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Canadian seed breeding goes down the corporate path; Investors challenge Monsanto over risks of genetically engineered products; other stories

(Saturday, Jan. 22, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. Canadian seed breeding goes down the corporate path
2. Investors challenge Monsanto over risks of genetically engineered products
3. Hungary bans Monsanto GMO maize seed
4. Monsanto 'Seed Police' Scrutinize Farmers
5. Saving seed is latest tech piracy
6. Bt cotton area in India increased by 400% in 2004: report 7. India farmers oppose patent ordinance
8. US farmers eager to grow "bio-pharm" crops

1. Canadian seed breeding goes down the corporate path

In 1985, when the legislation was being passed in Canada, many folk thought Plant Breeders Rights could be a problem. Prior to that, new crop varieties were largely developed by government research stations and universities. These seeds were made freely available to the public through a licensing system that generated some royalties for those institutions and ensured the integrity of the new varieties as they made their way to the farm. It all seemed to be working fairly well. New crop varieties appeared regularly, responding to the need for greater yields and disease and insect resistance. Even whole new crops, like canola were created by this public system. It didn't look like a system that was broken; hence there was much skepticism that it needed fixing.

Some farm groups were persuaded to support PBRs by the government's assurance that the act would generate new money for plant variety research, and even more and better varieties, and that public plant breeding would not be reduced. It seemed we would get the best of both worlds.

Fortunately, PBRs didn't create too many barriers to research. Although companies can claim ownership of plant varieties, and disallow anyone from selling those varieties, they cannot halt legitimate researchers from using PBR varieties to create new and better ones.

Fast-forward 20 years. With the exception of canola, most crops grown on the prairies are still the product of public research. This is especially true of the cereals and pulses like lentils and chickpeas. Canola, with a simple genetic makeup that makes it easy to work with, is the exception. In that regard, given the few new varieties coming through private research, you could argue that PBRs failed in their primary goal.

The solution to all this, which the federal Liberal government is putting forward, is even more of the same. So the government is now arguing that we need to enhance PBRs with measures like longer protection - going from 18 to 25 years.

One of the results of the government's attempt to push PBRs even further will be a change that prevents researchers from using existing varieties protected under PBRs to breed new varieties. This is a very important change because new varieties are not created out of thin air. Plant breeders follow the path of all scientists, which, if they are honest, is to say, with Isaac Newton, "If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants".

The giants in plant breeding are the hundreds of thousands of farmers from ancient to modern times who carefully selected the best plants from their crops to produce next year's seeds. They are also the scientists in the last century who produced the exceptional crop varieties from those selected by our farming ancestors, varieties like Neepawa and Barrie wheat, Kyle durum and Harrington barley. Plant breeding today, whether public or private, stands on all these shoulders. When Monsanto wanted to create a herbicide-tolerant genetically modified wheat, it did not do so from scratch. Rather, it took an existing public variety and added a single gene. Rumour has it that Monsanto's Roundup Ready spring wheat was the publicly developed variety Barrie.

The changes proposed to PBRs would prohibit scientists from building on existing varieties that are protected by PBRs without obtaining the right's holder's permission. This would add two problems for breeders. It would increase costs of obtaining germplasm and would allow a company to monopolize that germplasm if it wished to do so. So much for standing on the shoulders of giants.

Of course, the counter to this argument is that by increasing the scope of PBRs, we will allow more money to go to PBR holders and this should result in greater research. Mind you, that money will have to come from farmers, who right now are getting much of their net income from government programs. As farmers' costs go up to purchase the new varieties that have been made more expensive, greater government support will be needed! So, by cutting back on research and giving greater benefits to private plant breeders, governments are transferring public money to them through the conduit of the farmer. Wouldn't it be much simpler to retain good government breeding programs?

It appears again to be an example of fixing things that aren't broken. Sadly, the bureaucrats who support this idea appear to be so far divorced from the reality on the farm as to be frightening. A classic case, it appears, of midgets standing on the shoulders of other midgets.

(c) Paul Beingessner (306) 868-4734 phone 868-2009 fax beingessner@sasktel.net

2. Investors challenge Monsanto over risks of genetically engineered products: Shareholder Resolution Calls for Reporting Impacts of Biotech Products

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Thursday, January 20, 2005

Media Contacts:
Michael Passoff, Associate Director, As You Sow Foundation, (415) 391-3212;
Sister Susan Jordan, Coordinator, Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investment, (314) 638-5453

St. Louis ­ A shareholder resolution to be voted on Thursday, January 20, asks Monsanto (MON­ NYSE) to report on impacts related to its genetically engineered products.

"Major market rejection and sudden business strategy reversals raise doubt that Monsanto is properly evaluating the risks of its genetically engineered products," said Michael Passoff, of the As You Sow Foundation. "In the last 14 months Monsanto has had to abandon plans to commercialize its most important future product, its most important future area of research, and the country with its highest level of market penetration."

Some of the major business strategy reversals that took investors by surprise include: Monsanto’s decision to not commercialize genetically engineered wheat despite spending $60 million on it in 2004 alone; the cancellation of its plans to develop pharmaceutical crops; forsaking its operations in Argentina despite 90 percent market penetration of genetically engineered soya; and suspending its investment in genetically engineered canola in Australia.

Shareholders see untested and underreported environmental impacts as perhaps the biggest risk. "Contamination of conventional crops by genetically engineered crops is happening," said Sister Susan Jordan, coordinator of the Midwest Coalition for Responsible Investment. "Even Monsanto’s annual report recognizes the removal of genetically engineered seed and products may be necessary, yet the company offers no contingency plan to address it."

"There are a significant number of scientific studies that challenge Monsanto’s claims of safety and benefits," added Jordan. "Food is not merely another market commodity; it is essential to life and sacred culturally to all peoples. We believe that agricultural genetic engineering has not demonstrated that it safeguards the common good, human dignity, and the natural and social systems that sustain life for our time and for the future. Monsanto needs to be responsible, accountable, and socially just."

Recent reports by the National Academy of Science, Environmental Protection Agency, Union of Concerned Scientists, and the Center for Food Safety, among others, raise warnings about extensive crop contamination, increased pest resistance, increased herbicide use, impacts on non-target populations. Furthermore, the reports identify serious gaps in testing methodologies, the regulatory approval process, and a lack of oversight once products are commercialized.

"The biggest misperception about genetically engineered crops is that the FDA has tested these plants and declared them safe," added Passoff. "What the FDA has done is approved genetically engineered crop commercialization based on Monsanto’s assurance that the products are safe. The FDA does no testing of its own nor does it monitor these products after they are commercialized. Monsanto and its shareholders are responsible for all legal and financial liabilities."

"As the world’s leading producer of genetically engineered seeds, Monsanto faces unique business risks," said Marc Brammer, Senior Analyst of Innovest Strategic Value Advisors. "These risks require a detailed assessment by management and reporting to shareholders." Innovest has just released the most in-depth look at Monsanto’s financial risk from genetically engineered products. The report warns shareholders about hidden risks to Monsanto’s profitability and points out that Monsanto’s stock price is likely overvalued compared to its actual earnings.

"A sound balance sheet, bullish marketing of Ag biotech potential, and the perception that many big litigation risks were behind it, has pushed Monsanto’s share price to all-time highs," added Brammer, "but Wall Street’s bullishness is not reflected in actual earnings as seen in the high PE ratio of over 70. Significant risks to financial performance remain un-examined in Monsanto’s business plan and are not properly reflected in current stock market valuations."

Among the key findings of the report are:

a.. the potential costs of contamination of conventional seed with biotechnology traits is not delineated properly for investors by management;
b.. the lack of regulatory oversight is not acknowledged as a business risk since liability remains with Monsanto once genetically engineered crops are commercialized;
c.. ambitious profit targets do not reflect political and economic realities facing genetically engineered crops with respect to consumer acceptance and commercialization;
d.. reliance on litigation to "capture value" and fend off competitors is not fully acknowledged in the business plan, or accounted for in SEC filings; and
e.. regular appearance of "Extraordinary Charges" on the balance sheet as a result of environmental litigation costs and restructuring charges imply that such costs will likely continue to be burdensome.

The shareholder proposal was filed by School Sisters of Notre Dame of St. Louis; Sisters of Mercy Regional Community of St. Louis; St. Mary's Institute (Sisters of the Most Precious Blood), O'Fallon, MO; Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet; Sisters of Loretto; Mercy Investment Program; Sisters of Mercy, Regional Community of Detroit Charitable Trust; Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament; Sinsinawa Dominicans; Daughters of Charity of Saint Vincent dePaul, St. Louis; Adrian Dominican Sisters; Sisters of Charity of Cincinnati; and As You Sow Foundation. Most of the co-filers are part of a coalition of 300 religious institutional investors and socially responsible investment firms with more than $150 billion in combined assets.

For more detailed information, the text of the shareholder resolution, and related financial and scientific reports the on this issue, please visit http://www.proxyinformation.com


3. Hungary Bans Monsanto GMO Maize Seeds

Source: http://www.planetark.com/dailynewsstory.cfm/newsid/29113/story.htm

BUDAPEST - Hungary, one of the biggest grain producers in the new EU, became the first country in eastern Europe to ban GMO maize when on Wednesday it outlawed the planting of Monsanto Co's MON 810 maize hybrid seeds.

The Agriculture Ministry said it had banned MON 810 maize seed planting pending tests to establish whether GM crops contaminate other crops and said old stocks must be destroyed, although it will continue to allow GMO maize in food production.

"The temporary measure bans the production, use, distribution and import of hybrids...deriving from the MON 810 maize line," the ministry said in a statement.

MON 810 is allowed in the European Union, but individual countries currently have discretion over whether to allow it and other gene- altered crops.

No GMO crops are grown in Hungary at present and the Hungarian ban on MON 810 will come into force on Thursday and remain until tests are completed.

Anti-GMO campaigners say the technology is not proven and that it could contaminate other crops, while the industry says it vastly benefits consumers and there is no evidence of contamination from numerous trials of the crops.

Monsanto said two maize variants based on MON 810 had been awaiting approval in Hungary and that the ban was not justified, adding that Hungary had made a unilateral decision and did not appear to have consulted the European Commission.

Brussels-based Monsanto spokesman Daniel Rahier said the company did not believe that the issue of the co-existence of GMO and non-GMO crops could be used to justify a ban.

"The ban was a great disappointment for us, there was no condition which required this action, no one wanted to import genetically modified corn seed into Hungary," said Mihaly Czepo, who deals with biotechnology issues for the company in Hungary.

The ministry said the Monsanto hybrid will still be allowed to ship across Hungary, although packages must not be opened, nor the seed modified in any way, the ministry said.

"The ban applies to seed producers and distributors as well as farmers," the ministry said.

Hungary is a major grains producer and had a bumper harvest in 2004 of 16.7 million tonnes of grain, up 90.5 percent on the previous year, and much of that is exported to the European Union.

Maize output alone was 8.3 million tonnes in 2004.

Austria, France, Germany, Greece and Luxembourg have bans on particular products -- three GMO maize varieties and two types of rapeseed.

Opponents of the technology have expressed concern that the new European Union countries, many of them relatively poor ex-communist countries, could provide a back door for GMO food production, something the industry has denied.

Poland allows the import of GMO maize and is in the process of passing a law which would allow for growing of GMO maize in Poland, which is expected to be voted on in parliament this year.

Romania, also a big grains producer which hopes to join the EU in 2007, allows genetically modified soya and is keen to expand GMO food production.

Story by David Chance

4. Monsanto 'Seed Police' Scrutinize Farmers

By Stephen Leahy
January 15, 2004 by the Inter Press Service

BROOKLIN, Canada - Agribusiness giant Monsanto has sued more than 100 U.S. farmers, and its "seed police" have investigated thousands of others, for what the company terms illegal use of its patented genetically engineered seeds, and activists charge is "corporate extortion".

Monsanto prohibits farmers from saving seed from varieties that have been genetically engineered (GE) to kill bugs and resist ill-effects from the herbicide glyphosate (sold under the brand name Roundup).

Kem Ralph of Covington, Tennessee is believed to be the first farmer to have gone to jail for saving and replanting Monsanto's Roundup Ready soy seed in 1998. Ralph spent four months behind bars and must also pay the company 1.8 million dollars in penalties.

In total, U.S. courts have awarded Monsanto more than 15 million dollars, according to a new report by the Washington- based Center for Food Safety (CFS) called "Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers".

"Monsanto's business plan for GE crops depends on suing farmers," said Joe Mendelson, legal director for CFS.

It is the first detailed study of how U.S. Farmers have been impacted by litigation arising from the use of GE crops.

In an interview with IPS, a company spokesperson said Monsanto was well within its rights to enforce patent laws. "Monsanto has never sued a farmer who unknowingly planted our seeds," said Chris Horner.

When asked how the company differentiates between intentional and unintentional use Horner said: "You can tell just by looking at field."

"It's not like we're actively going out to find farmers who illegally use our seed," he added. "But if it comes to our attention we'll look into it."

Horner confirmed that Monsanto provides a toll-free phone number for farmers to report suspected abuses by other growers.

While refusing to comment on the accuracy of the CFS report, Horner said it only looks at a very small group of its customer base. "We have more than 300,000 licenses with growers that use our products."

According to the report, court awards are just a fraction of the money the company has extracted from farmers. Hundreds of farmers are believed to have been coerced into secret settlements over the past eight years to avoid going to court.

Farmers generally lack the knowledge and the legal representation to defend themselves against Monsanto's allegations, Mendelson said at a press conference Thursday.

"Often, there's no proof offered but farmers give up without a fight," he said.

Very little is known about the terms of these settlements, but in one instance, a North Carolina farmer agreed to pay 1.5 million dollars, he said.

Monsanto has a budget of 10 million dollars and a staff of 75 devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers, the report said.

The tactic has proved very successful. In 2004, nearly 85 percent of all soy and canola were GE varieties. Three- quarters of U.S. cotton and nearly half of corn is also GE.

Monsanto controls roughly 90 percent of GE soy, cotton and canola seed markets and has a large piece of the corn seed market.

The issue of GE crops and small farmers has featured prominently at the World Social Forum (WSF), an annual gathering of civil society groups from around the globe that has called for a moratorium on biotech agriculture.

Monsanto, in particular, has been singled out for "forcing GE crops on Brazil and the rest of the rest of the world", according to the environmental group Greenpeace.

This year's WSF takes place Jan. 26-31 in Porto Alegre, Brazil, and will present a new chance for anti-GE campaigners to compare notes on the successes, and setbacks, of the movement in the last year.

So why don't farmers just buy non-GE seed? North Dakota farmer Rodney Nelson says there is actually very little conventional seed left to buy anymore because seed dealers don't make nearly as much money from them.

Monsanto charges technology use fees ranging from 6.25 dollars per bag for soy to an average of 230 dollars for cotton -- more than three times the cost of conventional cotton seed. The company argues these fees are necessary to recoup its research investment.

The other problem is that some non-GE seed is now contaminated by Monsanto's patented genes, Nelson said.

Monsanto sued Nelson and his family in 1999 for patent infringement, charging they had saved Roundup Ready soybean seeds on their 8,000-acre farm. Two years of legal hell ensued, Nelson said. The matter ended with an out of court settlement that he is forbidden to talk about. "We won, but we feel forever tainted."

The report contains a number of similar individual stories that often end in bankruptcy for the farmer.

Even if a farmer decides to stop using Monsanto seeds, the GE plants self-seed and some will spring up of their own accord the following year. These unwanted "volunteers" can keep popping up for five or more years after a farmer stops using the patented seeds.

Under U.S. patent law, a farmer commits an offense even if they unknowingly plant Monsanto's seeds without purchasing them from the company. Other countries have similar laws.

In the well-known case of Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser, pollen from a neighbor's GE canola fields and seeds that blew off trucks on their way to a processing plant ended up contaminating his fields with Monsanto's genetics.

The trial court ruled that no matter how the GE plants got there, Schmeiser had infringed on Monsanto's legal rights when he harvested and sold his crop. After a six-year legal battle, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that while Schmeiser had technically infringed on Monsanto's patent, he did not have to pay any penalties.

Schmeiser, who spoke at last year's World Social Forum in India, says it cost 400,000 dollars to defend himself.

"Monsanto should held legally responsible for the contamination," he said.

Another North Dakota farmer, Tom Wiley, explains the situation this way: "Farmers are being sued for having GMOs on their property that they did not buy, do not want, will not use and cannot sell."

"It's a corporation out of control," says Andrew Kimbrell, the executive director of CFS.

Unfortunately, he adds, there will be no help for farmers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug Administration as key positions are occupied by former Monsanto employees and the company has a powerful lobby in Washington.

To help farmers facing lawsuits or threats from Monsanto, the CFS has established a toll-free hotline to get guidance and referrals: 1-888-FARMHLP

Among other actions, the CFS supports local and state-wide moratoriums on planting GE crops, and laws to prevent farmers from being liable for patent infringement through biological pollution.

5. Saving Seed Is Latest Tech Piracy

Associated Press
09:57 AM Jan. 14, 2005 PT

Monsanto's "seed police" snared soy farmer Homan McFarling in 1999, and the company is demanding he pay it hundreds of thousands of dollars for alleged technology piracy. McFarling's sin? He saved seed from one harvest and replanted it the following season, a revered and ancient agricultural practice.

"My daddy saved seed. I saved seed," said McFarling, 62, who still grows soy on the 5,000 acre family farm in Shannon, Mississippi, and is fighting the agribusiness giant in court.

Saving Monsanto's seeds, genetically engineered to kill bugs and resist weed sprays, violates provisions of the company's contracts with farmers.

Since 1997, Monsanto has filed similar lawsuits 90 times in 25 states against 147 farmers and 39 agriculture companies, according to a report issued Thursday by The Center for Food Safety, a biotechnology foe.

In a similar case a year ago, Tennessee farmer Kem Ralph was sued by Monsanto and sentenced to eight months in prison after he was caught lying about a truckload of cotton seed he hid for a friend.

Ralph's prison term is believed to be the first criminal prosecution linked to Monsanto's crackdown. Ralph has also been ordered to pay Monsanto more than $1.7 million.

The company itself says it annually investigates about 500 "tips" that farmers are illegally using its seeds and settles many of those cases before a lawsuit is filed.

In this way, Monsanto is attempting to protect its business from pirates in much the same way the entertainment industry does when it sues underground digital distributors exploiting music, movies and video games.

In the process, it has turned farmer against farmer and sent private investigators into small towns to ask prying questions of friends and business acquaintances.

Monsanto's licensing contracts and litigation tactics are coming under increased scrutiny as more of the planet's farmland comes under genetically engineered cultivation.

Some 200 million acres of the world's farms grew biotech crops last year, an increase of 20 percent from 2003, according to a separate report released Wednesday.

Many of the farmers Monsanto has sued say, as McFarling claims, that they didn't read the company's technology agreement closely enough. Others say they never received an agreement in the first place.

The company counters that it sues only the most egregious violations and is protecting the 300,000 law-abiding U.S. farmers who annually pay a premium for its technology. Soy farmers, for instance, pay a "technology fee" of about $6.50 an acre each year.

Some 85 percent of the nation's soy crop is genetically engineered to resist Monsanto's herbicide Roundup, a trait many farmers say makes it easier to weed their fields and ultimately cheaper to grow their crops.

"It's a very efficient and cost-effective way to raise soy beans, and that's why the market has embraced it," said Ron Heck, who grows 900 acres of genetically engineered soy beans in Perry, Iowa.

Heck, who is also chairman of the American Soybean Association, said he doesn't mind buying new seed each year and appreciates Monsanto's crackdown on competitors who don't pay for their seed.

"You can save seed if you want to use the old technology," Heck said.

The company said the licensing agreement protects its more than 600 biotech-related patents and ensures a return on its research and development expenses, which amount to more than $400 million annually.

"We have to balance our obligations and our responsibilities to our customers, to our employees and to our shareholders," said Scott Baucum, Monsanto's chief intellectual property protector.

Still, Monsanto's investigative tactics are sowing seeds of fear and mistrust in some farming communities, company critics say.

Monsanto encourages farmers to call a company hot line with piracy tips, and private investigators in its employ act on leads with visits to the associates of suspect farmers.

Baucum acknowledged that the company walks a fine line when it sues farmers.

"It is very uncomfortable for us," Baucum said. "They are our customers and they are important to us."

The Center for Food Safety established its own hotline Thursday where farmers getting sued can receive aid. It also said it hopes to convene a meeting among defense lawyers to develop legal strategies to fight Monsanto.

The company said it has gone to trial five times and has never lost a legal fight against an accused pirate. The Supreme Court in 1980 allowed for the patenting of genetically engineered life forms and extended the same protections to altered plants in 2001. Earlier this year, a Washington, D.C., federal appeals court specifically upheld Monsanto's license.

"It's sad. It's sickening. I'm disillusioned," said Rodney Nelson, a North Dakota farmer who settled a Monsanto suit in 2001 that he said was unfairly filed. "We have a heck of an uphill battle that I don't think can be won."

6. Bt cotton area in India increased by 400% in 2004: report

Saturday, January 15, 2005 at 0000 hours IST

NEW DELHI, JAN 14: The US-based international service for the acquisition of agri-biotech applications (ISAAA) has estimated that in 2004 area under Bt cotton in India has increased by 400% to be at 500,000 hectare.

India is categorised as a "mega-biotech country" and has recorded the highest percentage increase in area under transgenic crops in the world. The global area under transgenic crops increased by 20% to be at 81 million hectare. India has so far approved a single transgenic crop, Bt cotton.

However, the area of 500,000 hectare under Bt cotton in India is only 11% of the area under hybrid cotton and a miniscule portion of over 10.5 million hectare under cotton cultivation in 2004.

In a teleconference with media on Thursday, ISAAA global coordinator Randy Hautea speaking from Manila admitted that Indonesia and Bulgaria had pulled out from the global race for transgenic crops. The governments in these countries did not extend the approval for transgenic crops as "there was some disasters". Asked if a similar situation would result in India relating to Bt cotton, Dr Hautea refused to comment.

Commenting on the ISAAA report, PV Satheesh, convenor of the Hyderabad based Deccan Development Society said : "Bt cotton failed to live up to the expectations in the third consecutive year in different parts of south India. We have documented our reports based on the findings of agronomists and agri-scientists. We will release our findings soon."

National coordinator in ISAAA south Asia office Bhagirath Chaudhary said : "The highest percentage increase in area under Bt cotton was in Andhra Pradesh, while Maharashtra had the largest area under the crop. About 300,000 farmers cultivated Bt cotton." Estimated Bt cotton area in AP is 70,000h (1,385% increase), 85,000h in MP (667% increase), 130,000h in Gujarat (320% increase), 205,000h in Maharashtra (945% increase), 18,000h in Karnataka (600% increase), 10,000h in TN (132% increase).

7. India farmers oppose patent ordinance

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

NEW DELHI, JAN 10: Farmers' bodies have decided to oppose the recent ordinance which seeks to introduce patent monopolies on seeds. The agitation will be launched on January 30.

They have decided to oppose the proposed amendments to the Seeds Act, government policies leading to privatisation of the water sector and market monopolies likely to be created by attempts to modify the structure of regulated markets for agri produces, Food Corporation of India and the public distribution system.

As an alternative, the farmers' bodies have decided draft a new agriculture policy and submit it the government after the conclusion of the proposed two-day deliberations on March 2.

Farmers' organisations from Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Orissa, Uttaranchal, Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Maharashtra converged in the capital on Monday and resolved to launch their countrywide agitation.

The farmers' conclave was organised by Bija Vidyapeeth and was addressed by eminent speakers like former Indian ambassador to GATT SP Shukla, Prof Utsav Patnaik of Jawaharlal Nehru University, former chairman of ST & SC Commission, BD Sharma, Dinesh Abrol of All India People Science Network, Supreme Court advocate Prasant Bhushan, convenor of the National Working Group on Patent Laws, BK Keayla and Navdanya's founder director, Dr Vandana Shiva.

Briefing mediapersons at the conclusion of the farmers' conclave, Dr Shiva said: "The Patent Ordinance has proposed patent monopolies on seeds, genes and markers. This will lead to farmers' paying royalties to seed companies. Further, the proposed amendments to the Seeds Act, like compulsory registration, will prevent farmers from using farm-saved seeds. We have decided to oppose all these measures and boycott multinational companies producing agro-chemicals and seeds, including the genetically modified ones."

Regarding agitation against the proposed water sector reforms, she said the focal areas will be Bundelkhand and Doab.

Bundelkhand is threatened by the Ken-Betwa river link financed by the World Bank and MP Water Sector Reform Project. The fertile plains of Doab are threatened by diversion of Ganga water to Delhi. The agitation against water sector reforms will begin on February 14. On that day, farmers will also serve notices of non-cooperation to the government, she said.

Ram Kalspurkar of Vidharbha Organic Farmers' Association alleged that sterile seeds sold by companies have led to suicides by farmers'. He also complained about proliferation of a virus called CaMV which has damaged the crops.

The article below suggests that US farmers are eager to grow pharmaceutical crops and have been convinced that opposition to such planting is groundless. Recent actions by USDA and FDA suggest that they will not object to pollution of the US food supply with drugs and vaccines.The farmers may have been told that exported drug and vaccine polluted foods will be welcomed worldwide!

8. US farmers eager to grow "bio-pharm" crops

Tuesday, January 11, 2005
By Christopher Doering

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (Reuters) - More than 90 percent of 578 U.S. farmers surveyed said corn, soybeans and other crops consumed by humans should be genetically modified to produce drugs for ailments such as AIDS, according to a Reuters poll released on Tuesday.

Some U.S. food makers and environmental groups have demanded a ban on new "bio-pharm" crops until stricter federal controls are put in place to prevent windblown pollen from contaminating crops for human or animal food.

The biotech industry has turned to a variety of plants, including corn and soybeans, as a cheaper way to manufacture ingredients to treat ailments such as Alzheimer's disease and cancer.

In a Reuters straw poll, 91 percent said they favored using traditional food crops to produce pharmaceuticals.

"If you can grow them to eat, why can't you grow them to use for pharmaceutical products," said Doug Krieger, an Indiana corn and soybean farmer.

The 578 farmers responded voluntarily to the poll from about 4,000 in attendance at the annual meeting of the nation's largest farm group. The straw poll did not attempt to weight responses by state, size of farm or other criteria.

The survey also found 51 percent of growers questioned are interested in planting pharmaceutical crops, which are expected to command premium prices. Another 31 percent said they would need more information about costs, consumer acceptance, and health and safety issues before deciding whether to plant.


The United States is the world's largest grower of gene-altered crops, growing billions of bushels each year of corn, cotton and soybeans designed to repel pests or to withstand a broadly effective herbicide known as Roundup.

The Reuters poll found respondents planned to boost their Roundup Ready corn plantings in 2005 by about 34.7 percent. Total acres of another gene-spliced crop, BT corn, would increase by 15.9 percent, according to the farmers surveyed.

In 2004, the USDA estimated that 45 percent of U.S. corn was gene-spliced, up from 40 percent a year earlier.

The European Union has begun to allow imports of some bio-crops after lifting a five-year ban put in place in 1998.

Still, European consumers remain largely opposed to the crops with concerns about long-term impacts on human health and the environment.

"It is safe. Everything the critics are saying is based on speculation, but the facts show the crops are safe," said Bob Stallman, Farm Bureau Federation president.

Stallman added that the U.S. agencies overseeing bio-crops - the Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency and USDA - have research verifying the safety of biotech plantings and have imposed safeguards such as buffer zones around fields of gene-altered plants. Roundup Ready is a popular herbicide produced by Monsanto Co., the main developer of bio-crops engineered to withstand the effects of the weed killer. Fewer weeds mean higher yields and less price dockage when farmers sell their grain.

A Monsanto spokesman said two weeds - rye grass and mare's tail - are resistant to Roundup. In December, a single case of ragweed also was found to be resistant in central Missouri.

The Reuters poll found that 31 percent of farmers have noticed weed resistance in their Roundup Ready crops. Many farmers regularly rotate crops and change the herbicides they apply to reduce the chance of resistance developing.

"I'm always concerned about it... because the potential is there to develop resistance with any prolonged use of herbicide," said Steve Nelson, a Nebraska corn and soybean grower who has not seen resistance to Roundup on his farm.

Environmental groups worry that increasing amounts of chemicals will have to be applied to crops to keep up with weeds that become harder to control.

Source: Reuters News