300,000 Organic Farmers Sue Monsanto

MEDIA ROOTS — Organic farmers, seed growers, and seed businesses took another step at reclaiming their land last month, as 83 plaintiffs representing over 300,000 farmers described Big Agribusiness Monsanto’s harrassment in court.  Monsanto threatens lawsuits against organic farmers for “patent infringement” if farmlands have any trace amounts of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.  Additionally, many organic seeds have not even been planted for fear of any unwanted frankenplants which Monsanto might sue them over.

Willie Nelson successfully rallied many in the Occupy Movement to ‘Occupy the Food System,‘ as hundreds supporting the organic industry assembled outside the federal courthouse in Manhattan for a motion hearing on January 31, 2012.

MR

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NATION OF CHANGE – Judge Naomi Buckwald heard the oral arguments on Monsanto’s Motion to Dismiss, and the legal team from Public Patent Foundation represented the rights of American organic farmers against Monsanto, maker of GM seeds, [and additionally, Agent Orange, dioxin, etc.]

After hearing the arguments, Judge Buckwald stated that on March 31st she will hand down her decision on whether the lawsuit will move forward to trial.

Jim Gerritsen, President of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, has pointed out that there are 5th and 6th generation family farmers being pushed off their farms today, and because of a “climate of fear” (from possible lawsuits from Monsanto), they can’t grow some of the food they want to grow.

Even organic dairy farmers have had to suffer lawsuits (from Monsanto) when they labeled their organic milk “non-BGH” referring to Monsanto’s bovine growth hormone used by conventional dairies.

Read more about the 300,000 organic farmers suing Monsanto in federal court.

© 2012 Nation of Change

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Photo by Flickr user Martin Pettitt

Hungary Destroys Genetically Modified Corn Crops

LA WEEKLY– Hungary has destroyed almost 1,000 acres of corn found to have been grown with genetically modified seeds, which are illegal in the country, International Business Times reports. The corn was plowed under so that pollen would not contaminate other crops.

The action came in response to a new regulation introduced in March that stipulates that seeds are supposed to be checked for GMO before they can be sold to farmers. But some of the GMO seeds, manufactured by U.S. seed giants Monsanto and Pioneer, made it onto the market anyway. The Hungarian government said it will continue to test seeds despite the fact that seed sellers are obliged to make sure their products are GMO-free.

Last week the Hungarian unit of Monsanto, the largest producer of GMO seeds, appealed to the Budapest Municipal Court to suspend the resolution by the Hungarian Agriculture Office to destroy the corn, but they were turned down, according to the Budapest Times.

With the growing season already underway, it’s too late to sow new seeds, so this year’s harvest is a total loss.

Monsanto released a statement saying it “respects Hungary’s efforts to prevent the production of genetically manipulated plants on Hungarian farms. Monsanto sells only traditional, not GMO seeds to Hungary. Our seeds can only enter Hungarian markets after they were tested for GMO and found clean, in accordance with national and international laws.”

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© 2011 LA Weekly

Photo by Flickr user A.W.A.N.

US Ends Opposition to GM Labeling Guidelines

ECO WATCH PRESS RELEASE– Consumers International (CI) and its member organizations celebrated victory today as regulators from more than 100 countries agreed on long overdue guidance
on the labeling of genetically modified (GM) food.

The Codex Alimentarius Commissionii, made up of the world’s food safety regulatory agencies, has been labouring for two decades to come up with consensus guidance on this topic.

In a striking reversal of their previous position, on Tuesday, during the annual Codex summit in Geneva, the US delegation dropped its opposition to the GM labeling guidance document, allowing it to move forward and become an official Codex text.

The new Codex agreement means that any country wishing to adopt GM food labeling will no longer face the threat of a legal challenge from the World Trade Organization (WTO). This is because national measures based on Codex guidance or standards cannot be challenged as a barrier to trade.

This will have immediate implications for consumers. Edita Vilcapoma of the Peruvian consumer group ASPEC, representing Consumers International at the Codex meeting in Geneva, said:

“Peru’s recent introduction of GM food labeling faced the threat of a legal challenge from the WTO. This new Codex agreement now means that this threat has gone and the consumer right to be informed has been secured. This is major victory for the global consumer movement.”

The agreement also recognises the enormous health monitoring benefits of giving consumers transparent information about the presence of GM foods. Consumers International’s lead delegate at Codex, and a senior scientist at Consumers Union of the United States, Dr Michael Hansen, stated:

“We are particularly pleased that the new guidance recognizes that GM labelling is justified as a tool for post market monitoring. This is one of the key reasons we want all GM foods to be required to be labelled – so that if consumers eat modified foods, they will be able to know and report to regulators if they have an allergic or other adverse reaction.”

The labeling milestone is particularly welcomed by CI member organizations in Africa, who have been fighting on behalf of their consumers for the right to be informed about GM food. Samuel Ochieng, President Emeritus of Consumers International and CEO of the Kenyan Consumer Information Network said:

“While the agreement falls short of the consumer movement’s long-held demand for endorsement of mandatory GM food labeling, this is still a significant milestone for consumer rights. We congratulate Codex on agreeing on this guidance, which has been sought by consumers and regulators in African countries for nearly twenty years. This guidance is extremely good news for the worlds’ consumers who want to know what is in the foods on their plates”.   

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Note to Editors

i Consumers International (CI) is the only independent global campaigning voice for consumers. With over 220 member organizations in 115 countries, we are building a powerful international consumer movement to help protect and empower consumers everywhere. For more information, visit www.consumersinternational.org

ii The Codex Alimentarius Commission was created in 1963 by FAO and WHO to develop food standards, guidelines and related texts such as codes of practice under the Joint FAO/WHO Food Standards Programme: http://www.codexalimentarius.net/web/index_en.jsp

Obama Embraces GE Crops on Wildlife Refuges

COMMON DREAMS– The Obama administration has endorsed genetically engineered agriculture on more than 50 National Wildlife Refuges, with more GE-refuge approvals in the works, according to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). The new plan is designed to insulate refuges from environmental court challenges in the wake of a lawsuit recently won by PEER and other groups which halted GE agriculture in all Northeastern refuges.

The national blitz of official filings is intended to remove a perceived barrier to the export of American GE crops – U.S. restrictions on growing GE crops on National Wildlife Refuges. Under a U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS operates the refuges) policy, GE crops are banned from refuges unless determined to be “essential” to refuge operations. Countries leery of importing U.S. bio-engineered food have cited the policy as one basis for their concern.

Rather than overturn this FWS “Biological Integrity” policy outright, the White House has embarked on a region-by-region approach to file environmental paperwork justifying GE agriculture on – 31 refuge units across 8 Midwestern states; 25 refuges units in 12 Southeastern states; and an unspecified number of refuges in the 8-state Rocky Mountain Region.

The proposal for the Midwestern Refuges would allow more than 20,000 acres to be cultivated with no limits on how many acres could be GE crops. The public comment deadline for that plan is today. In its comments, PEER argues that the GE operations risk harm to wildlife, refuge plants and soil, while contending that there is no refuge purpose for which GE crops are essential, as required by FWS policy.

“These plans are based on the curious notion that wildlife benefit from having the small slivers of habitat set aside for them covered by genetically engineered soybeans,” stated PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, noting the Midwest refuges are already surrounded by row crops, most of which are now GE. “To boost U.S. exports, the Obama administration is forcing wildlife refuges into political prostitution.”

In 2010, PEER, the Center for Food Safety and Delaware Audubon brought successful litigation charging that GE agriculture on refuges in the Northeast violated the Refuge Improvement Act as incompatible with refuge purposes and lacked reviews required by the National Environmental Policy Act. That suit was settled when FWS agreed to stop commercial agriculture operations on all refuges within the region. These latest filings are supposed to shield refuges in other regions from similar suits based on failing to meet procedural requirements of environmental statutes. Future challenges would have to show that these new eco-reviews are impermissibly defective – a higher legal hurdle.

“The Obama administration says that it is devoted to scientific integrity but these new reviews are scientific travesties,” added Ruch, pointing to new Interior Department (which includes FWS) rules requiring that scientific information in decision- making “must be robust, of the highest quality, and the result of the most rigorous scientific processes as can be achieved.” “The sole document assessing the environmental impacts of genetically engineered planting in 25 Southeastern refuges is only six pages long.”

Increasingly the only seed available to U.S. farmers, especially for corn and soybeans, is GE. Ironically, it is the ubiquity of GE agriculture that FWS offers as the main reason it must allow these crops on refuges.

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Read the PEER comments

View the EA for 31 Midwest Refuges

See proposed finding of no impact for GE crops on 25 Southeast Refuges

Examine draft EA for Rocky Mountain refuges

Look at litigation driving GE agriculture out of Northeast Refuges

Review the Interior Department’s new scientific integrity rules

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Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) is a national alliance of local state and federal resource professionals. PEER’s environmental work is solely directed by the needs of its members. As a consequence, we have the distinct honor of serving resource professionals who daily cast profiles in courage in cubicles across the country.

Photo by flickr user Margaret Killjoy 

 

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World’s Top Weed Killer Linked To Infertility

LIFE SITE NEWS– The world’s top herbicide for decades has come under criticism after evidence surfaced suggesting that the chemical may be linked to infertility and miscarriage in animals, raising serious concerns about the possible effect on human consumers.

Glyphosate is the weed-killing ingredient introduced over 30 years ago by the multinational agricultural biotechnology corporation Monsanto under the brand name Roundup. Monsanto also produces “Roundup Ready” corn, soybeans and cotton genetically engineered to withstand large doses of Roundup that would be deadly to normal plants.

But Dr. Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University and a well-known plant pathologist, wrote to both American and European officials earlier this year to express his concern over a newly-discovered, extremely small organism that has appeared in higher concentrations in conjunction with Roundup and Roundup Ready crops.

The “electron microscopic pathogen,” Huber wrote in a Jan 16 letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack, “appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals, and probably human beings,” noting that preliminary experiments have been able to reproduce the pathogen’s effect of causing miscarriages.

Huber urged the Secretary to delay deregulation of Roundup Ready crops, saying that “such approval could be a calamity.” “I believe the threat we are facing from this pathogen is unique and of a high risk status. In layman’s terms, it should be treated as an emergency,” he wrote.

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© 2011 Life Site News

Photo by Flickr user artysmokes

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