MONTHLY REVIEW No. 76
Here's a look back at December 2009. Happy 2010 and check out our website for all the latest news, reports and profiles.
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+ HUGE PRICE RISES FOR GM SEEDS - NEW REPORT
A new report showed that GM seed prices in America have increased dramatically, compared to non-GM and organic seeds, cutting average farm incomes for US farmers growing GM crops. In the 25 years from 1975 through 2000, soybean seed prices rose a modest 63%. Over the next ten years, as GM soybeans came to dominate the market, the price rose an additional 230%. The $70 per bag price set for Monsanto’s RR 2 soybeans in 2010 is twice the cost of conventional seed and reflects a 143% increase in the price of GM seed since 2001. Maize (corn) growers planting the new GM variety ‘SmartStax’, will pay more than twice as much as farmers planting conventional non-GM seeds. This is almost four times more than conventional farmers paid just ten years earlier. Today, GM cottonseed costs $700, a staggering six times the price of non-GM cottonseed. From 1975 to 1996, the price of cottonseed only doubled, but in the GM cotton era, it has risen from $73 to $589.
In a recent speech Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant said the company’s goal was to double gross profits in 2012, from 2007 levels. He said that increases in the price of new GM RR 2 soybeans and GM ‘SmartStax’ maize hybrids will create about one-third of the company's gross profit growth in 2012.
The Organic Center's report concludes: "At the present time there is a massive disconnect between the sometimes lofty rhetoric from those championing biotechnology as the proven path toward global food security and what is actually happening on farms in the U.S. that have grown dependent on GM seeds and are now dealing with the consequences."
"The Magnitude and Impacts of the Biotech and Organic Seed Price Premium" by Dr Charles Benbrook - the full report can be downloaded here
Summary of report by GMWatch:
+ MONSANTO USING ITS MARKET POWER TO HURT FAMERS - NEW REPORT
A report from the Farmer-to-Farmer-Campaign shows that Monsanto not only completely dominates the market for GM traits in corn, soy, and cotton but that it is using its market power to raise prices to farmers and limit their access to non-GM seeds.
+ MONSANTO'S AGGRESSIVE SEED BUSINESS TACTICS REVEALED
Confidential contracts detailing Monsanto's business practices revealed how the world's biggest seed developer is squeezing competitors, controlling smaller seed companies and protecting its dominance over the multibillion-dollar market for GM crops, an Associated Press investigation found.
The revelations came as Monsanto's business strategies and licensing agreements are being investigated by the US Department of Justice and at least two state attorneys general, who are trying to determine if the practices violate US antitrust laws.
+ NEW STUDY SHOWS "STRONG EVIDENCE" OF BT RESISTANCE
A new study led by a pro-GM researcher shows "strong evidence" of Bt resistance from careful analysis of 41 reports from 5 continents. Among other things the researchers discoved through a Freedom of Inofrmation request to the EPA that Herculex GM corn had to be pulled from Puerto Rico after the discovery of widespread insect resistance. The resistance was so bad that Dow and Pioneer not only had to withdraw their GM (Bt) seed from the market but advise growers to spray pesticides instead.
+ GM "NO SURE FIX" FOR NITROGEN POLLUTION
After more than a decade of effort, the biotechnology industry has yet to produce any commercial crops engineered to reduce nitrogen fertilizer pollution, while traditional breeding and other methods have improved the nitrogen use efficiency of wheat, rice, and corn by about 20 percent to 40 percent, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS).
"Nitrogen pollution is among the world's worst environmental problems," said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist in UCS's Food and Environment program and author of the report. "A number of very promising solutions have begun addressing the problem, but so far genetic engineering has yet to make a contribution."
For FAQs and to download the new report, "No Sure Fix: Prospects for Reducing Nitrogen Fertilizer Pollution through Genetic Engineering", go to: http://bit.ly/5iraTl
+ AMERICAN PUBLIC HEALTH ASSOCIATION OPPOSES GM HORMONE
The American Public Health Association (APHA) has decided to oppose the use of growth hormones in beef and dairy production. This would include Monsanto/Eli Lilly’s GM bovine growth hormone rBGH.
APHA is the oldest and largest association of public health professionals in the world, representing 50,000 professionals nationwide. APHA’s resolution follows an official position statement released last year by the American Nurses Association opposing rBGH.
+ AFRICA DOESN'T NEED GM - FORMER DEPUTY SECRETARY OF AGRICULTURE
Farmer and former US deputy secretary of agriculture Richard Rominger wrote in a letter to The Economist that studies show Africa could feed itself with local organic production and high-tech seeds are not needed.
+ STUDY PROVES THREE MONSANTO GM CORN VARIETIES ARE TOXIC
A new European study revealed unintended toxic effects in rats linked with GM maize consumption. In rats fed three main commercialized GM maize varieties (NK603, MON810, MON863), which are present in food and feed across the world,
the liver, kidneys and other organs were affected. The study was published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences.
Read the paper here: http://www.biolsci.org/v05p0706.htm
+ EXPERIMENTAL ANIMALS DISAPPEAR WITHOUT EXPLANATION FROM GM FEEDING TRIAL
A feeding study in Germany in which MON810 GM corn was fed to cattle over a period of 25 months has been shown to be worthless.
The results were promoted to the media as showing "that feeding with transgenic maize does not have any impact on the food chain" and that "transgenic maize has no impact on lactating cows."
But in clear breach of the researchers’ original protocols, only 18 of the 54 cows used in the trial were fed for the full 25 months; the rest were changed at unspecified times and for unspecified reasons, without this being revealed in the English-language paper published afterwards. Only nine of the cows were kept on the GM diet for the full research period. The data relating to the cows that survived the whole trial were aggregated with data for replacement animals. The exact reasons for the removal of other animals were not given.
+ $2 MILLION VERDICT AGAINST BAYER FOR GM CONTAMINATION OF RICE
Bayer CropScience must pay about $2 million for losses sustained by two Missouri farmers when an experimental GM rice the company was testing cross-bred with their crops, a federal jury ruled. In the first two cases to go to trial, a St. Louis jury awarded two Missouri farmers almost $2 million in compensatory damages, which, according to plaintiffs' lawyer Adam Levitt, was almost all the farmers claimed.
+ NEW WEBSITE HELPS SHOPPERS AVOID GMOs
The US group Institute for Responsible Technology (IRT) launched a new website for consumers who want to avoid buying products containing GMOs.
+ MODIFIED OPINIONS
A debate on GMOs at the Royal Society of Chemistry HQ in London had the opposite effect than the one intended, reported an editorial in The Guardian: "Afterwards the feeling was that it was a win on points for the GM sceptics. This is not what was meant to happen”¦ The winning argument ”¦ was not really about science at all, but about the ethics of a method of increasing yields that delivers such power into the hands of the multinationals."
+ "OUR FARMS ARE NOT FOR SALE ON THE CLIMATE MARKET"
More than 150 Via Campesina farmers went to Copenhagen to claim that a radical change in the food system has the potential to achieve reductions of 50-75 per-cent of current global emissions. This would include returning organic matter to the soil, developing local markets and reversing intensive livestock production. Farmers are not begging for carbon credits or other trade based solutions, but are offering a solution to the current crisis: a diverse food system that supports local markets and promotes food sovereignty.
+ BUILDING A NEW CLIMATE AND FOOD FUTURE
Adopting ecological, organic agriculture systems is a low-cost pathway to reach major reduction targets, says a good article for Cool Foods Campaign.
+ AGRICULTURE AND CLIMATE CHANGE: REAL PROBLEMS, FALSE SOLUTIONS
Excellent report from Econexus. Download PDF from http://www.econexus.info/
+ THE REAL CLIMATE/ENERGY SOLUTION
The solution to the energy crisis and climate change is simple and cheap and consumers welcome it:
+ ORGANIC AGRICULTURE COULD SEQUESTER 40% OF CURRENT CARBON EMISSIONS
Studies have found that organic farming requires only about half the amount of energy required by non-organic farming to produce the same amount of food, because it uses organic matter for crop nutrition instead of energy-intensive synthetic fertilizers.
Also, because one of the main principles of organic production is increasing the levels of organic matter in the soil, carbon sequestration takes place, locking carbon back into the soil and reducing the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Research findings from the Rodale Institute in the USA indicate that a concerted effort to convert to organic farming could have a massive beneficial impact on reducing greenhouse gases. A nearly 30 year trial conducted by the Rodale Institute as reported last year has found that practical organic agriculture, if adopted for the planet's 3.5 billion tillable acres, could sequester nearly 40 percent of current CO2 emissions.
+ PEAK SOIL HAS A SIMPLE FIX
At the Carbon Farming conference in Australia earlier this month, speakers pointed to a problem that has worried environmentalists for about a decade: peak soil.
China is losing soil 57 times faster than nature can replace it, according to John Crawford, a professor at the University of Sydney’s Institute of Soil Sciences. In the United States, conservation practices have helped reduce soil loss, but top soil is still being eroded 10 times faster than it can be replaced, according to the National Academy of Sciences.
This is a concern, not only because it limits the amount of food-producing land, but also because soil and the crops that grow in it can help sequester carbon, so the more of it we lose, the more carbon we leave out in the atmosphere.
The cause of all this soil loss? Industrial agriculture is partly to blame, particularly the practices of monoculture, overgrazing, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and a lack of cover crops. The solution? Organic agriculture, of course.
+ MONSANTO WINS ANGRY MERMAID AWARD
The winner of the Angry Mermaid Award 2009 for worst corporate lobbyist at the Copenhagen climate talks was Monsanto, with 37 per cent of the total vote. 10,000 people voted. Monsanto was nominated for promoting its GM crops as a solution to climate change and pushing for its crops to be used as biofuels. The expansion of GM soy in Latin America is contributing to major deforestation and greenhouse gas emissions.