various seedy items from Schnews: http://www.schnews.org.uk/
Minister - we've got the pesticide resistant crop. A species which can eat them is in the pipeline.
Seed of dissent
"I never put those plants on my land, The question is; where do Monsanto's rights end and mine begin?" Percy Schmeiser, Canadian farmer.
Imagine you're a farmer growing a crop and saving some seed to sow the following year. Now imagine that unbeknown to you, your crop gets contaminated with genetically engineered pollen, then you get taken to court and sued! Er, is this some kind of April fool?
Well, in Canada last week a judge ruled that a Canadian farmer, Percy Schmeiser, violated Monsanto's patent by "unknowingly and unwillingly growing genetically modified (GM) oil seed rape." He now faces a bill for $105,000 and after 40 years of saving seeds and developing his own strain has had to purchase new seed wasting a lifetime's work.
Under Canadian patent law, as in the US and many other industrialised countries, it is illegal for farmers to re-use patented seed, or to grow Monsanto's GM seed without signing a licensing agreement. If biotech bastards such as Monsanto get their way, every nation in the world will be forced to adopt patent laws that make seed saving illegal. The ruling against Schmeiser establishes an even more dangerous precedent, meaning that farmers can be forced to pay royalties on GM seeds found on their land, even if they didn't buy the seeds, or benefit from them.
The GM oil seed rape that drifted onto Schmeiser's farm was engineered to be resistant to Monsanto's weedkiller, Roundup. He didn't use poundup on his crop, because that would have killed the majority of his oil seed rape plants that were not genetically modified!. Schmeiser didn't take advantage of Monsanto's GM technology, but the court ruling says he's guilty of using the seed without a licensing agreement.
Monsanto are so zealous about protecting their fat profits that they send around 'gene police' stealing crops from random farms and then testing them to see if they contain Monsanto's gene to tolerate their own pesticides. Monsanto has threatened to 'vigorously prosecute' hundreds of seed saving farmers, but Schmeiser's was the first major case to reach the courts.
About the ruling Percy said: "I was really alarmed at the fact that it said in the decision that it doesn't matter how it gets into a farmer's field - whether it blows in or cross-pollinates, or comes in on farm machinery - it doesn't belong to the farmer. It belongs to Monsanto."
Percy is now considering an appeal and has filed a counter-suit against Monsanto, but his family faces enormous legal costs. Contributions to Schmeiser's legal defense may be sent to - "Fight Genetically Altered Food Fund Inc", Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce, 603 Main St, Humboldt SK, Canada, SOK 2A0. For info about the case, go to: www.percyschmeiser.com
The verdict is being hailed as a landmark victory for Monsanto, but it may spark a biotech backlash. North American farmers grow three-quarters of the world's commercial GM crops, and now they're showing signs of biotech battle fatigue. Illegal traces of Aventis' StarLink maize (unapproved for human consumption) have disrupted grain markets and jeopardized exports.
Unsold stockpiles of US maize are at their highest level since GM crops were commercialised. The US government announced last month that it would spend $20 million in taxpayer money to bail out the biotech industry, using money that would normally go to disaster relief for farmers!
Now American farmers are reluctant to plant GM crops, the chief executive of the American Corn Growers Foundation complaining "Consumer resistance in Europe, Asia, Australia, Canada, Mexico, South Africa, Brazil and the growing resistance in the United States makes it unlikely that many market opportunities will be available for GM crops".
Aventis in the UK
In last week's SchNEWS we told a tale that warmed our cockles about a Sussex farmer who pulled out of a farm scale trial of oil seed rape. The farmer had originally contacted the local press and said he was pulling out because of the possibility that the scientists conducting the tests could spread foot and mouth disease. When asked about whether the protests against him had had an effect he said "I'm not bothered about the antis. I enjoy a good debate". Two hours later though he changed his tune saying he pulled out "due to the unbearable level of intimidation and threatening behaviour that has been targeted towards me and my family." So why the change of mind? Well considering that the new press release had Aventis' (the biotech company running the trials) fax number at the top, it looks more likely that he had his mind changed for him!
For a complete list of all test sites see www.geneticsaction.org/testsites
* Aventis' application for Chardon LL maize to be the first commercialized GM seeds to be approved for the UK National Seed List has been indefinitely postponed after it was discovered that French authorities had only tested the crop for one year, rather than the two required under EU law. The hearing brought up issues including the failure to test the GM maize on cows, and 'suspicious' higher death rates among GM-fed chickens during trials.
* How comes the countryside remains closed to everyone except anyone involved in GM crops? Scientists from 5 institutions will be making regular visits to all of the trials, moving between farms and counties. The trials are non-essential and pose a serious risk of further spreading of the disease. And the government tells us that foot and mouth travels miles but that genetically altered crops somehow won't. Yeah right, try telling that to Percy Schmeiser!
In the UK 97% of the vegetable varieties available in 1903 were no longer available just eighty years later. Does it matter? - well the Henry Doubleday Research Association (HDRA) think so, and have set up the Heritage Seed Library, because as one of their gardeners pointed out "genetic erosion is a mass extinction every bit as important as the loss of species from tropical rainforests."
Every year seed companies decide not to register certain seeds, and because they aren't on the National Seed List they can't be sold. Plants that may have characteristics that might be useful in the future would be lost if it were not for the amazing work of the Library. You can join the Library and choose some outlawed vegetables and they'll 'lend' you a few seeds.
Just 3 corporations control a quarter of the world's entire seed market: Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta. The corporations that have been steadily buying all up all your favourite garden seed companies, are the very same bio-tech giants that are trying to get us all to eat our genetically modified greens. But as Bob Sherman from the HDRA points out, "the risk of concentrating so much commercial power into the hands of one corporate empire is that we have become subject to the dreams and aspirations of a very few people. Do they care about bio-diversity? Not as much, I suspect, as they do about profit." Heritage Seed Library 01203 303517 www.hdra.org.uk
BIOTECH SENTRIES - GENETIC STATE:
"amid strong protests..Monsanto officials..Air Force guarding..40 tons..U.S.-based Monsanto..denied reports.. military area.. concealed.. tightly guarded..barred..security reasons..reporters and photographers.. must back off.." - THE JAKARTA POST March 17, 2001 'Genetically modified cotton seed arrives in Makassar from S. Africa'