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Seeds

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

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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

Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser is ordered to pay $19,832 CAD in damages to Monsanto for having planted and harvested canola in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” contained Monsanto’s patent-protected Roundup-resistant gene. Several weeks earlier, a Canadian federal court ruled that Monsanto was entitled to the profits plus interest from Schmeiser’s 1998 canola crop (see March 29, 2001). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Category Tags: Monsanto v. Schmeiser

Percy Schmeiser announces that he will appeal Federal Judge Andrew MacKay’s ruling (see March 29, 2001) that he infringed on Monsanto’s patent for Roundup Ready Canola . [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/25/2001; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser

Category Tags: Monsanto v. Schmeiser

Percy Schmeiser files an appeal against Judge Andrew MacKay’s ruling (see March 29, 2001) that he infringed on Monsanto’s patent for Roundup Ready Canola when he planted seed in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” was resistant to Roundup. In his grounds for appeal, attorney Terry Zakreski makes 17 points (see May 15-16, 2002). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Terry Zakreski, Percy Schmeiser

Category Tags: Monsanto v. Schmeiser

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

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Delta & Pine Land conclude negotiations on a licensing agreement for genetic seed sterility technology. The technology would be used to make seeds that produce sterile plants as a way for companies to prevent farmers from saving and replanting proprietary seeds. The sterile seeds have been dubbed “terminator” seeds and “suicide” seeds. Defenders of the technology say it can be used to make genetically modified plants “biosafe” since the plants would be unable to spread their genes to other plants. The USDA and Delta & Pine Land jointly hold three patents on this technology, the first being issued in March 1998. The licensing agreement, under negotiation for some time, establishes the terms and conditions under which the company can use the technology. One of the terms of the agreement is that Delta & Pine Land would not be permitted to use the technology in any heirloom varieties of garden flowers and vegetables. Critics say this is hardly a restriction considering that biotechs have never expressed any interest in heirloom plants—rather their interest is in commercial agriculture. The license also prohibits the company from making any terminator seeds available before January 1, 2003. Any seeds using the technology would also have to be tested for safety by the USDA, the agreement says. Also, the agreement requires that the USDA allocate any royalties it receives to the USDA’s technology transfer efforts. [US Department of Agriculture, 8/1/2001; Rural Advancement Foundation International, 8/3/2001]

Entity Tags: US Department of Agriculture, Delta & Pine Land Company

Category Tags: Delta & Pine Land, Public-private collaboration, Terminator seeds

Monsanto files a lawsuit against Saskatchewan farmer Kelly Ryczak who it says illegally grew and sold the company’s patented Roundup Ready Canola seeds in 1999, 2000, and 2001. The company claims he “improperly obtained glyphosate-resistant canola seeds” from his father, Metro Ryczak, or another licensed farmer. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 7/19/2001] The lawsuit is settled in April 2002 with a settlement agreement requiring Ryczak to pay Monsanto an undisclosed sum of money over a period of several years. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 4/18/2002]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Kelly Ryczak

Category Tags: Monsanto, Other

Investigators with Robinson Security visit canola fields farmed by Carlyle Moritz to look for evidence that he is illegally growing Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready Canola. They reportedly take samples from canola plants growing in a nearby right-of-way. Moritz, who works for Percy Schmeiser, rents the land from his mother. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 7/20/2001]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Robinson Investigation Canada Ltd, Carlyle Moritz

Category Tags: Monsanto, Monsanto v. Schmeiser

Monsanto says there are additional farmers, fewer than 100, who it believes are infringing on the patent they have for Roundup-resistant plants. “Whether or not those will go forward [to court] or not time will tell,” Monsanto spokeswoman Trish Jordan says. “Our preference is to settle these things out of court, but that doesn’t always happen.” [Canadian Press, 7/21/2001]

Entity Tags: Trish Jordan, Monsanto

Category Tags: Monsanto, Other

The Saskatoon Star Phoenix reports that Monsanto’s legal costs for suing Percy Schmeiser amount to $726,768.10 CAD. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 7/24/2001] Reportedly, of that amount, $30,000 CAD was paid to Dr. Keith Downey, one of the scientists who testified against Schmeiser. [Institute of Science in Society, 9/2002] Schmeiser’s lawyer, Terry Zakreski, tells the newspaper that he believes Monsanto will attempt to seek about $220,000 CAD of that amount. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 7/24/2001]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto, Terry Zakreski, Keith Downey

Category Tags: Monsanto v. Schmeiser

Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser tours Africa warning farmers not to grow GM crops and sharing with them his story about being sued by biotech giant Monsanto. According to Schmeiser, representatives of the company follow him to almost every meeting, sometimes several in a single day. At one meeting, a Monsanto representative demands that he be given equal time to speak. But the organizers of the meeting, according to Schmeiser, tell him, “Get lost! If you want to speak to a meeting, call your own.” [Alive, 2/2002; Institute of Science in Society, 9/2002] At one point during his trip, while in South Africa, Schmeiser talks to a group of large landowners. The next day, about 30 of them declare a non-GMO zone and cancel their orders for Monsanto’s GM soya. Schmeiser later recalls, “That got Monsanto against me.” Later, Schmeiser runs into Wally Green of Monsanto in Johannesburg after the two spoke to Parliament. Green was not happy. According to Schmeiser, Green tells him, “Nobody stands up to Monsanto. We are going to get you and destroy you. When you get back to Canada, we’ll get you.” [Institute of Science in Society, 9/2002]

Entity Tags: Wally Green, Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Category Tags: Monsanto, Monsanto v. Schmeiser, Resistance

Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources announces that it has found genetically modified (GM) corn growing in 15 different localities. It began investigating potential GM contamination after two Berkeley scientists found maize growing in Oaxaca (see October 2000) that was contaminated with genetically engineered DNA sequences from the cauliflower mosaic virus. [New York Times, 10/2/2001] Mexico does not release its study until January 2002 (see January 2002).

Entity Tags: Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Mexico

When Dr. Ignacio Chapela, a microbial ecologist who recently discovered the presence of genetically modified (GM) genes in Mexican maize (see October 2000), meets with a Mexican agricultural official to discuss the GM contamination, he is warned not to publish his research. Chapela later recalls in an interview with BBC Newsnight, “He [told] me how terrible it was that I was doing the research and how dangerous it would be for me to publish.” When he refuses to back off the issue, the official suggests that Chapela join a research team tasked with proving that the suspected GM genes are actually naturally occuring gene sequences similar to the ones in GM corn. “We were supposed to find this in an elite scientific research team of which I was being invited to be part of and the other people were two people from Monsanto and two people from Dupont supposedly… .” Monsanto denies its scientists were involved in any such study. Chapela also meets with Mexico’s Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources, whose officials are concerned about the discovery. They launch their own investigation and also find evidence of contamination (see September 18, 2001). [BBC, 6/2/2002]

Entity Tags: Ignacio Chapela, Mexico, Ministry of the Environment and Natural Resources

Category Tags: Coercive tactics, Mexico, Monsanto

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) passes conference resolution 3/2001, approving the Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, popularly known as the International Seed Treaty. The vote is almost unanimous with only two countries abstaining: the United States and Japan. [The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 11/3/2001 pdf file; Financial Times, 11/6/2001] The treaty—under negotiation for seven years [Financial Times, 11/6/2001] —requires countries to share the genetic resources of all seed varieties from 35 food crops and 29 forage crops, officially designating them as part of the global commons. The seeds will be deposited in a network of seed banks for use by all member countries, free of charge, for research and experimental plant breeding. The treaty prohibits using the seeds for chemical or pharmaceutical research. Companies using the seed for commercial purposes are required to pay an equitable share of the resulting profits to a trust fund, which will finance efforts to improve the conservation and sustainable use of plant genetic resources in developing countries. A multilateral system will be set up to facilitate countries’ access to the 64 selected crops. [Australian, 10/31/2001; Reuters, 11/5/2001; Financial Times, 11/6/2001; Food and Agriculture Organization, 6/29/2004] The treaty also affirms farmers’ rights “to save, use, exchange and sell farm-saved seed and other propagating material, and to participate in decision-making regarding, and in the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising from, the use of plant genetic resources for food and agriculture… .” [Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,, 11/3/2001 pdf file] The US refusal to sign the treaty was based on its concern that the treaty does not do enough to respect intellectual property rights. Specifically, the US wanted “WTO rules on intellectual property rights [to] be applied without modification to the new treaty,” according to the Financial Times. It also wanted any references critical of intellectual property scrubbed from the text. But the Chair, Ambassador Fernando Gerbasi of Venezuela, would not permit it. The US, along with countries like Australia, expressed concerns during negotiation that there would be little incentive for biotech companies to invest in crop research if they were required to share their patented GM genes. [Australian, 10/31/2001; Financial Times, 11/6/2001] Additionally, the US wanted a provision in the treaty that would have allowed for germplasm embargos against Cuba or other “enemies” of “enduring freedom.” [ETC Group, 11/4/2001] The treaty will enter into force 90 days after the 48th country ratifies it. [Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture,, 11/3/2001 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Australia, Japan, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Bush administration (43), United States

Timeline Tags: Food Safety

Category Tags: Biodiversity, International agreements, Food security, Farmers' rights

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

Some months after the arrival of 40 tons of Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds (see March 15, 2001), after a change in government, Indonesia’s environment ministry issues a decree requiring an environmental impact assessment for Monsanto’s cottonseeds. [US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005; Asia Times, 1/20/2005]

Entity Tags: Indonesia

Category Tags: Indonesia

Upset about the Indonesian government’s decree (see January 2003-August 2003) to require an environmental impact assessment prior to the cultivation of Monsanto’s Bollgard Bt cotton in the province of South Sulawesi, Monsanto steps up its lobbying. Representatives of the company reportedly meet with a senior environment ministry official on several occasions. But after it becomes apparent that its lobbying efforts are having little effect, it resorts to bribery. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005; US Department of Justice, 1/6/2005] In February 2002, a US-based Monsanto senior manager, instructs the company’s lobbyist, PT Harvest International Indonesia, to “incentivize” the senior environment official who had ordered the environmental impact study. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005] Some time later, an employee of the consulting firm visits the senior Indonesian official and hands him an envelope containing $50,000 in $100 bills. The official accepts the money but says he can’t guarantee that he will be able to get the decree repealed. The senior Monsanto manager instructs the consultant to disguise the bribe as “consulting fees” in his invoice to Monsanto. The firm also includes in its invoice the additional income taxes it will owe because of the phony fees, bringing the invoice’s total to $66,000. [US Securities and Exchange Commission, 1/6/2005; Asia Times, 1/20/2005] Harvest’s president-director, Harvey Goldstein, a US citizen, will later deny that his company was involved in any bribery. “Harvest has never been involved in corruption whatsoever,” he will tell reporters. [Jakarta Post, 1/14/2001] The identity of the Monsanto manager is never revealed. According to the US Justice Department, that person oversees certain activities in the Asia-Pacific region. [Associated Press, 1/6/2001] Despite Monsanto’s $50,000 bribe, the senior official never reverses the requirement for the environmental impact assessment. [Jakarta Post, 1/10/2001; BBC, 1/7/2005]

Entity Tags: PT Harvest International Indonesia, Monsanto

Category Tags: Monsanto, Indonesia, Coercive tactics

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

Two farmers from Saskatchewan, Larry Hoffman and Dale Beaudoin, file a class action lawsuit against Monsanto and Aventis alleging that the two companies’ genetically modified (GM) canola genes have infested their organic canola crops. The contamination has made it impossible for them to get their products certified as organic and as a result they are not able to sell it on the organic market. Arnold Taylor, president of Saskatchewan Organic Directorate (SOD), tells the Canadian Press that “it is almost impossible to buy uncontaminated seed let alone contend with contamination from pollen drift.” According to Marc Loiselle, a director with the same organization, organic grain and oilseed traders have zero tolerance for GM contamination. Representing the farmers is Terry Zakreski, the same lawyer who represents Percy Schmeiser. The suit is also seeking to stop the introduction of modified wheat, which the two companies are developing and which is expected to hit the market in a few years. “We have lost canola as a crop in our rotations because of genetic contamination, but we obviously cannot afford to lose wheat which is our largest crop and largest market,” Arnold Taylor says. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 10/12/2001; Canadian Press, 1/30/2002]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Aventis, Larry Hoffman, Dale Beaudoin

Category Tags: Monsanto, Other

The Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) launch an investigation into allegations that Monsanto representatives paid bribes to Indonesian officials in an effort to advance its business interests there. The Justice Department and SEC were reportedly informed of the suspected bribery by Monsanto itself, which says it launched its own investigation after noticing irregularities in the accounting of its Jakarta-based subsidiary. [Wall Street Journal, 5/27/2004] The investigation lasts about three years. On January 6, 2005, the Justice Department and the SEC announce that Monsanto has agreed to pay a $1 million penalty to the Justice Department, which has charged the company with violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company is also ordered to pay $500,000 to the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). As part of the settlement, Monsanto will allow an “independent compliance expert” to audit and monitor the company and to ensure there are no further breaches of the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The company says it accepts full responsibility and has taken action against those involved. “We accept full responsibility for the improper activities that occurred in connection with our Indonesian affiliates,” says Lori Fisher, one of the company’s spokespersons. “Such behavior is not condoned nor accepted at Monsanto, and the people involved are no longer employed by Monsanto.” [Associated Press, 1/6/2001; Reuters, 1/7/2001; BBC, 1/7/2005; Sunday Herald, 1/9/2005]

Entity Tags: US Department of Justice, US Securities and Exchange Commission, Monsanto

Category Tags: Monsanto, Other, Indonesia

In an unprecedented move, Nature runs an editorial pulling its support for a controversial study by Berkeley scientists David Quist and Dr. Ignacio Chapela on genetic contamination of native Mexican maize. The study, published the previous fall (see Late November 2001), reported that native maize in Oaxaca had been contaminated with genetically modified (GM) genes and that transgene fragments were found scattered throughout the plants’ modified DNA. Immediately after being published, the article came under attack by pro-GM scientists who disputed Quist’s and Chapela’s second finding. “In light of these discussions and the diverse advice received, Nature has concluded that the evidence available is not sufficient to justify the publication of the original paper,” the journal’s editor, Philip Campbell, writes. “As the authors nevertheless wish to stand by the available evidence for their conclusions, we feel it best simply to make these circumstances clear, to publish the criticisms, the authors’ response and new data, and to allow our readers to judge the science for themselves.” Though the journal withdraws its support, it does not retract the article. [Associated Press, 4/4/2002; East Bay Express, 5/29/2002; Mother Jones, 7/9/2002] The decision to withdraw support is based on the opinions of three unnamed independent experts whom Nature consulted. Only one of those experts, however, disputed Quist’s and Chapela’s finding that there was evidence of contamination. All three agreed that the second finding—that transgene fragments were scattered throughout the plants’ modified DNA—was flawed. [BBC, 6/2/2002]

Entity Tags: David Quist, Ignacio Chapela, Philip Campbell

Category Tags: GM Contamination, Mexico, Studies-academic

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

Federal Court of Canada Justice Andrew MacKay orders Percy Schmeiser to pay Monsanto $153,000 CAD in order to compensate the company for a portion of its legal costs. Monsanto sued Schmeiser in 2000 (see June 5, 2000-June 21, 2000) for illegally planting and harvesting canola in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” contained Monsanto’s patent-protected Roundup-resistant gene. This sum of money is in addition to the $19,832 CAD that Schmeiser has already been ordered to pay the company (see May 23, 2001). [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 4/29/2002]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser, Terry Zakreski

Category Tags: Monsanto v. Schmeiser

Percy Schmeiser’s lawyer, Terry Zakreski, in his argument before the Canadian Federal Court of Appeals, cites 17 grounds for the appeal of Judge MacKay’s March 2001 decision (see March 29, 2001) against Schmeiser. The judge had ruled that Schmeiser had infringed on Monsanto’s patent when he planted canola seed in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” was resistant to Roundup. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/16/2002; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/17/2002; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/17/2002; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/17/2002] Monsanto lawyer Roger Hughes is also present for a cross-appeal to contest MacKay’s decision to award the company only $19,832 CAD—the figure MacKay determined was Schmeiser’s profit from the sale of his 1998 crop. According to Monsanto’s calculations, Schmeiser’s profits were $105,935 CAD, or 74 percent of his $142,625 CAD gross. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/17/2002]
Zakreski's Grounds for Appeal - Some of the issues that Zakreski contends MacKay made erroneous judgments about include the following (As summarized in the 12/31/2001 Court of Appeals Submission):
bullet Interpreting the Patent Act and the Patent so as to deprive farmers the ownership of canola plants and seeds containing the patented gene. Zakreski says that MacKay was wrong to conclude that the Patent Act gives Monsanto “ownership in its patented gene and cell” because the act only grants it the right to make, construct, and use the patented gene and sell it to others to be used. It does not grant ownership. Zakreski argues that according to common law, ownership rights come from possession and control of, or intent to control, a property; and Schmeiser had both possession and control. Zakreski says MacKay’s decision permits Monsanto “to invade the common law property rights of [a farmer] in order to assert its patent rights” merely because its “patented gene happens to be in a seed or plant belonging to a farmer.” [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 12-14 pdf file]
bullet Interpreting the Patent Act and the Patent so as to deprive farmers of there vested right to being able to save and re-use their own canola seed that may contain the patented gene. Zakreski says that the implication of MacKay’s interpretation “is that no farmer who becomes aware, or ought to be aware, that his canola contains the gene patented by [Monsanto] will have the right to save and reuse his canola seed.” [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 13 pdf file]
bullet Finding that it is not necessary that a farmer take advantage of the patented gene by in-crop spraying with a glyphosate based herbicide such as Roundup in order to infringe the Patent. Zakreski says that MacKay was wrong to conclude that Schmeiser had used the patent by merely growing plants containing Monsanto’s gene. He argues that the utility of the patented gene can only be exploited when the crop is sprayed with Roundup, which Schmeiser did not do. The gene, notes Zakreski, is not used at any other time and is certainly not used when the plant is merely growing because the patented gene does not help the plant grow in any way. He cites a case in British Admiralty law, where a sea captain was accused of patent infringement because he had a patent-protected pump aboard his ship. The court found there was no infringement because the pump was not used . [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/21/2001; Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 21-28 pdf file]
bullet Determining that the Respondents had not waived their patent rights by the “unconfined release” of their invention. Zakreski says that while MacKay apparently did not disagree that the “unconfined release” of an invention can result in the waiver of a patentholder’s rights, the judge believed that Monsanto took adequate steps to control the spread of its patented gene. Zakreski says this is not true. He says that several of the steps undertaken by Monsanto cited by MacKay were responses prompted by the fact that the gene had already spread. Thus Monsanto’s actions are evidence that Monsanto had “already lost control of their own product.” Zakreski also notes that where Monsanto had an opportunity to reduce the risk of gene drift, it chose not to. For example, (1) Monsanto’s Technology Use Agreement “places no restrictions on growers aimed at reducing (much less preventing) the escape of genetically modified canola,” does not require seed segregation, does not require a buffer zone, and did not require methods of transport that would have prevented seed loss; and (2) at Monsanto’s informational meetings, which all new Roundup Ready Canola growers are required to attend, farmers were not warned about cross-pollination, not instructed to maintain a buffer strip, not told to warn neighbors who grow non-transgenic canola, not told to segregate seed, and not told to prevent seed loss during transport. [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/21/2001; Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 29-35 pdf file]
bullet Finding that there was “no evidence” that the canola seed used by the appellants to see the 1997 canola crop, included genetically modified seed and pollen carried into field #6 from a neighbor’s field. Zakreski says that this statement is false because it ignores Schmeiser’s testimony that his 1997 canola crop “came from field number 1 and field number 6.” [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 35-37 pdf file]
bullet Giving undue weight and significance to the internal sampling and testing done by the Respondents. As he did in his original closing argument, Zakreski argues that the test results were invalid because the samples were not obtained, stored, or tested in a scientific manner or by independent parties. He also notes that there were multiple contradictions in the observed properties of the samples as they changed possession from one person to another, suggesting that the seed that was ultimately tested may not have actually been seed from Schmeiser’s farm. [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 37-41 pdf file]
bullet Determining that the Respondents were entitled to the profits made by Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. for its entire 1998 canola crop. Zakreski notes that (1) Monsanto’s patent grants it exclusive rights to sell its invention “to others to be used”; and (2) that Schmeiser sold his canola crop “to a grain elevator to be sent to a commercial crushing plant to make the canola seed into canola oil.” Thus, “the presence or absence of Monsanto’s patented gene added no value whatsoever to the canola seed which was, clearly, the Appellants’ property.” The judge’s ruling to award 100 percent of Schmeiser’s profit to Monsanto was erroneous, Zakreski argues, since Schmeiser “realized no profit or advantage from the presence of the patented gene.” [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 43 pdf file]
bullet Issuing an injunction that would impair the Appellants from engaging in the traditional farming practice of saving and re-using canola seed during the term of the Patent. Zakreski says that the injunction would make it illegal for Schmeiser to farm because unwanted Roundup Ready Canola volunteers continue to grow in his fields (see Spring 1999), even though he planted his fields in 1999 with entirely new seed (see Summer 1999). [Memorandum of Fact and Law of the Appellants, Percy Schmeiser and Schmeiser Enterprises Ltd. Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 12/3/2001, pp. 44 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Terry Zakreski, Percy Schmeiser

Category Tags: Monsanto v. Schmeiser, Monsanto

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

A Canadian Federal Appeals Court upholds Judge Andrew MacKay’s 2001 ruling that Percy Schmeiser infringed on Monsanto’s patent for Roundup Ready Canola when he planted seed in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” was resistant to Roundup. The three-judge panel dismisses 16 of Schmeiser’s 17 grounds of appeal in the case. The one point they accept is that MacKay erred when he stated that there was “no evidence” that the canola seed Schmeiser used in his 1997 canola crop included genetically modified seed and pollen carried into field #6 from a neighbor’s field. However this judgment is inconsequential since the judges agree with MacKay that the question of how Monsanto’s gene came to be present in Schmeiser’s 1998 crop is not relevant to the issue of infringement. The court also concurs with MacKay that Schmeiser infringed on the patent even though he did not use Roundup on his 1998 crop. The judges agree that the mere presence of the gene in Schmeiser’s crop was in and of itself an infringement. Additionally, they uphold MacKay’s decision to admit and consider test results indicating the presence of Monsanto’s patented gene in samples taken from Schmeiser’s 1997 and 1998 crop. Schmeiser’s lawyer had argued that the results were invalid because the samples were not obtained, stored, or tested in a scientific manner or by independent parties. He had also raised several questions that challenged the authenticity of the samples. Finally, the judges say in their decision that the amount awarded to Monsanto by MacKay was an accurate accounting of Schmeiser’s profit from the sale of his 1998 crop, rejecting Monsanto’s bid to increase the award to $105,935 CAD. [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 9/4/2002; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 9/6/2002] Upon learning of the appellate court’s decision, Percy Schmeiser says he will try to have his case heard before the Supreme Court of Canada. [Canadian Press, 9/6/2002; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 9/7/2002]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Category Tags: Monsanto v. Schmeiser

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, 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

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

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

The Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV) completes an analysis on the implications of genetic use restriction technology (GURT) for small farmers, indigenous peoples, and local communities. The paper was requested the previous year by member governments of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. In its 6-page memorandum, UPOV says it believes that using GURTs as a means to protect intellectual property would be less advantageous for society than implementing Plant Breeders’ Rights legislation based on UPOV’s 1991 Act of the International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (see December 19, 2002). UPOV notes that unlike GURT, its 1991 convention has provisions that allow farmers to save seeds; set a time-limit (20 years) on a breeder’s exclusive rights; and permit farmers, researchers, and breeders to breed protected seeds when it is done privately, for non-commercial or experimental purposes, and when it is done to breed new varieties. Furthermore, under GURT, there is “no provision for public interest, allowing government access to varieties under particular circumstances,” as there is in the UPOV’s convention. [Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, 1/10/2003 pdf file; ETC Group, 4/17/2003]

Entity Tags: International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants

Category Tags: Terminator seeds, Studies-other, Farmers' rights, Terminator seeds

Farmers in the Indonesian province of South Sulawesi stop growing Monsanto Bollgard Bt cotton. Many farmers had grown the crop in 2001 and 2002 as part of an experiment (see (April 2001-October 2001)), which, for many, produced disastrous results. In December 2003, the Indonesian Minister of Agriculture will announce that Monsanto has decided to pull out of South Sulawesi. [Institute for Science in Society, 12/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Category Tags: Indonesia

An ad hoc expert panel created by the sixth conference of the Biodiversity Convention convenes in Montreal to consider the impact that genetic use restriction technology (GURT), also known as terminator technology, would have on small farmers, indigenous peoples, and local communities. The expert panel hears from 11 groups including the US, Canada, two individual farmers, an indigenous rights group, four civil society organizations, the International Seed Federation, and the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (UPOV). [Collins and Krueger, n.d. pdf file; ETC Group, 4/17/2003; Convention on Biological Diversity, 9/29/2003 pdf file] The paper presented by UPOV, completed in January (see January 10, 2003), is not well-received by the US or industry representatives. Though the UPOV is generally an ardent supporter of intellectual rights protections, its analysis argues that GURT technology could threaten the interests of small farmers. The paper is so unwelcome, in fact, that the US and the International Seed Federation will succeed in pressuring the UPOV to revise it (see March 13, 2003-April 11, 2003), eliminating all references to GURT from the body of the paper. Prepared by Monsanto’s Roger Krueger and Harry Collins of Delta & Pine Land (D&PL), the International Seed Federation’s analysis takes the position that GURT technology would be advantageous for small farmers. Their paper argues that GURT would benefit small farmers and indigenous peoples by providing them with more options. “The International Seed Federation (ISF) believes that GURTs have the potential to benefit farmers and others in all size, economic and geographical areas… In reality, the potential effects of the GURTs may be beneficial to small farmers… ,” the paper asserts. “It is the strong belief and position of the ISF that GURTs would potentially provide more choice, to the farmers, rather than less choice.” Kruefer and Collins also say the technology could be used to prevent the contamination of non-transgenic plants with genetically modified genes and thus could be “quite positive for the environment and biodiversity.” [Collins and Krueger, n.d. pdf file; ETC Group, 4/17/2003; Convention on Biological Diversity, 9/29/2003 pdf file] The expert panel’s final report will list 35 “potential negative impacts” of GURT on small farmers and local communities and only nine “potential positive impacts.” It will recommend, among other things, “that parties and other governments consider the development of regulatory frameworks not to approve GURTs for field-testing and commercial use.” [Convention on Biological Diversity, 9/29/2003 pdf file]

Entity Tags: International Seed Federation, International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, Roger Krueger, Harry B. Collins

Category Tags: Terminator seeds, Biotech/seed industry, Farmers' rights, Terminator seeds, Indigenous peoples, Monsanto, Delta & Pine Land

On March 13, Lois Boland, administrator for external affairs at the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), sends a letter to UPOV Vice-Secretary General Rolf Jordens asking him to withdraw UPOV’s analysis on genetic use restriction technology (GURT) (see January 10, 2003). The analysis, presented in February to an expert panel convened by the Biodiversity Convention (see February 19, 2003-February 21, 2003), argued that GURT would not serve the interests of farmers or the public. In her letter, Boland complains that the UPOV Council did not allow the US to see the analysis before it was presented. “Even more troubling,” she adds, “the document submitted to the CBD is not a neutral presentation of facts and prevailing opinions; instead, it represents a one-sided negative view of GURTs.” In light of these concerns, she asks that the memo be discussed at the next scheduled meeting of UPOV’s Administrative and Legal Committee on April 10, 2003. [US Patent and Trademark Office, 3/13/2003 pdf file] In response, Jordens suggests that the matter be considered by UPOV’s Consultative Committee instead. [Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, 3/17/2003 pdf file] Boland replies that that would not be acceptable and insists that it be debated in the Administrative and Legal Committee. [US Patent and Trademark Office, 3/28/2003 pdf file] Jordens gives in. [Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, 3/17/2003 pdf file] On March 31, Secretary-General of the International Seed Federation Bernard Le Buanec also voices concerns about the UPOV analysis, writing in a letter that the federation “is really concerned by the memorandum, as it presents a variety of unbalanced views.” [International Seed Federation, 3/31/2003 pdf file] On April 10, the UPOV memo is debated in the Administrative and Legal Committee. Under pressure from the US, the UPOV agrees to say that it is not a “competent body to provide advice to CBD on GURTs.” A new version of the memo is posted on the UPOV’s website the next day with the following explanation: “This document supersedes the memorandum prepared by the Office of the Union on the genetic use restriction technologies (GURTs) and sent to the CBD, dated January 10, 2003.” The new version deletes all references to GURT from the body of the document. As such, the new document makes no attempt to respond to the Biodiversity Convention’s original request for analysis of GURT. [Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, 1/10/2003 pdf file; ETC Group, 4/17/2003]

Entity Tags: Rolf Jördens, Lois Boland, International Seed Federation, International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants, Bush administration (43)

Category Tags: Terminator seeds, Terminator seeds, Public-private collaboration, Biotech/seed industry, Coercive tactics

Canada’s Supreme Court agrees to hear Percy Schmeiser’s appeal of a 2002 appellate court decision (see September 6, 2002) that he infringed on Monsanto’s rights as a patentholder when he planted and harvested canola in 1998 that he “knew or ought to have known” contained the company’s Roundup-resistant gene. [Canadian Press, 5/8/2003; Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 5/9/2003]

Entity Tags: Percy Schmeiser, Monsanto

Category Tags: Monsanto v. Schmeiser

Canada’s seed industry forms a group to review and recommend changes to the regulatory framework governing Canada’s seed sector. The group is a joint venture of the Canadian Seed Growers Association, the Canadian Seed Trade Association, the Canadian Seed Institute, and the Grain Growers of Canada. It is funded with a $600,000 CAD grant from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Adaptation and Rural Development Fund. [Seed Sector Review, 5/5/2004 pdf file; Seed Sector Review, 5/5/2004 pdf file] The initiative is primarily concerned with improving the profitability of the seed sector and intends to examine ways to strengthen the protection of intellectual property rights through patents, royalties, and other changes that would make it more difficult for farmers to save seed. [Canadian Seed Alliance, 5/5/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Canadian Seed Growers Association, Canadian Seed Trade Association, Agriculture Canada and Agri-Food Canada, Canadian Seed Institute, Grain Growers of Canada, Seed Sector Review

Category Tags: Seed Sector Review, Public-private collaboration, Biotech/seed industry

Bill Leask, executive director of the Canadian Seed Trade Association, one of four groups that initiated the Seed Sector Review, tells Inter Press Service in an interview, “I don’t think farmers ought to have a legal right to save seeds.” He and others in the seed industry have said they believe seed saving is a “privilege.” [The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 4/16/2006]

Entity Tags: Bill Leask

Category Tags: Biotech/seed industry, Seed Sector Review, Farmers' rights

St. Louis Federal District Judge Rodney W. Sippel allows an antitrust case against Monsanto Company, Bayer, Syngenta, and Pioneer seed companies to proceed. According to the lawsuit, which was filed in 1999 (see March 15, 2001), documents show that the companies conspired during the late 1990s to fix prices and control the seed market. The second part of the lawsuit—which blames the companies for the huge losses suffered by farmers because of global opposition to genetically modified crops—is dismissed. [New York Times, 9/24/2003] Judge Sippel was once listed as one of three lawyers defending Monsanto in a similar case. [Guardian, 1/10/2004]

Entity Tags: Rodney W. Sippel, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., Syngenta, Monsanto, Bayer

Category Tags: Monsanto, Sample v. Monsanto

St. Louis Federal District Judge Rodney W. Sippel denies class-action status to an antitrust case against Monsanto and other companies (see December 14, 1999) . The suit alleges that the companies conspired to fix prices and control the seed market. [AXcess News, 3/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Rodney W. Sippel

Category Tags: Sample v. Monsanto

At the ninth meeting of the Scientific Body of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (SBSTTA), held in Montreal, four countries—Canada, New Zealand, Argentina, and Brazil—convince the body to submit a recommendation to the next meeting of the Biodiversity Convention to forego action on an expert panel report. They argued that the report was flawed because it lacked scientific rigor. The report—commissioned by members of the Biodiversity Convention in late 2002—had identified numerous potential negative impacts that terminator technology could have on small farmers, indigenous peoples, and local communities (see February 19, 2003-February 21, 2003). If the member countries of the Biodiversity Convention, scheduled to meet in February 2004, accepts the SBSTTA’s recommendation to forego action, the issue will not be considered again until 2006. “SBSTTA9’s decision is wrong and dangerous,” says Alejandro Argumedo of the Indigenous Peoples Biodiversity Network. “Giving four governments the right to derail a report on the impact of terminator on indigenous peoples and local communities is like saying that the voices of these communities are not important, and that the social and economic impacts of terminator can be dismissed.” The ETC Group, a Canadian-based organization that opposes terminator technology, suggests that the presence of representatives from biotech firms Monsanto and Delta & Pine Land may have had something to do with the four countries’ objection to the expert panel report. The organization notes that industry representatives from these very same companies had been involved in the expert panel discussion and had submitted a report insisting that GURT technologies would benefit small farmers and indigenous peoples by providing them with “more choice.” Both Monsanto and Delta & Pine Land have patents on GURT technology. [Convention on Biodiversity, 11/14/2003; ETC Group, 11/14/2003]

Entity Tags: Canada, Harry B. Collins, Roger Krueger, Subsidiary Body on Scientific, Technical and Technological Advice, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil

Category Tags: Terminator seeds, Terminator seeds, Monsanto, Delta & Pine Land, Indigenous peoples, Coercive tactics

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, 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

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

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

Canada’s Supreme Court hears the case of Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto. Schmeiser is appealing a lower court’s decision that he infringed on Monsanto’s patent when he planted canola seed in 1998 that he “knew, or ought to have known” was from glyphosate-resistant plants. Intervening on Schmeiser’s behalf are a consortium of six non-government organizations (Council of Canadians; Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration; Sierra Club; National Farmers Union; Research Foundation for Science, Technology, and Ecology; and the International Center for Technology Assessment) and the Ontario attorney general. The Ontario government is backing Schmeiser because it fears that a decision upholding the lower court’s ruling would encourage more gene patents and increase healthcare costs. Monsanto’s lawyers also presenting arguments before the court. In addition to defending the lower courts’ ruling that Schmeiser infringed on the company’s patent, the lawyers are cross-appealing the decision that the farmer’s profits in 1998 (awarded to Monsanto) only amounted to $19,832 CAD. Monsanto has calculated Schmeiser’s profit to be $105,000 CAD. Monsanto’s interveners include the Canola Council of Canada, BIOTECanada, and the Canadian Seed Trade Association. [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
Schmeiser's Arguments -
bullet Schmeiser’s lawyer, Terry Zakreski, challenges the validity of Monsanto’s patent arguing that the patent contradicts the Harvard College v. Canada Supreme Court decision that higher-life forms cannot be patented. He explains that in claiming exclusive rights to glyphosate-resistant plant genes and cells, Monsanto is in effect claiming patentholder rights to any plants and seeds containing those genes and cells, which as the Supreme Court has already decided, is not legal. He argues that Monsanto should have instead chosen to protect its intellectual property rights under the Plant Breeder’s Rights Act, which was designed to protect the rights of seed developers. [Associated Press, 1/20/2004; BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
bullet Zakreski also argues that extending Monsanto’s patentholder rights to second-generation roundup-resistant seeds makes it illegal for farmer’s to save and share seeds—the 12 thousand year old practice responsible for creating domesticated crops. [Vancouver Sun, 1/20/2004]
bullet Even if the patent is ruled valid, according to Zakreski, Monsanto implicitly waived its patentholder rights when it failed to control the spread of its invention after releasing it unconfined into the environment. [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
bullet Zakreski also argues that even if the court upholds the validity of Monsanto’s patent, Schmeiser did not violate the patent, because he never exploited its utility—the resistance it provides against glyphosate. The only way to use the patent, he says, is to spray Monsanto Roundup Ready Canola with Roundup, which Schmeiser did not do. [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
bullet Zakreski notes an inherent contradiction in the claim that Monsanto is entitled to all profits resulting from the sale of seed containing the patented gene. Zakreski offers the hypothetical example of a farmer whose canola is infested with two different genes, each patented by a different company. Would each of the patentholders be entitled to the full profit? Would the farmer be required to pay each of them 100 percent, in effect being forced to pay out twice the profit from his crop? [BC Politics, 2/2/2004]
Monsanto's argument -
bullet Monsanto’s lawyers reject Schmeiser’s position that a farmer’s right to save seed overrides the company’s patent rights. In order for them to recover research and development costs they must charge farmers annually for use of the seed containing their patented gene, they argue. [Vancouver Sun, 1/20/2004; Associated Press, 1/20/2004]
bullet The company’s lawyers also insist that the Harvard College v. Canada decision does not apply to this case. Its patent is not on the entire plant, but rather just one of the plant’s ingredients. He compares the company’s gene to a special patented steel that is used for an automobile where the inventor’s rights extend only to the steel, not the entire car. The judges interrupt Monsanto’s presentation on several occasions challenging the lawyer’s steel analogy and asking Monsanto’s lawyers where Monsanto’s patent rights would end since plants have the ability to reproduce themselves and hence the inventions contained within them.
bullet Lawyers for Monsanto’s interveners said that invalidating the company’s patent would harm Canada’s economy and undermine its patent system. “Patents create a climate that favors new research,” argues A. David Morrow, a lawyer for the Canadian Seed Trade Association. [Associated Press, 1/20/2004]
bullet Biotech Canada’s lawyer, Anthony Creber, similarly states, “I’m nervous that if you don’t give (patent protection) for seeds and cells, you will have a hollow Patent Act with severe economic consequences.” [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 1/21/2004]
bullet Mona Brown, a lawyer with the Canadian Canola Growers Association, tells the judges that the “patent makes us more profitable and better farmers.” [Associated Press, 1/20/2004]

Entity Tags: International Center for Technology Assessment, Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, National Farmers Union, Canola Council of Canada, BIOTECanada, Canadian Seed Trade Association, Action Group on Erosion, Technology, and Concentration, Sierra Club, Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser, Council of Canadians

Category Tags: Monsanto v. Schmeiser

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

Paul Bremer, the US administrator for Iraq, issues Order 81 rewriting Iraq’s 1970 patent law. The order extends intellectual property right protections to plants, making it illegal for Iraqi farmers to save, share, or replant seeds harvested from new varieties registered under the law. The order was written with the help of Linda Lourie, an attorney-advisor in the US Patent Office’s Office of External Affairs. She was invited to Iraq to help draft laws that would ensure Iraq’s eligibility into the World Trade Organization (WTO). Bremer’s order, however, makes Iraq’s patent law stricter even than the WTO-compliant 1991 International Convention for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants (see March 19, 1991), which allows its member-states to exempt farmers from the prohibition against seed saving. Lourie claims these changes were sanctioned by the Iraqi governing council, which she says wants Iraq to have the strongest intellectual property rules in the region in order to attract private investment. [Administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority of Iraq, 4/4/2004 pdf file; GRAIN, 10/2004; National Public Radio, 11/24/2004]

Entity Tags: L. Paul Bremer, Linda Lourie

Timeline Tags: Iraq under US Occupation

Category Tags: Iraq, Coercive tactics, Farmers' rights

The Seed Sector Review, an industry-led initiative to restructure Canada’s seed and grain quality assurance systems (see (July 2003)), releases its phase one final report. [Inter Press Service, 10/5/2004; Natural Life, 1/2005] The report, titled Report of the Seed Sector Advisory Committee, includes several recommendations:
bullet The report expresses the view that the farmer’s “privilege” of saving and replanting seeds discourages private sector investment and makes it difficult for companies to “recoup” their investments. The report suggests developing a new system of relations between the farmer and the seed companies that would be more “equitable.” Such a method would “involve examining the balance between farmer’s privilege and breeders’ rights.” One possible solution would be to collect royalties on seed saved by farmers. “Suggestions were made that royalties could be collected through elevators or seed processors or through CWB contract programs,” the report says. [Canadian Seed Alliance, 5/5/2004, pp. 33 pdf file]
bullet The report notes that many participants of the Seed Sector Review would prefer that farmers be required to use certified seed. It cites several reasons why this would be desirable, including “improved intellectual property protection (and royalty collection), which would in turn support (fund) more research”; “a healthier seed grower and trade industry”; “more private sector involvement in Western Canada cereal breeding”; “elimination of the controversial brown bag market for sales of common seed”; “improved agricultural practices”; “improved confidence for quality assurance in the value chain”; and “increased profitability for the higher generation seed production and variety developers.” The report suggests several strategies that could be employed to compel farmers to buy certified seeds. Among those listed are “link crop insurance premiums with use of certified seed”; “increase the perceived value of certified seed”; collect royalties; “require specific standards on common seed” that would make it more costly for farmers to sell their own seed; and limit “the number of generations produced from certified seed,” which the reports notes would also result in common seed becoming “too expensive, making certified seed more economical.” [Canadian Seed Alliance, 5/5/2004, pp. 42 pdf file]
bullet The report notes that participants in the review would like to see the current wheat quality system, based on kernel visual distinguishability (KVD), replaced with a new system. They complain that KVD is a “stumbling block to innovation.” Several suggestions for an alternative system are made in the report. The report acknowledges that moving to a new system would be costly and suggests that this should be paid in part with public funds. “There should be some level of public investment in its development and implementation to support the competitive position of Canadian exports.” According to Canada’s National Farmers Union (NFU), the alternative systems suggested in the document “would increase farmers’ costs for administration, testing, segregation, identity preservation, dispute settlement, and transport costs.” [Canadian Seed Alliance, 5/5/2004, pp. 41 pdf file]
bullet The report considers the advantages that seed producers would have if Canada were to make its Plant Breeders Rights (PBR) Act compliant with the International Union for the Protection of New Varieties of Plants Convention (UPOV) of 1991 (see March 19, 1991). The 1991 UPOV is much more restrictive for farmers than the 1978 UPOV, upon which Canada’s PBR Act is currently based. Adopting the 1991 UPOV for the PBR’s framework would, among other things, lengthen plant breeders’ protection and royalty periods from 15 years to 20 years; take away farmers’ automatic right—protected in UPOV ‘78—to save, re-use, and sell seed (which is referred to as the “Farmers’ Exemption” in the UPOV Convention) [National Farmers Union, 5/13/2004, pp. 3-4 pdf file] ; create “a cascade right to extend PBR to harvested material and end products in crops where breeders did not have the opportunity to exercise his [sic] rights on propagating material” (The seed companies would need this change in order to collect royalties at elevators and seed cleaning facilities); and pave the way for seed companies to patent seed already protected under the Plant Breeders Rights Act. The report notes that participants in the review were highly supportive of the proposal to adopt the 1991 UPOV (see March 19, 1991). “[T]his change should be made as soon as possible.” [Canadian Seed Alliance, 5/5/2004, pp. 32-34 pdf file]
Reaction - The Seed Sector Review is not well received in the farming community. The Sakatoon-based National Farmers Union launches a “seed saver” campaign to rally farmers against the seed industry’s proposed changes. The farmers see the review’s recommendations as an effort to further privatize the commons, and to increase corporate profits at the expense of growers. Most of their fury is focused on changes that would compel farmers to purchase certified seed by making it more difficult to save, trade, and replant their own seeds. “There’s lots of seed trading among farmers here. We rarely buy certified seed for cereals. It’s rarely better seed and just not necessary,” says Paul Beingessner, a third-generation grain and livestock farmer from Saskatchewan. Beingessner calculates that if the recommendations were implemented, the average Canadian farm’s expenses would increase by $1,400 CAD. “It’s a money grab, pure and simple,” Beingessner says. Pat Mooney of the ETC Group, a Canadian civil society organization, says the Seed Sector Review contradicts the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources (see November 3, 2001), which came into force in June (see June 29, 2004). That treaty reaffirmed farmers’ rights to save, trade, and replant seed. Canada ratified the treaty on October 6, 2002. [Inter Press Service, 10/5/2004]

Entity Tags: Seed Sector Review

Category Tags: Farmers' rights, Biotech/seed industry, Seed Sector Review

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In a split 5 to 4 decision, the Supreme Court of Canada rules that Percy Schmeiser violated Monsanto’s patent when he grew canola in 1998 that contained the company’s patented Roundup Ready gene. [Washington Post, 5/22/2004; Vancouver Sun, 5/22/2004; New York Times, 5/22/2004]
Decision - Schmeiser’s lawyer, Terry Zakreski, argued that the protection of Monsanto’s patented genes and cells necessarily extended to restricting the use of any plants and seeds containing them. Since this in effect means that Monsanto is claiming patentholder’s rights for the whole plant, the court must rule, in light of its 2002 Harvard College v. Canada decision that higher-life forms cannot be patented, that the company’s patent must be invalid. However, the majority rejects Zakreski’s argument and affirms the validity of Monsanto’s patent. The majority says the “Harvard Mouse” case does not support Schmeiser’s argument because, while Harvard had sought to patent an actual mouse, Monsanto’s patent is limited to certain genes and cells. Furthermore, Harvard did acquire patents on certain parts of the mouse, a plasmid and a somatic cell culture, and therefore the “Harvard Mouse” case supports Monsanto case, not Schmeiser’s. [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 8] The majority also rejects Schmeiser’s defense that he did not use Monsanto’s patented genes. While sidestepping the issue of whether or not it would be necessary to spray Roundup on the plants in order to exploit Monsanto’s patented genes and cells, the majority says that his 1998 canola crop provided him with “stand-by” utility, which a previous court decision determined constituted “use.” In possessing and growing the crop, the majority argues, Schmeiser had reserved the option to spray it with Roundup, should the need arise, or sell it to make a profit. The majority thus holds that Schmeiser infringed on the patent. [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 11-13] It is important to note that the majority says this decision does not concern “the innocent discovery by farmers of ‘blow-by’ patented plants on their land or in their cultivated fields.” The majority makes it clear that they do not accept Schmeiser’s claim that his property was “contaminated” with Monsanto’s genes. [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 5] For them it is accepted fact that (1) “tests revealed that 95 to 98 percent of his 1,0[3]0 acres of canola crop [in 1998] was made up of Roundup Ready plants” [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 6] ; (2) “he sprayed Roundup to isolate the Roundup Ready plants he found on his land” [emphasis added]; (3) he “segregated the seeds”; and (4) “he ended up with 1030 acres of Roundup Ready Canola.” All of these statements are made as matters of accepted fact even though they were, in fact, all disputed by Schmeiser (see January 20, 2004). [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 15] The court does however side with Schmeiser on the issue of compensation owed to Monsanto. “[Schmeiser’s and Schmeiser Enterprises’] profits were precisely what they would have been had they planted and harvested ordinary canola. They sold the Roundup Ready Canola they grew in 1998 for feed, and thus obtained no premium for the fact that it was Roundup Ready Canola. Nor did they gain any agricultural advantage from the herbicide resistant nature of the canola, since no finding was made that they sprayed with Roundup herbicide to reduce weeds. The appellants’ profits arose solely from qualities of their crop that cannot be attributed to the invention.” [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 17]
Dissenting Opinion - The minority opinion disagrees that any of Monsanto’s rights as a patentholder extend to plants, seeds, and crops. It accepts that Monsanto’s patent claims for the genes and cells are valid, but says that none of the protections afforded by the patent extend “to the plant itself, a higher life form incapable of patent protection.” According to the minority, “In order to avoid the claim extending to the whole plant, the plant cell claim cannot extend past the point where the genetically modified cell begins to multiply and differentiate into plant tissues, at which point the claim would be for every cell in the plant, i.e., for the plant itself.” Consequently, only the original genes and cells produced by Monsanto in the lab and contained within the original seed are protected by the patent—the resulting plant, its seeds, and the plants that grow from those seeds, are not. “Therefore saving, planting, or selling seed from glyphosate-resistant plants does not constitute an infringing use,” the minority concludes. [Percy Schmeiser v. Monsanto Canada Inc., 5/21/2004, pp. 22]

Entity Tags: Monsanto, Percy Schmeiser

Category Tags: Monsanto v. Schmeiser, Court decisions, Farmers' rights

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The International Seed Treaty enters into force. The treaty, approved in November 2001 (see June 29, 2004), creates a mechanism for the global management and sharing of 64 major crops and forages, providing some measure of insurance against the risks posed by the loss of agricultural biodiversity. It also affirms farmers’ rights to save, trade, and replant their seeds. [Food and Agriculture Organization, 6/29/2004]

Category Tags: International agreements

The US, Mexico, and Canada enter into a trilateral agreement that allows food and grain shipments to have GM contamination levels as high as 5 percent. Shipments containing less than the five percent level will only have to bear a label indicating that the grain may contain genetically modified organisms. Additionally, accidental contamination of corn shipments into Mexico will not trigger any labeling requirements. Only the distributor will have to be informed of the contamination. The Mexican government enters into the agreement without the Mexican Senate’s approval. [Associated Press, 2/26/2004] Critics of the deal say the US is attempting to protect agricultural biotech companies and US agriculture. A large percentage of the country’s crop is genetically modified and as a result US farmers and biotechs are having a tough time finding markets abroad. Raising the acceptable contamination limits in other countries will help increase US grain exports. Critics also say that the deal could have a dramatically adverse effect on the genetic diversity of Mexico’s maize. It could result in the planting of more genetically modified corn since small farmers have been known to occasionally plant feed as seed. A few years before, maize growing in Oaxaca and Puebla was discovered to contain genetically modified genes (see October 2000; April 18, 2002). It is believed that the contamination was caused in part by farmers who had planted feed from local stores selling grain imported from the US. The ETC Group, a Canadian-based organization that is opposed to genetically modified crops, warns that if Mexico permits the import of grain with such high levels of contamination, the country’s “maize crop would be riddled with foreign DNA from the Rio Grande to Guatemala in less than a decade.” [ETC Group, 2/26/2004] Greenpeace believes that US efforts to convince countries to lower the accepted levels of contamination are aimed at undermining the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety (see January 24-29, 2000), which has been set up to regulate transboundary shipments of genetically modified organisms. [Greenpeace, 2/11/2004]

Entity Tags: United States, Mexico

Category Tags: Mexico, International trade of GM food

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

The Canadian government instructs its negotiators at the Bangkok meeting of the UN’s Convention on Biological Diversity’s Scientific Body to push for changes to a 2004 UN report (see February 19, 2003-February 21, 2003) that is critical of terminator technology. The report concluded that terminator seeds could result in a number of negative consequences for small farmers, indigenous peoples, and small communities. It recommended that the Convention prohibit field testing and commercialization of terminator seeds. Canada tells its negotiators to propose that the Scientific Body recommend the opposite—that countries be permitted to field test and commercialize the seeds. If these proposals are not accepted, Canada says its representatives should “block consensus on the issue.” The instructions will be leaked to attendees on the first day of the conference. [ETC Group, 2/26/2004; Guardian, 2/9/2005; Ottawa Citizen, 3/5/2006]

Entity Tags: Canada

Category Tags: Terminator seeds, Terminator seeds, Coercive tactics

At the tenth meeting of the Scientific Body of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) in Bangkok, the Canadian delegation proposes that the Scientific Body recommend lifting the de facto ban on field trials and commercialization of terminator seeds and encourage research participation of private sector entities. Terminator technology is opposed by most non-industrialized countries and a number of organizations that advocate for farmers’ rights and food security. Many of these parties learned of Canada’s intention to oppose the ban before the meeting from a leaked Canadian government memo (see Before February 7, 2005). In the memo, Canada had instructed its delegates to block consensus on the issue if countries refused to lift the ban. Canada’s proposal is nonetheless shot down by delegates from Norway, Sweden, Austria, the European Community, Cuba, Peru, and Liberia. The Scientific Body agrees to recommend that CBD members should reaffirm the de facto ban (see May 15-May 26, 2000) on field testing and commercialization of terminator seeds. This recommendation, along with those in a 2004 UN report (see February 19, 2003-February 21, 2003) and the future recommendations of the “Working Group on Article 8(j)” (see September 3, 2002), will be submitted for consideration at the next meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity in March 2006. [ETC Group, 2/26/2004; Convention on Biodiversity, 2/11/2005; Inter Press Service, 2/11/2005]

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

Category Tags: Terminator seeds, Terminator seeds

Speaking at the tenth meeting of the Scientific Body of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (SBSTTA), held in Bangkok, Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser criticizes his government’s backing (see February 7, 2005) of terminator technology. “The Canadian government has acted shamefully. It is supporting a dangerous, anti-farmer technology that aims to eliminate the rights of farmers to save and re-use harvested seed,” he says. “Instead of representing the good will of the Canadian people or attending to the best interests of the Biodiversity Treaty, the Canadian government is fronting for the multinational gene giants who stand to win enormous profits from the release of terminator seeds around the world.” [ETC Group, 2/11/2005]

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

Category Tags: Terminator seeds, Farmers' rights

The US Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit upholds a lower court’s October 2003 decision (see October 2003) to deny class-action status to an antitrust case against Monsanto and other companies. The suit alleges that the companies had conspired to fix prices and control the seed market. [Monsanto, 3/7/2005; AXcess News, 3/8/2005]

Entity Tags: Monsanto

Category Tags: Sample v. Monsanto

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

About 70 indigenous leaders representing 26 Andean and Amazon communities meet in the Peruvian mountain village of Choquecancha for two days to draft a report on the potential impacts terminator seeds would have on their communities if the international moratorium on the technology were to be lifted. The report will be submitted to a UN working group which has been tasked with examining “the potential socio-economic impacts of genetic use restriction technologies on indigenous and local communities.” The UN working group will submit recommendations to the next conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity which will decide whether or not to continue its de facto ban on terminator seeds. The meeting of indigenous leaders is held under the auspices of the Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development (ANDES) and the International Institute for Environment and Development. The indigenous leaders say in their report that they are concerned that pollen from terminator seeds could transfer sterility to and effectively kill off other crops and plant life. Another worry is that use of the technology would increase their dependence on the seed industry, a conclusion that was also reached by the UN Agriculture and Food Organization’s Ethics Panel in 2000 (see September 26, 2000-September 28, 2000). The group says the expansion of monocultural farming and the use of terminator technology could put the region’s 3,000 varieties of potato at risk. The indigenous leaders say they are especially concerned about a patent that has been obtained by Syngenta on technology that would be used to produce sterile potato seeds. Syngenta’s seeds would only grow if treated with chemicals. “Terminator seeds do not have life,” says Felipe Gonzalez of the indigenous Pinchimoro community. “Like a plague they will come infecting our crops and carrying sickness. We want to continue using our own seeds and our own customs of seed conservation and sharing.” [Development, 9/27/2005 pdf file; Inter Press Service, 10/11/2005; International Institute for Environment and Development, 10/6/2006]

Entity Tags: Aymara, Quechua-Aymara Association for Nature and Sustainable Development, Quechua, International Institute for Environment and Development

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

The Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace announces that it is joining the Council of Canadians in a campaign against the patenting of genetically modified (GM) seeds. Roger Dubois, the organization’s president, says one of the reasons the group opposes seed patenting is because it undermines food security and the rights of farmers, especially in the Third World. “Food security for the world’s hungry requires decentralizing control, yet biopatenting centralizes control,” says Ottawa Archbishop Marcel Gervais. The group says that many farmers have stopped using traditional seeds as a result of government programs providing free patented seeds or advertisements promising higher yields. Once hooked, the farmers are prohibited from seed saving, a practice that is thousands of years old, unless they agree to a contract and pay a special fee. Moreover, they are required to use expensive pesticides and fertilizers. Their adoption of GM crops results in the contamination of non-GM plants, thus leading to the loss of traditional seed varieties. The organization is also opposed to the development of genetically modified seeds because it threatens biodiversity and is known to cause adverse environmental consequences. It notes that GM plants that produce their own pesticides harm beneficial insects such as bees and butterflies and that herbicide resistant varieties of plants can pass their traits to their wild cousins, thus creating “superweeds.” [Canadian Press, 10/3/2002; Canada NewsWire, 10/3/2002]

Entity Tags: Council of Canadians, Canadian Catholic Organization for Development and Peace

Timeline Tags: Food Safety

Category Tags: Resistance, Farmers' rights, Food security, Biodiversity, Environment

The USDA Office of Inspector General releases a report concluding that the USDA has failed to provide adequate oversight and regulation of field trials for experimental genetically modified crops, especially high-risk crops that have been engineered to produce chemicals. The agency’s failure to provide effective oversight, according to the report, increases “the risk that regulated genetically engineered organisms (GEO) will inadvertently persist in the environment before they are deemed safe to grow without regulation.”
bullet The USDA failed to record the locations of field trial sites and conduct the required inspections.
bullet The agency’s Biotechnology Regulatory Services (BRS) “lacks formal, risk-based process for selecting individual sites for inspection.”
bullet The USDA’s Plant Protection and Quarantine (PPQ) failed to complete all of the inspections requested by Biotechnology Regulatory Services, including inspections of fields planted with crops designed to produce pharmaceutical and industrial chemicals.
bullet The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) “currently does not have legislative authority to hold applicants financially responsible for costs incurred by USDA due to an unauthorized release of regulated GEOs.” Consequently, taxpayers would have to “bear the expense of removing GE material from the environment in the event of an unintentional release.” [US Department of Agriculture, 12/29/2005 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Office of the Inspector General (USDA)

Category Tags: Experimental GM Crops, Experimental GM Crops, Studies-government

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

At a UN meeting in Granada, the Convention on Biological Diversity’s “Working Group on Article 8(j)” meets ahead of the Convention’s eighth biennial meeting to discuss implementation of Article 8(j) and related provisions of the Convention, as requested by the seventh conference of the Convention that took place in 2004 in Kuala Lumpur. [Convention on Biodiversity, 2/20/2004] Article 8(j) of the convention calls on member countries to protect the traditional knowledge, innovation, and practices of indigenous peoples and peasant farmers. One of the group’s tasks is to “consider the potential socio-economic impacts of genetic use restriction technologies on indigenous and local communities” and make a recommendation based on three previous UN reports (see February 19, 2003-February 21, 2003; February 7, 2005; September 26, 2000-September 28, 2000) and official submissions from indigenous peoples and farmers’ organizations (see September 26, 2005-September 27, 2005). In every one of these reports, terminator technology was considered a threat to the poor. In spite of this, the Australian, New Zealand, and Canadian governments, guided by a US representative (the US has not ratified the Convention on Biological Diversity) and industry lobbyists, push to make the Working Group’s recommendations supportive of terminator technology. Lobbyists for the seed companies include Harry Collins, vice president of Delta & Pine Land, and Roger Krueger of Monsanto. Delta & Pine Land jointly holds three patents on terminator technology with the US Department of Agriculture. According to the ETC Group, a Canadian-based organization opposed to terminator seeds whose representatives are present at this meeting, “With a US government official consulting at her side, the Australian negotiator insisted on deleting reference to the ‘precautionary approach’ and used this as a bargaining chip to win controversial wording for a ‘case-by-case risk assessment’ of terminator.” However, the efforts of these countries to draft a recommendation that would weaken the moratorium on terminator seeds are opposed by the majority of other parties, including Spain, the African Group, Egypt, the Philippines, Norway, Pakistan, Kenya, India, and Brazil. [ETC Group, 1/27/2006; National Farmers Union, 1/27/2006; Canadian Press, 1/30/2006] Australia refuses to budge and it is finally agreed to revise the recommendation to say that further research on terminator technology should include “a case-by-case risk assessment basis with respect to different categories of GURTs technology subject to the precautionary approach.” [Convention on Biodiversity, 1/27/2005 pdf file]

Entity Tags: Brazil, Working Group on Article 8(j), Australia, Canada, Harry B. Collins, New Zealand, Spain, Philippines, India, Kenya, Norway, Pakistan, Roger Krueger, Egypt

Category Tags: Coercive tactics, Terminator seeds, Indigenous peoples, Terminator seeds, Monsanto, Delta & Pine Land

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

The European Parliament passes a resolution calling on member countries to uphold the moratorium on terminator technology at this month’s conference of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The resolution—passed with a 419-1-5 vote—urges European countries to “reject any proposals to undermine the moratorium on the field-testing and marketing of so-called terminator technologies…” It specifically denounces the efforts in January by Canada, Australia, and New Zealand to exempt terminator seeds from the ban on a “case-by-case” basis (see January 23, 2006-January 27, 2006). [European Union Parliament, 3/16/2006; Ban Terminator, 3/16/2006; Inter Press Service, 3/24/2006]

Entity Tags: European Parliament

Category Tags: Terminator seeds, Terminator seeds

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

In India, over half a million people sign a petition calling on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to maintain the country’s ban on terminator technology and support the international ban at the Convention on Biological Diversity. The petition was organized by South Against Genetic Engineering (SAGE), a coalition of farmers, civil society organizations, consumer movements, scientists, academics, and mediapersons. [Hindu (Chennai), 3/17/2006; Hindu Business Line (Chennai ), 3/19/2006; Ban Terminator, 3/27/2006]

Entity Tags: New Zealand, Manmohan Singh

Category Tags: India, Terminator seeds, Terminator seeds

At the eighth meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), member countries must decide whether or not to uphold the 2000 moratorium on field testing and commercializing terminator technology. The technology, formally known as genetic use restriction technology (GURT), would be used to produce seeds that grow into sterile plants. Since 2000, four CBD-commissioned reports have been completed, every one of which has raised concerns that the technology would threaten the interests of poor farmers worldwide. Additionally, submissions to CBD bodies from various indigenous peoples and farmers’ organizations have denounced the technology. Proponents of terminator technology—the seed industry and the governments of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, and the United States—argue that the technology would protect biotech companies’ property rights, and thus encourage them to invest in more research. They also contend that the technology could be used to prevent the spread of other genetically modified crops. During the CBD’s working group meeting on March 23, delegates from Australia, Canada, and New Zealand attempt to weaken the Convention’s ban on terminator technology insisting that member countries agree to insert a provision that would allow a “case-by-case risk assessment” of the technology. The proposal is soundly rejected. Malaysia, speaking on behalf of the G77 and China (together a group of 130 non-industrialized countries), argue that a case-by-case risk assessment is “clearly unacceptable” because it would allow the possibility for field tests. [Inter Press Service, 3/24/2006; ETC Group, 3/27/2006]

Entity Tags: New Zealand, Canada, Australia, China, Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Malaysia

Category Tags: Terminator seeds, Terminator seeds

In Curitiba, Brazil, thousands of peasant farmers, including those from Brazil’s Landless Workers Movement, demonstrate outside the Convention on Biological Diversity’s eighth conference to demand that the convention’s members uphold a de facto ban on terminator technology. Additionally, women of the international Via Campesina movement of peasant farmers stage a silent protest inside the meeting. The organization represents about 80 million farmers from some 56 countries. [ETC Group, 3/31/2006; Inter Press Service, 3/31/2006]

Entity Tags: Via Campesina, Movimento Sem Terra

Category Tags: Resistance, Terminator seeds, Terminator seeds

Federal Judge J. Michael Seabright rules that the US Department of Agriculture violated both the Endangered Species Act and the National Environmental Policy Act when it allowed the cultivation of drug-producing GM crops in Hawaii. The court says the USDA acted in “utter disregard” of the two laws because it failed even to conduct preliminary investigations before granting approval for the growing of these crops. The Hawaii islands are home to 329 endangered and threatened species. Seabright’s ruling is the first court decision regarding plants that have been genetically modified to produce pharmaceutical drugs or industrial compounds. The case primarily concerned four permits that had been issued to Monsanto, ProdiGene, Garst Seed Company, and the Hawaii Agriculture Research Center allowing them to grow drug-producing corn and sugarcane at various locations in Kauai, Oahu, Molokai, and Maui between 2001 and 2003. The plaintiffs in the case—Center for Food Safety, Friends of the Earth, Pesticide Action Network North America, and KAHEA (the Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance)—also challenged the USDA’s practice of refusing to disclose the locations where experimental chemical-producing GM plants are being grown and what substances those plants are being developed to produce. [Center for Food Safety, et al. v. Mike Johanns, et al., 8/10/2006 pdf file; Center for Food Safety, 8/14/2006]

Entity Tags: Hawaiian-Environmental Alliance, Center for Food Safety, Hawaii Agriculture Research Center, US Department of Agriculture, Monsanto, Pesticide Action Network North America, J. Michael Seabright, ProdiGene, Garst Seed Company

Category Tags: Experimental GM Crops, Court decisions, Environment

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

The Mexican Department of Agriculture turns down all seven requests filed by biotech companies to plant experimental fields of genetically engineered corn in northern Mexico. Companies that applied for permits included Monsanto, Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., and others. [Associated Press, 10/18/2006]

Entity Tags: Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., Monsanto

Category Tags: Mexico

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