European Patent Office Upholds Decision to Revoke Neem Patent; other news
(Saturday, March 12, 2005 -- CropChoice news) -- 1. Monsanto wins Bt case 1. Monsanto wins Bt case: Court Finds in Favor of Monsanto Company in Antitrust Case Brought by Activist ST. LOUIS (March 7, 2005) - Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) announced today
that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit denied efforts to certify
an antitrust class action suit levied against Monsanto and other companies
over biotechnology seed products sold to U.S. farmers. "Today's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals upholds the rulings made by the
District Court last year," said Charles Burson, general counsel for
Monsanto. "This affirmation helps bring this litigation advanced by a
longtime critic of biotechnology one step closer to its end. We believe that
the plaintiffs in this case do not represent American farmers' opinions or
experience about biotechnology farm products." The original lawsuit was filed in 1999. In October 2003, the U.S. District
Court originally denied the plaintiffs' efforts to certify a class action
against Monsanto. Previously, the Court had granted Monsanto summary
judgment on all the plaintiffs' claims that Monsanto wrongly introduced
biotech crops. In December 2003, the plaintiffs chose to appeal the District Court ruling
that denied the plaintiffs' efforts to certify an antitrust class action
against Monsanto. Today's ruling by the Court of Appeals upholds the earlier decision by the
District Court to deny class action status to plaintiffs' antitrust claims.
Further, the District Court's decision dismissing the plaintiffs' claim
Monsanto wrongfully commercialized biotech crops still stands. Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions
and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality.
For more information on Monsanto, see http://www.monsanto.com . 2. Glyphosate Toxic and Roundup is Worse ISIS Press Release 07/03/05, http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GTARW.php Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Joe Cummins call for urgent regulatory review
of the most widely used herbicide in the light of new scientific evidence.
(Saturday, March 12, 2005 -- CropChoice news) --
1. Monsanto wins Bt case
1. Monsanto wins Bt case: Court Finds in Favor of Monsanto Company in Antitrust Case Brought by Activist
ST. LOUIS (March 7, 2005) - Monsanto Company (NYSE: MON) announced today that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit denied efforts to certify an antitrust class action suit levied against Monsanto and other companies over biotechnology seed products sold to U.S. farmers.
"Today's ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals upholds the rulings made by the District Court last year," said Charles Burson, general counsel for Monsanto. "This affirmation helps bring this litigation advanced by a longtime critic of biotechnology one step closer to its end. We believe that the plaintiffs in this case do not represent American farmers' opinions or experience about biotechnology farm products."
The original lawsuit was filed in 1999. In October 2003, the U.S. District Court originally denied the plaintiffs' efforts to certify a class action against Monsanto. Previously, the Court had granted Monsanto summary judgment on all the plaintiffs' claims that Monsanto wrongly introduced biotech crops.
In December 2003, the plaintiffs chose to appeal the District Court ruling that denied the plaintiffs' efforts to certify an antitrust class action against Monsanto.
Today's ruling by the Court of Appeals upholds the earlier decision by the District Court to deny class action status to plaintiffs' antitrust claims. Further, the District Court's decision dismissing the plaintiffs' claim Monsanto wrongfully commercialized biotech crops still stands.
Monsanto Company is a leading global provider of technology-based solutions and agricultural products that improve farm productivity and food quality. For more information on Monsanto, see http://www.monsanto.com .
2. Glyphosate Toxic and Roundup is Worse
ISIS Press Release 07/03/05, http://www.i-sis.org.uk/GTARW.php
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Prof. Joe Cummins call for urgent regulatory review of the most widely used herbicide in the light of new scientific evidence.New research findings are raising serious concerns over the safety of the most commonly used herbicide, and should be sending shockwaves through proponents of genetically modified (GM) crops made tolerant to the herbicide, which now account for 75% of all GM crops in the world.
Broad-spectrum herbicide glyphosate (N-(phosphonomethyl)glycine), commonly sold in the commercial formulation Roundup (Monsanto company, St. Louis, Missouri USA) has been frequently used both on crops and non-crops areas world wide since it was introduced in the 1970s. Roundup is a combination of glyphosate with other chemicals including a surfactant (detergent) polyoxyethyleneamine that enhance the spreading of the spray droplets on the leaves of plants. The use of Roundup has gone up especially in countries growing Roundup-tolerant GM crops created by Monsanto.
Glyphosate kills plants by inhibiting the enzyme, 5-enolpyruvoyl-shikimate-3-phosphate synthetase (EPSPS), essential for the formation of aromatic amino acids such as phenylalanine, tyrosine and tryptophan; which leads onto vitamins and many secondary metabolites such as folates, ubiquinones and naphthoquines. It is believed to be rather specific in action and less toxic than other herbicides, because the shikimate pathway is not present in mammals and humans. However, glyphosate acts by preventing the binding of phosphoenol pyruvate to the active site of the enzyme, and phosphoenol pyruvate is a core metabolite present in all organisms; thus it has the potential to affect other metabolic pathways. This is borne out by many reports of toxicities associated with the herbicide reviewed in the Independent Science Panel Report, The Case for a GM-free Sustainable World .
An epidemiological study in the Ontario farming populations showed that glyphosate exposure nearly doubled the risk of late spontaneous abortions , and Prof. Eric-Giles Seralini and his research team from Caen University in France decided to find out more about the effects of the herbicide on cells from the human placenta.
They have now shown that glyphosate is toxic to human placental cells, killing a large proportion of them after 18 hr of exposure at concentrations below that in agricultural use . Moreover, Roundup is always more toxic than its active ingredient, glyphosate; at least by two-fold. The effect increased with time, and was obtained with concentrations of Roundup 10 times lower than agricultural use.
The enzyme aromatase is responsible for making the female hormones estrogens from androgens (the male hormones). Glyphosate interacts with the active site of the enzyme but its effect on enzyme activity was minimal unless Roundup was present.
Interestingly, Roundup increased enzyme activity after 1 h of incubation, possibly because of its surfactant effect in making the androgen substrate more available to the enzyme. But at 18h incubation, Roundup invariably inhibited enzyme activity; the inhibition being associated with a decrease in mRNA synthesis, suggesting that Roundup decreased the rate of gene transcription. Seralini and colleagues suggest that other ingredients in the Roundup formulation enhance the availability or accumulation of glyphosate in cells.
There is, indeed, direct evidence that glyphosate inhibits RNA transcription in animals at a concentration well below the level that is recommended for commercial spray application Transcription was inhibited and embryonic development delayed in sea urchins following exposure to low levels of the herbicide and/or the surfactant polyoxyethyleneamine. The pesticide should be considered a health concern by inhalation during spraying .
New research shows that a brief exposure to commercial glyphosate caused liver damage in rats, as indicated by the leakage of intracellular liver enzymes. In this study, glyphosate and its surfactant in Roundup were also found to act in synergy to increase damage to the liver .
Three recent case-control studies suggested an association between glyphosate use and the risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma [6-8]; while a prospective cohort study in Iowa and North Carolina that includes more than 54 315 private and commercial licensed pesticide applicators suggested a link between glyphosate use and multiple myoeloma . Myeloma has been associated with agents that cause either DNA damage or immune suppression. These studies did not distinguish between Roundup and glyphosate, and it would be important for that to be done.
There is now a wealth of evidence that glyphosate requires worldwide health warnings and new regulatory review. Meanwhile, its use should be reduced to a minimum as a matter of prudent precaution.
The Institute of Science in Society, PO Box 32097, London NW1 OXR telephone: [44 20 8452 2729] [44 20 7272 5636] http://www.i-sis.org.uk - ISIS Director firstname.lastname@example.org
3. European Patent Office Upholds Decision to Revoke Neem PatentNews release by Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology, New Delhi, India; The Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM)
Munich, March 8, 2005. In a landmark decision today, the European Patent Office upheld a decision to revoke in its entirety a patent on a fungicidal product derived from seeds of the Neem, a tree indigenous to the Indian subcontinent. The historic action resulted from a legal challenge mounted ten years ago by three Opponents: the renowned Indian environmentalist Vandana Shiva, Magda Aelvoet, then MEP and President of the Greens in the European Parliament, and the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM). Their joint Legal Opposition claimed that the fungicidal properties of the Neem tree had been public knowledge in India for many centuries and that this patent exemplified how international law was being misused to transfer biological wealth from the South into the hands of a few corporations, scientists, and countries of the North. Today the EPO’s Technical Board of Appeals dismissed an Appeal by the would-be proprietors—the United States of America and the company Thermo Trilogy—and maintained the decision of its Opposition Division five years ago to revoke the Neem patent in its entirety, thus bringing to a close this ten-year battle in the world’s first legal challenge to a biopiracy patent.
Dr. Vandana Shiva, who travelled from India to be present at today’s hearing, commented, "What a lovely celebration for the women of India that this long-awaited decision falls on March 8th, International Women’s Day. Denying the patent means upholding the value of traditional knowledge for millions of women not only in India, but throughout the South. The FREE TREE WILL STAY FREE. This victory is the result of extremely long solidarity. It is a victory of committed citizens over commercial interests and big powers."
Magda Aelvoet, Belgian Minister of State and former Health and Environment Minister, was President of the Green Group in the European Parliament when the original Opposition was submitted. Just after the ruling, she commented, "Our victory against biopiracy is threefold. First, it is a victory for traditional knowledge and practices. This is the first time anybody has been able to have a patent rejected on these grounds. Second, it is a victory for solidarity: With the people of developing countries—who have definitively earned the sovereign rights to their natural resources—and and with our colleagues in the NGOs, who fought with us against this patent for the last ten years. And third, coming as it does on International Women's Day, this is also a victory for women. The three people who successfully argued this case against the might of the U.S. administration and its corporate allies, were women: Vandana Shiva, Linda Bullard and myself. It can also inspire and help people from developing countries who suffer the same kind of theft but did not think it was possible to combat it."
Linda Bullard, former President of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM), stated, "We are deeply gratified that through our case the EPO has recognized the intellectual achievements of the South. We were able to establish that traditional knowledge systems can be a means of establishing "prior art" and thus used to destroy the claims of "novelty" and "inventiveness" in these biopiracy patents. This now becomes case law, but the historic precedent must be further developed and transposed into overall international legal frameworks so that this type of theft is no longer possible."
Although two days had been set aside to examine the Appeal, the case was so clear that the Technical Board of Appeals needed only two hours to reach a decision to dismiss the Appeal.
The Opponents were legally represented throughout the ten year battle by Prof. Dr. Fritz Dolder, Professor Intellectual Property with the Faculty of Law at the University of Basel, in Switzerland.* Dr. Dolder explained that a reformulated claim submitted by the patent holders as part of their Appeal was rejected on formal grounds. Subsequently, the main body of the patent was tested with regard to novelty, disclosure, and inventive step…"and revoked irrevocably! This is the first time that the EPO has legally concluded a biopiracy case."
For further information, contact:
Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology: + 91/11-26561868, -26968077, 26535422; E-mail: email@example.com; Web Site www.navdanya.org
The Greens/European Free Alliance in the European Parliament: +32 2 284-1692; E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org; Web Site www.greens-efa.org
IFOAM: +49 228 926-5016; E-mail email@example.com; Web Site www.ifoam.org
*The lawyer for the Opponents, Dr. Fritz Dolder, is also available for questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
4. Stink bugs are eating Bt farmers' "lunch"
Delta Farm Press, USA, 5 Jan2005 via GM Watch
PORTLAND, Ark. -- A pesky rain is falling on open cotton and the harvesting help has gone home, but Bruce Bond isn't overly concerned. After all, the harvest has gone well up to now, cotton is still hanging on the stalk, and for Bond, there's not a better place to farm in the world.
Bond's optimism is refreshing, especially when it's so easy to get bogged down by cotton's high-cost squeeze or a spell of bad weather. Bond's upbeat approach to profitability, conservation and quality is why the Portland, Ark., cotton producer was named the 2005 High Cotton award winner for the Mid-South.
Bond farms 1,760 acres of cotton and 135 acres of soybeans...
While Bt cotton has reduced control costs for heliothine pests, "now secondary pests -- plant bugs and stink bugs -- are eating our lunch," Bond says. "I probably have $90 an acre in insecticide costs on Bt cotton. I think that's too much, especially when I pay $32 right up front.
"Next year, I'd like to bump the non-Bt cotton acreage up a bit. I planted my refuge cotton on the worst ground I have, and one 23-acre field of it was some of the best cotton I picked this year."
6. Cotton insect shifts documented in North Carolina
by Cecil H. Yancy Jr.
Since the adoption of Bollgard cotton in North Carolina, damage from bollworms has decreased while stink bug problems have increased.
Jack Bacheler, North Carolina State University Extension entomologist, along with Extension agents, conducted the research from 1996-2003. Robeson County Extension Field Crops Agent Georgia Love prepared and presented the research at a recent field day.
The boll damage survey comes from randomly sampling 1,252 producer fields over the eight-year period.
The percentage of damaged bolls from bollworms likewise decreased to 1.54 percent in the Bollgard cotton to 4.99 percent in conventional cotton.
The percent of damaged bolls from stink bugs increased three-fold. Bollgard cotton had 2.96 percent damaged bolls from stink bugs compared with 1.04 percent for conventional cotton.
When comparing late-season insecticide sprays over the eight-year period, Bollgard cotton received 0.87 sprays compared with 2.63 sprays for conventional cotton.
Trends also suggest that stink bug damage is not showing a steady increase, but rather about the same percentage each year.
The total boll damage during the eight-year period for Bollgard cotton was 4.65 percent; for conventional, 6.54 percent.
Over the past two years, North Carolina growers have planted 71 percent of their acreage to Bollgard cotton.
Based on a 2002 study looking at beet armyworms in Edgecombe County, N.C., and comparing conventional, Bollgard and Bollgard II, Bacheler says it would appear that sprays for caterpillars in Bollgard II cotton will be very rare in North Carolina. "The potential for damage from bug pests will therefore increase."
7. United States will soon lead world in herbicide-resistant weeds
Date Posted: 3/7/2005
Southeast Farm Press via NewsEdge Corporation : While newly-arrived Asian soybean rust hogs the media spotlight, a home-grown monster patiently awaits its turn. If weed scientists are correct, the monster won't have long to wait.
"Very shortly, I think, the impact of herbicide resistance is going to be huge,î says Ford Baldwin, veteran Arkansas weed scientist "I've been saying so for a while, now. So have others. (With recent discoveries of resistant weeds) we've already had a little taste of what's to come, but it's going to be much worseÖ Sometimes it's hard to break through with bad news. Folks don't want to hear it because they really like newer technologies like Roundup Ready. But it's coming."
As the list of herbicide options shrinks, Stephen Powles points to his native Australia as a lesson to U.S. agriculture. Powles ó "the international expert on herbicide resistance," says Baldwin ó warns there's too little diversity in U.S. fields, there's too much reliance on glyphosate and the pipeline for new herbicide chemistries is "nearly dry."
Powles, director of the Western Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative (WAHRI), is currently visiting the United States. Following a late-January meeting with weed scientists in North Carolina, he spoke with Southeast Farm Press. Among his comments to a list of questions:
Please describe the environment, or environments, farmed in Australia. Is it a diverse landscape akin to the United States?
"Australia is about the same size as the continental United States. The big difference is we've only got 20 million residents, compared to your 290 million. There are an awful lot of similarities culturally between the two countries.
"Agriculture is a very important part of the Australian economy. Farms are very large there. Most serious family farms are 10,000-acre enterprises and are dominated by wheat.
"But just about all other crops are grown. There's a vibrant cotton industry. There's a small, but vibrant, rice industry as well. Since it's such a big country, there are areas suited to different crops. But it isn't nearly as blessed agriculturally as the United States."
Can you offer a quick sketch of your career and what you're involved with now?
"I've worked and studied in Australia, the United States and Europe. I began to see (herbicide) resistance in weeds showing up in the United States and Europe and thought, ëWell, this must also be occurring in Australia.í I decided to work in the field and found that not only had resistance occurred in Australia but had absolutely exploded. By far, we now have the biggest herbicide resistance problem in the world."
How did it come about?
"Thinking back to how the United States was settled by Europeans, it was a march westward. They developed agriculture as they went. In Australia, the same happened. When Europeans settled in 1788 onwards, agriculture came with them. But the chief industry they brought was sheep because the animal was very well-suited to the climate. So sheep numbers built up dramatically ó at one time, there were 400 million.
"The sheep had to eat something and the native prairies and pastures weren't suited to sheep grazing. So they brought in a great, valued pasture feed: ryegrass. The same grass farmers in America are familiar with was nurtured and planted in great density over 150 million acres. If you like, across half the continent ryegrass pastures were established for huge sheep farms.
"For 100 years sheep were kings, and ryegrass, by association, was, too. But about 1970 the price of sheep and wool began to drop. Eventually, cropping became king and ryegrass pastures were converted. There was always a small wheat industry in the country, but it started to really develop big-time.
"So now, imagine with me, you have a continent and across the southern half ryegrass has been planted at very high densities. Then, you convert that into one big no-till wheat field with very little diversity. Then you spray the hell out of this field with herbicides because now this plant, ryegrass, that you've encouraged for decades is your number one weed."
What products were being used to select ryegrass plants out with?
"What enabled this farming system to work was the development of the burndowns ó mostly paraquat and, 10 years later, glyphosate. Then, what really made it work were the selective herbicides like Hoelon that didn't kill the crop but did the weeds.
"In Australia, the sheep industry was the reason for planting this weed, ryegrass. That was fine until there was a change in farming from livestock to cropping. When that change happened, we'd set ourselves up with the world's biggest weed problem and potential for resistance.
"Ryegrass is highly genetically variable, is cross-pollinated and can easily develop resistance. As soon as we began selecting it with good herbicides like Hoelon, it quickly developed resistance. And it didn't just develop a resistance, but multiple resistances to many herbicides. I mean, we have ryegrass that's already resistant to herbicides yet to be discovered."
By spraying so much, did weeds other than ryegrass become resistant?
"We do have other problems, but ryegrass dwarfs other weeds. It's so dominant it actually suppresses other weeds."
Can you describe how you control this? In a typical year does it sprout everywhere on a farm?
"Every farm field in Australia has ryegrass. Farmers there have learned to manage this multi-resistant weed. They're doing fine, but not without considerable cost and planning.
"The first thing Australian farmers have to do is continue making money ó and they're working with no subsidies. They can't go out and do impractical things. For instance, they can't go with cultivation because the soils aren't suited for that. Plus, labor is extremely expensive in Australia. There are many constraints.
"So what are they doing? First, they use any herbicides that still work. For example, the burndown herbicides ó paraquat and glyphosate ó are extremely important. Thus far, there has been very little resistance of ryegrass to the burndowns. They have also found ways to use other herbicides creatively."
What methods would that include?
"All Australian farmers are using the ëyellowí herbicides. Everyone knows the yellows should be incorporated into the soil. But we can't do that since we're in no-till systems. Yet, we've learned how to use them in no-till situations. By getting a bit of soil ëthrowí during seeding operations, a higher rate of the herbicide can be used. By getting just a bit of soil to cover it, it works.
"We've also learned that we must look to non-herbicide solutions. So crop seeding rates have been increased 30 percent to 50 percent. This makes the crop more competitive against ryegrass. We wouldn't do that if herbicides alone worked.
"Some farmers also use devices attached to the harvesters ó sort of a trailing chaff cart. These catch the ryegrass seed instead of returning it to the field. That seed is then burned or fed to livestock.
"Ryegrass seed is small and has the advantage of not shattering. When a wheat crop is harvested, the ryegrass seed is still attached to the plant. You can get a lot of the seed going into the harvester. If you can separate that out, it's a great way to keep that seed from returning to a crop field. This practice has become very important for us.
"All of this can be summed up in one word: diversity. What was wrong ó and still is wrong ó with Australian cropping is a lack of diversity. That's the same thing wrong with U.S. agriculture. Weeds like ryegrass love a situation with little diversity."
You travel frequently and are very familiar with what's happening around the world agriculturally. If trends continue, what do you see for the United States and weed resistance?
"Your readership knows that the United States is the most technologically advanced nation in the world. They don't need some Australian telling them anything ó we're used to receiving messages from you, not giving them.
"But there is something Australia is number one 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."
What have your American weed scientist friends said when you tell them that?
"I think there's a number of university weed scientists that are incredibly concerned with this. You should seek their words rather than have me put words in their mouths. In our discussions, though, they are very concerned with the massive over-reliance on glyphosate in Roundup Ready crops.
"The advent of Roundup Ready is a fantastic technological development. It was a leap forward and was rightfully embraced by U.S. growers. The system is very attractive.
"But relying too much on any one biological system will have repercussions. The massive adoption of Roundup Ready across vast slices of the United States ó along with the persistent usage of glyphosate ó is a very strong selection pressure.
"Increasingly, U.S. weeds are surviving glyphosate. And a weed that can survive glyphosate is in herbicide heaven. Its competitors are killed while it can grow and reproduce. This is slowly but surely, and inexorably, occurring."
You've mentioned red flags you've seen in the United States. With those in mind, what would you do immediately and long-term to address the problem?
"In the end, this gets down to a farm-by-farm and field-by-field decision. You can't make sweeping generalizations about the United States ó it comes down to specifics. But the specifics always come back to one common theme. That theme is, again, ëdiversity.í There has to be diversity in cropping systems if they're to be sustainable.
"A cropping system that is a Roundup Ready crop followed by another followed by another and on and on isn't sufficiently diverse. I tell Australian farmers all the time, ëIf you strike on a good herbicide, don't stick to it. If you're getting fantastic weed control with glyphosate, change it anyway. Same is true for paraquat. Rotate the herbicides and use any non-herbicide tools that make economic sense. Have as much diversity as you can stand.í
"These are well-established principles that are widely accepted as truth around the world. Of course, economic realities drive decisions and the many benefits that Roundup Ready crops have given U.S. agriculture in particular make it easy to stick with. Diplomatically, I'd tell the U.S. grower that there's a serious over-reliance on glyphosate, and that puts the world's greatest herbicide at risk."
I believe farmers here instinctively know that. But family livelihoods are involved.
"And I say to them, ëWe all live in a pragmatic world. We're used to economic realities. But there is also a biological reality here too.í
"The truth is farmers are applied biologists. The biological reality is that glyphosate is a very precious resource. I'd argue that glyphosate is up there with penicillin as a once-in-a-hundred-years discovery.
"I know the vast majority of farmers want to leave their farms to their children in better shape than they found them. Those same farmers want glyphosate to work for the next generation.
"There aren't a bunch of new chemicals in the pipeline that will be available to replace glyphosate. There are none being developed anywhere near as good as glyphosate. The pipeline is, in fact, pretty dry.
"The international herbicide discovery industry ó now a number of companies counted on one hand ó is busy looking for new chemistries. And it will find them, although with increasing rarity. It certainly isn't finding new herbicides at the rate it used to.
"Something that I face everywhere is a belief by farmers that the next great herbicide is almost ready for release. There seems to be a desire to think that new herbicides will show up whenever needed.
"I don't blame farmers for holding that view. In large measure, that's been their experience. But the pipeline for unique, new herbicides is nearly dry."
Is Europe in the same herbicide resistance boat? India? South America?
"In general, herbicide resistance has so far occurred in big, industrialized agricultural landscape. That means Australia, the United States, Brazil, Canada and Argentina. That's where there are large fields, minimum-till and lack of diversity.
"There is some weed resistance in Europe, but not at the same level. Europeans have a much more diversified agriculture. They typically work smaller fields and have a rotation of a whole range of crops, and cultivation is routine.
"That said, we're also beginning to see resistance develop in less-industrialized countries like India, China, Thailand and other rice-producing nations."
(Editor's note: for more information on Powles' work, visit http://wahri.agric.uwa.edu.au/index.html )
7. SONOMA CO. SUPES AGREE TO PUT GMO ORDINANCE ON BALLOT
SANTA ROSA (BCN)-- Sonoma County's Board of Supervisors agreed this morning to place on the ballot a nuisance abatement ordinance that bans the growth and sale of genetically modified organisms in unincorporated Sonoma County for 10 years.
The ordinance will appear either on the Nov. 8 ballot or on the ballot of a special election Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger might call before then.
The board decided not to adopt outright the proposed ordinance today, preferring to put the controversial issue before voters.
The supervisors on Feb. 8 requested a study by the county administrator's office of the impacts of the proposed ordinance on the county.
The study found it would be "prudent to anticipate and budget for $250,000 per year for additional staffing, legal and investigative costs'' as a result of the ordinance if it is passed. The figure excludes any cleanup costs of sites contaminated with genetically modified organisms or GMOs.
The study notes the proposed Sonoma County GMO ordinance differs from similar measures passed in Marin and Mendocino counties because it expires in 10 years and the supervisors can alter the ordinance.
The proposed ordinance also contains the right to sue the Agricultural Commissioner to "compel compliance'' with the ordinance, the County Administrator's Office said.
"The ordinance also contains provocative statements regarding government regulatory agencies and the biotechnology industry that could send a discouraging message and impair economic development'' the study states. It also warns that provisions of the proposed ordinance could create "economic disincentive for biotechnology firms wishing to conduct business in the county.''
The study also concludes the proposed ordinance will not impact the county's competitive position in the wine and grape markets.
Supporters of the ordinance, GE-Free Sonoma County, collected enough signatures on petitions to put the issue on the ballot.
GE-Free campaign Director Dave Henson said there are costs of not passing the moratorium. Those costs include the loss of foreign and domestic markets for conventional and organic crops and the cost of environmental cleanup when GMOs contaminate the natural environment of the county, Henson said.
GE-Free Sonoma County campaign coordinator Daniel Solnit called the county's report "fatally flawed,'' "factually wrong on key points and full of unsubstantiated speculations with nothing to back them up.'' Solnit acknowledged the report was hastily prepared, but he said it "totally ignored the huge potential economic losses to farmers and the county government if we don't pass this initiative.''
The supervisors limited public comment this morning, stating the merits of the ordinance would be debated during the campaign before it appears on the ballot. Board members said they were only deciding today whether to put the issue before voters or pass the measure immediately as an ordinance.
8. White Earth members seek ban on genetically modified wild rice
March 8, 2005
Bemidji, Minn. - The lakes and rivers on the White Earth Indian Reservation in northwest Minnesota are, according to this story, an ideal habitat for wild rice, but the tribe is worried that resource could be threatened by the science of genetic engineering.
The story says that White Earth has become the first reservation in the U.S. to ban the introduction or growth of genetically-modified wild rice seeds and some White Earth Band members want the Legislature to ban genetically modified wild rice statewide.
The story says that for the Ojibwe people, wild rice is more than just a plant. Ancient prophecies lured the Ojibwe from their east coast origins to the Midwest, to a place where wild rice was plentiful. Mike Swan, White Earth's director of natural resources, was cited as saying that wild rice is considered a sacred gift from the Creator, adding, "We give offerings for it. We give thanks when we go out and get some food for our families. We give thanks to... the Great Spirit, for allowing us this. And in our own history, Ojibwe history, we came to this area because of this plant, food that grows on water, which is wild rice."
Tribal members are worried the wild rice that has sustained them for centuries could fall victim to genetic pollution. Winona LaDuke, founding director of the White Earth Land Recovery Project which markets White Earth's wild rice internationally, was cited as saying she is promoting a statewide ban on genetically modified wild rice and has teamed up with Slow Food International, an organization that promotes the biodiversity and cultural identity of foods worldwide, adding, "We believe it should be protected. We believe it shouldn't be genetically modified. And we're going to make a stand. And we believe the state of Minnesota should protect it as well, because it's a valuable and critical part of our state history and culture."