PANUPS - Farmer protection bill passed (31/1/2008)

PANUPS - January 17/24&31 2008
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS) January 31 2008

California Assembly passes farmer GE protection bill: Jared Huffman's state legislation passed the California Assembly by a vote of 49-12 this week, and now moves to the State Senate. AB 451would protect farmers whose crops are contaminated by the spread of patented, genetically engineered (GE) seeds and pollen. [See PANUPS, Jan. 24, 2008 BELOW] The bill provides protections from patent-holder lawsuits and would require a farmer's written consent and state oversight before corporate investigators could enter and inspect private fields. 'While there is still work to do,' Huffman said, AB 541 marks 'an important step in establishing basic protections for California's farmers.' The bill is supported by PANNA and other members of the Genetic Engineering Policy Alliance (http://www.gepolicyalliance.org/ ). Thank you to the hundreds of PAN's Action Center members in California who sent emails on AB 541 last week. You made a difference. Keep it up!

APHIS sued over 'Franken-seeds': The Organic Seed Alliance (OSA), Center for Food Safety, and Sierra Club have sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) to block commercial release of the sugar beet seeds genetically engineered to tolerate Roundup Ready (glyphosate) herbicide. The seeds, currently slated for commercial release this spring, were developed by Monsanto. Roundup is Monsanto's dominant pesticide product. The suit charges that APHIS failed to thoroughly investigate whether a three-mile buffer zone between GE and natural crops will be sufficient to 'thwart the spread of glyphosate-tolerant genes' to fields of organic beets and chard. Tom Stearns, owner of High Mowing Seeds, warns that contamination of organic crops with artificial genes 'takes away people's right to farm the way they want.... It's pollution.' Attorney Kevin Golden fears the use of GE beets 'will eventually result in weed resistance to glyphosate' and that 'more toxic alternatives would need to be used to control those weeds.' An APHIS spokesperson told the Capital Press that GE beets will have 'no adverse environmental impact' but APHIS' own assessment admits 'gene introgression...is possible.'

Minnesota bows to Monsanto and Dow: The Minneapolis Star Tribune reports that 'scientists at Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences convinced the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) to double the allowable river concentration of an agricultural weed-killer despite an internal review calling for tougher standards.' The MPCA conducted a three-year review of the herbicide acetochlor after high concentrations of the toxic chemical appeared in local trout streams. According to Integrity in Science Watch, MPCA was about to tighten water quality standards for acetochlor when industry scientists submitted 'six studies that they said proved that the draft limit was too strict.' The new standard removed three 'impaired' streams from the polluted list. Paul Wotzka, a former Minnesota Department of Agriculture hydrologist said, 'I can't fathom how quickly a state agency would bend over backwards to a chemical giant like Monsanto.' After three years of research and public testimony, the MPCA had proposed setting the limit on acetochlor at 1.7 parts per billion but, after being contacted by the manufacturers, the MPCA reversed itself and doubled the standard to 3.6 parts per billion. The Mankato Free Press called the quick about-face by state officials 'troubling.'


Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
January 24 2008

Schmeiser v. Monsanto: Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser became an international hero when he stood up to Monsanto. After the company's genetically engineered (GE) seeds blew onto Schmeiser's canola farm and contaminated his fields, the multinational sued the farmer for growing their patented seeds without permission. As Schmeiser saw it, Monsanto's stray plants were 'pollution and the polluter should pay.' But Monsanto prevailed in a Canadian court trial that was 'overshadowed by accusations of aggressive tactics and corporate bullying,' according to the Guardian of London. This week, Schmeiser filed suit against the corporation asking to be reimbursed for the $600 (Canadian) it cost to dig up and destroy Monsanto's GE canola seedlings on his land in 2005. The trial was set to begin on January 23. Monsanto admitted their GE seeds had contaminated his field but the company refused to pay unless Schemeiser signed a non-disclosure statement. 'No way would we ever give that away to a corporation,' Schmeiser replied. Although the case involves only one small farm in Saskatchewan, it could set a precedent that could cost Monsanto millions in legal settlements around the world.

California GE bill goes to vote: On January 16, AB 541 -- a bill designed to protect farmers from the hazards of genetically engineered (GE) crops -- was approved by a 5-0 vote of the Assembly Agriculture Committee. AB 541 would protect farmers from 'infringement lawsuits' if their fields are contaminated by corporate-owned GE pollen. (In the past, farmers have been sued for 'theft' by corporations responsible for the genetic contamination of their fields.) The original bill would have also created the country's first database of GE crop locations, confined 'experimental pharmaceutical-producing crops' to greenhouses, and held GE crop manufacturers (not farmers) liable for genetic contamination. Renata Brillinger, Director of Californians for GE Free Agriculture, admits the amended bill 'represents only a small piece of what our stakeholders identify as issues to be addressed' but she agrees with AB 541's sponsor, Jared Huffman, that the bill marks 'an important step in establishing basic protections for California's farmers.' The bill goes to a vote of the full Assembly on January 28. Action Alert: Emails supporting AB 541 are needed by January 25.


Pesticide Action Network Updates Service (PANUPS)
January 17 2008

A global GMO-free network: International stakeholders meeting in Brussels, Belgium, have announced plans to create 'a reliable, global supply of non-GM soy' to counter the spread of genetically engineered crops. Fifty-four percent of Brazil's 2006-7 soy production was from patented GM seeds and parcels of the Amazon rainforest are now being cleared for GM soy. Environmental News Network reports that 361 delegates attended a two-day meeting, representing the continent's 43 GMO-free regions (including Brittany in France, Tuscany in Italy and Upper Austria), Brazil, Canada, China, India and the US. Renaud Layadi, Sustainable Development Project Manager for the Regional Council of Brittany, explained that the goal was 'to create a non-GM commodity market.' Nearly all European pork, red meat and dairy products are derived from GMO-fed animals. A 2006 Eurobarometer survey found that most Europeans oppose GM food. As a result, Cargill, Bunge and ADM were forced to accept a two-year moratorium on soybeans grown on deforested lands. 'There's an enormous effort by the biotech industry to make people think there is no alternative,' Layadi said, while noting that Indian farmers alone are prepared to provide 10,000 tons of on-GM soy 'if the market demanded.'

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