Palaces For The People
Sunday, November 09, 2003
24 February 2003
MONSANTO & SYNGENTA "TWO BIG, BAD BULLIES"/CHINA DENIES MONSANTO A PERMANENT SAFETY CERTIFICATE
"[Monsanto] is a company that has been optimistic on the borderline of lying," said Sergey Vasnetsov, senior analyst with Lehman Brothers in New York. "Monsanto has been feeding us these fantasies for two years, and when we saw they weren't real," its stock price fell.
"...those are the two big, bad bullies in the market [Monsanto and Syngenta], so they're going to slug it out," said Bill Johnson, a weed scientist with Purdue University." (item 1)
Note, however, the usual hype in item 1 on how GM crops are increasing yields and profits for farmers. On the basis of a careful analysis of the data, last year's US Depratment of Agriculture report concluded, "GM crops do not increase yield potential and may reduce yields" and "Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative."
1.Monsanto wants to sow a genetically modified future
2.China denies Monsanto a permanent safety certificate
3.Man pleads guilty to improperly using Monsanto's cotton seed
4.Syngenta advancing GM wheat research in US
1.Monsanto wants to sow a genetically modified future
By Rachel Melcer
St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 02/22/2003
If executives at Monsanto Co. had understood investors the way they know farmers, the agrochemical and biotechnology giant's stock might not be so low as it is today.
"You can't fool a farmer," said Hugh Grant, chief operating officer. "You have to continue to deliver value, and you have to do that every year."
Monsanto consistently has brought to market seeds bred to increase yield and genetically modified to ward off crop-killing pests. Its star product, Roundup herbicide, has been an industry standard for 28 years.
The company, with $5.46 billion of net sales in 2002, prides itself on working with farmers and delivering what they need, when they need it.
"Monsanto is doing a good job," said Ken McCauley, a corn and soybean farmer from White Cloud, Kan., and a board member of the St. Louis-based National Corn Growers Association.
"A company makes money by bringing new products to market. And that's how a farmer makes money, by adopting new technology and getting higher yields," he said. "If it works, everybody's happy."
Monsanto's products have kept U.S. farmers content and have made strides abroad, most notably in Canada, Australia, Argentina, Brazil and Japan. More than 130 million acres worldwide were planted with its soybean, corn, cotton and canola seed last year, up 12 percent from 2001.
Company scientists - including Hendrik Verfaillie, who resigned as chief executive under pressure in December - knew better than to promise farmers more than they could deliver. But its executives, Verfaillie among them, overreached when it came to Wall Street.
Monsanto, based in Creve Coeur, was beset with problems, mostly beyond its control. Yet it played down concerns and issued overly optimistic earnings forecasts, only to revise them downward twice last year.
"This is a company that has been optimistic on the borderline of lying," said Sergey Vasnetsov, senior analyst with Lehman Brothers in New York. "Monsanto has been feeding us these fantasies for two years, and when we saw they weren't real," its stock price fell.
Monsanto shares traded above $30 in early 2001 but plummeted over the summer. The stock closed Friday at $17.07 a share.
"It's not an issue that the company is financially in trouble. It's strategically in trouble," Vasnetsov said.
Since Verfaillie's departure, Grant and Chairman Frank AtLee have said they remain committed to the vision of developing genetically modified crops and better-performing seeds. This year, they expect that sales of seeds and genetically modified trait licenses will surpass sales of Roundup and its generic version, glyphosate, which have supported the company for years.
But Grant, who worked closely with Verfaillie and was named this month as a possible successor, said he knows that execution is key.
"I looked back . . . and we didn't deliver. It was naive," he told a group of chemical analysts Feb. 13, referring to promises that Monsanto would have met two of three goals by now: Brazilian regulatory approval of genetically modified cotton and soybeans, a restarted European genetically modified approval process and Indian approval of genetically modified cotton. It met only the latter.
"The key for us as a company, in the next two to three years, is execution . . . and making sure what we say will happen is going to happen," Grant said.
Riding the best horse
Many of Monsanto's problems are out of its hands:
Poor weather, which affects planting and herbicide use.
Political unrest in Latin America, which disrupted the economy there and hurt sales.
European stonewalling on genetically modified crop approval, which cuts off a huge market for direct sales and hinders U.S. growers who export.
Other issues might have come as a surprise, but analysts say Monsanto should have been prepared better to deal with them.
Roundup, which lost U.S. patent protection two years ago, is facing fierce competition. Prices fell 11 percent last year, more than the 8 percent to 9 percent Monsanto had expected. Though it cut production costs and sold generic glyphosate to some competitors, analysts say Monsanto hasn't had the "soft landing" executives touted.
Glyphosate made headlines this year with its failure to kill certain species of weeds that have developed resistance. Four weeds have proved resistant, and a fifth, waterhemp, is suspected. Scientists say that it's natural and that those weeds can be controlled with other herbicides.
But a Swiss company, Syngenta AG, one of Monsanto's fiercest competitors, is pushing the issue. Its marketing materials are designed to spread doubt about the effectiveness of Roundup and its companion Roundup Ready crops - those seeds that aren't killed by glyphosate, allowing farmers to spray the weed-killer after planting.
"Since Monsanto came onto the market and is really dominating . . . Syngenta is taking potshots at them. But those are the two big, bad bullies in the market, so they're going to slug it out," said Bill Johnson, a weed scientist with Purdue University.
Syngenta did not respond to a request to comment.
Johnson said weed resistance is nothing to worry about, but in the long term, Monsanto's glyphosate-dependent business strategy could come back to haunt it.
Farmers are rotating crops, planting Roundup Ready corn one year and Roundup Ready soybeans the next, using the herbicide over and over again. The total number of Roundup Ready acres is growing.
The more glyphosate is used, the quicker other weeds will become resistant, scientists say.
Farmers have been warned to limit applications. But they are under economic pressure to do the most expedient and cost-effective thing, in this case, using Roundup Ready technology, which is cheaper and less labor-intensive than other weed-control methods, Johnson said.
"The knee-jerk reaction of 80 percent of these farmers is trying to survive this year," Johnson said. "And these companies are so concerned about earnings from quarter to quarter . . . they tend to think short term. If I were to think like a businessman, I would take my best product and ride that horse as long as I could. And, quite frankly, that's what Monsanto is doing."
Monsanto's cash cow
Monsanto's strategy of the moment is to continue developing genetically modified traits that can be stacked in a single seed product, along with Roundup Ready protection. And it's creating premium Roundup products, such as WeatherMax, that don't wash away immediately in the rain.
If Monsanto can't penetrate new markets in Europe or rely on revenue from countries like Brazil, then it must get the most from the farmers it has won over.
The company isn't anticipating any new European genetically modified product approvals in its 2003 forecasts. Despite growing consensus among U.S. government officials that they could bring a successful World Trade Organization complaint against the European Union, political reality is likely to stop such action.
America doesn't want to alienate the countries it would need for support in an Iraq war, industry watchers say. Besides, a WTO ruling might have a negative effect, if European consumers are put off by what they see as bullying by the United States.
It would be "the surest way to guarantee a European boycott of (genetically modified crops) and a hardening of irrational European fears and positions," said Clyde Prestowitz, president of the Economic Strategy Institute, at a forum this month held by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology in Washington.
But Monsanto seeds make up nearly the entire U.S. soybean crop, and its share of corn fields is increasing. Its new YieldGard Rootworm Corn could be approved in time for as many as 1 million acres to be planted in the spring.
Monsanto hopes that the seed will cover as many as 6 million acres in 2005.
Farmers have said they are anticipating the new product and others to come, such as genetically modified wheat. They don't mind being seen as Monsanto's cash cow, so long as their profits grow, as well.
"We've got to have new products. If the industry decides that they don't want to bring them to us, that pretty much stops our business. It stops the yield increases. And if you start going backwards and that's because of industry, then that tells you they're not supporting us," McCauley said.
Monsanto also is intent on supporting its investors, starting with issuing realistic earnings guidance.
The company said it expects 2003 earnings per share in the range of $1.20 to $1.40, giving a broader range than usual to allow for further market instability. The ultimate earnings will depend on successful Roundup price management in the United States, an increase in stability and business in Latin America and good weather, said Chief Financial Officer Terrell Crews in an earnings call Feb. 5.
In the long term, Monsanto's fate will rest with foreign regulators and consumer opinion. Once it has exhausted room for growth in the United States, it will have to be able to exploit foreign markets, said AtLee, chairman and acting chief executive.
The company is continuing to invest heavily in research and development, with plans for building on its stable of patented biotech traits and intellectual property. Genetically modified wheat approval applications are pending with U.S. and Canadian regulators. Depending on consumer acceptance, the future promises crops that could contain vitamins and nutrients that could help to solve health problems in the developing world.
"We have a tremendous future in biotechnology and genomics. But until this thing breaks open with acceptance," it won't happen, AtLee said. "We have patience. But we have an urgency to execute, too."
Reporter Rachel Melcer:
* The European Union continues to resist genetically modified foods, and organizations such as Greenpeace are spreading distrust to nations in Africa and Asia.
* Because of competition, the price of Monsanto's Roundup and generic glyphosate herbicide is falling fast. Syngenta AG, a Swiss competitor, is promoting the message that weeds are becoming glyphosate-resistant.
* Brazil, a key market, is in turmoil. The economy is disrupted, and approval of Monsanto's genetically modified soybeans has stalled.
* Monsanto is without a chief executive. Hendrik Verfaillie left under pressure in December.
* Monsanto is developing new products for the United States, including genetically modified wheat, and is counting on good sales of YieldGard Rootworm Corn if it wins regulatory approval in the spring.
* Premium glyphosate formulas, such as Roundup WeatherMax, are still under patent, and the company is promoting its service and distribution expertise to maintain sales of original Roundup.
* "Stacked" seed products, combining Roundup Ready traits with the ability to ward off pests, are being sold at a premium to boost profit.
* The company said it will hire a new chief executive within six months and named Hugh Grant, chief operating officer, a candidate.
2.Monsanto still working with China on soy approvals
USA: February 24, 2003
St. LOUIS, Mo. - Monsanto Co (MON.N) last week confirmed market talk that China had denied the company a permanent safety certificate for imports of genetically modified soybeans into the country.
The company made application in March 2002 for permanent safety certification to replace temporary certificates now in place that support $1 billion in U.S. soybean exports to China each year. But the March application was recently turned down, Monsanto spokeswoman Jill Montgomery told Reuters.
Company officials have been meeting with Chinese officials to address safety concerns associated with genetically modified crops. Interim certificates remain in force, Montgomery said.
"We've been working with the Chinese government to understand what needs they have for understanding the safety of soybeans, given that it has been imported into the country for several years now," Montgomery said.
Phillip Laney, American Soybean Association country director in China, last week told reporters in a press briefing that the latest denial by China was not a significant setback for efforts to open up markets.
"It was actually just a blip in the road," said Laney. "We believe...the Chinese government wants Monsanto and other biotech companies to go ahead and complete a series of two sets of field trials for each of the biotech varieties they would like to register.
"We of course, feel that these tests are totally unnecessary, but in fact the Chinese law requires them and I guess it's just one of the hoops that Monsanto is going to have to jump through."
That echoed comments by U.S. Trade Representative Robert Zoellick, who told reporters in Beijing on Feb. 17 after trade talks with the Chinese he had made headway on the soy issue.
"I don't want to be premature in saying the problem is solved, but I got a very positive response and we have to follow up on the details," Zoellick said after meeting Vice Premier Wen Jiabao and Trade Minister Shi Guangsheng.
3.Man pleads guilty to improperly using patented cotton seed
Daily Dunklin Democrat, 02/23/03
ST. LOUIS (AP) ˜ A Tennessee man pleaded guilty Friday to a charge connected to misusing some of Monsanto Co.'s patented cottonseed.
Kem Ralph, of Covington, Tenn., pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit mail fraud in Missouri's eastern district federal court. His age was unavailable.
In 1999, Ralph's friend grew cotton using cottonseed that was part of Monsanto's patented biotechnology. The seed is genetically altered to discourage pests and allow farmers to spray Monsanto's RoundUp product on their crop to kill the weeds but not the cotton.
The company sold the seed under a contract where farmers agreed to only use it once for planting, Assistant U.S. Attorney Jim Martin said.
However, after the crop grew, the cotton was removed, and the seed was treated for replanting, Martin said. Records indicated it was transported to a business in Kennett.
Ralph mailed documentation to the business that the seed belonged to him, in order to conceal the transaction from St. Louis-based Monsanto, court records said.
Ralph faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of $250,000. Restitution is mandatory, and the total loss is about $165,000.
Sentencing is scheduled for May 7.
4.Syngenta advancing GM wheat research in US
USA: February 24, 2003
KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Syngenta AG is negotiating with several U.S. universities for help in work on a genetically modified wheat designed to fight disease problems that cost U.S. farmers millions of dollars a year, Syngenta's leading wheat biotech official said.
The GM wheat, Syngenta's first foray into that controversial arena, is one that has been bred to be resistant to fusarium head blight, a fungal disease that can have devastating consequences for farmers as well as millers and bakers.
The Basel, Switzerland-based Syngenta has been keeping its research work quiet but is now moving into a new phase of advanced research and development that could lead to a product on the market as early as 2007, said John Bloomer, Syngenta's global head of cereal seeds and traits in an interview with Reuters.
"There is a natural pull for this technology," Bloomer said.
Syngenta has recently started negotiations with North Dakota State University as well as universities in South Dakota and Minnesota. The company sees scab as a global problem but expects to launch its scab-resistant wheat in the U.S. first, said Bloomer. Field trials are currently underway in the United States, United Kingdom, Argentina, and Canada.
"This project is moving from research into development," said Bloomer. "We've got a gene that has an effect and we're looking at how it works in the field. We're doing more and more field trials. We still have a few years of technical work to do."
Bloomer said U.S. and Canadian spring wheat areas, particularly some northeastern areas of North Dakota, suffer greatly from cool moist conditions that foster fusarium problems. Northern soft red winter markets are also affected.
Around the world, fusarium cuts into wheat yield and quality in areas of Europe, Latin America, China and parts of Australia, Bloomer said. Finding an answer to that problem in a scab-resistant wheat would be a significant accomplishment, he said, citing research that showed U.S. farmers have suffered $3 billion in economic losses due to scab since 1990.
Research cited by the North Dakota Grain Growers estimated losses in that state alone of $870 million over three years.
Because fusarium reduces the quality of the wheat as well as the overall yield, the benefits could move up the food chain to millers and bakers, Bloomer said.
Farmers appear to be eager to embrace the new wheat.
A scab-resistant wheat "has a lot of market appeal," said Larry Lee, a spring wheat and durum grower in North Dakota.
"It would improve quality of wheat and have some huge benefits for the end users."
Syngenta competitor Monsanto Co. (MON.N) has been developing a genetically modified wheat of its own, one that is resistant to herbicides - like its own Roundup - and can thus ease weed control for farmers.
Monsanto is in the final stages of getting regulatory approval for its product, Roundup Ready wheat, with an initial launch planned for the U.S. and Canada. Roundup Ready wheat would be the first-ever GM wheat marketed.
However, market acceptance issues have been problematic, as foreign buyers of U.S. wheat have expressed strong opposition to the industry's moves to genetically modify wheat.
While genetically modified corn and soybeans are widely planted in the U.S. and elsewhere, GM wheat has yet to see the type of market acceptance that encourages a launch.
Bruce Freitag, president of North Dakota Grain Growers, said Syngenta's GM wheat could help overcome opposition.
"There is more interest in a scab-resistant wheat than in herbicide resistant," Freitag said. "It is something that a lot of producers have problems with and something that could have a strong economic benefit. Even importing companies that have an aversion to GM wheat may take a second look if they can get a better quality wheat."
Syngenta's Bloomer said his company was monitoring Monsanto's efforts and expected the launch of Roundup Ready wheat could have an impact on how scab-resistant GM wheat is handled.
"We are not arrogant enough to say we've got the GM wheat issue licked," said Bloomer. "We have interactions with universities, grower groups, wheat industry groups and the milling and baking industry on this. We believe we've got a network of allies."
ngin bulletin archive
The Academic-Industrial Complex
The Academic-Industrial Complex: Cornell Ordered to Release Biotech Documents
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The Academic-Industrial Complex: Cornell Ordered to Release Biotech Documents
ITHACA, New York, November 8, 2002 (ENS) - The New York Supreme Court has ruled that Cornell University must turn over documents about its biotechnology research to a former talk show host who is seeking the material through the state's Freedom of Information law.
A panel of five judges in the New York State Appellate Division Third Department ruled unanimously that Cornell University is subject to the Freedom Of Information Law, and must turn over documents pertaining to its biotech research.
"We still have another round to go, and no one can predict what the final outcome will be, but we're getting closer to the day when we may get a look inside the academic-industrial complex," said Jeremy Alderson, who brought the suit against Cornell.
Alderson, a former public radio talk show host, filed suit in December 2000 against Cornell, its New York State College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva.
He asked for a variety of documents, including financial information, corporate contracts and risk assessments on biotech research conducted at the university. He is also seeking information on field tests of genetically engineered crops, and potential tenants of a new agriculture and technology park.
Alderson says he fears that biotechnology research and field tests conducted by Cornell have not undergone stringent risk assessments, and could threaten the local environment, agriculture and public health.
Cornell's attorneys have argued that Cornell's four contract colleges, including the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Agricultural Experiment Station, are private institutions, not subject to the state's Freedom of Information Law, which provides public access to most public records and meetings.
But Alderson's lawyers say that because the contract colleges receive state funds, they should be covered by the law. So far, New York's courts have agreed.
"Notably, Cornell, the private institution legislatively charged with the operation of the statutory colleges on behalf of SUNY, is authorized to publicly disseminate the results of any scientific investigation or experiments conducted by the Ag station," said Justice Carl Mugglin, who wrote Thursday's court decision.
Cornell officials say they will not release the records to Alderson until all appeals are exhausted.
"Cornell has put out PR saying that they know their work is safe because they've conducted risk assessments," Alderson said. "But when you ask to see them, they say no. Makes you wonder what they're hiding, doesn't it?"
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genetically modified wheat
South Korean wheat buyers warn US against biotech
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May 2, 2003
South Korean wheat buyers warn US against biotech
WASHINGTON - South Korean wheat millers, major buyers of American grain, delivered a blunt message that they would boycott U.S. wheat if genetically-modified varieties are approved by the Bush administration.
Officials of the Korea Flour Mills Industrial Association (KOFMIA), in the United States to buy 208,800 tonnes of milling wheat, said they told wheat producers and government officials in Montana and North Dakota that use of biotech wheat in America would ruin their trade relationship.
"If GM (genetically modified wheat) comes, consumers will boycott all wheat," predicted Hi Sang Lee, chairman of KOFMIA, which represents all South Korean flour mills.
Currently, the United States supplies more than half of South Korea's wheat import needs, with Australia getting about 40 percent and Canada six percent.
Last year, South Korea imported 2.37 million tonnes of milling wheat that is turned into noodles, bread, soy sauce and other products.
Monsanto Co. (MON.N) has been developing the world's first biotech wheat and is seeking approval of the product from the U.S. and Canadian governments. The "Roundup Ready" wheat is modified to withstand application of Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, possibly increasing yields by more than 11 percent, according to the company.
Il Woong Kim, president of Shinhan Flour Mills Co. in Seoul, told reporters that his company also turns corn into corn syrup. U.S. approval of biotech corn for corn syrup, he said, caused South Korea to stop buying the grain from the United States and switch to Chinese and Brazilian suppliers.
STRONG CONSUMER OPPOSITION
He predicted a similar outcome if the United States approves biotech wheat.
Eighty percent of South Korean consumers oppose biotech food, according to recent surveys, and consumer groups are a well-organized force against the technology.
The South Korean millers, fearing consumer backlash, went so far as to ask North Dakota government officials this week to issue a statement saying no hard red spring wheat now grown in the state is biotech.
North Dakota Agriculture Commission Roger Johnson told Reuters it will be "easy enough" to provide such a letter to the South Korean milling industry. He added it likely will be sent next week, but that it would not address what could happen in the future with biotech plantings.
American wheat farmers are split over the controversy and industry groups insist they would oppose planting biotech wheat until there is broad consumer acceptance.
The Korean millers have several concerns about the possible arrival of biotech wheat in major producing countries.
With rice a main staple, they fear consumers would simply abandon wheat as part of their diet. The millers also worry that non-GMO wheat prices could rise if biotech wheat is introduced, reflecting the cost of separating the varieties.
Dong Jin Chung, president of Daehan Flour Mills in Seoul, said the topic is such a hot-button issue that, "We want to talk silently, not openly" about it. "In Korea," he added, "We do not want to discuss" biotech wheat.
Story by Richard Cowan
Story Date: 5/5/2003
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CorpWatch.org - Issues - Biotechnology - Background - Farmers' Declaration on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture
ISSUE LIBRARY: Biotechnology
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Farmers' Declaration on Genetic Engineering in Agriculture
National Family Farm Coalition (NFFC)
April 1, 2000
Genetic engineering in agriculture has significantly increased the economic uncertainty of family farmers throughout the U.S. and the world. American farmers have lost critical markets which are closed to genetically engineered products. Corporate control of the seed supply threatens farmers' independence. The risk of genetic drift has made it difficult and expensive for farmers to market a pure product. Genetic engineering has created social and economic disruption that threatens traditional agricultural practices for farmers around the world. Farmers, who have maintained the consumer's trust by producing safe, reasonably priced and nutritious food, now fear losing that trust as a result of consumer rejection of genetically engineered foods. Many scientists believe genetically engineered organisms have been released into the environment and the food supply without adequate testing. Farmers who have used this new technology may be facing massive liability from damage caused by genetic drift, increased weed and pest resistance, and the destruction of wildlife and beneficial insects.
Because of all the unknowns, we, as farmers, therefore:
1. Demand a suspension of all further environmental releases and government approvals of genetically engineered seeds and agriculture products.
2. Demand an immediate, independent and comprehensive assessment of the social, environmental, health and economic impacts of genetically engineered seeds and agricultural products.
3. Demand a ban on the ownership of all forms of life including a ban on the patenting of seeds, plants, animals, genes and cell lines.
4. Demand that agrarian people who have cultivated and nurtured crops for thousands of years retain control of natural resources and maintain the right to use or reuse any genetic resource.
5. Demand that corporate agribusiness be held liable for any and all damages that result from the use of genetically engineered crops and livestock that were approved for use without an adequate assessment of the risks posed to farmers, human health and the environment.
6. Demand that the corporations and institutions that have intervened in the genetic integrity of life bear the burden of proof that their actions will not harm human health, the environment or damage the social and economic health of rural communities. Those corporations must bear the cost of an independent review guided by the precautionary principle and conducted prior to the introduction of any new intervention.
7. Demand that consumers in the U.S. and around the globe have the right to know whether their food is genetically engineered and have a right to access naturally produced food.
8. Demand that farmers who reject genetic engineering should not bear the cost of establishing that their product is free of genetic engineering.
9. Demand the protection of family farmers, farmworkers, consumers, and the environment by ending monopoly practices of corporate agribusiness through enforcement of all state and federal anti-trust, market concentration and corporate farming laws; by a renewed commitment to public interest agricultural research led by the land grant colleges; by an immediate shift of funding from genetic engineering to sustainable agriculture; and by expanding the availability of traditional varieties of crops and livestock.
10. Demand an end to mandatory check off programs that use farmers' money to support and promote genetic engineering research and corporate control of agriculture.
What many farmers have found about genetic engineering:
Genetically engineered agricultural products were released on the market without a fair and open process to assess the risks on human health and the environment or the social and economic risks to farmers and rural communities.
Family farmers' livelihoods and independence will be further compromised by genetic engineering. Genetic engineering empowers corporate agribusiness to accelerate capital and chemical intensive agriculture at the expense of family farmers and rural communities around the world, increases corporate concentration in agriculture, and poses unknown risks to the safety and security of the food supply.
Genetic engineering disrupts traditional agricultural practices creating social upheaval in rural communities and threatening agrarian cultures throughout the world.
Consumers worldwide are rejecting genetically engineered foods, driving down farm prices. This will force significant numbers of family farmers out of business.
Family farmers have been unfairly forced to assume liability for genetically engineered products that were not adequately tested before being released into the environment and food supply.
The corporate ownership of genetic resources and the corporate use of genetic engineering in agriculture is not designed to solve the problems farmers face in agriculture such as increased weed resistance, growing staple crops on marginal land, or making traditionally bred crops available to farmers worldwide, but rather to enrich corporations.
Genetically engineered seeds increase costs to farmers, have failed to perform as promised by corporate agribusiness, and, in some cases, yields have been lower and crops engineered to be herbicide tolerant have required increased use of herbicides manufactured by the corporations that market the seeds.
The "terminator" gene, which renders corporate seeds sterile and was developed with USDA resources, is an unconscionable technology because it destroys life and destroys the right of farmers worldwide to save seeds, a basic step necessary to protect food security and biodiversity.
Genetic engineering involves taking a gene from one species and splicing it into another to transfer a desired trait. This could not occur in nature where the transfer of genetic traits is limited by the natural barriers that exist between different species and in this way genetic engineering is completely new and incomparable to traditional animal and plant breeding techniques. Genetic engineering is also called biotechnology. Another name for genetically engineered crops is genetically modified organisms (GMOs).
(*Reference: Genetic Engineering, Food and our Environment by Luke Anderson, Chelsea Green Publishing Co., White River Junction, Vermont).
ENDORSERS OF THE FARMERS' DECLARATION ON GENETIC ENGINEERING IN AGRICULTURE
American Corn Growers Association
California Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Citizen Action Coalition of Indiana (CAC)
Dakota Resource Council (ND)
Empire State Family Farm Alliance
Family Farm Defenders
Federation of Southern Cooperatives
Illinois Stewardship Alliance
Indiana Citizen Action Coalition
Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement
Land Loss Prevention Project (NC)
Land Stewardship Project (MN)
Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association
Michigan Organic Food and Farm Alliance
The Minnesota Project
Missouri Rural Crisis Center
National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture
National Catholic Rural Life Conference
National Family Farm Coalition
Northeast Organic Farming Association (VT)
North American Farm Alliance (OH)
Northern Plains Resource Council (MT)
Ohio Ecological Food and Farming Assocation
Ohio Family Farm Coalition
Organic Growers of Michigan
Rural Advancement Foundation International - USA
Sustainable Cotton Project
Western Colorado Congress
Western Sustainable Agriculture Working Group
Women, Food and Agriculture
CorpWatch.org - Campaigns - Greenwash - Greenwash Awards - Monsanto
By Kenny Bruno
December 1, 1997
See Monsanto's online greenwash
"Sustainable development will be a primary emphasis in everything we do."
-- CEO Robert Shapiro, Monsanto 1996 Environmental Review.
"The problem with Monsanto's gene pool is that there's no lifeguard."
-- Roger Sanders, California cotton farmer.
Last June's 5-year review of the Earth Summit made it clear that since the historic Rio gathering, most governments had sidelined environmental concerns and broken the commitment to economic development for the world's poor. Meanwhile, in other fora, notably the World Trade Organization, the world's mighty global corporations had mercilessly pursued their own objectives: free trade, liberalized investment and control over technology.
But at a time when even UN diplomats have tired of the rhetoric of sustainable development, companies like Monsanto have increased their use of the phrase to describe their activities. Monsanto would have us believe they are a leader of sustainable development.
Monsanto IS unquestionably a world leader in agricultural genetic engineering, and has staked its future on that business. It has moved aggressively with R&D, takeovers, mergers and lobbying. And, in the style of this age of greenwash, the company has initiated a slick campaign to convince a skeptical public that their genetic manipulation is a key to 'sustainable development.'
Monsanto tugs at our heart strings by pointing to the gap between a growing world population and food supply. As the company's CEO Robert Shapiro writes in the introduction to Monsanto's 1996 Environmental Review, the use of genetically engineered crops "will help immensely in closing the gap between hungry people and adequate food supplies."
But will genetically engineered crops actually help feed the hungry? The evidence says no.
Let's take Monsanto's recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone. It's designed to increase milk production. But the US already has an oversupply of milk, so increased production merely drives down the price that farmers receive. In addition, rBGH is so costly that dairy farmers in the Third World will be unable to purchase it, thereby excluding them from any of the "benefits" of this technology.
How about Roundup Ready soybeans? These beans are not designed to increase yield, though their ease of use might allow farmers to plant more soy beans (while increasing use of the Roundup herbicide in those marginal acres). But if you think that these additional soybeans will make it to the mouths of protein-starved kids, think again. Most soybeans end up in oil or become minor ingredients in a wide variety of processed foods never seen by undernourished peasants in Bangladesh or Chad.
Yieldgard corn? Most of the corn goes to animal feed.
Take a closer look at Monsanto's transgenic canola, sugar beets, cotton, corn or potatoes -- none of them is designed to put food in the mouths of hungry children.
The myth that world hunger is a result of global food shortages was debunked years ago. More germane issues for the poor include access to the food that exists and access to land to grow their own. High technology, high input cash crops are not the answer to this problem.
They are, however, helpful to Monsanto's appetite for increased control over food production. Their purchase of seed companies, their contractual prohibitions on farmers' traditional practice of saving seeds from one season to the next (know as brown bagging), their opposition to smaller companies trying to avoid bovine growth hormone, all speak of a company anxious to advance our dependence on them for our sustenance.
Monsanto's early forays into genetically manipulated crops are aimed at bolstering sales of its own herbicides. At least here we have a modicum of truth in labeling; Roundup Ready soybeans are designed to tolerate applications of Roundup, which is Monsanto's trade name for glyphosate. Since Roundup is Monsanto's most profitable product, it doesn't take a genetic genius to figure out why the company aggressively defends crops which invite the use of Roundup. They do so even to the point of opposing labeling of products which contain roundup ready soybeans. Monsanto executives seem to believe their soybeans are no different than conventional ones, but when it comes to consumer's right to know, Monsanto is firmly opposed.
In the long term, Monsanto believes it will win us over to transgenic crops. Meanwhile, knowing that most consumers are highly wary even of the phrase 'genetic engineering,' Robert Shapiro refers to Monsanto's 'genetically improved' crops.
But back to reality. Genetic engineering is a profound and radical experiment with life itself. The consequences, as with Monsanto's PCBs earlier this century, are unforeseen, perhaps unforeseeable. Increased allergies, runaway supercrops and decrease in biodiversity, increased use of pesticides, pesticide resistance, corporate control over seeds, decreased effectiveness of natural pesticides, and, ultimately, worse conditions for the world's farmers, rather than better -- these are among the predicted consequences of the headlong rush into genetically engineered crops touted as sustainable development by its inventors.
Perhaps it would be wise for CEO Shapiro to review his own introductory letter to Monsanto's 1995 Environmental Review: "There have been times in Monsanto's 94 - year history when we, like others, weren't as aware of our actions as we should have been. These days have been over for a long time."
Have they really, Mr. Shapiro? Please think again. Because the risks of bioengineering are too great to hide behind the fancy greenspeak of genetically manipulated sustainable development.
In recognition of this GREENWASH AWARD, Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro will receive a shipment of organic soybeans.
CorpWatch.org - Issues - Biotechnology - Background - The Case Against Agricultural Biotechnology: Why Are Transgenic Crops Incompatible With Sustainable
The Case Against Agricultural Biotechnology: Why Are Transgenic Crops Incompatible With Sustainable Agriculture In The Third World?
By Miguel A. Altieri
Contained in a briefing packet that was sent to ministers of the Sacramento Ministerial
June 10, 2003
The deployment of transgenic crops is occurring at a rapid pace, reaching about 44.5 million hectares in 2000. Although commercial cultivation is mostly confined to USA, Argentina, Canada, and China, biotechnology proponents argue that expansion of such crops to the Third World is essential to feed the poor in the Third World, reduce environmental degradation, and promote sustainable agriculture. Such promises do not match reality.
Biotechnology is a technology under corporate control, protected by patents and IPR, and thus contrary to farmers' millenary traditions of saving and exchanging seeds.
Hunger is linked to poverty, lack of access to land, and maldistribution of food. Biotechnology exacerbates inequalities underlying the causes of hunger.
Transgenic crops pose a range of potential environmental risks that threaten the sustainability of small farming systems. The ecological effects of engineered crops are not limited to pest resistance and creation of new weeds and pollution of landraces. Transgenic crops can produce environmental toxins that move through the food chain, and also may end up in the soil and water affecting invertebrates, and probably ecological processes such as nutrient cycling. Moreover, large-scale landscape homogenisation with transgenic crops will exacerbate the ecological vulnerability already associated with monoculture agriculture (Altieri 2000a).
There is widespread consensus that yields have not increased with transgenic crops. In the case of Bt corn the economic advantages are not clear, given that the occurrence of insect pests is unpredictable.
Savings in insecticide use are minimal when examined on a per hectare basis, and insignificant when compared to savings derived from Integrated Pest Management strategies. Herbicide use is up, locking farmers to broad spectrum herbicides that narrow weed management options and condemn farmers to monoculture.
There are agroecological alternatives to biotechnology that result in technologies that are cheap, accessible, risk averting, productive in marginal environments, environment and health enhancing, and culturally and socially acceptable.
Policies must be put in place to promote the upscaling of successful agroecological interventions, that are already reaching about nine million small farmers at one-tenth the cost incurred by official international agricultural subventions.
It is urgent that international donors recognise the gravity of the problem, take a chance on new institutional arrangements led by NGOs and farmers' organisations, and provide funding for a grassroots-based alternative agricultural development approach in the Third World.
Biotechnology companies often claim that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) - specifically genetically altered seeds - are essential scientific breakthroughs needed to feed the world and reduce poverty in developing countries. Such claims promoted by the biotech industry-created consortium, the 'Council for Biotechnology Information' with a $250 million budget, uses the issue of hunger in the developing world to justify GM crops without explaining how GM crops will actually mitigate hunger. Malthusian biotechnologists need first to explain why GM crops will feed hungry Indians when 36.6 million excess tons of grain stocks in 'godowns' (silos) of India will not. The world today produces more food per inhabitant than ever before. Enough food is available to provide 4.3 pounds for every person every day: 2.5 pounds of grain, beans, and nuts, about a pound of meat, milk, and eggs, and another of fruits and vegetables (Lapp et al.. 1998). Simply raising food output may be the last thing that is needed.
CorpWatch.org - Issues - Biotechnology
ISSUE LIBRARY: Biotechnology
The burgeoning movement against genetically engineered agriculture seems to have exploded recently. For some five years European farmers and consumers have forged a formidable alliance calling for a moratorium on genetically engineered crops. Indian farmers have burned fields believed to be planted with genetically engineered cotton in actions dubbed "Operation Cremate Monsanto." Japanese consumers have long been sounding the alarm, forcing their government to label genetically engineered foods. But in the U.S. an emerging alliance of consumers, farmers, corporate accountability and fair trade activists has only recently gathered steam. What was once a relatively obscure issue is now emerging as a powerful grassroots challenge to the biotechnology industry.
Public awareness of the issues surrounding agricultural biotechnology got a boost when protestors converged on Seattle for the WTO meeting at the end of 1999. Environmentalists, farmers and consumers joined together to oppose the patenting of seeds and other life forms envisioned by the WTO. While farmers in Europe and the global South have long been fighting WTO agricultural and intellectual property agreements, it was the first time that many in the U.S. public took notice. Since then, biotech agriculture has become a hot issue in the U.S. press, from Time Magazine to Mother Jones.
At CorpWatch we are documenting this worldwide grassroots challenge to the biotech industry. In this section you'll hear from farmers, organic consumers, activists working to change local ordinances. We also look at international perspectives on the issue. Check back for periodic updates.
Last Updated: 10/01/2001
Syngenta Canada - Best Practices: "The Council for Biotechnology Information Syngenta is among the founding founding fathers of The Council for Biotechnology Information. The Council for Biotechnology is an organization founded by leading biotech companies in North America to create a public dialogue and share information about biotechnology that is based on scientific research, expert opinion and published reports. Biotechnology is the latest in a series of tools with wide-ranging uses that can improve our quality of life-from pharmaceuticals to food industry materials. Used in combination with other methods, biotechnology has enormous potential for people around the world. The founders of the council are Aventis CropScience, BASF, Biotechnology Industry Organization, Dow Chemical, Monsanto, and Syngenta. Please visit The Council For Biotechnology Information website for more information at www.whybiotech.com"
DuPont.com: News Releases: "The founding members of the Council are: Aventis CropScience, BASF, Dow Chemical, DuPont, Monsanto, Novartis, Zeneca Ag Products and BIO. Associated with the Council are a range of other organizations and trade and industry groups that support the use of the technology and believe in its current and future benefits."
28 November 2001
MORE GE FOR THE KIDS - NEW INDUSTRY ACTIVITY BOOK!
This is from the same team - 'The Council for Biotechnology founded in April 2000 by leading biotechnology companies to create a comprehensive communication campaign about biotechnology' - who brought you the (Prakash-edited) 'Your World' material heading into Scottish schools.
To get an idea of their sense of balance check out their website
which is full of articles with titles like, "Biotech: Many Benefits, No Side Effects".
The Prakash GM crop edition of 'Your World' concludes, 'You probably now understand more about these complex issues than most adults. Go and educate your elders!'
You get the picture...
for more examples of industry bio-hype for children see:
for the antidote see 'Genetic engineering for kids' - a website especially for kids (of any age!) courtesy of Tiki the penguin
for more details on how to oppose the GE propaganda campaign in Scottish schools see:
or the campaigns section of the current edition of the Ecologist Dec/Jan
NEW ACTIVITY BOOK BRINGS THE BASICS OF FOOD BIOTECHNOLOGY TO KIDS: DEMYSTIFYING THE SCIENCE OF GENETIC MODIFICATION
November 26, 2001
Council for Biotechnology Information press release
TORONTO - What is biotechnology, besides a big word? To help kids answer this question, the Council for Biotechnology Information has developed Look Closer at Biotechnology, a 16-page activity book that will lead children to discover how food biotechnology is working in Canada and around the globe to grow more food and help our environment. This book is a great resource both in the classroom and at home.
"This activity book serves as an educational tool to introduce the science of biotechnology to elementary school students and to impart basic knowledge about the role biotechnology plays in food production and agriculture today and in the future," says Ray Mowling, Executive Director, Council for Biotechnology Information (Canada). "It is a first step in providing children with balanced, science-based information about food biotechnology."
Created for third and fourth graders, their teachers and parents, this fun and entertaining activity book incorporates short lessons, word puzzles, games and quizzes to help children learn more about biotechnology. From chapters discussing the origins of biotechnology and how it works to exploring the various disciplines of the scientists involved, the book will help children discover how biotechnology can improve the world we live in.
It also contains a list of additional websites that are useful resources for kids, parents and teachers to find out more on the uses of biotechnology in agriculture and food production.
Available in both English and French, Look Closer at Biotechnology is a free publication available through the Council for Biotechnology Information's website. Simply visit
and select the 'Free Publications' tab on the side navigation bar to order your copy.
The Council for Biotechnology Information is an organization founded by leading biotechnology companies in North America and around the world. Its purpose is to share information about biotechnology with consumers, relying on scientific research, expert opinion and published reports as the basis for its communications.