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Plant: Monsanto Company supports growers right to choose Roundup Ready Alfalfa for their forage operations; Asks to intervene in lawsuit




                                  PART 1


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TITLE:  MONSANTO COMPANY SUPPORTS GROWERS RIGHT TO CHOOSE ROUNDUP READY ALFALFA FOR THEIR FORAGE OPERATIONS; ASKS TO INTERVENE IN LAWSUIT

SOURCE: Monsanto, USA

AUTHOR: Press Release

URL:    http://www.prnewswire.com/cgi-bin/stories.pl?ACCT=104&STORY=/www/story/03-02-2007/0004538532&EDATE=

DATE:   02.03.2007

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MONSANTO COMPANY SUPPORTS GROWERS RIGHT TO CHOOSE ROUNDUP READY ALFALFA FOR THEIR FORAGE OPERATIONS; ASKS TO INTERVENE IN LAWSUIT

ST. LOUIS, March 2 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Monsanto Company today will file a motion to intervene in the remedy phase of a lawsuit to support farmers who choose to use Roundup Ready alfalfa in their forage operations. Forage Genetics International and several farmers also plan to ask for intervenor status in this case, which was brought by the Center for Food Safety and others against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as Geertson Seed Farms Inc. et al. v. Mike Johanns, et al. The lawsuit is currently pending in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.

In a decision issued Feb. 13, 2007, the federal district court judge ruled that USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) did not follow the proper process in assessing possible environmental affects of Roundup Ready alfalfa.

”Monsanto is asking to intervene because we believe it is important for hay growers to have the choice to use this beneficial technology,” said Jerry Steiner, executive vice president for Monsanto. ”Many alfalfa growers have expressed their desire to be heard and we believe Monsanto’s participation in the remedy phase will help bring forward important information that underscores how crucial this technology has become to forage operations from an economic and environmental point of view.”

Steiner noted that the court has already accepted the fact that Roundup Ready alfalfa poses no harmful effects on humans and livestock. As part of its regulatory filing for Roundup Ready alfalfa in April 2004, Monsanto provided USDA with an extensive dossier that addresses a variety of environmental, stewardship and management considerations, including those raised by the plaintiffs in this case.

”The plaintiffs describe Roundup Ready alfalfa as a threat to the production of conventional and/or organic alfalfa production,” Steiner said. ”They project an either/or scenario when evidence and experience show that sensible stewardship practices make it possible for these different production systems to coexist.”

Roundup Ready crops have been grown successfully alongside conventional and organic crops for more than a decade. In fact, the rapidly increasing demand for and adoption of the Roundup Ready system by growers has demonstrated the ability of alternative cropping systems to successfully coexist. USDA data for 2005 indicate that of the more than 22 million acres of alfalfa grown, roughly 200,000 acres of this total was certified as organic production.

Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. For more information, please visit the company’s web site at http://www.monsanto.com.

 



                                  PART 2

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TITLE:  MONSANTO BIOTECH ALFALFA LAWSUIT RATCHETS UP

SOURCE: Reuters

AUTHOR: Carey Gillam

URL:    http://www.reuters.com/article/domesticNews/idUSN0233605620070303

DATE:   02.03.2007

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MONSANTO BIOTECH ALFALFA LAWSUIT RATCHETS UP

KANSAS CITY, Missouri (Reuters) - Biotech crop critics said they were asking for a permanent injunction to stop the planting of Monsanto Co.’s genetically modified alfalfa after failing to negotiate a settlement with U.S. regulators by a court-imposed deadline on Friday.

Also Monsanto said it was filing a motion on Friday to intervene in the closely watched case, which is one in a string of recent court rulings criticizing U.S. government oversight of biotech crops. Monsanto said several farmers also plan to ask to intervene in the case.

In a February 13 ruling, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California in San Francisco criticized the USDA as ”cavalier” and said the department violated the law by failing to adequately assess possible environmental impact before approving the alfalfa developed by Monsanto.

The judge gave the parties until Friday to work out a mutually acceptable remedy, but those efforts failed, said Will Rostov, a senior attorney for The Center for Food Safety.

The center filed the lawsuit along with farmers, consumers, and environmentalists against officials with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service and the Environmental Protection Agency.

The group alleged that biotech alfalfa could create super weeds resistant to herbicide, hurt production of organic dairy and beef products because alfalfa is an important cattle feed and cause farmers to lose export business due to risks of contamination to natural and organic alfalfa.

 

CONTAMINATION

The suit also alleged that contamination of conventionally grown alfalfa could force farmers to pay for Monsanto’s patented gene technology whether they wanted it or not.

Alfalfa, a perennial fodder crop cross-pollinated by bees and wind, is among the most widely grown crops in the United States, along with corn, soybeans, and wheat.

The USDA, APHIS and EPA officials could not be reached for comment.

Monsanto has said its biotech alfalfa, which was genetically altered to withstand applications of weed killer, has been approved by numerous regulatory agencies and has a confirmed safety record.

”Monsanto is asking to intervene, because we believe it is important for hay growers to have the choice to use this beneficial technology,” said Jerry Steiner, an executive vice president for the company, in a written statement.

The court ruling on alfalfa followed another court ruling against USDA issued on February 5. That case involves field tests approved for bentgrass genetically modified to resist Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide in a collaboration between Monsanto and The Scotts Co. Bentgrass is commonly used on lawns, athletic fields and golf courses.

In that case, U.S. District Judge Harold Kennedy for the District of Columbia said there is ”substantial evidence that the field tests may have had the potential to affect significantly the quality of the human environment,” and he said USDA could not process any further field test permits without conducting a more thorough review.

 



                                  PART 3

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TITLE:  MONSANTO SEEKS ROLE IN USDA’S MODIFIED-ALFALFA DEFENSE

SOURCE: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, USA

AUTHOR: Bloomberg News

URL:    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/business/stories.nsf/0/528B96C2B04F984C862572930010E5C7?OpenDocument

DATE:   03.03.2007

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MONSANTO SEEKS ROLE IN USDA’S MODIFIED-ALFALFA DEFENSE

Monsanto Co. said it will ask to help defend the Department of Agriculture’s approval of engineered alfalfa in a federal lawsuit in California.

A motion to intervene in the remedy phase of the suit, pending in the U.S. District Court in San Francisco, was filed Friday, Creve Coeur-based Monsanto said in a statement. The court ruled Feb. 13 that the USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service failed to adequately assess potential environmental effects from alfalfa engineered to resist Roundup weed killer.

”It is important for hay growers to have the choice to use this beneficial technology,” Jerry Steiner, Monsanto executive vice president, said in the statement. ”Monsanto’s participation in the remedy phase will help bring forward important information that underscores how crucial this technology has become to forage operations from an economic and environmental point of view.”

Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa has been commercially available for nearly two years, and more than 200,000 acres have been planted. That acreage is expected to increase to 550,000 in 2007 and 1.1 million acres in 2008. Forage Genetics International, based in Nampa, Idaho, is the only company licensed by Monsanto to produce Roundup Ready alfalfa, and the two companies share in the financial reward. This year, Monsanto estimates sales of Roundup Ready alfalfa products will generate as much as $13 million in revenue.

Roundup Ready alfalfa is sold by 21 seed companies under a total of about 30 brands.

U.S. District Judge Charles R. Breyer ruled the agency acted improperly when it decided a full environmental impact statement wasn’t needed on the herbicide-resistant crop because it believed the possible environmental and economic effects weren’t significant, The New York Times reported last month.

RACHEL MELCER OF THE POST-DISPATCH CONTRIBUTED TO THIS REPORT. 

 



                                  PART 4

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TITLE:  COON VALLEY FARMER AIMS TO PROTECT ORGANIC INTEGRITY

SOURCE: La Crosse Tribune, USA

AUTHOR: Reid Magney

URL:    http://www.lacrossetribune.com/articles/2007/02/23/news/01farmer.txt

DATE:   23.02.2007

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COON VALLEY FARMER AIMS TO PROTECT ORGANIC INTEGRITY

It’s a long way from a Coon Valley farm to a California courtroom, but the concerns of one area farmer about genetically engineered crops are making a difference in a federal lawsuit.

Jim Munsch, who raises organic beef cattle, became concerned several years ago that genetically modified alfalfa seeds approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture could contaminate his alfalfa crops.

Unlike other genetically engineered crops and seeds the USDA has approved, alfalfa pollen can travel 2 to 3 miles, Munsch said, and genetically engineered alfalfa easily can contaminate nongenetically engineered alfalfa.

Munsch said the chance of cross pollination is huge. Experts are convinced, he said, that “within a few years (there) will be no such thing as non-genetically engineered alfalfa, that all alfalfa will be contaminated.”

What’s so important about pure alfalfa?

It’s the country’s fourth-largest crop, and Munsch and other livestock farmers need organic alfalfa to to feed their cattle, sheep and lambs. If their alfalfa becomes contaminated, and they feed it to their animals, those animals can’t be marketed as organic under USDA organic rules.

“There are no good alternatives to alfalfa in the upper Midwest,” he said. “At the worst for organic producers, it would mean they would be uncertifiable. At the best, it would mean we producers who use alfalfa would have to go outside the U.S. to get our seed.”

“The thing that really upset me is the removal of choice,” said Munsch, who has no problem with non-organic growers.

“As a beef producer, it removes an option, a very good option, and it just doesn’t seem fair to me, and it didn’t seem fair to the judge.”

Munsch gave a deposition in a lawsuit brought by a coalition of groups led by the Center for Food Safety, which includes the Wisconsin-based Cornucopia Institute.

Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Breyer of the Northern District of California ordered that a full environmental impact statement must be carried out on “Roundup Ready” alfalfa, the genetically engineered variety developed by Monsanto and Forage Genetics.

“It was uplifting to me to see a federal judge recognize” the need to for action, Munsch said. “To see that a part of government had a good understanding of the environmental and economic impact of this movement.”

“I’m not from the hippy era of organics,” Munsch said. “I’m not an evangelist for it or a fundamentalist, but I do have concerns myself about food because of family. I know other people do. And at the very least we have to give those people a choice.”

Thursday, Munsch was in La Crosse, co-teaching a course at the annual Organic University as part of this weekend’s Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference at the La Crosse Center.

Munsch has a federal grant from the Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative to promote the use of grazing to help Vernon County farmers turn their hilly slopes into well-managed pastures. It’s an alternative to planting crops, which erodes the land and harms water quality.

Munsch teaches with Art Thicke, an organic dairy farmer from the La Crescent, Minn., area, whose herd eats almost no corn. Like Munsch’s beef cattle, they eat most of their food in the pasture, which is far less expensive than corn and other commercial feeds. And that, in turn, makes farming more profitable.

“This is just astonishing,” Munsch explained. “If somebody is using pasture poorly and will embrace different management techniques, not spend a nickel on capital equipment, just manage it differently, they can double the output of the pasture. If a seed corn guy came onto the average farm in Wisconsin and said I’ve got a seed that will double your output, farmers would go berserk.”

Profitability is a growing concern among livestock farmers as consumer demand for ethanol fuel increases. Ethanol producers are bidding up the price of corn nationwide, making it much more expensive for farmers to feed their livestock.

Munsch said consumers won’t see increased food prices immediately, because dairy and beef producers will be getting squeezed first.

“There’s going to be a world of hurt in the meat industry,” Munsch said. “But the producer who is buying corn and can learn to get the nutrient value out of pasture can replace expensive corn with very cost-effective pasture.”

IF YOU GO

WHAT: Upper Midwest Organic Farming Conference

WHEN: All day today and Saturday

WHERE: La Crosse Center, South Hall entrance

COST: Walk-in registration for the two-day conference, including lunches and snacks, is $190 a person. After 1 p.m. Saturday, admission is $15, which includes the Coulee Chefs Cook Organic! event and access to the exhibit hall.

 


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