"In a time of universal deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act." -George Orwell

Posts Tagged ‘GMO’

Landmark Study Finds 93 Percent Of Unborn Babies Contaminated With Monsanto’s Genetically Modified ‘Food’ BT Toxin

In Uncategorized on May 27, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Fragile: It is not known what effect the toxins have on the unborn fetuses

Oldspeak:“Surprise, surprise despite repeated assurances to the contrary GM ‘Food’ is not the same as naturally grown food. And it passes toxins to the blood of most people who eat it. It’s too bad these studies weren’t done before much of the world’s food supply was contaminated with this frankenfood. We are all subjects in a vast uncontrolled experiment, and this one is yielding some tragic findings. In addition to carrying a pathogen that causes infertility in plants, animals and humans, GM crops have been shown to be causally related to the significant rises in food allergies, diabetes, obesity, autism,  immune system dysfunction, asthma, cancer and heart disease, low birth-weight babies, and infant mortality. Why are we being fed poisons that have been shown to have numerous negative health effects? We have no idea what the long term effects will be of the fundamental changing of our food supply. But I’ll bet it ain’t none too good. No comment on this in corporate american media.

By Ethan A. Huff @ Natural News:

A landmark new study out of Canada exposes yet another lie propagated by the biotechnology industry, this time blowing a hole in the false claim that a certain genetic pesticide used in the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops does not end up in the human body upon consumption. Researchers from the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Sherbrooke Hospital Centre in Quebec, Can., have proven that Bt toxin, which is used in GM corn and other crops, definitively makes its way into the blood supply, contrary to what Big Bio claims — and this toxin was found in the bloodstreams of 93 percent of pregnant women tested.

Published in the journal Reproductive Toxicology, the study explains that Bt toxin enters the body not only through direct consumption of GMOs, but also from consumption of meat, milk and eggs from animals whose feed contains GMOs. Among all women tested, 80 percent of the pregnant group tested positive for Bt toxin in their babies’ umbilical cords, and 69 percent of non-pregnant women tested positive for Bt toxin.

The only reason many countries even approved GM crops in the first place was because they were told that GM crops were no different than conventional crops. The biotechnology industry has purported for years that the alterations and chemicals used in GM crop cultivation pose no risk whatsoever to human health, and that any GM substances that remain in food are broken down in the digestive system. Now that it has been revealed that such claims are complete fabrications, many groups are urging governments to pull GMOs from their food supplies.

“This research is a major surprise as it shows that the Bt proteins have survived the human digestive system and passed into the blood supply — something that regulators said could not happen,” said Pete Riley from GM Freeze, an alliance of organizations united against GMOs. “Regulators need to urgently reassess their opinions, and the EU should use the safeguard clauses in the regulations to prevent any further GM Bt crops being cultivated or imported for animal feed or food until the potential health implications have been fully evaluated.”

Most of the studies that have been used to validate the safety of GMOs have been conducted by the companies that created them in the first place, so they are hardly a credible source for reliable safety data. Governments in North and South America, as well as throughout Europe, have essentially welcomed GMOs into the food supply based on flimsy reassurances rather than sound science.

Related Stories:

Monsanto Shifts ALL Liability to Farmers For Losses, Injury, Damages from Monsanto Seeds

 GM food toxins found in the blood of 93% of unborn babies

USDA Approved Monsanto Alfalfa Despite Warnings Of New Infertility Causing Pathogen Discovered In Genetically Engineered Crops

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2011 at 2:39 pm

Oldspeak: “Now we learn we’ll all be eating, via our genetically contaminated livestock, “organic” crops and unlabeled GM food crops in very high concentrations, a pathogen that is believed to cause infertility and have significant impact on ” the health of plants, animals and probably humans.”  Behold the fruits of deregulation and regulatory agency capture. In a case of  life imitating art, a world like that depicted in “Children Of Men”soon come.”I wonder why if Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide has been shown to weaken plants natural defenses, be less and less effective over time, eventually giving rise to “superweeds” resistant to Roundup, and could itself be a promoter or co-factor of this deadly pathogen in our food, what are the real reasons for its continued use? We know the top one is profit…but what are the others?! I shudder to think.

By Mike Ludwig @ Truthout:

Just two weeks before the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) fully deregulated Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa, a senior soil scientist alerted the department about a newly discovered, microscopic pathogen found in high concentrations of Roundup Ready corn and soy that researchers believe could be causing infertility in livestock and diseases in crops that could threaten the entire domestic food supply.

Dr. Don Huber, a plant pathologist and retired Purdue University professor, wrote in a letter to the USDA that the pathogen is new to science and appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals and probably humans.

“For the past 40 years, I have been a scientist in the professional and military agencies that evaluate and prepare for natural and manmade biological threats, including germ warfare and disease outbreaks,” Huber wrote in his January 16letter to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack. “Based on this experience, I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency.”

Huber called for an immediate moratorium on approvals of Roundup Ready crops, but on January 27, the USDA fully deregulated Roundup Ready alfalfa after nearly five years of legal battles with farmers and environmental groups. The USDA partially deregulated Roundup Ready sugar beats on February 4.

The pathogen is about the size of a virus and reproduces like a micro-fungal organism. According to Huber, the organism may be the first micro-fungus of its kind ever discovered, and there is evidence that the infectious pathogen causes diseases in both plants and animals, which is very rare.

The pathogen is prevalent in soy crops suffering from a disease called sudden death syndrome and corn crops suffering from goss’ wilt disease.

Laboratory tests show that the pathogen is present in a “wide variety” of livestock suffering from infertility and spontaneous abortions. Huber warned that the pathogen could be responsible for reports of increased infertility rates in dairy cows and rates of spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45 percent.

Huber is concerned that the pathogen could be spreading because of overreliance on Monsanto’s Roundup Ready crops systems, which have come todominate American agribusiness during the past decade.

Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn, soy, cotton and alfalfa are genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate-base herbicides like Monsanto’s Roundup. Farmers can blanket fields of Roundup Ready crops with glyphosate knowing that unwanted weeds will be killed and the genetically engineered crops will not.

“We are informing the USDA of our findings at this early stage, specifically due to your pending decision regarding approval of alfalfa,” Huber wrote. “Naturally, if either the Roundup Ready gene or Roundup itself is a promoter or co-factor of this pathogen, then such approval could be a calamity.”

Critics like Huber have long criticized glyphosate products like Roundup for weakening crops’ natural defense systems and promoting the spread of glyphosate-resistant “superweeds” that have developed their own tolerance to glyphosate and infested millions of acres of farmland in the US alone.

“We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders,” Huber wrote. “This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.”

Huber is a longstanding critic of biotech crops and coordinates a committee of the American Phytopathological Society as part of the USDA National Plant Disease Recovery System.


Monsanto Shifts ALL Liability to Farmers For Losses, Injury, Damages from Monsanto Seeds

In Uncategorized on February 25, 2011 at 12:33 pm

Oldspeak:” So Monsanto gets to sell seed that has demonstrably deleterious effects on the environment as well as the animals and humans that consume what grows out of their seeds. And they have the gall to draw up binding contracts that make farmers the only parties liable for all the destruction caused by Monsanto seed. Monsanto’s products can contaminate organic crops, cost organic farmers their livelihoods and then Monsanto can turn around and sue organic farmers for unauthorized use of their seed. Why are corporations the only “persons” allowed under law to externalize costs/damage/liability, sell dangerous products, and internalize all the profits/benefits from those sales? In Monsanto’s case it helps to have a regulatory agency chock full of former employees.”  :-|

By Cassandra Anderson @ MORPcity:

armers like genetically modified (GM) crops because they can plant them, spray them with herbicide and then there is very little maintenance until harvest. Farmers who plant Monsanto’s GM crops probably don’t realize what they bargain for when they sign the Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement contract. One farmer reportedly ‘went crazy’ when he discovered the scope of the contract because it transfers ALL liability to the farmer or grower.

Here is the paragraph that defines Monsanto’s limit of liability that shifts it to the farmer:

“GROWER’S EXCLUSIVE LIMITED REMEDY: THE EXCLUSIVE REMEDY OF THE GROWER AND THE LIMIT OF THE LIABILITY OF MONSANTO OR ANY SELLER FOR ANY AND ALL LOSSES, INJURY OR DAMAGES RESULTING FROM THE USE OR HANDLING OF SEED (INCLUDING CLAIMS BASED IN CONTRACT, NEGLIGENCE, PRODUCT LIABILITY, STRICT LIABILITY, TORT, OR OTHERWISE) SHALL BE THE PRICE PAID BY THE GROWER FOR THE QUANTITY OF THE SEED INVOLVED OR, AT THE ELECTION OF MONSANTO OR THE SEED SELLER, THE REPLACEMENT OF THE SEED. IN NO EVENT SHALL MONSANTO OR ANY SELLER BE LIABLE FOR ANY INCIDENTAL, CONSEQUENTIAL, SPECIAL, OR PUNITIVE DAMAGES.”

 

G. Edward Griffin, author of ‘The Creature From Jekyll Island’, and numerous other books and documentary films, and Anthony Patchett, retired assistant Head Deputy District Attorney, Los Angeles County Environmental Crimes/ OSHA Division explain the consequences of the Monsanto contract in the video below.

Monsanto’s Technology Stewardship Agreement shifts responsibility to growers for any and all losses, injury or damages resulting from the use of Monsanto seeds. There is no expiration date on the contract. The grower may terminate the contract, but: “Grower’s responsibilities and the other terms herein shall survive…”

Also See: Mike Ludwig | Why Monsanto Always Wins

This includes contamination of other farms. Growers are purchasing seed for Spring planting right now. Alfalfa, America’s 4th largest crop, is a particular problem because it is a perennial plant and the seeds may lie dormant in the ground for 10-20 years, and WILL contaminate non-GM plants. Contaminated alfalfa cannot be recalled from the environment. The liability burden can follow the grower for decades. Farmers must be made aware of the danger of being sued before they plant GM crops (especially alfalfa because it is used for cattle feed and will affect dairy farmers).

Currently, Australian organic farmer Steve Marsh, who lost his organic certification due to contamination, is suing his GM crop-growing neighbor for the GM contamination.

Contamination of processing equipment is another risk.

There is evidence from India that GM crops are linked to livestock deaths. The Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement contract holds growers responsible for injuries, so this is another potential consequence for farmers planting Monsanto GM crops to consider.

The Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement has another clause that farmers will find disturbing: it appears that the growers agree that in order to sell their farm, the new purchaser must also sign a Monsanto Technology Stewardship Agreement. According to a top real estate broker, the contract places a covenant, condition or restriction (CCR) on the farmer’s land:

“GROWER AGREES: To accept and continue the obligations of this Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement on any new land purchased or leased by Grower that has Seed planted on it by a previous owner or possessor of the land; and to notify in writing purchasers or lessees of land owned by Grower that has Seed planted on it that the Monsanto Technology is subject to this Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement and they must have or obtain their own Monsanto Technology/Stewardship Agreement.”

 

Environmental attorney Anthony Patchett further elaborated on Monsanto’s contract in a letter that states “Monsanto’s agreement shifts all liability to the growers, including contamination issues or any potential future liability. All the grower receives is the price of the seed.” He further stated that this contract appears to be “Unconscionable”. Click here to view the letter.

For more information about the perils of contamination, please go to MorphCity.com to read the interview with alfalfa seed grower Phil Geertson who opposed Monsanto in the GM case heard in the Supreme Court last summer. Geertson said that Monsanto’s GM seeds are more expensive and after a few years, weeds can become tolerant to Roundup Ready and other glyphosate herbicides so farmers must return to conventional farming practices anyway. Therefore, there is no benefit to planting GM crops.

You can alert farmers to the hazard of growing GM crops and how growers can be hurt by Monsanto’s contract, if you would like to take action in opposing GM crops. Please share this article and video.

 


 

Gates Foundation Invests In Monsanto, Buys $21 Million Worth Of Stock; Both Will Profit At Expense Of Small-Scale African Farmers

In Uncategorized on August 31, 2010 at 9:32 am

Oldspeak:” “The Foundation’s direct investment in Monsanto is problematic on two primary levels. First, Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well-being of small farmers around the world, as well as an appalling environmental track record. The strong connections to Monsanto cast serious doubt on the Foundation’s heavy funding of agricultural development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and hunger among small-scale farmers. Second, this investment represents an enormous conflict of interests.”

From Jill Richardson @ La Vida Locavore:

Well, well, well. It’s about time. Kind of like when Fox News gave $1 million in campaign contributions to Republicans. It wasn’t exactly a secret before, but now it’s official. The Gates Foundation just bought a whopping 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with buying stock. My parents hold lots of BP stock, and they are hardly guilty of dumping the 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. But this is one more step in a long line of actions by the Gates Foundation in which it is advocating policies and agricultural technologies that will directly benefit and profit Monsanto while screwing over the most vulnerable people on earth: hungry subsistence farmers in developing countries.

I wrote a piece recently about what happens when American industrial agriculture collides with poor, uneducated subsistence farmers in the developing world and it ain’t pretty. In fact, it’s tragic. It’s criminal. For a corporation to prey upon such a vulnerable population for its own gain, when the result is the starvation, continued impoverishment, or loss of land and lifestyle of the poor.

Perhaps Gates thinks he is doing something good for the world with his advocacy of biotechnology and industrial agriculture. No doubt all of the executives from Monsanto and other biotech and chemical companies tell him that every day. He should instead listen to the 400 scientists who spent 3 years performing the most comprehensive study of agricultural knowledge, science, and technology in the history of the world, the IAASTD report. The report recommends agroecology – what many in the U.S. would refer to as “organics” (even though the term is more nuanced than that).

See the press release from AGRA Watch below.

GATES FOUNDATION INVESTS IN MONSANTO
Both will profit at expense of small-scale African farmers

Seattle, WA – Farmers and civil society organizations around the world are outraged by the recent discovery of further connections between the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and agribusiness titan Monsanto. Last week, a financial website published the Gates Foundation’s investment portfolio, including 500,000 shares of Monsanto stock with an estimated worth of $23.1 million purchased in the second quarter of 2010 (see the filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission). This marks a substantial increase from its previous holdings, valued at just over $360,000 (see the Foundation’s 2008 990 Form).

“The Foundation’s direct investment in Monsanto is problematic on two primary levels,” said Dr. Phil Bereano, University of Washington Professor Emeritus and recognized expert on genetic engineering. “First, Monsanto has a history of blatant disregard for the interests and well-being of small farmers around the world, as well as an appalling environmental track record. The strong connections to Monsanto cast serious doubt on the Foundation’s heavy funding of agricultural development in Africa and purported goal of alleviating poverty and hunger among small-scale farmers. Second, this investment represents an enormous conflict of interests.”

Monsanto has already negatively impacted agriculture in African countries. For example, in South Africa in 2009, Monsanto’s genetically modified maize failed to produce kernels and hundreds of farmers were devastated. According to Mariam Mayet, environmental attorney and director of theAfrica Centre for Biosafety in Johannesburg, some farmers suffered up to an 80% crop failure. While Monsanto compensated the large-scale farmers to whom it directly sold the faulty product, it gave nothing to the small-scale farmers to whom it had handed out free sachets of seeds. “When the economic power of Gates is coupled with the irresponsibility of Monsanto, the outlook for African smallholders is not very promising,” said Mayet. Monsanto’s aggressive patenting practices have also monopolized control over seed in ways that deny farmers control over their own harvest, going so far as to sue-and bankrupt-farmers for “patent infringement.”

News of the Foundation’s recent Monsanto investment has confirmed the misgivings of many farmers and sustainable agriculture advocates in Africa, among them the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, who commented, “We have long suspected that the founders of AGRA-the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation-had a long and more intimate affair with Monsanto.” Indeed, according to Travis English, researcher with AGRA Watch, “The Foundation’s ownership of Monsanto stock is emblematic of a deeper, more long-standing involvement with the corporation, particularly in Africa.” In 2008, AGRA Watch, a project of the Seattle-based organization Community Alliance for Global Justice, uncovered many linkages between the Foundation’s grantees and Monsanto. For example, some grantees (in particular about 70% of grantees in Kenya) of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)-considered by the Foundation to be its “African face”-work directly with Monsanto on agricultural development projects. Other prominent links include high-level Foundation staff members who were once senior officials for Monsanto, such as Rob Horsch, formerly Monsanto Vice President of International Development Partnerships and current Senior Program Officer of the Gates Agricultural Development Program.

Transnational corporations like Monsanto have been key collaborators with the Foundation and AGRA’s grantees in promoting the spread of industrial agriculture on the continent. This model of production relies on expensive inputs such as chemical fertilizers, genetically modified seeds, and herbicides. Though this package represents enticing market development opportunities for the private sector, many civil society organizations contend it will lead to further displacement of farmers from the land, an actual increase in hunger, and migration to already swollen cities unable to provide employment opportunities. In the words of a representative from the Kenya Biodiversity Coalition, “AGRA is poison for our farming systems and livelihoods. Under the philanthropic banner of greening agriculture, AGRA will eventually eat away what little is left of sustainable small-scale farming in Africa.”

A 2008 report initiated by the World Bank and the UN, the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), promotes alternative solutions to the problems of hunger and poverty that emphasize their social and economic roots. The IAASTD concluded that small-scale agroecological farming is more suitable for the third world than the industrial agricultural model favored by Gates and Monsanto. In a summary of the key findings of IAASTD, the Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA) emphasizes the report’s warning that “continued reliance on simplistic technological fixes-including transgenic crops-will not reduce persistent hunger and poverty and could exacerbate environmental problems and worsen social inequity.” Furthermore, PANNA explains, “The Assessment’s 21 key findings suggest that small-scale agroecological farming may offer one of the best means to feed the hungry while protecting the planet.”

The Gates Foundation has been challenged in the past for its questionable investments; in 2007, the L.A. Times exposed the Foundation for investing in its own grantees and for its “holdings in many companies that have failed tests of social responsibility because of environmental lapses, employment discrimination, disregard for worker rights, or unethical practices.” The Times chastised the Foundation for what it called “blind-eye investing,” with at least 41% of its assets invested in “companies that countered the foundation’s charitable goals or socially-concerned philosophy.”

Although the Foundation announced it would reassess its practices, it decided to retain them. As reported by the L.A. Times, chief executive of the Foundation Patty Stonesifer defended their investments, stating, “It would be naïve…to think that changing the foundation’s investment policy could stop the human suffering blamed on the practices of companies in which it invests billions of dollars.” This decision is in direct contradiction to the Foundation’s official “Investment Philosophy”, which, according to its website, “defined areas in which the endowment will not invest, such as companies whose profit model is centrally tied to corporate activity that [Bill and Melinda] find egregious. This is why the endowment does not invest in tobacco stocks.”

More recently, the Foundation has come under fire in its own hometown. This week, 250 Seattle residents sent postcards expressing their concern that the Foundation’s approach to agricultural development, rather than reducing hunger as pledged, would instead “increase farmer debt, enrich agribusiness corporations like Monsanto and Syngenta, degrade the environment, and dispossess small farmers.” In addition to demanding that the Foundation instead fund “socially and ecologically appropriate practices determined locally by African farmers and scientists” and support African food sovereignty, they urged the Foundation to cut all ties to Monsanto and the biotechnology industry.

AGRA Watch, a program of Seattle-based Community Alliance for Global Justice, supports African initiatives and programs that foster farmers’ self-determination and food sovereignty. AGRA Watch also supports public engagement in fighting genetic engineering and exploitative agricultural policies, and demands transparency and accountability on the part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and AGRA.

Why Is the Obama Administration Parroting GMO King Monsanto’s Talking Points?

In Uncategorized on August 12, 2010 at 1:26 pm

Oldspeak:” ‘”Organic food is not only NOT better for the planet. It is categorically WORSE.’ – Michael Mack, CEO of the biotech company Syngenta.  When people who think this way are in position to make these views government policy (like the chief scientist at USDA and former Monsanto employee Roger Beachy) there is cause for concern.”

From Jill Richardson @ AlterNet:

When key government officials start touting the need for biotechnology there’s reason to be concerned. Roger Beachy, the Chief Scientist of the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), recently told Smartplanet.com that biotechnology is needed to maximize food production and reduce the use of agrochemicals. “With a greater number of people,” he said, “we’re going to have to have more crop per acre. If we don’t, we’ll have to expand [agriculture] to our parks, forests, and golf courses.” And at first it might seem strange to hear a top government official parroting talking points from Monsanto’s Corporate Responsibility page … until you read his resume, that is. His last job before joining the USDA was as founding president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a non-profit research institute co-founded by Monsanto and the Danforth Foundation.

Now, another explanation why Monsanto and Roger Beachy have similar talking points could be that both are correct and they are simply explaining the facts about the future of food and agriculture. Do we really need biotech to feed a growing population?

Nope, turns out that we don’t. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, genetically engineered (GE) seeds, to date, don’t translate to more crop yields. And worse, GE seeds have meant the uses of more, not less, chemicals. Jack Heinemann, a professor of genetics and molecular biology, agrees. He points out that no GE crops, to date, were designed with the goal of increasing yield, and while “yield benefits have been observed” they’ve occurred “sporadically and in a year-, location-, and crop-dependent manner.” He does not find evidence for decreased pesticide use in GE crops either.

About the prospect of future, drought-resistant varieties of crops, Heinemann dismisses them as a pipe dream because “the physiology of stress tolerance involves the interactions of many different genes working in a complex, environmentally-responsive network… genetic engineering is unlikely to produce reliable drought tolerance in most crops grown in actual field conditions because it is unable to mix and match so many genes at once.” (A Mexican peasant might also add that non-GE varieties of drought-tolerant corn already exist in Mexico, the birthplace of corn, where indigenous peoples have developed them via seed saving over centuries.)

But facts and science be as they may, Monsanto and Roger Beachy are not the one ones making these very same claims. The CEO of the biotech company Syngenta, Michael Mack, takes the argument one step further, slamming organics as well. In 2009, he said, “Organic food is not only not better for the planet. It is categorically worse.” His explanation? Organic farming takes up “about 30 percent more land” than non-organic farming for the same yield. (Syngenta’s slogan, by the way, is “Grow more from less.”)

A fact check of Mr. Mack’s math finds that multiple studies estimate an increase in productivity of about 80 percent from switching to organic methods in the developing world. (In the U.S., we would see a slight decrease in productivity, but only by about eight percent – hardly a problem for a country that boasts nearly twice as many calories as required for each man, woman, and child.) Just last week, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter called for a switch to agroecology (that is, organic farming) as it “outperforms large-scale industrial farming for global food security.” He cited the “widest study ever conducted on agroecological approaches” that found an average crop gain of 79 percent from going organic.

Where is the biotech industry – and the U.S. government – getting its statements if not from facts and studies? Try market research. Beginning in 1997, the International Food Information Council began researching consumer acceptance of GE foods. Consumers didn’t – and still don’t – know much about biotechnology. In 1997, only 53 percent said they had heard nothing or “a little” about biotechnology, and that number went up to 66 percent in 2010. In 2010, nearly two-thirds did not know if any foods produced through biotechnology were in the supermarket, and eight percent said they thought there were not any biotech foods in supermarkets. The 28 percent who gave the correct answer – yes – proved their ignorance in the next question when they named which GE foods they thought were available commercially. Top wrong answers included vegetables (37 percent), fruits (19 percent, although to be fair, papayas can be GE), and meat, eggs, or fish (14 percent). Whereas most corn, soy, and canola are genetically engineered (and those are ingredients in most processed foods), only 21 percent named corn, four percent named soy, and less than one percent named processed foods.

So what do biotech companies do with such consumer ignorance? Acceptance of their products is something they are clearly worried about, as they do not ever label any foods as genetically engineered. (Currently labeling genetically engineered foods is not required, although a bill recently introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich would require it.) But as they’ve watched their market research show little signs that a majority of consumers are warming up to GE foods over the past decade, they’ve hit upon a few messages that work. While only 32 percent of 2010 survey respondents say they view biotechnology as “very favorable” or “somewhat favorable,” a whopping 77 percent said they would be very or somewhat likely to buy a produce item like a tomato that was genetically engineered to require fewer pesticides.

They asked one question three times in three various forms: “How likely would you be to buy bread, crackers, cookies, cereals, or pasta made with flour from wheat that had been modified by biotechnology?” While only 41 percent initially responded favorably, 73 percent said they were very or somewhat likely to buy that product if it were modified to require less land, water, and/or pesticides. That number goes up to 80 percent if that GE wheat was “produced using sustainable practices to feed more people using less resources (such as land and pesticides).” Voila! The magic bullets for biotech acceptance: feeding the world and reducing pesticide use.

Clearly this is advice that biotech companies have taken to heart. And it’s apparently convincing enough that it is winning over influential figures and government officials, even if their last job wasn’t at a Monsanto-funded non-profit. The key phrase to look for is “In order to feed a population of nine billion people, the world needs to double food production by 2050.” Typically a plea for biotechnology and genetic engineering specifically or a more general call for using science and technology to achieve this goal follows such a statement. A few years ago, one might have only heard this rhetoric at the annual Biotechnology Industry Organization conference, but by 2009 it was on the lips of such luminaries as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and USAD Chief Tom Vilsack. Food production alone is not the problem, as the world currently produces enough food to feed every person on earth and yet one billion people are hungry. Nor is food production in the future necessarily the problem, as the calculation that we need to double food production relies on an assumption that the rest of the world will adopt an American-style diet heavy on factory farmed grain-fed meat (a prospect that the climate crisis and the end of oil make less probable each day). But the idea is such an attractive one that it is now the basis of a new government initiative called Feed the Future, aimed at exporting U.S. biotechnology to the developing world. Apparently the Obama administration never got the memo that the biotech industry’s “feed the world” rhetoric was based on market research to promote GE food acceptance among Americans and not on its ability to deliver.

Jill Richardson is the founder of the blog La Vida Locavore and a member of the Organic Consumers Association policy advisory board. She is the author of Recipe for America: Why Our Food System Is Broken and What We Can Do to Fix It.

Genetically Modified Salmon Get Closer To The Table

In Uncategorized on July 5, 2010 at 2:22 pm

Oldspeak: “The Privatization of Food continues. Much of it with out public knowledge or comment.  The salmon’s approval would help open a path for corporations and corporate funded academic scientists developing other genetically engineered animals, like cattle resistant to mad cow disease or pigs that could supply “healthier” bacon. Next in line behind the salmon for possible approval would probably be the “enviropig,” developed at a Canadian university, which has less phosphorus pollution in its manure.”

From Andrew Pollack @ The New York Times:

The Food and Drug Administration is seriously considering whether to approve the first genetically engineered animal that people would eat — salmon that can grow at twice the normal rate.

The developer of the salmon has been trying to get approval for a decade. But the company now seems to have submitted most or all of the data the F.D.A. needs to analyze whether the salmon are safe to eat, nutritionally equivalent to other salmon and safe for the environment, according to government and biotechnology industry officials. A public meeting to discuss the salmon may be held as early as this fall.

Some consumer and environmental groups are likely to raise objections to approval. Even within the F.D.A., there has been a debate about whether the salmon should be labeled as genetically engineered (genetically engineered crops are not labeled).

The salmon was developed by a company called AquaBounty Technologies and would be raised in fish farms. It is an Atlantic salmon that contains a growth hormone gene from a Chinook salmon as well as a genetic on-switch from the ocean pout, a distant relative of the salmon.

Normally, salmon do not make growth hormone in cold weather. But the pout’s on-switch keeps production of the hormone going year round. The result is salmon that can grow to market size in 16 to 18 months instead of three years, though the company says the modified salmon will not end up any bigger than a conventional fish.

“You don’t get salmon the size of the Hindenburg,” said Ronald L. Stotish, the chief executive of AquaBounty. “You can get to those target weights in a shorter time.”

AquaBounty, which is based in Waltham, Mass., and publicly traded in London, said last week that the F.D.A. had signed off on five of the seven sets of data required to demonstrate that the fish was safe for consumption and for the environment. It said it demonstrated, for instance, that the inserted gene did not change through multiple generations and that the genetic engineering did not harm the animals.

“Perhaps in the next few months, we expect to see a final approval,” Mr. Stotish said.

But the company has been overly optimistic before.

He said it would take two or three years after approval for the salmon to reach supermarkets.

The F.D.A. confirmed it was reviewing the salmon but, because of confidentiality rules, would not comment further.

Under a policy announced in 2008, the F.D.A. is regulating genetically engineered animals as if they were veterinary drugs and using the rules for those drugs. And applications for approval of new drugs must be kept confidential by the agency.

Critics say the drug evaluation process does not allow full assessment of the possible environmental impacts of genetically altered animals and also blocks public input.

“There is no opportunity for anyone from the outside to see the data or criticize it,” said Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. When consumer groups were invited to discuss biotechnology policy with top F.D.A. officials last month, Ms. Mellon said she warned the officials that approval of the salmon would generate “a firestorm of negative response.”

How consumers will react is not entirely clear. Some public opinion surveys have shown that Americans are more wary about genetically engineered animals than about the genetically engineered crops now used in a huge number of foods. But other polls suggest that many Americans would accept the animals if they offered environmental or nutritional benefits.

Mr. Stotish said the benefit of the fast-growing salmon would be to help supply the world’s food needs using fewer resources.

Government officials and industry executives say the F.D.A. is moving cautiously on the salmon. “It’s going to be a P. R. issue,” said one government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak about the issue.

Some of these government officials and executives said that F.D.A. officials had discussed internally whether the salmon could be labeled to give consumers the choice of avoiding them.

The government has in the past opposed mandatory labeling of foods from genetically engineered crops and animals merely because genetic engineering was used. Foods must be labeled, it says, only if they are different in their nutritional properties or other characteristics.

It would seem difficult for the government to change that policy. And experts say the administration may not have the legal authority to do so.

One possibility could be voluntary labeling by those who sell the fish.

Dr. Joshua M. Sharfstein, the principal deputy commissioner of the F.D.A., said in a statement: “Labeling is one of many issues involved with the review of genetically engineered animals for use in food. As has been publicly reported, the AquAdvantage Salmon is under review by the agency, and as we move forward, we will share information with the public.”

Mr. Stotish of AquaBounty said his company was not against voluntary labeling, but the matter was not in its hands because it would only be selling fish eggs to fish farms, not grown salmon to the supermarket.

He said the company had submitted data to the F.D.A. showing that its salmon was indistinguishable from nonengineered Atlantic salmon in terms of taste, color, vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, proteins and other nutrients.

“Our fish is identical in every measurable way to the traditional food Atlantic salmon,” Mr. Stotish said. “If there’s no material difference, then it would be misleading to require labeling.”

Virtually all Atlantic salmon now comes from fish farms, not the wild.

The F.D.A. must also decide on the environmental risks from the salmon. Some experts have speculated that fast-growing fish could out-compete wild fish for food or mates.

Mr. Stotish said the salmon would be grown only in inland tanks or other contained facilities, not in ocean pens where they might escape into the wild. And the fish would all be female and sterile, making it impossible for them to mate.

The F.D.A. is expected to hold a public meeting of an advisory committee before deciding whether to approve the salmon. Typically at such advisory committee meetings, much of the data in support of the drug application is made public and there is some time allotted for public comment.

But Gregory Jaffe, biotechnology project director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said such meetings often do not give the public enough time to analyze the data.

Supreme Court Backs on Biotech Seed Planting

In Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 at 11:36 am

Oldspeak: “The Supreme Corp. once again ruling in favor of corporate interests. At the expense of  human and environmental safety…”

By Andrew Pollack @ The New York Times:

In its first-ever ruling on genetically modified crops, the Supreme Court on Monday overturned a lower court’s ban on the planting of alfalfa seeds engineered to resistMonsanto’s Roundup herbicide.

The decision was a victory for Monsanto and others in the agricultural biotechnology industry, with potential implications for other cases, like one involving genetically engineered sugar beets.

But in practice the decision is not likely to measurably speed up the resumption of planting of the genetically engineered alfalfa.

A federal district judge in San Francisco had ruled in 2007 that the Agriculture Department had approved the genetically engineered alfalfa for commercial planting without adequately considering the possible environment impact, as required by federal law. The judge vacated approval, known as deregulation of the crop, and also imposed a nationwide ban on planting those seeds. The ban was later upheld on appeal.

But the Supreme Court, in a 7-to-1 decision, said the lower court judge had gone too far, ruling that the national ban prevented the Agriculture Department from considering a partial approval. That avenue, the court said, would have allowed some of the alfalfa to be grown under certain conditions; for example, isolating it from conventional alfalfa.

“The district court barred the agency from pursuing any deregulation — no matter how limited the geographic area in which planting of RRA would be allowed,” Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote in the opinion, referring to Roundup Ready alfalfa.

Justice John Paul Stevens was the lone dissenter. Justice Stephen G. Breyer did not take part because his brother, District Judge Charles Breyer, had issued the original decision.

Because the Supreme Court left in place the lower court’s rejection of approving the crop, the Agriculture Department must either fully or partly approve it before growing can resume.

“I think the practical impact is nil,” said George A. Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington advocacy group that was part of a coalition of environmental groups and organic and conventional alfalfa farmers who had challenged the crop’s approval.

The Agriculture Department said Monday that it was on track to complete its environmental impact statement and approve the crop in time for next spring’s planting.

Speeding up planting beyond that could only occur if the agency pursues a partial approval while finishing its environmental assessment. But getting partial approval in time for this fall’s planting season — beginning in two months — might be difficult.

Still, David F. Snively, Monsanto’s general counsel, called the decision a significant victory. “Monsanto and farmers in the United States are thrilled with this decision, which is far-reaching in its look at the regulatory framework that should govern biotech crops,” Mr. Snively told reporters in a conference call.

The Supreme Court’s ruling could affect a similar case, also brought by the Center for Food Safety, involving Roundup Ready sugar beets.

In that case, a different federal judge in San Francisco ruled last September that the Agriculture Department had failed to adequately assess the environmental impact.

Planting has continued, however, because the judge, Jeffrey S. White, has not yet ruled on a remedy. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for July 9. The Supreme Court’s decision makes it highly unlikely that he will issue a blanket ban on the growing of the genetically engineered beets.

The decision could also sway environmental law in general. Organizations like the National Association of Home Builders and the American Petroleum Institute had filed friend-of-the-court briefs supporting Monsanto, while environmental groups as well as the states of California, Oregon and Massachusetts had weighed in on the side of the Center for Food Safety.

Mr. Snively of Monsanto said the decision made it clear that courts must meet the same strict test in granting injunctions in environmental cases as in other cases. But Nathaniel S. W. Lawrence, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council, said the decision also contained wording that would make it easier in some instances for lawsuits to be filed in cases of possible environmental dangers.

Roundup Ready alfalfa and sugar beets were the newest additions to Monsanto’s extremely successful lines of Roundup Ready soybeans, corns and cotton.

The crops contain a bacterial gene that allows them to withstand spraying with Roundup or its generic equivalents, known as glyphosate. That allows farmers to spray their fields to kill weeds while leaving the crop intact, making weed control easy.

The environmental groups and others had said that the foreign gene might spread to organic or conventional nongenetically engineered crops, hurting sales of organic farmers or exports to countries like Japan that did not want genetically engineered varieties.

Court Upholds Verdict

The Supreme Court rejected Pfizer’s appeal of a verdict for an Arkansas woman, Donna Scroggin, who blamed the company’s menopause drugs for her breast cancer, leaving intact a $2.7 million award that may grow with punitive damages.

The justices let stand on Monday a lower court decision upholding that award, which was the first federal verdict against Pfizer’s Wyeth unit over its Prempro hormone-replacement treatment.

The appeal by Wyeth and Pfizer’s Upjohn unit sought to leverage a different part of the appeals court ruling ordering a new trial on punitive damages, which a jury had set at $27 million. Pfizer argued that the new trial should cover all aspects of the case, including the jury’s finding that the drugs had helped cause Ms. Scroggin’s cancer.

Groups Around the US Joined Haitian Farmers in Protesting “Donation” of Monsanto Seeds

In Uncategorized on June 11, 2010 at 10:32 am

Oldspeak: Why does Monsanto persist in its efforts to pass off ‘seeds’ bathed in highly toxic chemicals to poor peasant farmers who can’t afford to pay for their “technology” when time comes for them to re-up? Oh right, because they’re banned in the U.S. can’t sell ‘em here. :-|

From Beverly Bell @ Truthout:

We’re for seeds that have never been touched by multinationals. In our advocacy, we say that seeds are the patrimony of humanity. No one can control them,” said Doudou Pierre, national coordinating committee member of the National Haitian Network for Food Sovereignty and Food Security (RENHASSA), in a recent interview. “We reject Monsanto and their GMOs. GMOs would be the extermination of our people.”

A march held in Haiti June 4 for World Environment Day was called by at least four major national peasant organizations and one international one. The march’s purpose was to protest the new arrival of Monsanto seeds. The day’s slogans included, “Long live native seeds” and “Down with Monsanto. Down with GMO and hybrid seeds.”

Several US organizations planned simultaneous events to protest the entry of the controversial multinational in Haiti.

Last month, Haitian citizens learned the news that the giant agribusiness Monsanto will be “donating” 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds. While the seeds are free this year, peasant organizations see a Trojan horse, with Monsanto seeking to gain a foothold in the Haitian market. Hybrid seeds typically do not regenerate, so that farmers would have to buy them again each year, and they generally require large quantities of fertilizer and pesticides (two products that also fill Monsanto’s annual coffers). And while the Ministry of Agriculture rejected Monsanto’s offer of genetically modified (GMO) seeds this year because Haiti does not have a law regulating their use, there may follow a push to get GMOs approved, in which case Monsanto would be well-positioned. Moreover, the Calypso tomato seeds contain the pesticide Thiram, the chemical ingredient of which is so toxic that the Environmental Protection Agency has banned it for home use in the US.[1] (For more information, see “Haitian Farmers Commit to Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds.”)

Monsanto representative Kathleen Manning commented in The Huffington Post on May 20, “It’s disappointing to see people encouraging Haitian farmers to ‘burn Monsanto seeds,’ especially when the ones hurt by that action will be Haitian farmers and the Haitian people – not those of us watching on the sidelines.”

Yet, the call to burn the seeds is based on a strong commitment of the Haitian peasant movement to food and seed sovereignty, which is the ability of local farmers to support themselves with local seeds for local consumption. Among the thousands of peasant organizations which exist among millions of peasant farmers, from village-level groups to national networks, food and seed sovereignty is a key principle. It has formed the basis of their national advocacy since the catastrophic January 12 earthquake. The linchpin of the reconstruction model that small farmers and many other sectors advocate is developing the country’s agricultural potential. This would provide stable employment for the 60 percent to 80 percent of the population who are small farmers. It would improve prospects for food security, with an increase in consumption of domestic crops replacing the current dependence on imports, which now compose 57 percent of food consumed. Critical elements in strengthening peasant production include: government investment in agriculture, including technical support; the procurement of local food by USAID and other international agencies’ food aid programs, instead of the products of foreign agribusiness; and restriction on the dumping of foreign food and seeds.

Pierre said, “If Haiti isn’t sovereign with its food, if the government doesn’t promote national production, we’ll just always be opening our mouths to seeds and food aid so multinationals can make money off of us. We’re for family agriculture which respects the environment.” The coalition which Pierre co-coordinates represents 54 organizations from different sectors and regions throughout Haiti.

Below are some of the US-based events which protested the Monsanto seeds June 4. Also below are a few of numerous US initiatives, which are helping Haitian farmers get organic, Creole seeds.

AGRA Watch in Seattle planed a march June 4, ending outside the Gates Foundation office. AGRA stands for A Green Revolution in Africa, which is a multinational corporation-driven, GMO-driven program now being launched in Africa. The Gates Foundation has been a key promoter of AGRA. The group says, “The dumping of toxic seeds in Haiti is the latest in a series of unsustainable solutions that Monsanto has pushed on farmers around the world. If the Gates Foundation wants to support a truly sustainable agricultural system in Africa, they must divorce themselves from Monsanto. Haitian farmers and African farmers have said NO! to corporate control of their food systems. The Gates Foundation and AGRA must say no to Monsanto.”

Rising in Solidarity with Ayiti in Chicago urged, “From Haiti to Chicago, reclaim our right to control our food and sovereignty!” June 4 a group of urban farmers and community members joined in a rally to burn GMO seeds in protest of Monsanto’s “donation” to Haiti. Participants in the event also planted organic and heirloom seeds, and signed letters to USAID to protest the distribution of Monsanto’s seeds in Haiti. The event also featured testimonials about the lack of access to food security, particularly fresh fruits and vegetables, in neighborhoods in Chicago, and how this connects to the right to food sovereignty in Haiti.

Community Action for Justice in the Americas, Africa, Asia, in Missoula, hosted a protest, asking: “Bring posters, signs, or just come. Wear black /white, or lab coats, dust masks, goggles or Tyvek suits or creative costume! Bring drums, pots & pans …” A personal email from a member of the group said, “The people in Missoula, Montana are paying attention and taking action for farmers in Haiti.”

The Organic Consumers Association’s network sent more than 10,000 emails to USAID and President Obama. Two dozen members have donated to the Seeds for Haiti project.

coalition of US churches and foundations are supporting Foundation FONDAMA, a Haitian federation of farmers and local NGOs. The coalition has sent down several million dollars to purchase 86,000 kilos of local corn seed and 59,000 kilos of local pea seeds. (Seeds are available in Haiti, but small farmers have not had the money to buy them.) All of the farmers who belong to member organizations in Foundation FONDAMA have gotten seeds, allowing them to proceed with planting their spring crop. The donations have also purchased 13,300 machetes and 9,200 hoes. The US coalition has, moreover, sent a Massachusetts farmer to the village of Papay for the march, and hosted the leader of the Peasant Movement of Papay in New York and Washington for public, media, and Congressional meetings this week.

Like numerous other supportive groups in the US, Groundswell International’s approach to seed sovereignty in Haiti pre-dates Monsanto’s announcement. Through its Haitian partner Partnership for Local Development, Groundswell is strengthening the capacity of peasant organizations in Haiti to sustainably improve their agricultural production, income generation, food security, health and natural resources management. A Groundswell staff member wrote, “A key thing we’ll be working on is trying to promote the alternative, which is Haitian production of 100 percent of their seeds so they don’t need imports.”

1. Extension Toxicology Network, Pesticide Information Project of the Cooperative Extension Offices of Cornell University, Michigan State University, Oregon State University, and University of California at Davis . Monsanto denies that Thiram contains the toxic chemical ethylene bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs).

Haitian Farmers Commit To Burning Monsanto Hybrid Seeds

In Uncategorized on May 19, 2010 at 9:27 am

Jonas Deronzil from Verrettes has been farming since 1974. Like small producers throughout Haiti, his meager income from corn, rice and beans is threatened by new competition from Monsanto. (Photo: Beverly Bell)

Oldspeak: “”Fighting hybrid and GMO seeds is critical to save our diversity and our agriculture. We have the potential to make our lands produce enough to feed the whole population and even to export certain products. The policy we need for this to happen is food sovereignty, where the county has a right to define it own agricultural policies, to grow first for the family and then for local market, to grow healthy food in a way which respects the environment and Mother Earth.”  - Chavannes Jean-Baptiste. Word. GOOOO HAITIAN FARMERS! Resist Empire!

From Beverly Bell @ Truthout:

“A new earthquake” is what peasant farmer leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP) called the news that Monsanto will be donating 60,000 seed sacks (475 tons) of hybrid corn seeds and vegetable seeds, some of them treated with highly toxic pesticides. The MPP has committed to burning Monsanto’s seeds, and has called for a march to protest the corporation’s presence in Haiti on June 4, for World Environment Day.

In an open letter sent May 14, Chavannes Jean-Baptiste, the executive director of MPP and the spokesperson for the National Peasant Movement of the Congress of Papay (MPNKP), called the entry of Monsanto seeds into Haiti “a very strong attack on small agriculture, on farmers, on biodiversity, on Creole seeds … and on what is left our environment in Haiti.”(1) Haitian social movements have been vocal in their opposition to agribusiness imports of seeds and food, which undermines local production with local seed stocks. They have expressed special concern about the import of genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

For now, without a law regulating the use of GMOs in Haiti, the Ministry of Agriculture rejected Monsanto’s offer of Roundup Ready GMOs seeds. In an email exchange, a Monsanto representative assured the Ministry of Agriculture that the seeds being donated are not GMOs.

Elizabeth Vancil, Monsanto’s director of development initiatives, called the news that the Haitian Ministry of Agriculture approved the donation “a fabulous Easter gift” in an April email.(2) Monsanto is known for aggressively pushing seeds, especially GMOs seeds, in both the global North and South, including through highly restrictive technology agreements with farmers who are not always made fully aware of what they are signing. According to interviews by this writer with representatives of Mexican small farmer organizations, they then find themselves forced to buy Monsanto seeds each year, under conditions they find onerous and at costs they sometimes cannot afford.

The hybrid corn seeds Monsanto has donated to Haiti are treated with the fungicide Maxim XO, and the calypso tomato seeds are treated with thiram.(3) Thiram belongs to a highly toxic class of chemicals called ethylene bisdithiocarbamates (EBDCs). Results of tests of EBDCs on mice and rats caused concern to the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which then ordered a special review. The EPA determined that EBDC-treated plants are so dangerous to agricultural workers that they must wear special protective clothing when handling them. Pesticides containing thiram must contain a special warning label, the EPA ruled. The EPA also barred marketing of the chemicals for many home garden products, because it assumes that most gardeners do not have adequately protective clothing.(4) Monsanto’s passing mention of thiram to Ministry of Agriculture officials in an email contained no explanation of the dangers, nor any offer of special clothing or training for those who will be farming with the toxic seeds.

Haitian social movements’ concern is not just about the dangers of the chemicals and the possibility of future GMOs imports. They claim that the future of Haiti depends on local production with local food for local consumption, in what is called food sovereignty. Monsanto’s arrival in Haiti, they say, is a further threat to this.

“People in the US need to help us produce, not give us food and seeds. They’re ruining our chance to support ourselves,” said farmer Jonas Deronzil of a peasant cooperative in the rural region of Verrettes.(5)

Monsanto’s history has long drawn ire from environmentalists, health advocates and small farmers, going back to its production of Agent Orange during the Vietnam war. Exposure to Agent Orange has caused cancer in an untold number of US veterans, and the Vietnamese government claims that 400,000 Vietnamese people were killed or disabled by Agent Orange, and 500,000 children were born with birth defects as a result of their exposure.(6)

Monsanto’s former motto, “Without chemicals, life itself would be impossible,” has been replaced by “Imagine.” Its web site home page claims it “help[s] farmers around the world produce more while conserving more. We help farmers grow yield sustainably so they can be successful, produce healthier foods … while also reducing agriculture’s impact on our environment.”(7) The corporation’s record does not support the claims.

Together with Syngenta, Dupont and Bayer, Monsanto controls more than half of the world’s seeds.(8) The company holds almost 650 seed patents, most of them for cotton, corn and soy, and almost 30 percent of the share of all biotech research and development. Monsanto came to own such a vast supply by buying major seed companies to stifle competition, patenting genetic modifications to plant varieties and suing small farmers. Monsanto is also one of the leading manufacturers of GMOs.

As of 2007, Monsanto had filed 112 lawsuits against US farmers for alleged technology contract violations of GMOs patents, involving 372 farmers and 49 small agricultural businesses in 27 different states. From these, Monsanto has won more than $21.5 million in judgments. The multinational appears to investigate 500 farmers a year, in estimates based on Monsanto’s own documents and media reports.(9)

“Farmers have been sued after their field was contaminated by pollen or seed from someone else’s genetically engineered crop [or] when genetically engineered seed from a previous year’s crop has sprouted, or ‘volunteered,’ in fields planted with non-genetically engineered varieties the following year,” said Andrew Kimbrell and Joseph Mendelson of the Center for Food Safety.(10)

In Colombia, Monsanto has received upwards of $25 million from the US government for providing Roundup Ultra in the antidrug fumigation efforts of Plan Colombia. Roundup Ultra is a highly concentrated version of Monsanto’s glyphosate herbicide, with additional ingredients to increase its lethality. Colombian communities and human rights organizations have charged that the herbicide has destroyed food crops, water sources and protected areas, and has led to increased incidents of birth defects and cancers.

Vía Campesina, the world’s largest confederation of farmers with member organizations in more than 60 countries, has called Monsanto one of the “principal enemies of peasant sustainable agriculture and food sovereignty for all peoples.”(11) They claim that as Monsanto and other multinationals control an ever larger share of land and agriculture, they force small farmers out of their land and jobs. They also claim that the agribusiness giants contribute to climate change and other environmental disasters, an outgrowth of industrial agriculture.(12)

The Vía Campesina coalition launched a global campaign against Monsanto last October 16, on International World Food Day, with protests, land occupations and hunger strikes in more than 20 countries. They carried out a second global day of action against Monsanto on April 17 of this year, in honor of Earth Day.

Nongovernmental organizations in the US are challenging Monsanto’s practices, too. The Organic Consumers Association has spearheaded the campaign “Millions Against Monsanto,” calling on the company to stop intimidating small family farmers, stop marketing untested and unlabeled genetically engineered foods to consumers and stop using billions of dollars of US taypayers’ money to subsidize GMOs crops.(13)

The Center for Food Safety has led a four-year legal challenge to Monsanto that has just made it to the US Supreme Court. After successful litigation against Monsanto and the US Department of Agriculture for illegal promotion of Roundup Ready Alfalfa, the court heard the Center for Food Safety’s case on April 27. A decision on this first-ever Supreme Court case about GMOs is now pending.(14)

“Fighting hybrid and GMO seeds is critical to save our diversity and our agriculture,” Jean-Baptiste said in an interview in February. “We have the potential to make our lands produce enough to feed the whole population and even to export certain products. The policy we need for this to happen is food sovereignty, where the county has a right to define it own agricultural policies, to grow first for the family and then for local market, to grow healthy food in a way which respects the environment and Mother Earth.”

Elena Kagan: Toward a Pro-Genetically Modified Organism Supreme Court?

In Uncategorized on May 13, 2010 at 9:48 am

Oldspeak: Hmmm…A Corporatist in sheep’s clothing?  Pr0 – Monsanto (the Big Food corporation that is the single biggest threat to farmers and the food supply worldwide)  is not the way to go.

From The Atlantic: It’s a good thing for Elena Kagan that there’s no non-GMO litmus test for Supreme Court nominees. She’d flunk.

As solicitor general, Kagan is supposed to represent the interests of the American people in matters that come before the Supreme Court. Instead, she has gone to bat for Monsanto. In a case that the court is currently considering, Monsanto is trying to overturn a 2007 California decision that imposed a nationwide injunction on planting the company’s genetically modified alfalfa. In March, Kagan’s office interceded on Monsanto’s behalf (click here for a PDF of its brief) even though the government was not a defendant in the appeal. The original suit was brought by Geertson Seed Farms and a collection of environmental groups, who claimed that pollen from Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa could contaminate neighboring plots of conventional alfalfa, causing irreparable harm to Geertson’s non-GMO business.

The decision that Kagan and Monsanto object to was issued by U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer, who ruled that during the Bush administration, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) should not have given its blessing to GM alfalfa without considering possible environmental, financial, and health consequences (a requirement under the law). Erring on the side of caution, Breyer said that until the USDA conducted the proper environmental assessment, no GM alfalfa could be grown.

The appeal that is now before the court has a telling aside. Justice Stephen Breyer recused himself from the case because Charles Breyer, the lower court judge, is his brother. Notably, Justice Clarence Thomas, who was once a lawyer for Monsanto, did not recuse himself.

The case will probably be decided this summer, prior to Kagan’s taking up her new post, assuming she is confirmed. But she still might have an opportunity to show her true colors. Last fall, another lower-court judge ruled that the Bush-era USDA erred when it approved GM sugar beets without a proper environmental assessment. The Obama administration was given the opportunity to drop the USDA’s case, but the Justice Department told the court that its position had not changed.

We’ll see if Monsanto pursues that case through the appellate courts. Whatever happens, it’s all but certain that the Supreme Court has not heard the last of GMOs.

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