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Europe bridles at WTO view on national biotech bans

(Friday, Feb. 10, 2006 -- CropChoice news) --

1. Europe bridles at WTO view on national biotech bans
2. EU loses a round on biotech crops
3. Opinions differ on GMO ruling
4. Monsanto likely to benefit from WTO biotech ruling
5. Syngenta not seen impacted by WTO ruling
6. Wheat groups back biotech
7. Bill could change local seed rights
8. WTO ruling on genetically engineered crops would override international, national and local protections
9. High lysine technology will provide higher levels of essential amino acid than conventional corn
10. Japan emerging as major buyer of Indian soymeal as importers shy away from American GM soy
11. China treads a careful path towards biotech future
12. Advocates: GMO label law not enforced
13. Farm Bureau pushes to let farmers save seeds

1. Europe bridles at WTO view on national biotech bans

08 Feb 2006 17:07:31 GMT
Source: Reuters
> (adds quotes from Greece, Italy)
By Jeremy Smith

BRUSSELS, Feb 8 (Reuters) - European countries bristled on Wednesday at a world trade ruling that touches on national sovereignty over genetically modified (GMO) foods, with some saying they would do their level best to keep farming GMO-free.

Europe's consumers are well known for their scepticism, if not hostility, to GMO crops, often dubbed as "Frankenstein foods". The biotech industry insists its products are perfectly safe, however, and no different to conventional foods.

Late on Tuesday, a World Trade Organisation panel ruled that various EU countries -- Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg -- had broken international trade rules by imposing national bans on marketing and growing specific GMOs.

Some of those countries reacted angrily to the WTO ruling, saying they would defend their legal right to block EU-approved products if they wanted, since this was the will of consumers. EU law dictates that such bans must be scientifically justified.

Austria, one of the EU's staunchest biotech sceptics, has banned imports of three GMO maize types and is considering a ban on growing a GMO rapeseed. Government officials say they will continue to be as restrictive as possible for the time being.

"The protection of people and the environment have absolute priority, and the most recent scientific research vindicates our cautious approach in this matter," said Austrian Health Minister Maria Rauch-Kallat, responsible for national GMO policy.

"We will exhaust all possibilities to keep Austria's agriculture GM-free and ensure consumers' safety." Greece, also traditionally opposed to biotech foods, agreed. "Greece is against genetically modified foods. All prefectures have declared their area GMO-free. We need to discuss with Brussels and scientists safeguards before we lift the ban," a Greek agriculture ministry source told Reuters.

Last June, EU governments rebuffed attempts by the European Commission to order the five countries to lift their national GMO bans -- the first time that the bloc has managed to agree anything on biotech policy since 1998. The Commission did not think the bans were justified, and nor did the WTO in its ruling on the case filed by Argentina, Canada and the United States. It also said the EU's de facto GMO moratorium between 1999 and 2003 broke world trade rules.


France, home to anti-GMO and free trade firebrand Jose Bove, has a long-standing consumer opposition to biotech food. Europe's agricultural powerhouse, France bans two types of GMO rapeseed but has allowed some small-scale growing of GMO maize.

French consumer and farming groups deplored the WTO ruling, insisting that a large majority of consumers firmly opposed GMOs and that the EU's temporary approvals ban was correct. A poll published in France this week showed that 78 percent of those questioned would like a temporary ban on GMO products in order to evaluate their health and environmental impact.

In Italy, Agriculture Minister Giovanni Alemanno said it was very serious for the WTO to take an "unbalanced stance" against European norms on GMO products. "We would not want this verdict to represent an attempt to undermine the legislative sovereignty of the European Union," he said in a statement. "In the past few months, there are many products that have been authorised by the European Commission and no country has maintained a protectionist moratorium on these products."

Green groups said consumer resistance to GMOs has increased in Europe since the three major GMO growers filed their WTO complaint in 2003. The ruling will not encourage consumers to buy more GMOs, they say, and maybe make the opposition stronger. "The WTO has bluntly ruled that European safeguards (bans) should be sacrificed to benefit biotech corporations," said Adrian Bebb, GMO campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe. "This will backfire and lead to even greater opposition to genetically modified food and crops. Consumers worldwide will not be bullied into eating GM foods."

U.S. officials regretted there was a level of misinformation in Europe about the benefits of biotech crops but hoped that the WTO ruling would let the EU open its doors more to GMO imports. "It is unfortunate the extent to which certain groups have decided to demagogue the issue and mischaracterise the quality ... and environmental implications of biotechnology," Deputy U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab told reporters.

"The proof will be in trade flows and transparency and ease of approval processes. Time will tell," she said in Brussels.

2. EU loses a round on biotech crops
WTO says ban on crops modified genetically impeded imports illegally

By SCOTT MILLER in Brussels and SCOTT KILMAN in Chicago
February 8, 2006

A World Trade Organization panel found that the European Union had illegally banned some genetically modified crops, in a ruling that could open more of Europe to biotechnology products it has long resisted.

U.S. officials said the finding against the EU sends an important warning to other parts of the world -- particularly nations in Africa and Asia -- against following the European lead in throwing up bans or partial bans against genetically modified crops. The case was launched in 2003 by the U.S., Canada and Argentina, three of the world's biggest growers and exporters of genetically modified crops.

The ruling may also set the stage for the U.S. to launch a second case against the EU, attacking a new regulatory process that Washington says takes too long and is too subject to political forces. European officials declined to comment immediately on details of the WTO finding, which runs more than 800 pages.

Bush administration officials, speaking on background because the interim WTO report is supposed to be confidential, complained late yesterday that about 20 genetically altered products are still in EU limbo. "The report is a significant milestone," said a U.S. trade official during a news briefing. "We are pleased."

Still, the ruling may not mean immediate changes in the huge European market. After the U.S. and others challenged the regulatory process, charging it was used to block EU approval of any genetically modified crop from 1998 to mid-2004, the EU decided to rework it. The bloc could also appeal or simply decline to comply and accept any penalties. At any rate, European consumers largely remain unconvinced of the safety and value of biotechnology products and tend to avoid buying such foods.

Biotech critics objected that the WTO panel's finding makes it harder for countries to keep out food they may feel is unsafe. "Contrary to the Bush administration's intent, this decision will only serve to harden attitudes against [genetically modified] crops in Europe and around the world," said Joseph Mendelson, legal director of the Center for Food Safety, a Washington group.

Many details about the lengthy ruling aren't clear yet, in part because it was released to the parties late yesterday and because it deals with complex trade rules designed to prevent WTO members from conjuring up food-safety fears for the purpose of blocking trade. Under WTO rules, the dispute panel that issued the report could take months to collect responses from the parties before it issues a final report.

But the preliminary finding provides at least some vindication for U.S. biotechnology companies such as Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., which have long complained that the EU didn't have any scientific basis for closing its borders originally in 1998 to any new genetically modified crops. Even if European consumers resist genetically modified food, the ruling might make it easier for the companies to sell genetically modified crops used in animal feed.

Genetically modified crops, many of them aimed at creating hardier strains and reducing the need for insecticides, have been gaining favor in many parts of the world since they were introduced in the mid-1990s. But in Europe, even with an effective Continent-wide ban on genetically modified crops lifted, only a handful of countries, notably Spain, grow any.

European consumers have been particularly distrustful about food safety since unrelated outbreaks of mad-cow disease, and many grocery store chains won't sell biotech food. EU regulations require labels on grocery products that contain more than a tiny amount of genetically modified ingredients.

The EU also has a history of ignoring WTO decisions that go against its food-safety politics, such as over its refusal to allow the import of beef from hormone-treated cattle raised in the U.S. A WTO dispute panel concluded in 1997 that the EU's hormone ban wasn't sufficiently rooted in science. But Europe hasn't budged, preferring instead for the U.S. to annually impose putative duties of about $116 million on EU goods.

In the biotechnology case, U.S. corn farmers complain that they lost a $300 million annual export market when the EU cracked down on genetically modified crops in 1998. U.S. crop biotechnology executives say the EU's policies have had a chilling effect on their ability to sell transgenic seed to farmers in Europe, depriving them of access to one of the world's biggest agricultural markets.

U.S. first brought the genetically altered case against the EU in 2003 when the EU maintained a de facto moratorium against testing new types of genetically modified crops, freezing the number that could be sold or grown in the EU at 18.

In 2004, Europe adopted new rules, but U.S. authorities complain that national governments are still able to block new genetically modified crops. In its ruling yesterday, the WTO panel found the EU is breaking trade rules by allowing several of its member nations to ban genetically modified crops and food, people familiar with the ruling said.

Write to Scott Miller at scott.miller@wsj.com and Scott Kilman at scott.kilman@wsj.com

3. Opinions differ on GMO ruling
WTO finds EU in violation of trade rules

By Todd Neeley DTN Staff Reporter
> Feb. 7, 2006

OMAHA (DTN) -- A report saying the World Trade Organization ruled Tuesday the European Union's moratorium on genetically modified foods violates trade rules is good news in the view of one U.S. corn grower group and bad news in the view of another.

The WTO also ruled six EU states including France and Austria had also violated trade rules by placing bans on marketing and importing GMOs, the Associated Press reported.

Larry Mitchell, president of the American Corn Growers Association, said the ruling could be "the final nail in the coffin in the WTO round."

Growers should be concerned the ruling could have the opposite effect on how GMOs are viewed throughout the world and could make the U.S. trade position more difficult in the Doha round of the WTO, he said.

The WTO ruling, Mitchell said, could leave the impression that the U.S. is not respecting its customers, which could make it difficult to reach a trade agreement.

"We thought it was ill conceived to sue our customers anyway," he said. "It's not advancing the best impression. I think it could hurt our markets elsewhere in that it could extend the sensitivity to other parts of the world. To go to court to force a market is not a good thing."

Rick Tolman, chief executive officer for the National Corn Growers Association, said while the ruling may not mean EU markets would immediately open for GMOs, it makes a statement to other nations.

"This is really good news," he said. "While we may not in the short run have good exports, it is important to send a message that what the EU was doing was illegal."

The U.S. has worked hard to convince EU consumers that GMO products are safe, and the WTO ruling will likely make that cause easier to sell, Tolman said.

"One of our concerns is that there really has not been a choice in that market place," he said. "The EU consumer cannot choose. We can't force them to take it or like it. But we can make the case that we sold this stuff in the U.S. for 10 years. We spent a lot of time meeting with consumer groups and we'll probably continue to do that."

The decision actually could have a positive effect on the rest of the world and how it sees GMOs, Tolman said.

"I think we can't underestimate the impact on the rest of the countries in the world that have been listening to the EU and have considered banning GMOs," he said.

U.S. GMO products may find their way back into certain EU countries faster than others, Tolman said.

For example, he said, the U.S. once exported 80 million bushels of corn to Spain and Portugal until both countries banned U.S. corn after unapproved GMO varieties were found in imports.

"Like everything else I'm sure the devil is in the details," Tolman said. "There are a complex set of issues the U.S. had filed, and some of the details will be product-specific moratoriums. We could make a case that Spain would be willing to bring it back in."

An American Soybean Association release said the group applauds the WTO decision and urged the Bush administration to file a challenge with the WTO against Europe's "discriminatory traceability and labeling laws that apply to biotech crops."

Marcella Hilt, public relations specialist with the Office of the United States Trade Representative, said USTR lawyers are still reading the confidential 2,000-page report and would not issue a comment on the ruling until that is complete.

If U.S.-grown GMOs are going to find their way into the EU markets after the ruling, Mitchell said, lots of work remains.

"We're going to have to win the hearts and minds of the consumers," he said. "I suspect it will take a long and extensive outreach program. We need to sit down and think long and hard about whether it's worth it for the American farmer. Having market access and having market share are two hugely different things."

Todd Neeley can be reached at Todd.Neeley@dtn.com.

4. Monsanto likely to benefit from WTO biotech ruling

Associated Press

ST. LOUIS - News of the WTO's ruling against a European ban on genetically modified foods was well received in this city, which is home to the National Corn Growers Association and biotech giant Monsanto Co.

The preliminary judgment Tuesday by a World Trade Organization panel concluded that the European Union broke international trade rules by stopping imports of genetically modified foods, officials said Tuesday.

The ruling is good news not so much because it will open the door to more European customers, but because of the example it will set for the rest of the world, said Leon Corzine, chairman of the corn grower's association.

"We talk about the shadow of what the European Union does," Corzine said. "Europe has not been one of our biggest customers."

While it's impossible to predict how much U.S. corn Europe will import, the WTO ruling tells other nations that rules of international trade must be followed, Corzine said, opening the door to more biotech crop and seed trade worldwide.

That could be good news for Monsanto, the world's biggest producer of genetically engineered seed. The company is looking to expand its customer base worldwide largely because it already dominates the U.S. market, according to a report from analyst Kevin McCarthy with Banc of America Securities.

Selling biotech seeds could account for 80 percent of Monsanto's profit this year, according to McCarthy's report. Increasing acceptance of the crops worldwide could be a major lift to Monsanto's bottom line, he said.

Monsanto spokesman Chris Horner declined to comment on the WTO ruling because the company had not seen an official copy of it yet.

Horner said selling biotech seed to European customers isn't a high priority for Monsanto in the short term.

"At some point in the future, there may be a market, but it's not like that's anything we've really factored into our planning," Horner said.

The WTO panel's preliminary judgment concluded that the EU had an effective ban on biotech foods for six years from 1998, said officials on condition of anonymity because it is a confidential report.

The report sided with a legal complaint brought by the United States, Canada and Argentina over an EU moratorium on approval of new biotech foods, the officials said. The panel ruled that individual bans in six EU member states - Austria, France, Germany, Greece, Italy and Luxembourg - violated international trade rules.

5. Syngenta not seen impacted by WTO ruling

Tuesday, February 07, 2006 10:28:36 AM ET
Dow Jones Newswires

[Dow Jones]--Syngenta's (SYT) business is note expected to be impacted by the World Trade Organization's ruling on whether the EU's ban on genetically-modified crops is illegal or not, says Bank Sarasin analyst Bernd Pomrehn. Even if the WTO's ruling lifts the moratorium on GMO-based food products in the EU, the European consumer won't easily change its aversion toward GMO food, says Pomrehn, which is the real reason that holds back further spread of GMO in Europe.

6. Wheat groups back biotech

Lon Tonneson
Feb. 7, 2006

The U.S. wheat industry is all set to pledge its support for using biotechnology to develop new wheat varieties.

After three years of sometimes bitter disagreement among groups that represent wheat growers on policy issues and those who work more closely with millers and bakers, the U.S. wheat industry is expected to approve a statement today at the North American Grain Congress in San Antonio, Texas, supporting development of biotech wheat.

The lack of such support three years ago to genetically altered what some call "the staff of life" caused Monsanto pull Roundup Ready wheat from the development pipeline.

Now, Syngenta has a genetically modified trait about ready to come off the lab bench. The trait increases a wheat plant's resistance to scab - a disease that has caused billions of dollars of losses particularly in the Northern Plains and Midwest. The company has to decide now whether or not to invest more money to bring it to the market.

Resolutions to be approved by the U.S. Wheat Associates and Wheat Export Trade Education Committee and the National Association of Wheat Growers spell out the industry's support for the use of biotechnology in breeding new varieties. A separate resolution specifically endorses Syngenta's scab fighting trait.

Biotech scab resistance offers advantages for everyone in the supply chain, said Neil Fisher, administrator, North Dakota Wheat Commission.

Recent studies at North Dakota State University show that reducing scab improves grain yields, flour yields and bread quality, he says.

"There is something for everyone in this trait," he says.

Rob Bruns, manager of cereal development for Syngenta, was on hand to take in the debate - or the lack of it.

Grower support for biotech this time around, "has been encouraging," he says.

Michael Doane, Monsanto's Roundup Ready manager who watched the wheat groups implode over biotech three years ago, attended the national convention, too.

Monsanto won't be bringing back Roundup Ready wheat, he says.

However, the biotech drought resistance and nitrogen efficiency traits that are in the pipeline for corn, could be easily transferred to wheat.

Growers on the wheat industry's joint biotech committee have said that Monsanto isn't likely to bring back Roundup Ready wheat unless it is stacked with another trait.

URL: _www.checkbiotech.org_ (http://www.checkbiotech.org) 08 Feb 2006

7. Bill could change local seed rights

Tuesday, February 7, 2006
By Melanie Thomas
The State News

Local governments could lose the right to decide what type of seeds are grown in their counties if a Michigan Senate proposal passes. Senate Bill 777, introduced in November 2005, would remove a local government's power to decide whether farmers can grow genetically modified seeds or organic seeds.

Genetically modified seeds are technologically manipulated to become resistant to herbicides or have more nutrients, said Sen. Jerry Van Woerkom, R-Norton Shores.

Organic farmers are worried about the legislation causing more organic and genetically modified seed farms to be plotted by each other.

Michigan's most popular genetically modified crops are corn and soybeans. Corn, a wind-pollinated crop, can deposit genetically modified pollen into adjacent fields, possibly affecting a farmer's organic certification.

"The genetically modified organisms can't be contained," said MSU Student Organic Farm assistant manager Jay Tomczak. "Those genetically modified genes carry over into another field, and I can't sell my crop as organically certified."

Organic crops are certified through certain standards that the USDA determines, Tomczak said. Using environment-friendly practices and not using synthetic pesticides or herbicides are standards organic farmers abide by, he said.

Farmers are concerned with the legislation's democratic value, Tomczak said.

The state government will be taking away a local government's ability to decide what is best for its residents, he said.

Counties in California have restricted growing genetically modified seeds since 2004, Tomczak said. It was those actions in California which caused agricultural corporations to feel threatened and begin petitioning state legislators to prevent county restrictions, he said.

"They are preemptively eliminating the right of local governments to have a choice in what they want and value in their communities," Tomczak said.

Proposed by Van Woerkom, the Michigan legislation is expected to help farmers become more successful by planting organic or genetically modified seeds where they want.

"People in the farm community have been using genetically modified seeds for years," Van Woerkom said. "They don't want to worry about not being able to use it in a certain township."

Fifteen other states have pending or passed laws similar to Senate Bill 777, he said.

"Other states have turned the state into a patchwork of where you can and can't plant certain seeds," Van Woerkom said. "We want to bring some stability to our farmers."

Genetically modified seeds benefit the environment and human health, he said.

They can be altered to have more nutritional value and use less herbicides and pesticides, he said.

More genetically modified seeds will create more competition between farmers, said MSU plant biology and pathology associate professor Richard Allison.

Farmers yield more crops from genetically modified seeds, he said.

If a county decides it doesn't want genetically modified crops grown in its area, it would hinder a non-organic farmer from growing crops and turning a profit, a possible danger for the industry, Allison said.

8. WTO ruling on genetically engineered crops would override international, national and local protections

Press release from Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
February 7, 2006
Contact: Ben Lilliston, 612-870-3416

Minneapolis - As reported in the media today, a preliminary ruling issued by a World Trade Organization (WTO)'s dispute resolution panel would be a major step back for the democratic rights of national and local governments to set their own environmental and human health regulations when there is scientific uncertainty, said the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy.

The ruling, which has not yet been made public, concerns a U.S., Canadian and Argentine government challenge of a European Commission (EC) regulatory system that delayed the commercialization of genetically engineered (GE) crops until further scientific evidence of their environmental and health safety was available. The EC system has approved GE crops for commercialization since the dispute was filed in 2003.

"Beyond GE crops, the WTO ruling as reported sets a broad precedent to inhibit the ability of WTO member states to set food safety, public health and environmental health measures where there is scientific uncertainty about the adequacy or quality of data submitted for commercialization approvals," said Steve Suppan, IATP Research Director and author of a backgrounder on the case.

If the lengthy ruling remains unchanged before its final publication, it will likely be used as a legal tool against GE bans passed in European Union member states, in several Asian and African WTO member countries, and even in a few U.S. counties.

The reported WTO ruling at least indirectly challenges the authority of the United Nations Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, which authorizes its member countries to take a precautionary approach to regulating GE crops when there is scientific uncertainty. While the dispute plaintiffs are not among the Protocol's 131 member states, dozens of WTO members are, so the ruling could conflict with their Protocol commitments, including those implemented at a national and local level.

"It's disappointing that the WTO would seek to override democratic decisions at literally all levels of government," said Dennis Olson, Director of IATP's Trade and Agriculture Project. "There is already a broad international consensus on how to handle GE crops at the international level established at the Cartagena Protocol. This consensus acknowledges that each country has the right to regulate GE crops based on precautionary principles, to require labeling of GE crops, and to protect farmers and others from unfair liability arising from the release of GE crops into the environment and food distribution system. Now, the WTO's unelected legal tribunal, at the request of the U.S. government, has chosen to pre-empt a strong democratic international consensus."

The WTO ruling comes on the heels of a scathing U.S. Department of Agriculture Inspector General report which found that the USDA did not require inspections of field tests of experimental GE crops, didn't assure that crops were destroyed after the tests were finished, and often didn't even know where the tests were being conducted. Nearly every independent review of the U.S. regulatory system regarding GE crops has found significant deficiencies. The National Research Council published critical reviews of the U.S. regulatory process in 2000, 2002 and 2004. The flaws of the U.S. regulatory system and the unknown risks of GE crops are outlined in an amicus brief filed in the WTO case by the Center for International Environmental Law, Friends of the Earth - U.S., Defenders of Wildlife, IATP, and the Organic Consumers Association. It is available at: tradeobservatory.org.

"The WTO dispute panel is set up to view regulations strictly in a framework designed to facilitate trade, not to realize public or environmental health objectives," said Suppan. "The U.S. government and the biotech companies may claim that the ruling proves that GE crops are safe for human consumption and the use of GE seeds is an environmentally beneficial agricultural practice. But the ruling covers no such thing: much less does it support the profoundly flawed U.S. regulation of GE crops."

It is unlikely the case will increase U.S. food sales to Europe. Europe still requires labeling of GE crops, and there is overwhelming consumer sentiment for GE-free foods there. U.S. wheat growers, recognizing that European and Asian consumers do not want GE crops, successfully blocked the approval of GE wheat in the U.S. in 2004. However, there is a real danger that the ruling could be used to force sales of GE products in developing countries, who have less leverage to stand up to political pressure from the United States government.

Steve Suppan's backgrounder on the WTO case is available at: tradeobservatory.org.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy works globally to promote resilient family farms, communities and ecosystems through research and education, science and technology, and advocacy.

9. High lysine technology will provide higher level of essential amino acid than conventional feed corn

DEERFIELD, Ill., Feb. 6 /PRNewswire/ --

Renessen LLC announced today that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has deregulated Renessen's high lysine corn containing the LY038 trait, clearing the way for Renessen to commercialize the new technology for use in the livestock industry. To be sold under the name Mavera(TM) High Value Corn with Lysine, LY038 is the world's first crop-based quality trait produced through biotechnology for the animal feed industry. It also represents the first biotechnology trait offering from Renessen.

The technology provides higher levels of lysine than a conventional corn plant produces. Lysine, an amino acid, is a critical building block for proteins and muscle and thus essential for the diets of animals. When included as part of an animal's diet, grain produced that contains the trait will enhance lysine levels in animal feed, reducing the need for synthetic lysine supplements. It is expected to reduce cost and improve efficiency for animal producers.

"We are very excited by this technology's ability to simplify our livestock customers' animal feed rations and improve operational efficiency through cost savings," said Michael Stern, Ph.D., chief executive officer for Renessen.

The high-lysine trait will be marketed under Renessen's Mavera(TM) program. The specially developed corn will contain higher levels of corn oil than commodity hybrids, in addition to possessing the lysine trait, and it will initially be sold through the Asgrow(R) brand of seed. "Mavera(TM) High Value Corn with Lysine offers the increased oil and metabolizable energy content of Mavera(TM) High Value Corn, with the added benefits of providing an enhanced level of the essential amino acid lysine," added Stern. "This will create additional planting options for corn growers, allowing them to earn a premium while participating in a value-added supply chain."

Mavera(TM) High Value Corn with Lysine will be evaluated under an experimental field program in 2006 and produced on limited acreage in 2007. The new product will initially be grown in states with access to major river ways such as Illinois and Indiana so that export markets can be reached economically.

Renessen is currently seeking the necessary regulatory clearances for LY038 in all key import markets, and until those approvals are obtained, grain containing LY038 will only be marketed to specific end users in the United States. Regardless of its destination, LY038 grain will always be produced under an identity preservation system, which will control the flow of the grain from the farm to the end-user. Mavera(TM) High Value Corn with Lysine will initially be combined with the YieldGard(R) Corn Borer trait in the U.S. market, to be followed later with other Monsanto agronomic traits, such as the YieldGard(R) Corn Rootworm and Roundup Ready(R) Corn II traits.

Renessen is a joint venture between Cargill Incorporated and Monsanto Company, bringing together Monsanto's expertise in biotechnology and plant breeding with Cargill's capabilities in animal nutrition, grain processing and logistics. Since its establishment in 1999, Renessen has been focused on developing valued-added traits to the feed industry.

About Renessen:
Renessen LLC is an innovative biotechnology company dedicated to developing quality traits for the feed and processing industry. It is a joint venture between Cargill Inc. and Monsanto Company. For more information, visit http://www.renessen.com .

About Cargill:
Cargill Incorporated is an international provider of food, agricultural and risk management products and services. With 124,000 employees in 59 countries, the company is committed to using its knowledge and experience to collaborate with customers to help them succeed. For more information, visit http://www.cargill.com .

About Monsanto:
Monsanto (NYSE: _MON_ (http://studio.financialcontent.com/Engine?Account=prnewswire&PageName=QUOTE&Ticker=MON) ) is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. For more information, visit http://www.monsanto.com .

10. Japan emerging as major buyer of Indian soymeal as importers shy away from American GM soy

Date Posted: 2/2/2006
Nikkei English News via NewsEdge Corporation : NEW DELHI (Dow Jones)


Indian soybean processors have sold 24,000 metric tons of soymeal to buyers in Japan at around $245 a ton, cost and freight, a senior industry official said Wednesday.

"Deals for exporting two cargoes of 12,000 tons each were contracted late last month, and the delivery is scheduled for March or April," said the official.

He said Japan has emerged as a major buyer of Indian soymeal because of its preference for non-genetically modified foods.

Some importers in Asia have been reluctant to buy soymeal of American origin, obtained from genetically modified soybeans, and this has worked in India's favor.

-By Sameer Mohindru, Dow Jones Newswires; 91-11-2307-4020; sameer.mohindru@dowjones.com

11. China treads a careful path towards biotech future

Wednesday, February 1, 2006
By Clive Cookson

Plant scientists see China as a global leader for the future. The country has set agricultural biotechnology as a research priority, with spending estimated at around $200m this year and rising fast.

Clive James, chairman of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agribiotech Applications, says the development of genetically modified crops "is primarily as an issue of food, feed and fibre security" for the Chinese leadership. Commercial considerations come well behind security as a motive for the country's agribiotech programme, which employs an estimated 2,000 scientists.

But even in China the route to GM crops is not straightforward. The government is far from united in its commitment to GM. Some officials in the agriculture ministry are more interested in building exports of non-GM crops, particularly soya, to markets where there is strong consumer resistance to biotech foods. And the State Environmental Protection Administration co-operates with China's surprisingly vigorous Greenpeace organisation, whichis campaigning against GM crops.

Chinese farmers have grown insect-resistant "Bt" cotton since 1996, when the commercial planting of GM crops also started in north America. Today, almost 70 per cent of China's cotton comes from GM plants. Jikun Huang, director of the Centre of Chinese Agricultural Policy in Beijing, says GM cotton has benefited 6m Chinese farmers through increased yields and greatly reduced insecticide use.

However, Monsanto, the company that pioneered the worldwide commercialisation of Bt cotton, has not benefited as much as it had hoped from China. The country introduced its own Bt cotton, developed at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, at the same time as the Monsanto product arrived. Originally the American company had 70 per cent of the Chinese market, says Mr Huang, but last year the Chinese products overtook it.

"Monsanto [executives] are not happy," Mr Huang observes. "They complain that the government limited them to a few provinces and they complain that they cannot control their own varieties in China."

Although cotton is still the only GM crop grown commercially in China, a dozen others are being field tested. The main focus of attention is rice, the country's principal food crop. Four types of Chinese-developed GM rice - three to prevent insect damage and one to resist bacterial blight - have undergone extensive field trials yet none has won a commercial production licence, in spite of a series of applications going back to 1998.

Environmental campaigners are fighting hard to prevent the commercial planting of biotech rice in China - and may delay approval for a few more years - but the crop's proponents are confident that the food security arguments and GM's agricultural benefits will win the argument eventually. It might then be adopted widely in Asia.

However, GM soya, one of the key biotech crops in the Americas, is not likely to be planted commercially in China for a long while. While the country imports large amounts of GM soya, the agriculture ministry perseveres with its policy of growing only non-GM soya, for export at premium prices to Europe, South Korea and Japan.

Although research is getting under way, GM soya will not be commercialised until China has its own varieties, Mr Huang says. "Biotech crops in China depend on what technology is developed in the country."

Copyright The Financial Times Ltd 2006

12. Advocates: GMO label law not enforced

February 2, 2006
By J.C. Myers Times Argus Staff

Advocates and some legislators who want clear labeling of genetically engineered seeds claim the state is not adhering to the intent of a labeling law passed by the Legislature in 2004.

The state Agency of Agriculture, Food and Markets has required no changes in labeling since the law went into effect, contending that existing language describing seed traits is enough to let farmers know when they are buying genetically modified products.

The Vermont Public Interest Research Group is using petitions and correspondence with agency Secretary Stephen Kerr to pressure him to initiate a legislative rulemaking process. This is an administrative procedure in which state agencies can spell out more clearly the boundaries and applications of a statute.

Kerr says his agency has followed both the letter and the intent of the labeling law, Act 97. The law requires that consumers be provided with information about genetically engineered materials. The law defines a genetically engineered seed or plant part as one that has been produced using a variety of methods, including cell fusion and recombinant DNA technology that influences its growth and development in ways that are "not possible under natural conditions or processes."

Under the legislation, labeling must specify the identity and traits of the genetically engineered material, requirements for handling, contact point for further information, name and addresses of the manufacturer and the distributor of the materials.

Kerr said that current labeling practices meet those criteria. The law "does not require additional labels; therefore we have not required them," he said.

This position is a change from Kerr's earlier stance. In a 2004 e-mail to advocates, which was quoted in the Rutland Herald and The Times Argus, Kerr wrote that he would require companies that sell genetically engineered seeds in Vermont to include "a plain English disclosure" that "these seeds have been genetically engineered."

Some legislators say that while the agency may be meeting the letter of the law, it is not remaining true to the agreements made about how it would be carried out. Rep. David Zuckerman, a Burlington Progressive who is chairman of the House Agriculture Committee, said "the secretary has chosen not to follow the intent of the law. He has chosen to be as lenient as possible to the (genetic engineering) industry."

Kerr contends that the "technology-use contracts" that farmers sign to buy the seeds constitute the "labeling" that is required under the law. Kerr said there's a key distinction between the words "label" and "labeling."

"A requirement for a 'label' means a tag on every unit you sell. 'Labeling' means you provide information about your product," he said.

Kerr said that "farmers are professionals, and they are more than educated to know what they are buying. There is an agreement they have to sign that they don't have to sign for any other seeds."The attorney general's office has reviewed the issue and agreed. Assistant Attorney General Michael Duane, who does legal work for the agency, said the technology-use contracts that farmers sign to buy the seeds "very clearly meet the seven elements required under the statute they meet the letter of the law."

But Drew Hudson, field director for the Vermont Public Interest Group, disagrees. "To implement the law you need a clear label just describing the seeds traits is not enough. If it doesn't say 'genetically engineered' it doesn't mean 'genetically engineered,'" he said.

Hudson said VPIRG wants the agency to enter into rulemaking not only to improve the current labeling practices for commercial seeds, but because "hundreds of varieties" of genetically engineered vegetable seeds for the home gardener are already under development.

"Monsanto, one of the largest manufacturers of genetically engineered products has now purchased Seminis, a garden seed producer," said Hudson. He says that genetically engineered garden seeds will soon be on the market and they should be labeled. "The regulatory rules should lead the market and protect the consumer," he said.

Kerr, who said that a rulemaking process is unnecessary for the labeling of commercial farm products, agreed that rulemaking will be necessary when genetically engineered products become available to the home gardener. "We may have to use symbols," he said. "It will change with home gardeners."

Kerr said that during the drafting of the labeling bill, the legislators intended that labels that specifically said "genetically engineered" would not be required.

However, Sen. Sara Kittell, D-Franklin, chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, and Zuckerman both remembered differently that the intent of the law was that some placard or sign should indicate to the commercial farmer that the seed is a genetically engineered product.

Duane, the assistant attorney general, said that if legislators are not satisfied that the law they wrote meets their intent, they can draft new language. But he added that caution should be exercised in drafting such language because some "plant incorporated protectants" are considered pesticides, and their labeling is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency.

One of the reasons Kerr cited for not requiring labels is that asking manufacturers to change their tags for every unit would be onerous, and may violate interstate commerce statutes.

Zuckerman called that a red herring.

"We were asking them to use some sort of clear placard to indicate that the products on display are genetically engineered products," he said "and not to label every bag. It's not like there are so many seed dealers in Vermont so as to make that onerous."

Zuckerman, who is himself an organic farmer, said that it is possible without clear and specific labeling for farmers to be provided with a genetically engineered seed and not know what they are getting. He says that farmers only sign a single document and get multiple deliveries of seed and in some cases, "you open a bag and it's considered the same as signing a contract."

Seed dealer Jacob Bourdeau of Sheldon disagreed.

"When a farmer orders the GM seeds he signs an agreement," he said. Bourdeau is confident that any competent farmer or feed store worker could tell what seed they are delivering or planting, and would know if it was a genetically engineered seed just by reading the variety on the bag's label. He admitted accidents could happen, but said the farmer would likely be responsible for any mix-up. "Sure, I could put diesel fuel in my car, but whose fault would that be?" he asked.

Zuckerman believes that the legislators were manipulated by genetic engineering industry lobbyists. "Frankly, we were nave," he said. "The other side knew well they could get around the language and do nothing. It's extremely frustrating when you negotiate in good faith, and the secretary interprets the law in a way that favors the industry."

13. Farm Bureau pushes to let farmers save seeds

By Matt Courter
Olney Daily Mail | 1 February 2006

With input from its Illnois chapters, the American Farm Bureau adopted a policy regarding farmers being allowed to save genetically modified seeds during its annual meeting this month.

The action is the latest in a long debate about farmers' rights to reuse what many see as seed that mostly has been developed through public efforts, and seed companies' attempts to recoup cost for enhancements they have engineered by restricting such reuse.

The new policy incorporates language from a resolution passed by Illinois Farm Bureau in December that asked Congress to allow the Plant Variety Protection Act to govern genetically modified seed and not utility patent law.

The IFB submitted its policy for consideration by the American Farm Bureau during its meeting on January 9 and 10.

Illinois Farm Bureau member Richard Ochs said the policy gives Farm Bureau more leverage and a unified stand should the issue of seed saving go before Congress. "As it is now, if Congress re-opens this, we know what we want," Ochs said.

Farmers are not currently allowed to save technologically enhanced seed from year to year, Ochs said.

Steve Hixon, owner of Steve's Seed Conditioning in Claremont, said in a written statement that the PVPA offers a series of checks and balances as well as flexibility and opportunities. "These are items patent law deletes, but yet the public deserves," he said.

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture information, the PVPA, enacted in December of 1970 and amended in 1994, provides legal intellectual property rights protection to developers of new varieties of plants that are sexually reproduced (by seed) or are tuber-propagated. Bacteria and fungi are excluded. The PVPA is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The Supreme Court ruled in 2001 that plants and seeds qualify for protection under the U.S. Patent Utility Act, upholding corporate prohibitions against saving seeds and potential ownership of plant genetics and the new technology by which it was developed.

Illinois Farm Bureau Senior Director of Commodities Tamara White said that while language from the Illinois Farm Bureau was incorporated in the AFB policy, the main differences in the two policies was that the IFB placed more emphasis on the importance of the PVPA. The IFB language, for example, supported the PVPA as the exclusive statute governing the Intellectual Property Rights for the breeders of plant varieties.

The final American Farm Bureau language stated that in order to strengthen the rights of plant breeders and maintain a farmer's ability to save seed for the land he or she farms and dispose of incidental amounts of seed, it would:

  • Support strong intellectual property rights protection to allow seed developers the ability to recover the costs of research and development of seeds, while abiding by all antitrust laws;
  • Support restricting the sales of protected varieties without the permission of the owner;
  • Support the present provision which allows a farmer to save seed for use on all the land he or she farms;
  • Support a provision to allow growers of seed varieties protected under the PVPA to sell the seed according to local commercial law if the seed company fails to abide by the grower contract; and
  • Encourage the timely release of information regarding increases in tech fees and seed prices to allow for appropriate planning by producers.

It also stated farmers should be allowed to save and replant biotech seed by paying a minimal technology fee on saved seed. Companies that sell biotech seed should help keep the price of seed competitive for U.S. farmers with farmers from other countries.

White said Illinois Farm Bureau was also not in support of the farmers having to pay a tech fee on saved seed.

Hixon said he believes the Farm Bureau finally recognizes this is a legislative issue rather than a judicial opinion. "If tax dollars are involved, then unobstructed public access should be practiced," he said.

"The current trend has allowed private industry to piggyback patented technology onto a public infrastructure and claim this entirely as their own," Hixon said. "I say they have a right to protect their intellectual property, but they need to learn to separate it."