Saturday, June 22, 2013


June 21, 2013
12:01 PM

CONTACT: US Food Sovereignty Alliance
Debbie Grunbaum, Communications Director, WhyHunger,, 212-629-0853
Christopher Cook, Food First/Institute for Food and Development Policy,

World Food Prize Laureates Undermine Hunger Solutions, Food Sovereignty Alliance Says  

WASHINGTON - June 21 - Honoring executives of biotechnology giants Monsanto and Syngenta with this year's World Food Prize “sends precisely the wrong message about sustainable solutions to hunger and poverty,” the U.S. Food Sovereignty Alliance said in a statement today. The Alliance includes faith-based, labor, anti-hunger, and grassroots groups from across the US.
“Proprietary genetically manipulated seeds are the problem, not the answer to world hunger,” the Alliance said. “The proven solutions lie in rebuilding food sovereignty—the ability of farmers and communities to nourish themselves while creating sustainable paths out of poverty and hunger.”
The World Food Prize has disregarded well-documented evidence from the United Nations and other sources that small-scale diversified farming is the most effective way to end hunger, the Alliance argued. Reliance on genetically modified crops and industrial agriculture creates crippling debt for farmers, produces herbicide-resistant ‘superweeds,’ and keeps control of our food system in the hands of large corporations.
In July, the Alliance will announce the winners of the fifth annual Food Sovereignty Prize, highlighting grassroots efforts to build a more democratic and sustainable food system. In honoring communities that are reclaiming their food systems, the prize shows how democratic access to land, water, and fair wages are central to ensuring sustainability and ending world hunger.
Unlike the World Food Prize, which promotes increased industrial food production through technologies such as genetically engineered seeds, the Food Sovereignty Prize champions proven solutions to hunger that empower those most impacted by the injustices of the global food system. While the World Food Prize recognizes individuals, the grassroots organizations honored by the Food Sovereignty Prize are led by their members, and most organizations count over 20,000 families as members and leaders.
The 2013 nominees include grassroots organizations in Haiti, Uruguay, India, Mexico, Mali, the U.S., and elsewhere. “All of these nominees are doing remarkable work against steep odds, creating innovative and courageous solutions to hunger and poverty by taking back control over their food systems,” said Eric Holt-Gimenez, director of Food First, a member of the US Food Sovereignty Alliance.
Information and updates on the prize and the US Food Sovereignty Alliance are available at: and
“Food sovereignty is the right of peoples to healthy and culturally appropriate food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and their right to define their own food and agriculture systems. It puts the aspirations and needs of those who produce, distribute and consume food at the heart of food systems and policies rather than the demands of markets and corporations.” – Declaration of Nyéléni, the first global forum on food sovereignty, Mali, 2007

More prize information at:
Learn about the US Food Sovereignty Alliance:


Friday, June 21, 2013


Image (1) capitol-senate-congress-wikipedia-463.jpg for post 40026

Republicans “apoplectic” as farm bill fails in the House

The U.S. House of Representatives just voted down its own version of the farm bill — which means that the House will probably write up a new version and try again.
On one level, this result is no surprise: President Obama had threatened to veto the bill, objecting to its big cuts to food stamp programs. This House version of the bill would have cut food stamps by $20 billion, versus $4 billion in the version that passed the Senate.
Opposition came primarily from Democrats, with 172 voting no, but there was also opposition from the Tea Party and conservative Republicans: If the Republicans had corralled the 62 GOPers who voted against the bill, it would have passed.
The Hill has the best explanation so far of what happened: Apparently, Republican leaders thought they would get more Democrats to vote yes, and were “apoplectic” when things didn’t go as expected. Both conservative and liberal organizations issued press releases cheering the defeat.
Ding ding ding! Let the next round begin. This time, congressfolks, let’s try writing a farm bill that the president might actually sign.
Nathanael Johnson (@savortooth on Twitter) is Grist's food writer and the author of All Natural: A Skeptic's Quest to Discover If the Natural Approach to Diet, Childbirth, Healing, and the Environment Really Keeps Us Healthier and Happier.

13 STATES - PIG VIRUS ESCALATES -Porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV)


Rampaging pig virus may raise pork prices

ShutterstockVulnerable little factory-reared piggies. A stomach virus that kills most of the piglets it infects is tearing across America, reaching farms in at least 13 states just a month after it was first detected here.
The disease threatens to trim back the nation’s pork supplies at a time when the price of the meat is already rising following last year’s drought.
Scientists say a strain of porcine epidemic diarrhea virus (PEDV), which shares 99.4 percent of its genes with a strain that recently killed more than 1 million piglets in China, is harmless to humans and other animals. But you wouldn’t want to be a baby pig that contracted the disease.
From Reuters:
While the virus has not tended to kill older pigs, mortality among very young pigs infected in U.S. farms is commonly 50 percent, and can be as high [as] 100 percent, say veterinarians and scientists who are studying the outbreak. …

When and how PEDV arrived in the United States remains a mystery. The total number of pig deaths from the outbreak is not known, and the uncertainty is fueling fears among traders, meat processors and farmers about the potential impact on pork supplies later in the year.
The outbreak comes as U.S. hog and wholesale pork prices in the large hog-raising states of Iowa and Minnesota have surged to nearly two-year highs. Supermarkets are racing to fill meat cases for the summer grilling season even as supplies tighten, analysts said. Hog supplies were already tight after last summer’s historic drought drove up feed-grain costs, which prompted a higher-than-normal slaughter rate last summer.
The first U.S. case of PEDV was reported on May 17. But researchers at the National Veterinary Services Laboratory in Ames, Iowa, and other diagnostic labs have since discovered that PEDV arrived as early as April 16, according to the American Association of Swine Veterinarians.
Farmers and county fair goers should be extra hygienic around swine, experts say. From PorkNetwork:
PED typically is spread through the feces of infected swine or contaminated trailers, equipment, boots, clothing and hands. The way it is spread makes it a particular concern now because a number of states will be holding fairs soon, according to [swine specialist David Newman of North Dakota State University].
He says everyone involved in pig handling, including hog operation employees and owners, and those transporting pigs, need to take steps to avoid spreading the virus.
Ew. Time to experiment with veganism?
John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants:


Palm-Oil Giants Dodge Responsibility for Toxic Smog Covering Singapore

Record-breaking hazardous smog forces millions indoors

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

(Photo: Skylan Kao/Creative Commons/For Decades, Smog Has Filled the Singapore Skyline)

As a hazardous pollution fog blankets Singapore, environmentalists charge that the nation's vast palm-oil industry's slash-and-burn tactics sparked the environmental disaster. Meanwhile, the Singapore government points its fingers at nearby Indonesia as the palm-oil industry avoids fire. The thick haze is filling the air with fumes so hazardous that officials have ordered the city-state's over five million residents to shutter up inside.
The heavy pollution obstructs passing light, and the BBC reports that stores are quickly running out of face masks as the crisis sets off panic.
No one knows when the record-breaking pollution will subside, but Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien posited that the toxins could remain 'several weeks and quite possibly longer'.
Toxins in the atmosphere continue to climb to dangerous levels. Bloomberg News reports:

Singapore’s Pollutant Standards Index jumped to a record 371 at 1 p.m., a level deemed hazardous, the National Environment Agency, or NEA, said on its website, and more recently was at 292. Malaysia said air pollution in Johor, which borders Singapore, reached hazardous levels of as high as 383.
The smog is not confined within Singapore's borders. Some areas of Malaysia also face smog hazards.
Greenpeace has blasted palm-oil companies, many of them Singapore-based, for their slash-and-burn method of clearing forests for plantations in the region.
The U.S.-based Cargill corporation numbers among the companies accused of slash-and-burn tactics.
Singapore government leaders are directing their anger at the nearby Indonesian island of Sumatra, claiming that the country holds responsibility for the fires that spurred the environmental disaster.
The Indonesian government is lashing back, insisting that Singapore must be accountable for its palm-oil companies that operate throughout the region.
Environmental activists insist the problem transcends national borders, and so must the solution. The AFP reports:

“Singapore is saying that Indonesia needs to enforce the law,” Bustar Maitar, head of Indonesia Forest Campaign at campaign group Greenpeace International, told AFP.
“But in actual fact, some palm oil plantations in Indonesia are listed in Singapore and have headquarters in Singapore. A lot of Malaysian plantations are also based here in Indonesia,” Maitar said.
“In my perspective, it is not only Indonesia. Singapore should also ask its companies who invest in Indonesia to not use fire, doing the same thing to enforce the law and increase environmental awareness.”
Smog has been a point of contention between the two countries, as toxic haze has worsened over the past decade. Yet their trading relationship remains close, and the palm-oil industry has so far dodged accountability for slash-and-burn tactics.
The New York Times points out that this latest crisis adds to region-wide disaster as pollution soars across Asia:

The problems in Singapore and Malaysia come at a time of increasing concern about pollution across Asia, particularly in China, where pollution readings this year have been at least 30 percent higher than in previous years.
Commuters cover their mouths as they wait to cross a road in the haze in Singapore June 20, 2013. REUTERS/Edgar Su
Tourists wearing face masks look at the hazy skyline of the Singapore business district June 20, 2013. Singapore's haze deteriorated to "hazardous" levels late on Wednesday as smoke from slash-and-burn land clearing in Indonesia enveloped the city-state, inflaming tensions between the Southeast Asian neighbours. The Pollution Standards Index (PSI) soared to a record high of 321 at 10 p.m., up from 290 just an hour earlier and below 200 earlier in the day. A PSI reading above 300 indicates "hazardous" air quality, while a reading between 201 and 300 means "very unhealthy". REUTERS/Edgar Su


Thursday, June 20, 2013


And the 'World Food Prize' goes to? 3 GMO Scientists

- Sarah Lazare, staff writer

This year's World Food Prize was handed to leading GMO scientists, including a developer at biotech giant Monsanto.
(Photo: Creative Commons/blondcupie) The move was an unbridled endorsement of GMOs amidst growing controversy as rising numbers question the technology's safety for people and the environment.
The body responsible for handing out the prestigious award—the private World Food Prize Foundation—receives hefty donations from the biotech industry. Mother Jones reports:
Out of 125 donors who contributed more than $500 between fiscal years 2009 and 2011 (the years for which the foundation's tax records are most readily available), 26 were either agribusiness or charities directly affiliated with agribusiness. Together, donations from these companies amounted to more than 28 percent of funds raised for that period, a Mother Jones analysis has found. The combined support of ADM, Cargill, Monsanto, and General Mills alone for this period came to more than a half million dollars.
The prize was created in 1986 by Norman Borlaug, 1970s pioneer of the 'Green Revolution'—the highly controversial Western push for the rapid development of big agribusiness and implementation of new biotechnologies across the third world. While the 'Green Revolution' is heralded by big business as a force against world hunger, many insist it merely succeeded in exporting and enforcing food production models that turn a profit for big agribusiness while devastating small farmers and the environment and erroding food security across the globe.
The foundation claims the award is meant to honor "the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world."
Officials were not shy about leaning heavily on the side of GMOs. Foundation president Kenneth Quinn declared, "If we were to be deterred by a controversy, that would diminish our prize," said the foundation's president, Kenneth Quinn, a retired U.S. diplomat."
This year's winners were announced at a Wednesday ceremony hosted by the State Department, and Secretary of State John Kerry delivered the address. Scientists from Ghent University and Syngenta Biotechnology were rewarded, in addition to the Monsanto scientists.
The prize garnered immediate condemnation. The AP reports on outrage at the announcement:
"GMO crops have led to the loss of food security worldwide and for small farmers, they have led to the development of factory farms and have destroyed biodiversity in food we do produce and consume," said David Goodner, a community organizer for Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, an environmental and human rights activist group that opposes corporate farming. "The World Food Prize by selecting these people to honor shows that it cares more about corporate profits than it cares about truly feeding the world with healthy food."
The announcement comes as global opposition to Monsanto grows. Late May saw internationally coordinated protests against a company that many condemn as the 'most evil company in the world' for practices that undermine food safety and small farmers while deepening global poverty and hunger.


Monsanto Refuses to Testify on Genetically Modified Crops in Puerto Rico
by Carmelo Ruiz-MarreroCorpWatch Blog
June 19th, 2013

Millions against Monsanto rally in Puerto Rico. Photo: Indymedia Puerto Rico
Monsanto has refused to testify at a major government hearing about the development and sale of seeds in Puerto Rico. At stake is the research that the company conducts into genetic engineering on the island that critics say threaten the environment and can cause serious human health problems.

The Puerto Rico Senate Agriculture Committee held a hearing last Monday on a bill (PS624) that would create a Seed Board and a certification and licensing system to regulate the development and sale of seeds in Puerto Rico.

"Monsanto does not produce, sell (or) offer... basic or certified seed with the purpose of planting in Puerto Rico", said company representative Eric Torres-Collazo in a letter to the committee explaining the decision not to testify.  He also claimed that the company's activities are not subject to regulation by the Puerto Rican legislature.

Technically Torres-Collazo is correct on at least one count - all the harvest produced by Monsanto and other transnational seed enterprises in the island is exported for use abroad as seed. A major market is the U.S. where most corn and soy is derived from genetically modified varieties.

But Puerto Rico has also been a major location for the development of genetically modified crops since 1987, conducting open air field tests on corn and soy, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. Crops developed on the island and other Monsanto research locations have a number of unusual properties – some are resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide or any herbicide with glyphosate as active ingredient. Others secrete an insecticidal toxin called Bt and there are even combination strains that combine both these traits.

Committee chair senator Ramón Ruiz-Nieves of the Popular Democratic Party told the media that he intends to summon Monsanto again, insisting that the company should be regulated locally since it receives substantial local and U.S. government subsidies for its activities in Puerto Rico, and is registered with the local Agriculture Department as a bona fide farmer.

This is not the first time local officials have targeted Monsanto. On April 22, senators María de Lourdes Santiago of the Puerto Rico Independence Party, and Larry Seilhamer of the New Progressive Party, introduced Senate Bill 524, which would mandate the labeling of foods with genetically modified content sold on the island. The Senate Health Committee is expected to hold hearings on this bill later this year.

Monsanto has also been embroiled in a legal controversy over the fact it plants crops on 1,500 acres, despite the fact that Puerto Rico's 1952 constitution prohibits agricultural landholdings larger than 500 acres. In May, Puerto Rico Agriculture Secretary Myrna Comas, a well known food security scholar, referred this matter to the Puerto Rico Justice Department, requesting a legal opinion.

"It is our duty to monitor the food health of our people. If we are given evidence regarding some effect on the island we'll take it into consideration," Comas said in a radio interview.

Local media reports have pointed out the irony that despite the fact that Monsanto is in apparent violation of the Puerto Rico constitution, it has received $4.9 million in subsidies from the local Agriculture Department to help it cover payroll expenses from 2006 to 2013.

The Puerto Rico Department of Agriculture and Juan Santiago-Cabán, operations manager of Monsanto in Puerto Rico, did not respond to CorpWatch's interview requests.

Meanwhile local farmers have publicly rallied to the cause. An April 24 event to induct Monsanto, the global leader in seed sales and biotechnology, into the Puerto Rico Agricultural Hall of Fame, became the target of protest by local farmers who are angry about the company's role in developing genetically modified crops on large plots of land on the island.

The Hall of Fame was set up by Acción y Reforma Agrícola (ARA), a farm lobby group founded by agribusinessman Pedro Vivoni, who owns Agro Servicios, a farm supply company. (Monsanto represents 18 percent of Agro Servicios' business, according to coverage by the local media). The Hall of Fame has been endorsed by the Agronomists Association (Colegio de Agrónomos) and the Agriculture Department of Puerto Rico, which gave ARA a $5,000 donation earlier this year.

“It is totally unacceptable on the part of an organization that represents agronomists and farmers to name Monsanto to the Puerto Rico Agriculture Hall of Fame, a company that sues farmers all over the world and has contributed to the destruction of the world's agricultural biodiversity,” said the activists in a statement presented by various scientific, student and farming organizations, including the local chapter of the Latin American Scientific Society of Agroecology (SOCLA)

The statement also referred to laboratory studies on animals that linked foods derived from genetically modified crops to tumors and premature death.

Monsanto and the agricultural biotech industry also face a huge backlash in the U.S.

For example, the Vermont and Connecticut Houses of Representatives both recently voted for mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods, in spite of the industry's fierce opposition.

In late May, Monsanto faced a major public relations setback when its genetically modified wheat was found growing in an Oregon farm. (This is despite the fact that test plantings of genetically modified wheat ended in 2005, and it has never been approved for use in any country in the world)

However Monsanto does have major support in the U.S. Congress - 71 out of 100 senators recently voted against an amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill sponsored by Bernie Sanders, an independent senator from Vermont, which would have upheld the right of state governments to require labels on genetically modified foods.

Monsanto also scored big last March when a bill signed by U.S. President Barack Obama into law (in order to prevent a government shutdown) included a "farmer assurance provision" clause that allows farmers to plant genetically modified crops before they have been declared safe by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. This clause has been nicknamed the Monsanto Protection Act by activists and biotech critics.

“The Monsanto Protection Act is an outrageous example of a special interest loophole,” said U.S, Senator Jeff Merkley , a Democrat from Oregon who is trying to get it repealed. “This provision nullifies the actions of a court that is enforcing the law to protect farmers, the environment and public health. That is unacceptable.”

Monsanto also won two major legal victories in the last few weeks. In May, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unanimously in favor of the company when it sued a farmer to force him to pay royalties to plant any seed descended from a patented original, and in June a district court dismissed a lawsuit by organic farmers and seed sellers, accepting Monsanto's assurances that it will not sue farmers whose seed was inadvertently contaminated by its patented varieties.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


Life in the Rural Police State of Monsanto

Wednesday, 19 June 2013 09:08 By Richard Schiffman, Truthout |
Seeds falling through bar code holes in hands - Life in the Rural Police State of Monsanto(Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)There has been mixed news for the agrochemical giant Monsanto recently. On the one hand, there was the surprise announcement on June 1 by company spokesman Brandon Mitchener: "We are no longer working on lobbying for more cultivation in Europe... Currently we do not plan to apply for the approval of new genetically modified crops." 
The embattled corporation has decided to stop tilting against the windmill of European resistance to its controversial biotech seeds. Eight EU nations have already prohibited GM (genetically modified) cultivation on their territory and banned the import of genetically modified foods from abroad.
But Monsanto's prospects in the United States took a very different turn last month when the US Supreme Court ordered Indiana farmer Vernon Bowman to pay Monsanto over $80,000 for planting its GM soybean seeds. Bowman had purchased the seeds from a grain elevator rather than from Monsanto itself, as their corporate contract requires. The seeds had been saved from an earlier crop. 
For as long as humans have been growing food, farmers have saved seeds from their harvest to sow the following year. But Monsanto and other big seed companies have changed the rules of the game. They have successfully argued that they spend millions of dollars developing new crop varieties and that these products should be treated as proprietary inventions with full patent protection.  Just as one can't legally reproduce a CD or DVD, farmers are now prohibited from copying the GM seeds that they purchase from companies like Monsanto, Bayer, Dow and Syngenta. 
In one sense, these corporations no longer sell seeds - they lease them, requiring farmers to renew their lease with every subsequent growing season. Monsanto itself compares its GM seeds to rental cars. When you are finished using them, rights revert to the owner of the "intellectual property" contained within the seed.
Some farmers have saved their seeds anyway (called "brown bagging"), in some cases to save money, in others because they don't like the big companies telling them how to farm. Monsanto has responded with an all-out effort to track down the brown baggers and prosecute them as an example to others who might be tempted to violate its patent. By aggressively enforcing its "no replant policy," Monsanto has initiated a permanent low-grade war against farmers. At the time of this writing, the company had not responded to emailed questions about its seed saving policies.
"I don't know of [another] company that chooses to sue its own customer base," Joseph Mendelson of the Center for Food Safety told Vanity Fair Magazine. "It's a very bizarre business strategy."
Yet the strategy appears to be working. Over 90 percent of the soybeans, corn, canola and cotton grown in the United States are patented genetically modified organisms (commonly known as GMOs). The soybean variety that Bowman planted has proved popular with farmers because it has been modified to survive multiple sprayings by Monsanto's best-selling herbicide Roundup, whose active agent is glyphosate. While Monsanto claims that GMOs increase crop yields, there is little evidence that this is the case. The chemical giant turned seed company also claims that the new technology decreases the need for agrochemicals. Yet 85 percent of all GM crops are bred to be herbicide resistant, which has meant that pesticide use is increasing as a result of the spread of GM crops. What GMOs were designed to do - and indeed accomplish - is create plants that can be grown efficiently in the chemical-intensive large scale monocultures that dominate American agriculture.
But the dominance of GMOs has come at a cost. In addition to the uncertain environmental impacts of the GMOs and the chemicals that are used to grow them as well as the possible negative health impacts of eating genetically modified foods, their production is sowing seeds of conflict in America's rural heartland. Worldwatch Institute says that the GMO regime has initiated a "new era of feudalism," no longer by wealthy landowners, but by powerful multinationals who have consolidated their control over the lives and practices of farmers everywhere.
Like the old feudalism, the new one is backed by the iron fist of the law. Bowman is just one of the untold thousands of farmers who have run afoul of Monsanto's legal department in recent years. You don't even need to be a farmer to be targeted by the multinational. Ask Gary Rinehart. 
As reported in 2008 in Vanity Fair, Rinehart was standing behind the counter at the Fair Deal, an old-fashioned country store that he owns in Eagleville, Missouri, when a man strode in and accused him - in front of his customers - of illegally planting patented seeds. "Monsanto is big," the stranger announced. "You can't win. We will get you. You will pay."
It must have seemed like a bad joke to Rinehart, who owns no farmland and doesn't plant seeds. He doesn't even sell them. The shopkeeper told the obnoxious stranger to get the hell out of his store. But it didn't end there. Some weeks later Rinehart was served with court papers from Monsanto which was suing him for sowing second-generation seeds, which it said were produced from Monsanto's genetic stock.
Rinehart fared better than Bowman. He easily won his case against America's largest seed company. Everyone in town - including the judge - knew that Rinehart was not a farmer. Even Monsanto eventually realized that it had targeted the wrong man. But they didn't send him a letter of apology, or offer to pay his lawyer's fees. Rinehart never heard from the company again.
"I don't know how they get away with it," Rinehart told Vanity Fair. "If I tried to do something like that it would be bad news. I felt like I was in another country."
Sadly, Rinehart is hardly alone in feeling like a character in a middle-American Kafka novel. Monsanto boasts one of the largest corporate security operations in the world, with agents working both openly and undercover in rural counties throughout the United States and Canada. Monsanto's investigators show up at front doors, and in some cases in the middle of farmers fields, making accusations, brandishing surveillance photos and demanding to see the farmer's private records or to be handed over their hard drives. 
Bill Freese, a science policy analyst at the Center for Food Safety (CFS), told Truthout that these investigators will say things like, "Monsanto knows that you are saving Roundup Ready seeds, and if you don't sign these information-release forms, Monsanto is going to come after you and take your farm or take you for all you're worth."
Of the hundreds of cases that Monsanto pursues every year "the great majority end in out-of-court settlements," Freese said. "Farmers are terrified of standing up to the multinational and losing everything."
The litigious corporation claims that it has transformed the way farming is done and that big changes require tough action. "This is part of the agricultural revolution, and any revolution is painful," Karen Marshall, a spokeswoman for Monsanto in St. Louis told the Washington Post in 1999. "But the technology is good technology." 
In the effort to police its "revolution," Monsanto does not limit itself to suing errant farmers. It also monitors farmer's co-ops, silo owners, seed-sellers, virtually anyone who has dealings with their patented seeds. And it employs tactics that may occasionally put it on the wrong side of the law. Iowa corn farmer Scott McAllister told Daily Finance that company investigators broke into his house, tapped his phones and "tailed his vehicles," charges which company spokesman Mica Veihman denied. But McAllister's allegations of Monsanto's extralegal intimidation of farmers is hardly unique.
Debbie Barker with the public interest organization Save Our Seeds alleges in a 2013 report issued jointly by her group and the Center for Food Safety that a Monsanto agent forged the signature of Anthony Parr, an Illinois seed-cleaner, in an effort to convict him of "aiding and abetting" farmers by processing their seeds for replanting. 
Seed cleaners like Parr remove chaff and weed seed from harvested seed. Parr said that he was not aware that the seeds he cleaned were Monsanto's. Nevertheless, he racked up over $25,000 in legal fees before even setting foot in a courtroom and, like so many others, reluctantly settled out of court. Parr lost almost 90 percent of his former customers, who were afraid that associating with the hapless seed-cleaner would lead to prosecution against them as well.
Monsanto has spared no expense in its effort to nab patent violators. As early as 2003, the corporation had a department of 75 employees (dubbed "the gene police") with a budget of $10 million for the sole purpose of pursuing farmers for patent infringement, according to the Center for Food Safety/Save Our Seeds report. It has also hired a private investigation firm, McDowell & Associates in Saint Louis. This investment has produced ample returns over the years. An analysis by the Center for Food Safety used Monsanto's own records to estimate that, as of 2006, farmers had paid the company an estimated $85 to $160 million in out-of-court settlements. 
Monsanto's investigatory and prosecutorial efforts are likely even larger today. However, the company no longer publishes this information, and they recently withdrew the data which CFS used to make their estimate from its Internet site. [See page 6 of PDF.]
In its war against "seed pirates," Monsanto employs methods that are better known in law enforcement and military intelligence than in the world of farming. Monsanto analyzes satellite images, USDA planting data and bank records in its effort to track down errant farmers. Freese told Truthout that Monsanto agents sometimes pretend that they are conducting surveys of seed and chemical purchases and impersonate farmers or surveyors. Freese described one incident in Illinois, where a Monsanto investigator bragged that the company routinely hires retired farmers to pose as seed sellers in an effort to nab unsuspecting buyers in sting-type operations. Monsanto also has its own toll-free tip-line (1-800-ROUNDUP) where farmers are invited to inform on their neighbors, as thousands have reportedly already done.
"Instead of helping each other with barn-raisings and equipment sharing," a CFS report states, "those caught saving seed, a practice that is hundreds of years old, were turned into 'spies' against their neighbors, replacing the atmosphere of cooperation with one of distrust and suspicion." Critics accuse the company of fraying the delicate social fabric which holds farming communities together. 
Saskatchewan Canola farmer Percy Schmeiser was even more direct when he spoke to The Washington Post in 1999 about what he said farmers in his area called "a reign of terror ... Everyone's looking at each other and asking, 'Did my neighbor say something?'"
In a now legendary incident, Schmeiser's fields were contaminated by seeds from a neighbor's genetically modified Roundup Ready canola plants, which had blown onto his land. When the farmer, who was the subject of the 2009 film "David Versus Monsanto," saved the seeds from these "accidental migrants" for replanting, Monsanto sued him for patent infringement and won the case but received no damages, since the court determined that Schmeiser had gained no economic benefit from the incident. Later Schmeiser countersued Monsanto for "libel, trespass, and contamination of his fields with Roundup Ready Canola." But that case was dismissed.
Schmeiser, who reportedly spent more than $400,000 on legal fees, says he can no longer use his strain of canola, which took him 50 years to develop, because he cannot prove that it doesn't include the Roundup Ready gene. 
Organic farmers complain that the drift of pollen and seeds from GMO fields invade their own crops, which is increasingly making it difficult for them to maintain their organic standards.
Thierry Vrain, a former research scientist for Agriculture Canada noted on the Food Revolution Network, "Genetic pollution is so prevalent in North and South America where GM crops are grown that the fields of conventional and organic growers are regularly contaminated with engineered pollen and losing certification. The canola and flax export market from Canada to Europe (hundreds of millions of dollars) were recently lost because of genetic pollution."
This kind of biological pollution has also happened in Mexico, where traditional corn plants (there are 150 unique varieties in the southern state of Oaxaca alone) were discovered to have been contaminated by genes from transgenic "industrial corn" planted in nearby fields.
What effect this cross-pollination will have on the integrity of Mexico's staple crop is not yet known. But multiple studies have confirmed that it has already taken place in regions throughout Mexico. There is also anecdotal evidence of grotesquely deformed native corn plants which contained the genetically modified genes.
A Monsanto brochure boasts, "The good news is that practical experience clearly demonstrates that the coexistence of biotech, conventional and organic systems is not only possible, but it is peacefully occurring around the world."
The reality on the ground, however, tells a different story. Far from peacefully coexisting with other forms of agriculture, the new biotechnology is rapidly swallowing up traditional farming in the United States. GM cultivation, with its economies of scale, is proving the latest nail in the coffin of family farming.
Moreover, a small number of "high performing" GMOs increasingly dominate; fewer varieties of crops are being planted today than ever before. The Big Ag companies claim that they need patent protection to encourage the costly development of new seed varieties, but Freese told Truthout that Monsanto spends more buying up independent seed companies (to the tune of an estimated $960 million a year) than on its research and development budget.
The result of this monopolistic consolidation, according to critics, has been less innovation, rather than more. Not only are the companies spending less on creating new conventional crops, but publicly funded agricultural research and breeding, which for most of the 20th century was the main driver of agricultural development in the US, declined precipitously in recent years, according to a recent study by the American Enterprise Institute. Perhaps worst of all, the creativity which fueled thousands of years of farmer experimentation becomes impossible when growers are prohibited from replanting seeds.
In the past, farmers selected seeds for traits they wanted to develop in their crops such as taste, size, nutrition and suitability to changing local growing conditions. This ongoing process of selection has led to the fabulous diversity of fruits, grains and vegetables which were developed by untold numbers of farmers over the centuries. Nowadays, however, that selection process is increasingly being frozen by a corporate agricultural system which selects for one trait alone - greater profitability.
Monsanto's profits from its burgeoning seed business recently reached an all-time high. However, the bottom line for the people who farm the earth - and for all of us who inhabit it - is proving more difficult to calculate.
But Barker of Save Our Seeds told Truthout that the silver lining in the stormclouds of corporate dominance of agriculture is that farmers are so fed up that they are beginning to take matters into their own hands. "Over the last few years, I see more and more people who are not waiting on their governments to do the right thing," she said. "Instead, they are making change as citizens of the earth in their local communities."
Barker cites as examples the growing transition toward chemical-free farming, the local food movement and the rise of small-scale regional seed banks to preserve agri-diversity. But she says it's vital for people to work politically as well.
"Congress constantly hears from agrichemical corporations," Barker says, "but they don't often hear from farmers." However that is gradually changing as outrage against corporations like Monsanto gets transmuted, in America's agricultural heartland, into the political will to oppose them.

Richard Schiffman

Richard Schiffman is the author of two biographies as well as a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Salon, The Washington Post, The Christian Science Monitor, The Huffington Post, and on NPR and Monitor Radio.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013


Ban food waste from Landfill : Seagulls fly around as a bulldozer compacts freshly dumped rubbish

Bloomberg set to roll out New York composting plan for food waste

Mayor set to cross 'final recycling frontier' with city-wide plan to handle up to 100,000 tons of food waste a year
US environment correspondent,
Reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills reduces greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Photograph: Matt Cardy/Getty Images
The mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, is preparing to roll out a new composting plan for the city, aimed at diverting some of the 100,000 tons of food scraps that ends up in landfill every year.
Bloomberg, who is due to leave office early next year, has called food waste the "final recycling frontier". Now it appears New York is moving towards that line, testing pilot projects in some neighbourhoods in preparation for a city-wide composting plan.
The city has hired a composting plant to handle up to 100,000 tons of food scraps a year – or about 10% of the city's total food waste, according to the New York Times,, which first reported the story.
Last April, about 100 city restaurants joined a voluntary composting plan, the food waste challenge. By next year, 150,000 households will be on board along with 100 high-rise buildings and 600 schools. The entire city could be recycling food scraps by 2015 or 2016.
The composting programme will at first be voluntary. But a city official told the Times that after a few years New Yorkers who do not separate out their food scraps could be liable to fines – just as they would be now if they do not recycle paper, plastic or metal.
The composting plan will make up a big part of New York's efforts to divert up to 75% of its solid waste from landfills by 2030. Reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfills also reduces greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. Food waste from all sources makes up about a third of the 20,000 tons of trash the city generates every day.
New York spends $336m a year to send its trash to landfills in Ohio, Pennsylvania and South Carolina. A composting programme would save about $100m a year, Ron Gonen, the city official responsible for recycling and sustainability, told the paper.
Other cities, such as San Francisco, have composting programmes in place. New York had been seen as a challenge because of its population density.


Buzz Off, Monsanto

by Paul Towers
Last week, the term “bee-washing” emerged in public conversation. It doesn’t refer to some new bee cleaning service, but to the insidious efforts of Monsanto and other pesticide corporations to discredit science about the impacts of pesticides on (Photo: quisnovus/ Flickr)bees — especially neonicotinoids — by creating public relations tours, new research centers and new marketing strategies.
This week, pesticide makers are showcasing these tactics during National Pollinator Week with offers of free seed packets to people who take their poorly named “pollinator pledge.” The “bee-washing” term has gained traction as scientists and groups like PAN continue to cut through the misinformation and point to the emerging body of science that points to pesticides as a critical factor in bee declines.
Monsanto hosted their first so-called Honey Bee Health Summit last week, a gathering at the company’s headquarters in Missouri. Without question, some truly smart, dedicated scientists attended Monsanto's bee summit and are participating in these efforts.
And a similarly committed group of beekeepers who care about bees, beekeeping and our food system have also participated. What’s increasingly clear, though, is that the credibility of these individuals is being used to shield the agenda of a handful of pesticide corporations and their bee-harming insecticide products. The corporate PR gymnastics on display are truly impressive.
Unfortunately, Monsanto is not alone in its efforts.  Just this spring, Bayer sponsored a tour of its “specially-wrapped beehicle” and hosted a talk at Ohio State University in March, over loud objections from local beekeepers. 
Not here. Look over there!
Industry has largely set its sights on one issue to blame for bee declines. While lack of sufficient forage and diseases are a challenge to bee health and beekeeping, challenges exacerbated by the weakening effect of pesticides on bees, the pesticide industry has focused a large proportion of its attention on the varroa mite. And it’s an easy distraction that places the burden of unprecedented bee losses on beekeepers — while subverting any blame for the widespread pesticide products.

Unfortunately for Monsanto & Co, and as most beekeepers and academics will say, the varroa mite has been around a long time, predating dramatic bee declines in U.S. that started in 2006. While mites no doubt affect bee colonies, they are unlikely the primary driver of population declines.
There is a correlation, however, between the introduction of neonicotinoid pesticides (or neonics) on the market and bee die-offs. Independent studies show — and beekeepers corroborate from hands-on experience — that these pesticides weaken bees' immune systems, likely damaging their resistance to common challenges like the varroa mite.
Neonics are one of the largest growth sectors for the pesticide industry. And industry has a vested interest in keeping the neonic market growing. But we know that spin efforts to refocus attention on varroa mites were already attempted in Europe, and the approach has been largely unsuccessful. The EU just put continent-wide restrictions on the use of neonics in place.
Bees are still dying
Pesticide corporations don’t show any sign of letting up. If this spring and summer are any indication, then the “bee-washing” campaign will continue. Beekeepers will remain the victims of this targeted PR campaign.
And the costs of are very real. Earlier this month, Jim Doan — a third generation commercial beekeeper from upstate New York — literally sold his farm due to bee losses. For years, he produced over half a million pounds of honey annually and eventually grew his business to 5,300 hives. But when neonicotinoid pesticides started being commonly used in the U.S., around 2006, Jim's bees started dying.
He’s experienced serious losses to bees he brought to citrus groves in Florida and the cornfields of New York. And now, he only has 300 hives left. In an email he circulated last week, he wrote:
“I am done. I cannot continue. Sold my farm 2 weeks ago, I am giving up, there is no hope here."
Bees are continuing to die off at unprecedented rates and beekeepers are going out of business. There is clearly something amiss — and the pesticide industry would have us believe that their products play no part in this alarming trend. PAN, beekeepers and our partners will continue to shine a light on corporate "bee-washing" and spin efforts to subdue or obfuscate the growing body of science pointing to this clear message: pesticides are playing a key role in bee deaths.