from Claire Robinson
+ MONSANTO RATS BAILING OUT OF SINKING SHIP?
A new report by Innovest Strategic Value Advisors paints a bleak picture of Monsanto's prospects and says that insiders are dumping their shares.
21.9% of the shares held by insiders have been sold in the latter half of 2004... while no significant purchases have taken place. In addition, extraordinary charges have regularly appeared on the balance sheet, averaging $350 million per year over the past four years.
+ FAKE PARADE HITS NEW YORK
Monsanto has signed up its very own black front group. Visit the home page of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and beside images of freedom riders and civil rights activists murdered by the KKK, you'll see the Monsanto logo under the legend "CORE's corporate partner". http://www.core-online.org
One 17 January, Monsanto's Chairman and CEO, Hugh Grant chaired CORE's celebratory reception marking the Martin Luther King National Holiday at which various right wing figures, including Bush's election strategist, Karl Rove, were honoured. On 18 January, at CORE's "UN World Conference on Biotechnology" for diplomats and others, Monsanto's executive vice president made the closing address.
+ HUNGARY BANS MONSANTO GM MAIZE SEED
Hungary has banned the import and planting of Monsanto's MON 810 GM maize seeds and will not allow existing stocks to be planted.
+ MONSANTO ASSAULT ON US FARMERS DETAILED IN NEW REPORT
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has released a review of Monsanto's use and abuse of US patent law to control the usage of staple crop seeds by US farmers. "Monsanto vs. US Farmers" details the results of this CFS's research, discusses the ramifications for the future of farming in the US and outlines policy options for ending the persecution of farmers.
+ MONSANTO BUYS SEMINIS FOR USD 1.4 BILLION
Monsanto has paid USD 1.4 billion (GBP 745 million) buy vegetable and fruit seed company Seminis. Monsanto will also assume about $400 million in debt. The deal aims to speed up Monsanto's move into the seed market and extend its reach further into Europe and Asia, where Seminis does a large part of its business. The Economist's headline was LORDS OF THE SEEDS.
+ INVESTORS CHALLENGE MONSANTO OVER GM RISKS
A shareholder resolution asks Monsanto to report on impacts related to its GM products. Shareholders see untested and under-reported environmental impacts as the biggest risk.
Some of the major business strategy reversals that took investors by surprise include: Monsanto's decision to not commercialize GM wheat despite spending $60 million on it in 2004 alone; the cancellation of plans to develop pharmaceutical crops; forsaking its operations in Argentina despite 90 percent market penetration of GM soya; and suspending investment in GM canola in Australia.
+ INDONESIA: MONSANTO BRIBED "AT LEAST 140" OFFICIALS AND OTHERS
Between 1997 and 2002, Monsanto gave bribes totaling a minimum of $700,000 to at least 140 current or former Indonesian government officials and their family members, in order to smooth the entry of its GM crops in Indonesia. Monsanto agreed to pay USD 1.5 million in penalties to settle US criminal and civil charges over the bribery scandal.
+ BUCK STOPS WITH MONSANTO PRESIDENT HUGH GRANT
Monsanto's president and chief executive officer Hugh Grant was in charge of the Asia Pacific region, including all the company's agricultural business operations there, from 1995-98. The five years of corrupt payments in Indonesia began in 1997, i.e. Grant was the man in charge at the time.
Scottish Members of Parliament have led calls for Grant's resignation from Scottish Enterprise, a body which helps promote Scottish businesses.
+ DIRTY TRICKS AND BROKEN PROMISES - MONSANTO'S LEGACY IN INDONESIA
The farmers who grew Monsanto's seed did less well out of it than the officials who took the bribes. One Indonesian farmer who grew Monsanto's GM cotton said, "The company didn't give the farmer any choice, they never intended to improve our well being, they just put us in a debt circle, took away our independence and made us their slave forever."
+ REVIEWS OF 2004
GM Watch has published 10 reports from around the world providing brief summaries of some of the main events of 2004 with links to further information.
+ ITALY: GM LAW PASSES LOWER HOUSE
The Alemmano GMO decree on co-existence of transgenic, conventional and organic crops was passed by Italy's Lower House with amendments which will make it even harder for GM crops to be grown in Italy. About 70% of Italy's regions have already said they will block the sale and use of GM crops.
+ GM POLICY SHIFT IN EU
Newly installed European Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel has signaled a shift in European Union policies toward GM crops, saying that she believes the EU should issue guidelines for acceptable distances between GM and non-GM crops.
Fischer Boel said that GM and non-GM fields must be separated to avoid GM contamination. However, she said: "Regulations must not be so hard that the producers of GM crops have no chance to come to market."
Some German political observers saw Fischer Boel's comments as a veiled reference to Germany's new strict GM law, which holds planters of GM crops liable for economic damages to adjacent non-GM fields even if they followed regulations.
+ ISAAA'S GM PROPAGANDA MISLEADING
The annual media-hype fest from industry body ISAAA is under way: "Eight million farmers in 17 countries grew engineered crops on 200 million acres last year, a 20 percent increase over the 167 million acres in 2003, according to a report released by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications."
Here's an antidote from Julie Newman of the Australia-based Network of Concerned Farmers:
"It is not that farmers benefit from GM technology, farmers are not being offered anything that can not be achieved with non-GM biotechnology. Figures show the area of GM has increased in certain countries but this is because most of these farmers have relied on heavy subsidies from governments or from the GM companies themselves."
+ ISAAA ADMITS GM "DISASTERS"
In the wake of ISAAA's annual report claiming increased uptake of GM in the developing world, ISAAA global coordinator Randy Hautea has admitted that Indonesia and Bulgaria have pulled out from the global race for transgenic crops. The governments in these countries did not extend the approval for transgenic crops as "there was some disasters" [sic]. Asked if a similar situation would result in India relating to Bt cotton, Dr Hautea refused to comment.
+ INDIA: FARMERS OPPOSE PATENT ORDINANCE
Farmers' bodies have decided to oppose the recent ordinance which seeks to introduce patent monopolies on seeds. The agitation was launched on January 30. They have decided to oppose the proposed amendments to the Seeds Act and government policies leading to privatisation of the water sector and market monopolies.
+ CHINA DRAGS ITS HEELS ON GM ROLLOUT
China is stalling the adoption of GM plant cultivation as a cautious government ponders their safety. The Chinese government had been expected by many to grant permission for GM crops but Beijing has thus far only allowed the cultivation of transgenic cotton, with all other GM crops banned.
+ ASIAN GM TRIALS PUSHED BY CORPORATE-BACKED INSTITUTES
In the Philippines, the Philippine Rice Research Institute (Philrice) is trialling Bt cotton with the aim of introducing it. In Bangladesh, the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute trialling a local variety of Golden Rice, a GM rice which contains small amounts of a precursor of vitamin A.
Both institutes are part of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which has offices in 11 different countries and a research headquarters in the Philippines. IRRI describes itself as an "autonomous, nonprofit institution" but its annual reports show grants from corporations like Monsanto, Union Carbide, Bayer, Cyanamid, Hoechst, OccidentalChemical, Ciba Geigy (later part of Novartis Seeds which is now part of Syngenta), Upjohn and Chevron Chemical, among others.
+ VAST MAJORITY OF CANADIANS SUSPICIOUS OF GM FOODS
Roughly 90 per cent of people surveyed for Health Canada last year said they were concerned about the long-term health risks of GM foods.
+ US REDUCES FOOD AID TO ANGOLA AFTER GM BAN
Following Angola's ban on imports of GMOs, the US has reduced its food aid to the country.
+ DOW FIELD TRIALS OF GM MAIZE BLOCKED
The African Centre for Biosafety has stopped Dow Agrosciences from using land in South Africa to field test its GM maize TC 1507. In its objections the ACB raised questions as to "the veracity of the information supplied by Dow".
+ THAILAND: GOVERNOR SAYS GM RICE NOT NEEDED
The governor of one of Thailand's most important rice-growing provinces has called on agriculturalists to shift towards organic farming methods, while insisting that Thailand has no need for GM rice.
+ JOURNALISTS CHALLENGE FOX BROADCAST LICENCE
For what is believed to be the first time, two television journalists have challenged the broadcast licence of a station on grounds it deliberately broadcast false and distorted news reports. Reporters Jane Akre and Steve Wilson filed the petition against Rupert Murdoch's WTVT Fox-13 in Tampa, Florida. The reporters allege that Fox managers ordered them to distort news reports about the secret use of Monsanto's GM bovine growth hormone, injected into dairy cattle.
+ LORD SAINSBURY SUCCESSOR ANOTHER INDUSTRY CRONY
Anyone who thought that Tony Blair could never outdo his choice of an unelected biotech investor and food industrialist as his science minister will be reassured to know that the man tipped to be Lord Sainsbury's successor is Lord Drayson, the former head of the BioIndustry Association (motto: "Promoting UK Biotechnology").
+ GM SUGAR BEET LEAVES WILDLIFE SHORT OF FOOD
Despite being hyped as a breakthrough, new research on GM sugar beet shows that the different crop management systems employed will still leave the UK's farmland wildlife short of food at some stage in the year. The research, carried out by Prof Mike May at Brooms Barn Research Centre, and funded by the biotech industry, shows that all three GM sugar beet management approaches so far proposed fail to provide sufficient weeds and weed seeds for farmland wildlife in every season.
+ DESTRUCTION OF BUFFER ECOSYSTEMS CONTRIBUTED TO TSUNAMI DEVASTATION
Devinder Sharma has written an excellent on the contribution of the profit-driven destruction of natural eco-systems to the tsunami disaster.
+ HELP VIA CAMPESINA'S TSUNAMI RELIEF EFFORTS
The agricultural reform NGO, Via Campesina is raising funds for grassroots tsunami relief. Visit Via Campesina's Online Donation Page:
+ FOOD MULTINATIONALS THREATEN FIGHT AGAINST POVERTY
Multinational food companies are threatening the fight against poverty in developing countries, says a new report by development agency ActionAid.
The report - "Power hungry: six reasons to regulate global food corporations" - reveals that the activities of multinational food and agribusiness companies, such as Nestle, Monsanto, Parmalat, Syngenta and Unilever, threaten the livelihoods of hundreds of thousands of poor farmers and undermine basic rights.
ActionAid's evidence from Brazil shows that 50,000 dairy farmers have been forced out of business, after takeovers by Nestle and Parmalat. In India, an estimated 12,000 children worked last year on cottonseed farms supplying subsidiaries of Bayer, Monsanto, Syngenta and Unilever. Many children were also exposed to dangerous pesticides.
MONTHLY REVIEW - JANUARY 2005
from Claire Robinson