Illegal GM cotton spreads across India


Author(s):
Latha Jishnu
Issue Date:
2013-5-22

In a replay of Bt cotton saga, Monsanto‘s Roundup Ready Flex is being grown in at least three states without clearance

GM cotton has proved to be a grim experience<br />
for farmers as erratic rains and high costs of cultivation have resulted in<br />
poor returns. This appears to be a prime cause of the wave of farmer suicides<br />
that have touched nearly 9,000 since 2005GM cotton has proved to be a grim experience for farmers as erratic rains and high costs of cultivation have resulted in poor returns. This appears to be a prime cause of the wave of farmer suicides that have touched nearly 9,000 since 2005 (Photo by Amit Shanker)

In the sweltering cotton fields of northern and western India, a special cotton seed that is tolerant to herbicides is spreading fast, making a mockery of the country’s ability to regulate the use of genetically modified (GM) technology. The seeds, according to reports from Gujarat, Punjab and Maharashtra, are those of biotech giant Monsanto which have been genetically engineered to withstand glyphosate, the active ingredient of its herbicide Roundup. India has yet to approve herbicide-tolerant seeds.
This is a replay of how GM technology took root in the country 12 years ago.

In 2001, reports were rife of the widespread use of Bt cotton, the GM cottonseed, in Gujarat where thousands of farmers had started illegal cultivation before the regulators could approve its commercial use. Following a campaign by the industry and leading media organisations, Bt cotton was cleared without some essential safeguards. Regulators did little to check how Bt cotton was being grown, whether the mandatory refugia or buffer zones were being maintained to prevent the contamination of non-Bt fields that would also help to slow down the resistance to Bt.

In 2013, history is repeating itself as herbicide-tolerant GM cotton known as Roundup Ready Flex  (RRF) spreads illegally in at least three states. Roundup Ready Flex, first reported to be in use in Gujarat last season, has since spread to Punjab and Maharashtra although the regulator, the Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee, has not cleared the technology. This is being field-tested by Monsanto’s Indian partner, the Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company better known as Mahyco.

Mahyco, incidentally, was the first Indian company to get approval for the commercial release of Bt cotton that was marketed as Bollgard in 2002.

Farmers’ organisations in Maharashtra, particularly those in Vidarbha, have become alarmed by the spread of the illegal Roundup Ready Flex. The region is notorious for the huge numbers of suicides by primarily cotton farmers in the past 15 years and farmers’ lobbies have been blaming the use of GM technology or Bt cotton as it is known for the spate of suicides. Glyphosate kills only the weeds and leaves the crop, reducing labour for farmers.   However, a significant concern with the heavy use of glyphosate is that it leads to the growth of superweeds that are resistant to glyphosate.

A recent report from Manitoba, Canada, says more than one million acres (404,686 hectares, one acre equals 0.4 ha) of Canadian farmland have glyphosate-resistant weeds growing on them. This estimate is based on a survey of 2,028 farmers, conducted by Stratus Agri-Marketing Inc. This is an extremely high figure which has been disputed but in the US, the biggest user of GM, pesticide use has gone up dramatically due GM herbicide-resistant weeds, warns Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists. “Millions of acres of glyphosate-resistant weeds are causing real harm, such as increased tillage that increases soil erosion,” he points out.

In India, the spread of Roundup Ready GM cotton is matter of serious concern since GEAC had called for additional tests by Mahyco. Kishore Tiwari of the Vidarbha Jan Andolan Samiti (VJAS), a farmers’ advocacy group that is fighting to safeguard the sustainability of agriculture in drought-prone Vidarbha,  says herbicide-tolerant Bt cotton is being openly sold at Rs1,500/ per packet of RRF (450 gm) “which is highly objectionable because RRF is yet to receive approval”.

GEAC sources say Mahyco has been asked to provide detailed data on the use of RRF and its impact on the environment and approval for its commercial release is some way off.


Source URL: http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/illegal-gm-cotton-spreads-across-india

 

Study: Monsanto’s Roundup Herbicide Linked to Cancer, Autism, Parkinson’s


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Study: Monsanto‘s Roundup Herbicide Linked to Cancer, Autism, Parkinson’s
Glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, may be “the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment,” say authors

– Andrea Germanos, staff writer, commondreams
The active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide may be “the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment,” being responsible for a litany of health disorders and diseases including Parkinson’s, cancer and autism, according to a new study.

“Negative impact on the body” from glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, “is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body,” according to a new study. (Photo: astridmn/flickr)
It’s “the most popular herbicide on the planet,” widely used on crops like corn and soy genetically engineered to be “Roundup Ready,” and sprayed on weeds in lawns across the US. But in the peer-reviewed study published last Thursday in the journal Entropy, authors Anthony Samsel, an independent scientist and consultant, and Stephanie Seneff, a senior research scientist at MIT, crush the industry’s claims that the herbicide glyphosate is non-toxic and as safe as aspirin.

Looking at the impacts of glyphosate on gut bacteria, Samsel and Seneff found that the herbicide “enhances the damaging effects of other food borne chemical residues and environmental toxins,” and is a “textbook example” of “the disruption of homeostasis by environmental toxins.”

The researchers point to a potential long list of disorders that glyphosate, in combination with other environmental toxins, could contribute to, including inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, depression, ADHD, autism, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, ALS, multiple sclerosis, cancer, cachexia, infertility, and developmental malformations.

The herbicide’s “Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body,” they write.

The authors conclude:

Given the known toxic effects of glyphosate reviewed here and the plausibility that they are negatively impacting health worldwide, it is imperative for more independent research to take place to validate the ideas presented here, and to take immediate action, if they are verified, to drastically curtail the use of glyphosate in agriculture. Glyphosate is likely to be pervasive in our food supply, and, contrary to being essentially nontoxic, it may in fact be the most biologically disruptive chemical in our environment.
The new findings may add further momentum to concerns from food safety and food sovereignty advocates who have challenged Monsanto’s grip on corporate agriculture and its genetically engineered crops.

In a “March Against Monsanto” in cities in the US and beyond, activists plan to gather on May 25 to highlight environmental and health concerns from genetically engineered crops and call out the corporatism that allows “Organic and small farmers [to] suffer losses while Monsanto continues to forge its monopoly over the world’s food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup.

To see more about the march, go to the action’s Facebook page here.https://www.facebook.com/MarchAgainstMonstanto

The full article in Entropy is viewable here .http://www.mdpi.com/1099-4300/15/4/1416

_________

 

Monsanto Bullies Small Farmers Over Planting Harvested GMO Seeds


by Puck Lo, CorpWatch Blog
March 26th, 2013

“Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.” New report by Center for Food Safety.

Does Monsanto own all future generations of genetically modified seeds that it sells? The Missouri-based agribusiness giant wants farmers to pay a royalty to plant any seed that descended from a patented original. The legal decision has ramifications for other patented “inventions” that reproduce themselves like strands of DNA.

The U.S. Supreme Court appeared to side with Monsanto in oral arguments heard this past February in a lawsuit that the world’s largest seed company has brought against Vernon Hugh Bowman, a 75 year old farmer in Indiana, who grows corn, soybeans and wheat on a small farm of 600 acres (242 hectares).

The impending court decision, which will probably come this June, has sparked alarm among consumer advocates.

“Judges don’t understand agriculture,” says Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety, a Washington DC based watchdog group. “The Monsantos of the world have everyone convinced through a massive misinformation campaigns that biotech crops are essential to feed the world, and patents are necessary for biotech crops. So there’s this patina of virtuous innovation when in fact what biotechnology is really used for primarily is to develop pesticide-promoting crops.”

The crop in question is Roundup Ready soybeans, which are genetically-altered to be resistant to glyphosate, the main chemical in Roundup, a pesticide also manufactured by Monsanto.

Bowman first fought back when Monsanto sued him in 2007 for patent infringement. At the time, Bowman was a regular Monsanto customer. Like the 275,000 other U.S. farmers who buy “Roundup Ready” seeds, Bowman bought his seeds from Monsanto and signed a contract stating that he would not save Roundup seeds to replant. He didn’t.

But from 1999 to 2007, in addition to his usual order of Roundup Ready soybeans for seed, Bowman purchased commodity-grade soybeans, called “commodity grain,” from a local grain elevator where farmers like himself sell their crops. Typically, commodity grain is used for animal feed. Bowman, however, decided to use the commodity grain – a mix comprising of many different varieties of soybeans including some Roundup Ready seeds – to plant a second, lower yield soybean harvest later in the season.

What I wanted was a cheap source of seed,” Bowman told National Public Radio, a U.S. network.

Roundup Ready was first marketed in 1996, and it was a hit with farmers in the U.S., the largest producer of genetically modified food in the world. These days, more than 90 percent of U.S.-grown soybeans are Roundup Ready, Monsanto said in court documents. As a result, organic farmers say, it’s getting harder to find diverse strains of traditional, heirloom soybeans.

Therefore, it’s no surprise that some of the soybeans Bowman took home from the grain elevator contained Monsanto’s patented soybeans. For eight years, Bowman planted the commodity-grade soybeans for his second harvest, sprayed Roundup on them, harvested the plants that grew and kept the seeds they produced to plant later. It’s these “third generation” seeds that are at the heart of the Supreme Court case now.

Bowman saw nothing wrong with what he was doing. “All through history we have always been allowed to go to an elevator and buy commodity grain and plant it,” he told the New York Times.

Not any more, if companies like Monsanto who control most of the global commercial seed market, have their way. The big seed companies use a strategy to attack seed savers that consists of three stages: “investigations; coerced settlements; and, if that fails, litigation,” says the Center for Food Safety.

To date, in the U.S., Monsanto has sued 410 farmers and 56 small farm businesses for alleged seed patent violation. Monsanto has won every single case. The company was awarded nearly $24 million from just 72 of those judgments, the Center for Food Safety found.

Additionally, Freese estimates that as many as 4,500 small farmers who could not afford legal representation have been forced to accept out-of-court settlements. He estimates, based on Monsanto’s documents, that those farmers paid Monsanto between $85 and $160 million in out-of-court settlements.

“As early as 2003, Monsanto had a department of 75 employees with a budget of $10 million for the sole purpose of pursuing farmers for patent infringement,” the Center for Food Safety stated in a new report, “Seed Giants vs. U.S. Farmers.” “Agrichemical companies earn billions of dollars each year, and farmers cannot possibly compete against such resources.”

“Patents are necessary to ensure that we are paid for our products and for all the investments we put into developing these products,” the company states on its website in its defense. “Monsanto invests more than $2.6 million per day in research and development that ultimately benefits farmers and consumers. Without the protection of patents, this would not be possible.”

The Center for Food Safety wants federal, state and local governments to work together to regulate the biotechnology industry, using a law passed by the U.S. Congress in 1970 as a guideline. The 42 year old Plant Variety Protection Act allowed intellectual property laws to be applied to new and distinct plants.

But it had an exemption for farmers to save seeds of such plants and replant them so long as they do not resell the seed. Plant breeders are also allowed to use protected seed for further breeding work. The law was designed to protect one seed company – say Monsanto – from another – like DuPont. This law did not view farmers as competitors to companies.

In 2001, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that non-hybrid plants could be patented. The final decision was written by Justice Clarence Thomas, who incidentally  worked as an attorney for Monsanto in the 1970s. Since then, courts have tended to side with seed companies suing for patent infringement.

“This (Plant Variety Protection Act) has been largely sidelined now by the patent system,” says Freese. “Now companies with patents have this inordinate control over seeds, and they can criminalize seed saving.

Bowman spent $31,000 of his own money on legal fees before a law firm agreed to defend him for free. If Monsanto wins the case against him, he’ll have to pay almost $85,000 to the corporation, which made $7 billion in profits in fiscal year 2012.

Bowman’s legal argument rests on a 150-year old Supreme Court common law known as the “patent exhaustion doctrine.” His lawyer, Mark P. Walters, argued that Monsanto’s patent did not apply to seeds descended from Roundup Ready soybeans that were then sold to a grain elevator and mixed with other soybeans.

Monsanto contended that Bowman, by growing and saving seeds from the commodity soybeans he bought from the grain elevator, was making “copies” of the original, patented Monsanto product.

Two lower courts agreed with Monsanto. In 2009, district court in Indiana awarded the company more than $84,000. The Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which specializes in patent law, upheld the decision in 2011.

In October 2012, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, despite objections made by the Obama administration, which said the judges should let the previous rulings stand. The U.S. government filed a friend of the court brief in support of Monsanto, stating that “the Court’s decision could also affect the enforcement of patents for man-made cell lines, DNA molecules, some nanotechnologies and other technologies that involve self-replicating features.”

Not surprisingly, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Business Software Alliance, Intellectual Property Owners Association and other industry and research groups also filed friend of the court briefs on Monsanto’s side.

On February 19, Supreme Court justices heard both sides of the case.

“Without the ability to limit reproduction of soybeans containing this patented trait, Monsanto could not have commercialized its invention, and never would have produced what is, by now, the most popular agricultural technology in America,” Monsanto’s lawyer and former U.S. solicitor general, Seth P. Waxman, told the court.

Waxman was allowed to talk uninterrupted at length, “which is usually a sign of impending victory,” the New York Times reported.

In contrast, the justices fired a volley of skeptical questions at Bowman’s attorney, Mark P. Walters. When Walters argued that Monsanto’s patent didn’t apply to subsequent generations of seeds after the initial sale, Antonin Scalia, another judge, interrupted him.

“Why in the world would anybody spend any money to try to improve the seed if, as soon as they sold the first one, anybody could grow more and have as many of those seeds as they want?” Scalia asked.

Later, Walters argued that Bowman was “making use” of the commodity grain that he bought on the open market when he planted it, not making a copy of an original Monsanto seed. He was rebuked by Stephen Breyer, another of the judges.

“You can feed it to animals, you can feed it to your family, make tofu turkeys,” Breyer interjected. “But… you can’t pick up those seeds that you’ve just bought and throw them in a child’s face. You can’t do that because there’s a law that says you can’t do it. Now, there’s another law that says you cannot make copies of a patented invention.”

“If the concept is the sale of a parent plant exhausts the patentholder’s rights… we would have to go all the way back to the very first Roundup Ready plant that was created,” said Melissa Arbus Sherry, the lawyer representing the Obama administration. “Every single Roundup Ready seed in existence today is the progeny of that one parent plant and… that would eviscerate patent protections. There would be no incentive to invest, not just in Roundup Ready soybeans or not even agricultural technology.”

Walters believes there is still a possibility that the Supreme Court could reverse the decision or send the case back to the lower courts for retrial. He said three of the justices appeared to sympathize with the idea that a farmer ought to be able to sell, plant or grow new seeds from ones he buys on the open market.

“There are many interests: biotech, seed companies, large and small farmers. They’re not aligned,” Walters told CorpWatch. “Small farmers are not very well organized. They’re not a strong voice in Congress. Right now one company with a particular stake is trying to make a case based on a set of particular facts.”

Both Walters and Freese agree that in today’s political climate, it would be an uphill battle to pass legislation that would regulate the powerful biotech industry. Last year, Monsanto, other agribusiness and food companies spent more than $45 million to defeat a proposition in California that would have required labels on some genetically modified foods sold at stores.

Meanwhile, Bowman has to drive out of the state of Illinois – to Ohio –  in order to find cheap, non-GMO commodity soybeans he can plant without the threat of a patent infringement suit. Every time, he does this, he passes numerous grain elevators, all of which brim with soybeans.

 

Argentinian farmers suing Monsanto for ‘poisoning’


By Anne Sewell

Apr 12, 2012 in World
Monsanto is once again in the news. This time they and other corporations are being sued for allegedly “knowingly poisoning farmers” in Argentina.
Farmers from Argentina allege agri-giant Monsanto, together with Philip Morris and other U.S. tobacco companies, asked them to use chemicals on their crops. Said chemicals have allegedly caused “devastating birth defects.”

The farmers say the corporations were aware of the implications but have failed to sufficiently warn farmers.

The corporations thus were driven “by a desire for unwarranted economic gain and profit,” farmers say.

The suit was filed this week at New Castle County Court, Delaware and Monsanto, Philip Morris Cos, Philip Morris USA, Carolina Leaf Tobacco, Universal Corporationand others are said to have “wrongfully caused the parental and infant plaintiffs to be exposed to those chemicals and substances which they both knew, or should have known, would cause the infant offspring of the parental plaintiffs to be born with devastating birth defects.”

In a 55-page complaint filed with the court, it is alleged chemicals caused conditions to develop, including: “cerebral palsy, epilepsy, spina bifida, congenital heart defects, Down syndrome, missing fingers and blindness.”

The plaintiffs in the action are growers from mostly small and family-owned farms in the Misiones Provinceof Argentina.

They say they were asked to use pesticide and herbicide products produced by Monsanto and that these were proven to be poisonous.

Many of the farmers say they were forced to replace native tobacco crops with a variant that was favored by Philip Morris. This variant required more pesticides to harvest successfully. They were pushed to use Roundup, a Monsanto herbicide product. While the product was successful in killing the weeds, it apparently has terrible side effects due to the high concentration of the chemical glyphosate in the product.

The complaint claims: “Monsanto defendants, the Philip Morris defendants, and the Carolina Leaf defendants promoted the use of Roundup and other herbicides to tobacco farmers in Misiones even though they were on direct and explicit notice that at all relevant times farmers in Misiones, including the instant plaintiffs, lacked the necessary personal protective equipment and other safety knowledge and skills required to minimize harmful exposures to Roundup.”

Attorneys further argue that both Monsanto and Philip Morris “actively recommended and/or required that contracted tobacco farmers, including the instant plaintiffs, purchase excessive quantities of Roundup and other pesticides” but that they failed to recommend the necessary protective measures to combat health risks.

“The plaintiff tobacco farmers’ lack of training and instruction on the safe disposal of unused Roundup and other pesticides caused further exposure,” the complaint states. “Leftover pesticides were discarded in locations where they leached into the water supply.”

The suit is requesting financial compensation and punitive damages for “negligence, product liability, breach of warranty, ultra hazardous activity, aiding and abetting, willful and wanton misconduct and violations of Argentine laws”, according to the Courthouse News Service.

In a recent Digital Journal article, Monsanto threatened to sue the state of Vermont, U.S.A. if legislators approved a bill forcing the labeling of GMO products. Following this threat Vermont suspended voting on the bill.

Read more: http://www.digitaljournal.com/article/322845#ixzz1s0Z2igMN

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