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Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Little Guy strikes tiny blow on Monsanto

Monsanto pays Percy Schmeiser

Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser spent 1998 to 2004 standing up to one of the most influential agricultural companies in the world: Monsanto. While it was Monsanto that took Schmesier to court on that occasion, the roles were reversed on Wednesday, March 19, 2008, when Monsanto found itself being taken to court by Schmeiser.

It was the first case between Monsanto and Schmeiser that led to the 2004 Supreme Court of Canada decision that ruled in favour of Monsanto. While the decision assured that regardless of contamination, a farmer cannot grow patented seeds, Schmeiser recognized that if the company is indeed the owner of the plant, then it should be liable for the damages that their property causes others.

There is no legal precedent in Canada that has determined who maintains the liability for damages caused by patented plants. Monsanto does however accept moral responsiblity for what are known as "volunteers" -- unwanted plants appearing on farmers' fields.

The company employs a program that offers to remove volunteer plants.

In October 2005, Schmeiser's farm was visited yet again by Monsanto, and again, in the form of its RoundUp Ready Canola. Schmeiser took advantage of the company's removal program, but discovered that it would only remove the plants if he signed a release form that contained a confidentiality clause, which he disapproved of. What followed led to an out-of-court settlement on March 19, 2008, and Monsanto paid Schmeiser the $660 it cost him to have the plants removed.

LBy Jon Steinman
Published: March 21, 2008

Citizens’ group wants a law to ban genetically engineered crops.

Printed from the Monterey County Weekly website: http://www.montereycountyweekly.com/archives/2008/2008-Mar-06/20-citizens-group-wants-a-law-to-ban-genetically-engineered-crops
Ag Advisory Committee considers GMOs
Citizens’ group wants a law to ban genetically engineered crops.
Posted March 06, 2008

By Zachary Stahl
Leading the Charge
Lorna Moffat (front) wants a countywide ban on genetically modified crops.

Several years ago seed giant Monsanto offered Salinas Valley growers a genetic solution to their weed problem with spring mix. Monsanto was developing a lettuce variety resistant to Roundup, the company’s leading herbicide. Farmers could have killed weeds with Roundup without harming the genetically engineered spring mix. But the industry shied away.

“It was dropped very quickly,” says Jim Manassero, chairman of the Monterey County Agricultural Advisory Committee. “Number one, the industry didn’t want it.” Manassero says a state law would have had to change to allow the vegetables to be harvested after being doused with Roundup. Plus, consumers would have balked at the prospect.

“It becomes very easy for that type of science to get blown out of proportion by the media and to make it all lettuce is poisoned or could be,” Manassero says.

The genetically modified seeds never reached the valley floor. While Monsanto has taken over the corn and soybean seed market, Monterey County ag officials maintain that no genetically engineered crops have been grown in the county. Some local organic farmers and environmentalists want to keep it this way.

On Feb. 28 a group of small farmers and Monterey Peninsula residents asked the Agricultural Advisory Committee to recommend a county ban on GE crops. Lorna Moffat, who is spearheading the effort, proposed the moratorium in response to a November speech by Dr. Henry Daniell of the University of Florida about producing insulin from genetically modified lettuce.

Moffat told the committee that federal agencies do a poor job monitoring GE crops, and no long-term studies have been done to monitor their health impacts. “Few regulations to protect public health and our environment are in place,” Moffat said, warning that GE crops could cross-pollinate other produce.

Alex Sancen is an organic farmer who grows on less than five acres at the Agricultural & Land-Based Training Association outside Salinas. Sancen told the committee that his farmers market customers are concerned about GE crops tainting their produce. “They are speaking of buying vegetables from Santa Cruz County if you guys don’t do anything,” Sancen said.

Sancen and dozens of other ALBA farmers want the Monterey County Board of Supervisors to adopt an ordinance similar to one that exists in Santa Cruz County. In 2006 Santa Cruz supervisors banned growing genetically engineered crops. The county code makes exemptions for GE pharmaceuticals grown in state or federally licensed, indoor labs.

Santa Cruz is the most recent California county to prohibit GM crops. In 2004, Mendocino County became the first in the U.S. to ban GMOs, followed by Trinity and Marin counties. While a handful of liberal, coastal counties have outlawed the crops, anti-GMO ballot initiatives in Butte, Humboldt, San Luis Obispo and Sonoma counties have failed at the polls.

In addition, at least 12 counties, mostly in the conservative and agriculturally-rich Central Valley, have passed resolutions supporting ag biotechnology.

The only related thing that Monterey County has on the books is a code regulating the experimental release of GE microorganisms. The county crafted the code in the ‘70s in response to a bacteria intended to prevent frost on strawberries, says Bob Roach, assistant agricultural commissioner.

Pesticide-resistant crops, GE plants and pharmaceuticals fall under the purview of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Agriculture and Food and Drug Administration, respectively, Roach says. County ordinances “are largely symbolic because no one really wanted to grow these crops in these counties,” he adds.

The same goes for Monterey County. “I don’t think they are on our door step,” Roach says. “I don’t think they are even coming up the walk yet.”

But Salinas Mayor Dennis Donohue and some ag officials want to leave the door open for GE research. Donohue hopes to usher in higher-paying jobs by attracting pharmaceutical, biotechnology and alternative energy firms. He says he will oppose any regulations restricting biotechnology. “The reality is our scientists want to be free to do business,” he says.

Donohue says just because Daniell spoke in Salinas about insulin-producing lettuce doesn’t mean that research is moving forward. “This is all speculative,” he says. “He gave a speech. Nobody is making plans. Nobody is advocating GMO crops.”

Manassero says the Ag Advisory Committee will schedule a presentation from a UC Davis professor about the benefits of genetic engineering. The committee will then recommend a course of action to county supervisors. But it’s clear the committee chairman doesn’t think a ban is necessary.

“Why pass an ordinance that would close a potential scientific and high-tech solution to a problem that we don’t know about yet?” Manassero asks.

Manassero dismisses the concerns of GMO opponents. Since vegetables are harvested when they are immature, he says they don’t pollinate. Therefore, Manassero says, the crops wouldn’t cross-pollinate. As for organic farmers losing business, Manassero calls it a “scare tactic that is being used to push the GMO ordinance in Monterey County.”

If Monterey County sides with GE crops, Sancen says it could hurt the county’s farming reputation. Sancen points to the drawbacks of GE crops, including increased food allergies, damage to beneficial insects and the creation of “superweeds.” “It’s not just for small farmers,” he says. “It’s for the whole ag industry.”

Indeed, fruit and vegetable crops are one of the last stands in an ag industry increasingly dominated by GE crops. Since their introduction in 1996 GE crops have ballooned to make up more than 80 percent of soybean production and more than 60 percent of cotton acreage. Sancen calls on the county to rein in GMOs before they spread locally. “We have to regulate this,” he says.



Ben & Jerry's Homemade Holdings Inc. is now owned by a conglomerate, but the company's luscious ice cream still is made from milk that contains no synthetic growth hormones in it – a fact the company proudly advertises right on its cartons. And that really POs Monsanto.

Monsanto is not in the ice-cream business, but it is in the deadly serious business of trying to ice anyone who disses the synthetic hormone that it manufactures. Some dairy farmers inject their cows with Monsanto's recombinant bovine growth hormone product, which forces the animals to give more milk. It isn't good for the cows, and there are unanswered questions about its impact on human health, so many consumers don't want milk products with this stuff in it, preferring not to have their families used as guinea pigs for corporate profit.

Thus, Monsanto has waged a long campaign to keep consumers from knowing, opposing efforts to label any dairy products as being free from the synthetic hormone. Last year, however, Monsanto lost its effort to get the Food and Drug Administration to ban such labels. But now there's a new group standing against consumer choice on this issue. It's called American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology.

Sounds very science-y, doesn't it? It isn't; it's a lobbying front that's going state to state, trying to get legislatures to prevent companies like Ben & Jerry's from advertising that their goods contain none of the synthetic stuff. Guess who's behind this outfit? Right: It's funded by Monsanto.

You'd think that any effort to ban companies from making a true statement on their labels would be laughed out of any legislature, but Monsanto is determined to kill the consumer's right to know, already having pushed for bills and regulations in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. To keep informed about where Monsanto's attack squad will strike next, contact www.organicconsumers.org.

Chi's comment: Think twice. Monsanto isn't nice.

Brazillian Demonstrators Destroy Monsanto Experiments

Woman peasants destroy Monsanto's transgenic experiments in Brazil
Some 300 Brazilian women dedicated to fighting peasants' rights on Friday took over a plantation of U.S.-headquartered Monsanto Company, and destroyed part of the company's materials for experiments on transgenic biotechnology.

The women belonging to the social movement Via Campesina were protesting against the National Bio-security Council's authorization for the commercialization of two types of transgenic corn, announced on Feb. 12.

According to Monsanto, the one-and-half-hour protest destroyed the specimens of transgenic corn planted in the municipality of Santa Cruz das Palmeiras, 244 km away from the capital city of Sao Paulo. In the 31-hectare plantation, transgenic soybeans and cotton are also cultivated.

In a press statement, the world's leading producer of herbicides condemned "vehemently illegal acts like that," stressing that the protest did not even respect "judicial decisions."

"The company believes that disagreements either ideological or not "must be expressed by means of legal ways, and not by means of attacks on individuals and on private property," Monsanto stressed.

The company added that the protesters left the farm before the police arrived.

Source: Xinhua

My Thoughts: IS MONSANTO A MONSTER? Monsanto says people should always obey the law even when the laws are influenced dramatically by Monsanto!! The more I read about Monsanto, the more I'm feeling as if I'm reading one of those thrillers in which a ruthless set of people working under the guise of a big business starts taking over the world with a snowball effect until all humanity are slaves to them. Is this our future folks?

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I live on the Pacific slopes of the Talamanca mountain range in southern Costa Rica. My adult children live in the United States. I have a Masters Degree in Gerontology but have worked as a migrant laborer, chicken egg collector, radio broadcaster, secretary, social worker, research director, bureaucrat, writer, editor, political organizer, publicist, telephone operator, and more. My hobby of photography has garnered some awards.

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