ngin - Norfolk Genetic Information Network

20 February 2002


1. China, Brazil, India, 9 other nations form alliance against biopiracy
2. Premier says he's not sold on safety of GM wheat
3. Farmers sued for 'stealing' GM seeds


1. China, Brazil, India, 9 other nations form alliance against biopiracy  - 2 19 2002 -

MEXICO CITY - China, Brazil, India, and nine other of the world's most biodiverse countries signed an alliance Monday to fight biopiracy and press for rules protecting their people's rights to genetic resources found on their land. (AP)


2. Premier says he's not sold on safety of GM wheat{C1EB4BD2-7494-44BE-9175-9D01F6459CDA}

REGINA -- Premier Lorne Calvert has added his voice to the chorus of those with concerns about genetically modified wheat. "We need to proceed with great caution when it comes to the introduction of GM wheat," Calvert said. (Saskatoon StarPhoenix)


3. Farmers sued for 'stealing' GM seeds

From Nicholas Wapshott in New York
The Times (London), February 20, 2002

MONSANTO, the company that sponsored experiments into genetically modified crops in Britain, is suing dozens of American and Canadian farmers for infringement of copyright.

The company claims that the farmers hold back seeds from their Monsanto crops to use in a later harvest, depriving the company of revenue.

Investigators watch farmers in their fields secretly to collect evidence of the illegal planting of Monsanto’s genetically altered cotton, rape, maize and soya bean crops.

Scott Good, a soya bean farmer in Burlington County, New Jersey, recalled the day that Monsanto inspectors swooped on his farm. "They showed up at my door at 6 o‚clock in the morning," he said. "They flipped a badge out. It wasn’t polite what they were saying. They acted like the FBI. I was scared."

Farmers who use Monsanto crops to produce seeds for planting have been fined hundreds of thousands of dollars for patent infringement, and some face bankruptcy.

Dozens more are being taken to court and hundreds of others have been threatened with court action. They are charged with breaking patents and copyrights, violation of intellectual property rights and "seed piracy".

The farmers claim that they are doing what farmers have done for thousands of years, keeping back seeds for planting from their own crops.

Monsanto says that its patents and sale agreements forbid farmers from harvesting seeds from the company’s patented crops. Invoices for Monsanto seeds detail the restrictions on replanting in the fine print and the act of buying the seeds is legally considered to be consent to the terms. The regulations are also clearly marked on sacks of Monsanto seeds.

Some farmers claim that they are ignorant of what they are agreeing to when they buy the seeds.

When the investigators raided Scott Good’s farm near Philadelphia, the company at first insisted that he hand over the whole of his 2001 soya bean crop, a demand it then altered to a fine of $175,000 (£122,000), later reduced to $125,000 (£87,000).

Gary Woodend, Mr Good's lawyer, believes the company does not want to settle but would like to use his client as an example to other farmers.

Some cases are not straightforward. A court ordered Percy Schmeiser, a rape farmer in Saskatchewan, Canada, to pay Monsanto nearly C$20,000 (£8,800) because of bioengineered plants found on his property. He claims that they were self-planted by pollen that drifted from genetically engineered crops on nearby farms. He is appealing against the fine.

Monsanto, which is based in St Louis, Missouri, insists that it has every right to protect its property.

Lori Fisher, speaking for the company, said: "Not only do we feel we have an obligation to the other farmers (who legally buy altered seeds), but we’ve obviously invested a lot of money into this technology."
The main crop that Monsanto is trying to protect is Roundup Ready soya beans, which are genetically changed to be able to survive Roundup, Monsanto’s bestselling weedkiller and which cost several dollars more than ordinary soya bean seeds.

Planting Roundup Ready seeds, followed by spraying with Roundup, simplifies the farming process and produces a pure crop uncontaminated by weeds and other unwanted varieties.

Monsanto is so determined to tighten up on copyright theft that, as well as its team of investigators, it advertises a toll-free telephone number for people to inform on farmers who are using unlicensed seeds.

 Farmers take a dim view of this change to their way of life. Michael Sligh, of Rural Advancement Foundation International, a farmers’ pressure group, said: "It’s not in the typical culture of rural communities to turn in your neighbour. You’re talking about someone who’s going to pull your tractor out of a ditch. That's a big cultural shift."



February 19, 2002

The academic squabble over Nature magazine's peer-reviewed article is anything but academic

More than 144 farmer and other Civil Society Organizations from 40 countries have signed a Joint Statement on the Mexican GM Maize Scandal being released today. The Statement comes on the eve of an international science policy meeting in Los Banos, Philippines where a global response to the scandal will be discussed.

The 144 organizations are demanding that the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) work together with the Convention on Biological Diversity to halt the contamination of the Mesoamerican Centre of Genetic Diversity for maize - one of the world's most important food crops.

News that genetically modified (GM) maize was turning up in farmers' varieties first appeared in Nature Biotechnology last September and was confirmed in November by a peer-reviewed article in Nature.

According to the 170 signatories to today's Joint Statement, the academic and industry attacks on the findings of the Mexican Government and U.S. university researchers has been orchestrated to keep the scandal from embarrassing the biotech industry

If the Philippine meeting of the Genetic Resources Policy Committee of the CGIAR does not act decisively and immediately to protect farmers in Mesoamerica, civil society will take the issue directly to the April meeting of the Biodiversity Convention in the Hague, and the World Food Summit in Rome in June.

The full text of the Joint Statement, and the complete list of 144 signatories, can be found at

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