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Sunday, October 18, 2009

Monsanto guilty in 'false ad' row

Monsanto guilty in 'false ad' row
France's highest court has ruled that US agrochemical giant Monsanto had not told the truth about the safety of its best-selling weed-killer, Roundup.
The court confirmed an earlier judgment that Monsanto had falsely advertised its herbicide as "biodegradable" and claimed it "left the soil clean".
The company was fined 15,000 euros (£13,800; $22,400). It has yet to comment on the judgment.
Roundup is the world's best-selling herbicide.
Monsanto also sells crops genetically-engineered to be tolerant to Roundup.
French environmental groups had brought the case in 2001 on the basis that glyphosate, Roundup's main ingredient, is classed as "dangerous for the environment" by the European Union.
In the latest ruling, France's Supreme Court upheld two earlier convictions against Monsanto by the Lyon criminal court in 2007, and the Lyon court of appeal in 2008, the AFP news agency reports.
Earlier this month, Monsanto reported a fourth quarter loss of $233m (£147m), driven mostly by a drop in sales of its Roundup brand.
Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2009/10/15 13:13:44 GMT


Friday, October 16, 2009

World's Richest People: Asia Poised to Pass U.S.

World's Richest People: Asia Poised to Pass U.S.

The link above will take you to a story in Time Magazine.
It says that Asia's richest people will be richer than America's richest people by 2013 or some such.

My first thought was "By 2013 we will be experiencing climate change related disasters on an unprecedented scale. Billions of people will be dead or dying. And we have to worry about the richest people in the world getting richer in one place than another?

How may people constitute the "richest people in the world?" How many people are in immediate danger of starvation? How could the world's resources be distributed in such a way that billions of people didn't have to die to support 100 rich people?

Where are our brains, folks?

Copyright Mary B. Thorman
All rights reserved

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


Nigeria: ERA Condemns FG's Plan to Distribute GMO Seeds to Farmers
AllAfrica.com Tue, 14 Apr 2009 23:52 PM PDT
THE Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth, Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has condemned plans by the Federal Government to distribute Genetically Modified Crops to Nigerian farmers in the current farming season, saying the decision is at the instance of biotech firms that want to dictate Nigeria's food needs for profit motives only.

Germany bans GM maize
Nature Tue, 14 Apr 2009 17:54 PM PDT
State defies European Union directive on genetically modified crops.


Gene-Altered Crops Do Little for Yields, Group Says (Update2)
Bloomberg Tue, 14 Apr 2009 17:45 PM PDT
April 14 (Bloomberg) -- Genetically engineered crops do little to improve yields and instead promote the proliferation of herbicide-resistant weeds that actually curb production, according to a study by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Recreational Poverty

For those who would claim that illegal immigrants fleeing poverty and natural disasters don't deserve a better life elsewhere, here is a photo I took in a neighborhood of San Jose, Costa Rica's capital. The children and older relatives are relaxing after a game of soccer on the lovely soccer field in front of their palatial hand-crafted homes.
Children of Illegal Immigrants

Monday, March 16, 2009

Bankrupting Family Farms for Fun and Profit


March 15, 2009

Critics sow doubt as 'Farmer Protection Act' hearing nears

By JOHN S. ADAMS Tribune Capitol Bureau

HELENA — Arlo Skari's family doesn't grow genetically modified crops on their farm north of Chester, but Skari said he doesn't want multinational agricultural biotechnology companies suing him to prove it.

"I've been aware for quite some time of companies like Monsanto coming down hard on farmers when they find these patented genetically modified seeds growing in a farmer's field when the farmer didn't know they where there," Skari said.

That's why he is supporting House Bill 445, dubbed the Montana Farmer Protection Act.

Depending on which side of the issue people stand, HB 445 is either a measure designed to protect innocent Montana farmers from legal harassment by major corporations or it's part of a plot by environmentalists to undermine the use of biotech crops in the state and legalize seed piracy.

On Tuesday, the Senate Agriculture Committee will hear all sides of the argument when its takes up the measure, introduced by Rep. Betsy Hands, D-Missoula.

Hands said her bill lays out a legal framework by which companies such as Monsanto Company — the world's largest producer of genetically modified seeds — can pursue accusations of seed piracy while protecting farmers who unknowingly end up with patented genetic materials on their land.

"It actually gives access to patent holders to sample crops," Hands said. "I think that's really important to recognize. We're not restricting patent holders. We're actually giving them a legitimate way to sample crops that they suspect may have their patents."

The industry sees the bill in a far different light.

"It restricts the ability of patent holders and the legal system to enforce patent-protection laws," said North Dakota farmer Al Skogen, president of Growers for Biotechnology and a major supporter of Monsanto's biotech products. "It really opens the door for farmers to pirate patent seeds and then claim innocence and be exempt from liability."

An Indiana farmer who found himself on the receiving end of Monsanto's accusations of seed piracy said that if it wasn't for a farmer protection law in his state, he may have faced legal costs that would have buried his family farm.

David Runyon spent years fighting accusations that he illegally planted Monsanto's patented Roundup-Ready soybeans on his 900-acre farm. The seeds were modified to resist Monsanto's popular and widely used herbicide Roundup. Runyon said he never planted Monsanto's genetically modified seeds on his property, adding he has records and receipts to prove it.

He said the Indiana farmer protection law did two things to help save his farm. First, it prevented Monsanto's investigators from coming onto his property to sample crops without his permission. Secondly, it required any legal action against him or his family to take place in an Indiana federal court rather than a courtroom in St. Louis, where Monsanto's headquarters are located.

"Indiana has a farmer protection bill that passed in 2003. Before that bill, all they would have done is filed out in St. Louis in federal court," Runyon said.

Runyon said that without the farmer protection law, the legal fees, travel expenses and time away from his young family would have been enough to destroy his farm.

He said that after Monsanto investigators visited his home in July of 2004, he tested his soybean crop to see if it had any Monsanto genetics. It turns out it did, but not because he planted Monsanto's seeds.

"I'm using public varieties. One variety comes out of the state of Illinois and two varieties from Ohio State University," Runyon said.

It's difficult — if not impossible — to prevent the genetics of crops in one field from contaminating the genetics of crops in another one. Cross pollination by wind, insects, animals or major weather events can contaminate non-genetically modified crops with patented genetics. That's why Runyon said it's important Montana pass a bill protecting farmers who unknowingly or unwillingly end up with patented material on their land.

"If you're contaminated and you don't have the law, they will take you to federal court and pull you in to St. Louis, where you'll have to pay $300 to $400 per hour for a lawyer," Runyon said. "Who can afford that?"

In Runyon's case, Monsanto eventually gave up its pursuit.

"They never had any evidence other than the receipts I gave them," he said.

Skogen said backers of HB 445 are trying to legalize seed pirating. He said companies such as Monsanto have no interest in suing the very customers it is trying to sell its products to. He said companies spend hundreds of millions of dollars introducing genetic traits into crops in order to create higher yields and higher profitability for farmers, so they have to protect their investment from illegal piracy.

If HB 445 passes, Skogen believes it will have a detrimental impact on Montana farmers who might otherwise benefit from the private genetic research conducted by companies such as Monsanto.

"The public cannot afford to fund all research. We need private investment. This research is extremely expensive. If the laws prohibit (companies) from protecting their patents and recouping the costs of research, they will simply refocus their efforts somewhere else," Skogen said.

Skari said he plans to travel to Helena on Tuesday to support HB 445.

"Legal logic tells you that if somebody affects your grain or your property negatively, then they should be the ones held liable, but what has happened is that the companies have taken it and put the liability on the farmer, an unknowing recipient of someone else's actions," Skari said. "This bill just protects the farmer from liability from seed companies."

The House passed HB 445 by a wide margin last month. The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hear arguments on the measure at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Capitol.

Reach Tribune Capitol Bureau Chief John S. Adams at 442-9493, or jadams@greatfallstribune.com

Additional Facts

Tuesday hearing

The Senate Agriculture Committee is scheduled to hear arguments on HB 445 at 3 p.m. Tuesday in the Capitol. The House passed the measure last month.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Monsanto Tries Secrecy

It comes as no surprise that Monsanto Corporation has stooped to secrecy to avoid citizen oversight of its operations. Check out this site: http://snipurl.com/c511p

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Parallel Evolution

Check out this beautiful video of a newly discovered fish species. Pay attention especially to the way it uses its front fins and to it's forward facing (binocular vision) eyes. http://tinyurl.com/bdn3gx

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Monsanto and Secrecy

EU court attacks GM crop secrecy
Anti-GM protest in Luxembourg, 20 Oct 08
Anti-GM campaigners have widespread support in the EU

Europe's top court has ruled that EU governments have no right to conceal the location of field trials of genetically modified (GM) crops.

The European Court of Justice was responding to a case brought by Pierre Azelvandre in Alsace, eastern France.

He wanted to know where GM field trials had taken place in his local area.

The only EU-approved GM crop is a strain of corn developed by the US firm Monsanto. But GM trials for research are legal, under strict controls.

The court in Luxembourg ruled on Tuesday that "information relating to the location of the release can in no case be kept confidential".

It said "considerations relating to the protection of public order and other secrets protected by law... cannot constitute reasons capable of restricting access to the information listed by the [EU] directive, including in particular those relating to the location of release".

On Monday, the European Commission failed in a bid to force the governments of France and Greece to allow Monsanto's GM corn to be grown in their countries.

Opponents of GM crops say more scientific data is needed, arguing that their long-term genetic impact on humans and wildlife could be harmful.

The biotech industry says the crops are as safe as traditional varieties, and that they would provide plentiful, cheaper food.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Et Tu, Obama?

from the December 26, 2008 edition - http://www.csmonitor.com/2008/1226/p09s02-coop.html
A food agenda for Obama
Now's the time to reinvent America's farm and food policies.
By Christopher D. Cook

San Francisco

Within hours of former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack's nomination last week as Agriculture secretary, websites were humming with well-documented critiques of his affinity for genetically engineered crops, agribusiness giant Monsanto, heavily polluting factory farms, and other Big Farm interests.

Some critics expressed outrage, others surprise, especially since they had mounted a vigorous, 55,000-plus strong online petition to persuade President-elect Barack Obama to nominate someone more progressive who would promote sustainable food and farming.

The need for sweeping change could not be clearer when it comes to our food: At taxpayer expense, current policy subsidizes large corporate farms and destructive industrial agriculture, which rob the countryside of economic diversity and precious environmental resources, such as water and topsoil.

These same subsidies, and anemic regulatory enforcement, encourage an increasingly monopolized food system, and a "cheap food" policy that lards us with fatty, processed foods – the cost of which is ultimately dear, more than $100 billion annually for obesity and diet-related diseases. Today's food system also generates a sizable portion of America's greenhouse gases, and rests on fast-dwindling and volatile oil supplies.

Now is the time for something different – change we can eat.

As Mr. Obama weighs a massive stimulus package, he should include new funding streams that promote sustainable food – to build up alternatives such as farmer's markets, local "foodshed" programs that promote consumption of local produce, and farm-to-institution projects that encourage schools, hospitals, and other large buyers to purchase local organic foods when possible.

The change we need in food is as urgent as any we face – changes that affect national health, energy security, global warming, and more. Here, then, is a not-so-modest nine-point platform for food reform, some of which could be included in Obama's stimulus package. Other elements may require a lengthier policy push:

1. New public investments targeting sustainable agriculture, defined as organic, small- to mid-sized, diversified farming.

2. New investments in local/regional food networks and foodsheds – to help build up the connections between farmers and consumers, to open up and expand new markets for organic farmers and those considering the transition; for more farmer's markets and food stores that feature local produce.

3. A moratorium on agribusiness mergers, and strenuous antitrust provisions and enforcement to protect what little is left of diversity in the food economy.

4. A moratorium on all new genetically modified (GMO) products, and an expansion of existing ones, and appointment of a blue-ribbon panel/commission to assess the impact of GMO foods on our environment and our health.

5. A moratorium on – and gradual phasing out of – concentrated animal feeding operations, aka factory farms, which are among the nation's top polluters of water and air, and breeders of widespread and virulent bacterial strains.

6. Dramatically expanded regulatory enforcement and staffing in the US Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration to protect food safety and meat industry labor and environmental practices.

7. Slowing the hazardously fast meatpacking (and poultry) assembly line, to protect workers and consumers.

8. Incentives for small-scale urban, suburban, and rural farming ventures oriented toward diversified local food systems.

9. Bold public investment in a raft of public awareness campaigns that build support, and expand markets and demand, for sustainable alternatives such as urban agriculture and gardening, and reducing fast-food consumption.

10. Fill in the blank, and send me your thoughts at www.christopherdcook.com.

Food is a vital cornerstone of both individual life and civil society, and our current system is making us fatter, churning out greenhouse gases, and abusing workers and animals.

With a new administration elected on a "change" agenda, it's a timely moment to press for the most basic change of all: change in the food that ends up on our plates and in our bodies.

• Christopher D. Cook is a journalist and the author of "Diet for a Dead Planet: Big Business and the Coming Food Crisis."


Letters to the Editor

(From MetroActive)

How Can This Bee

Thank you for Colleen Watson's well researched article "Bee Afraid," Cover Story, Dec. 17).

Several years ago, Bayer, Monsanto and Syngenta acquired patents to coat some crop seeds with neonicotinoids. David Hackenburg, former president of the American Beekeeping Federation, told Sierra Club, "Look at what's time based. The massive bee decimation started when regulatory agencies rubber stamped the use of neonicotinoid spraying and coating."

There are holes in the science. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has failed to evaluate the risks from sub-lethal effects due to low-level exposures of the neonicotinoids on honeybees. Neonicotinoids have been quantified in the nectar and pollen and even corn syrup fed to honeybees. These pesticides can affect their navigational skills and ability to fight off infections.

Sierra Club urged the EPA to protect honeybees and the food supply over the bottom line of multinational corporations. In light of the mounting evidence that the neonicotinoids are deadly to bees, Sierra Club called for a precautionary moratorium on these powerful crop treatments, until more study can be done.

The EPA refused. It's unfortunate that regulatory agencies are using doublespeak. They claim to protect our food supply, yet they aren't doing the proper studies.

Laurel Hopwood
Chair, Sierra Club Genetic Engineering Action Team
Cleveland, Ohio

Bugging Me

Re Honeybee Colony Collapse: Is there anything a backyard gardener can do to help? Would a hive in my own small yard (one-third acre) help the overall honeybee population? I'm not really interested in the bee products, but would like to help the problem if possible.

Mary Ann Lahann

See below for one possibility.—Editor

Backyard Bees

This letter is in response to the excellent article "Bee Afraid."

Not only are nicotine-based pesticides used commercially, but many natural gardening recipes advocate the use of tobacco to repel insects. If organic gardeners used such a recipe the world over—and if this is, in fact, the cause of honeybee decline—there could be a significant impact even from backyard users.

Since tobacco can harm tomatoes, it's often avoided where fruits and veggies are grown. But, flower enthusiasts may use it in place of synthetics, believing they are using a safer alternative for their families, pets and the environment. I bet if they knew they maybe risking the health of honeybees, they'd rethink the application.

Lisa Bracken
Silt, Colo.

Monster-to Corp. Sqeaks by Environmental Laws

TUESDAY JANUARY 6, 2009 :: Last modified: Thursday, January 1, 2009 6:05 PM MST

Idaho miners won't have to restore groundwater; Site is near Wyoming border

Associated Press writer

BOISE, Idaho -- Monsanto Co., Agrium Inc., and J.R. Simplot Co. will be able to mine phosphate without being forced to restore groundwater beneath their operations to its natural condition, according to a new rule awaiting approval by the 2009 Legislature.

The rule is backed by industry but opposed by environmentalists including the Greater Yellowstone Coalition and Idaho Conservation League, who say it gives mining companies near the Idaho-Wyoming border license to pollute forever.

It stops short of a 2007 draft proposal developed by the Idaho Department of Environmental Quality but never formalized. That would have required companies to clean up groundwater below their mines within eight years of ceasing activities.

According to the new rule, mining companies could pollute groundwater below their extraction, reclamation and tailing activities with high concentrations of naturally occurring elements such as selenium. They would be required to monitor groundwater at so-called "points of compliance" as close as possible to the mining area, to make sure the pollution stayed put.

Jack Lyman, a lobbyist with the Idaho Mining Association, said the new rule would protect groundwater outside mining areas without saddling companies aiming to build new mines or expand existing ones with onerous, unrealistic cleanup mandates.

"We have never asked for the right to mess up someone else's beneficial use of the groundwater," Lyman told The Associated Press this week. "The department came up with a rule they think is workable, without putting our industry into a difficult situation where we'd be unable to comply."

Efforts to revise Idaho's 16-year-old Groundwater Quality Plan began in 2007 after the Department of Environmental Quality, the mining industry and environmentalists agreed the exemption allowing mines to pollute groundwater in some instances was ambiguous. Mining companies feared uncertainty over cleanup requirements could stifle new projects; environmentalists said vagueness made it easier for companies to pollute.

After more than a year of wrangling, the proposed rule was approved by the Department of Environmental Quality Board earlier this year. It will be taken up by the 2009 Legislature when the session starts Jan. 12. Such rules are rarely rejected, especially after securing board support.

Justin Hayes, with the Idaho Conservation League, contends the state agency "caved in" to industry pressure. Environmental groups are fearful of mining pollution in eastern Idaho, especially after at least four horses and hundreds of sheep died in the late 1990s after drinking selenium-contaminated water from defunct phosphate mines and their waste piles near Soda Springs.

"By its very nature, groundwater doesn't stay in one place," Hayes said. "An aquifer is recharged by rain and snow water, then it moves somewhere else. Aquifers are in motion. Eventually, the contamination is going to move off site."

Lyman insists environmentalists are exaggerating the danger that mining pollution will migrate. He drew a comparison between the septic tank at his home near Caldwell and open-pit phosphate mines.

"I've never worried about anything I put in my sink showing up a quarter of a mile away on my neighbor's property," Lyman said, adding that just because groundwater below a mine is polluted "does not mean that's going to flow down into Soda Springs, Idaho."


"The World According to Monsanto" - video powered by Metacafe

About Me

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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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