Andrew Pollack, New York Times, February 20, 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....
"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....
"'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."
Sam Cage, Reuters, July 8, 2008
"Europeans remain wary of foods derived from tinkering with the genetic makeup of plants. But policy makers and food companies are pressing the genetic modification topic in a bid to temper aversion to biotech crops like pesticide-resistant rapeseed for oils and "Roundup-ready" soybeans, which tolerate dousing of the Roundup herbicide....
"The European Union has not approved any genetically modified crops for a decade, and the Union's 27 member countries often clash on the issue. Outside the EU, Switzerland has a moratorium on growing GM crops, though that authorities have granted permission for three GM crop trials between 2008 and 2010 for research.
"The market represents a substantial opportunity for biotechnology companies: the European seeds market is worth $7.9 billion, out of a global total of $32.7 billion, according to data from Cropnosis, a consultancy. The global genetically modified seeds market was worth $6.9 billion in 2007 and is set to grow further.
"Agrochemical companies are riding a wave of high food prices and soaring demand for farm goods, and Monsanto, DuPont and Syngenta have all raised 2008 earnings forecasts. Although high prices are a boon for farm suppliers, much of the cost has been passed on to consumers, sparking protests in many countries including Argentina, Indonesia and Mexico."
Andrew Grice, Independent, June 20, 2008
"Gordon Brown is calling on the European Union to relax its rules on importing genetically modified animal feed in a further sign of the Government's willingness to embrace the controversial technology. Mr Brown believes GM crops are vital to the attempt to cut spiralling food prices....
"Ministers who support GM crops believe there are no convincing arguments against them. They want to turn the tables on environmental groups who campaigned successfully against widespread GM production in Britain during the last government review in 2004. Although there is no ban, the ministers want the rules changed in light of the food crisis, as no GM crops are currently being grown commercially in this country.
"At a two-day summit in Brussels which began last night, EU leaders were urged to "bite the bullet" and embrace GM products as a solution to rocketing food prices. The plea came from Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission. Several EU countries, led by France, are unconvinced that "Frankenstein foods" are safe.
"At the meeting, Mr Brown suggested allowing more GM animal food into the EU. The move may raise safety fears because contaminated feed was blamed for the outbreak in Britain of BSE in the 1990s."
Melinda Peer, Forbes, June 19, 2008
"On Thursday, Monsanto agreed to acquire Marmot S.A., which operates Central America's leading corn seed company, giving it a distribution network to deliver new products to farmers in the region.Meanwhile, Dow AgroScience, the agricultural arm of Dow Chemical, exercised an option to license so-called zinc finger technology from Sangamo Biosciences for use in agricultural crops, industrial products and plant-based biopharmaceuticals....
"Although genetically modified crops aren't allowed in Central America, except for in Honduras, that could change as governments become increasingly concerned about global food supply. On May 29, the U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization called for a reconsideration of genetically-modified crops, which have been banned by most governments. Monsanto has made similar requests to regulators and doesn't want to waste any time setting up a distribution network if and when genetically altered crops are approved for planting."
Andrew Pollack, New York Times, June 5, 2008
"Monsanto, the leader in agricultural biotechnology, pledged Wednesday to develop seeds that would double the yields of corn, soybeans and cotton by 2030 and would require 30 percent less water, land and energy to grow. The announcement, coming as world leaders are meeting in Rome to discuss rising food prices and growing food shortages, appears to be aimed at least in part at winning acceptance of genetically modified crops by showing that they can play a major role in feeding the world....
"While Mr. Grant said that skeptics might say Monsanto was exploiting the food crisis to win acceptance for its technology, other people 'will say it’s long overdue, and thank goodness the companies are stepping up.'
"Shares of Monsanto fell by $1.54, to close at $131.60 Wednesday. But the stock has more than doubled in the last year, in part because of soaring crop prices. Besides being a leader in genetic engineering, Monsanto is one of the largest suppliers of seeds in the world."
Rick Weiss, Washington Post, May 13, 2008
"A handful of the world's largest agricultural biotechnology companies are seeking hundreds of patents on gene-altered crops designed to withstand drought and other environmental stresses, part of a race for dominance in the potentially lucrative market for crops that can handle global warming, according to a report being released today.
"Three companies -- BASF of Germany, Syngenta of Switzerland and Monsanto of St. Louis -- have filed applications to control nearly two-thirds of the climate-related gene families submitted to patent offices worldwide, according to the report by the Ottawa-based ETC Group, an activist organization that advocates for subsistence farmers....
"The ETC report concludes that biotech giants are hoping to leverage climate change as a way to get into resistant markets, and it warns that the move could undermine public-sector plant-breeding institutions such as those coordinated by the United Nations and the World Bank, which have long made their improved varieties freely available. 'When a market is dominated by a handful of large multinational companies, the research agenda gets biased toward proprietary products,' said Hope Shand, ETC's research director. 'Monopoly control of plant genes is a bad idea under any circumstance. During a global food crisis, it is unacceptable and has to be challenged.'"
Andrew Pollack, International Herald Tribune, April 21, 2008
"Soaring food prices and global grain shortages are bringing new pressures on governments, food companies and consumers to relax their longstanding resistance to genetically engineered crops. In Japan and South Korea, some manufacturers for the first time have begun buying genetically engineered corn for use in soft drinks, snacks and other foods. Until now, to avoid consumer backlash, the companies have paid extra to buy conventionally grown corn. But with prices having tripled in two years, it has become too expensive to be so finicky....
"Opponents of biotechnology say they see not so much an opportunity as opportunism by its proponents to exploit the food crisis. 'Where politicians and technocrats have always wanted to push GMO's, they are jumping on this bandwagon and using this as an excuse,' said Helen Holder, who coordinates the campaign against biotech foods for Friends of the Earth Europe."
Isabella Kenfield and Roger Burbach, CounterPunch, October 29, 2007
"In the Brazilian state of Paraná, Valmir Mota de Oliveira of Via Campesina, an international peasant organization, was shot twice in the chest at point blank range by armed gunmen on an experimental farm of Syngenta Seeds, a multinational agribusiness corporation. The cold blooded murder took place on Sunday, October 21 after Via Campesina had occupied the site because of Syngenta's illegal development of genetically modified (GM) seeds. Via Campesina and the Movement of the Landless Rural Workers (MST), the main Brazilian organization involved in Via Campesina's actions, are calling the murder an execution, declaring, "Syngenta used the services of an armed militia."