tagged w/ Seed Banks
If Oregon allows GM sugar beets to be deregulated, we may not stand a chance against full federal deregulation of all GM crops.
(SALEM, Ore.) - A public hearing is being held in Corvallis, Oregon this Thursday, November 17th to determine if Genetically Modified sugar beets will be deregulated in Oregon.
Meanwhile, the public comment period maybe just a local distraction giving way to full federal deregulation without any representation of organic and conventional crop farmers.
Let us not forget that the U.S House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture held a formal hearing on Genetically Modified (GM) Alfalfa on Jan 20, 2011.
The hearing corresponded with an open 30-day comment period, designed to provide relevant testimony with regard to deregulation of Genetically Modified Alfalfa.
The democratic process neglected to include a single organic or conventional farming representative. Throughout the two hour hearing various legislators publicly humiliated the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsak for even suggesting any compromise through talks with the organic and conventional communities. They all but ordered him to stand down his conversations with anyone but pro-GM enthusiasts (1:43:16).
Representatives left no seed unturned in honor of their allegiance to biotech crops and complete penetration into all foreign and domestic markets. In fact, Minnesota's Representative Collin Peterson referred to organic producers and consumers as "our opponents"(12:29).
Vilsak, even with his ties to Monsanto, was attempting negotiation with "so called Option 3" containing a minimal stop gap as an alternative to absolute contamination of organic and conventional alfalfa. In essence, planting barriers would have been implemented to maintain protective measures for the integrity of all seed varieties. Legislators blatantly mocked him and even pulled rank, saying that the Secretary of Agriculture does not have the authority to do anything but fully deregulate the crop without further ado. (35:38, 1:25:50, 1:29:15, 2:18:47)
It can be noted that Vilsak testified no less than three times that we were in the midst of the 30 day comment period, and in his opinion, the talks among all sides were providing necessary elements worthy of analysis for all agricultural markets concerned. (29:00, 1:44:00, 1:51:54)
The theme of the hearing centered around the economic burden of GM farmers if full deregulation didn’t go forth immediately (1:44:00). It was insisted by every representative that their loyalties were to the biotech community and that full deregulation was unquestionable without consideration for any form of barrier to protect other crops from cross contamination.
In regard to preservation of non GM crops, Texas Representative Michael Conaway begs the question, "how much of this is a definitional issue"? He questions organic standards and even insists that he "suspects that Genetically Engineered seeds will become the new organic". He blatantly suggests that legislative steps be considered to modify the language and thus re-define organic standards so that Genetically Modified crops can freely contaminate without restriction. He insists that it is merely a marketing issue and not an issue of health and safety. Conaway asks if we are just "hung up on the phrase organic, meaning something we grew ourselves in the backyard with whatever?"(2:33:00).
Concern was expressed by a number of speakers that GM crops are being promoted throughout the world as being no different than conventional crops, and if word got out that we established restrictive planting barriers, then it might be assumed that the GM crops were somehow different. That could put a damper on GM producers and their marketing potential. (30:45, 1:58:17, 2:18:47)
It was apparent, by the end of one sided discussion, that full deregulation and contamination remains unquestionable from the perspective of our democratic leaders. In other words, it is most notably a flagrant case of Contamination without Representation.
If Oregon allows GM sugar beets to be deregulated, we may not stand a chance against full federal deregulation of all GM crops. Public comments are being heard on Thursday from 4 PM – 9 PM at LaSells Stewart Center Construction and Engineering Hall 875 Southwest 26th St., Corvallis, Oregon.
Please see the full length video of the U.S House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture forum on GM Alfalfa, Jan 20 2011.
http://agriculture.house.gov/hearings/hearingDetails.aspx?NewsID=1269If Oregon allows GM sugar beets to be deregulated, we may not stand a chance against... more
I'll state straight away, I hate/loathe/despise/abhor Monsanto. They are evil, not metaphorically evil, but actually evil. And as for our politicians who should have protected us from Monsanto; well, there’s a special circle of Hell reserved just for them.
I came across this video in the twitterverse and wanted to share it because it gives you a good idea of what is involved in actually using GM seed and the (hoocoodanode!?) consequences. Farmer to Farmer.
I ask you: What do we do to extricate ourselves from this politico-corporate nightmare?I'll state straight away, I hate/loathe/despise/abhor Monsanto. They are evil,... more
Women farmers will be welcoming the next rice cropping season in June by putting up a community seed bank exchange a move that will empower women farmers, promote sustainable agriculture and reduce hunger incidence in rural areas.
Members of the National Coalition of Rural Women will set aside some 16 hectares for organic rice production in the province of Nueva Ecija. This is just a tiny plot compared to the thousands of hectares devoted to rice planting in the province known as the Philippine rice granary. But this step is crucial in pushing most marginalized rural women to have a say in food production.
"It's the women who, by tradition, act as seed keepers in the farm. We just want to give back to the women this traditional role, " Daryl Leyesa, the coalition's secretary general, said in an interview with Xinhua.
Leyesa has worked and researched on rural women concerns for the last ten years. Her latest research, commissioned by the Philippine Center for Rural Development Studies, noted that while women spend 11 hours a day for both farming and household work.
"These women in agriculture spend as much as eight to eleven hours a day in productive and reproductive work-i.e. acquiring capital for farming (usually through credit), carrying out planting activities, marketing the primary crop and backyard produce, and providing for their household's daily survival needs, " according to Leyesa's study entitled "Women in Agriculture".
The study further noted that women farmers spend as much as six hours a day for domestic work. This includes preparing farm tools and food for farm laborers, fetching water, gardening, foraging, wood gathering, raising poultry and livestock, and other livelihood activities. Being seed keepers give rural women more control over production and this won't only promote gender equity but food security as well, said Leyesa.
It's the women, after all, who is responsible for putting food in the table for her family, according to Trinidad Domingo, president of the National Coalition of Rural Women.
"I'm not married but I act as the mother to all my nephews and nieces. Like most mothers, I have to make sure that there's enough food for them," she said.
Domingo is worried that the looming global food crisis will hurt rural women more as they are the ones who need to find a way, including scrimping on their own food, just so that their family can eat even during lean times.
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) forecast a spike in food prices this year following a huge reduction in global rice and wheat stocks. Extreme weather condition, combined with rising population, urbanization and increased usage of grains for fuel and feed slashed grains production.
The Manila-based lender estimates a 10 percent rise in domestic food prices in developing Asia, home to 3.3 billion people, could push an additional 64 million people into extreme poverty.
"For poor families in developing Asia, who already spend more than 60 percent of their income on food, higher food prices further reduce their ability to pay for medical care and their children's education," ADB Chief Economist Changyong Rhee said in a statement.
Filipino rural women are among those who will be driven further into poverty. Leyesa recalled that in 2008, at the height of a rice crisis that sent food prices soaring, rural women didn't only scrimp on food and other expenses but also borrowed heavily to feed their family.
But women leaders like Domingo know they can do something to improve their plight.
Putting up a community seed bank is a significant step towards that direction.
Advocates of sustainable agriculture believe in the importance of seed keeping. This is about taking seed production out of the hands of giant corporations, returning to them to the hands of farmers and encouraging them to be more self-reliant and lessen their dependence on commercial seeds.
And with climate change also threatening food production, seed keeping has become more imperative. Farmers who save and breed seeds can develop specific varieties of seeds that are more suited to their specific province and climate.Women farmers will be welcoming the next rice cropping season in June by putting up a... more
My first experience with the perils of large scale seed banks was the scandal that erupted over the Fort Collins collection in the mid 1980s. Journalists had published stories dramatically detailing the grossly negligent manner in which deposits to the seed bank were treated. Numerous seed deposits were spilling out onto the floors of the facility, the facility was woefully understaffed, there was no testing of the seed and a virtually complete failure of required regeneration — in short a seed saving disaster. A legal petition by my organization to rectify the decision seemed to get the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) attention. But when no real action resulted we litigated. I was a very active member of that legal team. As such I reviewed much of the material in the case that documented USDA’s complete disregard for the safety and integrity of the seeds under its care. This litigation ultimately forced a settlement where USDA agreed to do an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) pursuant to the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and conditions at the seed bank improved somewhat.
Since that first experience I learned that bigger is definitely not better or safer when it comes to seed saving. As noted elsewhere on this site, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) strongly advocates for in situ protection of plant diversity, and when ex situ seed saving is required it should reside at the most local and ecologically appropriate level. This has been one of the bases for CFS’ longstanding concerns about the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Not surprisingly these fears have recently been justified. In December 2010 NordGen, the entity overseeing Svalbard, fired its Director Jessica Kathle. Some at NordGen believed that she was a “scapegoat” for the seed bank’s well known problems including continuing deficits, significant understaffing, and failure to do routine tests on the deposited seed to determine viability. (http://dagendresen.wordpress.com/about/Dot.) Sadly it seems like the Fort Collins fiasco redux.
There is however yet another important concern about Svalbard. The Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT), which supports the operational costs of Svalbard, has received almost $30 million dollars in support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (Global Diversity Trust, “Funding Status 1-1-2011.” http://www.croptrust.org/main/funds.php)This is by far the largest support of any non-governmental entity. As is well known, the Gates Foundation has very close working ties to Monsanto. The Gates Foundation invested $23 million in Monsanto in 2010 to help the company through some financial woes, and has been a determined supporter of spreading Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops throughout the developing world. In 2006 the Gates Foundation hired Rob Horsch, a former Monsanto Vice President and a key scientist involved in the creation of the company’s Round Up Ready crops in the 1980s, as their Senior Program Officer for their International Agriculture Development Program. This Monsanto connection to Svalbard is very troubling as the corporation owns almost a quarter of all the world’s commercial seeds and is the world’s leader in the genetic engineering of crops and the patenting of plant genetics (including plant genes, cells and seeds). Monsanto has also had a decade long history of persecuting and prosecuting thousands of farmers for saving seeds.
Svalbard’s ties to the Gates Foundation and Monsanto are not the only issue. Only two private corporations have donated to the GCDT. Dupont/Pioneer Seeds has donated $1 million as has Syngenta. (Global Diversity Trust, “Funding Status 1-1-2011.” http://www.croptrust.org/main/funds.php)Together these two companies own another 25% of the world’s commercial seeds and are also among the leaders in agriculture biotechnology and in patenting of plant genetics. So a major question looms. Why this interest by these biotech companies and their surrogates in paying the operational costs of Svalbard? These companies have no record of altruistic concern for the integrity and diversity of seeds and have in fact been destroying that diversity through genetic engineering and patenting for decades. The most obvious hypothesis is that these corporations see in Svalbard an opportunity to gain further control of the world’s plant genetics — being able to utilize the seed bank as a resource for germplasm that can be used for creating patentable hybrid or genetically engineered seed varieties.
To test that hypothesis I requested that the CFS legal team investigate the deposit agreements at Svalbard. The point of this analysis was to see if in some way the contract between Svalbard and depositors created an advantage for these corporations in their efforts to control and patent seed genetics. As the legal memorandum reveals, the answer to the question is “yes.” The Svalbard agreement does provide corporations seeking to patent plant genetics additional advantages in their efforts.
cont.My first experience with the perils of large scale seed banks was the scandal that... more
Lawsuit Filed To Protect Themselves from Unfair Patent Enforcement on Genetically Modified Seed
Action Would Prohibit Biotechnology Giant from Suing Organic Farmers and Seed Growers If Innocently Contaminated by Roundup Ready Genes
NEW York: On behalf of 60 family farmers, seed businesses and organic agricultural organizations, the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) filed suit today against Monsanto Company challenging the chemical giant’s patents on genetically modified seed. The organic plaintiffs were forced to sue preemptively to protect themselves from being accused of patent infringement should their crops ever become contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed.
Monsanto has sued farmers in the United States and Canada, in the past, when their patented genetic material has inadvertently contaminated their crops.
A copy of the lawsuit can be found at:
The case, Organic Seed Growers & Trade Association, et al. v. Monsanto, was filed in federal district court in Manhattan and assigned to Judge Naomi Buchwald. Plaintiffs in the suit represent a broad array of family farmers, small businesses and organizations from within the organic agriculture community who are increasingly threatened by genetically modified seed contamination despite using their best efforts to avoid it. The plaintiff organizations have over 270,000 members, including thousands of certified organic family farmers.
“This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed or pollen should land on their property,” said Dan Ravicher, PUBPAT’s Executive Director. “It seems quite perverse that an organic farmer contaminated by transgenic seed could be accused of patent infringement, but Monsanto has made such accusations before and is notorious for having sued hundreds of farmers for patent infringement, so we had to act to protect the interests of our clients.”
Once released into the environment, genetically modified seed can contaminate and destroy organic seed for the same crop. For example, soon after Monsanto introduced genetically modified seed for canola, organic canola became virtually impossible to grow as a result of contamination.
Organic corn, soybeans, cotton, sugar beets and alfalfa also face the same fate, as Monsanto has released genetically modified seed for each of those crops as well.
Monsanto is currently developing genetically modified seed for many other crops, thus putting the future of all food, and indeed all agriculture, at stake.
“Monsanto’s threats and abuse of family farmers stops here. Monsanto’s genetic contamination of organic seed and organic crops ends now,” stated Jim Gerritsen, a family farmer in Maine who raises organic seed and is President of lead plaintiff Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association. “Americans have the right to choice in the marketplace – to decide what kind of food they will feed their families.”
“Family-scale farmers desperately need the judiciary branch of our government to balance the power Monsanto is able to wield in the marketplace and in the courts,” said Mark A. Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst for The Cornucopia Institute, one of the plaintiffs. “Monsanto, and the biotechnology industry, have made great investments in our executive and legislative branches through campaign contributions and powerful lobbyists in Washington.”
In the case, PUBPAT is asking Judge Buchwald to declare that if organic farmers are ever contaminated by Monsanto’s genetically modified seed, they need not fear also being accused of patent infringement. One reason justifying this result is that Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seed are invalid because they don’t meet the “usefulness” requirement of patent law, according to PUBPAT’s Ravicher, the plaintiffs’ lead attorney in the case.
“Evidence cited by PUBPAT in its opening filing today proves that genetically modified seed has negative economic and health effects, while the promised benefits of genetically modified seed – increased production and decreased herbicide use – are false,” added Ravicher who is also a Lecturer of Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York.
Ravicher continued, “Some say transgenic seed can coexist with organic seed, but history tells us that’s not possible, and it’s actually in Monsanto’s financial interest to eliminate organic seed so that they can have a total monopoly over our food supply,” said Ravicher. “Monsanto is the same chemical company that previously brought us Agent Orange, DDT, PCB’s and other toxins, which they said were safe, but we know are not. Now Monsanto says transgenic seed is safe, but evidence clearly shows it is not.”
The plaintiffs in the suit represented by PUBPAT are: Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association; Organic Crop Improvement Association International, Inc.; OCIA Research and Education Inc.; The Cornucopia Institute; Demeter Association, Inc.; Navdanya International; Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association; Northeast Organic Farming Association/Massachusetts Chapter, Inc.; Northeast Organic Farming Association of Vermont; Rural Vermont; Ohio Ecological Food & Farm Association; Southeast Iowa Organic Association; Northern Plains Sustainable Agriculture Society; (and many many more too many to fit seriously see more and sources at my link thanks )Lawsuit Filed To Protect Themselves from Unfair Patent Enforcement on Genetically... more