SnowBall archive


GE - catch up #2

1) ONE POTATO, NEW POTATO / Farmers and biotech companies are battling for
2) Monarch butterflies and herbicide resistant crops 
3) Co-op pulls out of GM trials
4) GM protestors target US embassy 
5) Takara Shuzo To Conduct Genetic Engineering Inspections For M'bishi
6) Zeneca-Monsanto Agree on Agchem Business 

> March 28, 1999 
> Newsday 
1) ONE POTATO, NEW POTATO / Farmers and biotech companies are battling for
> THE FRESHLY dug potato was lumpy, bumpy, misshapen and oblong. Most of 
> the other potatoes in the row were just as peculiar. 
> Jamesport potato farmer John Kujawski, 57, who tends about 600 acres of 
> land with his brother Ray, had planted a few of the first bioengineered 
> potatoes on Long Island. They were duds, the Kujawskis and other East End 
> potato farmers agreed. 
> "I couldn't see anything about them that was good," John Kujawski said 
> simply. 
> From Maine to California, many small farmers are distrustful of the new 
> "magical" seeds aimed at yielding crops with built-in pesticides and - 
> eventually - with more nutrients than the traditional type. They are 
> skeptical, too, of the multinational companies providing the patented 
> seeds, 
> and fear there is no room for small farmers in the bioengineered future. 
> "Genetic engineering will never, ever serve the needs of the small 
> farmer," 
> said Margaret Mellon, a lawyer and molecular biologist who directs the 
> agriculture and biotechnology program for the Union of Concerned 
> Scientists. 
> Patents of bioengineered seeds are at the core of a dispute over control 
> that has pitted small farmers against self-described "life sciences" 
> companies such as DuPont and Monsanto that are using technology to produce 
> new, unique forms of food. Patents for modified plants, first allowed in 
> 1980, now rank second only to software patents in the number of legal 
> challenges filed - with most of the rise in just the last four years, 
> according to patent attorneys. 
> Monsanto, which has more than 100 patents for soybeans and corn alone, 
> has 
> sued hundreds of farmers and others for reusing or reselling the company's 
> seeds. Other companies have sued as well, and in what could become a 
> landmark case, one Iowa farm-supply dealership has sought to throw out 
> such 
> a suit on the grounds that plants shouldn't be patented. A district court 
> judge made the unusual move of fast-tracking the case directly to a 
> federal  appeals court. 
> "This case is critical to the biotechnology industry," said Michael K. 
> Kirk, a patent lawyer and executive director of a lawyers' group that 
> filed  a friend-of-the-court brief. 
> Without patents, the companies could not control the supply of 
> bioengineered seeds. But some farmers, in turn, say they can't afford to 
> buy patented seed each year, and many depend on reusing some seeds. 
> To obtain Monsanto's Roundup Ready soy beans, for example, which resist 
> the 
> company's popular weed killer Roundup, farmers must agree to plant the 
> seeds 
> only once - instead of saving seeds from their own crops, as virtually all 
> soybean farming was previously done. In the Midwest, [ Monsanto ] , a 
> $7.5-billion company with 22,000 employees worldwide, has even taken 
> measures such as broadcasting on local radio stations the names of farmers 
> suspected of reusing seeds. Some growers have paid hefty settlements to 
> Monsanto. 
> Monsanto even acquired one biotech company to get what has been dubbed 
> "terminator technology," which renders second-generation plants from saved 
> patented seed sterile and unproductive. 
> Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer, has been sued by Monsanto for 
> allegedly 
> planting patented seeds for the plant that produces canola oil. Schmeiser 
> says he is innocent - that the wind and the bees cross-pollinated 
> genetically engineered plants with those in his field. 
> The companies say they have to be tough. And farmers who play by the 
> rules 
> want them to be, said Karen Marshall, a spokeswoman for the St. 
> Louis-based 
> Monsanto. She said money recouped from lawsuit settlements goes into a 
> scholarship program for children of farmers, and that only 20 to 30 
> percent 
> of farmers save seed. "The vast majority of growers are just fine 
> following 
> the rules," she said, adding that for any farmer unhappy with 
> the terms, "You could choose another seed." 
> But some farmers say the world of agriculture Monsanto and other large 
> companies are creating isn't that simple. "They are buying up all of the 
> seed companies, and the choices we get are choices that have been altered 
> genetically and owned by that company," said Roger Allison, executive 
> director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. "It won't be in the so-far 
> future that farmers will be tenant farmers for the chemical companies, at 
> best." 
> Both sides are closely watching developments in the Iowa court case, 
> which 
> could put billions of dollars of investment by companies at risk. The 
> case, 
> challenging the granting of patents on modifications of plants such as 
> corn 
> and cotton, will be taken up by the federal appeals court in Washington, 
> with oral arguments perhaps beginning this summer. 
> The case arose from [ Pioneer Hi-Bred International ] 's suit against 
> Marvin Redinius of Belmond, Iowa, president of a farm-supply dealership. 
> Redinius bought $54,000 worth of Pioneer's pest-resistant corn seed from a 
> middleman and sold them without permission from Pioneer, which has since 
> been bought by DuPont. Redinius sought to have the case thrown out on 
> grounds that Congress didn't intend to open such a wide door for plant 
> patents. 
> With the proliferation of bioengineered crops, farmers also fear that 
> cross-pollination with traditional seed will lead to more homogeneous and 
> less diverse crops - putting them in more danger of being wiped out by a 
> new 
> strain of disease or pest. 
> Buying the bioengineered seeds - at premium prices - doesn't guarantee 
> they 
> will yield a good crop. Because the technology is in its infancy, the 
> seeds 
> sometimes don't meet expectations for yield or quality. 
> As for those first bioengineered Long Island potatoes - the company 
> promised savings through reduced spraying, but, said Kujawski, "you still 
> had to spray the potatoes for aphids and blight." The bioengineering 
> "didn't take care of anything but the potato beetle." 
> (Copyright Newsday Inc., 1999) 
2) Monarch butterflies and herbicide resistant crops 
Bob Hartzler 
Iowa State University
January 26 - What's the connection between these two organisms you ask? The 
monarch migrates each year from southern Canada and the eastern half of the 
U.S. to a few small sites in the mountains of central Mexico. Researchers 
in Saskatoon, Saskathewan conducted a study to determine the range of 
monarchs during their summer stay in the US and Canada. They found that 
approximately half of the monarchs were from a relatively narrow-swath from 
Nebraska to Ohio.
The researchers were surprised that so much of the population was 
concentrated in the heart of the cornbelt. They expressed concern about the 
rapid changes in weed control practices occurring in this region. Monarch 
larvae feed exclusively on milkweed plants, thus reductions in milkweed 
populations could have a dramatic impact on monach reproduction. The use of 
herbicide resistant crops (Roundup Ready, Liberty Link, IMI corn) could 
provide more effective control of milkweed than traditional herbicides, thus 
the concern.
Several factors need to be considered when looking at the impact of HRC's on 
monarch butterflies: 1) Will the rates and timing of herbicide applications 
made to control annual weeds have a significant impact on milkweed 
populations?, 2) What percentage of milkweed in the corn belt is found in 
row crop acres vs in roadsides, pastures and other non-row crop areas?, 3) 
Do monarchs have a site preference for egg laying (row crop vs non-row 
The researchers pointed out that their findings represent only a single 
year's distribution of monarch butterflies and may not represent historical 
patterns. However, it does illustrate the potential impact changes in weed 
management strategies could have on the ecosystem.

Source: Monarchs and their roots. 1999. Science 283 (Jan 8):171.
Prepared by Author, extension weed management specialist, Department of 
Agronomy, Iowa State University
For more information contact: 
ISU Extension Agronomy 
2104 Agronomy Hall 
Ames, Iowa 50011-1010 
Voice: (515) 294-1923 
Fax: (515) 294-9985 
E-mail: This site designed and managed by Brent 
Pringnitz. Send questions and comments to 
Page last updated on: 02/20/99 
Common chemical and trade names are used in this publication. The use of 
trade names is for clarity by the reader. Inclusion of a trade name does not 
imply endorsement of that particular brand of herbicide and exclusion does 
not imply nonapproval.
>From BBC News Website page:

3) Co-op pulls out of GM trials
The UK's biggest farming organisation has pulled out of government trials of 
genetically modified crops after concerns were raised by environmentalists.
Sue Macgregor and the CWS's Bill Shannon discuss the GM crop trials on BBC 
Radio 4's Today programme 
The government is due to announce details of the trials, which will involve 
growing limited areas of GM crops for four years to monitor the effects on 
The Co-operative Wholesale Society (CWS), which farms 80,000 acres across 
the UK, was to have hosted two of the trials. 
But the CWS says it will be pulling out of the tests for this year as it 
believed the tests themselves could raise the very fears they are designed 
to allay. 
Spokesman Bill Shannon said: "Few people would disagree that what is 
required are properly conducted scientific trials to assess the 
environmental impact of GM crops.

Environmentalists fear the effects of GM crops on wildlife 
"However, we feel there is as yet no clear consensus of opinion among the 
various interest groups as to how this should be achieved and we have 
decided not to take part. 
"We do not believe the commercial growing should take place until 
properly-conducted field trials have demonstrated there are no environmental 
"We are certainly not against genetically modified organisms in principle 
but our discussions with various parties led us to conclude that the design 
of this year's trials would do little to allay current environmental and 
consumer concerns." 
He said the CWS had not ruled out taking part in future tests. 
Friends of the Earth welcomed the CWS's decision. 
Senior food campaigner Pete Riley said: "The Co-op should be congratulated 
on its responsible and courageous decision. 
"The government's proposed GM trials are rushed, secretive and unscientific. 
"If CWS, with its reputation for responsible and progressive farming, won't 
take part, then surely the government should admit defeat and cancel the 
trials for this year." 
A spokesman for the Department of the Environment said the trials would 
continue, even without the CWS's involvement. 
He said: "The CWS were invited to take part in this important research but 
we have heard that they have decided not to participate. 
"They are free to make their own decisions and we cannot comment on their 
"However, we consider the research to be extremely important because it does 
what a lot of people have been asking us to do - that is more trials and 
more testing on a wider scale to look at the effects on farming and 
30 March 1999 from Farmers Weekly website
4) GM protestors target US embassy 
ENVIRONMENTAL activists who targeted a genetically-modified (GM) crop trial
site at the weekend have taken their campaign to the steps of the US consulate
in Edinburgh. 
Six of the activists were arrested at the test site in Midlothian, owned by
Scottish Agricultural College. 
More than 15 demonstrators, who had taken part in the weekend action at
Farm, went to the American consulate in Edinburgh's Regent Terrace. 
The protesters laid a "wreath" of GM oilseed rape, said to have been taken
the trial site. 
5) Takara Shuzo To Conduct Genetic Engineering Inspections For M'bishi
March 30, 1999

Nikkei English News via NewsEdge Corporation : TOKYO (Nikkei)--Takara Shuzo 
Co. (2531), Japan's 
top manufacturer of distilled spirits, will undertake inspections to 
determine whether soy beans 
imported by Mitsubishi Corp. (8058) are genetically engineered, the company 
announced Monday. 
The inspections will start with soy beans to be imported from the U.S. in 
June, Takara officials said.
A joint firm to be set up by the two companies will issue "genetic 
engineering-free" certification to 
imported soy beans with genetically engineered content of no more than 5%.
The partners might extend such inspections to other kinds of imported 
agricultural produce, such as 
corn and rapeseed, in the near future. They may also offer the service to a 
broad range of outside 
companies, such as manufacturers and trading houses, the officials said.
Mitsubishi imports 350,000 tons of soy beans a year from the U.S. The 
trading giant hopes 
commissioning the inspection work to a third party such as Takara will 
demonstrate the safety of its 
imported farm products.
(The Nihon Keizai Shimbun Tuesday morning edition)
<<Nihon Keizai Shimbun, Inc. -- 03-29-99>>
[Copyright 1999, Nikkei America]
6) Zeneca-Monsanto Agree on Agchem Business 
Japan Chemical Week
Zeneca Agrochemicals (U.K.) and [ Monsanto Co. ] (U.S.) 
announced March 18 a long term license agreement on 
undisclosed terms under which Zeneca will test, develop and 
register "Touchdown" herbicide products for use on or over 
the top of "Roundup Ready" soybeans, corn and cotton in the 
United States.
Under the agreement, Zeneca, once it has obtained U.S. Environmental 
Protection Agency 
registration, will sell "Touchdown" herbicide for application on or over 
the top of these crops.
Additionally, Monsanto and Zeneca have agreed to negotiate in good faith 
access to additional 
"Roundup Ready" crops in the United States and to all "Roundup Ready" 
crops globally, as they 
are commercialized. Negotiations for commercial access after the second 
commercial season will 
occur on a country and crop basis. Under this agreement, Zeneca would 
test, develop and register 
its products while negotiations are taking place.
As a part of the agreement, Zeneca, Monsanto and [ Pioneer Hi- Bred 
International Inc. ] have agreed 
to dismiss the lawsuits they have pending against each other in Delaware 
and Missouri. These 
relate to the use of "Touchdown" over "Roundup Ready" crops and related 
Monsanto patents, 
and to Monsanto's marketing practices.
(Copyright C (1999) COMLINE Business Data, Inc)
_____via IntellX_____

Publication Date: March 29, 1999

Mid and North Herts Friends of the Earth have organised a public meeting 
* Charles Secrett, Director Friends of the Earth 
* Patrick Holden, Director Soil Association 
* Robin Page, Writer, Broadcaster and Founder of the Countryside 
Restoration Trust 

For further information contact: 
Steven Eaton 49 Ramsdell Stevenage SG1 1QY Phone 01438 318266