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'Farmer Protection' bill passes in Vermont Senate; Whole Foods to label GMO-free products

(Friday, April 8, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. South American Ministers Reject Monsanto Soy Royalty Plan
2. Vermont Moves to Protect Traditional Farmers From Modified Crops
3. Farmers Win a Major Victory over Biotech Corporations With State Senate Passage of Farmer Protection Act
4. Europe Leaves Modified Corn Inquiry to U.S.
5. BT10 News Slows Japan Corn Imports
6. US officials fret over South Korea's response to GM corn mix-up
7. EU deplores unauthorized imports of maize
8. Yes to GMO-Free Zones Say 58% of Canadians and 62% of PEI residents
9. Can pharmaceutical rice be contained?
10. Legislation Introduced to Protect Wild Rice from Genetic Engineering
11. Genetically Engineered Crops Damage Wildlife
12. Roundup(r) Highly Lethal to Amphibians in Natural Setting, Finds University of Pittsburgh Researcher
Some species totally eliminated
13. ISB News Report
14. Iowa State University entomologists publish survey results on "Practices and Perceptions" of farmers regarding transgenic corn
15. Whole Foods to Label GMO-free Products
16. Monsanto branches out into fruits and vegetables

1. South American Ministers Reject Monsanto Soy Royalty Plan

BUENOS AIRES - Farm ministers from Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay -- the world's top soybean exporters behind the United States -- on Friday shunned a bid by US biotech pioneer Monsanto to charge royalties on genetically modified soybeans when they are harvested.

Royalties "should only be charged when farmers buy seeds," said a statement issued by Argentina after a special meeting of the Southern Agricultural Council in Cartagena, Colombia at the request of Argentine Agriculture Secretary Miguel Campos.

The meeting arose from a protracted battle between Argentina and Monsanto over GMO soy royalties. Chile's Agriculture Minister Jaime Campos also attended, as did lower-level Uruguayan and Bolivian officials.

Monsanto officials in Buenos Aires declined to comment. The St. Louis, Missouri-based company wants Argentine farmers to pay technology fees for its herbicide-resistant Roundup Ready soybeans.

The statement did not refer specifically to soybeans, and could include other crops such as wheat.

Argentina approved Roundup Ready soy for planting in 1996 and Monsanto used to embed the royalties charge into soybean seed prices.

But because the black market for soy seeds is so great, the company stopped selling such seeds altogether in 2003. Many other companies continue to sell soy seeds containing Roundup Ready genes, however, paying licensing fees to Monsanto.

Only 20 percent of Argentina's $1 billion, annual soybean seed trade is legal.


Months-long talks to set royalties collapsed last month when Monsanto warned Argentine exporters it aimed to impose a $15-per-tonne fine on Argentine shipments of Roundup Ready beans in European nations where the gene is patented.

In February, the firm had proposed a $1-per-tonne charge on Argentine soy and soy derivatives in 2005, rising to $2.50 per tonne between 2006 and 2011.

Argentina's Campos responded by threatening to take Monsanto to court if it levies fines in European ports.

Campos, who insists technology fees should be charged as part of the seed price, rallied five neighboring countries to his side. South American officials "urged farmers in the region to reject accords to pay any kind of royalties compensation on harvested grains," the statement said.

Last month, farmers in Paraguay agreed to pay royalties to Monsanto for Roundup Ready soybeans grown this season. But the company has yet to reach a national accord in Brazil, where GMO crops were just recently approved.

Argentina has drafted a legislative bill to crack down on the illegal seed trade.

On Thursday, Campos met in Colombia with US Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns, who expressed concern over Argentina's lack of royalties payments, according to a statement issued afterward by Argentina's Agriculture Secretariat.

Johanns said this puts US farmers who pay royalties at a competitive disadvantage. But the Secretariat statement said Campos replied that US subsidies on farm production and exports are even less fair.

Story by Hilary Burke

Story Date: 4/4/2005

2. Vermont Moves to Protect Traditional Farmers From Modified Crops


Apr 7 - The Vermont Senate overwhelmingly passed a bill to protect farmers who do not raise genetically modified (GM) crops from damages associated the mixing of modified crops with their own. The legislation, which now moves to the state House, seeks to remedy what have long been some of the anti-GM movement’s strongest complaints against the industry.

Evidence continues to mount that genetically modified crops often cross-pollinate and transfer their engineered genes to nearby, non-GM fields, and that the purity of traditional strains is becoming increasingly contaminated with genetic material from gene-modified plants. Critics of the biotechnology industry have warned that crop varieties, cultivated over generations to survive in diverse farming situations, are severely threatened by the introduction of GM plats.

With the long-term safety of genetically modified organisms still hotly debated around the world, many farmers see an economic future in preserving their traditional strains and meeting the growing demand for non-GM food. Vermont’s Farmer Protection Act would hold companies liable for lost revenues if cross-pollination rendered non-GMO farmers unable to sell their crops at the premium prices paid for non-GMO or organic varieties.

Additionally, some biotech companies have aggressively protected their ownership of their strains by suing farmers who wind up with GM crops through cross-pollination from nearby fields. Vermont’s legislation would prevent companies from pursuing those farmers.

3. Farmers Win a Major Victory over Biotech Corporations With State Senate Passage of Farmer Protection Act

For Immediate Release
April 5, 2005

Contact: Amy Shollenberger, Policy Director, Rural Vermont 802-793-1114, amybeth@together.net

MONTPELIER, VT -- With a solid 26-1 vote today, the Vermont Senate passed the Farmer Protection Act to put clear liability for genetically engineered seeds onto the manufacturers of those seeds, taking the burden of risk away from Vermont farmers. The bill faced several challenges in the morning before the vote, as two Senators pushed hard to limit the liability by changing a key phrase in the bill. Senators Bobby Starr (D-Essex/Orleans) and Wendy Wilton (R-Rutland) came to the Senate Agriculture committee first thing in the morning with an amendment that would have changed the language from "The manufacturer of a genetically engineered seed or plant part IS liable to any person who has suffered injury by the release into Vermont of a genetically engineered crop produced from such seed or plant part." to "The manufacturer of a genetically engineered seed or plant part MAY BE liable to any person who has suffered injury by the release into Vermont of a genetically engineered crop produced from such seed or plant part."

The discussion on the amendment quickly disintegrated into a political spat. Eventually, the lead sponsor of the bill, and member of the Senate Judiciary Committee testified to the Senate Agriculture Committee. Senator John Campbell (D-Windsor) explained that the change would shift from a strict liability provision to a simple liability provision. "We do not believe that simple liability offers any protection to Vermont farmers. Therefore, we will not support the bill," he noted on behalf of the other members of the committee, except Wilton, who sits on both the Agriculture and Judiciary committees. Campbell went on, "We made a policy decision in order to protect the Vermont farmer."

The Agriculture Committee adjourned before voting on the amendment, and the Senate Judiciary instead adopted two of the provisions that Wilton and Starr had also wanted. One of the provisions eliminated some of the specific pieces of the definition of injury. This change did not truly limit the definition because the definition still begins with "Injury includes," which means that the definition is not limited to the specifics listed.

The second provision added back some of the language that had been taken out in the Judiciary Committee. This language, according to Campbell, would protect farmers who had unknowingly come into possession of genetically engineered traits and who were not in breach of contract from damages associated with conversion, taking of property, and trespass.

This amendment passed unanimously (27-0) on the floor with little debate.

As the debate on final passage of the bill ensued, Starr explained that he would not be offering his amendment to limit the liability of the corporations, but he indicated that he thought passing the stronger liability bill was a mistake on the part of the Vermont Senate. He claimed that the Farmer Protection Act will lead to "black marketing of genetically engineered seeds" in the state. He went on, "This is just a little battle. There's still plenty of fight in the war. I'll take my fight to a different place," implying that he will be lobbying in the Vermont House to take away the strict liability provision of the bill. In the end, however, Starr voted for the final passage of the bill.

Campbell, responding to Starr's argument that if the bill passes, the seed companies will "pull out" of Vermont, said, "I don't take well to threats from international corporations when we are trying to have them come into our state and play on a level playing field. They want to be Goliath to our David -- without a slingshot. It's not acceptable."

Senator Jim Leddy (D-Chittenden) also spoke in support of the bill on the Senate floor, referring to Robert Frost's poem, "Mending Walls". He quoted the passage, "Good fences make good neighbors," and went on to say that with this issue, there are no fences, so good policy is needed. "This bill is not to denigrate or use language that speaks to the damage of genetically modified organisms," he said. "It is about the balance of protection without a threat versus a threat with no protection."

The bill will now go to the House for consideration. A companion bill that was offered in the House several weeks ago has 54 co-sponsors.

4. Europe Leaves Modified Corn Inquiry to U.S.


BRUSSELS, April 5 - Despite public abhorrence in Europe of all things genetically modified, European officials say they will let the United States take the lead in untangling how unapproved corn entered Europe over the last four years.

Syngenta, the Swiss biotechnology company that produced the corn, said late in March that it had inadvertently mixed up two types of its genetically modified corn.

One type, known as Bt-11, has been legal for years in both the United States and Europe. But a similar strain, Bt-10, has never been tested or approved. The main difference between the two strains is that the unapproved one contains a gene that confers resistance to the antibiotic ampicillin. Environmentalists fear that introducing it into the food chain could increase resistance to antibiotics.

The European Commission, the executive arm of the European Union, said Friday that it thought about 1,000 metric tons (1,102 tons) of an unauthorized strain of corn entered union countries in the forms of animal feed, corn flour and corn oil. Syngenta discovered its mistake in December, but informed the Europeans only last month, after a report in the journal Nature.

A spokesman for the European commissioner for health and consumer affairs, Philip Tod, said on Monday: "The commission has written a letter of protest to Syngenta, also asking for their cooperation in tracking down the Bt-10 corn in Europe, but beyond that we are not planning any other measures. It's a matter for the U.S. authorities."

Syngenta, based in Basel, Switzerland, said farmers produced 165,000 tons of the unapproved Bt-10 strain of corn on 37,000 acres in the United States from 2001 through the end of last year, thinking that they were producing Bt-11, its approved cousin. Both strains have a protein that is toxic to the European corn borer.

In mid-December, the company discovered the error while conducting tests, a spokeswoman, Sarah Hull, said, adding, "We immediately notified the authorities."

The United States Department of Agriculture consulted with the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency to see whether a recall was warranted. The agencies decided against it, seeing no threat to humans, animals or plants.

In Europe, officials were trying to figure out where the corn might have gone, Mr. Tod said, adding: "We can't say whether or not the imports of this corn have stopped or not. Because this Bt-10 corn was labeled as the legal Bt-11 strain, we have no idea where it arrived in the union or where it ended up."

The European commissioner for health and consumer affairs, Markos Kyprianou, in language considered unusually frank for European diplomacy, said, "We deplore the unauthorized imports of this corn."

The Agriculture Department denied that it deliberately kept authorities in other parts of the world in the dark. "There was no cover-up," a spokesman, Jim Rogers, said, adding it was normal not to release information while an investigation continued. Mr. Rogers said those inquiries would be concluded in coming weeks.

The European Commission has asked Syngenta to disclose the corn's molecular structure so scientists in Europe can help isolate it.

The Agriculture Department can fine a company as much as $500,000 for selling unauthorized crops, Mr. Rogers said, even if the company was not aware that it was selling an unauthorized product.

Europeans tend to be more suspicious of genetically modified food than Americans are. National governments refused to approve any of the genetically modified products, leaving the final decision to the commission, because they fear a backlash at the ballot box, said Adrian Bebb, a campaigner against genetically altered products for the advocacy group Friends of the Earth.

"This episode involving Syngenta's corn will make people even more suspicious," Mr. Bebb said. "It shows a complete breakdown in the monitoring system." He urged American authorities to take action against Syngenta and European lawmakers to review the procedures for allowing imports into member countries.

Mr. Rogers, taking a different view, declared, "This situation shows that the system does work in the way the regulations say it should work: the company reported this to us."

He added that he believed Syngenta informed American authorities as soon as it could, "but they are getting the benefit of the doubt on that."

5. BT10 News Slows Japan Corn Imports

SINGAPORE (Dow Jones, 04/05/05) -- News that Swiss biotech firm Syngenta is being investigated for having inadvertently sold an unauthorized strain of genetically-modified corn in the U.S. and European market has raised some concern among Japanese importers, trade participants said Tuesday.

U.S. and E.U. regulators lately launched the investigation after Syngenta told them it mistakenly sold BT10, as the strain of corn was known, in the U.S. and into Europe for four years without approval.

The news renewed concerns in Europe about the safety of GM products.

Syngenta said it never applied for approval of BT10 because it opted for a newer version of the product called BT11, which is cleared for marketing in the U.S., Europe and Japan.

In the wake of such dilemma, both importers and government agencies in Japan said they are now scrambling to put together practices and policies that will have to address consumer concern and bio-safety while ensuring normal flow of corn imports.

"BT10 has not been approved (in Japan), so in principle there shouldn't be any such seed in our import cargoes intended for food or feed purposes. But (in practice), BT10 could have been 'commingled' in some corn imports into Japan, just as they have been in Europe and in the U.S.," said a Tokyo- based grains trader.

"We would be in trouble if the Japanese government decides to reject such cargoes and asks us to send them back to the U.S.," he said.

As a result, some buyers willingly halted imports of U.S. corn to avoid importing problematic cargoes, traders said.

"Wait and see" would be a safe approach since the Japanese government has yet to establish a testing method to check if a cargo contains BT10 corn, traders said.

Decision-Making Takes Time

But some buyers said they import as usual since they believe the Japanese government would not want to see corn imports grounded.

Moreover, "the U.S. government would approve BT10 soon and Japanese government would second that opinion," said another Tokyo-based trader.

Syngenta has said BT10 corn is safe and presents no change to the food, health and environmental profile of the corn because the proteins produced by BT10 are identical to those produced by the commercialized and fully registered BT11 variety.

Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries is expected to address importers' concerns by clarifying the government's stance on bio- safety issues related to corn imports.

But since the Syngenta news has been thrust into media spotlight, a decision to balance all interest groups would take time, traders said.

"We are still consulting with the Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (before reaching a decision)," said Kazunari Sakai, an official at Japan's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.

Meanwhile, time if running out for importers why said they have only three weeks to wait for a government decision before having to resume imports.

"The longer they (importers) wait, the less inventories of corn they have. The Japanese food and feed companies will resume importing corn within three weeks, with or without government solution," said a trader.

Japanese corn buyers are in the phase of booking May-June shipments, with about two thirds to three quarters of demand covered, traders said.

Japan imports around 16.4 million tons of corn annually, comprising 4.4 million tons for food and 12 million tons for feed, traders said.

6. US officials fret over South Korea's response to GM corn mix-up

Date Posted: 3/31/2005


Nikkei English News via NewsEdge Corporation : WASHINGTON (Dow Jones)--U.S. industry and government officials say they are concerned South Korea may disrupt corn trade by requiring testing for an unapproved biotech strain produced in the U.S. over the past four years.

Switzerland's Syngenta AG (SYT) announced last week it inadvertently sold a limited amount of the unapproved Bt10 corn seed instead of the approved Bt11 to U.S. farmers who planted it on 37,000 acres from 2001 through 2004.

U.S. Department of Agriculture officials, who asked not to be named, said since Syngenta's announcement, South Korea has brought up testing as a possible regulatory response.

A senior USDA official, when asked about trade implications from Bt10 corn, said: "This could be a problem."

Reports from private analysts in South Korea said the country's Food and Drug Administration, or KFDA, is looking into how it can test corn imports for Bt10.

And Syngenta has mobilized, sending top level representatives to Seoul. Syngenta spokeswoman Sarah Hull confirmed that Paul Tenning, head of the company's global biotech regulatory compliance division, has been sent there.

South Korea imported 148.7 million bushels of U.S. corn in the 2003-04 marketing year, making it the sixth largest foreign market for U.S. corn, according to data compiled by the National Corn Growers Association.

USDA officials said it is still too early to know how South Korea or Japan, the largest foreign market for U.S. corn, will respond to the commercialization of the unapproved biotech strains here.

USDA spokesman Ed Loyd said Japan, South Korea and other countries just learned of the unapproved biotech corn production here on March 21. Syngenta informed the USDA, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration in December that the company discovered it had accidentally been selling the experimental and unapproved Bt10 corn seed to farmers.

A senior USDA official said "both Japan and Korea are looking at their options," but stressed no decisions have been announced on how they will implement their domestic regulations. "We have been having an ongoing exchange of information. They've been asking questions. We've been providing answers."

The only reaction so far from Japanese government officials has been to seek assurances there will be no more Bt10 in the U.S. corn supply and to request more information about Bt10 from Syngenta and the U.S.

Nathan Danielson, biotech director for the National Corn Growers Association, said the question of how Japan will react has some analysts "sitting here waiting and holding our breath."

The USDA, Environmental Protection Agency, and Food and Drug Administration were quick to declare last week: "The genetically engineered proteins in Bt10 corn are identical to those in the Bt11 strain, which is another genetically engineered corn strain that has been approved for use. Bt10 corn meets EPA's current health-based regulatory food safety standards, and the existing food safety clearance for Bt11 applies to Bt10."

Syngenta officials stressed that not only have they destroyed or isolated all the remaining unapproved Bt10 seed, but the likelihood that the corn produced from it over the past four years made it into exports was very small.

Despite the company's promises and U.S. government reassurances, Syngenta is still being investigated for violating USDA and EPA regulations. Syngenta has not asked for approval of its Bt10 corn from the USDA or EPA, spokespersons for those agencies and Syngenta said.

-By Bill Tomson, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-646-0088; bill.tomson@dowjones.com

7. EU deplores unauthorized imports of maize


BRUSSELS (AP) - The European Union said Friday that it deplored unauthorized imports of BT10, a form of genetically modified maize made by Switzerland's Syngenta.

Genetically modified products can be sold in the European Union only once they have been approved by EU authorities. Syngenta has yet to win approval for BT10, but the product has been imported into some EU countries, including France and Spain, the EU head office said.

U.S. federal and regulatory agencies are investigating after it emerged that Syngenta sold BT10 in the United States for four years without approval. Syngenta said the seeds had been used in four U.S. states and may have made their way in food supplies in the U.S. and elsewhere.

"Today we have written to the U.S. authorities and Syngenta asking for clarification of the situation with BT10," said Philip Todd, a spokesman for EU Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou.

Up to 22 pounds of the seeds were imported into Spain and France for research purposes, according to the commission. Around 1,000 tons of food and feed products are thought to have entered the food chain in Europe since 2001, it added.

The Commission has asked Washington to supply it with a full risk assessment of BT10 and the quantities of the product it believes have been exported to Europe.

Syngenta must supply the commission with information on the structure of BT10 so that its presence can be detected by national governments.

BT10 contains proteins that are identical to the proteins in its BT11 crop, which has been approved in both the EU and the United States.

EU governments remain divided over genetically modified foods and have shied away from approving any new applications for the last six years due to public fears over health and environmental risks.

Last May, the Commission took the controversial step of exercising its power to overrule EU governments, approving BT11 for import and sale, but not cultivation.

8. Yes to GMO-Free Zones Say 58% of Canadians and 62% of PEI residents


MONTREAL, March 30 /CNW Telbec/ - While the government of Prince-Edward Island (PEI) continues public hearings to make the Island a GMO-Free Zone, two surveys (1) released today by Greenpeace show that a GMO-Free PEI, has wide approval in Canada and Quebec.

"Once you re-distribute the undecided respondents, 58% of Canadians and 62% of PEI residents said they want their Province to be declared a GMO-Free Zone. In Quebec, support for the GMO-Free Zone reaches as high 64%. These percentages are surprising because as of yet there has been no widespread campaigns or public debates on this subject" said Eric Darier, Greenpeace GMO Campaigner.

"In PEI, the proportion of undecided respondents is only 14%, whereas this figure is almost twice as high (27%) elsewhere in Canada. Given the political debate currently taking place in PEI the only conclusion is that the more people know about GMOs, the less they want them," added Darier "To further illustrate the point the percentage of undecided respondents in this survey from Quebec is also low (17%), likely because of the public hearing held in 2004 by the Commission sur l'Agriculture, les pêcheries et l'alimentation (CAPA)."

The movement for GMO-Free Zones is picking up speed everywhere in the world. In Europe, more than 100 regions and 3500 municipalities are now GMO-Free Zones. Last January, the movement adopted the Berlin Manifesto for GMO-free Regions and Biodiversity in Europe (2). In the United States, many counties (the equivalent of MRCs in Quebec), in California, Hawaii, Vermont and Maine among others, have decided to become or are in the process of becoming GMO-Free Zones. In a poll held in 2004, 56% of voters in Mendocino County, California agreed to turn their county into a GMO-Free Zone. In British Columbia, the City of Powell River is now a "genetically engineered free crop zone".

Part of the popular support for GMO-Free Zones results from the citizens frustrations towards the pro-GMO positions adopted by upper levels of government. In April 2004, the Federal Government adopted a "voluntary" labelling policy on GMOs. Until now, despite an overwhelming 83% of Canadians wanting mandatory GMO labelling (3), we have yet to find a single product with a "Contains GMO" label on it. In Quebec, Jean Charest's Liberal Party has promised mandatory GMO labelling but has so far failed to follow through on the promise," concluded Darier.

1. by Leger Marketing and Corporate Research Associates in Moncton.

2. http://www.zs-l.de/conference (3) Léger Marketing survey, April 2004.

3. http://www.greenpeace.ca/f/campagnes/ogm/etiquetage/ sondage_etiquetage_mai2004 .pdf For complete survey results, visit: http://www.greenpeace.ca/f/

For further information: Eric Darier, Greenpeace GE Campaigner, (514) 933-0021, x15, cell: (514) 605-6497; Andrew Male, Greenpeace Communications Coordinator, cell: (416) 880-2757

9. Can pharmaceutical rice be contained?

By David Bennett, Delta Farm Press, 03/31/05

Ventria Bioscience has moved into Missouri, promising value-added crops for rice farmers and cheaper medicines for those suffering, among other maladies, dehydration and anemia. In a few weeks, Ventria will plant pharmaceutical rice that contains human genes. Though microscopic, those genes are massive red flags to the many Bootheel producers worried about rattling already unstable markets.

"I've followed rice marketing and trade issues for years," said Bob Papanos, vice president of international programs for the U.S. Rice Producers Association. "Rice farmers are right to be worried. I'm sure farmers recall StarLink and Prodigy in Nebraska. If there's even a hint that Ventria's pharm-rice has contaminated food-grade rice, we're in serious trouble."

"Actually, foreign trade negotiators can use this against us whether there's contamination or not" This could actually give them leverage in trade talks. And anyone who thinks any fallout could be kept isolated in the Bootheel doesn?t know what they're talking about. Folks overseas don't pay attention to the Missouri/Arkansas border -- they just see one big swath of rice running down through the Delta. That's the way it is."

How vulnerable?

Markets aside, how vulnerable to contamination is conventional rice?

Not very, claimed Scott Deeter, Ventria CEO, who responded in writing to Delta Farm Press questions.

"Ventria utilizes a closed system of production that includes self-pollinating plants to produce plant-made pharmaceuticals," wrote Deeter. "Self-pollinating plants contain the male and female reproduction system within the same plant and do not require wind or insects for pollination and reproduction. This significantly reduces the risk from cross-pollination.

Also, Ventria produces its product in the seed of rice only during the last month of the growing phase of the plant. Thus, the product is not present in the leaf, stems, or root material."

Not surprisingly, environmental watchdog group Friends of the Earth said Ventria's safety claims are shaky. Bill Freese, a research analyst with FOE, wrote two comprehensive papers regarding Ventria's pharm-rice. Currently in Missouri, Freese said, the company has "been all over the map with regard to what they plan to do. They like to talk about saving children, but I've also heard them say it will be too expensive for that particular application."

"The latest suggestion they've made is they want to use these proteins as supplements to granola bars and yogurt. They've also talked about poultry feed, topical treatment for wounds, all kinds of things."

FOE's view

The interest of FOE in this issue isn't coincidental -- the organization has a dog in this fight.

"We have a 'Safer Foods, Safer Farms' campaign. This focuses on our desire for mandatory testing and labeling. We also want biotech companies to bear liability when things go wrong, which isn't the case now. It's a shame that the government hasn't made biotech companies own up to their responsibilities.

"There's just too much risk of (pharm-crop genes) getting into the food supply" There was a case recently with tomato seeds that points this out. A California researcher was doing genetic engineering on some conventional tomato seeds and wasn't getting results he expected. So he tested them and, it turned out, these seed were genetically engineered. Somewhere along the line, the seeds had been mixed up.

"That kind of stuff happens and the safest course is to keep this type of engineering away from food crops. If they want to use non-food crops for pharmaceuticals, we think it should be done under contained conditions."

On the Bootheel situation, one of Freese's major concerns is the dispersal of Ventria's pharm-rice seed by animals.

"Ventria said that won't happen, that all their rice will be digested. But that isn't believable. Birds eat huge amounts of rice and the Bootheel is on the Mississippi flyway. Around 5 percent of a harvest is left behind on the ground."

"Even a small percentage of this pharm-rice getting out -- and it wouldn't take much: maybe 1 in 1,000 grains or even less -- and it would all be over with."

"Another concern is human error. You can't exclude that because, as a race, we're fallible. Mix-ups happen and tasks aren't completed as they should be."

The Nebraska Prodigy incident in 2002 is a good example of this, said Freese. Volunteer biotech corn plants sprouted in soybean fields. Based on that, soybean fields, at a cost of millions of dollars, had to be destroyed.

"An important thing to remember is USDA said the volunteer plants came from a corn field planted a year earlier. The size of that field was 1 acre. And they couldn't control the volunteer plants from that single acre."

Freese said if biotech companies want to grow GMO crops, they should have liability insurance to protect producers. This concern was solidified, he said, when it became clear Prodigy had no money to buy back contaminated soybeans.

"The USDA gave them a low-interest loan to help pay their fine. That's the situation you get into with some of these biotech companies. They don't have a lot of money and when they get into trouble, farmers are left holding the bag.

"Now, we're talking about 200 acres of Ventria's pharm-rice. To most producers, that doesn't seem like much. But when you've got to control where every single grain goes, there's no way to guarantee it won't be dispersed. And if you pin them down, Ventria will admit that."

Answering concerns

Deeter doesn't categorically deny the charge. However, Ventria, he wrote, "is completely committed to sound stewardship practices and has passed every USDA inspection for the past six years, including eight inspections in 2004. Ventria maintains chain of custody for all of its plant made pharmaceutical crops and we have a very stringent production protocol to maintain quality and containment.

"In order to maintain product quality and as part of Ventria?s commitment to sound stewardship, Ventria has instituted the following production practices:

  • Ventria's field production will be grown in areas that are separated from commercial rice production by considerable distance.
  • Ventria's products are manufactured within the seed of self-pollinating rice or barley, which are not wind or insect pollinated plants.
  • Ventria's field production, storage, grinding and transportation equipment is dedicated only to Ventria's use and is not used for any commodity rice or barley production.
  • Ventria's collaborators and field production personnel receive extensive training related to regulatory requirements and Ventria?s standard operating procedures."

Regarding concerns about viable seed passing through birds' digestive systems, Deeter said two studies have looked at the issue. "The results of both studies show that rice is highly digestible by waterfowl and that no viable rice passes through the digestive system of ducks or geese. Rice is easily digested by birds, unlike weed seeds that have a hard seed coat. In fact, it is suggested that attracting birds to a field containing red rice is a viable weed management practice because the birds effectively digest the red rice and render in non-viable. Red rice has an even harder seed coat than Ventria's rice variety, so there is less likelihood of birds transporting rice in this manner."

How does the company propose to keep its pharm-rice from dispersing to neighboring rice fields through flooding?

"Ventria will have a levee and a 50-foot fallow area around its field to keep all water in the field," wrote Deeter. "All of the water removed from Ventria's field will be pumped into a sediment pond. The water will be pumped out of the sediment pond through a screen that will catch any rice seeds that are present in the water."

How does Ventria propose to keep its pharm-rice through pollen carried on the wind?

"Rice is a self-pollinated plant and the life of its pollen is only a few minutes. Many research studies determined that 10 feet was an adequate distance between rice seed fields to maintain purity of foundation seed (highest purity standards). More recent studies have shown that outcrossing in even adjacent plants is unlikely. No studies have shown outcrossing beyond 30 feet. Since Ventria utilizes a 50-foot fallow area and a distance of more than 4 miles to another rice field, redundant safeguards are in place to prevent (pharm-rice pollen from reaching conventional rice)."

How about dispersal through movement of equipment or human error?

"Ventria owns its own field production, storage, transportation and milling equipment, which is dedicated to Ventria's production," wrote Deeter. "In Ventria's 'closed' system of production, viable seed does not leave the farm. It is processed into a non-viable powder before shipment. It is important to clarify that Ventria maintains ownership and chain of custody of the rice or barley throughout the entire production process from the field to the purified protein."

To keep its field red rice-free, Deeter said Ventria will rely on "manual rouging and/or chemical application. Ventria's present seed stock (developed in California) is also red-rice free."

Where now?

Asked if Ventria is preparing for an injunction or lawsuit to prevent it from planting pharm-rice in the Bootheel, Deeter said no.

"I still think there's a good chance Ventria's efforts in the Bootheel can be shut down," said Freese. "The food industry is finally waking up to this -- they haven't been very informed about the situation until now. I believe they'll now begin to exert their influence. That pressure, along with the Bootheel farmers, can stop this."

Is FOE planning an injunction?

"I'm not involved in that, although I've heard talk. FOE is more interested in getting a discussion going. Rather than do it through legal channels, I'd like this to be defeated on the merits. Bottom line: Ventria can't guarantee their pharm-rice won't get out."

e-mail: dbennett@primediabusiness.com

10. Legislation Introduced to Protect Wild Rice from Genetic Engineering

For Immediate Release
Contact: Jennifer Tlumak, 3/16/05
White Earth Land Recovery Project, http://www.welrp.org

St. Paul: Minnesota State Senator Becky Lourey (DFL 08) and State Representative Karen Clark (DFL 61A) spoke at the Capitol today about the bill they have introduced to protect Minnesota's state grain, wild rice. The bill, HF 1382 and SF 1566, prohibits genetically engineered wild rice from the state, specifying that "a person may not release, plant, cultivate, harvest, sell, or offer for sale in Minnesota a genetically engineered organism containing or related to wild rice." The bill will be heard today in the Senate Committee for Agriculture, Gaming, and Veterans.

Senator Lourey explained that the introduction of wild rice into the state threatens the Minnesota way of life for paddy farmers, traditional hand harvesters, and all those who enjoy the benefits that wild rice provides. She stated, "Wild rice is our state grain, and genetic engineering of this native plant would threaten the viability of natural stands of wild rice."

If genetically engineered wild rice is developed and introduced, natural stands in lakes and rivers could be genetically contaminated, through pollen drift. Contamination would mean a loss of European, Asian, and some domestic markets for both hand-harvesters and cultivated wild rice farmers, as well as potential environmental problems. Wild rice is also part of the culture of the state, particularly for Native peoples.

Winona LaDuke, founding director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, spoke about the importance of wild rice to the culture and tradition of the Anishinaabe people. "Our prophecies instructed the Anishinaabe to migrate west to where the food grows on the water. That food is Manoomin, or wild rice, and it holds great significance to our people. The Creator gave us wild rice to care for as a sacred food, and protecting it from genetic engineering is part of that responsibility" said Ms. LaDuke.

Representative Clark spoke about wild rice as a natural resource, which needs to be protected for future generations. She explained, "Natural wild rice stands provide vital wildlife habitat, help combat erosion and keep our rivers and lakes clean." The bill’s sponsors hope to meet with success in the legislature, bringing together Indian tribes, religious organizations, environmental and citizen’s groups, and farmers to protect the state grain from contamination through genetic engineering.

Legislation to Protect Wild Rice Heard by Senate Committee

St. Paul: Minnesota State Senator Becky Lourey (DFL 08) brought her bill to protect Minnesota's state grain, wild rice, before the Senate Agriculture, Veterans, and Gaming Committee yesterday. The bill, SF 1566, prohibits genetically engineered wild rice from the state, specifying that "a person may not release, plant, cultivate, harvest, sell, or offer for sale in Minnesota a genetically engineered organism containing or related to wild rice."

Senator Lourey, a member of the Committee, explained the importance of wild rice to Minnesotans and the threats to the native grain from potential genetic engineering. She yielded the remainder of her time to the experts who attended the hearing to testify in support of the bill.

Winona LaDuke, White Earth Tribal Member and Director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project, spoke about the sacredness of wild rice to Anishinaabe people and the threats to natural stands of wild rice from cross-pollination if genetically engineered wild rice is developed and introduced. She said, "we export our natural hand-harvested wild rice to Germany, Italy, and Japan, and genetic contamination would mean a closing of these markets to our product. ‘Natural’ and ‘genetically engineered’ are not compatible terms."

John Persell, Director of Water Quality for the Minnesota Chippewa Tribe, spoke about the ecological importance of natural wild rice stands. He explained, "rice beds support the ecology of fisheries and lakes across the state of Minnesota." He urged the committee to view the development and release of genetically engineered wild rice as an invasive species that could be a huge financial and environmental liability.

Dennis Olson, Director of Policy for the Institute of Agriculture and Trade Policy, stated that there, "currently exists no technology to segregate genetically engineered from non-genetically engineered crops." He continued, stating, "any genetic contamination of natural wild rice could mean a loss of export markets for both paddy farmers and Native producers."

George Spangler, Professor of Fisheries and Wildlife in Conservation Biology at the University of Minnesota, stated "passing this legislation would be a hallmark for cooperative natural resource management." As a member of the University of Minnesota’s academic community, he stressed that the bill would not stifle academic freedom at the University. The bill does not affect any current research that the University of Minnesota is pursuing.

Three people testified against the bill, including Beth Nelson, President of the Minnesota Cultivated Wild Rice Council, and Ron Phillips, Regents Professor of Agronomy and Plant Genetics at the University of Minnesota. Ms. Nelson stated that it is currently too expensive to pursue genetic modification of wild rice and that, therefore, legislative action is premature. Professor Phillips urged the Committee against closing off the University’s options to genetically engineer wild rice in the future.

After hearing all of the testimony, the Committee voted unanimously to lay the legislation on the table, which means that any committee member can make a motion to reconsider the bill at anytime. A meeting is being planned for this summer, to bring together legislators, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, Tribal Representatives, paddy rice farmers and other stakeholders to solidify support for the bill. Senator Lourey plans to resurface the bill in next year’s legislative session.


11. Genetically Engineered Crops Damage Wildlife

By Jeffrey M. Smith, author of Seeds of Deception

Things aren’t going so well for farmland birds of Western Europe. Some species are at only one tenth their population of 30 years ago and several have abandoned their old habitats altogether. Why? Chemical intensive industrial agriculture is killing the wild seeds and bugs they eat. This trend is particularly alarming in the UK, where about 68 percent of the land is used for agriculture.1 Dropping bird counts indicate serious environmental imbalance, a trend which the UK Government has committed to reverse by 20202 Thus, when the largest environmental study of genetically modified (GM) crops indicated that farmland bird populations would plummet even further if the crops were widely planted, the Independent described it as a nail "hammered into the coffin of the GM food industry," which, "sealed the fate of GM in the UK."3

The study, released on March 21, 20054 was the last of four farm-scale field trials. This one compared GM winter-sown canola (oilseed rape) with non-GM varieties grown side-by-side in 65 plots throughout the UK. For three years, scientists visited fields 7,000 times and counted a million weeds and two million insects. Although the total weed count for the GM and non-GM fields was about the same, the types of weeds were different. GM fields had about one-third fewer seeds from broad-leaved weeds, and that’s the problem for the birds. Skylarks, tree sparrows, bullfinches and others, eat the seeds from these broad-leaved varieties. As the weeds decline, so too would the birds’ chances of survival. Also, insects feed on the flowers of broad-leaved weeds. This helps explain why the bee population among the GM fields was cut by up to half and butterflies by up to two-thirds during the month of July.

GM crops don’t directly reduce insect- and bird-friendly weeds. It’s the herbicide that they are engineered to withstand that does the damage. Of the 170 million acres of GM crops planted around the world—almost three times the size of the UK—about 80 percent have their DNA altered to survive applications of herbicide. Farmers spray over the top of "herbicide tolerant" GM crops, a practice that would kill natural varieties. Farmers apply broad-spectrum herbicides to GM crops later in the season and use more of it—lots more. In the U.S., where 64 percent of the world’s GM crops are planted, herbicide use has grown by 138 million pounds over the last nine years. The rate of application is accelerating due to weeds becoming immune to the herbicide. Based on projections from recent trends and reports from land grant universities, the amount of Roundup herbicide used on GM "Roundup Ready" soy (which comprises 85 percent of the US soy harvest) is estimated to be about 86 percent more than that used on non-GM varieties in 20045 If the UK trials lasted several more years, the herbicide dosage there would also likely increase and its effects be more pronounced. Impacts on wildlife vary with the type of GM crop. Two earlier UK farm-scale trials—one looking at spring-sown GM canola, the other GM beets—showed greater damage to butterfly and bee populations and plant diversity than the winter-sown canola. In a fourth trial, wildlife appeared to fair better in the fields of GM corn. But the non-GM fields were treated with atrazine, a weed killer so toxic, it was banned by the EU two weeks after the field trial ended in October, 2003.

Comparing GM crops to a banned substance should have nullified the results of the trial. Nonetheless, the pro-GM UK government approved the corn, but added regulations on how and where the crop could be planted and indicated that the company would assume some liability for crop-related damage. Unwilling to comply with the government’s "obstacles," Bayer CropScience, withdrew its application for the GM corn three weeks later. Bayer also makes the winter-sown canola that performed poorly in the trial. It turns out that 23 out of 25 EU countries had raised objections to the canola being grown in Europe6 due to both environmental and health concerns. The Austrian response stated, "No data/studies at all on possible effects on human health are provided." The French said the safety of the crop "from the health point of view cannot be guaranteed."7 Bayer said they wouldn’t even try to grow it in Europe. It is, however, grown in the U.S. and Canada, where studies on health are not required and in-depth environmental impact assessments have not been conducted.

The U.S. government has been sharply criticized for allowing millions of acres of GM crops to be planted without carefully evaluating the consequences. In 1999, after Cornell researchers discovered that pesticide producing GM corn planted around the country may threaten monarch butterflies, a department of agriculture official said, "We knew things like monarchs and other butterflies would be susceptible. That’s part of the general background noise."8 Several species of birds in the U.S. are also on the decline, but no studies have been done to see if the increased use of herbicides due to GM crops might be a cause. An article by the U.S. Geological Survey states, "It seems likely, in fact, that more than enough effort is being expended on monitoring birds, and that some of those resources could usefully be redirected to other... work such as identifying causes of declines."9

Large study, narrow focus

The UK farm-scale trials were the largest study ever to evaluate the ecological effects of GM crops. Nonetheless, it overlooked more important data than it gathered.

Contamination of non-GM crops was not analyzed. In Canada, there is so much contamination from GM canola, non-GM and organic farmers have given up and several are filing lawsuits. Many factors are responsible for contamination, including wind and insects. Bees can carry pollen more than 16 miles, yet the current standard separation distance between GM and non-GM varieties in the UK is 50 meters (expandable to 200 in certain cases). Canola also cross-pollinates with weedy relatives such as wild turnip, which become resistant to weed killer. The weeds can harbor the herbicide tolerant gene for years and also transfer it to non-GM canola.

Contamination also occurs when unharvested seeds fall on the ground and then grow in subsequent years. Studies show that if a farmer plants GM canola for one season and non-GM thereafter, his or her harvest will have GM contamination at greater than 1 percent for up to 16 years10 If the farmer plants a different crop in the same field, the "volunteer" GM canola becomes a difficult weed—resistant to weed killer. In Canada, some plants are resistant to three different herbicides due to cross pollination from multiple varieties11 Farmers have to use more toxic chemicals to control them.

The UK trials didn’t examine the rising use of herbicides due to GM crops and the impact on the environment or human health. Since the herbicide is sprayed directly on the GM plants, the food carries greater residues. An article published on February 24, 2005 in Environmental Health Perspectives12 found that glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, had toxic effects and endocrine disturbances on human placental cells in test tubes. The authors believe this might account for reports of increased premature births and miscarriages among women farmers using glyphosate13 The study also found that Roundup, which contains additional ingredients, was more toxic than glyphosate alone. Similarly, a December 2004 study in Toxicological Science14 found that Roundup—and not glyphosate alone—damaged the DNA in a way that might increase cancer risk15.

Another area neglected by the farm-scale trials was analysis of soil ecology. Laboratory studies have confirmed that transgenes from GM crops can transfer into soil bacteria, but the implications of this are not understood.16

The trials did not look at the type of GM crops engineered to produce their own pesticide. These "Bt" crops can kill beneficial insects, create pesticide tolerant insects, and put pesticide into the soil, where it can bind with clay and remain stable for months or years.

A more significant area of study that is needed may be the changes to the GM crops’ DNA and physiology. The process of genetically altering a crop can damage its DNA, change the output of large numbers of genes, create unpredicted increases or decreases in compounds and nutrients, and cause genetic instability. One controversial study published in Nature 17 found evidence suggesting that the DNA in corn might become unstable after it is cross pollinated with GM varieties. The corn DNA appeared to contain several fragments of the promoter—genetic material inserted into GM crops with the foreign genes. If verified, this finding might mean that the promoter makes the DNA unstable, causing genes to fragment and scatter through the genome. Biotech scientists were quick to argue against such an interpretation, but none have bothered to do follow up research on this potentially disastrous finding.

Finally, the farm-scale trials compared GM crops to the chemical intensive monoculture farming system that was responsible for wildlife devastation. Organic and sustainable farming techniques have been shown to reverse damage to the ecosystem. Shouldn’t some of the millions spent on testing also evaluate these alternatives?

In spite of its shortcomings, the study’s findings about threats to bird populations are significant. According to Frank Gill, the Audubon Society’s former chief ornithologist, "Like the proverbial canary in the coal mine, birds are primary indicators of environmental health, and what hurts birds also hurts the people who share the same space."18 The trial also left a lasting impression: The GM traits have certainly spread to non-GM plants, and will persist in the environment perhaps for centuries.

Spilling the Beans is a monthly column available at http://www.seedsofdeception.com. Publishers and webmasters may offer this article or monthly series to your readers at no charge, by emailing column@seedsofdeception.com. Individuals may read the column each month by subscribing to a free newsletter at www.seedsofdeception.com. Also on the site, you will find these columns formatted as a two page handout.

© Copyright 2004 by Jeffrey M. Smith. Permission is granted to reproduce this in whole or in part.

1. http://www.statistics.gov.uk/STATBASE/Expodata/Spreadsheets/D7649.xls
2. The state of the UK's birds 2003: The UK ‘Quality of Life’ wild bird indicator, RSPB http://www.rspb.org.uk/birds/sotukb/wildbirdindicator.asp
3. Steve Connor, Michael McCarthy and Colin Brown, The end for GM crops: Final British trial confirms threat to wildlife, The Independent, 22 March 2005
4. David A. Bohan, et al., "Effects on weed and invertebrate abundance and diversity of herbicide management in genetically modified herbicide-tolerant winter-sown oilseed rape," Proc. R. Soc. B (2005) 272, 463­474, doi:10.1098/rspb.2004.3049, Published online 7 March 2005, http://www.pubs.royalsoc.ac.uk/proc_bio_content/pdf/rspb20043049.pdf
5. Charles M. Benbrook, Genetically Engineered Crops and Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Nine Years. BioTech InfoNet, Technical Paper Number 7, October 2004
6. BIOTECH FIRM REJECTS GM CROP, Press Release, Friends of the Earth, March, 19, 2005, http://www.foe.co.uk/resource/press_releases/biotech_firm_rejects_gm_cr_18032005.html
7. ibid
8. Carol Kaesuk Yoon, "What’s Next for Biotech Crops? Questions," New York Times, December 19, 2000
9. MONITORING THE ABUNDANCE OF BIRD POPULATIONS, U.S. Geological Survey, Forest and Rangelands Ecosystem Science Center, 970 Lusk Street, Boise, Idaho 83706, USA, The Auk 122(1):15­25, 2005
10. Squire, G.R. & Askew, A. Final Report - DEFRA project RG0114: The potential for oilseed rape feral (volunteer) weeds to cause impurities in later oilseed rape crops. (2003)
11. Orson, J. Gene stacking in herbicide tolerant oilseed rape: lessons from the North American experience. English Nature Research Report No. 443. English Nature: Peterborough. (2002)
12. Sophie Richard, et. al., Differential effects of glyphosate and Roundup on human placental cells and aromatase, Environ Health Perspect doi:10.1289/ehp.7728 available via http://dx.doi.org/ [Online24February2005]
13. Herve Morin, Roundup Doesn't Poison Only Weeds, Le Monde, 12 March 2005 http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/032805HB.shtml , 14. Julie Marc, et. al., Formulated Glyphosate Activates the DNA-Response Checkpoint of the Cell Cycle Leading to the Prevention of G2/M Transition, Toxicol. Sci., Dec 2004; 82: 436 - 442.
15. Herve Morin, Roundup Doesn't Poison Only Weeds, Le Monde, 12 March 2005 http://www.truthout.org/issues_05/032805HB.shtml , http://www.i-sis.org.uk/ireaff99.php
16. Quist, D., and I.H. Chapela. Transgenic DNA introgressed into traditional maize landraces in Oaxaca, Mexico. Nature 414(Nov. 29) 2001:541­543. 17. John Pickrell, Quarter of U.S. Birds in Decline, Says Audubon, National Geographic News November 5, 2002 http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2002/11/1105_021105_BirdDecline.html

12. Roundup(r) Highly Lethal to Amphibians in Natural Setting, Finds University of Pittsburgh Researcher
Some species totally eliminated

Ecological Applications journal

PITTSBURGH-The herbicide Roundup(r) is widely used to eradicate weeds. But a study published today by a University of Pittsburgh researcher finds that the chemical may be eradicating much more than that.

Pitt assistant professor of biology Rick Relyea found that Roundup(r), the second most commonly applied herbicide in the United States, is "extremely lethal" to amphibians. This field experiment is one of the most extensive studies on the effects of pesticides on nontarget organisms in a natural setting, and the results may provide a key link to global amphibian declines.

In a paper titled "The Impact of Insecticides and Herbicides on the Biodiversity and Productivity of Aquatic Communities," published in the journal Ecological Applications, Relyea examined how a pond's entire community-25 species, including crustaceans, insects, snails, and tadpoles-responded to the addition of the manufacturers' recommended doses of two insecticides-Sevin(r) (carbaryl) and malathion-and two herbicides-Roundup(r) (glyphosate) and 2,4-D.

Relyea found that Roundup(r) caused a 70 percent decline in amphibian biodiversity and an 86 percent decline in the total mass of tadpoles. Leopard frog tadpoles and gray tree frog tadpoles were completely eliminated and wood frog tadpoles and toad tadpoles were nearly eliminated. One species of frog, spring peepers, was unaffected.

"The most shocking insight coming out of this was that Roundup(r), something designed to kill plants, was extremely lethal to amphibians," said Relyea, who conducted the research at Pitt's Pymatuning Laboratory of Ecology. "We added Roundup(r), and the next day we looked in the tanks and there were dead tadpoles all over the bottom." Relyea initially conducted the experiment to see whether the Roundup(r) would have an indirect effect on the frogs by killing their food source, the algae. However, he found that Roundup(r), although an herbicide, actually increased the amount of algae in the pond because it killed most of the frogs.

"It's like killing all the cows in a field and seeing that the field has more grass in it-not because you made the grass grow better, but because you killed everything that eats grass," he said.

Previous research had found that the lethal ingredient in Roundup(r) was not the herbicide itself, glyphosate, but rather the surfactant, or detergent, that allows the herbicide to penetrate the waxy surfaces of plants. In Roundup(r), that surfactant is a chemical called polyehtoxylated tallowamine. Other herbicides have less dangerous surfactants: For example, Relyea's study found that 2,4-D had no effect on tadpoles.

"We've repeated the experiment, so we're confident that this is, in fact, a repeatable result that we see," said Relyea. "It's fair to say that nobody would have guessed Roundup(r) was going to be so lethal to amphibians."

13. ISB News Report

Drew L. Kershen, April 2005

In January 2005, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) released a report â¤" MONSANTO vs. U.S. FARMERS â¤" described as "an extensive review of Monsanto's use and abuse of U.S. patent law to control the usage of staple crop seeds by U.S. farmers." As stated in the CFS's press release accompanying the report, "These law suits and settlements are nothing less than corporate extortion of American farmers. ...suing innocent farmers. We [the CFS] are committed to stopping the corporate persecution of our farmers in its tracks."

The report consists of five chapters covering fifty-six pages, four pages of endnotes, and an Appendix of seventeen pages in which CFS describes 98 lawsuits against 90 farmer-defendants. These ninety-eight lawsuits serve as the primary, but not sole, data upon which CFS bases its claim of persecution of U.S. farmers.

If one looks at CFS's own data on the ninety-eight lawsuits in the Appendix, the following results are tabulated. Against the ninety defendants, Monsanto has won seventy-three times. Farmer-Defendants and Monsanto have unresolved lawsuits in fifteen cases in January 2005â¤"so there is, as yet, no winner in these fifteen cases. CFS's data was unable to determine the outcome of two cases, leaving it unclear whether Monsanto or the farmer-defendant triumphed in the litigation.

When Monsanto wins 73 of 73 cases (of known outcomes), with a number of legal wins coming in front of a jury, it is difficult to agree with CFS that Monsanto is persecuting farmers. Putting aside CFS's ideological dislike of Monsanto, a dispassionate reader of CFS's own data would more likely conclude that Monsanto must be pursuing cases only when convinced that it can prove and win the lawsuit. When Monsanto wins 73 of 73 cases, the more accurate description would appear to be that judges and juries concluded that Monsanto was protecting its legal rights against defendants who had factually infringed those legal rights.

CFS also claims that Monsanto is "suing innocent farmers." Monsanto's 73 wins in 73 cases seems difficult to reconcile with CFS's claim of "suing innocent farmers." Moreover, in the judicial opinions that courts have published about these 98 lawsuits, all the farmers, except one, have admitted that they intentionally acquired Monsanto patented seed without signing a license agreement or that they purposefully saved Monsanto patented seed in violation of the signed technology use agreement prohibiting the saving of seed for replanting in the following year. By deciding for Monsanto, judges and juries have obviously indicated difficulty in applying the label "innocent" to these farmer-defendants.

When one looks at CFS's data, it becomes clear that what CFS finds unacceptable is that the statutory law, the judges, and the juries favor Monsanto. In other words, while CFS vents its rhetorical wrath on Monsanto, CFS actually is complaining about the law and its effective enforcement. CFS's complaint becomes clear when one reads the report's Chapter 5 "Policy Options: Preventing the Prosecution of America's Farmers."

Amend the Patent Act (PA) and the Plant Variety Protection Act (PVPA) to exclude plants from the subject matter that can be protected by intellectual property rights;

If the PA and the PVPA are not amended to exclude plants, make the PVPA the exclusive statutory means for protecting plants as intellectual property because the PVPA has an exception for farmers saving seeds for replanting on their own lands;

Amend the PA to add a farmers' saved-seed exception and /or to exempt inadvertent possession from being an infringing act;

Legislate liability laws to put liability on seed companies (Monsanto); Adopt existing state models for controlling the intrusive and aggressive patent infringement investigations of farmers;

Pass legislation that negates the forum selection clause in technology use agreements;

Pass statutes or ordinances banning the growing of transgenic crops.

Of these seven policy options, bullet points 1, 2, 3, 5 and 6 are calls for amendments or new laws that prevent or reduce enforcement of intellectual property rights. Bullet points 4 and 7 have nothing to do with the report's study of the "use and abuse" of US patent laws but are direct attacks on agricultural biotechnology. Indeed, the CFS report was released in January 2005 just as legislators in Vermont, Montana, North Dakota, and Hawaii introduced CFS-drafted legislation about liability that embodied the CFS policy option bullet point 4.

After reading the CFS report, the author is reminded of Sinclair Lewis' lament about the public reaction to his novel, The Jungle, "I aimed at the public's heart and by accident I hit it in the stomach." The CFS report claims to aim at farmers' innocent hearts and persecuted souls but actually hits guilty farmers' in their back (wallet) pockets. Other farmers, who by the hundreds of thousands have used transgenic seeds without conflict with Monsanto, may not be impressed with CFS's aim.

14. Iowa State University entomologists publish survey results on "Practices and Perceptions" of farmers regarding transgenic corn

April 1, 2005
The Bulletin
University of Illinois
Mike Gray
http://www.ipm.uiuc.edu/bulletin/article.php?issueNumber=2&issueYear=2005&arti cleNumber=3

In the most recent issue of the Journal of Economic Entomology (Volume 98, pages 237-247), entomologists from Iowa State University have provided a summary of survey results that were collected in 2001. The questionnaire (self-administered) was sent to 5,000 producers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Minnesota, and Nebraska. A total of 1,313 (26.3%) surveys were returned: Illinois (257), Indiana (251), Iowa (284), Minnesota (265), and Nebraska (256).

The results of the survey reveal some interesting perceptions of producers with regard to the use of transgenic hybrids to control European corn borers and corn rootworms. When interpreting these data, keep in mind that the survey was conducted at a point when producers had had an opportunity to use Bt hybrids for European corn borers for about five growing seasons, and transgenic hybrids for corn rootworms were still 2 years from the marketplace.

As of 2001, a great majority of producers (75.2%) still relied on crop rotation as their primary management tactic for corn rootworms. Soil insecticide use on first-year corn was heaviest in Illinois and Indiana, with 33.5% and 39.4% of producers, respectively, treating rotated corn due to concerns about the variant western corn rootworm. Regarding producer interest in using transgenic hybrids for corn rootworm control, 35% of the respondents indicated they would use this new technology.

The two key issues that concerned producers about the use of transgenic hybrids for corn rootworm control were marketability of the grain (59.3%) and the payment of a technology fee (54.8%). The most important pluses that farmers perceived relative to the use of transgenic hybrids were reduced exposure to insecticides (69.9%) and environmental benefits (68.5%).

Approximately 25% of producers with large farms (>520 acres) indicated that one of the primary benefits of using transgenic hybrids is the potential elimination of scouting. The authors of the paper expressed discouragement over this finding and pointed out that scouting fields is a key component of IPM programs. As discussed many times in the Bulletin, transgenic hybrids for corn rootworms can be deployed in fields that are most likely to benefit from this protection based on scouting input from the previous season. In addition, in many areas of Illinois, European corn borer densities are very low.

For a complete discussion and analysis of the fall 2004 European corn borer survey, please refer to issue no. 24 of last season's Bulletin (November 5, 2004). Because densities of European corn borer are so low, producers should be reminded that planting a non-Bt hybrid remains an option. This assumes that farmers will scout fields for the first and second generation of this insect pest and will apply rescue treatments as needed based on economic thresholds. Don't forget to "dust off" these IPM practices and use them as appropriate. The "I" in IPM is very important. An overreliance on any single pest management tactic will have unfortunate consequences at some point.

15. Whole Foods to Label GMO-free Products

Matthew Enis
Supermarket News

NEW YORK (April 5, 2005) - Whole Foods Market announced yesterday that it will begin informing customers that its private-label brands are made with non-genetically engineered ingredients. "We've decided that we're going to take more of a leadership role on [this issue]," Chief Executive Officer John Mackey said at a shareholders meeting here. A coalition of six social responsibility funds controlling a combined $21 million in Whole Foods stock had introduced a proxy ballot proposal to require the company to label its brands GMO-free, but the measure failed to garner sufficient votes.

Although the company did not present a timeline, Mackey said Whole Foods would move forward on the initiative despite the failed vote, and was already in the early stages of re-evaluating its ingredient auditing processes. "I think this is a terrific, farsighted act on the part of the company, and we're very pleased that they decided to do this," Shelly Alpern, assistant vice president and director of social research for Trillium Asset Management, told SN. In a review of the company's most recent annual report, Mackey noted that Whole Foods had its best year ever in 2004, with 14.9% comparable-store sales growth leading to a 23% increase in sales over 2003, to just under $4 billion.

16. Monsanto branches out into fruits and vegetables

Stephan Herrera
New York
Nature Biotechnology 23, 403 (2005) 0.1038/nbt0405-403

Monsanto recently acquired a US fruit and vegetable seed outfit, a move that both Wall Street analysts and environmental activists (oddly) agree could spell trouble.

Opposition to genetically modified products, as demonstrated by these activists in Thailand, could gain momentum once GM fruits and vegetables reach the market.

Monsanto recently acquired a US fruit and vegetable seed outfit, a move that both Wall Street analysts and environmental activists (oddly) agree could spell trouble. Indeed, these observers are concerned that the St. Louis, Missouri, biotech seed giant is once again overreaching, should the firm start producing genetically modified (GM) fruits and vegetables. The move could be an attempt to become the first company to step into that market and impose its products before competition from China, Brazil and India kicks in.

Last January, Monsanto announced its $1.4 billion acquisition of Seminis, a fruit and vegetable seed company from Oxnard, California. Investors and environmentalists rarely agree on anything when it comes to Monsanto, but it seems that the Seminis dealâ¤"and on a smaller scale, the $300 million purchase of the Emergent Genetics cotton seed company of Boulder, Colorado in February and the $40 million acquisition of Lincoln, Nebraska−based grain seed firm NC+ Hybrids in Marchâ¤"has brought back bad memories of Monsanto's exuberant expansion in the late 1990s into the soy and seed corn business.

Both investors and environmentalists have been known to exaggerate and misjudge the larger meaning of news concerning Monsanto. The question is, did they overreact to the Seminis acquisition or is it with good reason that these two important Monsanto constituencies are apprehensive now? The answer is probably yes to both.

"I think Monsanto wants to be an all-purpose seed company and sees new varietals with improved traits as a way to gain market share in the fruit and vegetables market, which hasn't seen a lot of innovation or growth,"

Wall Street was not entirely impressed by the Seminis deal because it is a bit too reminiscent of those done by former Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro. Back in the late 1990s, Shapiro was accused by Wall Street of having indulged in overpriced acquisitions, even though they helped transform Monsanto from a sleepy chemical company into a global life science firm. As history seemingly repeats itself, some analysts believe Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant paid too much for Seminis. As an unprofitable company that lost $16 million on 2004 sales of $525.8 million, Seminis will need to prove its worth. Much like Shapiro, however, Grant justifies his far-flung purchases by saying that the acquisition was a long-term play whose true value will only reveal itself down the line.

Until now, Grant has been vague about his strategic intentions for Seminis except to say that he reckons the future is bright for those who produce the seeds for fruits and vegetables. After a decade of slow (and in some years, no) growth, in just the past two years, for example, sales of apples, oranges and bananas in the United States have started to recover, according to the US Department of Agriculture. Likewise, leading producers Brazil and the United States, and even niche producers such as New Zealand, have all reported robust growth in exports of both fruits and vegetables to the seemingly insatiable market that is China.

Despite the lack of open strategy, Grant has a point in noting that as is, Seminis seeds allow Monsanto to hedge its bets should its genetically modified (GM) business run into new snags down the way. Indeed, acquisituion costs and opposition to GM foods in Europe and Africa have contributed to an oppressive cost structure, stifling Monsanto's profits despite robust sales.

But the main reason environmentalists see shades of yesteryear in the Seminis deal is that the last time Monsanto started spending big on seeds, many of them were quickly re-engineered to include a new gene that made them impervious to Monsanto's top-selling herbicide, Roundup (glyphosate). Environmental groups such as Greenpeace view the Seminis acquisition as a harbinger of new genetically engineered fruits and vegetables to come.

"I think that Monsanto would be very foolish to bring forward [GM] whole fruits or vegetables," says Lindsay Keenan, a GM campaigner for Greenpeace International in Amsterdam. "But, Monsanto can clearly benefit by having their patented genes in as many seeds as possible. The company is also quite capable of attempting to introduce [GM] fruit and vegetables in markets where it believes it can get away with it like the United States and Canada. Since GM papaya, for example, is only grown in Hawaii, but sold widely in the United States, they might assume that the [fruit] market is wide open."

There are, after all, still a large number of potentially lucrative fruits and vegetables that have not been commercially genetically engineeredâ¤"strawberries, oranges, apples, and bananas, to name just a few. An industry insider who knows Monsanto says the company probably hasn't decided which fruits and vegetables it would focus on, but they agree that the company never would have bought Seminis if it had no intention of creating a GM fruit alternative.William Young, an analyst with Credit Suisse First Boston in New York concurs: "I think Monsanto wants to be an all purpose seed company and sees new varietals with improved traits as a way to gain market share in the fruit and vegetables market, which hasn't seen a lot of innovation or growth," he says. "But, there are a lot of political issues to resolve first." If history is any gauge, the political price and as a result, the economics of commercializing GM fruit will be higher than originally envisioned."