Thanks to Jim McNulty for posting the following article
Mon, 29 Mar 1999
ONE POTATO, NEW POTATO / Farmers and biotech companies are battling for
THE FRESHLY dug potato was lumpy, bumpy, misshapen and oblong. Most of the
other potatoes in the row were just as peculiar.
Jamesport potato farmer John Kujawski, 57, who tends about 600 acres of
land with his brother Ray, had planted a few of the first bioengineered
potatoes on Long Island. They were duds, the Kujawskis and other East End
potato farmers agreed.
"I couldn't see anything about them that was good," John Kujawski said simply.
>From Maine to California, many small farmers are distrustful of the new
"magical" seeds aimed at yielding crops with built-in pesticides and -
eventually - with more nutrients than the traditional type. They are
skeptical, too, of the multinational companies providing the patented
seeds, and fear there is no room for small farmers in the bioengineered
"Genetic engineering will never, ever serve the needs of the small farmer,"
said Margaret Mellon, a lawyer and molecular biologist who directs the
agriculture and biotechnology program for the Union of Concerned Scientists.
Patents of bioengineered seeds are at the core of a dispute over control
that has pitted small farmers against self-described "life sciences"
companies such as DuPont and Monsanto that are using technology to produce
new, unique forms of food. Patents for modified plants, first allowed in
1980, now rank second only to software patents in the number of legal
challenges filed - with most of the rise in just the last four years,
according to patent attorneys.
Monsanto, which has more than 100 patents for soybeans and corn alone, has
sued hundreds of farmers and others for reusing or reselling the company's
seeds. Other companies have sued as well, and in what could become a
landmark case, one Iowa farm-supply dealership has sought to throw out such
a suit on the grounds that plants shouldn't be patented. A district court
judge made the unusual move of fast-tracking the case directly to a federal
"This case is critical to the biotechnology industry," said Michael K.
Kirk, a patent lawyer and executive director of a lawyers' group that filed
a friend-of-the-court brief.
Without patents, the companies could not control the supply of
bioengineered seeds. But some farmers, in turn, say they can't afford to
buy patented seed each year, and many depend on reusing some seeds.
To obtain Monsanto's Roundup Ready soy beans, for example, which resist the
company's popular weed killer Roundup, farmers must agree to plant the
seeds only once - instead of saving seeds from their own crops, as
virtually all soybean farming was previously done. In the Midwest, [
Monsanto ] , a $7.5-billion company with 22,000 employees worldwide, has
even taken measures such as broadcasting on local radio stations the names
of farmers suspected of reusing seeds. Some growers have paid hefty
settlements to Monsanto.
Monsanto even acquired one biotech company to get what has been dubbed
"terminator technology," which renders second-generation plants from saved
patented seed sterile and unproductive.
Percy Schmeiser, a Canadian farmer, has been sued by Monsanto for allegedly
planting patented seeds for the plant that produces canola oil. Schmeiser
says he is innocent - that the wind and the bees cross-pollinated
genetically engineered plants with those in his field.
The companies say they have to be tough. And farmers who play by the rules
want them to be, said Karen Marshall, a spokeswoman for the St. Louis-based
Monsanto. She said money recouped from lawsuit settlements goes into a
scholarship program for children of farmers, and that only 20 to 30 percent
of farmers save seed. "The vast majority of growers are just fine following
the rules," she said, adding that for any farmer unhappy with the terms,
"You could choose another seed."
But some farmers say the world of agriculture Monsanto and other large
companies are creating isn't that simple. "They are buying up all of the
seed companies, and the choices we get are choices that have been altered
genetically and owned by that company," said Roger Allison, executive
director of the Missouri Rural Crisis Center. "It won't be in the so-far
future that farmers will be tenant farmers for the chemical companies, at
Both sides are closely watching developments in the Iowa court case, which
could put billions of dollars of investment by companies at risk. The case,
challenging the granting of patents on modifications of plants such as corn
and cotton, will be taken up by the federal appeals court in Washington,
with oral arguments perhaps beginning this summer.
The case arose from [ Pioneer Hi-Bred International ] 's suit against
Marvin Redinius of Belmond, Iowa, president of a farm-supply dealership.
Redinius bought $54,000 worth of Pioneer's pest-resistant corn seed from a
middleman and sold them without permission from Pioneer, which has since
been bought by DuPont. Redinius sought to have the case thrown out on
grounds that Congress didn't intend to open such a wide door for plant
With the proliferation of bioengineered crops, farmers also fear that
cross-pollination with traditional seed will lead to more homogeneous and
less diverse crops - putting them in more danger of being wiped out by a
new strain of disease or pest.
Buying the bioengineered seeds - at premium prices - doesn't guarantee they
will yield a good crop. Because the technology is in its infancy, the seeds
sometimes don't meet expectations for yield or quality.
As for those first bioengineered Long Island potatoes - the company
promised savings through reduced spraying, but, said Kujawski, "you still
had to spray the potatoes for aphids and blight." The bioengineering
"didn't take care of anything but the potato beetle."
(Copyright Newsday Inc., 1999)
Here is an article (posted by Jim McNulty) showing how industry is
pressuring to allow Biotech foods on the market
Lawmakers urge EPA to reconsider plant pesticide rules
By Julie Vorman
WASHINGTON, March 24 (Reuters) - Farm state lawmakers from both parties on
Wednesday attacked the Environmental Protection Agency's plan to start
regulating genetically modified plant pesticides, saying the rules could
stifle the biotechnology industry.
Grower groups and 11 scientific organisations contend the EPA has no
business making rules for bioengineered crops with built-in resistance to
certain pests because the plants are no different than those bred by
Here is some correspondence, which is a great example how we can pressure
From: Jimmy Seah <email@example.com>
To: Sandy Willett, Mead Johnson Nutritionals <MJMedAff@usnotes.bms.com>
Date: 18 March 1999 01:01
Subject: Shame on you, MeadJohnson
Dear Sandy Willett,
Our daughter is now almost 4 years old. She has always been on ProSobee.
We also know parents whose children have also grown up on ProSobee.
Lately we are concern over genetically manipulated produces.
Since the label on ProSobee does not categorically state so, we will like
to know from you whether your products do or do not contain any
genetically manipulated produces ( such as corn, soya beans etc ).
Is ProSobee made with anything at all that is grown from product made by
Monsanto or such companies?
We will like to know if ProSobee is made with anything other then
naturally grown produce.
Thank you and we await your reply
ps: we in Malaysia, the ProSobee, comes is a all blue can, somewhat
different from the one shown in this web site.
Response from MeadJohnson
Thanks for your Internet note requesting information regarding the soybeans used to make the soy protein in ProSobee. I appreciate having an opportunity to respond.
Yes, genetically engineered soybeans are used to produce the soy protein isolate in ProSobee. The Food and Drug Administration in the United States(FDA) evaluated extensive data pertaining to the modified soybeans and concluded that they are the same as other soybeans in nutrition, composition, allergic potential, and their ability to be processed into other ingredients such as oils, used in the manufacture of infant formula, and other foods. The FDA, which requires genetically modified foods meet the same safety standards required for all foods, has agreed to their unrestricted use. Several professional organizations concerned about the quality of food products(including the Institute of Food Technologists) support the FDA's conclusions.
Mead Johnson is a leading global infant formula manufacturer, and we arecommitted to providing safe, high-quality nutritional formulas for babies and adults. Our own high standards, combined with those of other global regulatory agencies (which all formulas must meet), should assure that all our products will remain safe and nutritious.
Sandy Willett Mead Johnson Nutritionals MJMedAff@usnotes.bms.com Tel: 812/429-6399 (office hours 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Central Time) Fax: 812/429-7189
I am tremendously upset. I would have answer your e-mail earlier if not for the fact that I am busy looking for a alternative to replace ProSobee for our daughter.
For the past week I have cursed the name of MeadJohnson so many times, I thought I have gone evil or mad.
Why was it not clearly stated on the pack?!!!
Why do you assume that as long as it's FDA approved, than consumers will not mind taking it? Based on their track records and of the things that they have approved over the years, we have known better now than just to take the words of the FDA as the gospel. We will now decide for ourselves what we should or should not eat. And genetically engineered food is what I will not eat and will not allow my children to eat.
We all know very well that the likes of Monsanto's are motivated by nothing else other than money. With money and influence, they will be able to get anything approved.
What is more shameful, is for companies like yours, to jump onto the bangwagon. For you to introduce genetically engineered material into baby food without any form of notice is deceitful. MeadJohnson, is now no different from the rest: Motivate by greed. Your corporate philosophy of making wholesome and healthy products for the family is nothing more than an advertising tagline. We have now ceased to believe in you and your products. What is legal is not neccessary morally correct.
Our family feel cheated by your conduct. We are angry and upset that for years we have being giving to our daughter things that we are always trying to avoid. We will hold MeadJohnson responsible if anything at all should happen to our daughter in times to come.
We demand that:
1. MeadJohnson immediately stop producing products that contain genetically engineered material.
2. MeadJohnson make immediately public announcement on their products that contain genetically engineered materials.
3. MeadJohnson labels all products that are currently on the market that contain genetically engineered.
1. We have stop the use of ProSobee and all products made by MeadJohnson. As of this point we are no long a customer of MeadJohnson.
2. We will inform all our friends who are giving their children ProSobee and advise them to do likewise.
3. We will immediately e-mail a copy of this reply to Greenpeace International and pray to God that they will organise a gobal boycott of MeadJohnson's product until your remove all genetically engineered materials from your products.
4. We will lobby to our government agencies and non-government organisations for a ban of your products which contain genetically engineered materails as well as a boycott of your products.
Finally, MeadJohnson, your are very irresponsible to have marketed ProSobee which contained genetically engineered material without proper labels and notice. You have caused our family severe pain.
_________________________________________________________ Richard Wolfson, PhD Consumer Right to Know Campaign, for Mandatory Labelling and Long-term Testing of all Genetically Engineered Foods, 500 Wilbrod Street Ottawa, ON Canada K1N 6N2 tel. 613-565-8517 fax. 613-565-1596 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Our website, http://www.natural-law.ca/genetic/geindex.html
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