Friday, November 18, 2011

Biotech compensation plan

USDA weighs biotech compensation plan
By Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press
November 17, 2011

The USDA is floating the idea of creating a mechanism to compensate farmers harmed by cross-pollination from genetically engineered crops.

The agency has suggested the concept as a way to resolve conflicts between biotech, conventional and organic farmers, but experts say developing such a mechanism would be rife with challenges.

“They’re complex ideas and they’re going to take a while to thrash out,” said Barry Bushue, vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation and president of the Oregon Farm Bureau.

Bushue is a member of the USDA’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, which was assembled earlier this year to seek common ground on contentious biotech issues.

The committee will hold discussions in late November and early December about the possibility of developing a “compensation mechanism.”

The proposal is likely to come up against skepticism from biotech supporters and opponents alike.

[Read More…]

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Farmer challenges Monsanto

Maine farmer heads group challenging genetics giant Monsanto
By Avery Yale Kamila
Portland Press Herald
November 10, 2011

A fight to maintain consumer choice and farm independence has landed Maine farmer Jim Gerritsen on Utne Reader’s list of “25 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World,” published in the November/December edition of the magazine on newsstands now.

Organic seed potato farmer Jim Gerritsen heads a trade association that is suing chemical giant Monsanto. (photo: Charlotte Hedley ) Gerritsen, wife Megan, and their four children run the Wood Prairie Farm in Bridgewater, which produces and sells organic seed potatoes to kitchen gardeners and market farmers in all 50 states. Gerritsen is also president of the Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association, and it was that role that led to the Utne recognition.

The nonprofit organization created a stir in food and farming communities when, with legal backing from the Public Patent Foundation, it filed a lawsuit in March against the chemical and biotechnology giant Monsanto. OSGATA has since been joined in the lawsuit by 82 other seed businesses, trade organizations and family farmers, which together represent more than 270,000 people.

The lawsuit questions the validity of Monsanto’s patents on genetically modified seeds, and seeks protection from patent-infringement lawsuits for the plaintiffs should their crops become contaminated with Monsanto’s transgenic crops.

[Read More…]

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

NGO report on GM

GM crops promote superweeds, food insecurity and pesticides, say NGOs
By John Vidal
The Guardian
October 19, 2011

Report finds genetically modified crops fail to increase yields let alone solve hunger, soil erosion and chemical-use issues

Genetic engineering has failed to increase the yield of any food crop but has vastly increased the use of chemicals and the growth of “superweeds”, according to a report by 20 Indian, south-east Asian, African and Latin American food and conservation groups representing millions of people.

The so-called miracle crops, which were first sold in the US about 20 years ago and which are now grown in 29 countries on about 1.5bn hectares (3.7bn acres) of land, have been billed as potential solutions to food crises, climate change and soil erosion, but the assessment finds that they have not lived up to their promises.

The report claims that hunger has reached “epic proportions” since the technology was developed. Besides this, only two GM “traits” have been developed on any significant scale, despite investments of tens of billions of dollars, and benefits such as drought resistance and salt tolerance have yet to materialise on any scale.

Most worrisome, say the authors of the Global Citizens’ Report on the State of GMOs, is the greatly increased use of synthetic chemicals, used to control pests despite biotech companies’ justification that GM-engineered crops would reduce insecticide use.

[Read More…]

Thursday, October 13, 2011

GM in wild species

GM cotton genes found in wild species
By María Elena Hurtado
October 13, 2011

SANTIAGO, CHILE - Genetically modified (GM) cotton genes have been found in wild populations for the first time, making it the third plant species — after Brassica and bentgrass — in which transgenes have established in the wild.

The discovery was made in Mexico by six Mexican researchers investigating the flow of genes to wild cotton populations of the species Gossypium hirsutum.

They found transgenes from cotton that had been modified to resist insects, herbicides or antibiotics in just under a quarter of the 270 wild cotton seeds assessed for that purpose. One of the contaminated seeds came from a wild plant located 755 kilometres away from the nearest GM cotton plantation. Others were beyond first-generation hybrids because they carried multiple and different transgenes.

According to the researchers, the GM seeds could have been dispersed by long distance lorry drivers transporting seeds for animal feed or oil extraction; by mild or strong winds; by fresh or salt water; or by birds and animals that had eaten them.

[Read More…]

Friday, September 2, 2011

Compensation for contamination?

USDA Advisory Committee asked to consider compensating producers for unintended biotech traits
September 2, 2011

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack this week charged the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) newly reconstituted Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture to explore whether and how to compensate producers who sustain economic losses as a result of the unintended presence of biotech-enhanced traits in organic and non-biotech crops.

During opening remarks, Vilsack said he wanted the advisory committee to “find illusive answers we’ve been grappling with for some time” related to what he calls the “coexistence” of different crop-production systems. The secretary asked the panel to determine whether a compensation scheme is needed to address economic losses by producers whose crops lose value as a result of the unintended presence of biotech-enhanced events. Vilsack also asked the advisory committee to consider what implementation would require, including what eligibility standards should be established for determining losses and the types of tools and triggers (such as tolerances, testing protocols, etc.) would be needed to verify and quantify such losses to determine eligibility. The third charge assigned by Vilsack was to determine other appropriate actions that would “bolster or facilitate coexistence” among different U.S. agricultural production systems. “I’m confident that people who are smart, reasonable and willing to work can find solutions,” Vilsack maintained.

[Read More…]

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