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Canadian Government to Unleash Terminator Bombshell; other stories

(Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. Canadian Government to Unleash Terminator Bombshell at UN Meeting
2. FAO recommends environmental monitoring of GM crops
3. Arkansas Rice Growers Annual Meeting Votes to Reject "Pharma Rice"
4. GM crops industry has stalled
5. Report: GE crops threaten organic farming industry
6. The ultimate war crime: Breaking the agricultural cycle
7. Farmers launch massive agitation against new patent law
8. Biotechnology appears to be withering as a food source
9. Corporate Hijack of Sustainable Agriculture Backfired to Moratorium on GMOs
10. Farmers push for shield from biotech crop liability
11. Rice Producers of California Re-emerges as the Voice of the Farmer
12. 12. Government Forced to Reveal Crop Test Sites

1. Canadian Government to Unleash Terminator Bombshellat UN Meeting: All-out push for commercialisation of Sterile Seed Technology.

A confidential document leaked today to ETC Group reveals that the Canadian Government, at a United Nations meeting in Bangkok (Feb 7-11), will attempt to overturn an international moratorium on genetic seed sterilisation technology, (known universally as Terminator). Even worse, the Canadian government has instructed its negotiators to "block consensus" on any other option.

"Canada is about to launch a devastating kick in the stomach to the world?s most vulnerable farmers - the 1.4 billion people who depend on farm saved seed, " said ETC Group Executive Director Pat Mooney speaking from Ottawa. ?The Canadian government is doing the dirty work for the multinational gene giants and the US government. Even Monsanto wasnt prepared to be this upfront and nasty. Canada is betraying Farmers? Rights and food sovereignty everywhere."

Terminator technology was first developed by the US government and the seed industry to prevent farmers from re-planting saved seed and is considered the most controversial and immoral agricultural application of genetic engineering so far. When first made public in 1998, "suicide seeds" triggered an avalanche of public opposition, forcing Monsanto to abandon the technology and prompting the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to impose a de facto moratorium on its further development.

According to the leaked instructions to Canadian negotiators at SBSTTA 10 (a scientific advisory body to the CBD) Canada will insist on Wednesday (9 Feb) that governments accept the field testing and commercialization of Terminator varieties (referred to as GURTS - Genetic Use Restriction Technologies). Canada will also attack an official UN report, prepared by an international expert group, which is critical of the potential impacts of Terminator seeds on small farmers and Indigenous Peoples. In stark contrast to Canadas position, the expert report recommends that governments seek prohibitions on the technology.

In Bangkok, civil society and Indigenous Peoples are calling on the Canadian government to abandon its endorsement of Terminator and to join with other governments to prohibit the technology once and for all. Many African and Asian governments have called for Terminator to be banned and the European Union has also been supportive of the existing moratorium.

"It is outrageous that Canada is backing an anti-farmer technology and shameful that it will "block consensus" on any other outcome. Governments from around the world must not accept this bullying tactic - says ETC Group?s Hope Shand from the negotiations in Bangkok. "If Canada blocks decision making on this issue, the moratorium will be in jeopardy and terminator seeds will be commercialized ending up in the fields of small farmers."

The full leaked text of the Canadian government's instructions to its negotiators on Terminator/GURTS follows.

Hope Shand and Jim Thomas of ETC Group can be contacted at SBSTTA negotiations in Bangkok on cell phone +44 (0) 7752 106806 or by email jim@etcgroup.org or hope@etcgroup.org

Pat Mooney (in Ottawa) +1 613 241 2267 etc@etcgroup.org

Kathy Jo Wetter (USA) +1 919 9605223 kjo@etcgroup.org

The Head of the Canadian Delegation in Bangkok is Robert McLean, Environment Canada, Robert.Mclean@ec.gc.ca tel +1 (819) 9971303

"Advice on the report of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (GURTS);

Canada has major reservations regarding the recommendations in the AHTEG report.Canada notes that the experts were unable to reach consensus and that while this is recognized in para. 15 of the report, this should have been made clear in the recommendation section of the report.

Unfortunately, the report leaves the impression that consensus was achieved on all of the recommendations when this was clearly not case and in particular in terms of recommendation (b) which reads as follows, "In view of the current lack of data, recommends that Parties and other Governments consider the development of regulatory frameworks not to approve GURTs for field-testing and commercial use."

Canada will suggest that the document clearly indicate in the Annex that there is no consensus on for the recommendations. Alternatively, the AHTEG report can be referred to as the "Chairs" report. Canada also believes that the AHTEG report contains scientific inaccuracies and a lack of balance in terms of reflecting both potential positive and negative impacts of this technology, and these issues should be addressed before the report is further distributed.

We believe that it would be beneficial for Parties and other governments to submit comments to the Executive Secretary/CHM to represent national views to improve the accuracy of the document, and that these be made available to both the 8j working group and COP.

Additionally, Canada will propose that SBSTTA adopt a recommendation for decision at COP8 based on the revised wording of recommendation "b" below and will propose this recommendation be incorporated for consideration at the 8j meeting:

NEW WORDING for recommendation b) of AHTEG report

(b) In view of the current lack of data, recommend that Parties and other Governments consider the development of domestic regulatory frameworks TO ALLOW FOR THE EVALUATION OF NOVEL VARIETIES, INCLUDING THOSE WITH GURTS, FOR FIELD TESTING AND COMMERCIAL USE BASED ON APPROPRIATE SCIENCE-BASED ENVIRONMENTAL RISK/SAFETY ASSESSMENTS.

In Canada's opinion the revised wording we are suggesting, strengthens the recommendation and provides for a strong scientific assessment of risk.

If we are unsuccessful in obtaining these additions (indication that recommendations in the AHTEG report were not based on consensus OR agreement to have national views submitted) AND changes to recommendation "B" -- or any other outcome which clearly addresses our concern over a defacto moratorium on GURTS-- Canada is prepared to block consensus on this issue."


The Five Year Freeze have urged Environment Minister Elliott Morley to oppose moves by the Canadian Government to force through a proposal to legalise the use of terminator genes at a UN meeting in Bangkok this week.

Documents released at the meeting of Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) [1] reveal that the Canadian Government is seeking to force through an amendment to recommendations to a UN report which would:

"Allow for the evaluation of novel varieties, including those with GURTS, for field testing and commercial use based on appropriate science-based environmental risk/safety assessments".

General Use Restriction Technologies (GURTS) or terminator genes have been widely condemned by governments and farming organisations across the world because they restrict farmersí rights to save their own seeds for sowing the next year by making them infertile without the use of specific agro-chemicals. Concerns were raised about the genes spreading to non-GM crops threatening the seed crops of poorest farmers when Monsanto first proposed to use terminator technology in 1998.

The Canadian government has stated that if their proposal is rejected they are "prepared to block consensus on this issue".

Commenting Five Year Freeze Director Pete Riley said

"Canadaís actions fly in the face of world opinion. It suggest that they may be influenced by the giant biotech companies. The UK government must use all their power and influence to oppose the legalisation of terminator technology for the sake of farmers throughout the world who want the their rights to save seeds every year protected by international agreements which cannot be over turned by the likes of Monsanto.



1. The meeting of the Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice (SBSTTA) which provides advice of the Conventionalon Biodiversity is being held in Bangkok 7th to 11th February

Documents from this meeting released to the media indicate that the Canadian Government is proposing amendments to a report to the UN by the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Genetic Use Restriction Technologies (AHTEG) which recommended that the moratorium of GURTS should continue

2. WORLD: FAO recommends environmental monitoring of GM crops Just-food.com, 01/28/05:

A consultation of experts convened at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has recommended that any responsible deployment of genetically modified (GM) crops needs to comprise the whole technology development process, from the pre-release risk assessment, to biosafety considerations and post release monitoring.

The FAO said environmental goals must also encompass the maintenance and protection of basic natural resources such as soil, water and biodiversity.

"In this way monitoring could become the key element in generating the necessary knowledge to protect agro-systems, rural livelihoods and broader ecological integrity," the UN organisation said.

Potential hazards associated with GM crops, according to the scientists, should be placed within the broader context of both positive and negative impacts that are associated with all agricultural practices.

The FAO said it is ready to facilitate this process along with other agencies and national and international research centres, encouraging the adoption of rigorously designed monitoring programmes.

The consultation was organised in the light of the controversy and public concern over GM. FAO asked a group of agricultural scientists from many parts of the world to provide clear preliminary guidelines on the most accurate and scientifically sound approach to monitoring the environmental effects of existing GM crops.

"FAO's aim is to provide a tool to assist countries in making their own informed choices on the matter, as well as protect the productivity and ecological integrity of farming systems," said Louise Fresco, assistant director-general of the FAO?s agriculture department.

"The need to monitor both the benefits and potential hazards of released GM crops to the environment is becoming ever more important with the dramatic increase in the range and scale of their commercial cultivation, especially in developing countries," she added.

3. Arkansas Rice Growers Annual Meeting Votes to Reject "Pharma Rice"

Greg Massa, http://www.usriceproducers.com

This is from The Rice Advocate, a publication of US Rice Producers Association. This vote was in response to Ventria Bioscience leaving California and relocating to Missouri, where they hope to plant their drug-producing rice this year. We here in CA have offered our assistance to both Missouri and Arkansas farmers as they continue the fight against Ventria.

The annual meeting of the Arkansas Rice Growers Association, held Tuesday evening in Brinkley, passed two resolutions dealing with issues of concern to rice farmers. First, the membership agreed to promote stronger enforcement of food safety laws, specifically pesticide, herbicide and fungicide residual levels in imported rice. Jerry Lee Bogard, of Midland Grain in Stuttgart, spoke to the 200 assembled farmers about the need to encourage the federal government to enforce current regulations and ensure the safety of imported food. With 14% of the domestic use of rice filled by imports, Mr. Bogard also encouraged a change in direction for the rice research community, who should be focusing on developing varieties of aromatic rice to compete with imports. Secondly, the membership approved legislative efforts to ban the production of pharmaceutical or industrial rice in Arkansas. Because of the imminent threat that "pharma" rice will be planted in the Missouri Bootheel this spring, the potential for domestic and export market disruption from even a small acreage of rice containing human genes is extremely serious, according to Greg Yielding, Executive Director of ARGA.



GeneEthics today refuted claims by the industry-backed International Service for the Acquisition of Agro-biotechnology Applications (ISAAA) that the global area of genetically manipulated (GM) crops increased rapidly from 2003 to 2004. Their latest annual review published today shows the GM crop industry remains stalled.

"GM crops are only 1.4% of global agricultural area and are not taking the world by storm," GeneEthics Network Director, Bob Phelps says.

"GM crops are also less productive than the best conventional varieties and cannot feed the world as industry constantly claims," he says.

"The ISAAA's own figures show commercial GM crops are not a global industry, as 98% of GM crops are grown in just six countries - USA 59%; Argentina 20%; Canada 6%; Brazil 6%, China 5%, and Paraguay 2%. 93% is in the Americas," he says.

"The GM industry's crop product range has also stalled, with only four broadacre commercial crops - soy, corn, canola and cotton," he says.

"And these GM crop plants have only two commercial traits - tolerance to being oversprayed with toxic weedicides, and producing insecticide toxins," he says.

"Both traits add more chemicals to our environment and foods," Mr Phelps says.

"The ISAAA report offers no evidence that the GM industry can keep its promises of more nutritious foods, longer shelf life products, drought and salt tolerant crops," he says.

"Other crops with new traits being field tested in many places are at least ten years away from commercial reality, and most will fail," he says.

"Over ninety percent of all commercial GM crops are monopoly owned and controlled by Monsanto, which is heavily backed by the US government at home and abroad, with subsidies and sweetheart policies," he says.

"Despite this, North American farming organisations rejected GM wheat last year and Monsanto cancelled its GM wheat research," he says.

"Farmers' grim experiences of lower yields and profits, and lost markets, are a better guide to the bleak future of GM crops than ISAAA's fantasy trip," he says.

"Shoppers, farmers and food processors will ensure that genetically manipulated crops go nowhere fast," Mr Phelps concludes.

5. Report: GE crops threaten organic farming industry

Lisa Rathke , Associated Press, January 28, 2005

http://www.timesargus.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20050128/NEWS/501280308/1 003/NEWS02

MONTPELIER ‚§" Contamin-ation from genetically engineered crops threatens Vermont's growing organic farming industry, advocates said Thursday.

The number of certified organic acres has more than doubled in the past five years, from 15,967 in 1999 to 35,826 in 2004, according to a report released Thursday by the Vermont Public Interest Research Group. The number of organic farmers has more than tripled from 90 in 1994 to 332 in 2004, the report said.

Organic dairy farms also have jumped from 38 to 87 between 1999 and 2004, the report said.

But the growing use of genetically modified organisms threatens to contaminate organically certified crops with their pollen, potentially increasing costs for organic growers, the report said.

"Over the past 10 years a remarkable consumer demand for organic food has propelled a very vibrant and rapidly expanding organic sector of Vermont's farm economy," said Ben Davis of VPIRG.

"But there's a problem. And that is for Vermont farmers to cash in on that demand they are going to need to be protected and GMOs undermine that ability for them to cash in," he said.

The amount of GE seeds sold in Vermont rose from 416,698 pounds in 2003 to 506,372 in 2004, the Agriculture Agency reported this month.

GMO contamination of organic corn in Vermont has already been documented, Davis said.

The Senate Agriculture Committee this week passed a bill that would make seed makers liable for damages from genetically engineered seeds or crops.

"I do have great interest in discussing the Farmer Protection Act, the liability bill," said Rep. David Zuckerman, P-Burlington, chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.

"My goal as chair of the committee is to make sure that all these topics get more adequately addressed, or get fair hearings, get open information from all of those involved, from organic producers, seed producers and lawyers to understand really what are these consequences because we're really going into uncharted territory with genetically engineered seeds in our food system."

VPIRG would like the state to go further and ban the use of GMOs to give lawmakers time to fully consider their economic, ecological, and human health impacts, Davis said.

6. The Ultimate War Crime: Breaking the Agricultural Cycle

Edited by Iman Khaduri, http://globalresearch.ca/articles/KHA501A.html

For the record: "U.S. declares Iraqis can not save their own seeds"

"As part of sweeping "economic restructuring" implemented by the Bush Administration in Iraq, Iraqi farmers will no longer be permitted to save their seeds, which include seeds the Iraqis themselves have developed over hundreds of years. Instead, they will be forced to buy seeds from US corporations. That is because in recent years, transnational corporations have patented and now own many seed varieties originated or developed by indigenous peoples. In a short time, Iraq will be living under the new American credo: Pay Monsanto, or starve ."

"The American Administrator of the Iraqi CPA (Coalition Provisional Authority) government, Paul Bremer, updated Iraq's intellectual property law to 'meet current internationally-recognized standards of protection'. The updated law makes saving seeds for next year's harvest, practiced by 97% of Iraqi farmers in 2002 and is the standard farming practice for thousands of years across human civilizations, to be now illegal.. Instead, farmers will have to obtain a yearly license for genetically modified (GM) seeds from American corporations. These GM seeds have typically been modified from seeds developed over thousands of generations by indigenous farmers like the Iraqis, and shared freely like agricultural 'open source.'"

Iraq law Requires Seed Licenses November 13, 2004

"According to Order 81, paragraph 66 - [B], issued by L. Paul Bremer [CFR], the people in Iraq are now prohibited from saving seeds and may only plant seeds for their food from licensed, authorized U.S. distributors.

The paragraph states, "Farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties or any variety mentioned in items 1 and 2 of paragraph [C] of Article 14 of this chapter."

Written in massively intricate legalese, Order 81 directs the reader at Article 14, paragraph 2 [C] to paragraph [B] of Article 4, which states any variety that is different from any other known variety may be registered in any country and become a protected variety of seed - thus defaulting it into the "protected class" of seeds and prohibiting the Iraqis from reusing them the following season. Every year, the Iraqis must destroy any seed they have, and repurchase seeds from an authorized supplier, or face fines, penalties and/or jail time."

As per an Iraqi proverb, the day will come, sooner rather than later, when the Iraqis will shred Bremer's Laws, soak them in water and offer the glass to Bremer to drink.

7. Farmers launch massive agitation against new patent law [India News]

Web India, updated 2 Feb 2003 http://www.webindia123.com/news/m_details.asp?newscode=91263&catcode=ENG3&subcatcode=

New Delhi, Feb 1 Several agitating farmers' organisations and trade unions today announced February 26 as a day of countrywide agitation with a march to parliament followed by a "Beej Satyagraha" to oppose the new 'anti-people' patent law.

Flaying the new law which came into effect from January 1, Dr Vandana Shiva, the Director of Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology said, ''it sneaked in through an ordinance dated December 26 last year and it totally introduces seed totalitarianism at the hands of the big multinationals.

"It jeopardises every farmer of this country who has for centuries used a part of his crop as seed and exchanged it as the new law does not differentiate that seed with a genetically modified one. In other words, the farmer will have no right to sow his own seed on his own land as some trait of his seed could be a patented one for which he can be sued," she said.

Announcing the decision to launch a "Beej Satyagraha" on Baisakhi day, the harvest festival, which falls on April 13, Ms Shiva said, "how can they talk of a re-enactment of the Dandi march in Sabarmati and in the same breadth take away from the farmer his right to his own seed."

Talking of the other aspects she said, "there are no clear definitions on several issues in the ordinance. The pharma and the software industry are the two other areas which will be badly hit which is why we will fight it tooth and nail. If we cannot prevent the parliament passing the bill which will be introduced this budget session we will openly defy it."

Speaking to the press Mr B K Keayla, Convener National Working Group on Patent Laws, said, "There were no expert consultations or discussions done and several of the earlier recommendations have in fact been done away with. The Mashelkar Committee report which had said that patenting should to applicable only to new molecules has been done away with the scope of patentability being too wide." [India News]

8. Biotechnology appears to be withering as a food source

Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY, http://www.usatoday.com/tech/news/biotech/2005-02-02-biotech-foods_x.htm?POE=click-refer

The promise of biotech crops ó foods genetically engineered to resist pests and weeds or even to produce drugs for humans ó may be going to seed.

After years of significant growth, the number of biotech crops in the regulatory pipeline has plummeted, says a report out today from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a group that supports a cautious approach to biotechnology.

And CSPI says it takes twice as long today for such crops to be approved by the government than it did in the 1990s. Both the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture approve each biotech variety. The FDA makes sure it is safe for human consumption; the USDA looks out for the safety of other plants.

The FDA approved an average of 9.4 varieties a year between 1995 and 1999 but only three per year from 2000 to 2004, CSPI found. The USDA approved 8.2 per year from 1994 and 1999 but only 2.6 per year from 2000 to 2004.

"It's been our experience that there was a decrease in the number of submissions to FDA for a number of years following the initial wave of products," says Jim Maryanski, the FDA's food biotech coordinator.

This is a controversial issue in both the USA and Europe. Anti-biotech activists believe that engineered foods hold health and environmental dangers, while pro-biotech enthusiasts wax eloquent about better, cheaper and more environmentally gentle crops.

Biotech crops are a significant presence in American agriculture. Ten years ago, there were almost none. Today, most soy, cotton and canola is biotech, as is almost half of the field corn (used primarily for feed and grain), according to government statistics.

Globally, biotech crops increased 47-fold from 1996 to 2004.

But in those four crops, only two genetic traits have been added ó herbicide resistance and a built-in pesticide. Though engineering such large-commodity crops made economic sense, experts say the process is too expensive to do in so-called minor crops.

Take lettuce, for example. Consumers don't like weeds in their lettuce, so growers hire hordes of workers to hand-weed fields. An herbicide-resistant variety that lets growers kill weeds without hurting the lettuce would have a huge impact, says Roger Wyse, a plant biologist with biotech venture capital firm Burrill & Company in San Francisco.

"The difficulty is that there are 20 kinds of lettuce, so you'd have to go through 20 different approval processes for a fairly small market. Layer on top of that that no Safeway or Kroger wants to be picketed for selling biotech crops, and it's just not viable," Wyse says.

Agriculture giant Monsanto last year gave up on marketing an herbicide-tolerant wheat ó the one potentially blockbuster crop left ó in part because of concerns that the public wouldn't accept it.

That was the case with biotech tomatoes and potatoes elsewhere.

The only other biotech crops grown commercially today are tiny by comparison: 10,000 acres of insect-resistant sweet corn (sold as a vegetable), 1,800 of virus-resistant summer squash and 1,100 of virus-resistant papaya.

And new crops coming down the pipeline also are smaller commodity crops. Possibilities in the next five to 10 years include herbicide-resistant sunflowers, soybean and canola for the production of healthier oil; and herbicide-resistant alfalfa and sugar beets.

Bob Buchanan and Peggy Lemaux at the University of California-Berkeley created a hypoallergenic wheat in 1995 that was shelved because of fears that consumers would reject it.

Buchanan is on the FDA's food biotech committee. "We don't have any businesses. We taught China, and now they're going to leave us in the dust," he says.

Agricultural economist David Zilberman at Berkeley says China has planted many acres of biotech crops. And the country is close to developing insect-resistant rice. "China estimates it will save them $4 billion a year," he says. "And the moment China does it, India will. The train is moving."

9. Corporate Hijack of Sustainable Agriculture Backfired to Moratorium on GMOs

ISIS Press Release 04/02/05 http://www.i-sis.org.uk/CHSA2.php

Dr. Mae-Wan Ho tells how an attempted corporate takeover of the World Conservation Union turned into a moratorium on GMOs.

I first heard the term Žecoagriculture' used by a Chinese scientist on Australia's Radio National to describe an approach combining the best that modern science has to offer, i.e., genetic modification of plants, with traditional sustainable agriculture.

A few days later, a motion to promote ecoagriculture appeared on the agenda of the upcoming 3 rd IUCN (World Conservation Union) World Conservation Congress in Bangkok, Thailand, (17-25 November 2004). Angry critics had described ecoagriculture as žan organic agriculture that is very friendly to agribusinessÓ. A protest letter from civil society participants at a recent ecoagriculture conference organised by IUCN in Nairobi maintained that, žecoagriculture is fundamentally incompatible with food sovereigntyÓ and hence unacceptable.

Suddenly, it seems, agribusiness is taking over Žsustainable agriculture' in a big way. Biotech giants Syngenta (as Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture) and BayerCropscience, together with Croplife International, a global network representing the plant science industry, and another agribusiness, Sustainable Agriculture Initiative, have become members of ŽEcoagriculture Partners', a consortium that includes 12 non-government organizations - among the listed were, IUCN, Rainforest Alliance, Stakeholder Forum for our Common Future and World Association of Soil and Water Conservation - 9 research and education organisations - among them, International Centre for Tropical Agriculture, Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resource Management Collaborative Research Support Programme and M.W. Swaminathan Foundation - and 4 inter-government organizations, among which, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).It transpired later at the IUCN conference that the IUCN Council had not authorized joining up to the Ecoagriculture Partners consortium, and it was therefore declared invalid.

The Ecoagriculture Partners define Žecoagriculture' as žsustainable agriculture and associated natural resource management systems that embrace and simultaneously enhance productivity, rural livelihoods, ecosystem services and biodiversity.Ó

The ŽNairobi Declaration', made by participants at the recent conference in Nairobi, Kenya, similarly, called for ža framework that seeks to simultaneously achieve improved livelihoods, conservation of biodiversity (genetic resources, ecosystem services and wild flora and fauna), and sustainable production at a landscape scaleÓ; and to ensure ž that large-scale development and adoption of ecoagriculture contribute to achieving the Millennium Development Goals on hunger, poverty alleviation, gender equality, environmental sustainability and partnerships, and enhance implementation of global environmental conventions by all nations.Ó

As I was invited to attend the IUCN conference as a delegate of the Ecological Society of the Philippines, I alerted my hosts, Javier and Antonio Claparols, on this corporate takeover of sustainable agriculture; and circulated a paper from Prof. Miguel Altieri, which explains why ecoagriculture is miles away from agroecology that can truly deliver food security and sustainability, alleviate poverty and enhance biodiversity. It turned out that Miguel had already informed Dr. Taghi Farvar, who chaired the Commission on Environment, Economic and Social Policy of IUCN. The group completely demolished the ecoagriculture motion in a contact group meeting prior to the plenary.

But at the plenary, the ecoagriculture motion returned unexpectedly in another guise. There were some cliff-hanging moments when we thought it would get voted in by deception. Fortunately, it was again soundly defeated, thanks to delegates from Cenesta, Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Green Line and many others who spoke eloquently against it.

The plenary voted overwhelmingly, instead, for a moratorium on further environmental releases of GMOs žuntil this can be demonstrated to be safe for biodiversity, human and animal health beyond reasonable doubt Ó. This resolution for a moratorium on GMOs by the biggest conservation union on earth was highly significant and widely reported in the popular media.

The motion was sponsored by the Ecological Society of the Philippines and cosponsored by The Environmental Foundation, Sri-Lanka; Center for Sustainable Development, Bangladesh; Wilderness Society, Australia; the Tibet Justice Center, USA; Zdruznie Narodnch Dnych Parkov a Chranenyeh Uzemi Slovenska, Slovenska Ekologicka Spolocnoest, DAPHNE-Institut Aplikovanej-Ekologie, and Statna Ochrna Prirody Slovenskej Republiky, Slovakia; Denmarks-Natuerfredningsforening, Denmark; and Al-khat Al Akhdar (Green Line Association), Lebanon.

It goes to show what critical, timely scientific information can achieve.

10. Farmers push for shield from biotech crop liability

Robert Pore, Grand Island Independent, 02/06/05


Growing liability concerns about biotech crops have farmers in Vermont, Montana and North Dakota supporting legislation to make biotechnology companies, not farmers and grain elevators, liable for damages from genetically modified crops, according to the Western Organization of Resource Councils.

The legislation would also prevent the manufacturers from suing farmers who are unintentionally growing genetically engineered crops because their fields have been contaminated by crops planted nearby.

Legislative committees in Vermont and Montana have heard testimony supporting Farmer Protection Acts and a hearing has been scheduled for Thursday in North Dakota by the Senate Agriculture Committee.

Farm advocacy groups across the nation such as WORC are working with farmers to ensure protection from liability for any damage caused by biotech products.

"If genetically engineered wheat is introduced, this bill will protect farmers from the liabilities associated with this crop resulting from contamination by making sure biotechnology companies are responsible for their product," said Dena Hoff, a farmer near Glendive, Mont., and representative of the Northern Plains Resource Council.

Hoff cited a recently released study, Monsanto vs. Farmers, by the Center for Food Safety that found that Monsanto has sued or is suing more than 100 farmers for patent infringement. Even farmers who have not planted the seeds are at risk of these lawsuits.

Currently, farmers who buy genetically engineered seeds must sign Technology Use Agreements. These agreements shield the patent company from liability for contamination and place the full liability burden on farmers. Farmers contend these agreements essentially pit farmer against farmer when conflicts arise.

Farmers are equally concerned about the effects on grain elevators.

"Losses to a country elevator for a 400,000-bushel train load of wheat to a West Coast port could equal a half-million-dollar loss of milling grade, transportation costs and railroad charges for a train load of wheat sitting idle at the port," said Todd Leake, a wheat farmer from Grand Forks County, N.D., and member of the Dakota Resource Council. "These losses would bankrupt these country elevators."

11. Rice Producers of California Re-emerges as the Voice of the Farmer

Media Contact: Greg Massa
Phone: 530-519-8628
Email: gmassa@pulsarco.com

Rice Producers of California (RPC), first founded in 1997, is restructuring itself to play a leadership role in promoting the viability of rice farming in California. RPC is the only group that speaks solely in the interest of California rice farmers, and it plans to become more actively engaged in rice industry economics, politics, and public relations.

Kelly Ornbaun of Williams heads a newly formed Restructuring Committee. In describing the priorities of RPC, Mr. Ornbaun responded, "Our first issue must be the price received by farmers for their rice. Currently, California's rice marketers are dumping high quality Calrose rice on the world market at levels below the cost of production. This hurts farmers locally, nationally, and worldwide. Our rural economies are suffering heavy losses due to the low prices."

According to Mr. Ornbaun, a strong advocacy voice for producers is needed because "Rice farmers have abdicated responsibility for marketing their rice, for lobbying government, and for addressing issues of public concern. It is time for rice farmers to band together and take our industry back from those who appear not to have our best interests in mind."

The group's focus on economic issues will certainly stimulate some discussion, as prices received by farmers have dropped over 50% in recent months. RPC will educate farmers on different approaches to address this issue. "In the traditional participating contract pool system, the marketer prices inventory without regard to the farmer's cost of production," said Chip Struckmeyer, a member of the Restructuring Committee. "The only way to increase and stabilize the price of rice is to end the dominance of the pool system in California. We must force the marketers to compete for the farmers' rice."

RPC will serve as an information source for farmers as well, noted committee member Greg Massa. A marketing committee will meet weekly to analyze information from all sources, including USDA, industry players, and world news. An email newsletter containing marketing, risk management and industry information is planned. There are also future plans for sponsoring seminars addressing the range of economic issues that impact rice producers. "There is no limit to the impact we could have on the profitability of rice farming if we join forces and share information," he said.

Anyone wishing to join RPC or receive the newsletter should send an email to RPCnews@yahoo.com to be added to the mailing list. Rice farmers may contact Kelly Ornbaun directly at 530-908-3146 for additional information.

12. Government Forced to Reveal Crop Test Sites

CONTACT: Paul Achitoff or Isaac Moriwake, Earthjustice (808) 599-2436
Craig Culp, Center for Food Safety (202) 547-9359 x18
Skip Spitzer, PANNA (831) 325-3999
Cha Smith, KAHEA (808) 277-5362

Honolulu-In a first step toward public disclosure of test sites of biopharmaceutical crops, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was forced by court order on February 4 to reveal the locations of these sites in Hawai`i. Following the ruling, representatives of the USDA handed over to Earthjustice attorneys information on the precise locations of open-air field tests of biopharmaceutical crops genetically engineered to produce industrial chemicals and drugs. This marks the first time the federal government has been forced to disclose the location of field tests of genetically engineered crops since it began systematically hiding these locations from the public.

Earthjustice, representing citizen groups Center for Food Safety (CFS), Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Action Network North America, and KAHEA: The Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, had filed an earlier lawsuit in federal district court seeking to compel USDA to review the environmental and public health impacts of such activities. In August 2004, District Court Judge David A. Ezra had ordered the disclosure, rejecting the government's and the Biotechnology Industry Organization's claims of potential "espionage," "vandalism," and "civil unrest." The government and industry had resisted disclosure since that ruling through a series of delay requests. At a hearing Friday, Judge Ezra denied their latest motion for a stay of disclosure, and the government handed the information to plaintiffs' counsel.

"This ruling is an important first step toward the day when citizens can find out if biopharmaceutical crops are growing near their food crops or their back yards," said Paul Achitoff, an Earthjustice attorney. "No one wants to accidentally get contraceptives in their corn flakes. Given the potentially disastrous effects these experiments could have on human health and the environment, we hope this ruling will result in lifting the veil of secrecy."

The plaintiffs sought information on the locations of these field tests in response to the government's arguments that plaintiffs lacked standing to sue because they had not specified the precise locations of the field tests. Magistrate Judge Barry M. Kurren originally ordered discovery of the locations in April 2004, ruling that the mere locations of the field tests were not confidential business information. Judge Ezra affirmed the ruling in August, but preliminarily limited disclosure to plaintiffs only, and allowed the government and industry 90 days to come up with better support for denying public access to the information. The industry submitted supplemental arguments, to which plaintiffs responded, but the court has not yet ruled on the public disclosure issue. Until then, plaintiffs cannot reveal the information to the public at large.

"Allowing food crops to be engineered to produce chemicals or drugs is bad enough," said Peter Jenkins of CFS, "but hiding the location of the test fields from an at-risk public is indefensible. Yet we find our own government fighting on the side of the biotech industry to keep the public in the dark about drug-laced food crops."

Plaintiffs' attorneys are still reviewing the information to see whether it complies with the court's order. This latest development should allow plaintiffs' November 2003 lawsuit calling for long-overdue environmental reviews to move forward.

"With this order," added Jenkins, "we may at last be able to find out how close these experiments are to conventional food crops, ecologically sensitive areas, and our homes and schools. The next step will be to compel our government to investigate the impacts from these biotech crops."