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Seeds

Crops

Project: Genetic Engineering and the Privatization of Seeds
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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Monsanto obtains Canadian regulatory approval for the unconfined release of its patented Roundup Ready gene (see February 23, 1993) into the environment. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Category Tags: Canola, Monsanto, Monsanto v. Schmeiser

Monsanto begins selling its Roundup Ready Canola in the US and Canada. [Canadian Business, 10/8/1999; Monsanto, 4/7/2006]

Entity Tags: George W. Bush

Category Tags: Monsanto, Canola

According to Kirk Azevedo, Monsanto’s facilitator for genetically modified cotton sales in California and Arizona, he learns from a Monsanto scientist that the company’s GM Roundup Ready cotton not only contains the intended protein produced by the Roundup Ready gene, but also contains additional proteins that are not naturally produced in the plant. These unknown proteins were created during the gene insertion process, the scientist reportedly explained to Azevedo, when the modified genes were inserted into the plant’s DNA using a “gene gun.” Azevedo, who has been studying mad cow disease (bovine spongiform encephalopathy), becomes concerned that these abnormal proteins “might possibly lead to mad cow or some other prion-type diseases.” When he shares this concern with the scientist, he discovers that the scientist has no idea what he is talking about. “He had not even heard of prions. And this was at a time when Europe had a great concern about mad cow disease and it was just before the Nobel prize was won by Stanley Prusiner for his discovery of prion proteins,” Azevedo later recalls. [Spilling the Beans, 6/2006] Azevedo will become even more concerned when he learns that Monsanto scientists are feeding experimental GM cotton plants to cattle (see Summer 1997).

Entity Tags: Kirk Azevedo, Monsanto

Category Tags: Monsanto, Public Health, Cotton

Kirk Azevedo, Monsanto’s facilitator for genetically modified cotton sales in California and Arizona, will later say that around this time he discovered that Monsanto is feeding GM cotton plants from test fields to cattle. “I had great issue with this. I had worked for Abbot Laboratories doing research, doing test plots using Bt sprays from bacteria. We would never take a test plot and put [it] into the food supply, even with somewhat benign chemistries. We would always destroy the test plot material and not let anything into the food supply.” When he explains to the Ph.D. in charge of the test plot that feeding experimental plants containing unknown proteins (see 1996) to cows is a potential health risk to humans, the scientist refuses to end the practice. “Well that’s what we’re doing everywhere else and that’s what we’re doing here,” Azevedo recalls the scientist saying. Azevedo then raises his concerns with other employees in Monsanto. “I approached pretty much everyone on my team in Monsanto” but no one seemed interested, and in fact, people started to ignore him. Next, he contacts California agriculture commissioners whose responsibility it is to ensure that the management and design of test plots do not pose any risks to public health. But, “once again, even at the Ag commissioner level, they were dealing with a new technology that was beyond their comprehension,” Azevedo later explains. “They did not really grasp what untoward effects might be created by the genetic engineering process itself.” He also tries unsuccessfully to speak with people at the University of California. Frustrated with the company and the government’s apparent lack of concern, he quits his job at Monsanto in early January 1998. [Spilling the Beans, 6/2006]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Kirk Azevedo

Category Tags: Public Health, Biotech/seed industry, Public Health, Experimental GM Crops, Biotech/seed industry, Monsanto, Public Health, Cotton

Just three years after its introduction into the market (see 1996), Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola is being grown by some 20,000 Canadian farmers, representing nearly half of Canada’s canola market. [Canadian Business, 10/8/1999]

Category Tags: Monsanto, Seed/biotech industry consolidation, Canola

Shortly before planting season, North American corn refiners announce that they will not accept any grain not approved for sale in the EU. [Ontario Corn Producers' Association, 4/23/1999; Canadian Business, 10/8/1999]

Category Tags: Corn, National policies toward GM food

Farmers interviewed by the Washington Post have different opinions of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]
bullet Ted Megginson, a soybean farmer in Auburn, Illinois, says: “We’re not doing this [farming] for a hobby. We’re looking for net dollars. They’re not holding a gun to my head to make me buy their seeds.” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]
bullet Tim Seifert, a soybean farmer from Illinois, tells the newspaper, “It’s made me a better farmer.” He adds that he saved $5 to $6 an acre the previous year in reduced labor and pesticide costs after planting his fields with Monsanto’s pesticide-resistant soybeans. [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]
bullet Vincent Moye, a farmer in Reinbeck, Iowa, says: “Every year I get catalogues from the seed salesmen, and more and more varieties have the Roundup Ready gene even though I don’t need it. The government’s looking at Microsoft too hard. This is a bigger monopoly. We’re all gonna be serfs on our own land.” [Washington Post, 2/3/1999]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Tim Seifert, Ted Megginson, Vincent Moye

Category Tags: Monsanto, Soybeans

Canadian farmer Louie Gerwing finds canola plants thriving in a fallow field he sprayed with herbicide. He brings a Monsanto-hired investigator to the property who determines it is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola. The investigator documents the infestation on film and then removes the plants by hand. The field, which runs along a busy provincial grid road, contained plants as far as 1000 feet away from the road. It had previously been planted with barley, wheat, and peas. Gerwing speculates that Roundup Ready Canola seeds must have been blown off passing grain trucks during the winter and then distributed around his field by drifting snow. [Alberta Report, 9/6/1999; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/16/2000]

Entity Tags: Louie Gerwing, Monsanto

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Monsanto, Monsanto v. Schmeiser, Canola

Percy Schmeiser finds several Roundup Ready Canola volunteers growing in his fields. (Volunteers are plants that grow where they are not wanted.) He contacts Monsanto about the canola plants, but the company’s representatives do not come out to his farm to inspect them. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/14/2000]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Monsanto v. Schmeiser, Monsanto, Canola

Canadian farmer Charlie Boser discovers between 300 and 500 Roundup Ready Canola plants in a field that was sprayed twice for weeds with Roundup mixtures. “Everything along that quarter was burnt to a crisp quite brown except for the canola,” he later testifies in court. The plants had apparently come to his fields from the east. “I was a little upset to have this contaminant on my land. I’d never used a Roundup Ready Canola.” He contacts Monsanto, who compensates him for one of his spray applications and pays the person who had done the chemical fallow to “get some kids to come pick it out,” according to Boser. A Monsanto representative later informs him that a field adjacent to his was planted with Roundup Ready Canola. [Alberta Report, 9/6/1999; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/16/2000; Western Producer (Saskatoon), 6/22/2000]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Charlie Boser

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Monsanto, Monsanto v. Schmeiser, Canola

Grupo Maseca, Mexico’s top producer of corn flour, says it will phase out its use of genetically modified corn. Mexico purchased $500 million of US corn in 1998. [Food & Drink Weekly, 9/13/1999; Canadian Business, 10/8/1999]

Entity Tags: Grupo Maseca

Category Tags: Mexico, Corn, National legislation/policy, National policies toward GM food

Canadian canola seeds sold to Europe by Advanta Canada are discovered to be contaminated with a small percentage of genetically modified (GM) seeds. [Canadian Press, 6/4/2000] The contamination resulted from pollen that was blown in from a farm growing GM crops more than a kilometer away. European citizens and governments are outraged and farmers in some of the countries plow their crops under. [Globe and Mail, 5/25/2000; New Scientist, 12/23/2000]

Entity Tags: Advanta Canada

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Monsanto v. Schmeiser, Canola

Pierre Gaudet, owner of a 400-hectare organic soya farm and president of the Quebec Federation of Organic Producers, learns that four percent of his 60-ton crop contains genetically modified soya. His crop was apparently cross-pollinated by his neighbor’s fields. He loses $33,000 when he is forced to sell his contaminated crop on the conventional market, which pays only $190/ton compared to the $750/ton rate that is paid for organic soya. “There is no insurance for that. I can’t sue my neighbor—he followed all the rules,” Gaudet says. “All the companies tell us that cross-pollination [of soya] is impossible, so I didn’t take any special measures.” [Gazette (Montreal), 10/5/2002]

Entity Tags: Pierre Gaudet

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Monsanto v. Schmeiser, Soybeans

Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist, and his assistant, David Quist, a graduate student at UC Berkeley, discover the presence of genetically modified (GM) genes in native Mexican maize growing in the remote hills of Oaxaca, Mexico. The contaminant genes contain DNA sequences from the cauliflower mosaic virus, which is often used as a promoter to “switch on” insecticidal or herbicidal properties in GM plants. Contamination is also found in samples from a government food store that purchases animal feed from the US. The Oaxaca region is considered to be the birthplace of maize and the world’s center of diversity for corn, “exactly the kind of repository of genetic variation that environmentalists and many scientists had hoped to protect from contamination,” the New York Times reports. Scientists worry that the genes could spread through the region’s corn population reducing its genetic diversity. Critics of genetically modified crops have long argued that the technology cannot be contained. According to Dr. Norman C. Ellstrand, evolutionary biologist at University of California at Riverside, the discovery “shows in today’s modern world how rapidly genetic material can move from one place to another.” The findings are not good news for the biotech industry which is currently lobbying Brazil, the European Union, and Mexico to lift their embargoes on genetically modified crops. [New York Times, 10/2/2001; Manchester Guardian Weekly, 12/12/2001; BBC, 3/13/2002] It is later learned that the contamination resulted from Oaxacan peasants planting kernels they purchased from a local feed store. Though there’s a moratorium on the growing of GM crops, there’s no such ban on animal feed containing GM seed. [Cox News, 10/2/2001]

Entity Tags: Bivings Group, Monsanto, David Quist, Ignacio Chapela, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Mexico, Biodiversity, Corn, Monsanto v. Schmeiser

By this year, 26 percent of all corn grown in the US is genetically modified. [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Corn

By this year, 68 percent of all soybeans grown in the US is genetically modified. [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Soybeans

By this year, 69 percent of all cotton grown in the US is genetically modified. [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Cotton

The Royal Society of Canada’s biotech experts releases a report concluding that genetically modified (GM) canola plants resistant to different herbicides have crossbred with each other to produce offspring stronger than their parents. The genes of three different types of GM canola have merged into new varieties resistant to many pesticides, the report says. When these plants show up as volunteers in fields planted with another crop, farmers are finding that they need to resort to broad spectrum herbicides like 2,4-D—the very chemicals farmers are trying to use less of—to kill them. [Royal Society of Canada, 1/2001 pdf file; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 2/6/2001]

Entity Tags: Royal Society of Canada

Category Tags: Environment, Canola, Studies-government

Monsanto’s Bollgard Bt cotton fares poorly during a one-year trial period in South Sulawesi, a province of Indonesia. During a drought, much of the crop suffers from a population explosion in cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera), though the pest has no effect on local varieties. Other pests also attack the crop. As a result, farmers are forced to purchase additional pesticides and use them in larger amounts than is usually necessary. Monsanto had said its Bt cotton would require less pesticide. It also claimed its product would produce yields as high as 3 tons per hectare, and even promised some farmers they would see 4-7 tons per hectare. But the average yield turns out to be only 1.1 ton per hectare with 74 percent of the total area planted actually producing less than one ton per hectare. Approximately 522 hectares experience complete failure. As a result of the poor harvest, 70 percent of the 4,438 farmers participating in the experiment are unable to repay the loans they obtained to buy the seed. They had purchased the cotton seed on credit for Rp 40,000/kg from Branita Sandhini, a Monsanto subsidiary, as part of a package deal that also included pesticide, herbicide (including Roundup), and fertilizer. By comparison, Kanesia, a non-transgenic cotton that is grown by other farmers in the area costs only Rp 5,000/kg. Not only does the farmers’ purchase agreement with Branita Sandhini require that they pay these high prices, it also prohibits them from saving and replanting harvested seed. After harvest, they rely on the same company to purchase their crop. However, before buying the harvest, Branita Sandhini asks the farmers to sign a new contract for the following year. In the new contract, the seed prices are double the previous year’s. Fearing that the company will refuse to buy their harvest if they do not sign, many indebted farmers reluctantly agree to the new terms. Others burn their fields in protest. One woman recalls, “The company didn’t give the farmer any choice, they never intended to improve our well being, they just put us in a debt circle, took away our independence and made us their slave forever. They try to monopolize everything, the seeds, the fertilizer, the marketing channel and even our life.” [Jakarta Post, 6/1/2002; Nation (Jakarta), 9/27/2004; Institute for Science in Society, 12/5/2004; Institute for Science in Society, 1/26/2005]

Entity Tags: PT Branita Sandhini, Monsanto

Category Tags: Monsanto, Indonesia, Farmers' rights, Cotton, Resistance

Don Carlson, president of the Humboldt and District Marketing Club, contends in an op-ed piece published by the Saskatoon Star Phoenix that herbicide-tolerant crops, such as Roundup Ready Canola, have resulted in numerous benefits for farmers. He says these benefits include “reduced tillage, earlier seeding, lower fuel and chemical costs, less erosion and less salinity.” He says he and others felt compelled to write the op-ed in response to all the negative information about GM crops, which they blame on Monsanto’s lawsuit against farmer Percy Schmeiser. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/22/2001]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto, Don Carlson

Category Tags: Monsanto, Canola, Monsanto v. Schmeiser

Berkeley grad student David Quist and Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist, publish the results of a study (see October 2000) finding that native Mexican maize has been contaminated with genetically modified genes. The study—published by the British journal Nature after an eight-month long peer-review process—presents two arguments. In addition to reporting the discovery that some of Oaxaca’s maize contains transgenic material, the paper says they found transgene fragments scattered throughout the plants’ modified DNA. [Quist and Chapela, 11/29/2001 pdf file] The study’s second conclusion causes a controversy because it contradicts the assertions of the biotech industry that genetic engineering is a safe and exact science, and that the technology is capable of controlling precisely where the modified sequences are positioned, how they will be expressed, and whether or not they will be passed on to successive generations. One of the main arguments of the technology’s detractors is that the methods used to insert trangenic genes into an organism’s DNA cannot be done with accuracy and therefore are liable to produce unpredictable and undesirable effects. Following the publication of Quist and Chapela’s article, other Berkeley biologists—who work in a Berkeley University program partially funded by Syngenta, a major biotech firm—criticize the study, leading Quist and Chapela to acknowledge that the analyses of two of the eight gene sequences in their paper were flawed. However they stand by their conclusions that the remaining six sequences contained scattered modified gene sequences. Critics of the article also note that both Quist and Chapela strongly oppose the genetic engineering of crops and participated in an unsuccessful effort to block the Berkeley-Syngenta partnership. The issue soon grows into a very large controversy that some suggest is fueled by the efforts of the biotech industry, and in particular, the Bivings Group, a PR firm on Monsanto’s payroll. Forum postings at AgBioWorld.org are reportedly traced to a Bivings’ employee. It is also noted that another person posting on the forum makes “frequent reference to the Center for Food and Agricultural Research, an entity that appears to exist only online and whose domain is [allegedly] registered to a Bivings employee.” Bivings denies that it is in any way connected to the forum postings. In spite of the controversy surrounding the article’s second finding, the other conclusion, that Mexico’s maize has been contaminated, is largely uncontested, and is buttressed by at least three other studies (see January 2002; February 19, 2003-February 21, 2003). [Associated Press, 4/4/2002; East Bay Express, 5/29/2002; BBC, 6/2/2002; Mother Jones, 7/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Bivings Group, David Quist, Ignacio Chapela, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Mexico, Studies-academic, Biodiversity, Corn

By this year, 34 percent of all corn grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of eight percentage points over the previous year (see 2001). [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Corn

By this year, 71 percent of all cotton grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of two percentage points over the previous year (see 2001). [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Cotton

By this year, 75 percent of all soybeans grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of eight percentage points over the previous year (see 2001). [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Soybeans

A study conducted by three University of Manitoba biologists finds that contamination of Pedigreed canola seed with seeds containing transgenic genes is widespread. In the study, seed was collected from several pedigreed seed lots that were supposed to be free of genetically altered genes that make plants herbicide-resistant. The seeds were used to plant 33 fields, which were then sprayed with Roundup, Liberty, and the Smart-trait herbicide. After the herbicide application, only one field contained no survivors. Of the 27 seedlots, 14 had contamination levels exceeding 0.25 percent and therefore failed the 99.75 percent cultivar purity guideline for certified canola seed. For three of the seedlots, contamination levels were higher than 2.0 percent. “That means one wrong seed in 400, if a farmer is seeding between 100 and 120 seeds per square yard. That means you would have a Roundup-resistant plant every couple of square yards,” explains plant biologist Lyle Friesen. “In a less competitive crop where you can mix products like 2,4-D or MCPA, that becomes a real problem and the volunteers set seed and become a real problem for next year.” Friesen tells the Manitoba Co-operator that, as far as canola is concerned, the “genie may be out of the bottle.” [Manitoba Co-operator, 8/1/2002; Friesen, Nelson, and van Acker, 2003]

Entity Tags: Lyle Friesen, Rene Van Acker

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Studies-academic, Canola, Monsanto v. Schmeiser

Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources publishes the results of its study (see September 18, 2001) on transgenic contamination in Oaxaca and nearby Puebla. The study found contamination levels between 3 and 13 percent in eleven communities and between 20 and 60 percent in four others. Tests conducted on maize sold in government food stores revealed that 37 percent contained the GM genes. [East Bay Express, 5/29/2002]

Entity Tags: Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Mexico, Studies-government, Corn

Jorge Soberon, the executive secretary of Mexico’s biodiversity commission, announces that government scientists have confirmed that genetically modified (GM) corn is growing in Mexico. The finding supports what two US scientists reported several months earlier (see Late November 2001) in a highly controversial paper published in the journal Science. Calling it the “world’s worst case of contamination by GM material,” he says 95 percent of the sites sampled in Oaxaca and Puebla were found to have GM maize. Samples taken from these sites indicated a contamination level as high as 35 percent. [Daily Telegraph, 4/19/2002; Mother Jones, 7/9/2002]

Entity Tags: Jorge Soberon, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources

Category Tags: Mexico, Biodiversity, GM Contamination, Corn, Monsanto v. Schmeiser, Studies-government

An Australian study published in the Journal Science finds that wind or insects can carry canola pollen up to three kilometers (1.87 miles). In Canada, where the contamination of non-transgenic canola with genetically modified (GM) genes has become a serious problem, the present isolation distance of GM canola is a mere 100 meters. “The study underlines a clear risk,” the report says. “Once transgenes are introduced they can’t be completely controlled.” [National Post, 6/28/2002; Rieger et al., 7/4/2002; Manitoba Co-operator, 7/4/2002]

Entity Tags: Agriculture Canada and Agri-Food Canada, Agriculture Canada and Agri-Food Canada, Lyle Friesen

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Studies-academic, Monsanto v. Schmeiser, Canola

Agriculture Canada publishes a study on the contamination of conventional crops with proprietary genetically modified genes. The study says that scientists in Saskatoon tested 70 certified canola seed lot samples for the presence of genetically modified genes and found that almost half were contaminated with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready gene and 37 percent with Pioneer Hi-Bred’s Liberty Link. Fifty-nine percent contained both. The study warns that “unless canola pedigree seed growers take extra care to control canola volunteers in the years between canola pedigree production, such volunteers could raise the presence of foreign genes to unacceptable levels.” [Manitoba Co-operator, 7/4/2002; Natural Life, 10/2002]

Entity Tags: Agriculture Canada and Agri-Food Canada

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Studies-government, Canola, Monsanto v. Schmeiser

The US Department of Agriculture orders ProdiGene to destroy 155 acres of corn that it believes have been contaminated with genes modified to produce medicine. The GM corn, which has not been approved for consumption by humans or livestock, is being developed by ProdiGene to produce the compound trypsin for diabetes as well as another another chemical to treat diarrhea. [Washington Post, 11/14/2002; Reuters, 12/9/2002]

Entity Tags: ProdiGene

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Corn

In Nebraska, USDA inspectors discover that 550,000 bushels of soybeans have been contaminated with a small amount of leaves and stalks from corn plants genetically modified to produce a pig vaccine. [Washington Post, 11/14/2002; Inter Press Service, 6/9/2004] The soybeans were grown in a field that had previously been planted with the experimental pharma corn. The biofirm developing the corn, ProdiGene, neglected to remove volunteer corn plants that had sprouted up alongside the soybeans. [Washington Times, 12/30/2004] These soybeans were then harvested and shipped to a storage facility where they were mixed with 500,000 bushels of soybeans. Upon discovering the contamination, the USDA orders the company to purchase and destroy all the contaminated soybeans. In December, the company will agree to pay a $250,000 fine, plus an estimated $2.8 million to dispose of the soybeans. [Reuters, 12/9/2002] This is the second incident this season involving the contamination of conventional crops with ProdiGene’s GM corn (see September 2002).

Entity Tags: ProdiGene, US Department of Agriculture

Timeline Tags: Food Safety

Category Tags: Soybeans, Public Health, Soybeans, Food security, Public Health, Corn, Soybeans

By this year, 84 percent of all canola grown in the US is genetically modified. [Brookes and Barfoot, 6/7/2004, pp. 8 pdf file]

Category Tags: Canola

By this year, 40 percent of all corn grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of six percentage points over the previous year (see 2002). [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Corn

By this year, 73 percent of all cotton grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of two percentage points over the previous year (see 2002). [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Cotton

By this year, 81 percent of all soybeans grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of six percentage points over the previous year (see 2002). [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Soybeans

A study conducted by a coalition of North American civil society organizations finds that cornfields in nine Mexican states—Chihuahua, Morelos, Durango, Mexico State, Puebla, Oaxaca, San Luis Potosi, Tlaxcala, and Veracruz—are contaminated with genetically modified (GM) DNA. A total of 2,000 plants from 138 farming and indigenous communities are tested. Contaminated corn is discovered in 33 of these communities, or 24 percent. Contamination levels vary from 1.5 percent to 33.3 percent. Some plants are found to contain as many as four different types of GM DNA—one herbicide-resistant variety and three Bt varieties, including Starlink, which is banned for human consumption in the US. Several plants in at least one of the contaminated fields are deformed. “We have seen many deformities in corn, but never like this,” Baldemar Mendoza, an indigenous farmer from Oaxaca, says during a news conference. “One deformed plant in Oaxaca that we saved tested positive for three different transgenes. The old people of the communities say they have never seen these kinds of deformities.” [ETC Group, 10/11/2003]

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Mexico, Studies-civil society, Corn, Indigenous peoples

By this year, 76 percent of all cotton grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of three percentage points over the previous year (see 2003). [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Cotton

By this year, 45 percent of all corn grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of five percentage points over the previous year (see 2003). [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Corn

By this year, 85 percent of all soybeans grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of six percentage points over the previous year (see 2003). [Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology, 8/2004]

Category Tags: Soybeans

Monsanto announces that it is temporarily halting sales of genetically modified soybean seeds because farmers are saving and replanting patented seed, making it difficult for the company to collect royalties. “We are suspending our soybean business… because it’s simply not profitable for us,” says Federico Ovejero, a spokesman for Monsanto Argentina. “We remain committed to releasing our technology in places where we can ensure a fair return on our investment.” Monsanto has been pressuring Argentina to clamp down on what it says is “seed piracy.” [Associated Press, 1/19/2004; Latin America News Digest, 1/20/2004; ETC Group, 2/26/2004] Monsanto estimates that more than half of the seeds planted during the October-November planting season appears to have been pirated. [New York Times, 1/20/2004] One Argentinean seed industry executive warns that Monsanto’s action “is the first warning sign that all new technologies will abandon us if intellectual property rights are not respected.” [Associated Press, 1/19/2004; ETC Group, 2/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice

Category Tags: Argentina, Monsanto, Soybeans, Farmers' rights

Farming cooperatives in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul agree to pay Monsanto royalties for all genetically modified soybeans they grow in 2004. Exporters and crushers will sign licensing agreements with Monsanto requiring them to collect a $.21 royalty for every 90-kg bag of GM soybeans purchased from farmers. [Latin America News Digest, 1/29/2004; Chemical News & Intelligence, 1/29/2004; Resource News International, 1/30/2004; ETC Group, 2/26/2004]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Category Tags: Brazil, Soybeans, Monsanto, Farmers' rights

A study done by the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that traditional US varieties of corn, soybeans, and canola have become widely contaminated with low levels of transgenic genes. Contamination levels are the highest for canola, the study finds, with six of the six traditional varieties testing positive for genetically modified DNA. Based on the study’s findings, the authors estimate that the level of contaminated seed in the US is probably in the range of 0.05 to 1 percent, which the report notes “would represent huge absolute amounts of seed.” According to the authors, the study shows how easy it is for transgenic genes to escape. It also suggests the possibility that genes not approved for consumption—such as those engineered to produce drugs, plastics, and vaccines—could end up contaminating food crops. [Mellon and Rissler, 2/23/2004 pdf file; Mellon and Rissler, 2/23/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Union of Concerned Scientists

Category Tags: Studies-academic, GM Contamination, Canola, Corn, Soybeans

A report by the Indian government finds that Bt cotton grown in India in 2005 experienced a higher incidence of pest and disease and produced lower yields than non-Bt cotton. The report recommends that Bt cotton be planted only in irrigated fields that have fertile soil. Another study, conducted by a number of civil society organizations, finds that farmers who grew Bt cotton in Andhra Pradesh collectively incurred $80 million dollars more in farming costs than non-Bt cotton growers. [Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, 3/29/2006]

Category Tags: Studies-government, Cotton, India

After Percy Schmeiser finds volunteer Roundup Ready Canola plants growing in a 50-acre parcel of his farm that was chemically fallowed, he calls Monsanto and asks them to remove the plants. In 2000, a federal court issued an injunction barring him from growing any plants containing the company’s patented genes and cells (see March 29, 2001). A team of Monsanto investigators shows up and offers to remove the plants. But before they do so, they ask him to sign a legal release, prohibiting him from speaking publicly about the settlement terms and releasing the company of all liability. Schmeiser refuses. “I flatly refused to sign any release that would take my freedom of speech or my rights away,” he says. “They must think I’m absolutely crazy I would ever sign my rights away.” According to the company’s inspectors, the plants appear to have grown in a uniform pattern inconsistent with pollen flow. They also say that it is not normal for canola plants to flower in late September. In a letter dated September 30, Schmeiser responds that the dispersal pattern of the plants are not uniform and are thickest by the road, which is what one would expect if they germinated from seed blown of trucks or from a neighboring farm. He also notes that canola seeds may germinate at any point during the year, if conditions are right. With neither side willing to give in to the other’s demands, Schmeiser removes the plants himself on October 21. Monsanto spokesperson Trish Jordan insists the company is under no legal obligation to remove plants that show up in fields uninvited. [Western Producer (Saskatoon), 10/26/2005]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser, Trish Jordan

Category Tags: Monsanto v. Schmeiser, GM Contamination, Canola

Between January and August 2006, an estimated 1,920 Bt cotton farmers in Vidarbha, Maharashtra (India) commit suicide because of rising debts. And between June and August, the suicide rate reaches one suicide every eight hours. The higher cultivation costs associated with genetically modified Bt cotton (see, e.g., 2005 ) has made it more difficult for farmers to pay back their loans. Roughly 2.8 million of the 3.2 million cotton farmers in the Maharashtra province are currently in default. More than 50 percent of the farmers who commit suicide are between the ages of 20 and 45. [DNA India, 8/26/2006] The epidemic of farmer suicides began in 1994 when India liberalized its economy and devalued the rupee. [DNA India, 8/26/2006]

Category Tags: Farmers' rights, India, Farmers' rights, Cotton, India

In the Warangal district of Andhra Pradesh, India, more than 70 Indian shepherds report that 25 percent of their herds died within 5-7 days of continuous grazing on the leaves and pods of harvested Bt cotton plants. The shepherds noticed that the sheep became dull or depressed two to three days after grazing on the plants. They developed “reddish and erosive” lesions in the mouth, became bloated, had episodes of blackish diarrhea, and sometimes had red-colored urine. Post-mordem examinations of the animals revealed the presence of black patches in the small intestines, enlarged bile ducts, discolored livers, and the accumulation of pericardial fluid. Investigators suspect that the deaths were likely due to the Bt toxin in the leaves and pods of the Bt cotton plants. [Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Anthra, 4/2006; NDTV (New Delhi), 6/1/2006] Researchers from the Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and the group Anthra later submit a report on the sheep deaths to India’s Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, but the government agency dismisses the reports as “exaggerated.” [Centre for Sustainable Agriculture and Anthra, 7/28/2006]

Entity Tags: Centre for Sustainable Agriculture, Genetic Engineering Approval Committee, Anthra

Category Tags: Public Health, India, Public Health, Cotton, India

More than 40 indigenous leaders from the potato producing regions of Peru meet in Cusco to sign a letter calling on Syngenta to discard its patent (US Patent 6,700,039) on a technology that would be used to develop potato seeds that would be sterile unless treated with chemicals. Andean and Aymara farmers fear that such seeds would destroy their centuries-old tradition of saving and sharing seeds, and with it their cultural and social way of life. They also say the technology could result in the disappearance of several of the 3,000 different varieties of potatoes that are grown in the region. [Indigenous Coalition Against Biopiracy in the Andes, n.d. pdf file; International Institute for Environment and Development, 3/21/2006]

Entity Tags: Aymara, Syngenta, Quechua

Category Tags: Indigenous peoples, Syngenta, Terminator seeds, Potatoes

Monsanto announces that it will purchase Delta & Pine Land Company, the world’s largest cotton seed company, and the first company to obtain a patent on terminator technology (see March 3, 1998). Monsanto has had its sights on Delta & Pine Land for years. A previous plan to buy the company—announced in 1998 (see May 11, 1998)—fell through in December 1999 (see December 19, 1999). The acquisition means that Monsanto will control over 57 percent of the US cotton seed market. It will also deepen Monsanto’s reach into the developing world, where Delta & Pine Land has subsidiaries in 13 countries—including India, Brazil, Mexico, Turkey, and Pakistan. According to the ETC Group, an outspoken critic of terminator technology, “the takeover means that Monsanto will command a dominant position in one of the world’s most important agricultural trade commodities and that millions of cotton farmers will be under increased pressure to accept genetically modified (GM) cottonseed.” [Monsanto, 8/15/2006; ETC Group, 8/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Delta & Pine Land Company

Category Tags: Seed/biotech industry consolidation, Delta & Pine Land, Monsanto, Cotton

Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announces that US commercial supplies of long-grain rice were inadvertently contaminated in 2005 with a genetically modified variety (LLRICE 601) developed by Bayer CropScience that has not been approved for human consumption. Johanns says the Department of Agriculture believes the “product is safe.” LLRICE 601 contains bacterial DNA that makes it resistant to a weedkiller manufactured by Aventis. Johanns also says that Bayer now has plans to seek FDA approval for LLRICE 601. [Washington Post, 8/19/2006] News of the contamination sends US rice futures plummeting as European grocery stores begin pulling US rice from their shelves. The European Union says it will only accept US long-grain rice that has been certified GM-free. [USA Today, 10/23/2006] Similarly, Japan announces that it is suspending long grain rice imports and warns that if there is another incident of GM contamination, it will reject all US imports. [Associated Press, 10/29/2006]

Entity Tags: US Department of Agriculture, Bayer, Mike Johanns

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Rice

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