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GMO seed labels; biotech trap; Calif. ballot measure results; other stories

(Sunday, Nov. 7, 2004-- CropChoice news) -- Below are four pieces about genetically modified crops:
1. Labels will be required on GMO seeds
2. The biotechnology trap
3. Anti GMO Provisions Defeated in 3 of 4 Calif. Counties
4. Arcata (Calif.) to move forward with anti-GMO ordinance
5. Center for Food Safety refutes criticisms of its GM rice report
6. Continued losses put pressure on Monsanto product launch
7. Farmers fight back in GM debate

1.Labels will be required on GMO seeds
Times Argus (Vermont), 11/01/04:
Vermont's Secretary of Agriculture has decided to require companies that sell genetically engineered seeds in Vermont to include "a plain English disclosure" on labels that includes the phrase, "these seeds have been genetically engineered."

In a clarification of an earlier decision on the closely-watched issue, Steve Kerr also will require companies to specify what traits have been conferred through biotechnology.

Faced with stubborn seed companies and concerned legislators and activists, Kerr spelled out his thoughts in an e-mail to advocates on how he expects seed companies to comply with a new state law that requires the labeling of all genetically engineered seeds sold in Vermont.

The law, known as Act 97, is the first of its kind in the United States. It went into effect on Oct. 1 without rules and without any guidance from the Agency of Agriculture about how labels of genetically engineered seed should be worded to satisfy the law. Kerr said at the time that he felt the law was "very clear" without rules and that he wanted to give companies some flexibility in how they complied.

But shortly thereafter, St. Louis, Mo.-based Monsanto Corp. and Indianapolis, Ind.-based Dow AgroSciences, two major biotech companies that sell genetically engineered seeds in Vermont, indicated publicly that they did not intend to use the words, "genetically engineered" on their seed labels next year.

That raised eyebrows among some legislators and activists, including Ben Davis, Environmental Advocate at the Vermont Public Interest Group.

"It seemed like the industry was thumbing its nose at the law," said Davis, who then asked Kerr to clarify the agency's position on labeling. Kerr provided that last week.

In an interview Sunday, Kerr said that his agency will send a letter to biotech seed companies in the next few days with instructions for compliance. Kerr added, "I hope they are going to pay attention to the law because we are dead serious about it."

Kerr said he found it necessary to specify language for the labels after seed company representatives cancelled a meeting with him on the subject, which was slated for Nov. 1. "They didn't want to come in on the schedule I suggested," he said. "I wanted to make sure labels are properly done this year. I don't want any excuses from (seed companies) that we didn't give them enough time."

Some advocates for the law saw Kerr's actions in a different light.

"This is the administration basically coming on board to what the law was intended to do in the first place," Davis said. He added that Kerr's labeling instructions as outlined in the e-mail were "acceptable to the advocates" of the law.

Dave Zuckerman, P-Burlington, the law's original lead sponsor in the House, said, "The administration is doing what it knows it should do. I'm glad that they finally put it in writing so we can move on."

Zuckerman said he had cussed the issue with Kerr several times in recent weeks after hearing about biotech companies' plans to "skirt the law." He said his goal was to make certain that "consumers have the information they want to make decisions for themselves."

Kerr defended his decision not to specify labeling language earlier by saying that he wanted to see what seed companies would propose on their own.

"It seemed to me to be the smart and decent thing to do," he said. "I didn't want to tip my hand at that point." But, he insisted, "the genetically engineered part (of the labeling) was never negotiable."

Kerr said he also wants to be careful in his actions not to scare biotech companies away from Vermont entirely.

"I don't want these companies to decide that Vermont, or its Secretary of Agriculture, is so unreasonable that they're just going to walk away from a small market," he said. "We have a lot of farmers who rely on these (genetically engineered) traits. I have as much of an obligation to them as I do to organic farmers who don't want to use these things."

Zuckerman said he doubts Act 97 could drive biotech companies from the state. "That would be a major capitulation on their part," he said, "and they don't want that anywhere in this country — to have been beaten, or pushed out by consumers."

After Kerr's letter goes out to seed companies this week, the attention of many interested parties in Vermont and beyond will turn to biotech seed companies, to see how they respond. Kerr says he can sense the passions on both sides of the issue.

"I take this as quite a responsibility," he said. "It's the first public disclosure law dealing with this technology. We better be careful and do it right, because I hope and suspect other states will copy what we've done."

Source: http://www.timesargus.com/

2. The biotechnology trap
Nazrul Islam, The Daily Star (Bangladesh), 11/01/04,

Finally our agricultural experts and decision-makers have swallowed the multinational companies' (MNCs) biotechnology-bait and decided to put our agricultural sector and farmers in great danger -- in other words, the government recently approved a proposal to introduce biotechnology in agriculture.

The outcry of the environmentalists and sensible scientists failed to persuade the decision-makers from stepping into their trap. However, there was possibly no way for the experts but to accept the bait, as newspaper reports say a big business power is behind the move to introduce biotechnology in our country.

Merchants, politicians, bureaucrats, and technocrats today are a formidable cohort in our country for deriving their immediate benefits. The interests of the country and countrymen, especially of the marginal ones, are insignificant to them. They want profit -- profit in exchange for anything.

After the nuclear technology, it is the biotechnology in agriculture, which generated so much debate. Despite desperate efforts and investing billion of dollars by the MNCs and other interested groups and governments, biotechnology did not get desired response from the users during the last two decades.

Only around 60 million hectares of land have so far been brought under transgenic crops mainly in America, Argentina, Brazil, and China. Europe is yet to open its doors to GM crops, and response from Africa and Asia is minimal. In contrast, hybrid seeds of the Green Revolution captured the entire world within a decade, although it was not above controversy.

Agricultural research has always been a task of government agencies owing to its high cost and universal public utility. Business enterprises have never shown interests in such endeavour. Then, why a business tycoon is so enthusiastic in introducing biotechnology in agriculture? This enthusiasm suggests that there is something fishy in the entire process. Let us try to find out the mystery.

The first victims of biotechnology will be our poor farmers, as they would lose the remaining possession on seed as a means of production. Seed is in the centre of biotechnology and the Green Revolution. In agriculture, seed was a universal property. The Green Revolution for the first time restricted the universality, as farmers cannot always grow hybrid seeds in their field.

Biotechnology would complete the remaining unfinished task. The Green Revolution was spearheaded by the international agricultural research centres like CIMMYT and IRRI and national agricultural research institutions were the main bodies for its implementation.

Governments have full control on the seed production although agro-chemical businesses by corporate firms function through programmes set up by them. On the contrary, biotechnology revolution is predominantly private in character. The government has no control over biotechnology seed, which is considered as just another consumer commodity.

Eminent environmentalist of India, Claude Alvares has said: "For the first time the human race has produced seed that cannot cope on its own, but needs to be placed within artificial environment for growth and output."

The commodised seed is ecologically incomplete and ruptured at two levels: (1) It does not reproduce itself: Seed is supposed to be a re-generative resource. Genetic resources are thus, through technological transformation, transformed from renewable into nonrenewable; and (2) It does not produce by itself: It needs the help of inputs to produce.

As the seed and chemical companies merge, the dependence on inputs will increase, not decrease. Although agricultural biotechnology refers to transfer of gene of an organism to another one by means of genetic engineering or gene splicing to create, improve, or modify plants, animals, and microorganisms, the main focus is not on fertiliser -- and pest-free crops, but pesticide and herbicide-resistant varieties.

As a result, biotechnology is expected to increase the dependence of framers on purchased inputs. It will even increase the use of chemicals instead of decreasing it. The pesticide producing MNCs are now engaged in producing seed through gene splicing. Producing pesticide and herbicide-resistant varieties is cheaper than producing new herbicide.

The estimated cost of developing a new crop variety is $2 million, whereas the cost of a new herbicide exceeds $40 million. Herbicide and pesticide resistance increases the cohesion of seed/chemicals and the MNCs' control over agriculture. A number of major agricultural chemical companies have already developed plants with resistance to their brand herbicides.

Soya beans have been made resistant to Ciba Geigy's Atrazine herbicides. Dupont's 'Gists' and Monsanto's 'Round-up' are similar types of herbicide. Another feature of biotechnology seed is that it can't be reproduced at farmers' level. Therefore, every time a farmer would have to purchase seed from a seed company. As the seed is made resistant to the particular brand of pesticide or herbicide of that company, he would also have to purchase chemicals from that particular company.

This integration of seed and chemical is in the core of biotechnology, which attracted the seed-chemical MNCs to invest in the research. They, thereby, created or will create a monopoly market and derive profit from selling both seeds and chemicals.

The introduction of Green Revolution and biotechnology has come from the idea to commercialise agriculture. Of late, our business people were showing keen interest in agro-business. Among business people the rule is that if an article, which originally costs a certain amount is further processed, an extra cost is added when the article is sold. But in Bangladesh-agriculture, it is not so straightforward.

Fertiliser, feed, equipment, and chemicals are purchased at prices fixed abroad, and there are no words what the actual cost per kilogram will be when these imported products are used. Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world with only 14 decimals of cultivated land per person. Average cultivated farm size is only 1.5 acres. Here commercialisation of agriculture means shifting of the land ownership from the marginal farmers to the business people. Marginal farmers cultivate land for their sustenance while business people will cultivate for profit. And for gaining profit they would definitely introduce mechanisation and over exploit resources (soil, water, fertiliser, etc).

Suppose such shifting will increase some growth in the agriculture sector. Even then, would it be wise to displace the farmers from their land? Then what would happen to the 45 million labour-force currently engaged in the agriculture sector? How would they be given employment? Would the industrial sector, which shares only 11 per cent of the total employed labour force, be able to generate employment for such a huge displaced population?

The MNCs said their genetically modified crops are not only high yielding but also disease- resistant. They claimed that biotechnology is the only way to increase agricultural production and thus meet future food needs. How far their claim is justified?

There is no relationship between the prevalence of hunger in a given country and its population. Despite having enough food, people remain hungry in many countries. Moreover, most innovations in agricultural biotechnology have been profit-driven rather than need-driven. The real thrust of the genetic engineering industry is not to make third world agriculture more productive, but rather to generate profits.

The integration of the seed and chemical industries appears destined to increase per acre expenditure for seed plus chemical. Recent experimental trials have shown that genetically engineered seeds do not increase the yield of crops. Evidence also showed that there are potential risks of eating such foods as the new proteins produced in such foods could act themselves as allergens or toxins, alter the metabolism of the food producing plant or animal.

Biotechnology crops violate the basic and widely accepted principle of "integrated pest management" (IPM), which is that dependence on any single pest management technology may trigger shifts in pest species or the evolution of resistance through one or more mechanisms. Ecological theory predicts that the large-scale landscape homogenisation with transgenic crops will incite the ecological problems already associated with monoculture agriculture. The use of herbicide-resistant crops undermines the possibilities of crop-diversification, thus reducing agro-bio-diversity.

There is a possibility for developing herbicide resistant varieties to become serious weeds in other crops. Massive use of biotechnology crops may affect non-target organisms and ecological processes. Evidence showed that biotechnology toxin can affect beneficial insects that feed on insect pests. There is also potential for vector recombination to generate new virulent strains of viruses, especially in transgenic plants engineered for viral resistance with viral genes.

After an intense debate, India allowed commercial cultivation of Bt cotton, the transgenic cotton carrying a bacterial (Bacillus thuringiensis) gene in 2002. Bt cotton is aimed at substantially reducing pesticide cost. But this has not happened. Bt plants are engineered only to resist bollworm attack. Farmers complained of sucking pests such as aphids, jassids, and white mosquitoes. And even bollworm resistance has been generally poor.

The experience of Bt cotton during its first year of cultivation has been extremely uneven, with several reports of crop failures. Farmers have found the seed too expensive. Per hectare cost of seed was four times than that of non-Bt seeds. And the yields have been reported to be less than half those promised by the company, Monsanto-Mahyco.

After the debacle of Bt cotton, a shadow has been cast on expansion of transgenic seed in India. In April 2003, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee of the government of India rejected a Monsanto-Mahyco proposal for release of their Bt cotton hybrid in North India. It also stayed clearance of Bt mustard.

Being a giant in agriculture and having vast expertise in the field, India did not open up its agriculture for transgenic crops. Rather, a vehement opposition to introduce such crop is gaining momentum across India.

Bangladesh agriculture is quite different from other countries, even from the neighbouring ones, mainly due to its small farm sizes, land-ownership pattern, and labour-intensive character. Introduction of such controversial technology will invite disaster in our agriculture and economy. The impact will be pervasive and beyond reversal.

Nazrul Islam is a journalist and environmentalist.

3. Anti GMO Provisions Defeated in 3 of 4 Calif. Counties
Roger Bernard, profarmer.com, 11/3/2004
Initiatives banning biotechnology or GMO crops in some California counties failed in three of the four locales that had them on the ballot Tuesday.

Voters in Butte County rejected the biotech ban by a margin of 61 percent to 39 percent while those in San Luis Obispo County defeated the measure by a margin of 59 percent to 41 percent. Voters also rejected a proposed biotech ban in Humboldt County, which had been declared unconstitutional even before the election.

In Humboldt County, supporters had dropped their efforts after there were complaints that the ballot language had inaccurate scientific descriptions and had called for the jailing of farmers growing GMO crops.

In Marin County, an anti-biotech measure won approval as expected via a 61% to 39% margin.

"We thank the voters for supporting the family farmers of Butte and San Luis Obispo counties," California Farm Bureau Federation President Bill Pauli said. “Flexibility in crop choices benefits both farmers and consumers. Family farmers take great pride in growing healthy and affordable food for consumers."

"We grow what consumers demand. Biotech crops promise new ways for family farmers to keep pace with changing consumer trends. Research also offers hope that agriculture can play a role in producing medicines to fight life-threatening diseases," Pauli noted.

"While we’re encouraged by the failure of most of the anti-biotech measures, we're disappointed by passage of the Marin County initiative," Pauli said. "As we saw in Butte and San Luis Obispo counties, voters will reject these measures if we can provide them enough information about biotechnology’s benefits."

Pauli pledged that Farm Bureau will continue work to educate Californians about the promise of agricultural biotechnology.

American Farm Bureau Federation President Bob Stallman echoed similar sentiments, noting in a statement that the rejection of the initiatives was a positive development that came about because of the hard work of farmers. "Because of their work, agricultural biotechnology continues to have a bright future as a tool to help farmers grow better, safer products for consumers," Stallman said. "All farmers and ranchers owe the farmers in those three California counties a debt of gratitude for protecting biotechnology as a valuable agricultural tool."

4. Arcata (Calif.) to move forward with anti-GMO ordinance
Meghan Vogel The Eureka Times-Standard, 11/04/04:
ARCATA -- The Arcata City Council unanimously voted to move forward with an ordinance banning genetically modified crops in the city, which will be up for final adoption on Nov. 17.

The ordinance was once again before the council on Wednesday night. The city's Open Space/Agriculture Committee had recommended the city slow down on the ordinance to gather more community input -- specifically more input from the agricultural community. The council, however, felt the ordinance was already solid, and recent improvements to its language have made it even more so.

Arcata attorney Greg Allen, who requested the city look at such an ordinance, said the adoption of such an ordinance was important not only for Humboldt County, but for the rest of the state.

Milton Boyd, chair of the biological science department at Humboldt State University, urged the city to slow down on the matter and proceed with caution.

"It's clear that this is an issue with many aspects to it," Boyd said.

Other citizens disagreed with Boyd and urged the city to move forward.

"I would say we need to go forward with an ordinance ahead of a state pre-emption that would ban anti-GMO ordinances," Jay Wright said.

Dave Henson, the director of Occidental Arts and Ecology Center and the author of a similar anti-GMO initiative in Sonoma County, offered some advice to the council. He said the council could either wait and fine-tune Arcata's ordinance to make it even better, or move forward. There's no question there will be contamination of certain crops from GMO crops, Henson said, and pollen from genetically modified corn can travel up to three miles. He also noted Marin, Trinity and Mendocino counties have similar laws banning GMOs.

"By weighing in sooner you offer another piece in a struggle of who's going to control the science of our genetics," Henson said.

Councilman Dave Meserve said the problem with GMO crops is that "they don't stay put" and can contaminate other crops. He said the heart of Arcata's ordinance is that it considers GMO crops to be a public nuisance. Meserve said the ordinance is not intended to "bash science," and noted an exception to the ordinance exists for contained laboratories.

Councilwoman Connie Stewart said ordinances can be modified as time goes on. She also said such an ordinance could work toward the economic advantage of the city because it could become a "GMO-free niche."

Councilman Michael Machi had concerns more local farmers had not weighed in on the issue, and requested the council formally solicit their input.

City Attorney Nancy Diamond, who crafted the ordinance, said before a GMO crop could be destroyed a judicial process would have to be enacted to seek abatement. In addition, she said, there would have to be a "willful violation before a criminal offense kicks in."

The city would also need consent or a warrant to obtain part of a suspected GMO crop for testing. However, immediate abatement could take place if a suspected GMO crop imposed an immediate threat to nearby property or to an eco-system at large.

ISB News Reports, November 2004
As detailed in last month's ISB News Report ("Plant-made pharmaceuticals: progress and protests"), Sacramento-based Ventria Bioscience sparked a controversy with its plan to cultivate rice engineered to synthesize pharmaceutical proteins.

In July, the Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, and Environment California sent copies of a 22-page report, "Pharmaceutical Rice in California," to California's Department of Food and Agriculture, Department of Health Services, and Environmental Protection Agency. After describing concerns about the genetically modified rice, the groups urged a moratorium on pharmaceutical-producing crops until state agencies have investigated potential impacts on human health and the environment.

A few weeks after the release of the report, representatives of the International Academy of Life Sciences (IALS) published its views. In a letter to the same three Californian agencies, Drs. Hilmar Stolte (Hannover Medical School, Germany) and Robert Rich (University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign) countered that the report does not present an objective or accurate perspective of the risks. Stolte and Rich went further by concluding that "the authors of this report have intentionally confused 'risk' with 'hazard,' presenting the hazards as if they were risk."

The Center for Food Safety responded to the IALS allegations in a letter sent to the Californian health, agriculture, and environment agencies. At the outset, Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman (Center for Food Safety) and Bill Freese (Friends of the Earth) targeted the IALS claim that the "academic community" supports the idea of producing pharmaceuticals in food crops. They pointed to recent studies from the National Research Council as evidence that this strategy for synthesizing drugs does not benefit from a consensus of the scientific community.

Gurian-Sherman and Freese tackled the IALS contention that their report confuses risk and hazard. Their report to the Californian agencies, they stressed, highlights that their concerns represent potential risks, or hazards that might occur. They explained that the groups called for the state's agencies to perform an independent risk assessment to cure a deficiency in federal regulation. "Federal regulatory agencies," they asserted, "have not performed risk assessments to determine either how serious the identified hazards are, the levels of exposure that may cause harm, or the likelihood that they may occur." In their view, a responsible risk assessment process must find that a hazard does not exist, or, if the hazard does exist, that exposure to the hazard either does not occur or is too low to cause significant harm.

The Center's response also contends that the IALS exaggerated the feasibility of producing pharmaceuticals from crops. Gurian-Sherman and Freese noted that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved over 100 biopharmaceuticals produced in controlled fermentation facilities, whereas biopharming has not yielded an FDA-approved pharmaceutical despite 14 years of outdoor field trials. Since no plant-made pharmaceutical has reached the market, they argue, there's no reason for a commitment to food crops to produce drugs; alternative plants should be considered.

Copies of the Center for Food Safety/Friends of the Earth response and the "Pharmaceutical Rice in California" report are available at the Center's website ( http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/policy_com.cfm ).

Phillip B.C. Jones, PhD., J.D.
Spokane, Washington

ISB News Report, November 2004
Anastasia L Thatcher

On Oct 6, 2004, Monsanto posted a net loss of $42M for the fourth quarter, spurring a 3.2% single day drop in share price1. Continued erosion of sales, down 3% from a year earlier, has increased expectations for the agrochemical giant's newest product: low linolenic VISTIVE soybeans.

A Troubled Horizon

Since 2000 when U.S. patent protection expired for its flagship product, Round-Up®, Monsanto has been struggling to keep market share and stay in the black2. Despite increased sales in its growing trait business, which partially offset losses in the herbicide arena, a year ago the company posted significant losses-$188M, or $0.72 per share. This year, despite near perfect global farming weather, Monsanto has been unable to stem the tide of falling sales and prices for its Round-Up brand herbicide, a situation exacerbated by global glyphosate (active ingredient in Round-Up) dumping by Chinese manufacturers. U.S. prices for Round-Up are now predicted to hit $11-$13 per gallon, well below Monsanto's expectations, and market share to fall near 65%, similar to what Monsanto sees in countries where generic glyphosate has been available for years.

Monsanto has been further hit by the inability to collect royalties on pirated soy seeds in Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina-globally the top three soybean exporters after the United States. Until very recently, genetically modified crops were illegal in Brazil and are still illegal in Paraguay, although farmers are thought to have been planting genetically modified soy for the last six years3. Monsanto's Round-Up Ready® soy seeds, genetically modified to withstand Round-Up herbicide, are especially popular because of the reduced time and expense required for their cultivation. Monsanto, as well as producers subject to patent laws who must pay licensing fees to access the technology, believe strongly that everyone who benefits from proprietary technology should have an obligation to pay for it. Licensed producers bear that burden but unlicensed producers do not. Progress was made earlier this year when farmers in Brazil's Rio Grande do Sul region - where experts estimate close to 90% of the soy is genetically modified - finally agreed to pay a technology fee of $3.50 a ton to Monsanto for use of its seeds. More importantly, the company⤙s aggressive lobbying paid off when the Brazilian government passed an executive order allowing farmers to plant genetically modified soybeans. Although the bill will give Monsanto legal standing to enforce collection of royalties on unlicensed use of its seeds in the entire country, it will not, however, sanction the sale of genetically modified soybeans.

Monsanto faces a more difficult situation in Paraguay. Although 40 - 50% of soy is believed to be genetically modified, Rosa Oviedo, member of Paraguay's biosafety commission, comments that, "Monsanto has no right to charge royalties. As of now, none of its varieties is legally sanctioned." A bill has been introduced that would legalize biotech crops, but continued peasant and farmer protests against the bill have delayed its passage indefinitely.

Unlike its neighbors, Argentina's government has allowed Monsanto to build royalties into the price of its seeds. However, the country has been unable to collect these royalties effectively, because pirated Monsanto seeds are widely traded on the black market. In response, Monsanto stopped selling soy seeds in Argentina in 2003. It is also threatening to collect royalties on soy shipments from Argentina to countries where its seeds are patented, if they are found to carry unlicensed Monsanto products.

Other risks to Monsanto include rising oil prices, which could affect its chemical business, and a limited supply of its Posilac bovine growth hormone, where unresolved quality control issues are now expected to extend well into 2005. Syngenta's pending anti-trust lawsuit, filed in July, 2004, which challenges that Monsanto has illegally monopolized key corn traits in the United States, poses another risk to the company.

Promises of Growth

Despite depressed earnings, losses to share price, and a troubled horizon, Monsanto has promised investors a share price growth of 10 - 18% in 2005 and another 10% in 20061 - to be driven primarily by its growing genomics business and higher prices for soybean traits. However, stock analysts give mixed reviews of the firm's prospects, many citing concerns that the company is overvalued by Wall Street, and that long-term growth will be below average. Overall, recommendations to investors range from strong sell to strong buy. According to eight independent equity research firms consulted, opinion on Monsanto is split evenly between three recommendations to buy, two to hold, and three to sell. Yet, there is consensus among analysts that makes one point clear: Monsanto's future will be critically dependent on the success of developing its genetically modified seeds and traits business.

Increasing global sales of cotton, corn, and soybean products is the cornerstone of Monsanto's growth plan. Sales potential has been boosted by the recent decision of the U.S. Patent and Trademark office that Monsanto was the first company to develop Agrobacterium transformation in dicot plants such as cotton4. The decision ends a twelve-year patent dispute between Monsanto and the Max Planck Institute (The Netherlands) and will allow Monsanto to collect fees from companies using the technology to introduce characteristics into dicot plants as well as providing patent protection for its Bollgard® brand insect-protected cotton.

While the win on Agrobacterium transformation is a boon, achieving growth targets will still be an arduous challenge, because existing Monsanto products are quickly reaching market saturation, particularly in the United States. Robert T. Farley, Ph.D., Monsanto's Chief Technology Officer, sites the company's belief that the average number of Monsanto traits per acre of crop is 1.5 for cotton and 1.2 for corn in the United States. Round-Up Ready Soybeans are also near full market penetration in the United States. Monsanto will fall short of its growth targets without successful new product launches. Not surprisingly, the company's less than stellar results recently have raised the stakes and further heightened the pressure to develop and bring to market new agbiotech products... [more on VISTIVE]

Selected References
1. "Slumping Roundup sales hit Monsanto." Oct 6, 2004. CNNmoney. http://money.cnn.com/2004/10/06/news/fortune500/monsanto.reut
2. Melcher, Rachel. Oct 6, 2004. "Monsanto Raises Bar for Fiscal ⤙05 Earnings." St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
3. Burke, Hillary. (Reuters.) Sept 28, 2004. "Monsanto prods South American nations on soy royalties." http://www.checkbiotech.org
4. "Monsanto Wins Key Patent Dispute Regarding Dicot Plant Transformation." Oct 5, 2004. (PRNewswire-Firstcall.) http://prnewswire.com/news/index_mail.shtml?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/10-05-2004/0002266187&EDATE=

7. Farmers fight back in GM debate
Press Release, 5 November 2004

The Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF), an alliance of Australian conventional and organic farmers are standing their ground against the multinational company Bayer Cropscience regarding liability issues surrounding GM crops. Bayer Cropscience have been growing GM trials in both Victoria and South Australia this year and the NCF claim these trials are the start of unfair liability and future economic risk to their industry.

"Farmers are now expected to sign contracts guaranteeing no GM is present but why should we accept liability for contamination with a GM product we and many of our markets don't want?" asked Julie Newman, National Spokesperson and WA farmer.

"We are positioning ourselves for a future class action against Bayer Cropscience if economic loss is caused by contamination with their GM product."

Trials in Victoria have been kept confidential at the request of Bayer Cropscience. In the last month, NCF lodged adverts requesting site information from the public, they then chartered a plane and took photos of sites reported to be likely to be GM canola trials. After posting these on their website requesting owners of non-GM sites to contact them, through a process of elimination they have identified one site as GM and one that is likely to be GM. The NCF have recently posted letters to farmers in these areas encouraging them to notify Bayer Cropscience to guarantee a GM-free status in an effort to assign liability to Bayer Cropscience.

"We are encouraging farmers to forward letters to Bayer Cropscience insisting they accept liability for their trespassing GM products," Mrs Newman explained.

The letter explains the intention of the farmer to remain GM-free and includes the following:
"In light of:
- My contractual liability for GM contamination within my grain harvest;
- The current unknown locations of trials in Victoria and the fact that I am either within 10 kilometres of a trial stie or do not know if trials are being conducted near my farm;
- My inability to ascertain whether GM contamination has occurred on my farm;
- The fact that the trials are subject to fewer protective requirements than former (and much smaller) OGTR trials;
- The fact that the Federal OGTR no longer guarantees a GM-free status

I am writing to Bayer Cropscience in order to insist that prior to delivery of my product and signing of contracutal guarantees:
- Bayer Cropscience will undertake testing of my farm and product to detect if GM canola is present;
- Bayer Cropscience will collect any Bayer Cropscience patented GM product that is trespassing on our land;
- Bayer Cropscience will provide a written guarantee that my product(s) and farm are free of any GM contamination."

The NCF claim they have been lobbying for over two years for a strict liability regime in legislation but this has not been adopted as yet.

"The GM industry has vehemently opposed a strict liability regime as they prefer non-GM farmers to be liable, but farmers don't want the liability either," said Mrs Newman.

"This year is different as the Federal government no longer guarantees a GM-free status and it is important to make it clear right from the start that liability can not be assigned to those not wanting to grow GM crops. Strict liability makes far more sense but this is the best we can do until then."

Julie Newman 0427 711644 (from Monday) or 08 98711562
Geoffrey Carracher 03 53866261

Letters to farmers
The following letters were sent to farmers in areas surrounding trial sites in Victoria:

October 2004

Dear farmer

Are you aware that GM canola is being grown in your area by farmers under contract to Bayer Cropsciences? Are you aware that now the Federal Government has approved GM canola, and that for the first time they no longer issue a guarantee of GM free status? Are you aware that to sell or to sign a contractual guarantee as "GM-free" and "non-GM" , you must have no detection of GM canola? Are you aware that there is market rejection for traces of GM grains in other grains and stock fed GM grains (eg. half of our wheat export volume)?

Are you aware that if GM contamination is present in your seed and you have signed a guarantee of GM-free status (such as when you sign your delivery docket docket and you must answer YES or NO to whether GMOs are present) you could be liable for shipment rejection and contamination cleanup costs? Are you aware that it is unlikely that you can obtain insurance for this?

Due to the current trials and the number of GM trials that have taken place in the Horsham area over recent years, there is a risk of GM contamination by pollen flow or seed spillage.

Common law remedies are expensive, time consuming and unlikely to succeed. If successful only the non-GM grower or the GM grower (if negligent) would be liable for economic loss. We are pushing for the GM company to be fully liable for any adverse economic impact associated with their product.

While the Network of Concerned Farmers is not against someone having the choice to grow GM crops, we are against someone else's choices impacting negatively on other farmers' incomes and livelihoods.

Please find a letter enclosed that we urge you to sign and send/fax to Bayer Cropscience that may assist in ensuring liability is addressed. Please see our website on www.non-gm-farmers.com for further information. We urge farmers to make enquiries regarding insurance and to seek legal advice if concerned.

We also recommend that you save a small sample of seed that you plant and harvest, so it can be checked if market loss is experienced.

Please complete enclosed form and fax to Bayer Cropscience on 03 9248 6605 . To verify returns, we would also appreciate a copy sent to 08 98711584.

Thank you for your cooperation.

Geoffrey Carracher (gwcminim@netconnect.com.au)
Julie Newman (julie@non-gm-farmers.com)

Network of Concerned Farmers, http://www.non-gm-farmers.com