seed industry.
* Syngenta is developing fusarium-resistant GM wheat, but will not release it for six years or more. Consumers overseas may be as resistant to Syngenta's GM wheat as to Monsanto's. Monsanto developed GM hard red spring wheat to resist the commonly used Round-Up(r) herbicide. The company indefinitely postponed release of its GM wheat in May 2004, compelled by the market resistance documented by Dr. Wisner's original report. In that report, Dr. Wisner found:
* A large majority of foreign consumers and wheat buyers do not want GM wheat. At least 37 countries had mandatory labeling programs for food with detectable GM ingredients as of October 2003.
* Commercialization of GM wheat in the U.S. now or in the next few years would create a high risk of loss of one-third to one-half of U.S. hard red and durum wheat exports.
* The European market for U.S. hard red spring and durum wheat likely would be lost completely.
* Hard red spring and durum wheat prices could fall by one-third, to feed wheat levels.
* Increased government program payments would only partially offset lower wheat prices.
* Plummeting prices would lead to lost wheat acreage, loss of revenue to farm-related and rural non-farm businesses, and falling local and state tax revenues.
* Market risks for GM wheat are greater than for GM corn and soybeans. Unlike wheat, most corn and soybeans are fed to livestock or processed into oils and sweeteners. The U.S. share of world exports is much smaller for wheat than corn or soybeans, and domestic demand for corn (unlike wheat) is growing rapidly.
* The issue is consumer acceptance. Consumers are the driving force in countries where food labeling allows choice. Governmental approval does not guarantee consumer acceptance.
WORC is a regional network representing farmers and ranchers in Colorado, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, and Wyoming.
CONTACT: Dr. Robert Wisner, 515-294-7318; Todd Leake, 701-594-4275; or John Smillie or Kevin Dowling, WORC staff, 406-252-9672
A two-page summary of Dr. Wisner's latest market risk update, the ten-page update, and Dr. Wisner's original report are available at http://www.worc.org.
AMERICAN CORN GROWERS FOUNDATION RAISES CONCERNS ABOUT LOST CORN GLUTEN MARKET AND LOW CORN PRICES DUE TO BIOTECH BLUNDERING
Washington, D.C., May 9, 2005 - The American Corn Growers Foundation (ACGF) and the American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) are warning U.S. corn farmers that key U.S. corn gluten exports are being lost due to unapproved biotech, specifically GMO (genetically modified organisms) varieties that are unacceptable in various markets.
"Blundering biotech companies and their arrogance toward world buyers and consumers cost the U.S. the valuable, cash paying European Union (EU-25) corn market since 1996, and caused substantial corn export reductions to Japan. Now, adding insult to economic injury, some biotech companies and their carelessness is putting the EU-25 import market for U.S. corn gluten feed and meal in serious jeopardy, with the EU-25 now testing every cargo," says Dan McGuire, CEO of the American Corn Growers Foundation and project director of the ACGF Farmer Choice-Customer First program. "Foreign demand for U.S. corn gluten is extremely important for the economic future of corn processing ethanol plants. The EU bought 5 million metric tons (MMT) with an export value of $403,726,000 as recently as the 1999-00 marketing year. But in the most recent 2004 marketing year, the EU-25's imports of U.S. corn gluten had dropped to 3.6 MMT with a value of only $377,636,000. In the current 2005 marketing year (September through February) EU-25 imports are only 1.2 MMT compared to 1.9 MMT the year earlier," added McGuire.
"Last Friday corn prices were only $1.63 per bu. in both Utica, S.D. and Wayne, Neb., a disastrous price, due largely to the failure of the current 'export oriented' farm policy to deliver on corn exports as promised," said Larry Mitchell, ACGA CEO. "If the crafters of the current U.S. farm policy still believe it is 'export oriented' they should require the biotech companies to get onboard. Biotech arrogance is losing U.S. exports. Maybe those same biotech companies should be sent the bill for lost corn markets, low corn prices and the resulting high cost of the farm program."
Illinois Attorney General Probes Monsanto Pricing - by Carey Gillam - Reuters, 21 April 2005
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Monsanto Co.'s role in the US biotech seed business is the subject of scrutiny by the Illinois Attorney General's office, the agrochemical company said Wednesday. Monsanto issued a statement saying it was cooperating with a subpoena seeking information on pricing and licensing of its genetically modified seeds. The company defended its market activities, which have been the subject of rising complaint as its market influence has grown. "We firmly believe that Monsanto has and continues to compete fairly in establishing the value our innovations are bringing to our seed customers and to farmers," General Counsel Charles W. Burson said in a statement. The St. Louis-based company controls 100 percent of the market for certain specialized soybean and corn seeds that have been genetically modified to help farmers fight weeds, along with more than 80 percent of the market for a corn that resists destructive insects. In all, Monsanto corn and beans strains are planted annually on more than 70 million acres of US farmland. Monsanto's reach has allowed it to implement double-digit price hikes for seeds carrying its technology, actions that have angered farmers. "It has been a sore spot over the years that US farmers have to pay what they do," said Illinois Corn Growers spokesman Mark Lambert. "It is an issue." Indeed, last year Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta, the world's biggest agrochemical company, filed a lawsuit accusing Monsanto of using coercive tactics and unfair bundling arrangements since the 1990s to exercise monopolistic power in multiple markets. Meanwhile, Monsanto has continued to expand its dominance of the US seed industry, making a series of acquisitions over the last several months. Melissa Merz, a spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office, said she could not discuss the subpoena or what prompted it. Monsanto shares were down 9 cents at $59.41 in midday New York Stock Exchange trade.
Japan Wary of Making New Purchases of U.S. Corn - Illinois Farm Bureau, 04/15/05 09:20 - http://ilfb.aghost.net/index.cfm?show=4&id=14047
OMAHA (DTN) -- Japanese importers have nearly stopped making new purchases of U.S. corn due to fears shipments might contain an unapproved variety of Bt corn. Some Japanese purchasers reportedly have shifted to non-U.S. origins for their corn, especially for the food market.
The matter concerns Swiss group Syngenta AG's announcement on March 22 that some of its corn seeds in the United States had been mistakenly contaminated with Bt10, an insect-resistant corn strain that has not been approved for distribution. Japan's rules on genetically modified products would require importers to destroy U.S. corn or ship it back to the United States if it was contaminated with the unapproved GM strain.
Japan imports 14 to 16 million metric tons of corn annually, with 90 percent of that sourced from the United States. U.S. trade officials have traveled to Japan because Bt10 is not authorized for export to Japan. U.S. government officials wanted to ensure that its biggest corn export market had the information it needed on this topic. [!]
The Associated Press/BRUSSELS, Belgium - By RAF CASERT - Associated Press Writer
EU nations to ban suspect corn imports
*APR. 15 9:03 A.M. ET* European Union nations voted Friday to ban U.S. shipments of suspect corn gluten animal feed unless the bloc has full assurance that the imports are free of genetically modified corn. The move could affect millions of dollars' worth of corn gluten exports. The dispute centers on a batch of Bt10 genetically modified corn that Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta AG inadvertently sold in the United States and exported to Europe without approval. "This is a targeted measure which is necessary to uphold EU law, maintain consumer confidence and ensure that the unauthorized GMO Bt10 cannot enter the EU. Imports of maize products which are certified as free of Bt10 will be able to continue," said EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.
The ban will effectively shut out all imports of U.S. corn gluten, since there is currently no effective way of testing for Bt10, which has not been approved by American or European regulators. EU spokesman Philip Tod said Syngenta was working to develop and validate such a test, but they could not say when it would be ready for use. U.S. shipments of corn gluten feed to the EU totaled 347 million euros ($450 million) last year.
The United States said the ban was exaggerated. "We view the EU's decision to impose a certification requirement on U.S. corn gluten due to the possible, low-level presence of Bt10 corn to be an overreaction," said Edward Kemp, spokesman for the U.S. mission to the EU. "U.S. regulatory authorities have determined there are no hazards to health, safety or the environment related to Bt10," Kemp added. "The small amounts of Bt10 corn that may have entered the EU have had no proven negative impact."
The ban is to come into force early next week, pending formal approval by the EU's head office.
Environmental campaigners welcomed the move. "Europe now has a de facto ban on the import of many US animal feeds," said Friends of the Earth spokesman Adrian Bebb. However, Greenpeace warned that stricter controls are needed to prevent more cases of unauthorized biotech imports. "Europe is currently helpless to defend itself from contamination by GMOs that are suspected to harm human health and the environment," said Christoph Then, genetic engineering expert for the campaign group. "As long as EU authorities have no means to test imports for all the GMOs being released in the U.S. and elsewhere, it must say 'no entry' to the EU for any food, feed or seeds that are at risk of contamination."
The EU said it is in continuous contact with U.S. authorities on the issue, but its decision to ban suspect corn gluten imports further strains trans-Atlantic trade relations.
Syngenta said last week it has reached a settlement with the U.S. government over the inadvertent sale to farmers of Bt10. The company said in a statement that under the settlement reached with U.S. authorities, it would pay a fine of $375,000 and teach its employees the importance of complying with all rules. However, the EU has been annoyed that U.S. authorities allowed the export of Bt10 to Europe after it was mixed up with an authorized biotech Syngenta maize labeled Bt11. About 1,000 tons of animal feed and food products such as oil and flour containing the corn are thought to have entered the EU since 2001.
The case has underscored European concerns about biotech foods, coming shortly after the EU relaxed restrictions on genetically modified organisms.
Associate PressCopyright 2005, by The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
EU MOVES TO RESTRICT US MAIZE IMPORTS - FOE calls for industry to pay the costs
Brussels, 13 April 2005 -The European Commission should immediately halt all imports of maize from the United States, said Friends of the Earth today. Late yesterday, European member states agreed unanimously to a proposal demanding that all shipments from the US are certified free of an illegal genetically modified (GM) maize - a de facto ban on the import of US maize-based animal feeds. The Commission is likely to make the decision in the coming days. (1)
The agrochemical firm Syngenta admitted three weeks ago that it had sold unlicensed GM seeds to US farmers for four years. Syngenta has since refused to make public the information needed for governments to test food and feed imports for the illegal GM maize.
Whilst Friends of the Earth is backing the EU proposal, it is urging the European Commission to go further and:
* Immediately halt all shipments of imported US maize food and feed products unless they can be certified as not containing the illegal GM maize;
* Insist that Syngenta sets up a compensation fund to pay for the testing of maize products worldwide;
* Urgently review the EU's monitoring system to guarantee public protection from unapproved GM products.
The incident was first made public through an article in Nature on 22 March (2). Between 2001 and 2004 Syngenta sold several hundred tonnes of a GM maize seed, called Bt10, to US farmers, mistaking it for another GM maize, Bt11. Unlike the Bt11 maize, Bt10 has not been approved for human consumption anywhere in the world. It has been estimated that around 1000 tonnes of the illegal GM maize entered the European food chain and was even planted at test sites in Spain and France.
Syngenta claimed that the Bt10 maize was "physically identical" to Bt11, a view initially endorsed by governments and the European Commission. Friends of the Earth disagreed, pointing out that the unapproved GMO also contained a controversial antibiotic resistance gene, which confers resistance to an important group of antibiotics. Syngenta finally admitted that this was indeed the case (3).
Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: "EU countries have now given the European Commission the green light to introduce strict restrictions on US imports. The Commission must act quickly to protect the public from this unlicensed and untested genetically modified crop." "The failure of Syngenta to provide the basic information needed to test for their contamination is a disgrace. The Commission must insist that this secrecy ends and Syngenta sets up a fund to pay for testing. The polluter must pay, not the public." "The inability of the biotechnology industry to control its own products makes a complete mockery of the EU's monitoring systems. The European
Commission must order an immediate review to ensure that the public is never again exposed to unapproved genetically modified foods."
Contact: Adrian Bebb, + 49 1609 490 1163 (mobile)
(1) Member states met in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health
(2) The original Nature article can be found at:
(3) Bt 10 contains the amp gene, which confers resistance to the ampicillin family of antibiotics. In recent guidance, the European Food Safety Authority stated that GMOs containing this gene should not be approved for cultivation and their use restricted to field trials.
Europeans to Toughen Rules on Animal Feed From US - New York Times - http://www.nytimes.com/2005/04/13/business/worldbusiness/13syngenta.html
By PAUL MELLER - Published: April 13, 2005
BRUSSELS, April 12 - The European Commission said Tuesday that it was drafting stricter rules governing exports of animal feed from the United States to prevent the entry of unapproved genetically modified feed. The announcement follows news in past weeks that an unapproved strain of genetically altered corn seed may have entered the European Union in corn oil, corn flour and animal feed. The European authorities are focusing on animal feed, as they have confirmed the presence of the genetically altered corn in it, but not in corn oil or flour thus far. The European Food Safety Authority, meanwhile, said Tuesday that the unapproved corn was unlikely to pose any threat to health or the environment.
Syngenta, the Swiss agrichemicals company, told authorities in Europe, Japan and Canada last month that it had inadvertently switched two strains of corn seed in 2001. This resulted in its Bt-10 seed, which contains a gene resistant to the antibiotic ampicillin, being grown and marketed as Bt-11, a nearly identical seed that has been approved in Europe and the United States for many years. The unapproved corn was grown in the United States until December, when Syngenta discovered the mistake and informed authorities in Washington. Some of the corn, however, is believed to have been exported to Europe, Canada and Japan.
Europe's food safety agency gave a mixed preliminary view of Bt-10 corn. After examining a different genetically altered corn with a similar antibiotic-resistant gene last summer, the agency said these types of corn should not be sold in Europe. But in its statement Tuesday, the agency said that a similar strain of Bt-10 examined last year showed that corn of this type is "unlikely to alter the existing pool of bacteria" resistant to ampicillin, and that research so far indicated that ampicillin-resistant genes do not spread through pollination from genetically modified corn to normal corn.
Philip Tod, a spokesman for the European Commission, said that the commission would push ahead with the stricter rules as quickly as possible to prevent any more of the unauthorized corn from entering the European Union. American exporters of corn gluten feed for animals would have to provide proof from an internationally accredited laboratory that their exports to the European Union do not contain any of the unapproved corn strain, he said, adding that a majority of the 25 member countries were behind the idea. "There is clear agreement that this is an illegal situation that cannot be allowed to continue," Mr. Tod said. "It's not good enough that exporters from America can't show that their feed isn't contaminated. The burden of proof is on them."
EU set to ban US maize feed after GM scare - Bruno Waterfield - EU Politix
The EU has moved closer to a ban on US maize-based animal feeds after Europe's governments demanded that imports be certified free of unauthorised GM crops. EU member states on Tuesday agreed unanimously to proposals requiring that all corn feed shipments from the US are guaranteed not to contain the unauthorised GM maize BT10. The move is likely to lead to a de-facto ban on EU imports of US maize-based animal feed by the European Commission later this week. A corn gluten feed trade worth Euro 347 million a year could be now be hit after shipments of unauthorised GM crops were exported from the US.
The dispute centres on BT10, a biotech animal feed manufactured by Swiss company Syngenta, sold to the US and exported to the EU without approval. The European Commission is to ask that each shipment is accompanied with an analytical report - a measure that would halt all imports for weeks. "Exports of corn gluten feed from the US which are accompanied by this analytical report would be allowed to enter the EU, but without this analytical report they would not be allowed to enter the EU," an EU source told Reuters. "We're talking about a measure which would say that exports of corn gluten feed essentially should be certified, should be accompanied by an analytical report by an accredited laboratory certifying that these exports are free of Bt-10."
EU health and consumer protection chief Markos Kyprianou has stressed the need for tests that can detect, and thus prevent, unauthorised GM entering Europe. "Kyprianou continues to emphasise the importance of detection methods," said a commission spokesman on Tuesday. Existing detection methods are modelled to test products for authorised GM not unauthorised or experimental crops. "We have detection methods for GMOs that are authorised. We do not have one for this GMO because it is unauthorised," said the commission spokesman.
Syngenta is still developing reliable detection methods for BT 10 and workable tests are not expected for another two weeks. Any possibility of certifying imports would depend on the agribusiness giant providing EU authorities with a BT10 test.
Although just 1000 tons of BT10 affected product was imported into the EU, the row raises questions about the Europes ability to manage GM crops. Brussels is angry over the incident which has damaged the authority of the EU's controversial, and already discredited, authorisation procedures.
Syngenta insists BT10 poses no threat to human health and is very similar to BT11, another genetically modified corn strain - already approved by the EU. Friends of the Earth has attacked the companys secrecy over BT10 and the GM crops antibiotic resistance gene. "The failure of Syngenta to provide the basic information needed to test for their contamination is a disgrace," said a spokesman. "The commission must insist that this secrecy ends and Syngenta sets up a fund to pay for testing. The polluter must pay, not the public."
Busch to boycott state's rice if genetic alterations allowed - Scott Canon - The Kansas City Star, Apr. 12, 2005 - http://www.kansascity.com/mld/kansascity/business/11369865.htm
Commodity-buying behemoth Anheuser-Busch Cos. has vowed to boycott Missouri's 30 million-bushel rice crop if genetically altered, drug-making plants are grown in the state The beer maker, the country's single largest rice buyer, last week told Missouri growers it would not buy their rice if a firm that recently moved from California wins permission to plant about 150 acres of pharmaceutical grain in the rice-rich Bootheel region. "Anheuser-Busch holds the trump card. If they say they're not going to buy any rice if this (pharmaceutical) rice is planted, then don't plant," said Dan Jennings, a grower from Sikeston, Mo., who had previously supported the experimental crop. An Anheuser-Busch boycott "puts pressure on everybody else who buys Missouri rice to defend it." The brewer has long opposed Ventria Bioscience's plans.
Ventria wants to grow rice genetically engineered to produce lactoferrin and lysozyme - substances found in human tears, saliva and mother's milk and used for digestive problems. Currently they can be extracted from mother's milk for up to $30,000 a gram or drawn from chicken eggs with the chance of triggering allergic reactions. The rice is not yet approved for huma nconsumption. Anheuser-Busch contends too many ways exist - from human error to flooding to the movement of animals - for the pharmaceutical rice to invade commercial varieties. "Given the potential for contamination of commercial rice production in this state, we will not purchase any rice produced or processed in Missouri if Ventria introduces its pharma rice here," said Jim Hoffmeister, Busch's group vice president for procurement, logistics and agricultural resources. "It freezes the rice grower in Missouri out of selling to this huge customer," said Paul Combs, a grower and implement dealer near Kennett. "We think it's indicative of the pattern other companies will take."
The beer company is joined in opposing Ventria's plans by the USA Rice Federation, the U.S. Rice Producers Association and Riceland Foods Inc., a farmer-owned cooperative and the world's largest rice miller and marketer. Anheuser-Busch, however, is alone in its boycott. The U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service has said Ventria's plan "should not have a significant impact, either individually or cumulatively, on the quality of the human environment" but has not weighed in on the economic impact. The firm still must get federal approval for its plans. States are consulted during such permit processes, and Missouri has been solidly behind Ventria. A spokeswoman for Gov. Matt Blunt said Monday that he supports Ventria's plans despite Anheuser-Busch's position, saying the "science is sound."
Last year the company decided to move its headquarters from Sacramento, Calif., to Maryville, Mo., to form a partnership with Northwest Missouri State University, which offered free office space and a promise of investment in plant research. The university's president, Dean Hubbard, has since joined Ventria's board of directors without compensation. Hubbard speculated that opposition from Riceland Foods comes from worries that the cooperative won't be able to pay farmers as much as Ventria promises. He said Anheuser-Busch's worries about contamination are unfounded. The university president said any risks - he characterized them as minimal as "anything when you're dealing with nature" - should be weighed against how the cheap production of drugs promised by pharmaceutical rice could save children in developing countries. "What this boils down to is beer or babies," Hubbard said.
The company now has a proposal pending with the U.S. Department of Agriculture to grow its rice in the southeast Missouri counties of Cape Girardeau, Scott and Mississippi - within 5 miles of some commercial paddies. The company chose self-pollinating crops such as rice and barley to prevent wind from carrying the pollen to other crops. The Union of Concerned Scientists recently studied the breeding of drugs into corn and soybeans - soybeans are self-pollinating, corn is not - and concluded that contamination is virtually inevitable. Missouri's rice crop in 2004, nearly all of it grown on 200,000 acres in the rich and soggy soil of the Bootheel, was worth about $95 million to farmers. Those fields sit next to 1.6 million acres of rice in Arkansas - or about half the nation's crop.
To reach Scott Canon, national correspondent, call (816) 234-4754 or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org
Brooklin Votes to Become Maine's First GMO-Free Zone - Voters Cite Importance of Preventing Contamination and Protecting the Environment As Primary Concerns.
BROOKLIN, MAINE - Brooklin voters approved an article on the town meeting warrant declaring Brooklin a Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)-Free Zone. The vote in Brooklin is the 98th resolution opposing genetic engineering to be passed in New England and the first to declare a voluntary moratorium on the planting of GMOs. The Brooklin vote was also the first such vote of any kind on the GMO issue by a municipality in Maine. The article was developed by a handful of local residents who later sought assistance from the six-month old farmer advocacy group GE Free Maine (http://www.gefreemaine.org).
According to Brooklin resident Marilyn Anderson, "Simply stated, this article is about declaring the importance of preserving the environment,human health and food by resisting the irreversible GMO contamination of Brooklin. This approved article is not an ordinance and does not restrict businesses from selling, serving or marketing GMO products, nor does it restrict laboratory research." Anderson and several other Brooklin residents circulated the petition that led to the item being included on the town's warrant.
The area in and around Brooklin has an increasing number of conventional and organic farmers and gardeners and fishermen, providing the community with healthy food uncontaminated by GMOs. The residents voted to voluntarily preserve the lands, waters and livelihoods of these businesses, which are a great asset to their community, and which would be threatened by the raising of GMOs.
The vote was brought to the Brooklin town meeting on April 2 by residents concerned about the legal and economic ramifications if genetically modified crops contaminate local organic or conventional farms, as well as the impact GMO crops have on the environment. "Once introduced into the environment, these invasive life forms can never be recalled," said Anderson. "The purpose of the article was to ask Brooklin residents to speak out about the importance of safeguarding our town lands and waters by not cultivating genetically modified organisms - GMO plants, trees, fish and animals - in Brooklin."
GE Free Maine is working with residents in municipalities around the state to bring the question of how to best deal with genetically modified crops to town meetings. According to Meg Gilmartin, cofounder of GE Free Maine, "Towns have a responsibility to protect the rights of farmers and landowners who choose not to grow [GE crops] on their land. Town meeting is the purest of our democratic institutions, a place where the issue can be decided face-to-face by local residents without the interference of paid lobbyists."
GE Free Maine stayed away from the Brooklin Town Meeting at the request of local residents believing it important that local residents discuss the issue on their own and make a decision on whether they wished Brooklin to become a GMO-Free Zone. The vote did attract outside opponents of the measure. Doug Johnson, a professional lobbyist for the biotech industry and a partner in biotechnology public relations firm GreenTree Communication, attended the meeting and sought to speak. Local residents did not take kindly to this outside interference. Recently- arrived Brooklin resident John Bradford, a former Republican legislator from Massachusetts moved that Johnson be given the floor, but the Town voted down the motion. Several voters stated that, "We are educated and intelligent people - we don't need slick, highly paid corporate lobbyists coming in here trying to tell us what to do."
According to Anderson, "The vote Saturday was just a first step for the State. We are confident that Brooklin will be the first of many towns in Maine to take up this issue, educate themselves on the issue, and take action to help farmers and other landowners, as well as the natural environment, avoid irreversible damage by GMO contamination."
Gilmartin agrees. "GE Free Maine applauds the residents of Brooklin for banding together, starting a dialogue within their community, and considering what actions to take to protect the right of their fellow citizens, farmers and land owners to remain free from genetic contamination. This action will encourage communities around the state to start similar dialogues, educate themselves and take appropriate steps to protect their communities from the contamination and lawsuits that result from these unnatural and unpredictable crops."
A genetically modified organism is a plant, animal or microorganism whose genetic code has been altered by subtracting or adding genes (either from the same, or a different species) in order to give it characteristics that do not occur in nature. Outside of the United States, Canada, Argentina and South Africa, most countries in the world have rejected or placed restrictions on these crops.
The approved article read "Shall the town vote to voluntarily protect its agriculture and marine economies, environment and private property from irreversible Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) contamination by declaring Brooklin a GMO-free zone?"
The Brooklin response: YES!
For More Information contact Rob or Meg and 207-244-0908 or via email - email@example.com or Marilyn Anderson 207-359-4617.
Whole Foods to Label GMO-free Products
NEW YORK (April 5, 2005) - Whole Foods Market announced yesterday that it will begin informing customers that its private-label brands are made with non-genetically engineered ingredients. "We've decided that we're going to take more of a leadership role on [this issue]," Chief Executive Officer John Mackey said at a shareholders meeting here. A coalition of six social responsibility funds controlling a combined $21 million in Whole Foods stock had introduced a proxy ballot proposal to require the company to label its brands GMO-free, but the measure failed to garner sufficient votes. Although the company did not present a timeline, Mackey said Whole Foods would move forward on the initiative despite the failed vote, and was already in the early stages of re-evaluating its ingredient auditing processes. "I think this is a terrific, farsighted act on the part of the company, and we're very pleased that they decided to do this," Shelly Alpern, assistant vice president and director of social research for Trillium Asset Management, told SN. In a review of the company's most recent annual report, Mackey noted that Whole Foods had its best year ever in 2004, with 14.9% comparable-store sales growth leading to a 23% increase in sales over 2003, to just under $4 billion.
Matthew Enis - Supermarket News
Senate passes GMO liability bill - By Louis Porter - Vermont Press Bureau - http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050406/NEWS/504060325/1003
MONTPELIER: The Vermont Senate on Tuesday gave nearly unanimous approval to a bill designed to make seed manufacturers liable for the impacts of genetically modified crops. As many as a dozen senators were expected to oppose the bill, but the final vote was 26-1. Sen. Wendy Wilton, R-Rutland, voted against final passage. But the political wrangling over the bill, which now goes to the House, is far from over and could end in a veto by Gov. James Douglas. And a portion of the bill which defines the extent to which manufacturers of genetically modified seeds are liable for potential harm remains a sticking point. Two amendments designed to strengthen the protection afforded to farmers were added to the bill almost without debate. But the amendment which caused the most consternation and discussion in the Statehouse wasn't even offered on the floor in the end. That change, which hung on a single word, would have removed the "strict liability" provision of the proposed legislation. Under strict liability a seed manufacturer would not have to be proven at fault before they could be held liable for potential damages from pollen drift of genetically modified crops. The change supported by Wilton, Sen. Robert Starr, D-Essex/Orleans, and Sen. Harold Giard, D-Addison, who also proposed the other two amendments, would have changed the wording of the bill from "is liable" to "may be liable"."The dog in this bill is strict liability," said Starr, who vowed to work to change the language in the bill in the House, where he used to be a state representative. Strict liability is "killing a fly with a baseball bat," he said. Wilton agreed. "I thought long and hard about what I was going to do," she said. "It's the strict liability provision that is most damaging."
If strict liability remains in the bill, Agriculture Secretary Steve Kerr said he will recommend to Douglas that he veto the bill. "The governor shares the concerns that have been articulated by Secretary Kerr," said Douglas spokesman Jason Gibbs. "The governor is hopeful we will be able to reach a compromise before the bill arrives on his desk." Strict liability is typically used with chemicals and products which are known to be abnormally dangerous, Kerr said, and that claim has not even been discussed this year during the debate over the genetically modified seed bill. Pesticides, which are known to be dangerous, are not governed under strict liability, he said.
Amy Shollenberger, policy director for Rural Vermont, said strict liability was the only way to ensure that seed manufactures, not farmers, were liable for the impact of genetically modified crops. "It's the only way to get it off their backs and establish a clear course of action," she said. "The fundamental part of the strict liability is to have the responsibility lie where it belongs," said Senate President Pro Tem Peter Welch, D-Windsor.
Seed manufacturers who will reportedly not sell their products in Vermont if the bill passes may have been responsible for the nearly unanimous vote, senators said. "Some of the manufacturers made threats that undermined their arguments," Welch said. Sen. John Campbell, D-Windsor, was even more direct. "I don't take well to threats from international companies that don't want to come into the state and compete on a level playing field," he said. "It's not acceptable."
Contact Louis Porter at firstname.lastname@example.org
US officials fret over South Korea's response to GM corn mix-up - 3/31/2005 - http://www.soyatech.com/bluebook/news/viewarticle.ldml?a=20050331-3
Nikkei English News via NewsEdge Corporation : WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--U.S. industry and government officials say they are concerned South Korea may disrupt corn trade by requiring testing for an unapproved biotech strain produced in the U.S. over the past four years. Switzerland's Syngenta AG (SYT) announced last week it inadvertently sold a limited amount of the unapproved Bt10 corn seed instead of the approved Bt11 to U.S. farmers who planted it on 37,000 acres from 2001 through 2004. U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, who asked not to be named, said since Syngenta's announcement, South Korea has brought up testing as a possible regulatory response. A senior USDA official, when asked about trade implications from Bt10 corn, said: "This could be a problem."
Reports from private analysts in South Korea said the country's Food and Drug Administration, or KFDA, is looking into how it can test corn imports for Bt10. And Syngenta has mobilized, sending top level representatives to Seoul. Syngenta spokeswoman Sarah Hull confirmed that Paul Tenning, head of the company's global biotech regulatory compliance division, has been sent there.
South Korea imported 148.7 million bushels of U.S. corn in the 2003-04 marketing year, making it the sixth largest foreign market for U.S. corn, according to data compiled by the National Corn Growers Association. USDA officials said it is still too early to know how South Korea or Japan, the largest foreign market for U.S. corn, will respond to the commercialization of the unapproved biotech strains here. USDA spokesman Ed Loyd said Japan, South Korea and other countries just learned of the unapproved biotech corn production here on March 21. Syngenta informed the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration in December that the company discovered it had accidentally been selling the experimental and unapproved Bt10 corn seed to farmers. A senior USDA official said "both Japan and Korea are looking at their options," but stressed no decisions have been announced on how they will implement their domestic regulations. "We have been having an ongoing exchange of information. They've been asking questions. We've been providing answers."
The only reaction so far from Japanese government officials has been to seek assurances there will be no more Bt10 in the U.S. corn supply and to request more information about Bt10 from Syngenta and the U.S. Nathan Danielson, biotech director for the National Corn Growers Association, said the question of how Japan will react has some analysts "sitting here waiting and holding our breath." The USDA, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food and Drug Administration were quick to declare last week: "The genetically engineered proteins in Bt10 corn are identical to those in the Bt11 strain, which is another genetically engineered corn strain that has been approved for use. Bt10 corn meets EPA's current health-based regulatory food safety standards, and the existing food safety clearance for Bt11 applies to Bt10."
Syngenta officials stressed that not only have they destroyed or isolated all the remaining unapproved Bt10 seed, but the likelihood that the corn produced from it over the past four years made it into exports was very small. Despite the company's promises and U.S. government reassurances, Syngenta is still being investigated for violating USDA and EPA regulations. Syngenta has not asked for approval of its Bt10 corn from the USDA or EPA, spokespersons for those agencies and Syngenta said.
By Bill Tomson, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-646-0088; email@example.com - Copyright ©2005 Nihon Keizai Shimbun America, Inc.
GMO CROP SCANDAL - TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE - Commission only acts after 10 days
Brussels, 1 April 2005 - Friends of the Earth today criticised the European Commission for doing too little, too late, about the illegal import into the
EU of unapproved genetically modified (GM) maize. It is ten days since Swiss-based Syngenta announced that it had inadvertently sold hundreds of tonnes of the unapproved GM corn to US farmers for four years. The Commission confirmed today that around 1000 tonnes of the illegal GM maize
has entered the European food chain and some was planted at tests sites in Spain and France. The Commission has now written to the United States and to the GM company for more information.
The incident was first made public through an article in Nature on March 22. The article revealed that, between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta produced and sold several hundred tonnes of a GM corn, called Bt10, which contains an insecticide. The corn has not been approved for human consumption anywhere worldwide. According to the article, Syngenta and the US Government were in
discussions since last year over what should be done about the error, and how and when information should be released to the public.
Initially Syngenta claimed that the maize was "physically identical" to a GMO maize already approved, called bt11, a view mimicked by the Commission. However, Friends of the Earth disagreed, pointing out that the unapproved
GMO also contained a controversial antibiotic resistant gene, which confers resistance to an important groups of antibiotics. This week, Syngenta finally admitted this was the case. (1)
Adrian Bebb, GM campaigner for Friends of the Earth said: "The European Commission's response is too little and too late. For ten days they haven't taken action, even though it was public knowledge that a food unapproved for human consumption had entered the European food chain. The public expects and deserves better. The Commission must now get back into control and demand that any illegal foods are immediately removed from the
Contact: Adrian Bebb, + 49 1609 490 1163 (mobile)
The original Nature article can be found at:
1. Bt 10 contains the amp gene, which confers resistance to the ampicillin family of antibiotics. In recent guidance, the European Food Safety Authority stated that GMOs containing this gene should not be approved for cultivation and their use restricted to field trials.
US launches probe into sales of unapproved transgenic corn - Colin Macilwain - NATURE, 22 March 2005 http://www.nature.com/news/2005/050321/full/nature03570.html
Syngenta admits 150 square kilometres accidentally sown with wrong seeds.
Some US corn fields have been sown with a different transgenic strain to the one that was approved. PunchstockA strain of genetically modified corn that does not have regulatory approval has been distributed by accident over the past fouryears, Nature has learned. Syngenta, one of the world's largest agricultural biotechnology companies, revealed the mistake to US regulators at the end of last year. Although the crop is believed to be safe, the fact that it was sold for years by accident raises serious questions about how carefully biotechnology firms are controlling their activities, critics say.
The corn (maize) was modified with a gene from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), which is inserted into the crop to act as a pesticide. Syngenta has approval to sell a variety of the transgenic crop called Bt11, which has been used successfully for many years in the United States and elsewhere. The strain has been approved for consumption in the European Union, for example, and may be one of the first food crops approved for cultivation there. But between 2001 and 2004, Syngenta inadvertently produced and distributed several hundred tonnes of Bt10 corn - a different genetic modification that has not been approved. Since the release was discovered in late 2004, US government scientists have assessed the Bt10 corn - which differs from Bt11 by only a handful of nucleotides on a section of the gene that does not code for the protein toxin - and have concluded that it is safe to eat and poses no environmental threat.
"What makes this somewhat unique is that Bt10 and Bt11 are physically identical and the proteins are identical," says Jeff Stein, head of regulatory affairs at Syngenta in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina. Sarah Hull, a spokeswoman for the company in Washington DC, adds that Syngenta promptly reported the mistake to regulators after the discovery. She says this shows that the system is working as it should do. Company officials also note that the release was relatively small. About 150 square kilometres of the crop was planted over the four years, they say, which is 0.01% of all corn planted in the United States during that period. As Bt corn seed has to be bought every year, rather than being gathered from the previous year's crop, the problem should not escalate.
Hard to swallow
But Michael Rodemeyer, director of the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, a think-tank in Washington DC, says that the release reflects the absence of a thorough monitoring system for genetically modified products in the US food supply. "This will raise questions in the minds of countries that import food from the United States about
whether we have adequate controls in place," Rodemeyer says. "It will provide ammunition for critics of genetically modified food - and it may provide incentives for countries to look at non-genetically modified varieties."
Syngenta discovered the mistake when one of its seed manufacturers, which was attempting to use the corn seeds in plant-breeding experiments, informed it that the seed was not Bt11. Syngenta then told the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration and the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which are jointly responsible for approving genetically modified crops. Regulators and the company have since been involved in months of discussions over what should be done about the error, and how and when information should be released to the public.
White House officials have also been involved in these sensitive talks, partly because the United States and the European Union are locked in a fierce trade dispute over whether tough European rules to trace the flow of genetically modified crops are scientifically necessary. Syngenta officials declined to list the countries that accidentally received the Bt10 seed.
In a statement released to Nature on 14 March, the EPA says that regulatory agencies are "conducting investigations to determine the circumstances surrounding and extent of any violations of relevant laws and regulations". The EPA says that it is investigating whether the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act has been breached, and that the USDA is looking at possible violations of the Plant Protection Act. "The US government is also communicating with our major trading partners to ensure they understand there are no food safety or environmental concerns," it adds.
The last major, unintended release of a genetically modified crop in the United States occurred in 2000, when a Bt corn known as StarLink was inadvertently planted for human consumption. Because of possible allergic reactions, StarLink had been approved for use only in animal feed. Recall of StarLink corn cost the food industry an estimated US$1 billion, according to Rodemeyer, and lent impetus to global concerns about the safety of genetically modified food.
A Center for Food Safety Call to Action
Labeling genetically engineered foods is in the hands of your representative. Contact your rep today: http://www.house.gov/writerep
Representative Dennis Kucinich is preparing to introduce the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act of 2005 before the U.S. House of Representatives. This bill would provide for the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Currently consumers do not have a choice as the whether or not to eat genetically engienered foods as they are not labeled. Up to 80% of the processed food on supermarket shelves contains genetically engineered ingredients.
Please send an instant e-mail AND print out a form letter and mail it by U.S. postal service to your House Representative. To participate in this high priority ACTION ALERT, please visit: http://www.thecampaign.org/alert_co_sponsors.php
Please be aware that a form letter mailed to your House Representative will have much more impact than an e-mail. Members of Congress get thousands of e-mails each week, but relatively few letters by U.S. mail.
E-mail is quick and easy, but you may not receive a written postal response to your e-mail. On the other hand, mailing a form letter to your House Representative by the U.S. postal service will usually result in you receiving a written response back in the mail. So please take the extra time to print out the letter and spend the 37 cents to mail it to your House Representative.
WANT TO DO MORE? Print out 10 extra form letters for your local House Representative and get 10 of your friends, co-workers and neighbors to sign them. Or set up a table at a public event and you can probably get 100 letters signed in a single afternoon. You can mail them to your House Representative all together in a single envelope. Or spread out the mailings to your House Representative by sending five letters one day, five more a few days later, etc. It is amazing how many letters a few dedicated activists can generate in a few short weeks when they put their mind to it.
The text of the e-mail is posted below. Thanks for taking part in this important ACTION ALERT:
Dear Representative ___________________,
Representative Dennis Kucinich (OH-10th) will soon introduce the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act of 2005 before the 109th Congress. I am writing you now to ask you to become a co-sponsor at the time of introduction in order to get maximum support for this important consumer legislation.
It is shocking that the FDA considers genetically engineered foods "substantially equivalent" to non-genetically engineered foods. Genetically engineered crops contain antibiotic-resistant marker genes, viral promoters and foreign proteins never before consumed by humans. These are not found in crops produced through normal means of hybridization.
Further, the FDA is not testing these products itself. The agency is relying on edited summaries provided by the very companies that have a financial interest in bringing these biotech crops to market. And under current FDA law, the companies are not even required to provide summaries!
Labeling is essential for me to choose whether or not I want to consume genetically engineered foods. Genetically engineered foods are required to be labeled in the European Union nations, plus Japan, China, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries around the world. As an American, I firmly believe I should also have that right to know if my foods have been genetically engineered.
A poll released July 15, 2003 by ABC News found that 92 percent of the American public wants the federal government to require mandatory labeling on genetically modified foods. The figure was 93 percent in a poll ABC News conducted in 2001, so support for mandatory labeling is strong and consistent. As ABC News stated, "Such near-unanimity in public opinion is rare."
Please contact Representative Kucinich's office and let him know you wish to co-sponsor the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act of 2005.
Thank you for your time and understanding the importance of this issue.
Your Name Here
City, State, Zip
To support the important work of The Center for Food Safety click here: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/support_cf.cfm
Center for Food Safety - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE January 13, 2005 - CONTACT: Craig Culp, CFS, (202) 547-9359, (301) 509-0925 (mobile),
Monsanto Assault on U.S. farmers detailed in new report
First-of-its-Kind Analysis Reveals Thousands of Monsanto Investigations, Dozens of Lawsuits and a Number of Bankruptcies
Toll-Free Hotline Established for Farmers Facing Lawsuits or Threats from Monsanto to Get Guidance and Referrals
WASHINGTON - The Center for Food Safety released today an extensive review of Monsanto's use and abuse of U.S. patent law to control the usage of staple crop seeds by U.S. farmers. The Center (CFS) launched its investigation to determine the extent to which American farmers have been impacted by litigation arising from the use of patented genetically engineered crops. Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers details the results of this research, discusses the ramifications for the future of farming in the U.S. and outlines policy options for ending the persecution of America's farmers.
"These law suits and settlements are nothing less than corporate extortion of American farmers," said Andrew Kimbrell executive Director of CFS. "Monsanto is polluting American farms with its genetically engineered crops, not properly informing farmers about these altered seeds, and then profiting from its own irresponsibility and negligence by suing innocent farmers. We are committed to stopping this corporate persecution of our farmers in its tracks."
The report finds that, in general, Monsanto's efforts to prosecute farmers can be divided into three stages: investigations of farmers; out-of-court settlements; and litigation against farmers Monsanto believes are in breach of contract or engaged in patent infringement. CFS notes in the report that, to date, Monsanto has filed 90 lawsuits against American farmers in 25 states that involve 147 farmers and 39 small businesses or farm companies. Monsanto has set aside an annual budget of $10 million dollars and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers.
"Monsanto would like nothing more than to be the sole source for staple crop seeds in this country and around the world," said Joseph Mendelson, CFS legal director. "And it will aggressively overturn centuries-old farming practices and drive its own clients out of business through lawsuits to achieve this goal."
The largest recorded judgment CFS has found thus far in favor of Monsanto as a result of a farmer lawsuit is $3,052,800.00. Total recorded judgments granted to Monsanto for lawsuits amount to $15,253,602.82. Farmers have paid a mean of $412,259.54 for cases with recorded judgments. Many farmers have to pay additional court and attorney fees and are sometimes even forced to pay the costs Monsanto incurs while investigating them.
"Monsanto is taking advantage of farmers with their marketing and their threats and lawsuits," said Rodney Nelson, a North Dakota farmer sued by Monsanto. "It's hard enough to farm as it is. You don't need a big seed supplier trying to trip you up and chase you down with lawyers." Farmers even have been sued after their fields were contaminated by pollen or seed from a previous year's crop has sprouted, or "volunteered," in fields planted with non-genetically engineered varieties the following year; and when they never signed Monsanto's Technology Agreement but still planted the patented crop seed. In all of these cases, because of the way patent law has been applied, farmers are technically liable. It does not appear to matter if the use was unwitting or if a contract was never signed.
Various policy options supported by CFS include passing local and state-wide bans or moratoriums on plantings of genetically engineered crops; amending the Patent Act so that genetically engineered plants will no longer be patentable subject matter and so that seed saving is not considered patent infringement; and legislating to prevent farmers from being liable for patent infringement through biological pollution.
CFS has established a toll-free hotline for farmers facing lawsuits or threats from Monsanto to get guidance and referrals: 1-888-FARMHLP.
A PDF of the report Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers is available to download at http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org
One More California county bans genetically engineered organisms
Defeats of Butte and SLO initiatives will not deter future efforts in others - Californians for GE-Free Agriculture, Nov 4, 2004
Residents in four California Counties - Butte, San Luis Obispo, Marin and Humboldt - went to the polls to vote on initiatives that ban the countywide planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops and other organisms. Marin County successfully passed an initiative with 62% support. In Humboldt, 35% of voters supported the ban despite the fact that advocates of the measure withdrew their own support of the initiative several weeks ago after discovering legal problems with the language, indicating the likelihood that legislation will pass there in the future. In both San Luis Obispo and Butte, the measures failed to garner majority support, but gathered 41% and 40% of the vote despite being significantly outspent by agribusiness opponents such as the Farm Bureau...............................................
Report could put a crimp in corn exports - Chicago Tribune, September 29, 2004 - By Hugh Dellios
MEXICO CITY - Even before its release, a report addressing the potential impact of genetically altered U.S. corn exports to Mexico has stirred up a dust devil of controversy, including fears that the Bush administration is trying to bury it. The report by a group of distinguished scientists and policy experts urges caution in trade policies that send millions of tons of corn to Mexico from Illinois and other states, including a recommendation to grind it up first. The report also could influence a global debate over the safety of modified food. Originally scheduled to be made public in June, the report has not been released. Last week, the agency managing the report, the North American Commission for Environmental Cooperation, handed it privately to the U.S., Mexican and Canadian governments, which have 60 days to decide whether it should be published at all. The delay has angered the study's authors and environmentalists, some of whom allege that U.S. officials have pressured the CEC, a watchdog agency associated with the North American Free Trade Agreement, to keep the report under wraps. The critics note that the 60-day period could postpone the report's release until after the November presidential election, when votes from corn-farming states such aslike Iowa will be crucial.
"This is totally unacceptable," said Jose Sarukhan, a prominent ecology professor at the Autonomous National University of Mexico and chairman of the expert panel. "Surely [U.S. officials] don't like it, but it is the same report they didn't like three months ago." Sarukhan said he planned to consult with the other panelists to see whether they would consider releasing the report independently. U.S. officials dismiss suggestions of undue pressure. But they and Canadian officials have strongly criticized the quality of the science used in the report and say it goes beyond its original ecological scope. Industry groups have made the same criticisms. "We want to make sure that any recommendations in the report are fully supported by science," said Richard Hood, a spokesman for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. "As the process allows, we raised concerns. That's been responsible for the length of the process, not us delaying anything." Hood said the CEC rules are "pretty flexible" and that U.S. officials will take longer than 60 days if they need it. According to an EPA letter to the CEC in July, the draft report recommended that U.S. corn imports be "milled immediately upon entry into Mexico." That would ensure that local farmers could not plant it and spread the modified genes but it would be very expensive and "a significant barrier to trade," the letter said.
The draft report also recommended that Mexico reinforce a national ban on planting and experimenting with modified corn and educate peasant farmers not to plant it, the EPA letter said. This year the U.S. is expected to export 6.3 million metric tons of corn to Mexico. The majority is shipped by companies like Archer Daniels Midland in the Midwest and as much as half contains modified genes created by companies like St. Louis-based Monsanto. The vast majority is for animal feed, not for planting or human consumption. But lab-modified genes recently have been found growing inexplicably in homegrown corn crops in southern Mexico, the home of the world's original corn. "Mexico is a very, very important market" for U.S. corn, said Ricardo Celma, Mexico representative for the U.S. Grain Council, who said any halt in U.S. corn imports would make prices collapse. "It would have a major impact on the Chicago Board of Trade," he said.
Greenpeace and other environmental groups have urged the CEC panel to demand a moratorium on Mexican imports of transgenic corn. They say a ban is needed until further studies prove that modified crops pose no risk to human health and will not displace Mexico's native corn. Industry and government officials say fears about transgenic imports are unsubstantiated and overblown. They say a ban also would be harmful to Mexico's policy of using cheap U.S. corn to improve the diet of its growing population. CEC officials refused to comment on the delay. The commission was established after NAFTA was signed in 1994 to advise the U.S., Mexico and Canada on the effect of free trade on the environment. Its recommendations are non-binding.
Scientists reject criticism
The panel of experts --15 geneticists, botanists and others, all approved by the three governments -- scoff at criticism of their scientific data. Sarukhan, the chairman, said that the report was final in June except for a few minor corrections and that the authors will not accept changes to their conclusions. While declining to discuss the report's recommendations, he said the panel agreed that Mexico should adopt a "precautionary principle" in dealing with transgenics. "We need to proceed carefully, evaluating risks and having monitoring systems in Mexico which do not [presently] exist, in order to be really safe," he said. "On the other hand, we think this is an extremely important technology that Mexico should [master] ... so it can make its own choices in terms of which transgenes and where and how they should be utilized and not just using and importing whatever is produced in other countries," he said. Critics of the delay suggest the reason is that the report could hurt U.S. efforts to overcome concerns that have blocked transgenic crop exports to Europe and Africa. Zambia and other countries have refused U.S. corn as food aid unless it is milled. The Bush administration challenged the European Union last year through the World Trade Organization over the EU's restrictions on importing transgenic products, saying they unfairly obstruct trade. In defending their position, European officials have cited the calls for a corn-import moratorium in Mexico. They hope a separate panel of experts will be chosen to study the issue in that case as soon as November.
Copyright © 2004, Chicago Tribune
Material Risks of Genetic Engineering Undisclosed by Food Companies, Report Says - by William Baue - SRI News from SocialFunds.com - 28 September 2004 - http://www.csrwire.com/sfarticle.cgi?id=1527
"Just as crops require sunlight to grow, investors need the 'sunlight' provided by full disclosure of material risks in order to grow their portfolios,"
Flat soybean yields since the mid '90s, followed by a drastic drop in 2003, have many farmers wringing their hands and some agronomists searching for answers New Farm, 28 September 2004 - Dan Sullivan - http://www.newfarm.org/features/0904/soybeans/index_print.shtml
Weed control could be circle of truths - Eva Ann Dorris - Delta Farm Press, 29 Jul 2004
..When asked what should growers expect in weed control in the next five to 10 years, participants of the 12th annual Mississippi Weed Science Roundtable in Orange Beach, wouldn't offer specific predictions but all seemed in agreement that "resistant" was fast becoming a word growers would tire of hearing. The meeting was held just prior to the opening of the concurrent summer meetings of the Mississippi Agricultural Industry Council and the Mississippi Seedmen's Association yesterday.
A variety resistant to damage from certain herbicides is a good definition of "resistant." A weed resistant to that same herbicide is a bad definition of "resistant."
The Topeka Capital-Journal (Missouri, USA), Saturday, 15th May, 2004 - Seed buying contracts may become state issue
Danny Henley - Morris News Service - http://www.cjonline.com/stories/051504/bus_seed.shtml
Monsanto has the legal right to require farmers to sign purchase agreements, requiring them to purchase genetically enhanced seeds every year. There are those, however, who question that right, particularly when it puts American producers at a financial disadvantage. Russ Kremer, president of the Missouri Farmers Union, which he said "adamantly supports" legislative action on the state level, believes it ought to be a farmer's "God-given right" to set back or save their own seed. "We talk about competing, and family farmers have been given this challenge of competing with our foreign competition. We agree that's fine and dandy if we're playing on a field that's level, and it's not," he said. "This is one of the things we can put into place to relieve the pressure on family farmers who are trying to make a profit. This would significantly impact their bottom line." Kremer isn't alone in believing something needs to be done to help farmers compete globally. "Farmers need the ability to be competitive, not just among one another, but now with other countries as well," said Rep. Wayne Henke, D-Troy. "Independent farm producers are at a completely unfair disadvantage because of this issue -- not being able to save seed," said Rep. Rachel Bringer, D-Palmyra. "I think it's an issue we'll have to keep fighting for until it is resolved."
Mike Frank, vice president of product management for Monsanto, doesn't believe it is a fight that should be waged on the state level. "Why a state-level representative would bring forward that sort of proposal, I just don't understand the logic in that," said the Monsanto official. "A patent law is a federal issue, not a state issue. All of the representatives should understand that. "In addition to the patent laws, we ask growers to sign grower license agreements, which articulates the rules of purchasing seeds. Farmers (purchasing Roundup Ready) will continue to be really clear on the issues, regardless of any proposed legislation being brought forward at the state level. If (state legislation) does confuse, it's unfortunate. It's not our intention."
Others, however, feel that state legislatures are a proper venue for change to be instigated, Frank said. "If more and more states form a coalition, we will see some action taken on the national level," said Kremer, who predicts a "challenge in court is a good possibility" if any legislation changing the current system is passed. "When enough states stand up for the ability of the small, independent farmer to compete fairly, the federal government will take action," Bringer said. "This needs to be driven by the states so the federal government will take action."
Douglas signs nation's first GMO labeling law - The Barre Times & Montpellier Argus, USA, by Darren M. Allen - 27th April 2004
MONTPELIER - Gov. James Douglas Monday made Vermont the first state to require manufacturers of genetically modified seeds to label and register their products. Under the bill, seeds that are genetically altered or engineered must be labeled as such after Oct. 1. Seed manufacturers must report their total sales in the state to the Secretary of Agriculture every Jan. 15.
EU Biotech Labeling and Traceability Requirements 'Will Be a Serious Barrier to International Trade,' Says NFPA
WASHINGTON, 16th April - Commenting on the European Union's new requirements for labelling and traceability of foods and feeds that contain genetically modified ingredients, which become effective on April 18, John R. Cady, President and CEO of the National Food Processors Association (NFPA), made the following statement: "These new requirements establish a serious trade barrier that will keep many U.S. food products out of the European market. European consumers will see such labels on food products as 'warning labels.' ...the traceability requirements are a classic case of regulatory overkill, putting complex and detailed new requirements on food companies, with no benefit - but with added expense - for consumers. NFPA has long opposed these labeling and traceability requirements by the EU. We strongly urge the World Trade Organization to address this issue, and take action to block these new, unnecessary barriers to trade."
GMO ballot measure approved - Associated Press, 16th April 2004 - http://www.in-forum.com/articles/index.cfm?id=56017§ion=Farm
BISMARCK, North Dakota - A ballot measure that would restrict biotech wheat plantings in North Dakota is ready for circulation, Secretary of State Al Jaeger said. Supporters of the initiative must gather petition signatures from at least 12,844 North Dakota voters to put the measure to a statewide vote. They have a year to do so. To qualify for the November ballot, petitions must be turned in by Aug. 4. Karl Limvere, a Medina pastor and rural activist who is chairman of the initiative's sponsoring committee, said the goal of the measure's backers is "to get it on the ballot as quickly as we can.'....Whether we are there for the November ballot is another kind of question,'' Limvere said Thursday. "It will depend on how well it's received, our volunteer force, all of those kinds of things have to factor in. I don't want to get into the business of trying to predict when things will happen.'' The measure would give North Dakota's agriculture commissioner authority to decide whether farmers could plant genetically modified wheat. The commissioner would have to appoint a six-member review panel to study the question, and hold at least one public hearing. Backers of the proposal say North Dakota's export markets for hard red spring wheat and durum would be slammed by the introduction of biotech wheat here, because customers in Japan and Europe have said they do not want it. Monsanto Co., which is based in St. Louis, is developing a hard red spring wheat variety than is genetically modified to withstand applications of the company's Roundup weed-killer.
GE Free VT Media Release: Wednesday 10th March, 2004
Vermont Senate on GMOs: Unanimous YES on Farmer Protection Act.
Vermont Bill is first-in-the-nation to hold biotech corporations accountable for contamination by genetically engineered crops.
Montpelier, VT: Vermont Senators voted 28-0 Wednesday to support the Farmer Protection Act (S.164), a bill to hold biotech corporations liable for unintended contamination of conventional or organic crops by genetically engineered plant materials. This historic decision was peppered by debate on the patent laws that allow biotech corporations like Monsanto to sue farmers for patent infringement who are contaminated with GMO pollen or plant materials. Senator Vincent Illuzzi (R-Essex-Orleans) dramatically illustrated cross-pollination of corn varieties with multi-colored ears of Vermont corn. Today's vote comes after 79 Vermont towns have passed Town Meeting measures calling on lawmakers in Montpelier and Washington enact a moratorium on GMOs, and 10% of Vermont's conventional dairy farmers have pledged not to plant the crops. Vermont joins Mendocino County, CA at the forefront of domestic resistance to genetically engineered crops.
The GE Free Vermont Campaign on Genetic Engineering is a statewide coalition of public interest groups, businesses, concerned citizens and farmers, who are organizing to oppose genetic engineering at the local, state and national level, and calling for a "Time Out" on GMOs. For more information: http://www.gefreevt.org
Contact: Amy Shollenberger, Rural Vermont 802.793.1114;Doyle Canning, GE Free VT 802.279.0985
Doyle Canning - firstname.lastname@example.org - 802.279.0985 - mobile
Judge Allows Antitrust Case Against Seed Producers
New York Times , September 24, 2003
CHICAGO, Sept. 23 - A federal judge on Friday let proceed an antitrust case that accused the Monsanto Company and other big agricultural seed giants of conspiring to control the world's market in genetically modified crops.
A Response To Issues And Values Related To Genetically Modified Organisms: A Statement of the Rural Life Committee of the North Dakota Conference of Churches - March 2003
The North Dakota Conference of Churches and its Rural Life Committee urges persons of faith, churches, public interest organizations and public bodies to engage in a process of discussion and discernment to consider the theological, ethical, and moral principles and perspectives, and religious teachings and their application to the issues of biotechnology and genetic modification of plant and animal life related to food and agricultural systems in this nation and the world.
Humankind was given responsibility for creation and its stewardship. Such responsibility must be considered in the context of the full time span of creation. It must be carried out with deep respect for life and the complexity of ecological relationships among varieties of life forms, humankind, and the environment. Such stewardship requires informed and careful discernment of the opportunities and limitations within the natural order of creation. It must uphold the sacredness of life and creation.
We recognize that the present scientific capability of transferring genetic materials among different species has created a wide range of scientific, social, political, legal, economic, and cultural questions, all of which are integrally interwoven with our ethical, moral and religious values. We believe that rigorous examination of these issues is required. Considering the import of these issues, it is also essential to involve the broad base of all the stakeholders within the world's food and agricultural systems, public policy makers and the scientific and faith communities in the examination of these issues.
The necessary, rigorous examination of the multiplicity of these issues within our society has not kept pace with the development and application of the technology related to genetically modified organisms. We must recognize from the outset that our quest for answers can only be successful if we know the full component of questions that need to be asked. We believe that we have only begun to understand what questions need to be raised. Our purpose is not to construct impossible hurdles, but to ensure that this technology is only developed and applied upon full examination of its implications for the common good of humankind and creation.
We are now involved in the manipulation of life at its most elemental level. Therefore the potentials for both benefit and advancement, and catastrophe and chaos are great. Out of respect for life and creation, we must proceed with disciplines of great caution, intentionality, and patience as we enter this era.
Therefore, we endorse the "Precautionary Principle" as a primary guide in the development, application and expansion of GMO biotechnology. This principle, formalized at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development, emphasizes that the discipline of precaution be carefully exercised to avoid potential harm and unforeseen and unintended consequences. This principle requires that precaution should prevail whenever questions of human and environmental health are involved. It mandates restraint until cause and effect relationships are properly understood. It places the primary burden of demonstrating safety upon the developer. Thorough examination for the potential for harm is a prerequisite in determining and demonstrating such safety.
While we recognize that the "Precautionary Principle" is a different policy and regulatory regimen than is currently practiced in our nation, we believe that it is a discipline consistent with our Christian calling as stewards of creation and advocates of economic and social justice. We believe this principle is particularly applicable to the development of GMO biotechnology.
While "genetic engineering" implies a scientific precision comparable to the construction of a building or other inanimate tool or article, we recognize that plant and animal life is the result of a biological, not a manufacturing process. "Genetic engineering" seeks to establish specific and uniform genetic traits to achieve particular goals. In essence, it is an effort to industrialize biological processes to produce particular traits in agricultural commodities. At the same time the biological process involves the potential of geometric combinations and permutations in genetic structures and interrelationships. While there has been considerable progress in understanding and mapping the genetics of various species, there is much that is yet unknown and undiscovered within these scientific fields about these interrelationships.
Nature abhors uniformity. Through its evolutionary imperative, nature constantly moves towards diversity in its offspring as its means of adapting itself to the environment and securing survival of its species. Transgenic transfer (the introduction of genetic materials from one life form into another life form) brings a new variable into these biological processes within the natural environment. As stewards of creation we must consider how it will affect the evolution of life forms in the fullness of the life span of creation, not just within our limited lifetime.
One of the first questions of further expansion of GMO technology and use is the question of unintended genetic contamination of non-GMO varieties of a given life form and its biological relatives. Once introduced into the natural environment a genetically modified organism cannot be fully contained, nor can it be retrieved. Through the natural processes of reproduction, including pollination by wind, insects, and other means, the new organism interacts within its own and closely related species and with other life forms to produce offspring that may contain and pass on the GMO characteristic.
This is a particular problem for neighboring producers who wish to grow non-GMO varieties for particular markets. For example, organic producers in certain geographic areas have given up growing certain commodities because they are unable to meet GMO-free certification standards. The capability of organic production to co-exist with GMO commodity production is an unanswered question.
Unintended genetic contamination also produces an abundance of legal questions. Since GMO traits are patented, who is liable and who has ownership when unintended genetic contamination occurs? Can a farmer save and grow seed of a genetically contaminated field? Must a farmer pay technology/patent fees upon the sale of that commodity?
Such questions as well as underlying social and cultural issues related to intellectual property rights, particularly in developing nations, require reappraisal of not only of the legal consequences of granting such intellectual property rights, but also the manner and the appropriateness of granting such rights through national and international law. The ethical and moral issues of the patenting of life forms is an unfinished discussion.
When an unauthorized or unintended GMO trait gets into the food system, who is liable and what is the liability? Such questions are just beginning to be considered in national legal systems, and they may have considerable impact on interrelated economic, social, and cultural outcomes.
The potential that a GMO commodity may become the dominant species, either through economic or natural processes, is a matter of deep concern. Within the natural process, the very characteristic that allows a variety to dominate a specie may also become the characteristic that makes it peculiarly susceptible to failure. The domination of any given variety (whether or not it contains a GMO trait) in an agricultural commodity is of concern in food systems since it runs counter to the long-term interests of preserving genetic diversity. The GMO component exacerbates this concern.
The potential that a GMO trait may be transferred to related unwanted species (weeds and regrowth) may make it more difficult to control such unwanted species. This is already being experienced. Just as insects evolve to become resistant to insecticides, unwanted plants will also evolve to become resistant. As such evolution occurs, it will require increased applications of the herbicide and/or new strategies of control.
We recognize that the primary beneficiary of GMO agricultural biotechnology have been the owners and distributors of that technology. The use of agricultural technologies has shifted the returns from agricultural production from the producer to the technology supplier with the result that the producer receives a smaller margin of the food dollar.
The historic pattern of economic benefit among producers in the use of agricultural technology has been that the first users of a technology receive a momentary competitive advantage over other producers. However, once the use of that technology has become widespread this initial competitive advantage among producers disappears. Thus, those who have the financial base to be the first users are able to further expand and consolidate their resource base. Thus the technology becomes a mechanism of further concentration within agriculture.
The primary focus of GMO agricultural commodities has been to enhance characteristics for certain production methods of these commodities, primarily through herbicide resistance to allow for weed control, and toxicity to certain insect pests. Such characteristics have primarily facilitated the production methods of expansive, energy and capital intensive, monocultural, industrialized farming operations. The result is that such farms are able to enhance their industrialized production systems and externalize some of their production costs. While this does not necessarily increase the efficiency of overall production, it does serve to concentrate production and control of agricultural resources into fewer hands, resulting in larger farm operations and fewer farms.
This trend, in turn, has environmental, economic, social, and cultural consequences and implications for rural societies at a time in which public policy directions, especially within the faith community, have sought to encourage more sustainable, and more decentralized agricultural production farming and food systems. We are also deeply concerned by the increasing concentration among agricultural processors, suppliers, and food distribution systems. The structure of agriculture and the food system are critically important within the understandings of the church related to justice for humankind and creation.
While U.S. regulatory bodies have determined that GMO foods are "substantially equivalent" to conventional foods, there is little scientific knowledge or research on the long-term effects of GMO foods on human health and nutrition. Diet has become a major health issue and diet-related diseases lead the mortality rates in the United Sates. We are just beginning to fully understand and appreciate the health implications of our current food system. GMO foods add another dimension to the complexity of issues of diet and health. The lack of labeling requiring the identification of the presence of GMO materials in foods and the paucity of peer-reviewed scientific studies on the long-term safety of eating GMO foods makes it impossible for concerned persons to make informed decisions about their diet.
There are significant interrelationships between food, culture, and faith. The Christian community itself has a deep sacramental understanding of wheat and bread as the staff of life. Societies that have greater food and diet consciousness within their cultural heritage have expressed serious reservations about the presence of GMO's in food, and have either banned, or required labeling of food products. As consumers have become more aware and knowledgeable of GMO foods, there has been a corresponding increase in their concern over GMO materials in their food. Since these societies have been major purchasers of U.S. food production, the extensive presence of GMO commodities in the U.S. food system has reduced markets for producers of U.S. farm commodities. This has the effect of reducing U.S. market prices and reinforcing the position of U.S. producers as residual suppliers in the world food market.
All of these concerns underline the need to exercise the precautionary principle in decision-making concerning GMO research, application and commercialization.
The North Dakota Conference of Churches and its Rural Life Committee supports a high priority for agricultural research for the development of production methodology and technology to provide greater opportunity for more sustainable, community-based agricultural and food systems that practice biodiversity. While recent GMO research and development has not served this research priority, we do not oppose GMO research or development in principle. We believe that free scientific inquiry into genetics and disciplined experimentation are appropriate ways to seek to understand creation. However, the use of such knowledge must be tempered in accordance with moral, ethical, and religious understandings.
As representatives of the church in this primary wheat production area, we believe the precautionary principle would require the application of a moratorium on the release of genetically modified wheat.
We would further recommended requirements to label foods containing GMO ingredients, a review and reconsideration of the issues of patenting life-forms, and a rigorous legislative and regulatory review of GMO commodities involving all the stakeholders.
North Dakota Conference of Churches. Adopted as a statement of the Rural Life Committee of the North Dakota Conference of Churches and affirmed by the following member denominations: American Baptist Churches of the Dakotas; Northern Plains District of the Church of the Brethren, North Dakota Mission of the Church Of God (Anderson), Episcopal Diocese Of North Dakota, Eastern North Dakota Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, Moravian Church (Northern Province, Western District) Northern Plains Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church, USA, Religious Society Of Friends (Quaker), Roman Catholic Diocese of Bismarck, Roman Catholic Diocese of Fargo, Northern Plains Conference of the United Church Of Christ, Dakotas Area of the United Methodist Church.
Contact Information: Karl Limvere, Chair, NDCC Rural Life Committee, PO Box 725, Medina, ND 58467 701-486-3369; email@example.com
INVESTORS WARNED OF 2.3 BILLION DOLLAR THREAT TO MONSANTO: A $2.3 billion hit could be looming over Monsanto, in the form of litigation liabilities, according to analysts, driving the company's shares down almost 6%. Anticipated adverse court decisions would likely force Solutia, the chemical company that was once part of Monsanto, into bankruptcy and leave Monsanto on the hook for damages. http://reuters.com/financeNewsArticle.jhtml?storyID=3216573&type=hotStocksNews
From Ignacio Chapela <firstname.lastname@example.org> Berkeley, California, 26 June 2003 We asked the captain what course of action he proposed to take toward a beast so large, terrifying, and unpredictable. He hesitated to answer, and then said judiciously: "I think I shall praise it." Robert Hass
Dear friends, dear colleagues, Beginning at 6 o'clock this morning, as I enter the final days of my contract as a faculty member at the University of California at Berkeley, I intend to mark and celebrate them, by doing what I believe a professor in a public university must do: to further reason and understanding. For the brief time that remains of my terminal contract at Berkeley, I shall sit holding office hours, day and night, outside the doors of California Hall. This is the building housing the Budget Committee of the Academic Senate, and the office of the Chancellor, the two arms of our university governance in charge of my file. I am saddened by the failure of the administration and the Academic Senate to resolve in a timely fashion whether to grant me tenure at Berkeley. I believe that I have contributed to the mission of the university and my heart and intellect are also vested in its health and growth. All but one of the colleagues who witness my everyday teaching and research in the Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management have repeatedly stated their support for my tenure, and so have a set of external expert reviewers and the leadership of my College. To the extent that reason can assess, I do not know of any other academic information on the case that might suggest that a negative decision should be reached. Yet as of tonight, well over a year into the part of the process conducted in secret in California Hall, no decision has been made, as far as I am aware. I must therefore conclude that there is another set of criteria that counterweigh the strength of the case, but that such information cannot be publically shared. In the face of such lack of transparency and accountability, I choose to hold office hours in public, in the open, and in the midst of our beautiful campus. I do so in celebration of my vocation and my time at Berkeley, and not in the expectation that such an action will change the course of the decision process, whatever that might be. It has been suggested that the extraordinary delay in reaching a decision on my tenure case without ostensible reason may be the result of, even retribution for, my advising our campus, academe, the government and the public against dangerous liaisons with the biotechnology industry, as well as my concerns regarding the problems with biotechnology itself. Without doubt, the uncertainty and reproach implicit in the silence on campus surrounding my case has had grave consequences for my professional, public and personal life. But such are the wages of doing work that has significance for the world, and it will be up to those sifting through the files of this case to discern the twists and turns that brought us to this moment, and to pass the judgment of history on the motives and actions of those involved, within and beyond our community. It is difficult to blame otherwise principled individuals for not voicing their best understanding. Fear is justified when even the president of the country equates with criminal acts any questioning of the wisdom of deploying transgenic crops. Against the desire of some to banish critical thinking from the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, I choose to sit, openly available for discourse, in the heart of our campus. At least one person has said that I should be banned from the academic system, implying that my work harms the public role of the university as a hothouse for the agbiotech industry. Indeed I have long stood against the folly of planting 100 million acres with transgenic crops each year, without knowing even the simplest consequences of such a massive intervention in the biosphere. An increasing number of scientists seem to be reaching the same position. It seems also true that research in my laboratory has prompted serious public concerns that the industry would rather not address. An industry on the crutches of public subsidy for a quarter of a century, an industry that trembles in the face of the simplest token of precautionary research, is hardly an industry that deserves to carry the public trust, much less our best hope for recovery in a flagging economy. It would seem rational that our university - and the public - should strive to keep an independent source of advice on the wisdom of supporting such an industry. Rationality, however, must take a back seat when the university becomes grafted to a specific industry. Such has increasingly been the case at Berkeley and at other universities. At a time of rampant obscurantism and irrationality, I am proud of the privilege vested in me by the public as a professor at Berkeley. In fulfillment of the duty attached to that privilege, I intend to share the light of rationality during office hours over the next five days, together with those who might wish to join me. Fiat lux. Ignacio H. Chapela Assistant Professor (Microbial Ecology) Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Management Logistical details and contacts: I will sit in an "office" without walls. This means that I will most likely not have direct access to an AC electric wall outlet. Nevertheless, I will have a battery-operated cell phone (USA-510-207 7331). My cell phone will need to be recharged occasionally; if you do not get an answer, please leave a message and I will call back. My email address is email@example.com. In case of server breakdown, please use firstname.lastname@example.org - email responses may be delayed for some hours. I will foreseeably be in my "office" 24 hours a day (except for short unavoidable breaks) from Thursday to Monday midnight, circumstances allowing. Three chairs will accommodate myself and two others in this transparent office. Bring your own portable chair if you need to. I hope to be able to offer tea and biscuits, but that is not a promise. These last days have been on the hot side, but with any luck the natural "breathing cycle" of the Bay Area will bring fog relief for at least some of the mornings between Thursday and Monday. At meal times, I will have space for company, although the seating may be less than royal, and the menus are still being planned. Despite President Bush's emphatic demands this week, the House has yet to pass the BioShield legislation, and there may be further delays in the Senate. Nevertheless, I am making efforts to comply with the current spirit on our campus and across the nation by surrounding my office with protective, gray, duct tape, for added security. Visitors from Toronto and elsewhere in the world, please note that I will also have protective face masks and rubber gloves at hand. After midnight on Monday, I will be travelling to the Gen-ecology laboratory in Norway until 22 July. I will be underway for a week, subsequently available via my alternate email account: email@example.com. Please feel free to forward this email as you see fit. I hereby decline all copyright.
(Ignacio Chapela has been the focus of a vicious campaign of vilification, initited by the biotech industry, since the publication of his research http://ngin.tripod.com/deceit3.html He is soon to come to the UK where he will be joining the great debate - Corn Hall, St Nicholas Street, Diss, Norfolk, 8th July, 7:15pm)
11 arrested in protest (24/6/03)
At least 11 protesters were arrested Tuesday - including one subdued with a stun gun - as an international agriculture conference in Sacramento, Calif., focused on genetically modified foods entered its second day. About 70 people have been arrested in demonstrations against the conference since Sunday, but protesters have been mostly peaceful. http://www.rapidcityjournal.com/articles/2003/06/25/ap/Business/apnews66410-05.txt
http://portland.indymedia.org/en/action/sacramento/ - Beauty and fear mark Day 3 in Sacramento - Day 3 of the WTO Mobilization in Sacramento was a day filled with beauty and fear, marked by high energy, resistance, and police brutality and intimidation. Activists released from jail that morning from direct action the night before told their stories and a call went out for solidarity with those still jailed. Cops were everywhere.
Scepticism and opposition is also intensifying in the northern Great Plains over Monsanto's Roundup Ready GM wheat. (see www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dun/articles/A7480-2003Apr21.html