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GM crop 'ruins fields for 15 years'

(Monday, Oct. 10, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --

1. Misuse of gene-altered products can cause problem
2. GM crop 'ruins fields for 15 years'
3. GMO fight may hit record spending
4. EU court rejects GM crop ban
5. BrownfieldNetwork: Billionth acre of biotech crops harvested
6. Wheat group merger rejected

1. Misuse of gene-altered crops can cause problem

By Rachel Melcer

Two Missouri farmers are providing Monsanto Co. and a University of Missouri scientist with a cautionary tale: Misuse Monsanto's Roundup Ready weed-control system, and you're likely to create a stronger weed.

On two separate soybean fields in the northwest part of the state, scientists have found common waterhemp, also known as pigweed, that shows signs of resisting glyphosate herbicide. Creve Coeur-based Monsanto sells glyphosate as Roundup.

It is one of the most effective, relatively safe and commonly used agricultural weedkillers.

It also is the cornerstone of Monsanto's blockbuster Roundup Ready crop technology. The company has genetically modified soybeans, corn, cotton and canola to withstand glyphosate. The result: Growers can spray Roundup over the top of their fields to kill weeds without harming the crop.

But if the same crop and herbicide are used on a field, year after year, weeds with a natural genetic resistance to glyphosate will survive - and thrive. Then each year, the number of resistant weeds can multiply until they choke the crop and reduce yield.

That is what happened on the northeast Missouri fields, said Kevin Bradley, extension weed scientist and assistant professor at the University of Missouri at Columbia. He would not identify the fields or farmers, but said the farmers had irresponsibly planted Roundup Ready soybeans every year since the seeds became available in 1996.

Waterhemp taken from their fields last year withstood eight times the recommended dose of Roundup. If field studies planned for next summer show that the ability is inherited by new generations of waterhemp - something that Bradley considers "highly likely" - then it will be classified as Roundup resistant.

Universities and agriculture companies try to teach growers to vary crops and weedkillers each year, Bradley said. "But it's their bottom line. We can tell them to rotate to this other herbicide, but (that) costs $2 or $3 more per acre. And it doesn't make financial sense to some of them. ... You just can't compete with the Roundup Ready system."

"Sometimes it's that attitude - 'It's not a problem until it's a problem on my property, and I'll deal with it when I get it.' And that's what we have here," he said.

Monsanto said 101.5 million acres in the United States were planted with Roundup Ready crops this year. The company globally sold nearly $1.6 billion in Roundup and other glyphosate products in the nine months that ended May 31.

And Roundup Ready traits account for the bulk of the $2.7 billion in seeds and traits Monsanto sold in the same period.

These sales could be threatened if the number of glyphosate-resistant weeds continues to multiply. Eight species globally - five in the United States - have been classified since 1996, according to a consortium of weed scientists.

2. GM crop 'ruins fields for 15 years'

By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor of The Independent
Published: 09 October 2005

GM crops contaminate the countryside for up to 15 years after they have been harvested, startling new government research shows.

The findings cast a cloud over the prospects of growing the modified crops in Britain, suggesting that farmers who try them out for one season will find fields blighted for a decade and a half.

Financed by GM companies and Margaret Beckett's Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, the report effectively torpedoes the Government's strategy for introducing GM oilseed rape to this country.

Ministers have stipulated that the crops should not be grown until rules are worked out to enable them to "co-exist" with conventional ones. But the research shows that this is effectively impossible.

The study, published by the Royal Society, examined five sites across England and Scotland where modified oilseed rape has been cultivated, and found significant amounts of GM plants growing even after the sites had been returned to ordinary crops. It concludes that the research reveals "a potentially serious problem associated with the temporal persistence of rape seeds in soil."

The researchers found that nine years after a single modified crop, an average of two GM rape plants would grow in every square metre of an affected field. After 15 years, this came down to one plant per square metre - still enough to break the EC limits on permissible GM contamination.

Last night Pete Riley, the director of GM Freeze, said; "It is becoming clearer and clearer that it is going to be impossible to grow GM crops in Britain."

3. GMO fight may hit record spending

Rival campaigns on pace to raise a total of more than $1 million, perhaps $2 million

THE PRESS DEMOCRAT, October 4, 2005
http://www1.pressdemocrat.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20051004/NEWS/5100403 21/1033/NEWS01

Rival campaigns battling over the genetically engineered crop measure on Sonoma County's ballot have reaped more than $540,000 in contributions as they sprint toward the $1 million mark and a North Coast election record.

Fund-raising statements show GE-Free, the campaign promoting Measure M, raised about $119,000 over the summer. The opposition Family Farmers Alliance amassed about $135,000.

Together, they have collected more than $545,000 since launching their efforts earlier this year.

Most observers expect the campaign, which pits environmentalists and organic food interests against traditional farmers and some grape growers, to raise more than $1 million because the issue has generated so much heat and money elsewhere in California.

But at this rate, the duel over the genetically modified organism initiative could hit $2 million in contributions.

Already, the fund-raising pace easily beats that set during the contentious Rural Heritage Initiative in 2000. Just six weeks shy of that election, both sides had raised a total of about $275,000 in campaigns that ended up spending $900,000.

Measure M on the Nov. 8 ballot would impose a 10-year moratorium on use of genetically altered organisms in crops, animal feed and plants. If implemented today, it would affect only a handful of farmers, but both sides say their efforts are aimed at the long-term effects of such an idea.

The finance statements cover July 1 to Sept. 24. Another report is due Oct. 27 and, during the two weeks before the election, large contributions are to be reported within 24 hours of donation.

The most recent reports showed the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, which owns an 80-acre farm in west Sonoma County that promotes organic farming, remained the leading contributor to the GE-Free campaign. It injected nearly $89,000 into the campaign over the summer, or about 75 percent of the total. The center's director, Dave Henson, is Measure M's chief advocate.

A $20,000 donation came from Mark Squire, owner of Good Earth Natural Foods in San Anselmo. He was a major contributor to a similar measure that voters approved in Marin County.

Paula Downing of Sebastopol, who coordinates the Santa Rosa and Sebastopol farmers markets, contributed $1,000.

"This is not an environmentalists versus the farmers issue for me; it is about pollution of the entire environment with genetically engineered seed," Downing said. "It is a very emotional issue for me and I had some money to spend on what I feel."

Contributions to the opposition came primarily from the county's agriculture community, with a significant dose from grape growers.

The Family Farmers Alliance, which claims support from the bulk of agriculture interests, contends passage of the GMO measure will put farmers and ranchers at an economic disadvantage.

The campaign's biggest single donor is the Sonoma County Farm Bureau, an organization of about 3,000 ranchers, farmers and dairy interests.

The executive director, Lex McCorvey, is a leading opponent of Measure M. The group contributed $25,000 over the summer, bringing its total to $50,000.

The campaign against Measure M is starting to attract some out-of-county money, although not the biotechnology interests that funded opposition to a similar measure in Mendocino County.

The California Egg Marketing Association gave $5,000; California Seed Association, $2,000, California Grain and Feed Association, $1,000; and Pacific Egg and Poultry Association, $1,000.

Grape industry interests contributing to fight Measure M include the Sonoma County Grape Growers Association, $2,000; Healdsburg grower Helen Bacigalupi, $1,000; Russian River grower DuMol Inc., $2,000; Dutton Ranch Corp. of Sebastopol, $2,000; Santa Rosa's Hansel Winery, $1,000; Korbel Inc. of Guerneville, $1,000, Peterson Vineyards, $1,000; and Geyserville's Robert Young Vineyards, $1,000.

Some grape industry leaders say they oppose the measure because they fear it prevents them from using the latest in biotechnology to fight Pierce's disease, a vine killer.

4. EU court rejects GM crop ban

DowJones, 10/05/05

-Second Highest EU Court Rules Against Austrian Ban

BRUSSELS (Dow Jones) -- A European court Wednesday rejected an Austrian ban on genetically modified crops.

The ruling by the Court of First Instance, the E.U.'s second highest court, backed the European Commission in its attempts to open up Europe to the biotech crops. It angered environmentalists, who want them outlawed.

The Austrian region of Oberoesterreich informed the European Commission in 2003 it wanted to ban genetically modified crops. The Austrians argued they had the right to act to protect farming and consumers because the E.U. has no common rules governing the coexistence of genetically modified and non-modified crops.

The Commission's Food Safety Authority disagreed, saying that the Austrians hadn't offered new evidence of health and environmental dangers.

The Austrians then took the matter to court. Judges ruled that Austria had failed to prove any environmental damage from the crops, and in particular, any specific dangers to the region of Oberoesterreich.

In response to the ruling, environmental group Friends of the Earth Europe called Wednesday for new European legislation allowing regions to ban genetically modified crops. In a statement, the group argued that the Commission is biased because it has rejected "virtually every concern raised by member states about the safety of GM foods and crops".

Austria now has two months to appeal against the ruling.

Commission spokeswoman Barbara Helfferich said her organization was "happy with the judgment" and suggested it could set a precedent for future cases.

Five countries have attempted to put in place separate restrictions on genetically modified organisms to which the Commission objects, she said.

5. BrownfieldNetwork: Billionth acre of biotech crops harvested

Monday, October 3, 2005, 12:02 PM
by Gary Truitt

While a lot of harvesting activity took place this past weekend across the Midwest, there was one acre in particular that was important. A group supportive of biotechnology has estimated that on Sunday the one billionth acre of biotech plants was harvested "True to the biblical adage 'you reap what you sow', somewhere in the world, the one billionth acre of biotech crops is being harvested," stated Dean Kleckner, an Iowa farmer and Chairman of Truth About Trade and Technology (TATT). A counter designed to track biotech crop acres as they are planted and harvested around the world, researched by Ross Korves, economist and policy analyst for TATT, has indicated that the one billionth acre was harvested somewhere in the northern hemisphere on Sunday, October 2, 2005.

"While we don't know exactly where this milestone-setting harvested acre is located -- it could be soybeans grown in Iowa, canola produced in Canada, a corn field in Spain or cotton in California, China or India -- we do know that it is being harvested this weekend", said Kleckner. "his year, my organization has researched and tracked agricultural statistics from around the world, establishing that the one-billionth acre of biotech crops was planted in early May. The astonishing speed with which farmers from around the world have adopted this technology is significant. And soon, China will approve biotech-enhanced rice. A tipping point moment. As China goes (the number one populated nation) and rice goes (the number one global food staple) so goes the world."

The TATT biotech counters are based on a starting point established for planted and harvested acres by ISAAA Brief No. 32-2004 Preview- Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops: 2004 by Clive James of the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA). On December 31, 2004 the accumulated global biotech acres planted was 951 million acres. In 2004 alone, more than eight million farmers planted 200 million acres of biotech crops in 17 countries. Ninety percent of those farmers are resource-poor farmers from developing countries. While the United States continues to dominate agriculture biotechnology, more than one third of the 2004 biotech crop was grown in developing countries. Biotech acres planted and harvested will continue to grow rapidly as health-enhancing traits become available.

"Ten years of use and a billion acres harvested around the world have clearly shown the economic benefits of biotech crops," said Korves. "Documented analysis of producer experiences in both developed and developing countries indicate increased economic return and environmental benefits as a direct result of biotech crop production. With more countries establishing regulations for the use of biotech crops, the second billion acres will likely be harvested in only four years as biotech crops continue to spread around the globe."

6. Wheat Group Merger Rejected

Jerry Hagstrom

-NAWG Votes Down Plan for One Wheat Group; Won't Merge with USW and WETEC

WASHINGTON (DTN) -- A four-year effort to merge three major wheat groups failed Monday when the National Association of Wheat Growers voted down a proposal to merge with U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the Wheat Export Trade Education Committee (WETEC).

The vote took place in Portland, Oregon during the NAWG board of directors meeting. The measure failed by a vote of 18 against, 11 in favor.

The USW and WETEC boards had voted in favor of the merger over the weekend. The groups perform three separate functions.

U.S. Wheat Associates is a marketing organization composed of representatives of the various state wheat commissions. Commissions collect checkoff money on every bushel of wheat sold, then pass on that checkoff money to the USW, which receives matching funds from the Agriculture Department to operate overseas offices to promote U.S. wheat sales.

The National Association of Wheat Growers is a membership organization of wheat growers that establishes domestic policy positions and lobbies for those positions.

The Wheat Export Trade Education Committee is a joint venture of USW and NAWG to establish trade policy and lobby on it.

The groups have been meeting for several years to try to establish one organization, but have been unable to agree on organizational points. NAWG has favored an equal voice for commissions and grower representatives from all states, but USW leaders have raised concerns about giving states that do not have checkoffs power over money collected from farmers in the major wheat-producing states. USW leaders have pointed out that wheat commissioners are elected and that they have legal responsibility over the money that is collected from farmers while the NAWG leaders do not have that legal responsibility.

NAWG said in a news release, "The main sticking point for board members was how to count votes on policy issues within the consolidated organization. The proposal floated by U.S. Wheat Associates required votes to be allocated within a state, between a commission and an association, by the money contributed, rather than equally. Several members of the NAWG Board expressed reservations with this arrangement, claiming that this would effectively relegate many state grower associations to second-class status on the board."

But a USW spokesperson said the NAWG statement was incorrect. The spokesperson said the USW proposal would have required the wheat commission and grower group in each state to make the decision on allocation and that only if the state could not make the decision would a system of allocation by money come into play.

In February USW rejected a proposal that would have given equal votes to commission and association representatives on the combined board. NAWG said in its news release, "In the opinion of the majority on the NAWG board, this would create a more viable and less politicized governance structure." But some wheat commissioners have said that NAWG's insistence on equal votes is an indication that NAWG leaders want to gain control over checkoff money, partly because NAWG has a hard time maintaining its membership and raising funds.

Behind the scenes there is also a battle over biotechnology. USW has repeatedly warned that foreign customers are resistant to biotech wheat, which is not currently in commercial production. But NAWG leaders are enthusiastic about genetically modified wheat and have said that USW should work harder to convince foreign buyers to accept it.

While wheat leaders have said one organization would create a unified voice within the wheat industry, it would go against the trend of relationships within commodity groups. Soybean growers last year established a separate board to administer its checkoff funds after disputes within their groups over how money should be spent.

The wheat groups are all scheduled to meet next in San Antonio, Texas, in February.