NLPWESSEX, natural law publishing
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Scrutinising The Farming Claims
Of The Ag-Biotech Industry

Will GM Crops Deliver Benefits To Farmers?
www.nlpwessex.org/docs/gmagric.htm
How The Biotech Sector
Has Economised With The Agronomic Truth


News - News - News

* For Latest Press Reports On The Problems Farmers Face With GM Crops *
Click Here

2014 - 2013 - 2012 - 2011 - 2010 & Earlier (from 1996)


Who Benefits?

"[Monsanto CEO Bob] Shapiro has this messianic sense about him. If he said it once, he said it three or four times: Put us together and we'll rule the world. We're going to own the industry. Almost those exact words. We can be a juggernaut. Invincible."
Tom Urban, Former CEO of leading seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred on Bob Shapiro's business strategy for Monsanto
Lords of the Harvest
Charles, D. (2001), Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus

"Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative."
'The Adoption of Bioengineered Crops'
US Department of Agriculture Report, May 2002

"... according to a report issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.... released online on Feb. 20.... GMO crops were planted on about 169 million acres (68 million hectares) in the U.S. in 2013, about half the total land used for crops, the report said. The seeds are patented and cost more than conventional seeds - the price of GMO soybean and corn seeds grew by about 50 percent between 2001 and 2010, according to the report. But the companies that sell them say they make weed and insect management easier for farmers and can help increase production. But in its report, the ERS researchers said over the first 15 years of commercial use, GMO seeds have not been shown to definitively increase yield potentials, and 'in fact, the yields of herbicide-tolerant or insect-resistant seeds may be occasionally lower than the yields of conventional varieties,' the ERS report states. Several researchers have found 'no significant differences' between the net returns to farmers who use GMO herbicide tolerant seeds and those who use non-GMO seeds, the report states..... insecticide use on corn farms was down to 0.02 pound per acre in 2010, down from 0.21 pound per acre in 1995, the report states. But while insecticide use has gone down, herbicide use on GMO corn is rising, the report states. Herbicide use on GMO corn increased from around 1.5 pounds per planted acre in 2001 to more than 2.0 pounds per planted acre in 2010. Herbicide use on non-GMO corn has remained relatively level during that same time frame, the ERS said. And the over reliance on glyphosate has translated to an increase in weed resistance, which makes crop production much harder. Glyphosate is the chief ingredient in Roundup herbicide sold by Monsanto, and its use has translated to the glyphosate resistance seen in 14 weed species and biotypes in the United States, according to ERS."
U.S. GMO crops show mix of benefits, concerns - USDA report
Reuters, 24 February 2014

zetva_soje2.jpg (22485 bytes)usdapesticides3.jpg (17644 bytes)
Above, USDA data showing total increase in herbicides applied for corn, cotton and soybeans since GM crops were introduced in the United States in 1996.

Many of the claimed farming benefits of GM crops are either false or exaggerated. But how has this extraordinarily unscientific situation come about?

This web page takes a closer at some of these surprising developments, including how biotech companies have even resorted to hiding the results of their own research.

nlpwessex.org

"Some US farmers are considering returning to conventional seed after increased pest resistance and crop failures meant GM crops saw smaller yields globally than their non-GM counterparts. Farmers in the USA pay about an extra $100 per acre for GM seed, and many are questioning whether they will continue to see benefits from using GMs. 'It's all about cost benefit analysis,' said economist Dan Basse, president of American agricultural research company AgResource. 'Farmers are paying extra for the technology but have seen yields which are no better than 10 years ago. They're starting to wonder why they're spending extra money on the technology.' One of the biggest problems the USA has seen with GM seed is resistance. While it was expected to be 40 years before resistance began to develop pests such as corn rootworm have formed a resistance to GM crops in as few as 14 years. 'Some of these bugs will eat the plant and it will make them sick, but not kill them. It starts off in pockets of the country but then becomes more widespread. We're looking at going back to cultivation to control it,' said Mr Basse. 'I now use insecticides again.' One of the issues if farmers do move back towards non-GMs will be the availability of seed, he said, as around 87% of US farmers plant genetically modified seed. The top performing countries by crop yield last year were in Asia, in particular China, where farmers do not use GM seed."
US farmers may stop planting GMs after poor global yields
Farmers Weekly, 6 February 2013

"After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn. Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop. The vulnerability of this corn could be disastrous for farmers and the environment. 'Unless management practices change, it’s only going to get worse,' said Aaron Gassmann, an Iowa State University entomologist and co-author of a March 17 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study describing rootworm resistance. 'There needs to be a fundamental change in how the technology is used.'.... .... Gassmann responded to reports of extensive rootworm damage in Bt cornfields in northeast Iowa. Populations there had become resistant to one of the three Bt corn varieties. (Each variety produces a different type of Bt toxin.) He described that resistance in a 2011 study; around the same time, reports of rootworm-damaged Bt corn came in from parts of Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. These didn’t represent a single outbreak, but rather the emergence, again and again, of resistance. In the new paper, Gassmann describes further incidents of Bt resistance in other parts of Iowa. He also found rootworms resistant to a second variety of Bt corn. Moreover, being resistant to one variety heightened the chances of resistance to another. That means corn engineered to produce multiple Bt toxins — so-called stacked varieties — won’t do much to slow the evolution of rootworm resistance, as was originally hoped. Farmers likely won’t stop using Bt corn, as it’s still effective against other pests — but as rootworms become more resistant, said Gassmann, farmers will turn to insecticides, thus increasing their costs and losing the ecological benefits originally gained by using Bt corn. As entomologists concerned by rootworm resistance wrote to the EPA in 2012, 'When insecticides overlay transgenic technology, the economic and environmental advantages of rootworm-­protected corn quickly disappear.' .'"
Voracious Worm Evolves to Eat Biotech Corn Engineered to Kill It
Wired, 17 March 2014

On This Page

An Introduction To
GM Crop 'Benefits' Myths

'Let Me Tell You None Of This Is True'
Overview Of Extravagant GM Crop Claims

Compromised 'Advocacy Science' And GM Crop Performance
Promises, Reality, And Conflicts Of Interest

Cutting The Hype About GM Crops
Not Even The Industry's Top Scientific Journal Believes The Exaggerated Claims

GM Crops And 'Economising With The Agronomic Truth'
How Commercial Interests Have Manipulated The Science And Public Perception

The Biotech Industry Is Leading A Huge 'Consolidation' In World Seed Supplies
Is This Really In The Best Interest Of Farmers?

* * Latest Press Reports On The Realities Of Farming GM Crops * *


Introduction
GM Crop 'Benefits' Myths

"The report GMO Myths and Truths is a detailed study covering everything from the genetic engineering technique through to an analysis of the benefits of GM foods and crops. The report is heavily referenced, allowing the reader to determine the validity of the authors’ conclusions. The section on GM crops’ impact on the farm and environment seriously questions the benefits of growing these crops, citing examples of increased pesticide use, pest resistance, inconclusive yield benefits and their value in feeding the worlds increasing population..... weighing in at over 120 pages ... it’s not the weight that makes for uncomfortable reading but the detailed critique of many of the supposed benefits of GM technology and the fact that these have all been brought together in one report. What makes it even more difficult to ignore is the credentials of the authors concerned, these are not your light-weight anti-everything tree huggers but acclaimed scientists. This should open up the debate at a high level on the benefits of GM crops and be essential reading not just for policy makers. The questions raised in this report are too numerous and serious to be simply disregarded."
New report challenges GM industry myths
Farming Online, 19 June 2012

"One of agricultural biotechnology’s great success stories may become a cautionary tale of how short-sighted mismanagement can squander the benefits of genetic modification. After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn. Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop. The vulnerability of this corn could be disastrous for farmers and the environment. 'Unless management practices change, it’s only going to get worse,' said Aaron Gassmann, an Iowa State University entomologist and co-author of a March 17 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study describing rootworm resistance. 'There needs to be a fundamental change in how the technology is used.'.... Key to effective management, said the scientists, were refuges set aside and planted with non-Bt corn. Within these fields, rootworms would remain susceptible to the Bt toxin. By mating with any Bt-resistant worms that chanced to evolve in neighboring fields, they’d prevent resistance from building up in the gene pool. But the scientists’ own recommendations — an advisory panel convened in 2002 by the EPA suggested that a full 50 percent of each corn farmer’s fields be devoted to these non-Bt refuges — were resisted by seed companies and eventually the EPA itself, which set voluntary refuge guidelines at between 5 and 20 percent. Many farmers didn’t even follow those recommendations. Fast forward to 2009, when Gassmann responded to reports of extensive rootworm damage in Bt cornfields in northeast Iowa. Populations there had become resistant to one of the three Bt corn varieties. (Each variety produces a different type of Bt toxin.) He described that resistance in a 2011 study; around the same time, reports of rootworm-damaged Bt corn came in from parts of Illinois, Minnesota, Nebraska and South Dakota. These didn’t represent a single outbreak, but rather the emergence, again and again, of resistance. In the new paper, Gassmann describes further incidents of Bt resistance in other parts of Iowa. He also found rootworms resistant to a second variety of Bt corn. Moreover, being resistant to one variety heightened the chances of resistance to another. That means corn engineered to produce multiple Bt toxins — so-called stacked varieties — won’t do much to slow the evolution of rootworm resistance, as was originally hoped. Farmers likely won’t stop using Bt corn, as it’s still effective against other pests — but as rootworms become more resistant, said Gassmann, farmers will turn to insecticides, thus increasing their costs and losing the ecological benefits originally gained by using Bt corn. As entomologists concerned by rootworm resistance wrote to the EPA in 2012, 'When insecticides overlay transgenic technology, the economic and environmental advantages of rootworm-­protected corn quickly disappear.' Entomologist Bruce Tabashnik of the University of Arizona called Bt resistance 'an increasingly serious problem,' and said that refuge sizes need to be increased dramatically and immediately. He and other scientists have pushed the EPA to double current refuge requirements, but so far without success. 'Biotech companies have successfully lobbied EPA for major reductions in refuge requirements,' said Tabashnik. Entomologist Elson Shields of Cornell University agrees. 'Resistance was caused because the farmers did not plant the required refuges and the companies did not enforce the planting of refuges,' said Shields, who has written that 'a widespread increase in trait failure may be just around the corner.' In addition to increasing refuge sizes, farmers also need to vary the crops planted on their fields, rather than planting corn season after season, said Gassmann. Breaks in the corn cycle naturally disrupt rootworm populations, but the approach fell from favor as the high price of corn made continuous planting appealing. 'Continuous corn is the perfect habitat for rootworm,' said Gassmann. Shields also lamented the difficulty he and other academic scientists long experienced when trying to study Bt corn. Until 2010, after organized objections by entomologists at major agricultural universities forced seed companies to allow outside researchers to study Bt corn, the crop was largely off-limits. Had that not been the case, said Shields, resistance could have been detected even earlier, and perhaps stalled before it threatened to become such a problem. 'Once we had legal access, resistance was documented in a year,' Shields said. 'We were seeing failures earlier but were not allowed to test for resistance.'"
Voracious Worm Evolves to Eat Biotech Corn Engineered to Kill It
Wired, 17 March 2014

"Sometimes an old technology may be the best fit for your field. In recent years, that fact has been reinforced on much of Gary Sitzer’s soybean acreage. Sitzer, it turns out, hasn’t given up on conventional varieties. 'I farm in northeast Arkansas, on the western side of Poinsett County,' said Sitzer at the mid-January Cotton and Rice Conference in Tunica, Miss. 'It’s an old rice area.' At the beginning of his presentation Sitzer insisted he was for producer choice not against GMOs. 'I want everyone to know I’m strictly talking about non-GMO, or conventional, soybeans being a choice. I’m not here to denigrate Roundup Ready or LibertyLink or anyone’s GMO. It’s simply a choice -- and a lot of times I think it’s the best choice for a particular situation.'.... Many are familiar with the Arkansas verification program. 'That’s where the researchers’ data and recommendations are put it to work in an actual farmer’s field.' In 2012, there were four conventional soybean fields in the program along with 15 Roundup Ready or LibertyLink fields. That year, averaging everything together, 'the conventional varieties actually did better. So, there is top-end potential. In 2013, there was a big yield contest in Arkansas -- ‘Go for the Green.’ A conventional field was turned in for the contest, yield was certified from at least a five-acre block, and it yielded 84 bushels per acre.' Further evidence came from a Phillips County verification field where the farmer 'elected to use two varieties. One was UA4910, a conventional, as well as an Asgrow line. They both yielded the same. 'Does that tell you anything, really? Well, the Asgrow line is the same one that made 107 bushels in the ‘Race for 100’ contest in the state.'.... drills have changed a lot since Sitzer was back in high school. 'But it’s still about making a trench and covering up the seed. One of the things that got me interested in conventional beans was this: on marginal fields with a rough seed bed am I better off planting at a high seeding rate?' The best way to afford that is to use a university variety and keep your own seed, Sitzer suggested. 'That way, your cost is basically market price and $2 or $3 for cleaning, storage, bagging, insurance, whatever. So, in adverse conditions, I can plant up to a bushel-and-a-half, at times. That’s a big advantage: keep your own seed.'..... What are some of the advantages of conventional soybeans? 'I play with the numbers in many ways. Basically, the seed costs savings average about $50 to $55 per acre versus a normal seeding rate of a Roundup Ready with a seed treatment.' There are premiums available for conventionals. 'I have gotten them. Some years I do, some I don’t. I don’t plan for them. The beans go right into the market chain. Premiums vary. If you’re close to the river and you don’t mind storing them until after harvest, ADM has a premium market nearly every year. But you must store them. And I’m far enough away that the time value and transportation kind of eats into the bonus.' Saving seed 'is a big deal and provides flexibility, particularly with seeding rates. You can keep more seed than you think you’ll need. So, if I get into a replant situation, there can be enough seed to assure a good replanting of the same variety.'"
Considering conventional soybeans? Here’s some advice
Delta Farm Press, 11 February 2014

"Faltering under extreme weather and vanishing habitats, the yearly winter migration of monarch butterflies to a handful of forested Mexican mountains dwindled precipitously in December, continuing what scientists said was an increasingly alarming decline. The migrating population has become so small — perhaps 35 million, experts guess — that the prospects of its rebounding to levels seen even five years ago are diminishing. At worst, scientists said, a migration widely called one of the world’s great natural spectacles is in danger of effectively vanishing. ...As corn prices have risen — spurred in part by a government mandate to add ethanol to gasoline — farmers have planted tens of millions of acres of idle land along the monarchs’ path that once provided both milkweed and nectar. At the same time, growers have switched en masse to crops that are genetically engineered to tolerate herbicides. The increased use of herbicides has all but wiped out milkweed that once sprouted between rows of corn and soybean. As a result, Dr. Taylor said, the monarchs must travel farther and use more energy to find places to lay their eggs. With their body fat depleted, the butterflies lay fewer eggs, or die before they have a chance to reproduce. The monarchs are but the most visible victims of the habitat loss, Dr. Oberhauser said. A wide variety of pollinators and other insects, including many that are beneficial to farmers, are also disappearing, she said, along with the predators that feed on them..... "
Migration of Monarch Butterflies Shrinks Again Under Inhospitable Conditions
New York Times, 29 January 2014

"Renowned weed scientist Steve Powles, having had to find solutions and work-arounds in resistant weed-infested crops in his native Australia, has tried to prepare American producers for their own burgeoning resistance problems. In 2005, just as glyphosate-resistant pigweeds began to tighten their grip on fields in the American South, Powles cautioned U.S. producers against continuing practices that would only spread resistance. 'There is something Australia is No. 1 in the world at: herbicide resistance. We know about this problem and have the dubious distinction of being tops. However, the United States is about to take the top spot away from us. My prediction is you will be crowned king of herbicide resistance within the next few years.' In summer 2013, Powles again visited the United States and his message took on a more urgent tone. Agronomic diversity is a must, he told Farm Press, if American producers are to head off massive cropland problems.... '....Two years ago, pigweed had become a real problem in the South. That has only spread farther afield. When I was visiting the Texas High Plains, they told me resistant pigweed wasn’t a problem in 2012. This year, though, it’s in as much as 50 percent of the fields. That’s just the exponential part of the curve, which states like Arkansas, Mississippi and Georgia have been through. Whereas, in the Midwest, the Corn Belt, the producers have had a different set of issues. I don’t want to overstate the situation, but on a bus ride from Chicago to Indianapolis — with many stops — you can really see a sprinkling of marestail and waterhemp through some 50 percent of the soybean crops. I’m prepared to claim that those weeds are glyphosate-resistant. Those aren’t just misses. I don’t remember seeing that several years ago.'
Advice from weed resistance expert: Try diversity
Delta Farm Press, 17 January 2014

"For nearly a decade, cotton growers have been battling to save crops from the ravages of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. Though in many ways they are finally gaining the upper hand, an expert with the Weed Science Society of America says progress has come at a great cost. 'The current model simply isn’t sustainable,' says Stanley Culpepper, a professor in crop and soil science at the University of Georgia and member of WSSA. 'Growers have gone to war, and they are making progress from a weed management perspective, but not from an economic or environmental perspective. We need to figure out a way to get the same result far more cost effectively and in a way that better protects our natural resources.' ... Palmer amaranth became a huge problem in cotton after growers began to rely solely on glyphosate for weed control. After repeated and exclusive exposure to the chemical, resistant weeds began to appear. It was clear that growers would need to make significant changes in their weed control practices or lose their crops. Today integrated weed management programs that complement glyphosate with a variety of other weed control tools and techniques have become commonplace in cotton. Growers have added herbicides to their weed control programs that use a different mode of action than glyphosate. They also are using two approaches that may seem decidedly 'old school.'... More than 90 percent of cotton growers in Georgia are now hand-weeding a significant portion of their cotton crop, Culpepper says. They also are tilling more to keep Palmer amaranth at bay. Though the multifaceted approach is working, there are definite downsides. Additional herbicides, labor and fuel have tripled the cost of weed control in cotton and that means profit margins are declining. ... Scientists and growers are collaborating on new options. One of the latest involves the use of heavily planted winter rye as a cover crop for cotton. Once the rye is established, it is rolled down to create a thick, horizontal bed of mulch that can reduce Palmer amaranth infestations by as much as 70 to 90 percent....The impact of glyphosate resistance on cotton crops represents a cautionary tale for anyone relying on a single herbicide mode of action for weed control, scientists say. If you reach the resistance 'tipping point' in a crop, it can be very costly to turn back the tide."
Current weed control programs in cotton ‘not sustainable’
Delta Farm Press, 13 January 2014

"Over the past 15 years, farmers around the world have planted ever larger tracts of genetically engineered crops. According to the USDA, in 2012 more than 93 percent of soy planted was 'herbicide tolerant,' engineered to withstand herbicides (sold by the same companies who patent and sell the seeds). Likewise, 73 percent of all corn now is also genetically modified to withstand chemicals produced to kill competing weeds. One of the main arguments behind creating these engineered crops is that farmers then need to use less herbicide and pesticide. This makes farms more eco-friendly, say proponents of genetically modified (GM) crops, and GM seeds also allow farmers to spend less on 'inputs' (chemicals), thereby making a greater profit. But a new study released by Food & Water Watch yesterday finds the goal of reduced chemical use has not panned out as planned. In fact, according to the USDA and EPA data used in the report, the quick adoption of genetically engineered crops by farmers has increased herbicide use over the past 9 years in the U.S. The report follows on the heels of another such study by Washington State University research professor Charles Benbrook just last year."
GMO Crops Mean More Herbicide, Not Less
Forbes, 2 July 2013

"New research shows there is no increase in yields between genetically modified crops and conventional systems. The report published in the International Journal of Agricultural Sustainability also claims GM crops are associated with higher pesticide usage. The study looked at 50 years of yield data with corn, canola and cotton from the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation database. Professor Jack Heinemann of the University of Canterbury in New Zealand compared GM crops in the United States with the non GM varieties in Europe. 'Up until 1985 US (corn) yields were significantly higher that western European yields. But since 1985, Western Europe has had higher yields and the trend line drawn for 50 years shows a much steeper incline for Western Europe.' "
Study: no yield advantage with GM crops
ABC (Australia), 24 June 2013

"According to Philip Howard, a researcher at Michigan State University, economists say that when four firms control 40% of a market, it is no longer competitive. According to AgWeb, the 'big four' biotech seed companies—Monsanto, DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta, and Dow AgroSciences—own 80% of the US corn market and 70% of the soybean business. Monsanto has become the world’s largest seed company in less than 10 years by capturing markets for corn, soybean, cotton, and vegetable seeds, according to a report by the Farmer to Farmer Campaign. In addition to selling seeds, Monsanto licenses its genetically modified traits to other seed companies. As a result, more than 80% of US corn and more than 90% of soybeans planted each year contain Monsanto’s patented GM traits. Other factors that have led to industry domination by a few players include purchase of smaller seed companies by larger companies, weak antitrust law enforcement, and Supreme Court decisions that allowed GM crops and other plant materials to be patented, while prohibiting seed saving by farmers. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) investigated Monsanto’s dominance of the seed market after holding public meetings in 2010 where farmers described the company’s practices. But at the end of 2012, DOJ announced it had 'closed its investigation into possible anticompetitive practices in the seed industry.' Diana Moss, vice president of the American Antitrust Institute, told Mother Jones food blogger Tom Philpott, 'To have a two-year investigation and close it without a peep in our view does a disservice.'”
The GMO Seed Cartel
Non-GMO Report, 1 February 2013

"The area of U.S. cropland infested with glyphosate-resistant weeds has expanded to 61.2 million acres in 2012, according to a survey conducted by Stratus Agri-Marketing. Nearly half (49%) of all U.S. farmers interviewed reported that glyphosate-resistant weeds were present on their farm in 2012, up from 34% of farmers in 2011. The survey also indicates that the rate at which glyphosate-resistant weeds are spreading is gaining momentum, increasing 25% in 2011 and 51% in 2012. The Stratus Glyphosate Resistance Tracking study is conducted annually. It’s now in its third year. In 2012, Stratus completed interviews with nearly 3,000 farmers during the summer and fall. 'We asked farmers to share their experiences with glyphosate resistance on their farms and we’re clearly seeing the problem intensify,' explains Stratus Agri-Marketing vice president Kent Fraser. Increases were reported in most states but especially in the Midwest. Not only are glyphosate-resistant weeds spreading geographically, the problem is also intensifying with multiple species now resistant on an increasing number of farms. 'There is a very high rate of resistance in the southern states like Georgia where 92% of growers reported having glyphosate-resistant weeds,' reports Fraser. 'And we’re also seeing the problem intensify in the midwest. In Illinois, 43% of farmers reported having glyphosate-resistant weeds in 2012.' Marestail (horseweed) was the weed species most commonly reported as resistant to glyphosate herbicides, followed by Palmer amaranth (pigweed). Other glyphosate-resistant weed species were also tracked in the study. In 2012, 27% of U.S. farmers reported multiple glyphosate-resistant weeds on their farm, up from 15% in 2011 and 12% in 2010. For more insights from the Stratus Glyphosate Resistance Tracking study visit http://www.stratusresearch.com/blog07.htm "
Glyphosate-resistant weed problem extends to more species, more farms
Farm Industry News, 29 January 2013

"For the first time, Maharashtra has officially admitted that cotton yield is likely to reduce by nearly 40%. Bt cotton failure in more than 4 million hectares of land has reduced cotton yieldfrom 3.5 million quintal to 2.2 million quintal. A report sent by the state agricultural department to the Centre states that the estimate of the net direct economic loss to cotton farmers in the state will be nearly Rs6,000 crore, whereas accumulated losses are likely to cross more than Rs20,000 crore due to a steep rise in cultivation costs. Farmers and activists in the state’s cotton belt say the rise in the prices of Bt cotton seeds, fertilizers, pesticides and labour since last year has had a huge impact. 'The agrarian crisis sweeping through the state due to Bt cotton failure has only widened. Unlike when cotton crop failure was reported only from Vidarbha and Marathawada, reports of such crop failure are now coming in from Khandesh in north Maharashtra, too,' said Kishore Tiwari of farm advocacy group Vidarbha Janandolan Samiti. National Crime Records Bureau reveals that the number of farmer suicides in Maharashtra are likely to cross 5,000 this year in comparison to the 3,500 last year. The figures last year were, in fact, the highest among all states in India. This is the third year in a row that Bt cotton failure is being reported in Mahahrashtra. Last year, the state paid Rs2,000 crore to 4 million cotton farmers as compensation. Unlike earlier when dry land farmers were affected, even areas with adequate irrigation are facing a crop loss this year."
Bt failure to hit cotton yield by 40%: Govt - Mumbai
DNA (India), 26 November 2012

"Farmers in the USA have increased their use of pesticides since the introduction of genetically modified crops, according to a new study. Washington State University professor Charles Benbrook has studied the use of crops that have been genetically modified for resistance to the glyphosate weedkiller, Roundup, produced by US biotech company Monsanto. Producers of GM crops, such as Monsanto, claim they require less chemicals as plants are engineered to repel crop pests, such as aphids. But the study, published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe, found that the use of herbicides in three GM crops - cotton, soya beans and maize, actually increased in the USA over the past two decades. Herbicide-tolerant crops worked extremely well in their early years, the study found. But in recent years, so-called 'superweeds' have become resistant to glyphosate - Roundup's main active ingredient. Superweeds such as horseweed, giant ragweed and pigweed are developing resistance to Roundup (glyphosate) and taking over millions of hectares in the USA. Since about the year 2000, farmers have used increasing amounts of Roundup and 'two or three additional herbicides' to fend off these resistant weeds, said Prof Benbrook. 'Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GM crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25%,' he added. Prof Benbrook estimated the use of GM crops had increased herbicide use by 239 million kg between 1996 and 2011. Overall, in this period pesticide use in the USA had increased by an estimated 183 million kg, equivalent to 7%, the study found. The research would appear to undermine claims from biotech companies, such as Monsanto, that GM crops need less chemicals - one of their major selling points. Farmers in the UK are banned from growing GM crops for commercial use, but two experimental field trials, of GM potatoes and a trial of GM wheat, began in 2012. GM crops do, however, enter Britain mainly as animal feed. Monsanto has so far not made an official comment on the findings of the study."
US farmers using more pesticides with GM crops
Farmers Weekly, 23 October 2012

"GM has not delivered the yield benefits that were expected while higher seed costs eat into returns. 'GM is a tool, it’s not a panacea,' Dan Basse told an audience at Cereals 2012. Mr Basse heads US commodities market information company AgResource and farms in Wisconsin. He described GM corn yields as disappointing and said that the technology had increased yield by just 0.10%, with US corn yields following the same yield trend since 1961.  '47% of the world corn crop is GM. Why have we not seen more of a yield kick is GM has done what it was supposed to do? This makes me mad – I’m paying extra for the seed but I’m not seeing the return. I’m not saying GM crops are good or bad – that’s just my experience. We’re now back to using insecticides because root worms in corn have become resistant.”
Cereals 2012: GM corn - not a 'panacea'
Farmers Weekly, 14 June 2012

In Whose Interest Are GM Crops Being Introduced?
And Are Farmers Being Told The Truth?

"Farmers will be given just enough to keep them interested in growing the crops, but no more. And GM companies and food processors, will say very clearly how they want the growers to grow the crops."
Friedrich Vogel, head of BASF's crop protection business
Farmers Weekly, 6 November 1998

"Many of the top people in world sugar congregated in Cambridge last week. It was the first time in 27 years that the World Association of Beet and Cane Growers had held a conference in the UK ..... Monsanto charges $60/acre for seed and another $70/acre GM 'tech fee' and that went up 22% this year, cancelling out savings on other sprays.' I despair at the greed and insensitivity of some multinational companies."
David Richardson - World markets are a stick for beet producers
Farmers Weekly, 30 July 2010

"Two years ago, I went to a meeting about a new [GM] soybean technology. The trait company claimed there was now no yield drag with the new technology. When the original [GM] technology was released, it was [incorrectly] touted as having no yield drag.What are we to believe about new soybean technologies?
Chris Jeffries
The Seed Consultant, May 2009

"Monsanto has released information on the first GM canola harvest [in Australia], and says that while yields aren't that different between GM and non-GM crops, it's happy with the results. But Geoffrey Carracher, from the Network of Concerned Farmers, says the survey leaves out important information. 'National variety trials have shown that it didn't yield as well as TT canola,' he says. 'Now they don't allow their seed to be used for trials anywhere else, so that becomes a bit of a problem.'"
Anti-GM group says Monsanto survey is flawed
ABC News (Australia), 24 February 2009

"Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative."
'The Adoption of Bioengineered Crops'
US Department of Agriculture Report, May 2002

For More On This US Government Report - Click Here

"Yesterday's Royal Society report takes care not to repeat the claims, put forward by some proponents of the technology that genetic modification can itself end world hunger. Indeed it condemns such simplistic stances, noting that past debates 'have failed to acknowledge that there is no technological panacea'..... Contrary to widespread belief, they do not generally increase crop yields, and may actually cut them."
Royal Society accepts GM is not the only answer
Daily Telegraph, 21 October 2009

“… the idea that GM crops can be relied upon to yield more than conventional crops is simply not true….
More and more, we are urged to rely on the 'objectivity' and unimpeachable integrity of science.
But when science itself is up for sale, there is no court of appeal."
The truth about GM
New Statesman, 28 August 2008

"GE crops available for commercial use do not increase the yield potential of a variety... the adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans does not have a statistically significant effect on net returns.... the soybean results appear to be inconsistent with the rapid adoption of this [GE] technology....An analysis using broader financial performance measures (including net farm income and return on assets) did not show GE crops to have a significant impact..... Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative.....Even more puzzling, the adoption of herbicide-tolerant soybeans and Bt corn has been rapid, even though we could not find positive financial impacts in either the field-level nor the whole-farm analysis.....the adoption of Bt corn had a negative impact on the farm financial performance....the total herbicide pounds used on [GE] soybeans actually increased as glyphosate was substituted for conventional herbicides... the data indicate that an estimated 13.4 million pounds of glyphosate substituted for 11.1 million pounds of other synthetic herbicides..... Change in pesticide use from the adoption of herbicide-tolerant cotton was not significant.....Availability, since the 1980s, of postemergent herbicides that could be applied over a crop during the growing season has facilitated the use of no-till ... using herbicide tolerant seed did not significantly affect no-till adoption. "
'The Adoption of Bioengineered Crops'
US Department of Agriculture Report, May 2002

GM Crop 'Reality Check' Special Archives

USDA Report Exposes GM Crop Economics Myth
www.nlpwessex.org/docs/usdagmeconomics.htm

More USDA Data On Rising Pesticide Applications On GM Crops
www.nlpwessex.org/docs/benbrook.htm

The Fundamental Scientific Error
Of Pursuing Transgenics Before Competency In Genomics

www.nlpwessex.org/docs/genomicsparadigm.htm

Moving GM Food Debate Towards A Solution
The Acceptable Face Of Ag-Biotech
www.nlpwessex.org/docs/monsantomaspossibilities.htm

The Heart Of The Debate
'I Have Seen The Future And It Works'

"Oliver Walston (1 January) encountered a remarkable genomic analysis machine at Monsanto, reporting, 'What would have taken months - and maybe years - can now be done in days. I have seen the future and it works.' This 'Marker Assisted Selection' (MAS) process is the most significant modern molecular plant development technology. It can readily handle groups of genes. Acceptable to most stakeholders (including Greenpeace) it is even more important politically. These claims cannot be made for GM. GM in soya enables use of a particular herbicide but does not improve yield potential. However, Monsanto has released Roundup Ready 2 soya which does, achieved by applying MAS to the background genetics. This progress has not come from GM. This goes to the heart of the ag-biotech debate. MAS offers modern biotechnology's most important benefits, while avoiding the risks (real or imagined) of GM. Neither does it necessitate maintaining two food streams, GM and non-GM, with attendant costs and legal difficulties. MAS is clearly the route forward for making the fastest technical and political progress with modern plant varieties. As Walston says, 'I have seen the future and it works.'"
Letter - Acceptable Biotechnology
Farmers Weekly, 29 January 2010, Print Edition
Smart Breeding
Marker-Assisted Selection: A non-invasive biotechnology
alternative to genetic engineering of plant varieties

Greenpeace International Report August 2009
Click Here

"There's a lot of technology we could look at, even if Europe didn't look at GM for life. GM only accounts for about 1% of what we spend money on right now. It's not an awful lot. It's all experimental, not commerical. I think the big revolution is in systems biology; about the use of genomics, understanding the use of metabolites and proteins use in a plant, as well as 'transcriptomics' - the expression of genes and how these genes function. For example, marker- assisted selection is making plant breeding an awful lot easier by being able to pinpoint specific genes we need."
Professor Maurice Maloney, Director of the Rothamstead Research Institute, the body in charge of controversial GM wheat trials in Britain, responding to the question 'Where do you believe the technologies for pushing production might come from in the future given that GM is not palatable in the EU and that agrochemical actives are under increased pressure of de-listing'
Research Revolution
Farmers Weekly, 18 May 2012, Print Edition, P22


'Let Me Tell You None Of This Is True'
Overview Of Extravagant GM Crop Claims

GM Crop Pesticide And Yield Problems

“The promise was that you could use less chemicals and produce a greater yield. But let me tell you none of this is true.
Bill Christison, soya grower and President of the US National Family Farm Coalition
In Motion Magazine, 29 July 1998

"Farmers in Brazil's Mato Grosso, the country's top soy state, are shunning once-heralded, genetically modified soy varieties in favor of conventional seeds after the hi-tech type showed poor yields. 'We're seeing less and less planting of GMO soy around here. It doesn't give consistent performance,' said Jeferson Bif, who grows soy and corn on a large 1,800 hectare farm in Ipiranga do Norte, near the key Mato Grosso soy town of Sorriso. He said he obtained average yields of 58 bags (60 kg) per hectare with  conventional soy last season while fields planted with GMO soy in the same year yielded 10 bags less. Growers began illegally using genetically modified varieties of soy even before Brazil passed a biosafety law around four years ago permitting their use, in the hope of gaining higher yields and reducing production costs. Around half of Mato Grosso's soy is estimated to be genetically modified but the tide is turning against it.....Farmers in Mato Grosso also benefit from better support from cooperatives and government bodies which provide advice and technical assistance and help them maximize yields even with conventional soy..... Alexsander Gheno, agronomist at APAgri consultancy, said .... the momentum that GMO crops have gained may see them chase out conventional soy in the long run, even if growers don't prefer the  high-tech varieties. 'Companies have been focusing their research on GMO soy more than on conventional ones. So in 10 years we could have 100 percent of the area planted with GMO soy not because this was farmers' choice exactly but because development of new conventional varieties is getting scarce.' he said."
Biggest Brazil soy state loses taste for GMO seed
Reuters, 13 March 2009

"As glyphosate-resistant weeds sink ever deeper roots into the Mid-South, farmer interest in conventional soybeans is picking up. There’s been a 'definite' uptick in conventional soybean queries, says Jeremy Ross, Arkansas Extension soybean specialist, 'especially in the last several years. The interest in conventional really picked up when the resistant pigweed problem took off.' Roundup Ready crops — which, in the mid-1990s, ushered in an era of unprecedented glyphosate use and subsequent weed resistance — still have a good fit for some farms, says Ross. 'But I’ve heard growers say, ‘Well, if I have to use conventional herbicides to control weeds in my Roundup Ready beans, why pay the extra money for tech fees? Why not just go conventional?’' For the last couple of years, farmers that have grown conventional soybeans have often gotten premiums on delivery. However, that enticement may be beginning to play out 'because enough conventional are coming into the market that companies don’t have to pay a premium.' There are other upsides for conventional soybeans. 'One is, with university varieties, growers can keep seed for use the next year. That saves seed costs. And if you’ve got to use conventional herbicides on your Roundup Ready varieties, why pay the tech fee? Save that money and use it later towards an additional fungicide/herbicide application.'”
Interest up for conventional soybeans
Delta Farm Press, 29 August 2010

Pesticide Problems

"U.S. farmers are using more hazardous pesticides to fight weeds and insects due largely to heavy adoption of genetically modified crop technologies that are sparking a rise of 'superweeds' and hard-to-kill insects, according to a newly released study.Genetically engineered crops have led to an increase in overall pesticide use, by 404 million pounds from the time they were introduced in 1996 through 2011, according to the report by Charles Benbrook, a research professor at the Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources at Washington State University.... Of that total, herbicide use increased over the 16-year period by 527 million pounds while insecticide use decreased by 123 million pounds. Benbrook's paper -- published in the peer-reviewed journal Environmental Sciences Europe over the weekend and announced on Monday -- undermines the value of both herbicide-tolerant crops and insect-protected crops, which were aimed at making it easier for farmers to kill weeds in their fields and protect crops from harmful pests, said Benbrook.... The crops were a hit with farmers who found they could easily kill weed populations without damaging their crops. But in recent years, more than two dozen weed species have become resistant to Roundup's chief ingredient glyphosate, causing farmers to use increasing amounts both of glyphosate and other weedkilling chemicals to try to control the so-called 'superweeds.' 'Resistant weeds have become a major problem for many farmers reliant on GE crops, and are now driving up the volume of herbicide needed each year by about 25 percent,' Benbrook said. Monsanto officials had no immediate comment."
Pesticide use ramping up as GMO crop technology backfires: study
Reuters, 2 October 2012

Click Here For Summary Of 2012 Benbrook Findings

"Larry Steckel's PowerPoint photos send an uneasy murmur through the crowd. The University of Tennessee Extension weed specialist has returned to his native state of Illinois to explain how Southern growers are managing glyphosate-resistant weeds. Most of the farmers, crop consultants and custom applicators in the room are familiar with the topic. Still, Steckel's photos of wagons heaped high with hand-plucked Palmer amaranth are an attention grabber. They resemble those gag postcards you find in gas stations that brag of giant potatoes or monster carrots. Weed resistance is no joke, however, and weed-choked fields have become all too common the past few years, Steckel maintains. 'Palmer pigweed is so bad in some areas that growers have resorted to hand-weeding at a cost of $50 to $100 per acre. Some cotton fields have been completely abandoned,' he says. Perhaps more disturbing is Steckel's observation that the waterhemp outbreaks in southern Illinois this past summer remind him of Tennessee only four years ago, before resistant weeds went wild.'The first year you have glyphosate resistance on your farm is when it costs you the most because it is usually too late to do anything by the time you figure it out. There's nothing that will control 10" to 12" Palmer or waterhemp if glyphosate fails,' he says..... Steckel says the first defensive step is to recognize that glyphosate resistance is real. 'The total postemergence era is over and it is never coming back,' he says. 'A pre-emergence product is a necessity, and in many cases we also have to put down an early post application that provides residual control and is followed by another post application, or we have a mess.' Depending on the summer, Tennessee can experience three generations of Palmer amaranth in one season.... Steckel says operating loans and cash rents are beginning to reflect the increased cost of weed management and added herbicides. 'Conventional soybeans are picking up a bit,' he says. 'We experienced shortages in some herbicides last year. For the first time, I'm seeing growers back off on acres because they aren't sure they can be timely with herbicide applications.'"
Weeds Gone Wild
Farm Journal, 5 January 2011

Superweeds - How Biotech Crops Bolster The Pesticide Industry
Food & Water Watch, July 2013

"Growing weed resistance has increased the total volume of pesticides applied to U.S. farms. A Washington State University study by long-time GE crop and herbicide researcher Dr. Charles Benbrook found that herbicide use has actually increased by 527 million pounds since the introduction of GE crops in 1996, and will only continue to rise with the introduction of new herbicide-tolerant crops. A Penn State University weed scientist predicted that efforts to control newly resistant weeds could increase pesticide use 70 percent by 2015....  Food & Water Watch examined the USDA and EPA herbicide data and found that herbicide use has grown steadily since the introduction of GE crops. This analysis elaborates on Dr. Benbrook’s research by focusing on other herbicides that will be used in the GE herbicide-tolerant crop pipeline and projecting the increased use under the anticipated cultivation if the USDA approves the crops.... Dr. Benbrook reports that stable declines in insecticide use from the introduction of Bt crops are now 'in jeopardy' as insects developed resistance to the biotech toxin."
Superweeds - How Biotech Crops Bolster The Pesticide Industry
Food & Water Watch, July 2013

After herbicide resistance, the second most prevalent GE trait in corn and cotton is insect resistance. The most common variety contains a Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) soil bacterium gene, in the tissue of the plant, designed to repel the European corn borer and several cotton bollworms. The amount of Bt toxin expressed in insect-resistant corn is actually 19 times the amount of conventional insecticide necessary to target the same pests by applying it to the surface of the plant. Yet, this 'plant-incorporated protectant' expressed in every cell of each Bt crop is not counted in the USDA and EPA measurements of total insecticide."
Superweeds - How Biotech Crops Bolster The Pesticide Industry
Food & Water Watch, July 2013

"Herbicide use on corn, soybeans and cotton did fall in the early years of GE crop adoption, dropping by 42 million pounds (15 percent) between 1998 and 2001. But as weeds developed resistance to glyphosate, farmers applied more herbicides, and total herbicide use increased by 81.2 million pounds (26 percent) between 2001 and 2010. • The total volume of glyphosate applied to the three biggest GE crops — corn, cotton and soybeans — increased 10-fold from 15 million pounds in 1996 to 159 million pounds in 2012. • Total 2,4-D use declined after glyphosate was widely adopted, but its use has increased since glyphosate-resistant crops became widespread, growing 90 percent between 2000 and 2012. 2,4-D application on corn could easily increase by nearly three-fifths within two years of 2,4-D-tolerant corn’s introduction. And if just a million dicamba-tolerant soybean acres are planted, it would increase dicamba use 17 times. • Reports of weeds developing glyphosate resistance are popping up in more and more states. In 2008, glyphosate-resistant waterhemp was reported in five states, but by 2012 it was reported in 12 states. Glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth was reported in eight states in 2008 but 17 by 2012. Resistant horseweed spread from 12 states in 2004 to 21 in 2012."
Superweeds - How Biotech Crops Bolster The Pesticide Industry
Food & Water Watch, July 2013

"Farmers apply herbicides for weed control because of their 'economic utility.' Yield-depressing weed infestations imperil farm earnings, and herbicides are promoted as a cost-effective approach to combating weeds while continuing to plant the same crop season after season. But with the onslaught of herbicide resistance, the indirect costs of herbicide use are undermining the economic viability of GE herbicide-tolerant crops. Biotech corn seeds already cost nearly $40 more per acre than non-GE seeds, and the cost of biotech corn seeds nearly tripled from $103 per 80,000 seeds in 1998 to $285 in 2013. Perhaps higher seed costs were justifiable when Roundup always worked, but now that glyphosate-resistant weeds have spread, the higher cost may not be worth it. A 2012 national BASF survey found that 73 percent of farmers surveyed faced reduced yields because of herbicide-resistant weed infestations. And resistance to multiple herbicides in waterhemp could eventually make soybean production an unviable option in parts of the Midwest. Farmers face significant costs from herbicide-resistant weeds from reduced yields and increased production costs to combat weed infestations. These costs can range from $12 to $50 an acre, or as much as $12,000 for an average sized corn or soybean farm or $28,000 for an  average cotton farm. (See Table 1.) In 2010, herbicide-resistant weeds cost farmers $17 an acre from reduced yields. In 2012, 92 percent of surveyed cotton farmers reported that their losses due to weed control were at least $50 per acre. In Tennessee, glyphosate-resistant horseweed has increased soybean farmers’ production costs by $12 per acre; and Georgia and Arkansas cotton producers have seen additional costs of $19 per acre due to glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth. Since U.S. farmers have found herbicide-resistant weeds in their fields, they have changed farming methods to control them, resulting in higher weed-control costs and even a return to tillage and hand hoeing. In 2009, farmers in Georgia were forced to weed half of the state’s 1 million acres of cotton due to the spread of pigweed, costing $11 million."
Superweeds - How Biotech Crops Bolster The Pesticide Industry
Food & Water Watch, July 2013

" Several years ago, pigweed found the weakness and breached the defense that Georgia cotton growers used to control it. It now threatens to knock them out, or at least the ones who want to make money, says a University of Georgia weed expert. 'It’s been devastating in a lot of ways,' said Stanley Culpepper, a weed specialist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences who’s taken a lead in fighting the weed in Georgia. 'It’s without a doubt the largest pest-management problem that any of our agronomic growers are facing, especially our cotton producers.' If not killed early, pigweed — also called Palmer amaranth — can grow as tall as a small shade tree in fields, gobble nutrients away from cotton plants, steal yields and in severe cases make harvest difficult or impossible. In 1997, farmers started planting cotton that was developed to stay healthy when sprayed with glyphosate herbicide, commonly sold under the brand name Roundup. They could spray the herbicide over-the-top of this cotton, killing weeds like pigweed but not the cotton. Virtually all Georgia cotton grown now is 'Roundup Ready' because it saves farmers time and money. But relying on one tool to do the job can lead to problems. In 2005, the first case of pigweed resistant to glyphosate was confirmed in middle Georgia, the first confirmed case in the world. At the time, it was localized to a few fields on about 500 acres. The resistance has since spread across 52 counties, infesting more than 1 million acres. Within the next year or two, Culpepper said, it will likely be in every agronomic county in the state. It’s also confirmed in most other Southeastern states..... According to a survey last year, half of Georgia’s 1 million acres of cotton was weeded by hand for pigweed, something not normally done, costing $11 million. Growers went from spending $25 per acre to control weeds in cotton a few years ago to spending $60 to $100 per acre now. 'We’re talking survival, at least economically speaking, in some areas' Culpepper said, 'because some growers aren’t going to survive this.' Growers in middle Georgia who’ve battled the resistance for several years now are aggressively attacking the weed. Growers in other regions need to get on board. 'If they don’t have resistance yet they will,' he said."
Pigweed threatens Georgia cotton industry
Southeast Farm Press, 6 July 2010

"Hardy superweeds immune to the Farm Belt's most effective weedkiller are invading fields, prompting a counterattack from agribusiness that could leave farmers using greater amounts of harsh old-line herbicides. The flagging weedkiller is Roundup. Its developer, Monsanto Co., also sells [genetically engineered] seeds for corn, soybean and cotton plants unaffected by the chemical... Some 40% of U.S. land planted to corn and soybeans is likely to harbor at least some Roundup-resistant superweeds by the middle of this decade, executives at DuPont estimate. .... At least nine species have developed immunity to it [Roundup]. They've spread to millions of acres in more than 20 states in the Midwest and South. Ron Holthouse, a farmer who grows cotton and soybeans on 8,600 acres near Osceola, Ark., says he spends hundreds of thousands of dollars annually on the herbicide. But after 10 years of use on his land, Roundup no longer controls pigweed, which ran rampant in his fields last year. The weed, which can grow six feet high on a stalk like a baseball bat, is tough enough to damage delicate parts of his cotton-picking equipment. Mr. Holthouse had to hire a crew of 20 laborers to attack the weeds with hoes, resorting to a practice from his father's generation. For the first time in years, Mr. Holthouse used some of an older, highly poisonous weedkiller called paraquat. Many Southern farmers are spending twice as much on killing weeds as it typically cost them just a few years ago. 'It is getting a lot harder and expensive to run a big farm,' says Mr. Holthouse. 'This is nerve-racking.'"
Superweed Outbreak Triggers Arms Race
Wall Street Journal, 4 June 2010

"Genetically modified cotton crops in the United States are becoming useless, as weeds evolve a resistance to the herbicide glyphosate. In the southern cotton crops, mutant weeds are becoming so bad mechanical harvesters are being damaged, and weed control must be done by hand [view ABC News USA video clip here]. A scientific study has found that the herbicide resistant weed population could threaten GM crop technology. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal."
GM cotton crops in US useless
ABC (Australia), 12 January 2010

"... burndown glyphosate treatments and applications in Roundup Ready® soybean have selected glyphosate resistant plants that now infest millions of acres from Delaware to Illinois."
Facts About Glyphosate Resistant Weeds
University of Purdue Extension Service, December 2006

"I stood side-by-side with a North Carolina [GM] grower looking at a field overrun with glyphosate-resistant weeds. He said that [glyphosate resistant] pigweed isn't his No. 1 problem; it's his No. 1, No. 2 and No. 3 problems. It was at the point where he was determining whether or not that property could be used for farming.
Chuck Foresman, manager of weed resistance strategies for Syngenta
Delta Farm Press, 30 May 2008

"Anyone who thinks we do not have glyphosate resistance issues, or that the problems we do have are being overblown, simply has their head buried in the sand. ...... the weeds are no longer talking — they are screaming."
Ford L. Baldwin, Practical Weed Consultants, LLC
Delta Farm Press, 30 December 2008

"I've worked in agriculture for 30 plus years. I've never seen anything that's going to have this kind of [adverse] impact on our agriculture."
Professor Ken Smith, weed scientist, University of Arkansas

on the spread of glyphosate resistant weeds in GM 'Roundup Ready Crops'
Super Weed Can't Be Killed
ABC News, 10 June 2009

View Videos Of Out Of Control Glyphosate Resistant Weeds In United States
ABC News - June 2009
Arkansas Farm Bureau - November 2009

"Eight years of planting genetically modified maize, cotton and soya beans in the US has significantly increased the amount of herbicides and pesticides used, according to a US report which could influence the British government over whether to let GM crops be grown. The most comprehensive study yet made of chemical use on genetically modified crops draws on US government data collected since commercialisation of the crops began...... Charles Benbrook, the author of the report, who is also head of the Northwest Science and Environment Policy Centre, at Sandpoint, Idaho, found that when first introduced most of the crops needed up to 25% fewer chemicals for the first three years, but afterwards significantly more. In 2001, the report states, 5% more herbicides and insecticides were sprayed compared with crops only of non-GM varieties; in 2002 7.9% more was sprayed; and in 2003 the estimated rise was 11.5%. In total, £73m lb [pounds weight] more agrochemicals were sprayed in the US during 2001-2003 because of GM crops, says the report, which was commissioned by Iowa State University, the Consumers' Union and others. During 2002-2003, an average of 29% more herbicide was applied per acre on GM maize. But this trend was not sustained over the eight years. Overall, modest reductions in insecticide usage with maize and cotton were recorded..... [Former executive director of the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) Board on Agriculture] Dr Benbrook said: 'The proponents of biotechnology claim GM varieties substantially reduce pesticide use. While true in the first few years of widespread planting ... it is not the case now. There's now clear evidence that the average pounds of herbicides applied per acre planted to herbicide-tolerant varieties have increased compared to the first few years."
GM crops linked to rise in pesticide use
Guardian, 8 January 2004

As The Truth About The Use Of Pesticides In GM Crops Became Clear
The Bush Administration Decided To Cease Collecting Pesticide Data

"The Bush administration’s crackdown on the public’s right to know continues: Officials at the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) have quietly closed down the only federal program that tracks the types and quantities of chemical pesticides and fertilizers being used by America’s farmers. Since 1990, the USDA’s statistical wing has published annual surveys detailing the chemicals that farmers spray on our food. The reports are a vital source of information for government regulators, environmental activists and industry analysts - but in recent years, agency chiefs have begun to dismantle the program. Last year, officials ordered staff to gather chemical-usage data only for cotton and apple crops; this year, they’ve gone further still, saying they can no longer afford the program’s $8 million price-tag and won’t be collecting any data whatsoever for the 2008 growing season. The decision to scrap the program has caused panic among researchers who rely on the data. They say there’s simply no alternative to the federal reports: Private companies that collect similar information charge up to $500,000 a year for their services, putting them out of reach of most government agencies and all academic or non-profit researchers.....The absence of proper data will also impact on the ability of journalists, environmental activists, and the general public to push for tighter controls on pesticide use; after all, it’s hard to demand limits on pollutants if you don’t know they’re there. 'Without [the USDA] data, all the policy issues and debates that have been going on for the last 15 or 20 years over pesticide use would be based largely on speculation,' says Charles Benbrook, chief scientist for the non-profit Organic Group. Lawmakers on the Senate’s Appropriations Committee are working to reinstate the chemical monitoring program; earlier this year they ordered agency officials to reverse their decision and warned them not to cancel any other data-gathering activities without first informing Congress. Still, that ticking-off won’t carry much weight unless both the Senate and the House pass it into law - and that could be a long process."
USDA stops tracking chemicals
Plenty Magazine, August 2008

And That's Not The Only Information Locked Up In The USDA

"This system [of GM Roundup Ready crops] is altering the whole soil biology. We are seeing differences in bacteria in plant roots and changes in nutrient availability. Glyphosate is very systemic in the plant and is being released through the roots into the soil. Many studies show that glyphosate can have toxic effects on microorganisms and can stimulate them to germinate spores and colonize root systems. Other researchers are showing that glyphosate can immobilize manganese, an essential plant micronutrient. The most obvious impact is on rhizobia, a bacterium that fixes nitrogen. It has been shown that glyphosate can be toxic to rhizobia. We’ve taken field surveys and seen an increase in Fusarium with the use of glyphosate. Some Roundup Ready varieties even without using glyphosate tend to be more susceptible to being impacted by Fusarium....The big assumption for claims that glyphosate is benign is that it isn’t immediately absorbed by the soil. But research is showing that isn’t necessarily true; that it is still available in the soil....We have eight different species of glyphosate resistant weeds in Missouri. Some species of Johnson Grass are found in fields where Roundup is used year after year. It is a very aggressive weed.... If we continue to use glyphosate in the same fields year after year, it’s a matter of time until microbial communities in the soil will shift to more detrimental species. The use of glyphosate stimulates detrimental pathogens in the growing season but they go back down after the growing season. Eventually, they may build up in the soil and not go back down.... I was working with USDA-ARS to publish a news release about these [five] studies [published in the European Journal of Agronomy in October 2009]. I’ve gone all the way to the administrators, but they are reluctant to put something out. Their thinking is that if farmers are using this (Roundup Ready) technology, USDA doesn’t want negative information being released about it. This is how it is. I think the news release is still sitting on someone’s desk.....We’re looking at some methods that could be used to overcome negative effects if we continue to use Roundup Ready crops, such as supplementation of nutrients by foliar application. I’m more interested in sustainable agriculture. More farmers are interested in using cover cropping to maintain soil quality and other organic amendments. But it’s a steep learning curve for them."
Robert Kremer, microbiologist with the US Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service and adjunct professor in the Division of Plant Sciences at the University of Missouri
Scientist finding many negative impacts of Roundup Ready GM crops
The Organic & Non-GMO Report, January 2010

Obama Administration Restores Pesticide Survey
Click Here

To Access GM Crop Pesticide Use Research Reports From Dr Charles Benbrook
Click Here

"A recent report published by the Organic Center, an organic farming advocacy organization headquartered in Foster, Rhode Island, claims that the use of herbicides in weed control has risen sharply since transgenic crops’ commercial introduction in 1996. The report’s findings on herbicides are in stark contrast to the standard agrochemical industry line that transgenic crops have reduced the chemical load on the environment. Several critics have questioned the assumptions underlying the analysis and any significance that can be drawn from it, particularly as the report comes from an advocacy group seeking to 'communicate the verifiable benefits of organic farming and products to society.' Rising glyphosate resistance is a plausible explanation for the increasing use of herbicides, however. Among plant scientists, there is little disagreement on the problem of glyphosate-resistant weeds. ...The issue of herbicide resistance has already become acute in some US states.... The report is based on extrapolations of pesticide use survey data compiled by the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). Benbrook relies on annual trait acreage data compiled by St. Louis–based Monsanto to disaggregate transgenic crops from the total crop acreage. However, no NASS data on corn or soy are available for 2007 or 2008, years for which Benbrook posits unusually large pesticide increases of 20% and 27%, respectively..... In the meantime, several scientists have voiced support for the general thrust of the study. 'There’s nothing surprising there,' says Matt Liebman, who holds the H.A. Wallace chair for Sustainable Agriculture at Iowa State University in Ames..... Monsanto and its competitors are responding to the problem by offering farmers subsidies to include third-party herbicides in their weed control systems. They are also stacking additional tolerance traits that can be paired with other herbicides, such as dicamba (3,6-dichloro-2-methoxybenzoic acid), glufosinate (phosphinothricin) and 2,4-d (dichlorophenoxyacetic acid).... 'If you want to keep this tool available and effective there has to be some way, short of fallowing a field, of delaying the development of resistant weeds,' says Robert Kremer, of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service at Columbia, Missouri. The market dominance of transgenic crop varieties limits some of the options, however. 'It’s very difficult to go and find nontransgenic soybean,' he says."
Report blames GM crops for herbicide spike, downplays pesticide reductions
Nature Biotechnology 28, 112 - 113 (2010)

"The rapid adoption by U.S. farmers of genetically engineered corn, soybeans and cotton has promoted increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds and more chemical residues in foods, according to a report issued Tuesday by health and environmental protection groups. The groups said research showed that herbicide use grew by 383 million pounds from 1996 to 2008, with 46 percent of the total increase occurring in 2007 and 2008. The report was released by nonprofits The Organic Center (TOC), the Union for Concerned Scientists (UCS) and the Center for Food Safety (CFS). The groups said that while herbicide use has climbed, insecticide use has dropped because of biotech crops. They said adoption of genetically engineered corn and cotton that carry traits resistant to insects has led to a reduction in insecticide use by 64 million pounds since 1996. Still, that leaves a net overall increase on U.S. farm fields of 318 million pounds of pesticides, which includes insecticides and herbicides, over the first 13 years of commercial use. The rise in herbicide use comes as U.S. farmers increasingly adopt corn, soy and cotton that have been engineered with traits that allow them to tolerate dousings of weed killer. The most popular of these are known as 'Roundup Ready' for their ability to sustain treatments with Roundup herbicide and are developed and marketed by world seed industry leader Monsanto Co. Monsanto rolled out the first biotech crop, Roundup Ready soybeans, in 1996.... The report by the environmental groups states that a key problem resulting from the increase in herbicide use is the emergence of 'super weeds,' which are difficult to kill because they have become resistant to the herbicides. 'With glyphosate-resistant weeds now infesting millions of acres, farmers face rising costs coupled with sometimes major yield losses, and the environmental impact of weed management systems will surely rise,' said Charles Benbrook, chief scientist of The Organic Center. The groups additionally criticized the agricultural biotechnology industry for claiming that higher costs for genetically engineered seeds are justified by multiple benefits to farmers, including decreased spending on pesticides. The group said biotech corn seed prices in 2010 could be almost three times the cost of conventional seed, while new enhanced biotech soybean seed for 2010 could be 42 percent more than the original biotech version. 'This report confirms what we've been saying for years,' said Bill Freese, science policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety. 'The most common type of genetically engineered crops promotes increased use of pesticides, an epidemic of resistant weeds, and more chemical residues in our foods. This may be profitable for the biotech/pesticide companies, but it's bad news for farmers, human health and the environment.'"
Biotech crops cause big jump in pesticide use: report
Reuters, 17 November 2009

"All across the [US] Mid-South, hundreds of thousands of acres of cotton and soybean fields have been infested with a rapacious, fast-growing weed that's become resistant to the main herbicide on which farmers have relied for more than a decade. Palmer pigweed, often called 'careless weed' by field hands, often is surviving and even thriving despite treatments with the chemical glyphosate -- most commonly sold under the trade name Roundup. In Arkansas alone, the weed has invaded some 750,000 acres of crops, including half the 250,000 acres of cotton. In Tennessee, nearly 500,000 acres have some degree of infestation, with the counties bordering the Mississippi River hardest hit. The infestation is cutting farmers' cotton yields by up to one-third and in some cases doubling or tripling their weed-control costs. Reminiscent of the premechanized, preherbicide days when cotton was a labor-intensive operation, growers have resorted to hiring chopping crews. They're made up of laborers who generally are paid about $7.50 an hour to manually cut the weeds. 'We haven't chopped cotton in a long time, so it's kind of a first,' said Lee Wiener, who farms in Crittenden and Mississippi counties. Beyond the novelty of requiring manual labor, the resistance problem will force growers to make wrenching and costly changes if they want to stay in business in the coming years, agriculture experts say. Glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the U.S., with some 100 million pounds annually applied to crops and lawns. It's so prevalent that cotton, soybeans and other plants have been genetically engineered to withstand it, allowing farmers to spray the chemical quickly and easily to kill weeds without worrying about harming crops. 'I think this threatens our way of farming more than anything I've seen in the 30-plus years I've worked in agriculture,' said Ken Smith, weed scientist with the University of Arkansas' division of agriculture....Monsanto has been advising farmers to add other chemicals, especially pre-emergents and other 'residual' herbicides, which form a chemical barrier in the soil, to their weed-fighting regimens. Monsanto also has begun a test program that pays farmers up to $12 an acre to treat crops with other chemicals, including those made by competitors, Cole said.... The changes wrought by the resistance problem can be seen in places such as Looney's Implement Co. in Hughes, which sells tractors, combines and pickers that can cost $300,000 or more. This year one of the hottest items in the store has been the $25 garden hoe. 'We sell them as quick as we can get them,' said clerk Don Arnold. The tools are being used by the growing ranks of choppers. Some growers have hired as many as 40 to 60 of the laborers. But even during a recession in which jobs have been scarce, it hasn't been easy finding enough workers, they say. 'We're paying comfortably above the minimum wage, and still we have problems getting people,' said Larry McClendon, a Marianna, Ark., farmer."
Memphis Commercial Appeal, 9 August 2009

"One of the major arguments in favour of growing GM crops has been undermined by a study showing that the benefits are short-lived because farmers quickly resort to spraying their fields with harmful pesticides. Supporters of genetically modified crops claim the technique saves money and provides environmental benefits because farmers need to spray their fields fewer times with chemicals. However, a detailed survey of 481 cotton growers in China found that, although they did use fewer pesticides in the first few years of adopting GM plants, after seven years they had to use just as much pesticide as they did with conventional crops. The study found that after three years, the GM farmers had cut pesticide use by 70 per cent and were earning over a third more than conventional farmers. But, by 2004, the GM cotton farmers were using just as much pesticide as their conventional counterparts and were spending far more because GM cotton seed is three times the price of conventional cotton seed. The findings will undermine claims by the biotechnology industry that GM technology can boost food production without necessarily damaging the environment with pesticides. Scientists from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, carried out the study which involved interviews with hundreds of Chinese farmers who had switched to cotton that had been genetically modified with a gene for a bacterial toxin. The toxin - known as Bt - is secreted by the GM cotton plant and is highly effective at stopping the growth of bollworm, a major pest of the crop that can cause millions of pounds worth of damage.... Before the introduction of the GM crop into China, farmers in the country had to spray on average 20 times each growing season to control bollworm but, with Bt cotton, the average number of treatments fell to below seven. The amount of pesticide also fell by 43.3kg per hectare in 1999, which was a decrease of about 71 per cent on previous years. However, Professor Per Pinstrup-Andersen and his colleagues at Cornell found that all those benefits have since been largely lost due to the rise of other pests that were not considered a problem for cotton. 'Using a household survey from 2004, seven years after the initial commercialisation of Bt cotton in China, we show that total pesticide expenditure for Bt cotton farmers in China is nearly equal to that of their conventional counterparts,' the scientists say in their report. 'Bt farmers in 2004 on the average have to spray pesticide 18.22 times, which is more than three times higher compared with 1999. 'Detailed information on pesticide expenditures reveals that, though Bt farmers saved 46 per cent of bollworm pesticide relative to non-Bt farmers, they spend 40 per cent more on pesticides designed to kill an emerging secondary pest,' they say. Secondary pests, such as a type of leaf bug called mirids, are not normally a problem in cotton fields because bollworm, and sprays against bollworm, tend to keep them in check. However, because Bt cotton is targeted mainly against bollworm, other pests are able to exploit the relatively low use of pesticide that such fields need."
Farmers use as much pesticide with GM crops, US study finds
Independent, 27 July 2006

"Genetically modified cotton crops in the United States are becoming useless, as weeds evolve a resistance to the herbicide glyphosate. In the southern cotton crops, mutant weeds are becoming so bad mechanical harvesters are being damaged, and weed control must be done by hand [view ABC News USA video clip here]. A scientific study has found that the herbicide resistant weed population could threaten GM crop technology. The study was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal."
GM cotton crops in US useless
ABC (Australia), 12 January 2010

Short Term Gains Only

"The boll weevil and tobacco budworm are no longer economic pests in most areas of the Cotton Belt, but they’ve been replaced by secondary pests like the tarnished plant bug, which are proving to be costly bugs to control as well. Additional insect control costs are coming from increasing foliar sprays, higher technology fees and pest resistance, according to Jeff Gore, research entomologist at the Delta Research and Extension Center, speaking at the 2010 Beltwide Cotton Conferences in New Orleans. Gore adds that decisions growers make on insect control are changing, too, based on developments such as the shift from granular, at-planting insecticides to neonicitinoid seed treatments and the transition from single gene Bt cottons to dual Bt gene cottons. 'We also have a more of a diversity of crops. In Mississippi, we’re growing a lot more corn and soybeans than we’ve ever grown in the past, and we’ve reduced our cotton acreage. This is also impacting the pests that we’re dealing with in cotton.' When these costs are added to other rising input costs such as fertilizer, fuel and equipment, technology frees and seed treatments, 'we’re essentially spending a lot more on cotton production than we ever have in the past.' Gore said that in 1995, the cost of planting an acre of cotton ranged from $12.75 an acre to $24 an acre depending on at-planting insecticide and fungicide treatments. 'In 2005, if you had planted Bollgard, Roundup Ready cotton varieties with a Cadillac seed treatment, you would have spent about $52 an acre. Now in 2010, with Bollgard II and Roundup Ready Flex, you’ll be spending $85 or more an acre. This is also impacting our insect management throughout the season because we’re front loading so much of our cost, and it’s becoming more and more difficult to make those insecticide applications later in the year.' And with the weed resistance likely to increase our weed control costs at the beginning of the year, it could also impact some of the decisions later in the season in terms of insect management.' Research indicates that Mississippi cotton producers are starting to increase foliar applications directed at the bug complex, according to Gore. 'The trend line for foliar costs dropped significantly with boll weevil eradication and Bt cotton. But for the past four or five years, we’re seeing a significant upward trend on foliar costs. It’s approaching where we were before Bt cotton and boll weevil eradication. In Mississippi, we have growers who are spending well over $100 for foliar insect control. You add that onto technology fees and seed treatments, you understand why our cotton acreage is decreasing.' Varieties with no traits or single traits 'are becoming extremely limited,' Gore said. At the same time, 'two-gene Bt products are definitely not bulletproof. We’re still having to make some applications, although fewer, on caterpillar pests'”
Insect control pushes cotton costs higher
Delta Farm Press, 15 January 2010

"Crop scientist Keshav Kranthi would hate being labelled campaigner against genetic engineering. He says he supports plant biotechnology and wants India to pursue the myriad promises it offers. But in the polarised debate on the genetically modified (GM) brinjal, Kranthi has aligned himself with groups calling for caution before its release, citing little-known but serious trouble with cotton rarely articulated before. Kranthi, acting director of the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR) in Nagpur, has warned that poor management of the technology has spawned an abundance of predictable and unexpected problems. The rapid adoption of GM cotton by farmers across the country has coincided with the rise of hitherto unknown insect pests, increased pesticide applications by farmers, and declining cotton productivity over the past three years, he has told the government. Indian regulators approved GM cotton engineered with a bacterial gene to resist an insect — based on technology similar to that in GM brinjal — in 2002. Kranthi asserts there are no scientifically-authenticated safety issues over GM cotton from anywhere. Farmers have adopted the GM cotton, which now makes up 90 per cent of the crop in some areas, and virtually eliminated its target pest — bollworms. India’s annual cotton output has jumped from 3 billion kg to 5.3 billion kg over the past decade. But new insects, including one called a mealybug, not known as cotton pests, have spread, causing significant economic losses, Kranthi said in a report sent to the ministry of environment and forests with his comments on GM brinjal. 'Cotton is a tricky crop — we should have been more careful,' Kranthi said. 'There are lessons to be learnt from this experience for future genetically modified crops, brinjal or anything else,' he told The Telegraph.... a mealybug named Phenacoccus solenopsis, not observed earlier in India, has spread across northern, central and western states after it was first recognised as a cotton pest about five years ago, Kranthi said. In desperation, farmers have begun to spray 'extremely hazardous' pesticides on the cotton to fight the insect, which has a waxy coating over its surface that makes it hard to kill with less toxic pesticides, he said. The reduced use of pesticides on GM cotton and the proliferation of GM cotton hybrids that are susceptible to these insects may have contributed to the emergence of these pests, according to Kranthi’s report. 'The inappropriate choice of hybrids and the arbitrary and prolific spread of GM cotton hybrids have created conditions congenial for the rapid multiplication of these new insects.' Kranthi sees himself as an insider, a biotechnology believer, urging caution. 'Someone has to point this out,' said Kranthi, a 47-year-old entomologist who had articulated similar concerns five years ago in the journal Current Science from the Indian Academy of Sciences..... Kranthi says 90 per cent of the current GM cotton hybrids appear susceptible to mealybugs and whiteflies. Insecticide use in cotton appears to have increased from Rs 640 crore in 2006 to Rs 800 crore in 2008, his report said. A wrong choice of hybrids, Kranthi said, may be contributing to this drop."
Cotton lessons for Bt brinjal
Telegraph (Calcutta) 16 February 2010

"Growing cotton that has been genetically modified to poison its main pest can lead to a boom in the numbers of other insects, a ten-year study in northern China has found. In 1997, the Chinese government approved the commercial cultivation of cotton plants genetically modified to produce a toxin from the bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that is deadly to the bollworm Helicoverpa armigera. Outbreaks of larvae of the cotton bollworm moth in the early 1990s had hit crop yields and profits, and the pesticides used to control the bollworm damaged the environment and caused thousands of deaths from poisoning each year. More than 4 million hectares of Bt cotton are now grown in China. Since the crop was approved, a team led by Kongming Wu, an entomologist at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, has monitored pest populations at 38 locations in northern China, covering 3 million hectares of cotton and 26 million hectares of various other crops. Numbers of mirid bugs (insects of the Miridae family), previously only minor pests in northern China, have increased 12-fold since 1997, they found. 'Mirids are now a main pest in the region,' says Wu. 'Their rise in abundance is associated with the scale of Bt cotton cultivation.' Wu and his colleagues suspect that mirid populations increased because less broad-spectrum pesticide was used following the introduction of Bt cotton. 'Mirids are not susceptible to the Bt toxin, so they started to thrive when farmers used less pesticide,' says Wu. The study is published in this week's issue of Science. 'Mirids can reduce cotton yields just as much as bollworms, up to 50% when not controlled,' Wu adds. The insects are also emerging as a threat to crops such as green beans, cereals, vegetables and various fruits. The rise of mirids has driven Chinese farmers back to pesticides — they are currently using about two-thirds as much as they did before Bt cotton was introduced. As mirids develop resistance to the pesticides, Wu expects that farmers will soon spray as much as they ever did. Two years ago, a study led by David Just, an economist at Cornell University at Ithaca, New York, concluded that the economic benefits of Bt cotton in China have eroded. The team attributed this to increased pesticide use to deal with secondary pests. The conclusion was controversial, with critics of the study focusing on the relatively small sample size and use of economic modelling. Wu's findings back up the earlier study, says David Andow, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota in St Paul. 'The finding reminds us yet again that genetic modified crops are not a magic bullet for pest control,' says Andow. 'They have to be part of an integrated pest-management system to retain long-term benefits.'.... Wu stresses, however, that pest control must keep sight of the whole ecosystem."
GM crop use makes minor pests major problem
| Nature |13 May 2010

Yield Problems

“Proponents argue that GM crops can help feed the world. And given ever increasing demands for food, animal feed, fiber and now even biofuels, the world needs all the help it can get. Unfortunately, it looks like GM corn and soybeans won't help, after all.  A study from the Union of Concerned Scientists shows that genetically engineered crops do not produce larger harvests. Crop yield increases in recent years have almost entirely been due to improved farming or traditional plant breeding, despite more than 3,000 field trials of GM crops.”
Can Genetically Modified Crops Feed the World?
Scientific American (Podcast), 16 April 2009

"Roundup Ready genetically modified crops are addictive, according to Mohammed Khan, a sugar beet specialist from the North Dakota State University extension service. 'Once you start using Roundup Ready you become addicted very quickly,' he said during his Raymond Hull memorial lecture at Broom's Barn research station last week [in the UK]... It was part of his explanation why Roundup Ready sugar beet ... had taken off so spectacularly in the United States.... The coming season's crop was expected to be 90-100% Roundup Ready, he said. 'Its the fastest adoption of any crop.' That was despite, in the Red River Valley [which grows 50% of the USA's sugar beet], higher total production costs (see tables) of about $51/ha for the average grower....Monasanto research trials had suggested better weed control, and, therefore, less crop competition, could increase yields by 2-3 t/ha, he said. 'But that hasn't been our experience - we haven't noticed any differences."
Roundup Ready Crops Prove To Be A Hit In USA
Farmers Weekly, 6 February 2009

".... your magazine reported (Arable, 6 February) very disappointing results on the first year of GM beet growing in America, citing data presented at Broom's Barn by US university extension agronomist, Mohamed Khan. In 2008 all ‘Roundup Ready’ GM beet seed was sold out, with Monsanto claiming 2-3 t/ha yield increases. But according to Khan, 'we haven't noticed any differences'. In fact the accompanying data table for America's biggest beet growing region showed a reduced yield of more than 1 t/ha for GM production. ..... While herbicide applications were reduced [for the sugar beet], the cost saving was less than that of the technology, so that total costs were more than for conventional beet. Besides the serious implications for consumers, lower yields and higher costs do not add up to more a competitive approach to feeding the world. Khan described GM growers as 'addicted' to Roundup Ready and warned that glyphosate resistant weeds are 'not a matter of if, but when'. US Department of Agriculture data for other GM crops show that initial herbicide reductions steadily erode until eventually usage is higher than under conventional systems. Today GM crop-induced glyphosate resistance affects millions of acres in the US, with Monsanto even offering rebates to GM growers to deploy other herbicides. This is all embarrassingly at odds with the standard GM crop narrative. So it is perhaps not surprising that last year the USDA ceased collecting data on pesticide use."
Letter - GM beet results disappointing
Farmers Weekly, 13 March 2009

"When they first introduced RR soybeans it was common knowledge that initially in a rush to get their product on the market, they put the RR gene into poor genetic soybean seed and yields lagged. University yield trials showed the yield lag. I confirmed it on my own farm as did neighbors, yet Monsanto bombarded the air waves with a commercial that claimed 'higher yields' from their new RR soybean varieties. A local radio station provided me a copy of the commercial and I produced a CommStock Radio Report interviewing a local farmer who had experienced the RR soybean yield lag and pasted in Monsanto's erroneous claim to higher yields as Monsanto says ... Higher Yields! Monsanto spends a lot on advertising, giving them clout beyond the control of what gets aired in their commercials. I was summoned by the [radio] station owner, who in a very uncomfortable situation for him, backed me. I was right. Everybody knew it. The result was that Monsanto dropped the 'higher yields' commercials."
Monsanto is the gorilla controlling the seed industry
Times Republican, 12 May 2008

Soya is the world's largest GM crop. It was originally thought (see Times Republican, above) that low yields from GM soya in the United States were due to the Roundup Ready GM trait being put into inferior background genetics ('yield lag'). However, later research (see Elmore et al, Agronomy Journal, below) showed that an adverse impact from the GM element was also producing an additional yield suppressing effect ('yield drag') compared with non-transgenic sister lines. Despite this situation Monsanto ran advertising claiming higher yields (see Times Republican, above).

"Yields were suppressed  with GR [Glyphosate Resistant GM] soybean cultivars.....The work reported here demonstrates that a 5% yield suppression was related to the gene or its insertion process [yield 'drag'] and another 5% suppression was due to cultivar genetic differential [yield 'lag']. Producers should consider the potential for 5-10% yield differentials between GR and non-GR cultivars as they evaluate the overall profitability of producing soybean.....Based on our results from this study and those of Elmore et al., 2001, the yield suppression [yield 'drag'] appears associated with the GR gene or its insertion process rather than glyphosate itself."
Elmore et al, Glyphosate-Resistant Soybean Cultivar Yields Compared with Sister Lines
Agronomy Journal 2001 93: 408-412

"[Genetically modified] Glyphosate-resistant [GR] soybean variety planting dwarfs that of conventional varieties in the U.S. by a factor of about 9 to 1. Nevertheless, GR soybean yield may still lag behind that of conventional soybeans, as many farmers have noticed that yields are not as high as expected, even under optimal conditions. There is evidence to suggest that glyphosate may interfere with Mn metabolism and also adversely affect populations of soil micro-organisms responsible for reduction of Mn to aplant-available form.... Experiment I compared response of the GR soybean variety KS 4202 RR and its conventional near-isoline to granular Mn sulfate... This research provides evidence that the GR soybean variety used in this study did not accumulate Mn in the same manner as the conventional variety...."
Manganese Nutrition of Glyphosate-Resistant and Conventional Soybeans
BETTER CROPS WITH PLANT FOOD XCI (91) 2007, No. 4

“A controversial report claims that traits introduced to food crops by genetic engineering (GE) have had, at best, a minor impact on yield. The report, Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Modified Crops, published on April 14 by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), argues that the adoption of expensive, GE-based approaches to agriculture has been at the cost of cheaper alternatives that carry less environmental risk. ‘We’re not saying GE should not be part of the mix at all. We just think it’s been way overemphasized,’ says the report’s author, Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist at the Cambridge, Massachusetts–based science policy advocacy group. The report claims to be ‘the first to evaluate in detail the overall, or aggregate, yield effect of GE after more than 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization in the United States,’ by attempting to tease out the contribution to yield made by transgenic crops, such as insect-resistant (IR) or herbicide-tolerant (HT) soy and corn varieties. It extrapolates from controlled field trials, in which transgenic varieties are compared with conventionally bred, near-isogenic (close) relatives, to total national output. The report argues that yield boosts obtained since the mid-1990s result from conventional breeding and crop management and that the emphasis in public-sector agriculture research spending should be shifted accordingly. ‘I’m just not convinced the benefits we get out of it will balance out the costs, the potential risks and some of the other factors that concern us, such as intellectual property, which has led to a concentration of the seed industry,’ says Gurian-Sherman….Although the report (http://www.ucsusa.org/assets/documents/food_and_agriculture/failure-to-yield.pdf ) is limited to the US—because, Gurian-Sherman says, of the greater availability of data—he argues that its findings are generally applicable. The scope of the study was limited to food crops, motivated by the sharp increase in global food prices during 2007 and 2008.”
Report claims no yield advantage for Bt crops
Nature Biotechnology, Volume 27 number 7, July 2009

'Failure To Yield'
Click Here To Download Report

Monsanto's 'Roundup Ready 2' Soya Beans Introduced In 2009 Are Now Providing Yield Improvements
But These Gains Are NOT Coming From Genetic Engineering
They Are Coming From The Use Of 'Marker Assisted Selection' (Which Is A Branch Of Modern Biotechnology Acceptable To The Public)
Applied To The Conventional Background Genetics Of The Plant

"The biotech tools we use to make crop advances continue to get better and increase the possibilities for benefits we can deliver to farmers. Often these tools do not involve the insertion of a novel gene. Instead, they help us identify important areas on the plant genome that deliver better yields or other beneficial characteristics. Technical advances in plant biotechnology and molecular-assisted breeding have enabled Monsanto to develop Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans. The 7-11% yield increase was achieved by gene mapping. Gene mapping allowed us to identify specific DNA regions in soybeans that have a positive impact on yield.... We expect to see additional traits stacked with this technology."
Roundup Ready 2 Yield
Monsanto Media Conference Call, 31 July 2007

The Solution To The GM Debate
'Biotech Yes - GM No'

"One area where both sides of the GM divide could meet is on emerging technologies such as Marker Assisted Selection (MAS), which is currently the subject of heavy funding and research. It is being used to develop new crops at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre and has won the blessing of anti-GM groups the Soil Association and Greenpeace as well as the major biotech firms. MAS uses a series of genetic markers to highlight genes of interest in a plant, allowing scientists to combine genetics with conventional breeding. Once a gene of interest has been highlighted, scientists can cross it with another plant and then test for presence of the highlighted gene in the new plant to see whether the trait has been passed on. The technique uses knowledge built up through GM research and applies it to conventional breeding to produce a new plant. The major difference is that MAS introduces the new gene under the control of the crop’s genome, avoiding the ‘unpredictable effects’ of GM often cited by campaigners."
Marker Assisted Selection - a genetic compromise
Farmers Guardian, 28 November 2008

"GM is only one easily recognised byproduct of genetic research. The quiet revolution is happening in gene mapping ['genomics'], helping us understand crops better. That is up and running and could have a far greater impact on agriculture.... There really are no downsides, particularly in terms of public perception... [By contrast in the case of GMOs] there are public perception problems and the technology itself is still not optimised, with antibiotic and herbicide resistance genes still needed and bits of bacterial DNA hanging about. Whether that poses any danger is debatable, but it is not desirable."
Professor John Snape, Head Of Crop Genetics, John Innes Centre
'Gene mapping the friendly face of GM technology'
Farmers Weekly, 1 March 2002

'The Acceptable Face Of Ag-Biotech'
What Is Marker Assisted Selection Or 'Molecular-Assisted Breeding'?

And Why Is It Important?

Click Here

"After more than a decade of effort, the biotechnology industry has yet to produce any commercial crops engineered to reduce nitrogen fertilizer pollution, while traditional breeding and other methods have improved the nitrogen use efficiency of wheat, rice, and corn by about 20 percent to 40 percent, according to a report released today by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS)....The UCS report, 'No Sure Fix: Prospects for Reducing Nitrogen Fertilizer Pollution through Genetic Engineering,' evaluated the new genes and concluded that the prospects for their commercial use are uncertain due to the complexity of nitrogen metabolism and genetics in crops. The report documents a number of practices that can complement nitrogen-efficient crops in reducing nitrogen fertilizer pollution."
Biotechnology 'No Sure Fix' for World's Nitrogen Fertilizer Pollution Problem, New Report Finds
Union of Concerned Scientists, 9 December 2009


Compromised 'Advocacy Science' And GM Crop Performance
Promises, Reality, And Conflicts Of Interest

'How Will We Have Credible Oversight?'

"Almost everything we grow, everything we eat is the root result of human intervention, human breeding and so on. But this [GM recombinant DNA] is unnatural in a different sort of way from the kinds of breeding programs that have characterized humanity for ten thousand years.... So the question which people have, I believe, not only a right but a duty to ask, is how wisely will we use these unprecedented new powers? What are the risks associated with doing something this new and this profound at the very wellsprings of life? How are they going to be managed? How will we have credible oversight? How will we have credible and effective monitoring of the introduction of this technology? Certainly, humanity's record for using technology wisely, sensitive to its potential effects on society, on people, on environment is, at best, mixed and hardly encouraging....We have not yet identified, yet alone cloned, the gene for wisdom, and some skepticism about our ability to manage powerful new technologies is appropriate.... "
Robert Shapiro,Chief Executive of Monsanto

Speech on genetic engineering presented at State of the World Forum, Fairmont Hotel, San Francisco, CA , October 27, 1998

"Biotech crop supporters say there is a wealth of evidence that the crops on the market are safe, but critics argue that after only 14 years of commercialized GMOs, it is still unclear whether or not the technology has long-term adverse effects. Whatever the point of view on the crops themselves, there are many people on both sides of the debate who say that the current U.S. regulatory apparatus is ill-equipped to adequately address the concerns. Indeed, many experts say the U.S. government does more to promote global acceptance of biotech crops than to protect the public from possible harmful consequences. 'We don't have a robust enough regulatory system to be able to give us a definitive answer about whether these crops are safe or not. We simply aren't doing the kinds of tests we need to do to have confidence in the safety of these crops,' said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a scientist who served on a FDA [Food and Drug Administrationi] biotech advisory subcommittee from 2002 to 2005. 'The U.S. response (to questions about biotech crop safety) has been an extremely patronizing one. They say 'We know best, trust us,' added Gurian-Sherman, now a senior scientist at the Union of Concerned Scientists, a nonprofit environmental group.... Even Wall Street has taken note. In January, shares in Monsanto fell more than 3 percent amid a rush of hedging activity during a morning trading session after a report by European scientists in the International Journal of Biological Sciences found signs of toxicity in the livers and kidneys of rats fed the company's biotech corn. Monsanto has said the European study had 'unsubstantiated conclusions,' and says it is confident its products are well tested and safe.... A common complaint is that the U.S. government conducts no independent testing of these biotech crops before they are approved, and does little to track their consequences after. The developers of these crop technologies, including Monsanto and its chief rival DuPont, tightly curtail independent scientists from conducting their own studies. Because the companies patent their genetic alterations, outsiders are barred from testing the biotech seeds without company approvals.... Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former governor of top U.S. corn producing state Iowa, also said he recognizes change is needed. The USDA is in fact developing new rules for regulating genetically modified crops but the process has dragged out now for more than six years amid heavy lobbying from corporate interests and consumer and environmental groups. 'There is no question that our rules and regulations have to be modernized,' Vilsack told Reuters. 'The more information you find out, the more you have to look at your regulations to make sure they are doing what they have to do. There are some issues we are still grappling with.'....At the FDA, genetically engineered organisms are treated much the same as foods from all other plant varieties. GE developers are not required to consult with FDA on safety issues, and the agency sees no need now for risk-based monitoring efforts for GE crops because there are no current safety concerns, FDA spokeswoman Rita Chappelle said. The agency stressed that the burden for ensuring safety lies with the companies. 'Manufacturers have an obligation to ensure that their products continue to be safe each and every day,' Chappelle said......"
Special Report: Are regulators dropping the ball on biocrops?
Reuters, 13 April 2010

It Is Often Said That GM   Technology Is Just 'An Extension' Of Modern Plant Breeding But That It Is Still 'Essential' To Meet Modern Agricultural Challenges
But How True Is That?

"GM technology... is an extension of modern plant breeding, which is essential for agriculture to make progress against the challenge of pests, diseases, extreme weather events and climatic change, and to produce the quality and quantity of crops demanded."
Dr Helen Ferrier, National Farmers Union Of England And Wales Chief Science and Regulatory Affairs Adviser
(NFU Briefing Paper) GM in agriculture – what does it mean for British farmers?

Compromised 'Advocacy Science' And GM Crop Performance
Promises, Reality, And Conflicts Of Interest

It is sometimes falsely claimed that GM crop technology is just an extension of conventional plant breeding. Clearly, however, this is not the case, as the patents that attach to them painstakingly record.

In order to address safety concerns associated with these novel organisms, those promoting the introduction of genetic engineering into the food chain do so primarily on the basis of claims that adequate food safety and environmental regulatory systems are in place. This assumes that the quality of science used in testing GM crops and food is adequate.

And yet there is much conflicting opinion about this within the scientific community, especially concerning the use and adequacy of the testing principle known as 'substantial equivalence'. This narrow approach to GM food safety testing has been described by critics writing in the scientific journal Nature as "a pseudo-scientific concept" which is "a commercial and political judgement masquerading as if it were scientific" created "primarily to provide an excuse for not requiring biochemical or toxicological tests."

The basic reality is that the extent of the testing that is required to be conducted as part of the approval process is limited. Despite their novel nature GM foods do not have to go through the more rigorous safety testing procedures that apply to food additives or pharmaceuticals (moreover, the regulatory system has proved incapable of keeping some unapproved GM varieties out of the food chain).

It is often stated that GM food has been consumed in the United States since the mid 1990s without ill-effects on American consumers. But where is the scientific data to support this assertion?  As at 2010 no epidemiological studies have ever been conducted to test such a claim.

Like GM food products trans (or 'hydrogenated') fats are also an artificial man-made food. They were introduced into human diets on a large scale during the 20th century.  Not only were they considered safe, they were promoted as beneficial for health by medical professionals. Trans fats based margarine, for example, was recommended as a 'healthy' substitute for butter. Yet for decades after being introduced no epidemiological studies were conducted to assess the affect of trans fat consumption on human health, despite their novel artificial nature.

Only relatively recently was it discovered that trans fat consumption had in fact been responsible for millions of previously undetected premature deaths, and then efforts began around the world to remove them from the food chain. A watershed point in this change in direction was the completion of a Harvard led epidemiological study on trans fat consumption which was published in the New England Journal of Medicine in 2006 - some 95 years after Procter & Gamble had begun trans fat based food production in the United States.

Today, contrary to what many assume, scientific safety data relating to GM crops and food is usually generated by those with a commercial interest in their introduction into the market. This approach is part of a broader phenomenon sometimes known as 'Advocacy Science'.  'Advocacy Science' is science that is not impartial because those involved have a personal interest (typically, but not exclusively, financial) in its conversion to applied technology, and it exists in many fields.

In the biotechnology sector it is becoming increasingly clear that this culture of Advocacy Science can cause biotechnology companies to withhold scientific information which is unfavourable to the promotion of GM crop and food products. Such conflicts of interest (which would not be tolerated in many other areas of life) are embedded in the system, particularly following the decline of publicly funded independent science.

Nonetheless, there are occasions where it is not possible to disguise difficulties with GM technology. These include problems identified after genetically modified organisms (GMOs) have passed through the statutory testing procedures and formal approval for their release has already been granted.  These problems can relate to health and the environment.

However, there is now also considerable evidence of adverse agronomic and financial problems for farmers arising from the commercial use of GMOs in agriculture.

The use of genetic engineering in agriculture is usually justified on one or more of three grounds. These are: encouraging economic growth; helping to feed the world's population: and (most contentiously) the promotion of sustainable development.

Beyond the overriding issues of health and environmental safety, all these justifications (however tenuous or suspect they may be), nonetheless remain dependent on genetically engineered products actually delivering the 'benefits' their creators claim they are designed to product first place.

Biotechnology companies make many impressive claims about genetically engineered crops (and other GM products) which are theoretically attractive to farmers in simplifying their farm management and providing economic gains. But how accurate are these claims?

Do they support, or do they undermine, for example, important efforts to promote more sustainable systems of agriculture such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM)? Are they realistic or do they represent little more than the wishful fantasies of 'innovative' agricultural economists?

In 2002 the US Department of Agriculture conducted a review of the agronomic performance of genetically engineered crops in the United States, the country where they have been most quickly taken up. Having examined the available data the USDA report concluded that "Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of GE crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative."

In short, when it comes to the performance of GM crops there has been much 'economy with the truth'.

As early as 1998 Dr Charles Hagedorn, Professor of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences at
Virginia Tech University in the United States
, warned of the dangers of evading objective scientific assessment in the GM crop sector:

"With the GM crops, [the standard process of agronomic assessment] has been largely bypassed, mainly due to the rush to try and establish market share with the GM crops... In the US, sales of the GM crops to farmers have gone wild, and farmers all want them - whether they need them or not. This is a classic case of what has been described in the [scientific] literature as a situation where commercial development and marketing is way ahead of the science.  Our USDA is now deregulating GM crops with great speed, so I don't see the situation changing.  It will take some type of major problem (such as a Bt-resistant cotton weevil or a roundup resistant weed) to make USDA take a slower approach. The GM crop advocates, of course, claim that no such problems will occur. I don't think it wise to presume to be in such complete control of biology.”

With 'Roundup' resistant weeds in GM crops now spreading across literally millions of acres in America, the passing of time has proved that Hagedorn's reservations were correct.  Moreover, in the United States for the best part of the last decade or more yields from GM soya (the world's largest GM crop) have been less than from comparable conventional varieties. This further illustrates the degree to which GM product marketing has succeeded in prevailing over sound science, just as Professor Hagedorn had feared right at the outset.

It has never been the intention of the biotechnology industry that farmers should be the primary beneficiaries of GM technology. As Friedrich Vogel, head of BASF's crop protection business, told Farmers Weekly 6 November 1998, "Farmers will be given just enough to keep them interested in growing the crops, but no more."

The general and specialist press reports provided on this page record some of the practical and economic problems farmers have been faced with following the arrival of GM crops. This situation has been exacerbated by their introduction being allowed to take place in a scientific vacuum, with little independent research and technical advice being made readily available to the farming community.

As a result the gains the farming industry is commonly believed to have made from the introduction of GM technology in global agriculture have typically been more imagined than real.

nlpwessex.org

Latest Farming Press Reports On GM Crop Problems
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'10 Reasons Why We Don't Need GM Food'
Click Here To Download GM Information Leaflet

How The Withdrawal Of Publicly Funded Science Has Led To An Unjustified Explosion Of Interest In GM Crops

"A billion people go hungry every day, food prices have climbed 30 to 40 percent, climate change is reducing agricultural production - and for the past two decades, the world has slashed investments in publicly-funded agriculture until it is a pittance in most countries."
Farmers on Fringe of Intl Agriculture Policy?
Inter Press Service, 14 April 2010

"...virtually everyone who has worked in the field of plant biology recognises the immense contribution that transgenesis [i.e. GM technology] has made as a research tool in the study of plant growth and development… However, to a great extent, much of what we have learned over the past decade or so about plants has merely shown us how much more still lies undiscovered about these apparently simple, but in reality very complex, organisms.  Despite the much proclaimed successes of agbiotech in manipulating a few simple input traits by transgenesis, it is almost certainly the case that the more significant, and normally quite unremarked achievements of modern high-tech breeding has been in the use of marker-assisted technologies. In the words of Jorge Dubcovsky, a wheat molecular geneticist at the University of California, Davis: 'Fortunately, biotechnology has provided additional tools that do not require the use of transgenic crops to revolutionize plant breeding.'.... It is a pity that the sober judgements of such highly respected independent scientists as Goodman, Dubcovsky and many others, who have nothing against agbiotech per se but who recognise its current limitations, seems to have been drowned out by the many shrill voices from those vested interests that seem to dominate all sides of the public discourse about agbiotech...... We may therefore wish to ponder whether, by decimating public sector plant science and relying on an immature and increasingly biotech focused private sector, we have not ended up with the 'worst of all possible worlds' for the future of agriculture.... the advocates of transgenesis have gradually gained more influence and power over company policy and research strategy. Moreover, companies rarely accord new crop varieties developed by non-transgenic methods the same sort of prestige and publicity that is granted to new transgenic varieties. The former therefore tend to remain relatively invisible, while the transgenic varieties gain the spotlight of both company and media attention. …. while transgensis may give breeders a few additional options, it is no panacea for the many challenges that confront twenty-first century agriculture. Indeed, transgenesis is neither necessary nor sufficient for the greatest forthcoming challenge to world agriculture, i.e. how to feed adequately an extra 2.6 billion people over the coming half century.....""
Denis Murphy - Professor of Biotechnology, University of Glamorgan
'Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture'
Cambridge University Press, 2007

Additional Links

The Fundamental Scientific Error of Pursuing Transgenics Before Competency in Genomics - May 2003

Solution to the GM debate? - The Acceptable Face Of Ag-biotech - Nov 2002 (with updates)

USDA Report Exposes GM Crop Economics Myth - Aug 2002

Why GM crops not are not needed for sustainable industrial products - Jan 2000

Cutting The Hype About GM Crops
Not Even The Industry's Top Scientific Journal Believes The Exaggerated Claims

"There are hundreds of thousands of acres of genetically modified (GM) crops being grown around the world, but they are not at present addressing key agricultural problems for poor farmers... This journal champions biotech research, so we are not downbeat on its prospects to, one day, generate products that will heal, fuel and feed the world. That is, nevertheless, an outrageous act of faith bordering on the religious. And the fact is that biotech approaches must be used in the context of other technical and nontechnological solutions. Thus, reason dictates that proponents should be very careful about overhyping what biotech can do now and overpromising what it can do in the future...it is time that the industry and its lobby organizations learnt that pushing one-dimensional hype about biotech solutions is counterproductive.... let [politicians and the general public] come to their own conclusions about the solution to the problems that society faces. This will mean outlining the problems accurately."
Join the Dots - Pushing biotech as the 'solution' to the world's problems is doing more harm than good
Editorial
Nature Biotechnology 26, 837 (August 2008)

Building A GM Mythology From The Top Of The Scientific Tree

"A claim that GM technology is helping deliver higher crop yields in Africa was wrong, the Government's chief scientist has been forced to admit. Professor Sir David King recently caused uproar with his assertion that GM crops could help feed the hungry of the Third World. He called on the Government to campaign for the adoption of GM technology and said the Daily Mail's campaigning stance against it was holding up progress. Yesterday however he was accused of 'letting off blasts of hot and sometimes rancid air' after it emerged his latest GM crop claims were wildly innaccurate.  Dr Richard Horton, the editor of medical journal The Lancet said Sir David took his faith in science into 'the realms of totalitarian paranoia'. Writing in his online blog he said: 'If he lost the debate on GM, it was because his arguments failed to convince people. 'King seems biased and even antidemocratic. It seems he would prefer the media not to exist at all. That is a troubling position for the Government's chief scientist to adopt.'.... The chief scientist had used the example of crop trials around Lake Victoria in Kenya to boast how useful GM farming could be in feeding the Third World. He claimed scientists had discovered the identity of a chemical in food plants that attract pests such as root borers. Sir David suggested it had been possible to 'snip' the gene responsible for this chemical out of the food crop and then insert it into grass that is grown alongside it. He said the pests then eat the grass rather than the food. He told Radio Four's Today programme: 'You interplant the grass with the grain and it turns out the crop yield goes up 40-50 per cent. A very big advantage.' The only problem is Sir David failed to accurately describe the research in Africa, which did not involve the use of any GM technology at all. The research actually involved finding plants that can be cultivated alongside food crops and provide a natural solution to boosting yields. Researchers identified one set of plants that naturally deters parastic weeds, while another set, a species of grass, attracts the pests. The net result of this 'push and pull' regime is that the food crop can grow more easily and produce a much higher yield."
Scientist who claimed GM crops could solve Third World hunger admits he got it wrong
Daily Mail, 18 December 2007

For More On GM Myths And GM Mythmakers
Visit The
GMWatch Web Site
Click Here

Stemming The Giant Wave Of Hype

"According to [Chief DEFRA scientist] Dr Watson, who chaired the four-year International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), enormous improvements have been made in productivity, particularly in Asia, but food production in sub-Saharan Africa has decreased. More than 800 million people still go hungry at night and, even in India, where the Green Revolution made some of its biggest strides, some 50 per cent of children in rural areas are malnourished. To the exasperation of the big agroscience companies, and countries such as the United States, Australia and Canada, the 2,500-page IAASTD report, backed  by the World Bank and UN, did not push for big technical fixes. It came down on the side of 'multi-functional' agriculture, which incorporates goals such as poverty reduction, water conservation and climate change adaptation alongside conventional efforts to increase production. It said that the biggest gains will come not from new 'miracle crops', but from making existing science and technology available to the small-scale farmers responsible for tilling a third of the world's land surface. Only by helping them to feed themselves - partly by improving distribution and markets - will the challenges of sustainability, better health and poverty reduction be met.... Biotechnology, in the sense of rapid development of plant varieties, will play a central role in feeding the world this century,  says Dr Watson. But whether [GM] transgenic crops and animals - those that have had genes inserted into them - have increased productivity at all is open for debate....This has led to criticism from the US and other countries, who take a simpler view of GM crops. Sixty countries have endorsed the report. Britain, typically, has yet to decide."
Food shortages: how will we feed the world?
Daily Telegraph, 22 April 2008

"For now, at least,the hype is muted. Yesterday's Royal Society report takes care not to repeat the claims, put forward by some proponents of the technology that genetic modification can itself end world hunger. Indeed it condemns such simplistic stances, noting that past debates 'have failed to acknowledge that there is no technological panacea'. That is welcome for, as Prof James Specht of the University of Nebraska has pointed out, the 'hype-to-reality ratio' has at times reached 'infinity'. Instead the Royal Society, which has long supported GM crops and foods, backs a mixture of traditional farming techniques and new technology, merely asking that none 'should be ruled out'. Such an approach, if maintained, should open the door to a much more constructive debate.... Contrary to widespread belief, they do not generally increase crop yields, and may actually cut them."
Royal Society accepts GM is not the only answer
Daily Telegraph, 21 October 2009

'It's Time To Start Farming'
Productive Sustainable Agriculture In Some Of The World's Most Challenging Conditions

International Herald Tribune - Feed a Growing World Family, Fund Science for Farmers
New Scientist - 'An Ordinary Miracle' - Sustainable Agriculture Without GMOs
University of Essex - Portraits of Sustainable Agriculture Projects
Cotton World - Integrated Pest Management And Cotton Production
Associated Press - Genetic Diversity And Disease Control In Rice - China
New Agriculturist - Monoculture And Disease - The Importance Of Genetic Diversity

BBC - Sahara Desert Frontiers Turn Green

Christian Science Monitor - Reclaiming The Egyptian Desert
University of California, Berkley - Cuba's New Agricultural Revolution

Oxfam: Cuba's Green Revolution
USDA - Maintaining High Organic Matter In Soils
Nature - Organic Crop Yields In The US


GM Crops And 'Economising With The Agronomic Truth'
How Commercial Interests Have Manipulated The Science And Public Perception

"Monsanto has released information on the first GM canola harvest [in Australia], and says that while yields aren't that different between GM and non-GM crops, it's happy with the results. But Geoffrey Carracher, from the Network of Concerned Farmers, says the survey leaves out important information. 'National variety trials have shown that it didn't yield as well as TT canola,' he says. 'Now they don't allow their seed to be used for trials anywhere else, so that becomes a bit of a problem. 'They haven't told us what the costs are, and the costs are quite enormous for people to grow a GM crop."
Anti-GM group says Monsanto survey is flawed
ABC News (Australia), 24 February 2009

How Independent Research On GM Crops Has Been Obstructed

"Companies that genetically engineer crops have a lock on what we know about their safety and benefits.... We don't have the complete picture. That's no accident. Multibillion-dollar agricultural corporations, including Monsanto and Syngenta, have restricted independent research on their genetically engineered crops. They have often refused to provide independent scientists with seeds, or they've set restrictive conditions that severely limit research options. This is legal. Under U.S. law, genetically engineered crops are patentable inventions. Companies have broad power over the use of any patented product, including who can study it and how. Agricultural companies defend their stonewalling by saying that unrestricted research could make them vulnerable to lawsuits if an experiment somehow leads to harm, or that it could give competitors unfair insight into their products. But it's likely that the companies fear something else too: An experiment could reveal that a genetically engineered product is hazardous or doesn't perform as well as promised. Whatever the reasons, the results are clear: Public sector research has been blocked. In 2009, 26 university entomologists — bug scientists — wrote a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency protesting restricted access to seeds. The letter went public, but not most of the writers' identities. They were afraid of retaliation from the companies that might further hamper their research. 'No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions involving these crops,' they wrote. Christian Krupke, a Purdue University entomologist who signed the letter, put it more succinctly to a reporter for a scientific journal. 'Industry is completely driving the bus,' he said. Beyond patent law, agricultural companies hold a pocketbook advantage in terms of research. For example, they fund much of the agricultural safety research done in this country. And when deciding whether to allow a genetically engineered crop onto the market, the Department of Agriculture and other regulatory agencies do not perform their own experiments on the performance and safety of the product; instead, they rely largely on studies submitted by the companies themselves. The dangers ought to be clear. In 2001, the seed company Pioneer, owned by Dow Chemical, was developing a strain of genetically engineered corn that contained a toxin to help it resist corn rootworm, an insect pest. A group of university scientists, working at Pioneer's request, found that the corn also appeared to kill a species of beneficial ladybug, which indicated that other helpful insects might also be harmed. But, according to a report in the journal Nature Biotechnology, Dow said its own research showed no ladybug problems, and it prohibited the scientists from making the research public. Nor was it submitted to the EPA. In 2003, the EPA approved a version of the corn, known as Herculex.... Research restrictions also hamper scientists' ability to assess how genetically engineered crops perform against other modified crops, traditional crops, approaches such as organic farming and the seed companies' promises. There's reason to be suspicious. Using USDA and peer-reviewed data, the Union of Concerned Scientists analyzed corn and soybean yields since new seeds were introduced. We found increases due to genetically engineered traits that were marginal — not a result promoted by the industry. Arkansas and West Virginia are suing Monsanto to pursue similar research, trying to force the company to release data on its transgenic soybeans, which officials in these states suspect aren't as productive as cheaper alternatives..... This is not how science should operate. Agricultural companies are still the gatekeepers, choosing who gets to do research and what topics are studied. To ensure that agricultural science serves the public, Congress should change patent law and create a clear exemption for agricultural research. The need for this exemption will only increase. As the technology spreads, it's likely that more, and more complex, genetic traits will be introduced in more crops. As a result, future genetically engineered crops could pose even more risks than current ones. Without robust independent analysis, it will be impossible to adequately assess these potential pitfalls."
No seeds, no independent research
Los Angeles Times, 13 February 2011

"A battle is quietly being waged between the industry that produces genetically modified seeds and scientists trying to investigate the environmental impacts of engineered crops. Although companies such as Monsanto have recently given ground, researchers say these firms are still loath to allow independent analyses of their patented — and profitable — seeds. In February 2009, frustrated by industry restrictions on independent research into genetically modified crops, two dozen scientists representing public research institutions in 17 corn-producing states told the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that the companies producing genetically modified (GM) seed 'inhibit public scientists from pursuing their mandated role on behalf of the public good' and warned that industry influence had made independent analyses of transgenic crops impossible. Unprepared for the scientists’ public protest and the press accounts that followed it, the industry, through its American Seed Trade Association (ASTA), met with crop scientists. Late last year, ASTA agreed that, while still restricting research on engineered plant genes, it would allow researchers greater freedom to study the effects of GM food crops on soil, pests, and pesticide use, and to compare their yields and analyze their effects on the environment. While many scientists expressed optimism about the agreement, questions remain over whether — and how soon — it will alter what has been a research environment rife with obstructions and suspicion... 'I have talked to dozens of scientists who have gone through incredible machinations to do their research,' says Charles Benbrook, the chief scientist with The Organic Center who served from 1984 to 1990 as executive director of the National Academy of Sciences Board on Agriculture. And when their data presents a challenge to the companies, he says, these scientists “have found themselves under personal and professional threats.” Among research that has faced industry disapproval, says Benbrook, are studies on evolving weed resistance, on plant pathogens, and on susceptibility of non-pest insects to the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt)-derived toxins that protect the GM plants against insect pests. 'Scientists are clearly intimidated,' says Doug Gurian-Sherman, senior scientist for the Union of Concerned Scientists’ Food and Environment Program.... At a meeting in December 2009, the companies said that while they would not agree to remove the bag-tag restrictions on research 'for reasons of competitiveness in the marketplace,' they would agree to enter into blanket research agreements called Academic Research Licenses (ARLs) with public institutions. These ARLs would make it unnecessary for scientists to apply to do research on a case-by-case basis. The language in these agreements — approved by the companies, ASTA, and the Biotechnology Industry Organization — would supersede that of the bag-tag. Research could include agronomic and yield comparisons, comparative efficacy studies, pest biology and resistance management studies, and studies on the interactions of introduced traits with the environment.... What is not included in the agreement with ASTA and the companies are studies related to the patent-protected genetics of the plant itself, such as breeding, reverse gene engineering, and modifications to the genetic traits. Universities must still negotiate terms of the ARLs with each company. Each company remains free to decide how fully it will adopt the principles. A single 'non-player,' the scientists wrote last month, could still prevent comparative studies or restrict entire categories of research. A divide already exists between those companies that will allow scientists to develop insect-resistant colonies for research purposes and those that will not. 'The agreement is broad and vague,' says Gurian-Sherman. 'It’s voluntary, and there’s no meaningful enforcement. I’m concerned that industry will allow scientists it favors to have seeds — which in itself will be some improvement — but that scientists industry is wary of will still have problems getting those seeds.' The result, he said, may be the illusion that research is now open to all, while creating a divide among scientists and the dilution of science on transgenic crops. For instance, he points out that conducting experiments that test the yields provided by GM crops against yields using the original non-GM variety, or against crops grown using sustainable farming methods, will remain difficult. In a report for the Union of Concerned Scientists, Gurian-Sherman recently questioned the validity of industry claims that increased crop yields are the result of increased planting of GM crops. Improvements made by conventional breeding, he says, have had more effect on yield than any engineered genes.... Benbrook, too, remains unconvinced that the agreement will alter the research landscape. 'If you don’t expect to still face vigorous challenges to the quality of your science,' he says, 'you’re just naïve.'"
Companies Put Restrictions On Research into GM Crops
Environment 360 (Yale University), 13 May 2010

"A common complaint is that the US government conducts no independent testing of these biotech crops before they are approved, and does little to track their consequences after. The developers of these crop technologies, including Monsanto and its chief rival DuPont, tightly curtail independent scientists from conducting their own studies. Because the companies patent their genetic alterations, outsiders are barred from testing the biotech seeds without company approvals.... Nina Fedoroff, a special adviser on science and technology to the US State Department, which promotes GMO adoption overseas, said even though she is confident that biotech crops are ultimately safe and highly beneficial for agriculture and food production, an improved regulatory framework could help boost confidence in the products. 'We preach to the world about science-based regulations but really our regulations on crop biotechnology are not yet science-based,' said Ms. Fedoroff in an interview. 'They are way, way out of date. In many countries scientists are much better represented at the government ranks than they are here.' Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, a former governor of top US corn-producing state Iowa, also said he recognizes change is needed. The USDA is in fact developing new rules for regulating genetically modified crops but the process has dragged out now for more than six years amid heavy lobbying from corporate interests and consumer and environmental groups. 'There is no question that our rules and regulations have to be modernized,' Mr. Vilsack told Reuters. 'The more information you find out, the more you have to look at your regulations to make sure they are doing what they have to do. There are some issues we are still grappling with.' Concerns about genetically altered crops and the lack of broad testing hit a boiling point last year. In February 2009, 26 leading academic entomologists (scientists specializing in insects) issued a public statement to the Environmental Protection Agency complaining that they were restricted from doing independent research by technology agreements Monsanto and other companies attach to every bag of biotech seed they sell."
Are US regulators dropping the ball when it comes to biocrops?
Business World, 14 April 2010

"Concerns about genetically altered crops and the lack of broad testing hit a boiling point last year. In February 2009, 26 leading academic entomologists -- scientists specializing in insects -- issued a public statement to the Environmental Protection Agency complaining that they were restricted from doing independent research by technology agreements Monsanto and other companies attach to every bag of biotech seed they sell. The agreements disallow any research that is not first approved by the companies. 'No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology,' the scientists said in their statement.....A backlash against biotech crops has swept many countries. India became one of the latest hot spots in February when biotech opponents created such an uprising that the Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, blocked the release of a genetically modified eggplant made by Monsanto. India already allows planting of altered cotton, but Ramesh said there was not enough public trust to support the introduction of a GM food crop until more research was done. Among the critics of the engineered eggplant was Tiruvadi Jagadisan, a former managing director of Monsanto's India operations. In an interview with Reuters, Jagadisan, who worked with Monsanto for 18 years, said he believed there were 'very many legitimate concerns about the safety of GM food crops for humans, animals and the environment.' He said Monsanto did not give 'accurate information to the public' about its eggplant....."
Special Report: Are regulators dropping the ball on biocrops?
Reuters, 13 April 2010

"The increasingly fractious relationship between public sector researchers and the biotech seed industry has come into the spotlight in recent months. In July, several leading seed companies met with a group of entomologists, who earlier in the year had lodged a public complaint with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) over restricted access to materials. In a letter to the EPA, the 26 public sector scientists complained that crop developers are curbing their rights to study commercial biotech crops. 'No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions involving these crops [because of company-imposed restrictions],' they wrote....What is clear is that the seed industry is perceived as highly secretive and reluctant to share its products with scientists. This is fueling the view that companies have something to hide..... It's no secret that the seed industry has the power to shape the information available on biotech crops, referred to variously as genetically engineered or genetically modified (GM) crops. Commercial entities developed nearly all of the crops on the US market, and their ownership of the proprietary technology allows them to decide who studies the crops and how. 'Industry is completely driving the bus,' says Christian Krupke, an entomologist at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. Company control starts with a simple grower's contract. Anyone wishing to buy transgenic seeds has to sign what's called a technology stewardship agreement that says, among many things, that the buyer cannot conduct research on the seed, nor give it to someone else for research. This means scientists can't simply buy seeds for their studies, and farmers can't slip them some on the side. Instead, scientists must get permission from the seed companies or risk a lawsuit. 'You need permission from industry and you have to specify what you want to do with the plants,' says Bruce Tabashnik, an entomologist at the University of Arizona in Tucson....One scientist affected by the change, Minnesota's Ostlie, wanted to compare how three companies' insect-resistant corn varieties fared against local species of rootworms. All three products had been commercialized, and Syngenta, Monsanto and Pioneer gave Ostlie permission to do the study for the 2007 growing season. But for the 2008 season, Syngenta backed out. 'In late 2007, we changed our policies on research,' says Minehart. 'We decided not to get involved in any comparison studies,' he says. Many Syngenta products contain components licensed from other companies, and Syngenta has agreements with those companies that they won't compare their products, Minehart says.... Requesting permission from the companies can be daunting. The requester usually has to describe in detail the design of the experiment— information scientists may not want to divulge. Some researchers object to revealing their hypotheses because it provides companies with a head start in preparing a rebuttal. Once the company and the scientist agree on the design, they must negotiate the terms of the research agreement. Negotiations tend to break down when companies want to limit or control publication of the study.....Studying crops hasn't always been this difficult. 'Before biotech came around, when new varieties came out, local groups would get together and have a local trial,' says Alan McHughen, a plant biotechnologist at the University of California, Riverside. Crop clubs, composed of local farmers and university scientists, would do agronomic studies to see which varieties perform best and how they interact with the local environment. 'If it was okay in the past, I don't see why companies would object to it now,' says McHughen."
GM industry's strong-arm tactics with researchers
Nature Biotechnology, Volume 27, 10 October 2009

"Negotiations in 2008 between Monsanto and two universities—North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota— broke down when Monsanto insisted on approving publication of any data on its newly commercialized transgenic sugar beets, according to Durgan. The university had proposed 'the general type of research our faculty would conduct with any new crop variety,' she says. 'Monsanto wanted the right to approve all publications, and we said that was not possible,' she says. As a result, no sugar beet research was conducted by Minnesota or North Dakota State University in the 2008 growing season. A Monsanto spokesperson claims that 'it became necessary to manage research agreements more carefully' when separately, Monsanto's sugar beet became an object of litigation. Monsanto and the two universities came to a compromise for the 2009 growing season."
GM industry's strong-arm tactics with researchers
Nature Biotechnology, Volume 27, 10 October 2009

"In the US, under the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic Act of 1938, the FDA is responsible for ensuring that food is safe to eat, although by statute, it regulates only food additives. By that definition, most crops are exempt from FDA approval, although companies tasked with ensuring their products are safe often voluntarily submit a considerable amount of information. Certain types of commercialized crops also fall under the jurisdiction of the USDA and the EPA: the USDA is concerned with minimizing gene flow, the EPA regulates crops containing pesticides, such as those with insect-resistance traits. Transgenic and conventional crops with other traits - herbicide tolerance or nutritional enhancement - could enter the marketplace with almost no review of the potential health impacts1. The EPA also regulates unintended effects on nontarget insects, although a review of published studies identified problems that limit their usefulness2,3. The fact that much of the data submitted to regulatory agencies remains confidential business information that is not shared with the research community means that for many crops (transgenic or otherwise), little information on human or environmental toxicity is known. Certainly, there is a paucity of such studies in the literature. Spanish researcher Jose Domingo, at Rovira i Virgili University in Reus, conducted a literature review of toxicity studies conducted on commercialized GM crops. So few research papers turned up in his search that he asked, 'Where is the scientific evidence showing that GM plants/food are toxicologically safe?' In some instances, university scientists have raised concerns about data submitted to regulatory agencies, but had no recourse. In 2001, for example, Pioneer was developing a transgenic corn variety that contained a binary toxin, Cry34Ab1/Cry35Ab1, to fend off rootworms. The company asked some university laboratories to test for unintended effects on a lady beetle. The laboratories found that nearly 100% of lady beetles that had been fed the crop died after the eighth day in the life cycle. When the researchers presented their results to Pioneer, the company forbade them from publicizing the data. 'The company came back and said ‘you are under no circumstances able to publicize this data in any way’,' says a scientist associated with the project, who asked to remain anonymous. Because the product had not yet been commercialized, the research agreement gave Pioneer the right to prevent publication of their results. Two years later, Pioneer received regulatory approval for an antirootworm corn variety with the same toxin—Cry34Ab1/Cry35Ab1. But the data submitted to the EPA had no sign of potential harm to lady beetles, even though Pioneer had followed common EPA testing protocols. In one study, the company fed purified toxins to the lady beetles only through the seventh day of their life cycle - one day short of what was found to be their most susceptible stage. In a second study, the company followed the lady beetles through the end of their life cycle but used a different mode of feeding, through a homogenized powder consisting of half prey and half pollen, and didn’t see any effect, according to Jim Register, a scientist at Pioneer. Register also says that although Pioneer’s commercialized product contains the same toxin as the one the universities studied, it is a different construct—key genes were integrated into a different place in the genome. The anonymous researcher maintains that Pioneer's studies are flawed. The EPA was made aware of the independently produced data, but opted not to act, according to the anonymous source. Pioneer would also not give the scientists permission to redo the study after the crop was commercialized. Scientists can in theory review the data companies file with regulatory agencies. 'Independent scientists mostly want to review the data to see if it's good science or regulatory junk science and also to conduct their own research,' says Bill Freese, an analyst at the Center for Food Safety in Washington, DC. But roadblocks exist to this as well. Scientists have to submit Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, which can take months, and allows access only to information that is not confidential business information. In this regard, the USDA has been accused by a National Academy of Sciences committee of allowing companies to make excessive claims of confidential business information. Companies have been known to take the confidentiality of data on their GM crops to even greater extremes. Tabashnik says a Dow AgroSciences employee once threatened him with legal action if he published information he received from the EPA. The information concerned an insect-resistant variety of maize known as TC1507, made by Dow and Pioneer. The companies suspended sales of TC1507 in Puerto Rico after discovering in 2006 that an armyworm had developed resistance to it. Tabashnik was able to review the report the companies filed with the EPA by submitting a Freedom of Information Act request. 'I encouraged an employee of the company [Dow] to publish the data and mentioned that, alternatively, I could cite the data,' says Tabashnik. 'He told me that if I cited the information...I would be subject to legal action by the company,' he says. 'These kinds of statements are chilling.'"
GM industry's strong-arm tactics with researchers
Nature Biotechnology, Volume 27, 10 October 2009

"Papers suggesting that biotech crops might harm the environment attract a hail of abuse from other scientists..... Behind the attacks are scientists who are determined to prevent papers they deem to have scientific flaws from influencing policy-makers. When a paper comes out in which they see problems, they react quickly, criticize the work in public forums, write rebuttal letters, and send them to policy-makers, funding agencies and journal editors. .... But some scientists say that this activity may be going beyond what is acceptable in scientific discussions, trampling important research questions and stifling debate. 'It makes public discussion very difficult,' says David Schubert, a cell biologist at the Salk Institute in La Jolla, California, who found himself at the sharp end of an attack after publishing a commentary on GM food  (see 'Seeds of discontent'). 'People who look into safety issues and pollination and contamination issues get seriously harassed.'... Emma Rosi-Marshall's trouble started on 9 October 2007, the day her paper was published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). Rosi-Marshall, a stream ecologist at Loyola University Chicago in Illinois, had spent much of the previous two years studying 12 streams in northern Indiana, where rows of maize (corn), most of it genetically engineered to express insecticidal toxins from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), stretch to the horizon in every direction. Working with colleagues including her former adviser Jennifer Tank at the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, Rosi-Marshall had found that the streams also contain Bt maize, in the form of leaves, stalks, cobs and pollen. In laboratory studies, the researchers saw that caddis-fly larvae — herbivorous stream insects in the order trichoptera — fed only on Bt maize debris grew half as fast as those that ate debris from conventional maize. And caddis flies fed high concentrations of Bt maize pollen died at more than twice the rate of caddis flies fed non-Bt pollen....S cientists who were not involved in the debate over Rosi-Marshall's paper say the results were preliminary and left some questions unanswered, but that overall the data are valuable. 'The science is fine as far as I'm concerned,' says Arthur Benke, an aquatic ecologist at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, who called the strong language in some of the criticisms 'inappropriate'.... The emotional and sometimes harsh quality of some of the attacks strikes some scientists as strange and unlike the constructive criticism to which they are accustomed. Benke points out that none of the criticisms on the caddis-fly paper, for example, called for further study on the insects. 'What papers like this do is alert us to possible reasons to look into this more carefully,' he says. 'No one mentioned this.' To try to dismiss the research out of hand ignores how science is supposed to work, adds Power — you make a hypothesis, test it, refine it, test it and refine it again. 'You keep doing that until you have an answer that is as close as you're going to get,' she says. 'I don't understand the resistance to that notion.'... At its worst, the behaviour could make for a downward spiral of GM research as a whole, says Don Huber, a emeritus professor of plant pathology at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Indiana. 'When scientists become afraid to even ask the questions … that's a serious impediment to our progress,' he says."
GM crops: Battlefield
2 September 2009 | Nature461, 27-32 (2009)

"Unfortunately, it is impossible to verify that genetically modified crops perform as advertised. That is because agritech companies have given themselves veto power over the work of independent researchers. To purchase genetically modified seeds, a customer must sign an agreement that limits what can be done with them. (If you have installed software recently, you will recognize the concept of the end-user agreement.) Agreements are considered necessary to protect a company's intellectual property, and they justifiably preclude the replication of the genetic enhancements that make the seeds unique. But agritech companies such as Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta go further. For a decade their user agreements have explicitly forbidden the use of the seeds for any independent research. Under the threat of litigation, scientists cannot test a seed to explore the different conditions under which it thrives or fails. They cannot compare seeds from one company against those from another company. And perhaps most important, they cannot examine whether the genetically modified crops lead to unintended environmental side effects. Research on genetically modified seeds is still published, of course. But only studies that the seed companies have approved ever see the light of a peer-reviewed journal. In a number of cases, experiments that had the implicit go-ahead from the seed company were later blocked from publication because the results were not flattering. 'It is important to understand that it is not always simply a matter of blanket denial of all research requests, which is bad enough,' wrote Elson J. Shields, an entomologist at Cornell University, in a letter to an official at the Environmental Protection Agency (the body tasked with regulating the environmental consequences of genetically modified crops), 'but selective denials and permissions based on industry perceptions of how 'friendly' or 'hostile' a particular scientist may be toward [seed-enhancement] technology.' Shields is the spokesperson for a group of 24 corn insect scientists that opposes these practices. Because the scientists rely on the cooperation of the companies for their research - they must, after all, gain access to the seeds for studies - most have chosen to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. The group has submitted a statement to the EPA protesting that 'as a result of restricted access, no truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions regarding the technology.' It would be chilling enough if any other type of company were able to prevent independent researchers from testing its wares and reporting what they find - imagine car companies trying to quash head-to-head model comparisons done by Consumer Reports, for example. But when scientists are prevented from examining the raw ingredients in our nation's food supply or from testing the plant material that covers a large portion of the country's agricultural land, the restrictions on free inquiry become dangerous."
Do Seed Companies Control GM Crop Research?
Scientific American, August 2009

"Biotechnology companies are keeping university scientists from fully researching the effectiveness and environmental impact of the industry’s genetically modified crops, according to an unusual complaint issued by a group of those scientists. 'No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions,' the scientists wrote in a statement submitted to the Environmental Protection Agency. The E.P.A. is seeking public comments for scientific meetings it will hold next week on biotech crops....The researchers, 26 corn-insect specialists, withheld their names because they feared being cut off from research by the companies. But several of them agreed in interviews to have their names used.  The problem, the scientists say, is that farmers and other buyers of genetically engineered seeds have to sign an agreement meant to ensure that growers honor company patent rights and environmental regulations. But the agreements also prohibit growing the crops for research purposes. So while university scientists can freely buy pesticides or conventional seeds for their research, they cannot do that with genetically engineered seeds. Instead, they must seek permission from the seed companies. And sometimes that permission is denied or the company insists on reviewing any findings before they can be published, they say. Such agreements have long been a problem, the scientists said, but they are going public now because frustration has been building.  'If a company can control the research that appears in the public domain, they can reduce the potential negatives that can come out of any research,' said Ken Ostlie, an entomologist at the University of Minnesota, who was one of the scientists who had signed the statement....The companies 'have the potential to launder the data, the information that is submitted to E.P.A.,' said Elson J. Shields, a professor of entomology at Cornell....The growers’ agreement from Syngenta not only prohibits research in general but specifically says a seed buyer cannot compare Syngenta’s product with any rival crop. Dr. Ostlie, at the University of Minnesota, said he had permission from three companies in 2007 to compare how well their insect-resistant corn varieties fared against the rootworms found in his state. But in 2008, Syngenta, one of the three companies, withdrew its permission and the study had to stop. 'The company just decided it was not in its best interest to let it continue,' Dr. Ostlie said..... Dr. Shields of Cornell said financing for agricultural research had gradually shifted from the public sector to the private sector. That makes many scientists at universities dependent on financing or technical cooperation from the big seed companies. 'People are afraid of being blacklisted,' he said. 'If your sole job is to work on corn insects and you need the latest corn varieties and the companies decide not to give it to you, you can’t do your job.'”
Crop Scientists Say Biotechnology Seed Companies Are Thwarting Research
New York Times, 20 February 2009

"A Senior academic has revealed how he was threatened in an attempt to rig an official inquiry into GM crops and food. Dr Andrew Stirling was warned by a leading member of the scientific establishment that his career would be ruined unless he stopped questioning the safety of so-called Frankenstein food. His research and professional standing could be undermined, the supporter of genetically-modified crops told him. He also might find it hard to fund his work. Last night, Dr Stirling, a respected independent expert on risk assessment, said: 'This type of pressure is very corrosive and threatens to undermine the whole science advice process.' That is why I was so concerned to get this on the public record.' Dr Stirling was one of two experts appointed to the Government's GM Science Review Panel after recommendations from organic farming and green groups. The other - Professor Carlo Leifert of the University of Newcastle - recently resigned in protest at the influence of GM supporters on the panel. Dr Sue Mayer, a friend of Dr Stirling, said: 'This casts a shadow over the UK scientific establishment and the way it deals with GM foods.' This confirms the worst fears about the way the system operates.' The handling of the threats has turned the spotlight on Tony Blair's personal scientific adviser, Professor Sir David King, who chaired the GM review panel. Professor King faces questions over whether he tried to delay publicising the allegations in an attempt to put off embarrassing media coverage."
Top Scientist Was Told His Career Was Over if He Dared to Speak His Mind About GM
Daily Mail, 25 July 2003

"Traditionally, companies in the US introduce a new variety, and our Extension crop specialists (in each state where the crop is grown) then field test the new variety for at least 3 to 5 years. During this field testing process the Extension crop specialists introduce the new variety to farmers in their region and give them unbiased information (the good points and bad points) about growing the new variety. The Ag companies get good information about the performance of their new varieties from this ‘traditional’ crop evaluation process as well.  With the GM crops, this traditional process has been largely bypassed, mainly due to the rush to try and establish market share with the GM crops. Now, the Ag companies are going directly to the farmers with contracts for growing their GM crops, and the Extension crop specialist is ‘out of the loop’. In the US, sales of the GM crops to farmers have gone wild, and farmers all want them - whether they need them or not. This is a classic case of what has been described in the literature as a situation where commercial development and marketing is way ahead of the science.  Our USDA is now deregulating GM crops with great speed, so I don't see the situation changing. It will take some type of major problem (such as a Bt-resistant cotton weevil or a roundup resistant weed) to make USDA take a slower approach. The GM crop advocates, of course, claim that no such problems will occur. I don't think it wise to presume to be in such complete control of biology.
Dr Charles Hagedorn, Professor of Crop and Soil Environmental Sciences
Virginia Tech University, September 1998

Problem Now Solved? But Who Controls The Funding?

"One of agricultural biotechnology’s great success stories may become a cautionary tale of how short-sighted mismanagement can squander the benefits of genetic modification. After years of predicting it would happen — and after years of having their suggestions largely ignored by companies, farmers and regulators — scientists have documented the rapid evolution of corn rootworms that are resistant to Bt corn. Until Bt corn was genetically altered to be poisonous to the pests, rootworms used to cause billions of dollars in damage to U.S. crops. Named for the pesticidal toxin-producing Bacillus thuringiensis gene it contains, Bt corn now accounts for three-quarters of the U.S. corn crop. The vulnerability of this corn could be disastrous for farmers and the environment. 'Unless management practices change, it’s only going to get worse,' said Aaron Gassmann, an Iowa State University entomologist and co-author of a March 17 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study describing rootworm resistance. 'There needs to be a fundamental change in how the technology is used.'.... Entomologist Bruce Tabashnik of the University of Arizona called Bt resistance 'an increasingly serious problem,' and said that refuge sizes need to be increased dramatically and immediately. He and other scientists have pushed the EPA to double current refuge requirements, but so far without success. 'Biotech companies have successfully lobbied EPA for major reductions in refuge requirements,' said Tabashnik. Entomologist Elson Shields of Cornell University agrees. 'Resistance was caused because the farmers did not plant the required refuges and the companies did not enforce the planting of refuges,' said Shields, who has written that 'a widespread increase in trait failure may be just around the corner.' In addition to increasing refuge sizes, farmers also need to vary the crops planted on their fields, rather than planting corn season after season, said Gassmann. Breaks in the corn cycle naturally disrupt rootworm populations, but the approach fell from favor as the high price of corn made continuous planting appealing. 'Continuous corn is the perfect habitat for rootworm,' said Gassmann. Shields also lamented the difficulty he and other academic scientists long experienced when trying to study Bt corn. Until 2010, after organized objections by entomologists at major agricultural universities forced seed companies to allow outside researchers to study Bt corn, the crop was largely off-limits. Had that not been the case, said Shields, resistance could have been detected even earlier, and perhaps stalled before it threatened to become such a problem. 'Once we had legal access, resistance was documented in a year,' Shields said. 'We were seeing failures earlier but were not allowed to test for resistance.'"
Voracious Worm Evolves to Eat Biotech Corn Engineered to Kill It
Wired, 17 March 2014

"In 2009, 26 scientists drafted an anonymous letter to the Enivironmental Protection Agency complaining that the legalese that came with each sack of GM grain was making it impossible for them to do their jobs. 'No truly independent research can be legally conducted on many critical questions,' they wrote. One of the anonymous 26 was Elson Shields, a corn-insect scientist at Cornell University. 'You had to have written permission from the companies for any science involving their seed, even if it was commercially available,' he said. Companies sometimes revoked this permission [PDF] in the middle of an experiment, undoing months of work. 'Well, a research group decided to get boisterous about it and wrote that letter to the EPA,' Shields said. This was not a group of starry-eyed environmentalists. 'These were plant entomologists, mostly from Midwestern land-grant universities. We’re all generally pro-GMO,' Shields said. 'It’s just that each event [of genetic insertion] needs to be looked at and evaluated on a scientific basis.' 'We readily admit that there were some concerns early on,' said Andy LaVigne when I called to ask him about this. LaVigne is president of the American Seed Trade Association, the organization that represents the crop biotech firms. But LaVigne says that he was caught somewhat off guard when Shields and the other scientists complained. 'Well, we said, let’s get everyone around a table.' That table was in a conference room at Iowa State University. The university scientists were shoulder-to-shoulder with the industry representatives for the first time. 'I think probably the biggest thing that came out of it is that we were sort of two communities talking past each other,' LaVigne said. 'There were really a-ha moments on both sides. It evolved over the next six months and then the principles were adopted.' Those principles made explicit an industry commitment to allow independent scientists to do any sort of research they wanted with commercially available seeds, as long as they weren’t trying to pirate the technology, and as long as they don’t sell or release the seeds into the wild afterward. If you read these principles [PDF], it sounds like the problem’s solved..... Ultimately, though, Shields said, everything I was asking about was a bit of a sideshow. Getting permission to do research is all well and good, but it’s meaningless unless you also are able to get money to do research. 'In my 30 years as a public scientist, there’s been a dramatic erosion of public funding. And that makes science more dependent on private funding. If I want to study something, I have to figure out who I can BS into giving me enough money. And these days everyone wants to invest in a sure thing. The preliminary stuff, the interesting stuff, competitive funding will never pay for it.'
Nathanael Johnson - Genetically modified seed research: What’s locked and what isn’t
Grist, 5 August 2013

"Nathanael Johnson's comments about the ability to access the genetics for research purposes are inaccurate. He makes it sound as if the researchers at our land grant universities are waiting with open arms to conduct research on GMO crops and or glyphosate. He makes it sound as if the companies that develop GM crops are eager for full disclosure and testing of GM crops. This is not the case, based on my experience, which has been repeated more than once in different parts of the country. When we approach the land grant researchers with the funding in hand to test a specific hypothesis on a GM crop or how glyphosate may be affecting a GM crop, the reaction is the same every time. This is what we have been told by the researcher(s): 'It would be very unhealthy for the career of any researcher to get involved with any research that may shed negative light on a GM crop or glyphosate'. I have been active in studying GMOs since 1994 and researching GMOs from the farmer perspective since 1997. As a seed salesman for a seed corn company I have conducted side by side research of BT corn with identical isogenic lines in my field 2 years in a row in the 1990s. The seed was provided by the seed company without need for any signature of a technology agreement. I have never signed a technology agreement with any company that holds a patent on seed. In 1997 it was not illegal to conduct on-farm research comparing [GM] traited seed to its conventional counterpart. Today a bag of patented traited seed cannot even be unloaded on a dealer’s property unless the dealer has signed a technology agreement with the patent holder of the seed. That technology agreement prohibits any research without the written consent of the patent holder."
Letter to the editor, Grist
Howard Vlieger, 24 August, 2013

What Farmers Want Is Independent Impartial Advice
Of The Type They Used To Get From Public Sector Plant Breeders And Agronomists

"I am a member of The Arable Group, who are very good at testing things. And I see a number of products they do test show no benefit, then we know if
they are any good despite what the people selling will tell you.
Independent, no strings attached research is the most important terms that
we need.
"
Farmer comment in Open University Survey on GM Crops
Farmers’ Understandings of GM Crops within Local Communities
Faculty of Technology, Open University, July 2005

"You know, there's too much, I think, political noise made about GM. Actually the [non-gm] technology of plant breeding will deliver a lot of these solutions at the same time .... The truth is that the [existing] genetic potential of a [non-GM] wheat crop is about 19 tonnes to the hectare. Currently the yield in the UK would be about eight and a half.... What we have to do is make sure we look at how we can deliver that while maintaining the soil... how do we become more sustainable? ...  that's the sort of research we need to make sure we do double or treble [yields].....We've had a 45% cut on [publicly funded] agricultural R&D in the last thirty years. This is madness when you think of the challenges we face."
Peter Kendall, President of National Farmers Union Of England And Wales
BBC Radio 4 Today Programme, 26 November 2008

"The coincidence of the privatisation agenda, which resulted in the depletion of the public sector, and the emergence of the powerful agbiotech paradigm in the private sector, dealt a severe blow to plant science in its more holistic sense as a provider of value-free knowledge that is meant to provide a genuine range of options for crop improvement..."
Denis Murphy - Professor of Biotechnology, University of Glamorgan

Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture'
Cambridge University Press, 2007

“The challenge for 21st century agriculture is to double food production over the next 40 years, on a finite amount of land and using increasingly scarce and costly resources….’Both in the developed and developing world, crop improvement through plant breeding will be the major contributor to increased food production for the indefinite future’ said Professor Andy Greenland, Research Director at NIAB.  ‘There is scope to deliver continued incremental improvements in plant breeding, for example through more routine use of marker-assisted selection to reduce the breeding cycle time.   Advances in our basic knowledge of plant genetics are also opening up major opportunities for radical, dimension-changing developments in plant breeding…'...Professor Greenland warned that exploiting these opportunities would require a fundamental shift in research funding. The UK has progressively cut public sector investment in applied agricultural research and knowledge transfer in favour of a market-based approach. But it is clear that the income from commercial plant breeding – through royalty payments on seed – is not enough to support a more speculative, long-term approach to R&D. There is a hiatus in the research pipeline. While our research institutes and universities remain world-leaders in basic plant science, much of that work is taking place in model crop species without being transferred to potentially useful crops….'”
Plant breeding essential to meet global food needs – NIAB
National Institute For Agricutlural Botany, October 2008

Farmers Need Data From Independent Researchers And Universities
Not From Biased Biotech Industry Representatives

"Soybean plants genetically modified to resist a popular non-selective herbicide yield less than conventional soybeans, University of Nebraska research shows. Two years of NU Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources research showed Roundup Ready soybeans yield 6 percent less than their closest relatives and 11 percent less than high-yielding conventional soybeans. This averages to three fewer bushel per acre, or 480 fewer bushels on a 160-acre field. NU Agronomist Roger Elmore, who headed this study, said the research was initiated after producers began asking yield-related questions about Roundup Ready soybeans in 1997, about the same time early test results from Nebraska and other state universities were released. The questions and early results hinted Roundup Ready soybeans yielded less than conventional beans. 'Preliminary studies indicated something was going on,' Elmore said.... Going into the research, NU scientists knew one of two things was responsible for the Roundup Ready yield penalty: either spraying with Roundup or the gene insertion process. Their studies showed spraying had no effect.... In this study, weeds in all test plots were controlled with conventional herbicides and by hand; Roundup was not used. This allowed scientists to compare yields without the variable of Roundup application complicating results, Elmore said. The high-yielding conventional soybean lines yielded 57.7 bushels per acre, their sister lines yielded 55 bushels per acre and the Roundup Ready soybeans yielded 52 bushels per acre. This research showed that Roundup Ready soybeans' lower yields stem from the gene insertion process used to create the glyphosate-resistant seed. This scenario is called yield drag....Elmore likened yield drag to the effect an air conditioner has on a new pickup. When the pickup's air conditioner is on, performance is less but it's not the pickup's fault.... Elmore said some producers would rather pay more for the seed and accept reduced yields in exchange for a clean, weed-free field on their farms, even though that route is more costly. This project  demonstrates the importance of a land-grant university responding to a pressing local need for research-based information."
Research Shows Roundup Ready Soybeans Yield Less

IANR News Service, University Of Nebraska, 16 May 2000

"In recent years, the number of different transgenic cotton production options that a grower may purchase has outpaced the capacity of the official cultivar trials (OCTs) to adequately evaluate their economic value. First, large numbers of cultivars are being offered; but moreover OCTs when conducted with uniform, and generally very high levels of pest management, do not fully assess the value of the transgenic cultivars. This paper addresses the challenges posed by the advent of transgenic, pest-managing technologies, and directly addresses the question most relevant to growers, 'Will transgenic cultivars return more profit?' Results from the study were published in the January-February 2008 issue of Agronomy Journal.... According to the authors, 'Collectively these results indicate that profitability was most closely associated with yields and not the transgenic technologies."
Are Transgenic Cotton Cultivars More Profitable?
American Society of Agronomy, 11 February 2008

What Has Gone Wrong?

"Do commercial pressures have a negative impact on science? This debate has been raging for so long that it usually raises little more than a shrug of indifference. That is no longer a defensible response. A new report from our organisation, Scientists for Global Responsibility (SGR), exposes problems so serious that we can no longer afford to be indifferent to them. The report looks at the impact of five commercial sectors on science and technology over the past 20 years. The damaging influence of two of these, pharmaceuticals and tobacco, has been noted before. But we also looked at the oil and gas, defence and biotech sectors, which have been subjected to less scrutiny. We found a wide range of disturbing commercial influences on science, and evidence that similar problems are occurring across academic disciplines. Over the past two decades, government policy in the US, UK and elsewhere has fundamentally altered the academic landscape in a drive for profit. Universities have been pushed to adopt a much more commercial mindset, from taking out patents to prioritising research that promises short-term economic gains. The rapid spread of partnerships between businesses and universities has led to some disciplines becoming so intertwined with industry that few academics are able to retain their independence. Chemical engineering and geology are strongly linked to oil companies, for example, and it is hard to find an engineering department in the UK which does not receive funding from the arms industry. And many life sciences departments have extensive links with the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. This creates enormous potential for conflicts of interest. The problem has long been recognised in medical research, and journals are starting to crack down on it, but in other disciplines the problems are rarely even discussed, let alone acted upon. Such problems are a major concern because they can undermine the quality and reliability of research. This is perhaps best illustrated by 'sponsorship bias', where research generates results that suit the funder (The Journal of the American Medical Association, vol 290, p 921). Another well-documented problem is the failure to report results unfavourable to the funder. Research is also undermined by misleading messages put out by industry-funded lobby groups. Again, these tactics are well known from the tobacco and oil industries, with their deliberate questioning of health research and sponsorship of climate sceptics. Less attention has been given to the funding of some patient groups by pharmaceutical companies and the (sometimes covert) use of PR companies by the biotechnology industry in the debate over genetically modified crops. This does not bode well for public discussions on the risks of synthetic biology.... Another cornerstone of science that is being eroded is the freedom to set the public research agenda so that it serves the public interest. Governments are increasingly focused on delivering competitiveness, and business interests are able to exert pressure on funding bodies through representatives on their boards. As a result, environmental and social problems and 'blue-sky' research commonly lose out to short-term commercial gain. For example, genetics now dominates agricultural science, not least because genetic technologies are highly patentable. This not only dominates privately funded research, but also steers publicly funded research away from work that takes a different approach or explores low-tech solutions. As a result, 'low-input' agriculture, which requires minimal use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides and is cheaper and more useful to poorer farmers, is largely overlooked. Similarly, research on how to improve food distribution receives inadequate support.... Put bluntly, much publicly funded science is no longer being done in the public interest. Despite this, policy-makers are complacent and argue that any damaging effects of commercial influence are minor....There is a strong incentive for scientists not to make a fuss if their department receives industry funds. This is strengthened by contractual requirements for secrecy that often come with industry partnerships. To defend independent science, reform is needed, from the level of government policy down to that of the research study."
Stuart Parkinson and Chris Langley, SGR
Stop selling out science to commerce
New Scientist, 4 November 2009


The Biotech Industry Is Leading A Huge 'Consolidation' In World Seed Supplies
Is This Really In The Best Interest Of Farmers?

Why Are The World's Farming Unions Allowing This To Happen?

"Farmers will be given just enough to keep them interested in growing the crops, but no more. And GM companies and food processors, will say very clearly how they want the growers to grow the crops."
Friedrich Vogel, head of BASF's crop protection business
Farmers Weekly, 6 November 1998

"[Monsanto CEO Bob] Shapiro has this messianic sense about him. If he said it once, he said it three or four times: Put us together and we'll rule the world. We're going to own the industry. Almost those exact words. We can be a juggernaut. Invincible."
Tom Urban, Former CEO of leading seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred on Bob Shapiro's business strategy
Lords of the Harvest
Charles, D. (2001), Cambridge, Massachusetts: Perseus

"On May 23, 2003, President Bush proposed an Initiative to End Hunger in Africa using genetically modified (GM) foods. He also blamed Europe's 'unfounded, unscientific fears' of these foods for thwarting recovery efforts. Bush was convinced that GM foods held the key to greater yields, expanded U.S. exports, and a better world. His rhetoric was not new. It had been passed down from president to president, and delivered to the American people through regular news reports and industry advertisements. The message was part of a master plan that had been crafted by corporations determined to control the world's food supply. This was made clear at a biotech industry conference in January 1999, where a representative from Arthur Anderson Consulting Group explained how his company had helped Monsanto create that plan. First, they asked Monsanto what their ideal future looked like in fifteen to twenty years. Monsanto executives described a world with 100 percent of all commercial seeds genetically modified and patented. Anderson Consulting then worked backwards from that goal, and developed the strategy and tactics to achieve it. They presented Monsanto with the steps and procedures needed to obtain a place of industry dominance in a world in which natural seeds were virtually extinct. Integral to the plan was Monsanto's influence in government, whose role was to promote the technology worldwide and to help get the foods into the marketplace quickly, before resistance could get in the way. A biotech consultant later said, 'The hope of the industry is that over time, the market is so flooded that there's nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender.' The anticipated pace of conquest was revealed by a conference speaker from another biotech company. He showed graphs projecting the year-by-year decrease of natural seeds, estimating that in five years, about 95 percent of all seeds would be genetically modified. While some audience members were appalled at what they judged to be an arrogant and dangerous disrespect for nature, to the industry this was good business. Their attitude was illustrated in an excerpt from one of Monsanto's advertisements: 'So you see, there really isn't much difference between foods made by Mother Nature and those made by man. What's artificial is the line drawn between them.' To implement their strategy, the biotech companies needed to control the seeds-so they went on a buying spree, taking possession of about 23 percent of the world's seed companies. Monsanto did achieve the dominant position, capturing 91 percent of the GM food market. But the industry has not met their projections of converting the natural seed supply. Citizens around the world, who do not share the industry's conviction that these foods are safe or better, have not 'just sort of surrendered.'"
From The Book 'Seeds Of Deception' By Jeffrey Smith
Yes! Books (September 2003)

"Two North American Farmers are touring Australia to warn about their experiences with genetically modified (GM) food crops. The farmers, Moe Parr and Ross Murray say more than  a decade of growing GM crops in North America has resulted in increased corporate control of farming and reduced profits for farmers. As Australian farmers prepare to plant this year’s canola crop, the North Americans will speak at forums across key canola growing regions in Victoria, South Australia, Western Australia and New South Wales.  The farmers are speaking to parliamentarians at the Victoria Parliament today, and will be speaking to farmers in Horsham on Saturday at 2pm at the Wellesley Performing Arts Centre.  In 2008, small quantities of GM canola were grown commercially in New South Wales and Victoria after these two states lifted moratoria. Western Australia has also announced that it will allow large-scale field trials of GM canola for the first time this year. ........Mr  Murray, a farmer from Saskatchewan, Canada, grew GM Roundup Ready canola for some years. He said he found that it failed to deliver industry promises. 'GM canola doesn’t stack up; it doesn’t yield more than conventional canola, whereas it costs more to grow,' he said. 'But now farmers don’t have a choice; non-GM canola has been eliminated by genetic contamination.'"
Canadian Farmer, and Roundup Ready oilsseed rape grower, Ross Murray
Weekly Times, Australia, 26 February 2009

"Between 1995 and 2005 Monsanto acquired over 50 seed companies throughout the world. These companies produce corn, cotton, wheat, and soy bean. And also seeds for tomatoes, potatoes, and sorghum. Everywhere people worry about Monsanto's monopoly, which in the long-term threatens to wipe out all non-transgenic varieties."
The World According To Monsanto
ARTE Documentary, 11 March 2008

"It's David vs. Goliath, and Latham Hi-Tech Seeds is holding the sling. But instead of stones, representatives with the small north-central Iowa seed company say they're armed with unbiased information to help make customers money. While Latham officials say they know they're not going to take down seed giants like Monsanto, they believe the company can still battle the big boys. In fact, Latham is leading the charge against consolidation in the seed industry. Thirteen months ago, its former president led an industry-wide effort to make farmers aware of their independent seed options when more and more regional companies were being bought by larger national and international corporations.....John Latham, who, with his wife, Shannon, purchased 90 percent of the family business in March and became president, said farmers often don't realize seed companies have been purchased. Once that happens, he said that particular dealer will only push the parent company's products -- genetics, weed and insect control, etc. -- even though they might not be as good for a producer's operation. 'We have access to a lot of traits and genetics and don't tout one over the other,' said John Latham, whose father, Bill, spearheaded the independent movement. 'We think independent companies work for the best interest of farmers.' Today there are probably only 100 independent seed companies left, according to IPSA CEO Greg Ruehle. That's down from more than 300 companies -- both independent and consolidated -- 13 years ago, he said. Since the campaign began, an estimated 25 companies sold out or went out of business.' ISU [Iowa State University] economist Mike Duffy said consolidation has hurt producers. While he concedes it has spurred production, Duffy said farmers are paying more for seed than they should due to less competition and choices are more limited. On Tuesday, Duffy said a producer called and said he couldn't find corn seed in Iowa that wasn't genetically modified. Corn seed that cost $50 to $100 a bag 10 years ago, now tops $350 for hybrids with stacked traits. 'When you have a few firms, the ability to set price is greater,' Duffy said. 'That's also a problem.'"
Independent Seed Companies a Dying Breed
Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier (Iowa), 1 June 2009

Building Seed Monopolies Armed With The Protection Of GM Patents

"The crop-biotechnology wars are heating up again, with Monsanto Co. filing a patent-infringement lawsuit against archrival DuPont Co., which responded by calling Monsanto a monopolist. The lawsuit, filed Monday in federal district court in Monsanto's hometown of St. Louis, is aimed at forcing DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred seed business to dismantle a herbicide-resistant soybean plant that DuPont hopes to begin selling to farmers in 2011. The new seed contains two genes that have been modified to make the plant tolerate herbicides. One is a DuPont gene that allows the soybean plant to tolerate exposure to glyphosate-based weedkiller as well as to another herbicide called acetolate synthase. The seed project has long been touted by DuPont, of Wilmington, Del., as part of its strategy to offer farmers an alternative to herbicide-tolerant soybeans using Monsanto biotechnology. ..... The suit was prompted by the other gene, developed by Monsanto. Monsanto argues in its lawsuit -- the public form of which is heavily redacted -- that the 2002 contract that gave DuPont access to Monsanto's gene prohibits DuPont from combining it with any other company's glyphosate-tolerant gene in the same plant. DuPont fired back late Tuesday that Monsanto's prohibition on combining its genes with those of other companies to form new seeds, called 'stacking,' was neutralized in 2008 when the U.S. Justice Department ordered Monsanto to abandon similar restrictions on cottonseed breeders. 'Monsanto's so-called 'stacking' restriction is one of many practices that Monsanto engages in to limit the availability of competitive products,' DuPont said in a statement, which added that 'seed companies should be able to offer combinations of traits and germplasm without restrictions imposed by trait providers that attempt to limit those combinations.'"
Monsanto Sues DuPont Over Biotech Patents
Wall St Journal, 7 May 2009

"... in the 1960s, new opportunities arose for the private sector with the enactment of legislation establishing stronger forms of legal protection for new seed varieties. In the 1980s and 1990s, yet more opportunities came from genetic engineering technologies, whereby transgenic varieties could be granted utility patents, just like mechanical devices. The ability to patent new plant varieties meant that the private inventor of a transgenic variety had a form of legal protection which was much stronger than the 1960s version of plant breeders' rights….In turn, this gave inventors an enhanced means of extracting profit from the new plant varieties. The congruence of this new 'high-tech' approach to crop improvement, with the ability to patent the resulting transgenic seed varieties, stimulated much of the private sector renaissance in the agribusiness sector. Between the mid-1980s and the late 1990s, the private sector duly emerged as the dominant force in many aspects of crop research and breeding across the industrialised world. The dominance of the private sector has been especially marked in those crops that are traded as major commodities on world markets. Examples include maize, wheat, soybean, oilseed rape and cotton. For some of these crops, public sector breeding work declined dramatically as the companies expanded their market share.... "
Denis Murphy - Professor of Biotechnology, University of Glamorgan

Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture'
Cambridge University Press, 2007

"We have seen that the major driving force behind the massive private sector expansion into crop development of the 1980s and 1990s was the development of transgenic crops. Unlike other types of crops, transgenic varieties could be protected via the utility patent route, which gave a much more powerful form of ownership than plant breeders' rights. Companies who wished to develop transgenic crops were further assisted by a relatively lax patenting regime, especially before 1995. During this period, many patents were granted that, even at the time, were recognised as being of inordinate breadth in the scope of their claims. Therefore, the emergence of the private sector as the dominant player in crop breeding was stimulated by the conjunction of new legislation and new technologies, the combination of which allowed companies to develop potentially lucrative business models in a hitherto rather unprofitable are of agricultural commerce. "
Denis Murphy - Professor of Biotechnology, University of Glamorgan
'Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture'
Cambridge University Press, 2007

"The new 'dumbed down' commercial version of genetic engineering was used to manipulate some of the most basic and scientifically simple production traits, such as herbicide tolerance and insect resistance. As we all knew, these particular traits had already been successfully manipulated by non-transgenic methods. This meant that, in breeding terms at least, there was little qualitative novelty involved in the new developments. Therefore herbicide tolerance and insect resistance traits tended to be of little interest to most researchers. However, despite their lack of any particularly innovative qualities (in scientific terms), these new transgenic crop varieties were much more easily patentable, simply by virtue of being transgenic."
Denis Murphy - Professor of Biotechnology, University of Glamorgan
'Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture'
Cambridge University Press, 2007

"Government organisations involved in implementing the privatisations of the 1980s and 1990s did not appreciate that private sector firms had neither the capacity nor the desire to assume all the functions of the institutions that they were purchasing. Rather, companies sought to acquire access to high-quality breeding lines from the public laboratories, into which they could insert their own proprietary genes of interest...."
Denis Murphy - Professor of Biotechnology, University of Glamorgan
'Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture'
Cambridge University Press, 2007

"Given the hype that surrounded genetic engineering and agbiotech in the late 1980s, and well into the 1990s, it was quite natural that many company researchers tended to focus on modern molecular-based technologies for crop improvement. This was very much at the expense of work on the relatively unglamorous and unprofitable (because they could not be so readily patented) traditional breeding techniques. During the 1990s, transgenic crop technology was hyped up by everybody, from university scientists anxious for research funding to company PR staff in search of venture capital....the focus on many agriculture-related companies was becoming increasingly skewed towards business models that involved the use of a narrow subset of new and proprietary molecular-based technologies, i.e. agbiotech, rather than using the wider range of existing public domain breeding technologies..."
Denis Murphy - Professor of Biotechnology, University of Glamorgan
'Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture'
Cambridge University Press, 2007

"As of mid-2006, the agbiotech industry was dominated by Monsanto, Syngenta, and Bayer, plus the former chemical company DuPont.... Although they are much smaller than the major global pharmaceutical concerns, these four agbiotech companies are still multinational giants. Collectively, they control most of the world seed market and plant breeding industry. The 'big four' are especially dominant in the arena of agbiotech IPR [intellectual property rights], where they owned over 77% of all US utility patents in 2005…."
Denis Murphy - Professor of Biotechnology, University of Glamorgan
'Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture'
Cambridge University Press, 2007

"The second issue that confronts the private sector in the longer term is whether the dominance of a few large companies that own most of the IPR (i.e. patents) and PBR (plant breeders rights) will stifle the entry of new players into the market and therefore act as a break to innovation. According to the USDA, the mergers of the 1990s resulted in a concentration of patent ownership in the agbiotech sector whereby the top ten patent assignees controlled over half of agbiotech patents issued before 2000....."
Denis Murphy - Professor of Biotechnology, University of Glamorgan
'Plant Breeding and Biotechnology: Societal Context and the Future of Agriculture'
Cambridge University Press, 2007

Phasing Out Non-GM Varieties
Transgenic Ransom - 'Buy Our GM Seed Or You Will Find We Will Supply You With Nothing'

"Welsh farmers are calling for an informed debate over the use of genetically modified crops so they can compete fairly in the global marketplace. Dyfed CLA chairman Walter Simon says farmers should be allowed to have the choice to make use of scientific developments.... 'It’s not just GMs. There will be other technologies that we need to take advantage of if we are to compete on an equal footing. One of the problems of a GM-free Wales is that some of the large seed houses will tend to ignore us because we are not using their full portfolio.'.......... NFU Cymru president Dai Davies said he shared the Prince’s [of Wales'] fears that the GM companies could hold farmers to ransom...”
Farmers call for GM debate
Western Mail, 19 August 2008

"In the debate around increasing food prices, German Consumer Affairs Minister Horst Seehofer has attacked the bosses of the international food and feed industry. Instead of focusing on people all they were looking at is the maximizing of profits. Faced with the threat of imminent famines Federal Minister for Consumer Affairs (CSU) has expressed massive criticism of the international food and animal feed industry. 'They are primarily interested in maximizing profits and not in provisioning people', said CSU Vice Chairman Seehofer on Sunday to Bild am Sonntag. 'It is not acceptable that in the U.S. there is essentially only one corporation left that supplies seed. This means farmers are blackmailed there and in the developing countries as well.'"
'The farmers are being blackmailed'
Süddeutsche Zeitung, 24 April 2008

"Farmers in Brazil's Mato Grosso, the country's top soy state, are shunning once-heralded, genetically modified soy varieties in favor of conventional seeds after the hi-tech type showed poor yields. 'We're seeing less and less planting of GMO soy around here. It doesn't give consistent performance,' said Jeferson Bif, who grows soy and corn on a large 1,800 hectare farm in Ipiranga do Norte, near the key Mato Grosso soy town of Sorriso. He said he obtained average yields of 58 bags (60 kg) per hectare with  conventional soy last season while fields planted with GMO soy in the same year yielded 10 bags less. Growers began illegally using genetically modified varieties of soy even before Brazil passed a biosafety law around four years ago permitting their use, in the hope of gaining higher yields and reducing production costs. Around half of Mato Grosso's soy is estimated to be genetically modified but the tide is turning against it.....Farmers in Mato Grosso also benefit from better support from cooperatives and government bodies which provide advice and technical assistance and help them maximize yields even with conventional soy..... Alexsander Gheno, agronomist at APAgri consultancy, said .... the momentum that GMO crops have gained may see them chase out conventional soy in the long run, even if growers don't prefer the  high-tech varieties. 'Companies have been focusing their research on GMO soy more than on conventional ones. So in 10 years we could have 100 percent of the area planted with GMO soy not because this was farmers' choice exactly but because development of new conventional varieties is getting scarce.' he said."
Biggest Brazil soy state loses taste for GMO seed
Reuters, 13 March 2009

"'Another well-known Mid-South brand will soon disappear into the new world of corporate mergers. Delta and Pine Land’s Deltapine soybean varieties are being transitioned to Monsanto’s Asgrow soybean brand,' writes the Delta Farm Press today. That's funny. Farmers use the same word when they talk about their seed options these days. My choices seem to have 'disappeared,' they say. This announcement today is no surprise, of course, since we know Monsanto's acquisition of Delta & Pine Land last year means Delta & Pine's extensive breeding program and germplasm library are now owned by Monsanto. But what's bound to happen is that Monsanto will maintain a monopoly position by eliminating Delta & Pine from entering into partnerships with other seed companies to develop new traits and share genetic resources. Any research efforts between companies it doesn't own is foreclosed. Meaning, important traits useful to research and farmers may never be developed. Of course not. That's more competition, says Monsanto. That's also one more strike against farmers."
Delta & Pine's Soybeans Transfer to Monsanto
Organization For Competitive Markets, 23 July 2008

"Frank Morton faces a major threat to his livelihood. Morton’s business, Wild Garden Seed, which sells organic vegetable and flower seed in Philomath, Oregon, is threatened by the incursion of genetically modified sugar beets in Oregon’s Willamette Valley..... The Willamette Valley is also home to all the sugar beet seed production in the United States. Two large companies, Beta Seed and West Coast Beet Seed, supply seed to sugar beet farmers in Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, North Dakota, and other states where the beets are grown. Harvested beets are processed by seven processing companies, the biggest being American Crystal Sugar Company, based in Moorhead, Minnesota. These processors supply beet sugar, which accounts for one-half of the US sugar production, to food and candy manufacturers, such as Mars and Hershey’s. Three years ago, these processors decided to convert the entire US sugar beet production to Roundup Ready genetically modified varieties, developed by Monsanto Company. The industry said farmers needed the GM beets for better weed control. Unanimity was necessary, Morton says. 'If any one of the beet processors or a major candy company had rejected the idea of GM beets, the introduction would not have gone ahead.' Unlike corn and soybean production where non-GMO alternatives are available, the sugar beet processors did not want that option. 'This was a coordinated effort to genetically modify an entire sector of the processed food industry simultaneously and without holdouts that might otherwise have provided a source of conventional beet sugar to fulfill non-GMO consumer demand,' Morton says. Field trials of the GM beets began in the Willamette Valley in 2005—quietly, Morton says. 'The initial stages of GM beet seed production were carried out in secrecy for at least two years without other sugar beet seed growers having any knowledge or notification that GMOs were in the air, literally,' he says. The Oregon Department of Agriculture (ODA) did not ask for public comments nor notify anyone about the trials. 'A farming technology revolution went on silently for three years, and was definitely not televised, or bragged about,' Morton says."
Sugar beet industry converts to 100% GMO, disallows non-GMO option
The Organic & Non-GMO Report June 2008

Every Year The Biotech Industry Steadily Increases Its Grip On Farmers Seeds Supplies

"A recent report published by the Organic Center, an organic farming advocacy organization headquartered in Foster, Rhode Island, claims that the use of herbicides in weed control has risen sharply since transgenic crops’ commercial introduction in 1996. The report’s findings on herbicides are in stark contrast to the standard agrochemical industry line that transgenic crops have reduced the chemical load on the environment. .... 'If you want to keep this tool available and effective there has to be some way, short of fallowing a field, of delaying the development of resistant weeds,' says Robert Kremer, of the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service at Columbia, Missouri. The market dominance of transgenic crop varieties limits some of the options, however. 'It’s very difficult to go and find nontransgenic soybean,' he says."
Report blames GM crops for herbicide spike, downplays pesticide reductions
Nature Biotechnology 28, 112 - 113 (February 2010)

"Agribusiness company Monsanto Co. (MON) acquired a 49% stake in Brazilian cotton seed company MDM Sementes de Algodao Ltda for an undisclosed amount, Monsanto said. Monsanto has had a stake in MDM since 2007 when it acquired agribusiness biotech company Delta & Pine Land. Monsanto sells its Bollgard brand of genetically modified cotton seeds to Brazilian farmers."
Monsanto Acquires 49% Stake In Brazil Cotton Seed Co
CNN, 4 March 2009

"Monsanto Co said on Monday it has agreed to acquire Brazil-based Aly Participacoes Ltda for $290 million, the move will broaden the agricultural biotech company's presence into sugarcane breeding. Monsanto's acquisition of Aly Participacoes from Votorantim Novos Negocios Ltda and its sister company, Votorantim Industrial S.A., will be consummated with existing excess cash and will close as soon as is practical, Monsanto said in a statement..... St. Louis-based Monsanto, which makes crop protection chemicals and biotech seeds, already has a market-leading presence in many corn, cotton and soybean seed markets worldwide. The company is also expanding its presence in the vegetable seed market and earlier this year, it agreed to acquire Netherlands-based De Ruiter Seeds for $860 million. Monsanto already owns Seminis, which controls a large share of the North American vegetable seed market. Aly Participacoes operates sugarcane breeding and technology companies, CanaVialis S.A. and Alellyx S.A., both based in Brazil. CanaVialis is the world's largest private sugarcane breeding company, while Alellyx is focused on developing biotech traits primarily for sugarcane....In 2007, Monsanto had already established a licensing and trait-collaboration agreement with CanaVialis and Alellyx to develop and commercialize certain technologies for sugarcane growers in Brazil."
Monsanto to acquire Brazil's Aly for $290 mln
Reuters, 3 November 2008

"Monsanto Company announced that it has completed its proposed acquisition of Marmot, S.A., which operates Semillas Cristiani Burkard (SCB), a privately-held seed company headquartered in Guatemala City, Guatemala. SCB is the leading Central American corn seed company focused on hybrid corn production. The company has long-standing relationships with farmers and works with more than 900 dealers in the Central American region. The acquisition will build on Monsanto's corn business leadership in Latin and Central America, and enable it to offer farmers in Central American countries broader access to corn seed products....Founded in 1966, Semillas Cristiani Burkard is a leading seed company in the Latin America Tropics headquartered in Guatemala. It is devoted to the development of seed for corn, grain sorghum, forage sorghum hybrids and soybean varieties."
Monsanto Company Completes Acquisition of Semillas Cristiani Burkard
Monsanto Press Release, 2 July 2008

"ETC Group today releases a 48-page report, 'Who Owns Nature?' on corporate concentration in commercial food, farming, health and the strategic push to commodify the planet’s remaining natural resources.... From thousands of seed companies and public breeding institutions three decades ago, 10 companies now control more than two-thirds of global proprietary seed sales....Who Owns Nature? warns that, with engineering of living organisms at the nano-scale (a.k.a. synthetic biology), industry is setting the stage for a corporate grab that extends to all of nature."
Who Owns Nature?
ETC Group, 13 November 2008

Click Here To Download ETC Report 'Who Owns Nature'

"Due to concerns regarding rising seed prices and industry concentration, the Department of Justice and the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced recently they will examine competition and antitrust concerns in the seed industry. According to information from the Department of Justice, the two agencies will hold public workshops to explore competition issues in the agriculture industry. The first such event will be held in early 2010. While some of the workshops might be held in Washington, D.C., others will be held regionally. The agencies are soliciting public comments from lawyers, economists, agribusinesses, consumer groups, academics, agricultural producers, ag cooperatives and other interested parties. Steve Hixon, of Steve's Seed Conditioning in Claremont, has long been frustrated by what he calls 'anti-competitive' behavior in the seed industry, but sees this as a positive step. 'I have expectations that the Justice Dept. will finally enforce accountability,' Hixon said in written comments. One company in particular, Monsanto, has drawn the ire of Hixon and others for what they see as monopolistic behavior. He stated that Monsanto's exclusionary behavior 'could only be accomplished using their various forms of influence like a well-oiled machine.' He continued by stating that these forms include large financial contributions to elected officials, consuming state and federal bureaucracies, and 'covertly pointing' former employees into judicial positions, interfering with policy in organizations and associations 'that claim to represent us.'...Illinois Farm Bureau President Philip Nelson, who was in Olney recently to talk about the cap-and-trade issue with area Farm Bureau members, said the organization has not specifically spoken out on the USDA and Department of Justice examination of the seed issue. Nelson said one has to be careful any time there is an ongoing investigation. He said, however, that the Farm Bureau has weighed in on a number of mergers in the last six years in the seed and packing industry since he has been president. Without addressing Monsanto specifically, Nelson said the Farm Bureau shares concerns about concentration in the industry as a whole. He said there are four seed companies that control 75 percent of the marketplace and four packers on the livestock side of things. He said there are concerns about competition, noting both buying and selling, any time there are so few players."
Study of seed issue draws plenty of interest
Olney Daily Mail, 30 September 2009

"[With these seed price rises] It's just like I got hit with bad weather and got a poor yield. It just means I've got less in the bottom line. They can charge because they can do it, and get away with it. And us farmers just complain, and shake our heads and go along with it."
Markus Reinke, US corn and soybean farmer near Concordia, Missouri, on Monsanto's monopolistic seed pricing strategy

Associated Press, 14 December 2009

"Confidential contracts detailing Monsanto Co.'s business practices reveal how the world's biggest seed developer is squeezing competitors, controlling smaller seed companies and protecting its dominance over the multibillion-dollar market for genetically altered crops, an Associated Press investigation has found. With Monsanto's patented genes being inserted into roughly 95 percent of all soybeans and 80 percent of all corn grown in the U.S., the company also is using its wide reach to control the ability of new biotech firms to get wide distribution for their products, according to a review of several Monsanto licensing agreements and dozens of interviews with seed industry participants, agriculture and legal experts. Declining competition in the seed business could lead to price hikes that ripple out to every family's dinner table. That's because the corn flakes you had for breakfast, soda you drank at lunch and beef stew you ate for dinner likely were produced from crops grown with Monsanto's patented genes. Monsanto's methods are spelled out in a series of confidential commercial licensing agreements obtained by the AP. The contracts, as long as 30 pages, include basic terms for the selling of engineered crops resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, along with shorter supplementary agreements that address new Monsanto traits or other contract amendments. The company has used the agreements to spread its technology -- giving some 200 smaller companies the right to insert Monsanto's genes in their separate strains of corn and soybean plants. But, the AP found, access to Monsanto's genes comes at a cost, and with plenty of strings attached. For example, one contract provision bans independent companies from breeding plants that contain both Monsanto's genes and the genes of any of its competitors, unless Monsanto gives prior written permission -- giving Monsanto the ability to effectively lock out competitors from inserting their patented traits into the vast share of U.S. crops that already contain Monsanto's genes. Monsanto's business strategies and licensing agreements are being investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice and at least two state attorneys general, who are trying to determine if the practices violate U.S. antitrust laws. The practices also are at the heart of civil antitrust suits filed against Monsanto by its competitors, including a 2004 suit filed by Syngenta AG that was settled with an agreement and ongoing litigation filed this summer by DuPont in response to a Monsanto lawsuit.... At issue is how much power one company can have over seeds, the foundation of the world's food supply. Without stiff competition, Monsanto could raise its seed prices at will, which in turn could raise the cost of everything from animal feed to wheat bread and cookies. The price of seeds is already rising. Monsanto increased some corn seed prices last year by 25 percent, with an additional 7 percent hike planned for corn seeds in 2010. Monsanto brand soybean seeds climbed 28 percent last year and will be flat or up 6 percent in 2010, said company spokeswoman Kelli Powers....One contract provision likely helped Monsanto buy 24 independent seed companies throughout the Farm Belt over the last few years: that corn seed agreement says that if a smaller company changes ownership, its inventory with Monsanto's traits 'shall be destroyed immediately....The Monsanto contracts reviewed by the AP prohibit seed companies from discussing terms, and Monsanto has the right to cancel deals and wipe out the inventory of a business if the confidentiality clauses are violated. Thomas Terral, chief executive officer of Terral Seed in Louisiana, said he recently rejected a Monsanto contract because it put too many restrictions on his business. But Terral refused to provide the unsigned contract to AP or even discuss its contents because he was afraid Monsanto would retaliate and cancel the rest of his agreements....Monsanto acknowledged that U.S. Department of Justice lawyers are seeking documents and interviewing company employees about its marketing practices. The DOJ wouldn't comment. A spokesman for Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller said the office is examining possible antitrust violations. Additionally, two sources familiar with an investigation in Texas said state Attorney General Greg Abbott's office is considering the same issues. States have the authority to enforce federal antitrust law, and attorneys general are often involved in such cases..... recent price hikes have still been tough to swallow on the farm....'It's just like I got hit with bad weather and got a poor yield. It just means I've got less in the bottom line,' said Markus Reinke, a corn and soybean farmer near Concordia, Mo. who took over his family's farm in 1965. 'They can charge because they can do it, and get away with it. And us farmers just complain, and shake our heads and go along with it.' ...Other seed companies have followed Monsanto's lead by including restrictive clauses in their licensing agreements, but their products only penetrate smaller segments of the U.S. seed market. Monsanto's Roundup Ready gene, on the other hand, is in such a wide array of crops that its licensing agreements can have a massive effect on the rules of the marketplace. Monsanto was only a niche player in the seed business just 12 years ago. It rose to the top thanks to innovation by its scientists and aggressive use of patent law by its attorneys....as Monsanto became among the first to widely patent its genes and gain the right to strictly control how they were used. That control let it spread its technology through licensing agreements, while shaping the marketplace around them. Back in the 1970s, public universities developed new traits for corn and soybean seeds that made them grow hardy and resist pests. Small seed companies got the traits cheaply and could blend them to breed superior crops without restriction. But the agreements give Monsanto control over mixing multiple biotech traits into crops. The restrictions even apply to taxpayer-funded researchers. Roger Boerma, a research professor at the University of Georgia, is developing specialized strains of soybeans that grow well in southeastern states, but his current research is tangled up in such restrictions from Monsanto and its competitors. 'It's made one level of our life incredibly challenging and difficult,' Boerma said.... Monsanto's provision requiring companies to destroy seeds containing Monsanto's traits if a competitor buys them prohibited DuPont or other big firms from bidding against Monsanto when it snapped up two dozen smaller seed companies over the last five years, said David Boies, a lawyer representing DuPont who previously was a prosecutor on the federal antitrust case against Microsoft Corp. Competitive bids from companies like DuPont could have made it far more expensive for Monsanto to bring the smaller companies into its fold. But that contract provision prevented bidding wars, according to DuPont. 'If the independent seed company is losing their license and has to destroy their seeds, they're not going to have anything, in effect, to sell,' Boies said. 'It requires them to destroy things -- destroy things they paid for -- if they go competitive. That's exactly the kind of restriction on competitive choice that the antitrust laws outlaw.' Some independent seed company owners say they feel increasingly pinched as Monsanto cements its leadership in the industry. 'They have the capital, they have the resources, they own lots of companies, and buying more. We're small town, they're Wall Street,' said Bill Cook, co-owner of M-Pride Genetics seed company in Garden City, Mo., who also declined to discuss or provide the agreements. 'It's very difficult to compete in this environment against companies like Monsanto.' "
AP investigation: Monsanto seed biz role revealed
Associated Press, 14 December 2009


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