by Ronnie Cummins
Quotes of the Month:
"In summary, the risk to Monsanto's
shareholders from the company's genetic engineering business are
substantial… the company faces business constraints in the form
market rejection by consumers,
producers, and farmers
significant legislative hurdles
uncertainty in the face of human
health and environmental impacts stemming from the company's
significant risk exposure from
potential contamination of the human food chain by
unapproved genetically engineered traits."
Monsanto & Genetic Engineering:
Risks for Investors
A report prepared by Strategic Value Advisors (April 2003)
"Let's go eat some genetically
modified food for lunch,"
at a meeting with
EU officials in Washington, June 25, 2003
Democracy - Corralling the Critics
Running full speed to catch up with several thousand non-violent
protestors on "L" Street in Sacramento, I'm just a few yards ahead
of a advancing phalanx of Darth Vader look-alike cops, who
are brandishing stun guns and riot batons.
As a booming voice
announces via bullhorn "Leave the area immediately or you will all
be arrested," it's pretty clear that the White House's biotech
bullying has reached a new level of desperation.
Here at the June 23-25 USDA summit
conference on biotechnology in Sacramento, (sort of a warm-up event
for the September WTO Ministerial Meeting in Cancun), even the
police horses are decked out with ankle guards and head visors,
backed up by heavily-armed motorcycle cops, armored personnel
carriers, and an army of 2,000 riot police-dispatched to "protect"
500 international agricultural delegates from America's
As a government official from Africa remarks,
"I've never seen such a display of
police force, other than in Communist states."
Rounding a street corner, out of breath,
I watch a beefy policeman charge into a young woman and knock her to
the ground, apparently for the crime of standing too close to a
Starbucks café with a protest sign. Welcome to the post 9/11
Republic of Genetically Modified Democracy.
For more on the Sacramento protests see
Swarm - Driving Monsanto & Bush to Desperation
A thousand bee stings from global Civil Society have put Monsanto
and the other Gene Giants on virtual life-support.
for genetically engineered (GE) seeds and crops
are closing down, protests are continuing, scientific evidence of
risk is mounting, and regulations and labeling requirements are
As Mexico-based biotech analyst
Silvia Ribeiro from ETC Group stated at a teach-in in
"Five Gene Giants (Monsanto,
Syngenta, Dupont, Bayer, and Dow) selling four GE seed crops
(soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton), to farmers in three
countries (U.S., Canada, and Argentina) with two agricultural
traits (herbicide-resistant and Bt pesticide-spliced) have one
goal: control of the global food system."
The good news, reported daily on the
Organic Consumers Association website,
and in previous issues of BioDemocracy News and Organic Bytes,
is that the biotech industry's Master Plan for global domination
seems to be failing. Even with
George Bush leading the charge,
even with intimidation and bullying reaching new levels of
desperation, the Biotech Express has derailed.
Monsanto - whose GE seeds account
for a full 91% of all global Frankencrops - is in critical
condition. The company's stock values have fallen by 50%, reflecting
a loss of $1.7 billion on $4.7 billion in sales last year.
As revealed in recent news stories, and
a crucial investment report published in April 2003, by Strategic
Value Advisors, Monsanto and the agbiotech industry's mounting
"Global markets for GE seeds and
grains are shrinking, due to consumer resistance and mounting
export and labeling restrictions.
Global sales of GE seeds have
leveled off at $4.5 billion, while organic ($23 billion) and
non-GE food sales are booming. U.S. and Canadian farmers have
literally lost billions of dollars in export sales of GE-tainted
corn, soybeans, and canola. Even in the U.S., consumer concerns
are mounting. An ABC News poll released July 15, found that the
majority of U.S. consumers (55%) are now opposed to GE foods,
while 92% support mandatory labeling.
"New labeling and traceability laws are slowly but surely
closing down the market for the last billion dollars of US
GE-derived soybeans exported every year as animal feed to
Europe. Brazil, with a ban on GMOs (genetically modified
organisms), has now replaced the U.S. as the largest exporter of
soybeans in the world. According to the May 2003 trade
publication, The Non-GMO Source, Brazil will export $7.9
billion of soybeans this year, while the U.S. will export "less
than $7 billion."
"The international Biosafety Protocol, which requires the
labeling of seeds and "prior consent" from countries importing
GMOs, will come into force in September, despite objections from
Monsanto and the Bush administration. Meanwhile the WTO's food
standards body, the
Codex Alimentarius, has ruled
that countries may legally require their own additional safety
testing and mandatory labeling for GMOs, including animal feeds,
which currently account for more than
80% of the world's GE crops.
"Monsanto's only real commercial markets for GE seeds (the U.S.,
Canada, Argentina, and China) are quickly becoming saturated. A
full 80% of U.S. and 90% of Argentina's soybeans are already GE.
One-third of U.S. corn is GE, but this is mainly because
Monsanto has been selling
Roundup-Ready corn seeds at
bargain basement prices, a practice which it can no longer
Two-thirds of US cotton is already
GE. Canada's Roundup Ready canola acreage has shrunk from 14
million acres to 9 million acres. No other countries in the
world are likely to plant GE crops on a major commercial scale
in the near future. A mounting number of developing nations are
not even willing to take GE-tainted corn and soya in food aid
"Monsanto and the industry's main future crops and projected
profits are in serious jeopardy. GE wheat, rice, trees, and
biopharm drugs are facing unprecedented opposition, not only
from overseas buyers, but also from U.S. and Canadian farmers.
Even major trade associations such
as the National Food Processors Association and the
Grocery Manufacturers of America, and food giants such as
General Mills and Frito-Lay, have told Monsanto to
back off on GE wheat and biopharm crops.
'To the extent that consumers
want choice, they want to choose non-biotech,' said Karil
Kochenderfer, the biotechnology coordinator for the
Grocery Manufacturers of America, which represents food
companies such as Kraft and General Mills.
"While Monsanto and the biotech
industry continue to lie and paint a rosy future for GMOs in the
media, it is a crime, under U.S. law, for them to deliberately
lie to investors.
Thus in their most recent 10K report to
investors, Monsanto admits that genetic drift from biotech and biopharm crops is unavoidable, that potential financial
liabilities are unpredictable, and that no new countries will be
planting their GE seeds in the near future.
"Monsanto's monopoly patent on
glyphosate, the active
ingredient in Roundup, the top-selling herbicide in the world,
traditional source of almost half of the company's profits, has
expired. Now Monsanto's competitors, such as Syngenta (formerly
Novartis), are selling glyphosate as well, at reduced prices,
slicing away at Monsanto's life support.
In Australia, Monsanto has stopped
selling glyphosate altogether, with lower-priced Chinese imports
taking over the market. Monsanto has also admitted to investors
that its sales of Roundup will continue to decline, from its
current global market share of 77% to the low 60's by 2005.
Meanwhile the price per gallon Monsanto receives for Roundup is
expected to drop from $23 to $14-15 per gallon by 2005.
"As discussed in previous issues of BioDemocracy News,
weeds such as marestail (horsetail), rye grass, and hemp grass
are starting to develop resistance to glyphosate, a literal
death sentence for Roundup-Ready crops, which comprise 71%
of the world's GMOs.
In Arkansas, a full 20% of the
state's 2.9 million acres of Roundup Ready soybeans and cotton
are sprouting herbicide-resistant marestail weeds.
Bullying - Bound to Backfire
Unable to protect itself from the mounting bee swarm of its critics
or bring new patented crops to market in the overwhelming majority
of the countries of the world,
Monsanto and the biotech industry
have turned to the White House, the courts, the police, and the WTO
Among the most recent desperate tactics
of the industry-all of which are likely to backfire-are the
"Bush's WTO Challenge. After years
of threats, the
administration filed a formal complaint May 13 with
the World Trade Organization to force the European Union, under
the threat of a billion dollars in fines, to accept GE crops and
Unfortunately for Bush and the Gene Giants, this move
has done nothing but create more anger in the EU, with
supermarkets, food manufacturers, farmers, and consumer groups
vowing that they will never accept Frankenfoods, no matter what
the WTO says.
Responding to the Bush move, the
European Union passed in July new strict labeling and
traceability requirements for GE food, cooking oil, and animal
feed. This will result in a major decrease in GMO animal feed
exports from North America to the EU.
"As Jeremy Rifkin put it,
'US strong-arming cannot make
Europeans eat genetically modified food. A European GM food
boycott will only expose the underlying weakness of
globalization and the existing trade protocols that
In the unfolding struggle between global
commercial power and local cultural resistance, the GM food
fight might turn out to be the test case that forces us to
rethink the very basis of the globalization process.'
(The Guardian U.K. June 2, 2003)
"Buying off Tony Blair. As if UK Prime Minister Tony Blair
didn't already have enough problems, due to his politically
disastrous support for Bush's Iraq invasion, Blair's continued
support for GE crops has angered British consumers and farmers
The Daily Mail, a major British newspaper, reported
on July 7, that a call from the White House to Tony Blair in
August 1998 likely precipitated the firing of the world's
preeminent GE food safety researcher, Dr. Arpad Pusztai.
Pusztai had discovered, in a
government-financed study at the Rowett Institute in
Scotland, that genetically engineered potatoes damaged the
immune system and vital organs of laboratory animals.
"Since then Pusztai has continued
"Desperate to stifle dissent, even
inside his own Cabinet, Blair fired his popular Environmental
Minister, Michael Meacher, in June. Meacher, in response,
urged the UK government to maintain a moratorium on GE foods,
"There could be risk to the
immune system. There could be risk to sexual development in
young children or babies from GM-based soya infant feed.
There have been no tests. That is an enormous gap and I
think a scandalous omission in making the decision about
whether or not these are safe to eat."
"Pushing for Commercialization of GE
Wheat, Rice, and Fish. Desperate to keep their stock values from
collapsing, Monsanto and the other biotech companies still
maintain they will get permission from the U.S. and other
governments to commercialize new food crops and fish. They may
indeed prevail in getting the Bush administration to approve
commercialization of these crops, but if they do they will
alienate-not only consumers and environmental activists-but
major food companies, supermarket chains, farmers, fishing
communities, and overseas buyers.
"Even the Canadian Wheat Board, the largest purchaser of wheat
in the world, threatened in May to sue Monsanto, if they move
forward on GE wheat. Similarly, major international buyers of
North American wheat and rice have threatened to boycott
billions of dollars of U.S. and Canadian exports.
In the words of the largest wheat
importer in Italy, Antonio Costato of Grandi Molini
"The European milling industry
will simply not buy one more kilo of any U.S. wheat if the
U.S. approves GMO wheat crops."
"GE Pharm Crops. Even more foolhardy
than trying to force-feed unwilling consumers GE wheat and rice
are the "pharm" crops-whereby pharmaceutical drugs or industrial
chemicals are being gene-spliced into corn and other farm crops,
in effect turning plants or animals into "bioreactors."
There have already been 300 secret
field trials of these pharm crops in the U.S. by Monsanto and
other companies, 2/3 of them utilizing corn, a crop noted for
spreading its pollen (and genetic characteristics) far and wide.
In March the OCA joined the Center for Food Safety and other
groups to file a legal petition to stop the planting of biopharm
"As Monsanto admitted to investors
in its most recent 10k report, biopharm crops will likely spread
their pollen and seeds into the environment, resulting in more
Starlink-type food recalls.
As Frank Dixon, Managing
Director at Innovest Strategic Value Advisors put it,
"The risk of heavy financial
losses due to genetic pollution or technology failure
coupled with sustained market rejection of GE foods makes
Monsanto a poor investment."
As reported previously, the USDA has
already admitted that there have been two cases of pharm crops
(pig vaccine, and also possibly an experimental AIDS drug)
getting into animal feed. Even major food manufacturers and
supermarket chains, formerly supporters of agbiotech, are up in
arms about pharm crops.
"Propaganda Barrage. Desperate for
acceptance, Monsanto and the biotech lobby have already spent
hundreds of millions of dollars on advertising and public
relations, with repeated (and now thoroughly discredited) claims
that Frankencrops will reduce pesticide use, feed the world's
hungry, and produce healthier food. But even in the heartland of
biotech, a recent ABC News poll found that 62% of American women
would not feed GE food to their children.
"After threatening and harassing
thousands of seed savers, and taking legal action against 400
North American farmers, most of whom have been forced to pay
damages for the "crime" of seed saving, Monsanto will soon "face
the consequences" in Canada's Supreme Court, where its highly
publicized case against Saskatchewan canola farmer, Percy
Schmeiser, comes up for a hearing in early 2004.
Either Schmeiser will win the case
(with the court ruling that Monsanto does not own the Roundup
Ready seeds found on Schmeiser's farm), which means that
Monsanto will lose their patent on Roundup Ready canola, and
millions of dollars in annual royalties; or else Monsanto will
win (with the Court ruling that Monsanto owns the mutant seed,
wherever it turns up), which will expose the company to millions
of dollars in lawsuits from farmers who have suffered GMO
pollution of their crops. Either way Monsanto is damned.
"Apparently convinced that bullying
is still a viable tactic, Monsanto in July sued a Portland,
Maine dairy, Oakhurst, for the "crime" of telling its customers
that its cows weren't injected with Monsanto's controversial
Bovine Growth Hormone. BGH is banned in every industrialized
country in the world, except for the U.S., Mexico, and Brazil.
The FDA, always Monsanto's
handmaiden in regulatory matters, told Cheese Market News
July 11 that the FDA is considering sending "warning letters" to
dairies making rBGH-free or hormone-free claims. In recent
months a Monsanto-funded front group, the Center for Consumer
Freedom, has launched a smear campaign against organic
dairies, including Organic Valley Co-op, claiming they are
defrauding consumers by making rBGH-free claims.
"Unable to sell GE corn and soybeans
to many of its domestic or overseas customers, the biotech
industry has enlisted the Bush administration to force
GE-tainted grain on countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America
receiving food aid. This has now backfired into a major public
relations disaster for the
with recipient nations rejecting the Frankencrops, and
scientists pointing out that the GE-tainted corn shipments do
pose potentially serious health and environmental risks.
"U.S. bullying reached a new ethical
low point in May, when a 'sense of the Congress' resolution
attached to an AIDS Prevention bill called for a cutoff of AIDS
prevention funds for countries which refuse to accept America's
GMO crops. The move has disgusted public health officials and
enraged AIDS activists worldwide.
Triumph of the
Bees - Lessons for Civil Society
The biotech monster is mortally wounded, and now cornered. This is
the fundamental reason why we are seeing such desperate moves by
Monsanto, the idiot savants of biopharming, and the Bush/Blair
We the "bees" of global Civil
Society-everyone from the ordinary organic consumer, to
international heroes like Percy Schmeiser, Vandana Shiva, Jose Bove,
Michael Hansen, Ignacio Chapella, Tewolde Egziabher, Jane Akre, and
Arpad Pusztai-should all be congratulated on a monumental victory.
This is the first time in modern history that a new and
unsustainable technology, supported by many, if not most, major
corporations and governments, is being stopped dead in its tracks.
This is the first, but certainly not the last, swarm of the bees.
The reason we're winning this bee swarm is because we've finally
started to educate, communicate, and mobilize on a global basis,
across class and ethnic divides, in thousands of communities,
reaching out to hundreds of millions, in fact billions, of ordinary
consumers and farmers. We've stuck to the truth and our basic moral
We've placed our trust in the basic
common sense and decency of everyday people, while our adversaries
have resorted to lies, half-truths, and slick propaganda. We've
realized, as an enormous and diverse global Civil Society, that we
don't have to agree on every detail, tactic, and nuance-as long as
we share an over-arching vision-in this case, healthy food, healthy
farming communities, and biodiversity.
Another reason we're winning this battle
is because we've stubbornly persisted, for 10 long years (Monsanto's
recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone was approved for commercialization
in the U.S. in 1993), even in the face of overwhelming odds,
ridicule, and intimidation. In many cases we've risked arrest, our
jobs, and reputations.
And finally, we've learned, North and
South, East and West, to use our incredibly potent market power, the
power of our consumer dollars, to vote against Frankenfoods and
crops, and instead to cast our votes for healthy food, Fair Trade,
family-sized farms, humane treatment of farm animals, and a
Of course, as a BioDemocracy News subscriber, a scientist,
recently warned me,
"Techies like Monsanto never die.
They come back again and again."
Constant vigilance will be required,
even as this first generation of 135 million acres of
herbicide-resistant and pesticide-spliced crops shrivels up on the
We must focus our next collective bee
swarm on the key threats that loom ahead-the WTO and the next
generation of Frankencrops, genetically engineered wheat, rice,
trees, and biopharm crops-and make certain these mutants are
destroyed. But first and foremost, we must grasp the fact that we
are global, vast, and strong, and that is why we are winning. This
is the good news. Spread this buzz near and far.
And by the way if you want to join in on the next bee swarm, you are
invited to join yours truly, Ronnie Cummins, Michael Hansen, and the
OCA on an escorted delegation to the WTO teach-ins and protests
in Cancun Mexico September 4-11.
The bad news is that the unsustainable, energy-intensive,
petroleum-based practices of chemical-intensive industrial
agriculture and long-distance food transportation are major
contributing factors to global warming and climate disruption.
Even without genetic engineering-now
supercharged by NAFTA and the WTO-industrial agriculture poses a
mortal threat to public health, biodiversity, and the environment.
Almost a quarter of all greenhouse gases in the global North are
generated by industrial agriculture: pesticide and nitrate
fertilizer production, food processing, food packaging, food waste
in landfills, and long-distance food transportation.
Beating back Monsanto and genetic engineering must embolden us to
phase-out, as soon as possible, industrial agriculture in general,
and convert the U.S. and global economy to a sustainable economy
based upon natural biological systems, solar power, wind, and
hydrogen, instead of fossil fuels and nuclear energy.
If current trends of global warming
persist, sustainable agriculture, in fact all agriculture, will
become problematic by the end of this century, and perhaps as soon
as the year 2050.
A number of scientists now believe that
rapidly accumulating changes in the composition of the atmosphere
could trigger a catastrophic "die off" of most living organisms by
the year 2100, similar to what happened in the last
catastrophic extinction of species
250 million years ago.
And of course the second bit of bad news is that non-genetically
engineered, organic food is not going to taste that good in a
If corporations and military
contractors are allowed to pollute at will in waterways such
as the Colorado River basin, it won't just be California
organic produce such as lettuce that tests positive for
deadly chemical compounds such as
perchlorate, a residue from
If the chemical and petroleum
industries, the Pentagon, and dioxin-spewing incinerators
are allowed to continue venting their poisons, eventually
organic food, and even mothers' breast milk, will become
If schools and cities are
starved for funds they'll never make the transition to
organic foods and fibers.
If citizens and especially the
poor remain economically stressed and impoverished, they'll
have little choice but to continue buying cheap, junk food.
If the corporate assault on
organic standards and organic companies continues, and if
mainstream food corporations are allowed to take over the
organic industry, then it won't be long before the "organic"
label becomes meaningless.