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Monsanto and Dow Chemical agree to joint effort

(Monday, Jan. 23, 2006 -- CropChoice news) --

1. Terminator threat looms
2. Monsanto and Dow Chemical agree to joint effort
3. A decade later: is GM winning hearts and minds?
4. Seeds of legislative meddling
5. Report slams USDA biotech experiments
6. Un-spinning the spin masters on genetically engineered food
7. Down on the biopharm, Missouri plows ahead
8. UM researcher cites GE contamination; genetic herbicide resistance found in seeds

1. Terminator threat looms: Intergovernmental meeting to tackle suicide seeds issue CBD's Working Group on 8(j) Meets in Granada, Spain 23-27 January

ETC Group
News Release
20 January 2006

Indigenous peoples, farmers' organizations and civil society representatives are bracing to defend a de facto United Nations' moratorium on seed sterilization technology - the moratorium is now under attack by the multinational seed and biotech industry. A meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity, where "suicide seeds" are on the agenda, gets underway in Spain next week. The UN moratorium - which recommends against the field-testing and commercial sale of seed sterilization technology - is under attack. Delta & Pine Land (a multinational seed company) and the US Department of Agriculture recently won new patents on Terminator in Europe and Canada.(1)

Terminator (a.k.a. "genetic use restriction technology" - GURTs) refers to plants that are genetically modified to produce sterile seeds at harvest. The technology was developed by the multinational seed/agrochemical industry and the US government. If commercialized, Terminator would prevent farmers from saving seeds from their harvest, forcing them to return to the commercial market every year and marking the end of locally-adapted agriculture through seed selection. The vast majority of the world's farmers routinely save seed from their harvest for re-planting.

Bombshell in Bangkok: Almost one year ago, the Canadian government and its seed industry allies made a scandalous bid to dismantle the United Nations' moratorium on Terminator seed technology at a February 2005 meeting of a scientific advisory body to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bangkok. A leaked memo revealed that the Canadian government was prepared to push for language allowing for field-testing and commercialization of Terminator. Ultimately, the Canadian government was forced to publicly distance itself from Terminator in response to citizen protests back home, and due to key interventions from other governments that support the moratorium. (For more details: http://www.etcgroup.org/article.asp?newsid=500 )

"The promise of increased profits is simply too enticing for industry to give up on Terminator seeds," explains Lucy Sharratt, coordinator of the international Ban Terminator Campaign (www.banterminator.org). "Terminator seeds will become a commercial reality unless governments take action to prevent it," agrees Hope Shand of ETC Group.

The Ban Terminator Campaign, launched in response to attacks on the CBD moratorium, seeks to promote government bans on Terminator technology at the national and international levels. It also supports efforts of civil society, farmers, Indigenous peoples and social movements to campaign against suicide seeds.

National Bans: In March 2005 the Brazilian government passed a national law that prohibits the use, sale, registration, patenting and licensing of Terminator seeds. The Government of India has implemented a national ban on Terminator through its legislation governing plant variety registration.

One More Round in Granada: Governments will meet in Granada, Spain next week (January 23-27) to consider the social, economic and cultural impacts of Terminator seeds on indigenous and local communities, and on peasant farmers. The meeting will review an expert report on Terminator (known as the AHTEG Report http://www.banterminator.org/the_issues/ indigenous_peoples_traditional_knowledge_and_biodiversity/ expert_group_report_on_gurts) and make recommendations to the 8th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (COP8) in Curitiba, Brazil, 20-31 March 2006, where Terminator is on the agenda.

"Terminator technology is an assault on the traditional knowledge, innovation and practices of indigenous and local communities," said Debra Harry of the Indigenous Peoples Council on Biocolonialism, and member of the expert group that examined the potential impacts of GURTs (Terminator) on indigenous peoples, smallholder farmers and Farmers' Rights. "Field testing or commercial use of sterile seed technology is a fundamental violation of the human rights of Indigenous peoples, a breach of the right of self-determination," said Harry.

The Ban Terminator Campaign urges the Working Group on 8j to unambiguously advise that genetic seed sterility threatens biodiversity, indigenous knowledge systems and food sovereignty. The AHTEG Report on GURTs should be forwarded to COP8 for its consideration, and the report's recommendation that governments adopt national regulations to prohibit the field-testing and commercial use of GURTs should be strengthened.

For more information:

Lucy Sharratt, Ban Terminator Campaign
mobile: +1 613 252-2147

Hope Shand or Veronica Villa
hope@etcgroup.org / veronica@etcgroup.org

(1) Delta & Pine Land and USDA, EP775212B, (European Patent), issued 5 October 2005; Delta & Pine Land and USDA, CA2196410, (Canadian Patent), issued 11 October 2005

2. Monsanto and Dow Chemical agree to joint effort

Thursday, January 18, 2006
By Christopher Leonard

The world's biggest seed company is using an old piece of countryside wisdom: "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em."

After years of litigation, Monsanto Co. announced Wednesday it reached an agreement with competitor Dow Chemical Co. that will allow the companies to share patented technology for developing genetically altered crops.

St. Louis-based Monsanto is by far the industry leader in the multibillion-dollar market for biotech crops, having released the first strains 10 years ago. A key source of profit is Monsanto's patented genes, which allow it to charge fees and premium prices for seed.

The deal allows Monsanto and Dow's subsidiary, Dow AgroSciences LLC, to share patented genes in different strains of corn, soybeans and cotton. Adding multiple engineered genes into a seed is called "stacking" in the industry and produces plants with a number of traits, such as pest and herbicide resistance.

Under the new agreement, Dow will have access to Monsanto's Roundup Ready genes that make corn resistant to the popular herbicide. Monsanto will have access to Dow's Herculex genes for pest resistance.

The companies didn't release financial terms of the deal, which also included an agreement to end litigation over the patented Bt gene that makes corn resistant to insects.

The deal could help end the historical pattern of Monsanto and Midland, Mich.-based Dow suing each other, said analyst Frank Mitsch with Fulcrum Research in New York.

"Not only do the companies avoid costly legal fees going forward, but each gains access to new technologies that provide financial benefits," Mitsch wrote in a report on the deal.

On the losing end of this agreement is Pioneer Hi-Bred, one of Monsanto's biggest competitors, Mitsch said. A division of Wilmington-based DuPont Co., Pioneer is the second-biggest biotech crop company after Monsanto.

The new agreement will increase competition for Pioneer, which has ramped up efforts to take market share from Monsanto during the past few years, Mitsch said.

At Monsanto's annual shareholder's meeting Tuesday, CEO Hugh Grant was asked about litigation with Dow over patents. Grant hinted that the companies could achieve more through cooperation.

Grant compared the biotech crop market to making television sets. In that industry, a single television contains pieces that are patented by a number of companies. It's how the TV is put together that gives it value, he said.

Monsanto's goal is anything but modest when it comes to selling biotech seed. Monsanto already dominates the market for genetically engineered soybeans, and the agreement with Dow will help it make inroads in the corn market.

Monsanto-patented genes are now planted on about 24 million acres of U.S. cropland, company spokesman Lee Quarles said.

Grant said Tuesday the company wants to expand that to 50 million acres by 2008 or 2009, which would account for about 63 percent of all corn acreage.

Copyright The News Journal

3. A decade later: is GM winning hearts and minds?

Wednesday, January 18, 2006
By Anthony Fletcher

It is ten years since the first large-scale planting of genetically modified (GM) crops. Food Navigator looks at both sides of the argument to assess the future of the technology and its implications for the European food industry.

The argument for genetically modified crops

Advocates such as the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) argue that the benefits of the technology to the food industry have simply become irresistible.

More and more farmers are planting GM crops, while hostile regulators such as those in the EU are softening up to the technology.

Farmer demand has driven annual double-digit increases in biotech crop adoption since the crops were first commercialised a decade ago, with four new countries and a quarter million more farmers planting biotech crops last year.

The 8.5 million farmers planting biotech crops in 2005 also marked a significant milestone as the 1 billionth cumulative acre, or 400 millionth hectare, was planted.

"Farmers from the United States to Iran, and five EU countries demonstrate a trust and confidence in biotech crops, as indicated by the unprecedented high adoption rate of these crops," said ISAAA chairman Clive James.

Certainly, 2005 saw Iran growing its first crop of biotech rice, while the Czech Republic planted Bt maize for the first time, bringing the total number of EU countries growing biotech crops to five with Spain, Germany and the Czech Republic being joined by France and Portugal.

This, says the ISAAA, could signal an important trend in the EU. Last week, the EU ordered Greece to lift its ban on a GM seed manufactured by Monsanto, and also granted European approval for three Monsanto GM maize types.

Ultimately, claim supporters, GM crops have proved their effectiveness in the space of a decade despite fierce opposition. Opinions are beginning to change. Recent European Commission decisions have tended to back GM use, and consumers are being won over by scientific as well as economic argument.

"I am cautiously optimistic the stellar growth experienced during the first decade of commercialisation will not only continue, but will be surpassed in the second decade," said James.

"The number of countries and farmers growing biotech crops is expected to grow, particularly in developing countries, while second-generation input and output traits are expected to become available."

The argument against genetically modified crops

This of course is not a view shared by many environmentalists and food activists. European consumer opinion is still unequivocally anti-GM, and retailers have tended to respond by advertising their products as ‘non-GM', creating an impression that this is a health and safety as well as an environmental issue.

Pressure groups such as Friends of the Earth have marked the ten year anniversary of GM crops by arguing that no benefits to consumers or the environment have materialised.

"Contrary to the promises made by the biotech industry, the reality of the last ten years shows that the safety of GM crops cannot be ensured and that these crops are neither cheaper nor better quality," said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth (FoE) Nigeria.

A new FoE report argues that contrary to what the ISAAA might say, GM crops are not ‘green'. According to the pressure group, Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans, the most extensively grown GM crop today, has led to an increase in herbicide use.

It claims that independent reports from the US show that since 1996, GM corn, soybean and cotton have led to an increase in pesticide use of 55 million kilos. The intensive cultivation of soybeans in South America is fostering deforestation, and has been associated with a decline in soil fertility and soil erosion.

In addition, the report argues that GM crops do not tackle hunger or poverty. Most GM crops commercialised so far are destined for animal feed, not for food, and none have been introduced to address hunger and poverty issues.

And what's more, the biotech industry has failed to introduce the promised ‘ new generation' of GM crops with consumer benefits.

"After 30 years of research, only two modifications have made it to the marketplace on any scale: insect resistance and herbicide tolerance," said FoE. " The biotech industry is still mostly focusing on the traits, crops and applications that it did in the 1990s, and animal feed is the exclusive or primary intended use of most new-generation GM crops."

…and the future?

European consumers undoubtedly still hold strong reservations over the proliferation of GM crops. Member States such as Luxembourg, Greece and Austria consistently vote against GMO approvals and will not be happy with the recent EC announcement that Greece must lift its ban on Monsanto's MON 810.

In contrast to the US, pressure groups have successfully convinced the public that the powerful biotech sector is somehow trying to hoodwink them into consuming risky foods. But the fact remains that firm proof that GM foods could harm human health is absent.

This has diluted the argument against GM crops. If debate continues to focus on whether GM has health and safety implications, then the biotech industry will likely win over European regulators, as it is already doing.

But if the debate focuses fully on whether GM has had a negative environmental impact, as the FoE suggests, then the industry could have a real fight on its hands. © 2000/2006 ­ Decision News Media S

4. Seeds of legislative meddling:
Don't prohibit local standards on genetically engineered crops

Detroit Free Press
January 18, 2006

A national food controversy is now simmering in Michigan, as the state Senate considers a bill that would bar towns and counties from enacting local legislation to regulate genetically engineered seed. This bill poses a threat to our democracy and could prove especially harmful given the serious concerns raised by genetically engineered crops.

Genetically engineered organisms are created by inserting pieces of DNA from a distantly related organism into the DNA of a host plant or animal. For example, in one common GE crop, bacterial genes are genetically engineered into corn to create corn plants that produce their own pesticide.

GE crops, especially corn and soybeans, are widely grown in Michigan and across the United States. They are found in many processed foods in U.S. supermarkets.

Yet controversy swirls around GE foods, and they have been banned or require labels in some countries. At issue are concerns about inadequate evaluation of the health risks and environmental consequences of GE crops currently in use, genetic contamination of organic and conventional crops, and the ability to regulate GE foods within the food system.

A related looming issue is the production of biopharmaceutical crops -- food crops engineered to produce prescription drugs or industrial chemicals. Currently, outdoor experimental plots of biopharmaceutical crops -- such as corn engineered to produce blood clotters and contraceptives -- present significant contamination risks to the food system.

In response to these uncertainties, citizens in three counties in California passed ordinances in 2004 to ban the raising of GE crops and livestock, and local action has been taken in nearly 100 New England towns.

Agribusiness reacted swiftly to these local initiatives. Its legislative supporters have introduced preemptive bills in 18 states to prevent local governments from enacting legislation about seeds and plants. Fourteen states already have passed these bills into law; Michigan's version, SB 777, is scheduled to get another committee hearing Thursday.

The public should be concerned about this bill for four reasons.

GE foods pose genuine health and environmental concerns. Scientific experiments where laboratory mammals were fed GE food resulted in allergic reactions in one instance and toxic effects in another. Threat of allergic reaction led to the recall of hundreds of products containing genetically engineered corn in 2000.

The Food and Drug Administration still does not require premarket safety testing for GE foods.

The legislation prevents local enactment of the precautionary principle. The precautionary principle advocates thorough investigation of the risks posed by a new technology before it's adopted.

Following the precautionary principle, GE organisms would be required to demonstrate they do no harm before they are grown and consumed, based on rigorous testing of health and environmental impacts.

Preemptive legislation of this sort violates democratic principles and citizen involvement in issues of public well-being. It takes away local control, the authority of local governments, and the ability of voters to pass local ballot initiatives -- important tenets of our democracy.

Pre-emptive legislation, when it is justified in the public interest, should establish minimums for general health and safety, not set the upper limit on what is permitted. SB 777 would legally prohibit local regulation of GE seeds, thereby creating a ceiling for all Michiganders to live under, regardless of the risk factors.

SB 777 does not deserve the support of legislators or the public, whether the reason is GE plants specifically or the right to precaution and self-governance in general.

CATHERINE BADGLEY and IVETTE PERFECTO are on the faculty at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, at the Museum of Paleontology and the School of Natural Resources & Environment, respectively.

5. Report slams USDA biotech experiments:
Department Investigators cite poor oversight of programs

HONOLULU, Hawaii (AP) -- In a report released quietly just before Christmas, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's investigative arm disclosed that the department failed to properly monitor thousands of acres of experimental biotechnology crops.

The report by the department's inspector general said USDA didn't thoroughly evaluate applications to grow experimental crops and then didn't ensure the genetically engineered plants were destroyed after experiments. In several cases, the agency didn't even know where so-called field trials were located.

"The system has been set up practically as a self-reporting system," said Greg Jaffe, biotech director for the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest. "It's a 'don't look, don't find' policy."

The two-year audit, which ended in April, made 28 separate recommendations for improving oversight, the job of the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

In a written response, W. Ron DeHaven, the inspection service's administrator, said USDA has safely regulated biotechnology experiments since 1987 "with no demonstrable negative environmental impacts."

A new biotechnology department was created at the start of the audit that is addressing most of the concerns raised by the report, he said. Still, many scientists worry that biotechnology crops will inadvertently cross-pollinate with conventionally grown crops. That poses a particular problem for organic farmers who charge a premium to guarantee customers their groceries are free of genetic engineering.

Soy and corn are the most commonly planted genetically engineered crops in the United States. Soy is engineered to resist weed killer and the corn spliced with a bacteria gene to resist bugs. The report said the inspection service "lacks basic information about the field test sites it approves and is responsible for monitoring, including where and how the crops are being grown, and what becomes of them at the end of the field test."

The report also said the agency failed to keep a promise to inspect more crops engineered to make drugs using human and other animal genes. Three years ago, the agency vowed to do a better job of monitoring crops after it fined Prodigene Inc. of College Station, Texas, $250,000 for failing to remove corn engineered to produce a pig vaccine before soybeans were planted.

The audit did not find any environmental harm but said the USDA's inadequate safeguards "increase the risk that genetically engineered organisms will inadvertently persist in the environment before they are deemed safe to grow without regulation."

The agency was responsible for monitoring outdoor experiments of genetically engineered crops in all states and U.S. territories. Only Vermont, Nevada and New Hampshire have never hosted such trials within their borders.

6. Un-spinning the spin masters on genetically engineered food
Jeffrey Smith responds to a biotech proponent's accusations and spin

Part 3 of 3

This is the third of three parts of Jeffrey Smith's response to Hans Lombard. Lombard, a South African biotech PR consultant, accused Smith of blatant lies in his September 2005 interview in the investigative magazine noseweek. Smith replies to each of the accusations point by point below.

To read the original noseweek interview, go to http://www.seedsofdeception.com/Public/Newsletter/Sept05Rammeddownourthroats/index.cfm .

To read all three parts, go to http://www.seedsofdeception.com/utility/showDocumentFile/?objectID=101 .

7. Down on the biopharm, Missouri plows ahead

By Rachel Melcer
Saturday, Jan. 14 2006

Attracting and growing biopharm companies - those that genetically engineer crops to produce drugs or polymers - is just one play in Missouri's bid to build a biotech industry.

But it is an important one, because it trumps the concerns of outstate voters and legislators who now see the state's spending on biotech as a benefit only to St. Louis and Kansas City. The burgeoning biopharm business is a potential boon to farm income and rural economies.

So, Missouri is offering financial incentives to a pair of biopharm firms, with mixed results.

Chlorogen Inc., a startup company based at the Nidus Center for Scientific Enterprise in Creve Coeur, has decided to contract with farmers and build a processing plant in Cape Girardeau in about a year, said Chief Executive David Duncan.

The company was wooed by Kentucky, Florida and South Carolina, but Missouri offered the best financial package, he said.

Ventria Bioscience, a Sacramento, Calif.-based company, had planned to relocate to Maryville, Mo., but the deal fell through when federal and state grants failed to materialize. Missouri officials say they still are talking with Ventria in hopes of bringing the company to the state, but the discussion has gone back to the drawing board.

"We've also got feelers out to a number of other companies," said Mike Mills, deputy director of the Missouri Department of Economic Development. "We do focus very heavily on the biotech industry, and (biopharming) just happens to be a subset that provides an opportunity for rural Missouri to benefit greatly."

Even if these efforts succeed, a jackpot is not assured. Scientists agree that biopharming technology can work, but it is controversial.

There are concerns that plants engineered to grow non-food proteins might cross-pollinate with unmodified neighbors and contaminate food and animal feed supplies. Industry proponents say scientific and physical precautions can be taken to prevent this - growing the proteins in non-food crops, such as the tobacco produced by Chlorogen, or raising modified food plants in areas distant from crops that will be eaten, as Ventria proposed to do by growing rice in northwestern Missouri instead of the state's Bootheel.

Chlorogen also is using chloroplast cells of tobacco leaves to express the pharmaceutical proteins, and these cells do not play a part in reproduction.

But regulatory agencies are playing catch-up with the science, which is developing at a rapid pace. Strict rules need to be developed to manage biopharm crops, and it is unknown how these will affect the industry, said Roger Beachy, president of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in Creve Coeur and chair of Gov. Matt Blunt's Advisory Council for Plant Biotechnology.

"There is a lot of hard science and good regulations to be developed as (this) industry develops," Beachy said. But he believes it can succeed.

Proponents also say biopharming can be lucrative, though the size of the payoff and its beneficiaries are in question.

A recent report by agriculture economist Robert Wisner of Iowa State University, commissioned by the nonprofit Union of Concerned Scientists, said most of the benefit of biopharm crops would flow to big pharmaceutical companies rather than to farmers.

Most industry observers agree that the small biotech startups developing this technology will need to partner with these large corporations in order to fund the years of clinical trials and big marketing efforts needed to sell any therapeutic drug.

Chlorogen needs to secure such a deal before building operations in Cape Girardeau, Duncan said.

But growers and rural towns can benefit if production facilities are built near farm fields, as Chlorogen and Ventria have planned. Missouri has engineering and processing talent that can be employed in biopharming, said Perry Wong, senior economist with the Milken Institute, a think tank in Santa Monica, Calif.

"It's a region (where) agriculture meets industry," he said. "It's only natural, and with very good synergy, that the area try to bring in some new technology ... to maximize the benefit to the state in job creation and building."

The technology offers a way to turn commodity farming into a high-value niche production system, said Jason Garst, a farmer in Watson, Mo., who has contracted with Ventria to produce its biopharm rice. "It's simply the next level of technology that's going to allow us growers to remain profitable."

The key to keep in mind is that it's a niche industry, said Judith Kjelstrom, a microbiologist and director of the biotechnology program at the University of California, Davis.

"Some of the (political) leadership in the Midwest got caught up in, 'Wow, this is high-value farming.' And it is. But it's not going to be the acreage that you're used to seeing with soybeans and corn," Kjelstrom said, comparing its market potential to that of organic farming.

Beachy said the state's goal is to pursue a variety of high-tech, value-added agricultural biotech specialties, not just biopharming.

For example, Creve Coeur-based Monsanto Co., the world's leading producer of genetically modified crops, is developing soybeans and corn for food use that have added nutritional or processing benefits. Researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center are engaged in similar work.

Beachy agreed with Kjelstrom that biopharming alone is not likely to be a huge industry - unless it is embraced by the pharmaceutical giants. But he said he is confident that Missouri would be a good home for it.

The state also could gain from biopharming by boosting its overall image as a high-tech hot spot, Kjelstrom said.

"Any state that gets into promoting this technology, it's going to be successful," she said. "If you can say biopharming is alive and well in Missouri, you'll be seen as really visionary people."

8. UM researcher cites GE contamination; genetic herbicide resistance found in seeds

Published on Friday, January 13, 2006 by the Bangor Daily News
(http://www.bangornews.com/) (Maine)

AUGUSTA - Maine farmers cannot be 100 percent sure that the canola seeds they purchase to grow on their farms do not contain genetically engineered traits, a University of Maine agriculture research professor said this week.

Tests conducted last fall on research crops in northern Maine and Vermont indicated that the conventional crops and seeds contained genetically engineered DNA - DNA altered to allow crops not to be affected by herbicide applications - even though separated from GE plots.

"The genie is out of the bottle," professor John Jemison declared Wednesday during a presentation of his findings.

The issue of contaminated seeds goes straight to the heart of the organic industry, which prides itself on the purity of its natural products. Maine potato farmers were hoping that Jemison's research would indicate that canola was a profitable and soil-benefiting rotational crop.

Jemison's findings mirror those released in a study in 2004 by the Union of Concerned Scientists that found GE DNA is contaminating traditional seeds in three major U.S. crops - corn, soybeans and canola. The UCS, headquartered in Cambridge, Mass., is an independent nonprofit alliance of more than 100,000 concerned citizens and scientists.

The UCS policy is that seed contamination, left unchecked, could disrupt agricultural trade, unfairly burden the organic industry and allow hazardous materials into the food supply.

Jemison was part of a three-plot research project last summer that grew conventional and genetically engineered canola on a total of 50 acres in Presque Isle, Orono and Vermont. Canola seed is grown in Maine for its oil and to be plowed under to enrich the soil.

The GE and non-GE seeds for last fall's project were seeds left over from previous field trials at Orono and donated seeds from several seed companies.

Speaking Wednesday at the Maine Agricultural Trades Show in Augusta, Jemison said that after harvest, tests were conducted on 4,500 conventionally grown canola plants.

"We found contamination, or genetic resistance to herbicides, in five out of the six [genetic] lines," Jemison said, a condition that could not have been caused by current-season drift from GE crops.

This means that conventional canola seeds already are contaminated with GE-resistance traits, he said, and farmers cannot be 100 percent sure they are getting purely organic seeds.

According to the UCS, seed becomes contaminated when a conventional crop being grown for seed production is located downwind from a field growing GE crops. GE pollen, blown by the wind, pollinates the conventional crops, and some of those seeds contain the DNA from the GE crop.

The UCS says the seed producer, unaware of the contamination, harvests the seed and sends it to a seed production facility to be processed and bagged. Farmers then purchase the seed, marketed as pure, traditional seed, and the crops they grow produce crops with the genetically engineered DNA.

Russell Libby, executive director of the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, said Maine's 301 certified organic farmers are extremely concerned about adulterated seeds and GE crop drift.

"So far, we've been fortunate not to have severe issues in Maine, but the organic consumer is looking for non-GE food, and it is our job to provide that," Libby said. "There are some real questions about whether crops with even a minuscule amount of GE DNA can be marketed as organic."

Maine's organic industry represents more than $10 million annually and is the state's fastest-growing agriculture segment, according to Libby.

"I continue to think Maine has an opportunity to carve out a different kind of agriculture, and that will be organic," he said.

Libby said many countries have a zero tolerance, and "we're trying in Maine to hold to that zero percent. The U.S. Department of Agriculture so far hasn't tackled this issue. It's been food buyers and consumers that are setting the standards."

Doug Johnson of the Maine Biotechnology Information Bureau said this week that he has not seen Jemison's study, but he added that "foreign genes in seed lines are nothing unusual. The Association of Official Seed Certifying Agencies tolerates 0.5 percent of seed of other varieties or off-types in a 'pure' seed."

Jemison said his research percentage fell within those parameters. Many countries importing U.S. crops and organic producers, however, will accept no level of foreign genes.

Jemison said he is visiting potato and canola farmers, presenting his research and letting them make up their own minds.

"But I'm telling them that we aren't seeing any benefits to GE canola," he said.

Jemison said the level of genetic alteration discovered was "certainly greater than the percent found to naturally occur in plants. In nature, there is about one in a trillion plants that will mutate and produce a natural resistance [to herbicides]."

As far as the yield of the conventional versus GE canola, Jemison said the results indicated that in some fields the GE yield was 100 pounds more an acre. Yield, however, is not the only consideration.

"But once you add in the cost of the herbicide and the technology fees [for the GE seeds], it is a completely different picture," Jemison said. "In the Orono trial, it turned out we could save $3 an acre not using the GE seeds.

"We concluded the GE strains provide no significant benefit, no positive response," he said.

Jemison said the GE crops originally were touted as a way to feed the world's hungry, but only Canada, the United States and Argentina have embraced them.

"In Europe, the opposition to GE foods is mostly cultural," he explained.

Jemison said the United States, however, takes the attitude of "innocent until proven guilty" and takes the approach of trying the new technologies without regard to culture.

"We take a fairly short-term view of our farming economies, and we need to rethink our policies," he said. "We need to look at eating as an agricultural event, not just to fill our stomachs."