Reporting Breaking News in the Biotech Food Debate
The DAILY BRIEF for Saturday, 7 April, 2001 (( 8 Items ))
(1) Mississippi Farmer Fights for the Right to Save Seed http://www.Cropchoice.com news (6 April 2001) Excerpts: Mitchell Scruggs... is one of hundreds of farmers Monsanto is suing.
Scruggs' attorneys will argue that Monsanto is also violating anti-trust laws by selling its transgenic seeds to foreign markets, such as Argentina, for half the cost. The company also allows these farmers to save the seed and doesn't require technology agreements.
"They're trying to make an example of me," he says, pointing out that the company installed surveillance cameras across from his house and used helicopters and airplanes to monitor his activities.
...he helped to found Farmers Save Our Seed, better known as Farmers S-O-S. So far, he says, hundreds of growers have phoned the organization's toll-free phone number (1-877-727-6207).
The Scruggs family has been farming in North America for eight generations. "And we've been saving seed that long," says Mitchell Scruggs, a Mississippi soybean, cotton and wheat farmer. "It's a God given right that was passed on to us by our ancestors. It's never been disputed until now, when big corporations are misusing patents to take those rights away from American farmers. The reason they're doing this is to control all the food and fiber in the world. They do this by controlling seed." He is one of hundreds of farmers Monsanto is suing. The St. Louis-based biotechnology giant alleges that they've saved and replanted its transgenic seeds, an infringement of its patents. Scruggs admits that he saves the seed from Roundup Ready and Bt soybeans and cotton. As far as he's concerned, once he's paid for seed, it's his to do with as he pleases. The majority of farmers involved in these suits argue that their crops are testing positive for the presence of Monsanto's transgenic traits because of widespread and increasing contamination, not because they're saving the seed. Although he acknowledges that genetic contamination of conventional crops is a growing and serious problem, Scruggs is focusing his fight on protecting the right of farmers to save seeds..... ((For full text, see www.Cropchoice.com news.))
(2) Farmers Rally, Draw up War Plans against GM Crop Trials UK, Aberdeen Press and Journal, April 4, 2001, By Tony Black. THE Nairnshire farming community met last night to discuss ways of halting the latest Highland GM trial in their own back yard. After fruitless appeals to the Scottish Executive and to Aventis Crop Science - the French seed company conducting the trial at Park Farm, Nairn - neighbouring farmers are contemplating a direct appeal to the farm's owner, Steven Barclay. Mr Barclay's neighbours say he led them to understand that, if the majority were against the trial on his land, then it would not go ahead. After anxious meetings with Avensis and a scientific expert from the University of Newcastle into the affects of the crop on the area, neighbouring farmers claim the trial should be stopped in its tracks. Tractors spotted in Mr Barclay's fields in the past few days have accelerated fears that GM seeds could be sewn imminently. Partner in neighbouring Foyensfiend Farm, Deirdre Mackintosh, whose land bounds the proposed GM site, called last night's meeting after talks with worried neighbours. She said: "The feeling I get is that the neighbouring farmers are very concerned, and they want it stopped. "Especially in the present climate with foot and mouth, to proceed with the trials is seen as irresponsible. "These tests could run for years and everybody needs to know morebefore these things are carried out. Mrs Mackintosh added: "The meeting is to see if we are all in agreement about the way forward. "If that means petitioning Steven Barclaythen that's what we will do. "He has inferred that, if enough were against it, he would halt the trial. "We find it disappointing that one of our neighbours doesn't care enough about the farmers in the area to heed our views." The Press were excluded from last night's meeting of Nairnshire farmers. Steven Barclay was unavailable for comment.
(3) U.S. Deplores attack on Monsanto in Italy (Reuters Securities, 6 Aprl 2001) The United States said on Friday it deplored an arson attack in Italy against U.S. agricultural biotechnology group Monsanto and was confident the Italian government would quickly bring those responsible to justice. For the full story, go to: http://biz.yahoo.com/rf/010406/l06126968.html
(4) Praise for Thailand's Ban on GM Crop Tests www.doubletwist.com news, or www.bangkokpost.com Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa), April 06, 2001. Bangkok (dpa) - International environmentalist organization Greenpeace on Friday praised the Thai government's decision to stop field trials of genetically-modified (GM) crops in the country currently underway. "With this decision Thailand takes the lead in Asia to protect its environment, biodiversity and farmers from genetic pollution," said a Greenpeace statement released in Bangkok. The Thai cabinet earlier this week instructed the Ministry of Agriculture to halt its approvals for GM field trials. The decision should mark the end of trials of GM corn and GM cotton by Monsanto. Thailand had already banned all commercial growing of GM crops on its territory. "We demand that Monsanto respect this decision and terminate their existing field trials," said Jiragorn Gajaseni, executive director of Greenpeace/ Southeast Asia.
(5) Canada to Sign International Biosafety Protocol OTTAWA, Canada, April 6, 2001 (ENS) - An agreement to regulate the movement of genetically modified organisms across international borders is a step closer to fruition after Canada announced yesterday it would sign the international protocol. For full text and graphics, visit: http://ens.lycos.com/ens/apr2001/2001L-04-06-11.html
(6) Monsanto. Rootworm Bt Pipeline is Clogged at EPA. Dow. Pioneer. www.agriculture.com news, 6 April 2001. By Mike Holmberg, Chemicals Editor, Successful Farming magazine. Delays at EPA may prevent entomologists from doing meaningful evaluations of two new Bt events being developed to protect corn from corn rootworms without the use of soil insecticides. The two events are Monsanto's Cry3Bb, known as Mon863 or MaxGuard, and Dow/Pioneer 149B1. The EPA issued an Experimental Use Permit (EUP) to field test the Monsanto product in 2000, and the company has requested an extension for 2001. The Dow/Pioneer product is waiting for its first EUP. Delays in approval of the EUPs may limit any meaningful research on how these Bt products perform against southern corn rootworms, according to entomologists at the North Central Branch of the Entomological Society of America last week in Colorado. Trials in southern corn producing areas need to be planted soon. The lack of approval could also limit research in the northern parts of the corn belt, says Billy Fuller, entomologist at South Dakota State University. "Lack of EPA approval could curtail the research we have planned in South Dakota because the hybrids available to do our research are 110-day hybrids," Fuller says.
"Our farmer cooperators are not going to allow us to come on to their land to plant corn on May 25th if that's the only hybrid we have available for them to use." "If the EPA wants the data to show the environmental effects of these events, they need to let us have the opportunity to find it out," Fuller adds.
(7) Wales Minister Accused of Betrayal over GM Crop Trials www.OrganicTS.com has related articles (and www.icWales.co.uk news has original; Need use Search function).
(8) Seed Dumping Threatens Food Security. Keywords: GE Seeds. World Bank, IMF. Bretton Woods. UNDP. Africa. Malawi. GE Seeds. By Marcel Chimwala, Date: April, 2001. (Third World Network, www.twnside.org.sg) Excerpts:
"I do not know why African governments rush to let their people adopt anything that comes with Europeans without much consideration and research on it. If we had stuck to our native varieties, we could not have landed into this problem of buying fertilizers and seeds every year."
Growing of the hybrid crops has led to the diminishing of the local corn varieties which suited the country's weather and soil conditions.
When hybrid corn varieties were introduced in Malawi, the country's smallholder farmers who mainly grow corn for subsistence thought they had a reason to be happy. The coming of the genetically engineered seed ensured a boom in production of the crop. But now the farmers are crying foul. The growing of hybrid corn varieties is plagued with both financial and economic problems.
"I do not know why our government rushed to encourage us to abandon our local varieties and switch to these hybrid varieties," laments Samuel Banda, a smallholder farmer in the district of Mchinji in southern Malawi.
The reason for concern is that the growing of the hybrid crops has led to the diminishing of the local corn varieties which suited the country's weather and soil conditions.
Malawi boasted of scores of corn varieties, which were native to different areas of the country. But nowadays one rarely finds the local crop. The other concern among farmers who are growing the imported varieties is that these genetically engineered varieties require intensive use of fertilizers and pesticides while the local crop could do well without any chemical application.
"I do not know why African governments rush to let their people adopt anything that comes with Europeans without much consideration and research on it. If we had stuck to our native varieties, we could not have landed into this problem of buying fertilizers and seeds every year," says another smallholder farmer in Blantyre Rural, Finess Phiri.
The farmers' concern is derived from the lack that the prices of both seeds and fertilizers are going up every time in response to the demands of the world market, which is manipulated by a few monopolistic Western companies.
Many of Malawi's subsistence farmers, who form the bulk of Malawi's rural population, can hardly afford to buy fertilizer in a country where 60% of the population live below the poverty line and which s ranked 163 in the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) poverty index. Probably, such alarming levels of poverty are what drove the Malawi Government to seek the assistance of the donors three years ago and introduce a scheme to give out seeds and fertilizer to the country's smallholder farmers.
The small packs (not more than 20 kilograms) contain corn and legume seeds and have been given out to the farmers countrywide in the past three years.
But the disappointing thing with the program is that the genetically engineered seed varieties were being distributed without environmental considerations, as the same type of corn seed and fertilizer was distributed countrywide.
Probably, this is what led some farmers to sell the start packs in some areas of the country, especially in the Shire Valley districts of Nsanje and Chikwawa, which are known for having alluvial soils rich in nitrogen.
Scientists say the use of nitrogen fertilizers in soils already rich in nitrogen will affect the pH of the soils, thus rendering the soils less productive in the log run.
The Program Coordinator for the Food Security program of Malawi's NGO Churches Action on Relief and Development (CARD), Melton Luhanga, has also attacked the act of providing handouts to farmers.
In its food security program, which has targeted the lower Shire areas among others, CARD does what can be seen as a good alternative to the provision of handouts. It provides inputs to farmers on a loan basis. In CARD's program, the farmers are briefed by experts on the environmental conditions of their areas. They are, therefore, asked to choose the seeds which will favor their areas best. "As much as possible, we try to empower the farmers to make decisions on what crops they want to grow after imparting knowledge to them on the nature of their soils," says Luhanga.
CARD also encourages farmers to employ farming practices that will help conserve the environment. The environment in the areas CARD is concentrating on has been at the mercy of population pressure due to an influx of refugees from neighboring Mozambique. But it seems such programs will never succeed in empowering the masses if the government continues with the started pack program. The government has already set the ground to give out the free seeds and fertilizer for this year.
Agriculture Minister Kennedy Mangulama, however, says the program will be different this year as the government has targeted only those who cannot afford to buy the farm inputs. This comes after the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank refused to bankroll the starter pack program this year, saying it goes against their policy of empowering the poor. But it is too late for the Bretton Woods institutions to reverse the effects of the program since they have supported the program in the past years.
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