Today in AgBioView - May 28, 2007
* NZ Gives Go Ahead for Field Trials
* GM Crops Good for Swedish Farm Economy
* India: GEAC should seek relaxation for GM crops
* 'We Have A Gene That Helps Plants Grow Better Even With Less Rain'
* Farmers Need Freedom of Choice on GM
* Canada's Leading by Example on GM
* African Examples: Working towards food security
* Report from Chelsea Gerlach's Sentencing
New Zealand: The Environmental Risk Management Authority has given the go-ahead for experimental plantings of genetically modified brassica vegetables in Canterbury
- Radio NZ, May 28, 2007
That follows an application by Crop & Food Research to grow four genetically modified vegetable and forage brassica, including broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower and kale. The vegetables will be grown at Crop & Foods test sites at Lincoln. They will be modified for resistance to caterpillar pests such as cabbage white butterfly and diamond-back moth, with genes derived from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis.
ERMA says the approval is subject to strict controls to ensure the plants do not enter the food chain. That includes
preventing the flowering and therefore the pollen release of the brassica at the test site. The test field is to be monitored for a year to ensure there is no seed strike from the genetically modified plants. A public hearing in Christchurch last month to consider the application attracted 959 submissions.
GM Crops Good for Swedish Farm Economy
- Asa Lexmon, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service (GAIN Report No. SW7006), May 21, 2007
There is no cultivation of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in Sweden today but prospects for future cultivation look good. According to a recent report from the Swedish Institute for Food and Agricultural Economics (SLI), cultivating GM crops would be economically profitable for Swedish farmers. SLI is a government agency commissioned to carry out economic analyses within the fields of agriculture, foods and fishing.
The report compares the economics of growing conventional crops versus GM crops. Translated from Swedish, its title is "Cultivation of Genetically Modified Crops- An Alternative for Swedish Farmers?" Four GM crops that could possibly be grown in Sweden within the next 10-15 years are covered in SLI's report: rapeseed, corn, potatoes and sugar beets. The markets for these products would be the feed industry (rapeseed, corn), the starch industry (potato) and the bioenergy industry (sugar beets, rapeseed and corn).
The report concludes that growing GM crops instead of conventional crops would result in a 4-12% profitability increase for Swedish farmers. The largest benefit is noted for potatoes. It is stressed in the report, however, that possible costs for co-existence measures such as safety distances between GM and conventional fields are not considered in the analyses. In order to avoid the unintended presence of GMOs in conventional and organic products, the European Commission has published guidelines on co-existence for different types of farming. EU member states shall, based on the Commission's guidelines, develop national strategies and best practices for co-existence. The Swedish government has adopted its national framework for co-existence measures but detailed rules are yet to be decided by the Swedish Board of Agriculture. Hence, costs for co-existence measures have not been considered in the analyses due to lack of data. For the same reason, possible costs for special regulations on damage compensation have not been considered. The economic analyses are based on foreign data, mostly from Canada and the US.
Rapeseed is the most important oilseed in Sweden. Production has been steadily increasing the past five years and amounted to about 220,000 metric tons in 2006. The rapid growth in Swedish biodiesel production is expected to further increase the production of rapeseed. According to SLI's report, growing herbicide tolerant rapeseed in Sweden would improve the profitability per hectare by 4-8%. Higher costs for seed would be outweighed by higher yields (6-11%) and reduced cost for herbicides, please see table 1 below.
Very small acreages are used for corn in Sweden. The small amount of corn produced is used for farm feed and according to SLI's report, Swedish dairy farmers are showing increased interest in growing corn for feed. With current production methods, however, costs for weed control are high. Reduced costs for weed control would indeed be the largest economical benefits with growing herbicide tolerant corn in Sweden, please see table 2 below.
Swedish potato areas amount to about 30,000 hectares. Starch potatoes are grown on about 30% of these. Fungus attacks create severe problems for Swedish potato growers. According to SLI's report, potato cultivation accounts for about half of total fungicide consumption in Sweden while it accounts for only 3% of the agricultural area. The biotech company Plant Science Sweden has developed a fungicide resistant potato through gene technology. Field trials have been taking place since 2006 but it will take at least ten years before this variety could be available for commercial growing.
SLI's economic analysis of growing GM potatoes in Sweden is a rough estimate based on a number of assumptions, e.g., zero fungicide use for the GM potato. Further field trials are needed in order to get more accurate data. Nevertheless, SLI's analysis shows that growing fungicide resistant potatoes in Sweden would improve the profitability per hectare by 6-12%. The largest benefit comes from reduced cost for fungicides.
In 1996, Amylogen HB applied for approval of a GM starch potato intended for industrial use. The Commission has proposed to approve this potato for cultivation. It was up for voting in the Article 30 Committee in December 2006 but the necessary qualified majority for or against approval was not reached. The next step is a Council vote. If the Council fails to reach a qualified majority, the Commission can then go ahead and approve the product.
Sugar Beet Analysis
Swedish sugar production is restricted by EU's quota system. Under this system, Sweden can produce up to 325,700 metric tons of white sugar. Currently, the Swedish sugar industry (Danisco Sugar AB) applies a GMO-free policy but is willing to reconsider its policy should consumers demand sugar produced from GM beets.
According to SLI's analysis, growing herbicide tolerant sugar beet in Sweden would improve the profitability per hectare by about 10%.
# The yield increase for GM sugar beets is estimated at 5-10%, which means that less area would be needed to fill the quota. Estimate includes saved costs for not growing sugar beets on the released area as well as the opportunity value for the released area.
## Glyphosate treatment in sugar beet allows for reduced treatment in crops to follow.
GM Crops for Industrial Use First Out?
Based on SLI's economical analyses, Swedish farmers might very well chose to grow GM crops in the future. The economical incentives seem to be there. The hindering factor can be fear of negative consumer reactions, which is also the reason for Swedish farmers' limited use of imported GM feed. In fact, Swedish farmers imposed a voluntary ban on GM feed more than 10 years ago. In 2006, however, Swedish livestock farmers decided to abolish the ban while Swedish dairy farmers chose to maintain it. This policy shift was attributed to the increasing cost of sourcing GM-free soybean meal. According to SLI's report, the price per kilo for GM-free soybean meal is about SEK 0.10-0.15 higher than GM soybean meal. The price difference might increase as GM-free soybean supplies decrease, which would further increase the cost for "GM-free" animal production. However, the first GM crop to be grown in Sweden will most likely be intended for non-feed and food industries, such as the starch and bioenergy industries, where consumer attitudes are of less importance.
India: GEAC should seek relaxation for GM crops: Expert
- The Hindu, May 26, 2007
New Delhi: Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), official agency to permit commercial cultivation of genetically modified crops, should move the Supreme Court for relaxation in 'isolation' norms for growing GM crops, GEAC member Deepak Pental said here today.
"It is logical that GEAC should approach the apex court to make the norms crop-specific," Pental told reporters after a function at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute.
The Supreme Court early this month, while allowing field trials of genetically modified (GM) seeds had ruled that the isolation distance between the GM planted fields and the other fields should be 200 metres instead of 50 metres. Pental, who is also the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University, said since all crops do not require the isolation of 200 metres, the agency should move the apex court seeking a relaxation.
Replying to a query, he said it is very difficult to segregate GM and non-GM foods in India as about 90 per cent of the products are sold unpacked unlike in US where the equal percentage of food items are sold in packaged form. In case there is a mixture of GM and non-GM rice, he said, it would be difficult to know where it was mixed as most food items are sold unpacked in the country.
Earlier, delivering the B P Pal memorial lecture, Pental criticised non-governmental organisations that oppose GM crops. "NGOs, particularly those who subscribe to mainly west-European or Japanese mindset, either want to follow the principle of 'abundant precaution' with GM materials or are in favour of an outright ban on transgenic technologies," he said.
The DU Vice Chancellor also said India failed to take adequate steps in the past in research and development and has lost out on developing or using frontier technologies for generating wealth. "It seems that our indecisiveness in agricultural R&D is going to cost us dearly because it is location-specific, has a long lag and is of vital interest to the growth of the country," Pental said.
'We Have A Gene That Helps Plants Grow Better Even With Less Rain'
- Vikas Dhoot, Indian Express (India), May 25, 2007
The new drought-resistant gene could hit the US as early as 2011 and help resolve a part of the world’s water problems, says Dr Harvey L. Glick, director for scientific affairs in Asia-Pacific, Monsanto. In the farm business for over 30 years, Glick joined the agriculture biotech MNC at a time when it was beginning to develop crop biotechnology programmes. He helped introduce the first biotech crop in Canada in 1995 and has been actively involved in the development of biotech crops for Europe, Asia and the Americas. Glick talks to Vikas Dhoot about key issues in Indian and global agriculture, stressing on the need to revive extension counters in India.
* You have made breakthroughs in the next generation of BT seeds which are drought-resistant. Can these help ease water disputes around the world?
- Today, agriculture consumes 70 per cent of the world’s fresh water. Every country is facing challenges in managing water. We have developed a gene that helps plants to grow better even when rain is not good. We have been testing it in South America and the US for some years now. The first such seed, corn, should be available in the US by 2011-12 while cotton may come soon after. The studies on the new corn seeds have shown an 8-10 per cent higher yield even when rains are not good. I would be the first to admit that the challenges of water distribution are too complex to be solved by this alone, but it can be part of the solution.
* India wants a second green revolution to reverse the worsening plight of its farm sector. Any suggestions?
- The first green revolution in India was hugely successful. The key reason was the creation of a formidable network of agricultural extension counters--the best in the world--that worked closely with farmers. The farmers had to change the way they did everything. The good thing about biotech crops is that the technology is inside the seed, unlike in the first green revolution.
But since the Eighties, around the world, there has been a problem--public-sector investment in agriculture has shrunk sharply. It’s the same in India, whose agricultural extension network and universities are in a disarray. There is an urgent need to revive them. Despite that, I think Indian farmers have become very progressive—they are already advanced in the use of new biotech crops. Two million Indian farmers now use BT seeds while BT cotton is already planted in more than 8 million acres. In fact, in 2006, the rate of increase in BT cotton in India was higher than in China.
* How can you explain the dichotomy in India’s cotton sector--even as output touched record levels last year, suicides among cotton farmers are high?
- Though cotton is an important crop in India, it has one of the lowest yields per acre. So there is a desire to raise yields and farmers are witnessing the impact of BT cotton seeds on output. They see that this technology works, gives higher yields and want to adopt it. But there is a need to educate and inform them on how to best utilise the seeds. Some seeds are sold without official clearance or without any information on how to use them, and farmers can end up losing their investments. Extension counters could play a vital role.
* Why haven’t BT seeds taken off in Africa, especially as cotton is the only source of livelihood for millions but remains uncompetitive due to low yields?
- Cotton farmers could benefit significantly in north-west Africa. There have been field trials in Burkina Faso and Mali, but unfortunately, government policies are not yet in place to allow trials and bring the seeds to market in most countries. South Africa has had the policy and legislative framework in place for biotech crops since 1996 and farmers are doing very well. We are hoping the other African nations will follow.
Farmers Need Freedom of Choice on GM
- Jeff Bidstrup, ABC News (Australia), May 25, 2007
The recent ABARE report on the impact on organic producers of the introduction of GM canola states "Only very small amounts, even none, of organic canola oil or organic canola meal were produced in recent years." and "...this study concludes that the commercialisation of GM canola would be expected to have very little, if any direct impact on these organic sectors in Australia,...". It goes on to state that "...it is possible that organic producers might benefit from needing to implement less costly agricultural chemical contact avoidance measures."
The organic industry has continued to oppose GM crops, despite the possible benefits identified by ABARE. While organic growers may decide not to embrace GM crops themselves, it is reasonable to ask what right they have to deny access to this technology which has delivered worldwide benefits for over a decade. In Australia, every representative farm organisation from the peak body The National Farmers Federation down now support the removal of the moratoria to provide farmers with choice.
Worldwide, 95 per cent of soy that is traded is GM, 75 per cent of traded corn, and 70 per cent of traded canola are GM. ABARE with many others, Nuffield Scholars, and our largest canola exporter CBH all state that there is no premium for our conventional canola over our GM competitors.
Yearly we import 10 times as much GM soy meal as we grow, we import significant amounts of GM corn products, our major commercial cooking oil comes from GM cotton varieties, and this year we even imported a boatload of GM canola as a result of the drought impact. These products met stringent environmental and human health requirements and were handled along the supply chain in a manner that ensured specific customer needs were met and there was no adverse impact on anyone or any industry.
Being an Australian cotton grower, I am one of the few fortunate farmers in this country allowed to choose whether or not I access biotechnology. From a tenuous start 11 years ago, my peers now choose to plant over 90 per cent of their area to GM varieties. The outcome: an 85 per cent reduction in pesticides applied, more fibre, oil and meal from every acre and ounce of water, and cheaper food and fibre for the consumers of this country and the world.
The environment and rural society has improved by a magnitude that could not have been even imagined 10 years ago. At the beginning, we were told it was the end of the world as we knew it- forests of resistant weeds, poor yields, uncontrollable secondary insects, our farms and souls being owned by Monsanto, and our neighbours devastated by our GM use.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Now we are on the verge of biotech developments that will shape the world for the betterment of mankind for generations to come, and my farming peers in the grain industry are still not allowed to even to choose whether or not they grow GM crops.
In this country, we have identified novel frost, drought and salt tolerant traits which could have the most outstanding beneficial effects on our economy, our environment, and the world's greenhouse challenge, but under current law they will be sold to our competitors to use against us.
Against formidable subsidies of our competitors, Australian farmers have always stayed competitive by the application of innovative technology before our competitors. In this case, we are being denied the most productive and beneficial technology of our lifetime.
A well respected UK study shows the greenhouse gas reduction with biotech crops to already be equivalent to removing 4 million cars off roads annually! One of the major ways we will overcome our greenhouse problems is to produce more food off less acres. Now that we are also being called on to produce fuel in the form of ethanol and biodiesel, it becomes doubly important to stop ploughing up more forests to produce our requirements, and the advancements being made by biotechnology across the world will be shown by history to be one of the most important reforms that will help save the world.
The reality is that just as we all have an obligation to reduce our greenhouse footprint, farmers have the same obligations, and those farmers allowed access to biotechnology are already well down that path.
But, although farmers in more than 22 countries that encompass 53 per cent of the world's population already grow GM crops, even they are just at the dawn of this exciting new era. Healthier foods from biotech crops, crops that are drought, salt and disease resistant on top of the ones that are already insect resistant will reform the world of agriculture. We will make real contributions to a healthier wellbeing. An example is that even a 10 per cent ethanol mix in our fuel would reduce hydrocarbon particulates by 50 per cent which would reduce respiratory deaths which are currently 2-3 fold our road deaths, by more than 50 per cent. But we can only produce ethanol by growing more crop, and cutting down more forests is not the answer to growing more crop.
Farmers are always concerned about maintaining fair trading relations with any major supplier; not just Monsanto and Bayer, but also BP, Shell, Toyota, GM, and Microsoft spring to mind. The only way to have a strong bargaining position is to have a strong alternative, and with cotton and canola, conventional crops are the alternative. For multinationals to charge us too much is to drive us to the conventional alternatives, and they lose completely.
Instead of being dominated by Monsanto, Australian farmers have had their access to technologies blocked by pressure groups including the multinational green groups. Australian canola farmers are losing completely by being denied their rights of access to this safe and tested technology.
Freedom from choice is not freedom of choice.
Canada's Leading by Example on GM
- Andrew Broad, The Weekly Times (Australia), May 25, 2007 Via http://www.truthabouttrade.org/
'Lifting the bans on genetically modified crops is essential if we are to have a profitable rural Australia, says Andrew Broad
Finding a way through the spin on genetically modified crops is becoming increasingly difficult for farmers. I have read the arguments for and against with interest and I'm left wondering, how can Australian farmers and consumers develop informed opinions?
Last year I had the privilege of travelling to 10 countries, including nine states of the US, as part of a Nuffield farming scholarship, sponsored by the Grain Research and Development Corporation. I have a strong belief farmers generally tell the truth to other farmers, so I asked the following questions:
Have we been left behind in our canola industry compared with other countries? Canada is the world's biggest producer of GM canola. Would Canadian growers turn back the clock if they could?
Are Canadian GM canola growers making money, or is that just for the developers of the technology? If Australian producers get access to this technology, how do we best apply it?
If Australia grows GM canola, can we sell it? Since its commercial release in 1995, the adoption of GM canola by Canadian farmers has been rapid.
About 80 per cent of Canadian canola is now GM, with yields increasing by 15.8 per cent across 10 years, and total planting area increasing from five million to six million hectares Australia's canola industry is in decline, in both yield and area seeded. In the past 10 years, Canada has produced supplies of GM canola equivalent to 50 years of Australian canola production.
These huge quantities of GM canola have been produced without negative environmental impact, and have been sold to the world market. The Network of Concerned Farmers would have you believe this is untested new technology, and is pushing for the state- based moratoriums to be extended until 2013. But this argument no longer holds water. The technology is commercially tested, and we now lag a long way behind our competitors.
I found no evidence of 'super weeds' taking over the Canadian countryside. I also found the premium or extra market access for non-GM canola does not exist. On the world market, the price is the same once currency and sea freight rates are taken into account.
The length of growing season, and moisture are the most important components to maximising canola yield. The ability to dry sow, and then clean up weeds that compete for moisture after the opening rains, gives GM canola a clear yield advantage.
Herbicide resistance does increase yield. And this is making Canadian farmers money. As one grower told me: 'The developers of Roundup Ready canola are a progressive company trying to make their own money. The spin-off is they make a product that makes me money. If it didn't make me money I wouldn't buy it.'
As I prepare to seed my non-GM canola, I look at the amount of chemicals I will have to use, and their toxicity levels. I know given good rains, my yields will still be less than if I had GM canola. And I will receive no premium in price.
If the Victorian Government wants to help farmers, it would allow them access to the world's best genetics, so we can grow profitable crops and trade our own way out of a drought. Victoria has plenty to gain through this technology. Our grain growers could reduce chemicals and increase yield.
Canola-crushing plants could be set up in regional areas, creating employment. Meal from the crushing plant could supply the dairy industry with cheap high-protein stock feed (already GM soybean meal is imported as dairy stock feed), and the processed canola oil could be used for biodiesel.
Finding a way through the spin is essential if we are to have a profitable rural Australia.
African Examples: Working towards food security
- Harold Ayodo, East Standard (Kenya), May 20, 2007
She surpassed her childhood dream of acquiring a doctorate degree when she got her second PhD. Today her dream is to see rural Africa achieve food security.
And she believes the answer lies in research and insects.
Dr Monica Ayieko, a lecturer at Maseno University, recently completed a four-year research on production of cookies, meatloaf, sausages and muffins from termites and mayflies.
The internationally renowned scientist is in the United States to present her research to scholars from around the globe. She is based at the University of Illinois, her alma mater. Ayieko is convinced that insects are a viable food option for poor nations experiencing food insecurity. "I believe food security can be achieved from simple natural resources," she says, adding that Africa is endowed with many resources. More at
Report from Chelsea Gerlach's Sentencing
- Gumby Cascadia, Indymedia via Infoshop News, May 25, 2007.
Judge Ann Aiken began today's proceedings by commenting that she was relieved to read in the news that suspects from Portland's car arsons have been arrested and that there appears to be no relation to the ELF or eco-sabotage motives.
US Atty Stephen Peiffer began the government's arguments by saying that Chelsea had been involved in arsons at Childers Meat Co., Boise Cascade in Monmouth, West Eugene police substation, Jefferson Poplar, BPA and Vail; and that the arsons were intended to intimidate, coerce or retaliate against government. He said that she had evolved into a "very accomplished criminal" over her span of time in the ELF cell.
He then spoke about Chelsea's introduction to radical activism through Earth First!, saying that her father had given her a copy of the EF! Journal, gave her a car, and allowed her to drive to Cove Mallard, Idaho at age 16 to participate in a direct action campaign. There she was arrested for blocking a road, and there she met Bill Rogers. He said the defense would try to argue that Chelsea was led astray by Rogers, but that she couldn't blame him, her parents, EF! or Meyerhoff for her actions, as her criminal conduct continued even after 2001 when the cell disbanded. At age 14, she spoke at the PIELC (Public Interest Environmental Law Conference) in Eugene, and met Meyerhoff at South Eugene High School in 1994. He said, at the time, Meyerhoff was not an environmentalist and that Chelsea led him down the road to extreme environmentalism. Eventually she went to The Evergreen State College in Olympia, WA, went to the Warner Creek in 1996, and another direct action campaign in the Olympic National Forest in 1997.
He said that during her tenure as a civil disobedience activist, she became frustrated at the ineffectiveness of those campaigns. She then left school, moved in with anarchists, and began to read Rogers' zines about incendiary devices. At one point, she went to Mt. Graham observatory (AZ) with Rogers who, as a test, planned with her to shoot out the telescope lens. The plan was aborted when they were discovered by security guards. Peiffer said Chelsea developed "malice toward anyone who didn't live up to her standards". In 1998, he said she drove to the BLM Rock Springs, WY wild horse corral where horses were released. Plans to torch the site were aborted when the horses began to stampede toward the town of Rock Springs.
Peiffer then spoke about Vail, saying that Chelsea and others' arson there did a huge disservice to the legitimate, lawful opposition of groups that had been fighting the expansion of the ski resort for years. (I wanted to ask him if any of these groups were being monitored or on their watchlists.) He said "they are her victims, too" and that after the fire, the environmental groups lost their lawsuit. He said Rogers recruited Gerlach and Meyerhoff, and then Chelsea drove them in her truck to Utah where they rented a hotel room to build their destructive devices (which were abandoned when they realized the cold and altitude of the site would hamper them). They drove to Vail, up a narrow rutted road in the snow and were unable to reach the summit, so they came back down the mountain where Meyerhoff backed out of the operation. Peiffer said Chelsea drove Rogers back up the mountain then waited in the truck while Rogers hiked the rest of the way on foot and lit the fuel by hand, torching 8 buildings spread over a 1.4 mile area at an elevation of 11, 250 ft., which he called "amazing". He said there was a patrol member in the process of moving into the newly built patrol building, but thankfully wasn't there yet. When Rogers came back down the mountain, he was injured and having difficulty walking, but Chelsea had slept in the truck and was waiting for him. They then drove to Denver and went to the library where they wrote and sent the communique. Peiffer then showed slides of the resort burning, the damage after the fire, and the approximate spot Chelsea had spent the night and stashed supplies. He said that for restitution purposes, damage was $12M, but when costs of business lost and other expenses were added, the total came to $24.5M. Peiffer asked that the terrorism enhancement be applied.
Peiffer spoke about Childers Meat Co., where Chelsea did recon, was a lookout and wrote the communique. Then he spoke about The Boise Cascade office in Monmouth, where she served as lookout and wrote and sent the communique from an internet cafe (which was meant to intimidate and coerce the government, so should get the terrorism enhancement). The Bonneville Power Administration tower was an action that Chelsea had researched to find a remote tower that was on the main grid to L.A. He said the intent of that action was to destroy electrical transmission to start Y2K troubles. Destruction of an energy facility is one of the predicate crimes for the federal terrorism law, so he asked for the enhancement on this action.
He spent more time on the West Eugene Police Substation attempted arson, saying that Gerlach chose the target, in a mixed-use neighborhood next to a hospital, university and businesses... with no regard for human life. He said she chose the target because anarchists in Eugene wanted revenge for street battles, jail time and pepper spray. He said the team rented a motel room in Salem and built a "clean room" to create the devices to be used, and that Gerlach helped to assemble the devices and carried one to the site in her backpack. Since the devices failed, he said they sent no communique. He said, "There's no telling what would have happened, if they had been successful and no one had been hurt, they would have claimed victory." He asked for the terrorism enhancement due to the fact that it was a government building.
At the Jefferson Poplar Farm action, Peiffer asserted that Chelsea did the research, connected Jefferson Poplar and the University of Washington Horticulture Center to the Tree Genetic Research Cooperative, a group working to share research about genetically modified fast-growing poplar trees. He said that what Chelsea didn't know was that by the time they did the action, JPF had changed hands and it was no longer engaged in genetic research. He stated that Gerlach was involved in recon of the site with Meyerhoff and Daniel McGowan, and that Gerlach and McGowan wrote the communique. He said the language of the communique was retaliatory to the Oregon and Washington legislatures, and therefore should have the terrorism enhancement applied. He said that after that action, Craig Rosebraugh, the ELF press officer at the time, rewrote the comminque to omit the reference to genetically modified trees, which angered the group. Peiffer said members of the cell didn't trust Rosebraugh. Dibee drove Chelsea to Vancouver, BC to talk to Darren Thurston, whom Chelsea had not yet met. She asked Thurston to convey the anger to Rosebraugh, which he did in an email. Peiffer said Rosebraugh then drove to BC to talk to Thurston, and told him he no longer wished to be press officer.
Peiffer said Chelsea had attended five Book Club meetings where discussions and workshops were held on constructing devices and timers, encryption, and use of code, among other things. These book club meetings took place in Springfield, OR, Santa Cruz, Tucson, Olympia. The last was in Sisters, OR, where things had begun to fall apart. He said Chelsea's involvement at these five meetings showed her deep involvement, a certain degree of leadership ("though we're not asking for a leadership departure"), and that she was trusted and admired by the group.
He then mentioned her involvement in crimes she is uncharged for, including an April, 2001 action to destroy genetically engineered plants at Oregon State University. He showed the communique, written by Gerlach, that was addressed personally to the president of the Tree Genetic Engineering Cooperative. Peiffer called it a "sophisticated, well-researched document." Other uncharged actions occurred at an Eastern Oregon genetically engineered crop site, the Biolabs beagle rescue in Orange, CA (which Peiffer called common thievery), and a 2001 break-in at a primate research facility in Arizona.
In 2002, Peiffer said, after the cell had disbanded, Joseph Dibee gave Gerlach $10,000 to perform reconnaissance at oil and high-tech sites around the country.
From 2001-2005, Peiffer said Gerlach was involved with Darren Thurston, both romantically and criminally, selling drugs to survive, creating fraudulent identification, and purchasing firearms. He said she led agents, soon after deciding to cooperate, to a cache of guns in the Siuslaw National Forest. Peiffer said Thurston told the government he and Chelsea had made and tested HMTD (an explosive) in Portland, then drove to Redway, California where they met with a representative of the EZLN (Zapatistas) and, using 7-10 grams of the substance, blew up a stump to demonstrate. Peiffer railed for a moment about how Chelsea had been harboring an illegal alien (Thurston), purchasing weapons for him, and assisting him with illegal border crossings, all criminal acts she was not being charged for.
He summed up by asking for 120 month sentence and restitution to the sum of $16M.
Craig Weinermann, defense counsel for Gerlach, said he wanted to focus on two things in his arguments: 1)How Chelsea was introduced to radical action, and 2)The nature of her cooperation. A DVD was submitted to the judge with testimony from family and others. Weinerman asked that the DVD not be played in open court, due to Chelsea's deep concerns for her privacy. Aiken agreed that the DVD not be shown in open court in front of the media. He said he normally does not like to discuss cooperation in court, but since it seemed very important to the court, he would. He said that Chelsea cooperated not only when she was arrested, but took extraordinary post-plea actions, when she stood to gain nothing, to convince the other defendants not to go to trial and to take pleas. Weinerman said the government had not taken her exemplary cooperation into consideration when compiling their sentencing recommendation, so he would ask the judge to do justice by downward departure.
He spoke about Bill Rogers for quite some time, and said he had profoundly influenced Gerlach. He said he mentioned it not by way of excuse, but in order to understand how Chelsea came to be in the situation, it was necessary. Gerlach was 16 when she met Rogers at Cove Mallard, Rogers was 28. He said Gerlach looked to him as a mentor and confidant, that she looked up to and admired him, and that he exploited her, and recruited her into the so-called "Family". He characterized Rogers as "The Mastermind" of the whole cell, said that he recruited six of the members. He said that if Chelsea hadn't met Rogers, she probably would never have strayed beyond the boundaries of simple civil disobedience in her actions.
He then showed slides of Chelsea as a child, always smiling with her parents. Weinerman said he believed Chelsea had grown up too fast, and was taught that environmental degradation is immoral. He showed slides of her in the student newspaper at South Eugene High School, speaking at age 14 at the PIELC about civil disobedience, and said she was deeply committed to finding non-violent solutions to environmental degradation. He said she was raised with the Earth First! Journal around the house where, at 16, she read about Cove Mallard. Her father gave her a car and she drove to Idaho to participate in the campaign, and stayed for about two months. He said that most of the adults there were supportive and protective of her... but not all. Bill Rogers was 28, and he had a dark side. Weinerman said, "He knew he could exploit her, and he began grooming her." Chelsea went back to Eugene to graduate from high school. Weinerman said, "The government says Chelsea dragged Meyerhoff into the movement. We say, when they are both the same age, within arm's length of each other, no one has more power over the other. The way Chelsea was brought in was NOT the same. Rogers had the power. Chelsea and Meyerhoff evolved together." Chelsea went to The Evergreen State College in Olympia where she became involved in environmental groups, but she became frustrated with a restless desire to do more, and called Rogers for advice. He told her they were going to start a group that would affect "real change". It was a destructive turn in Chelsea's life. Rogers encouraged her to distance herself from her family and social circle. In the spring of 1997, Gerlach and Meyerhoff were living together in Phoenix, when Rogers showed up and said, "We've got something big to do." They drove to Colorado.
Weinerman said Rogers had recruited other young kids, Nathan Block and Joyanna Zacher. He said Rogers authored the "Black Cat Sabotage Manual". He said there was more to Rogers' dark side, and that at the Book Club meeting in Olympia, the group discussed sexual abuse issues. He said that in discussions with Chelsea's investigator, Paul Brown, activists Kim Marks and Peg Millet had characterized Rogers as a sexual predator.
As to Gerlach's level of cooperation, Weinerman said Gerlach had not been as "compulsive" as Meyerhoff, and waited to talk to counsel first. He said it was a very difficult decision for Ms. Gerlach. He said she knew she would be ostracized. At the time, 30 to life was being threatened, he said, and when she asked, "What will happen if I cooperate?" he said he couldn't give her an answer. She had to trust people she really didn't trust, he said, and she had to trust the government to treat her fairly. He said, "There was also a concern that this case was being politicized... that shots were being called in Washington." He said her decision was "agonizing". He said, "She did more than talk the talk, " saying anyone can apologize in court, but that Chelsea was "walking the walk".
He then described how Chelsea had encouraged Darren Thurston to cooperate. (Darren was in the courtroom.) They met in Portland, and in the presence of federal agents, prosecutors, attorneys, Chelsea made her plea with Thurston. Weinerman then read notes from the meeting, in which Chelsea said, "I'm speaking from my heart. I didn't know if we'd ever see each other again. At first, I didn't want to put people in jail, but then I realized... I could be a martyr, or I could have a life. I chose a life." She also said, "The mandatory minimums suck." She told Thurston there that she had revealed to the government about the guns and drugs, and said, "You have to tell them everything. Do the right thing." Weinerman said that after Gerlach entered her plea, she was concerned about the rest of the defendants, so she arranged to meet with McGowan's, Block's and Zacher's attorneys. She told them she was being treated fairly, and that they should not go to trial and face the mandatory minimums. Weinerman said the government had mentioned Chelsea's influence had an effect, but their sentencing recommendation did not reflect this. He asked for no more than 72 months' sentence for Gerlach. He asked that the judge write a letter recommending Chelsea be housed at FCI Dublin (CA).
Co-counsel for Gerlach, Mr. Ehlers, gave a statement, as well. He said that he was there when Chelsea was arrested, and had seen how difficult she was going to be. She didn't trust him because he was a court-appointed lawyer. He said, "I had to overcome her doubts." He said the change he had seen in Gerlach was remarkable. That she struggled very hard with the cooperation decision. He said that when she decided to cooperate, he met with her for 16 hours at Lane County Jail, and she did not like it. He said he had to assure himself that when she met with the US Attorneys, she would be truthful. When she finally did meet with them, he said, "She embraced the role." He said he was amazed at her ability to remember PGP passwords with over a dozen alpha-numeric characters, and that when she went to the Siuslaw National Forest with agents, dogs, and metal detectors, it took her memory to find the cache of weapons. He said she took a positive and caring attitude toward others, and that her love of nature impressed him. He said she was one of the kindest people he had ever defended. He summed up by saying, "In stark terms, Bill Rogers was a pedophile." He said it was the shame of being exposed that led him to commit suicide, and that he had victimized Chelsea in a way that would be with her the rest of her life. He urged the judge to hand down a sentence that was sufficient but not excessive.
Chelsea read a statement to the court in which she apologized to the people hurt by her actions. She said her beliefs were no excuse "for being so cavalier". She said she took full responsibility for her choices, that she doesn't blame her parents whom she loves very much. Her voice broke when she said her parents had taught her that violence was never a viable choice. She said by way of explanation that for every piece of wilderness saved, so many more were destroyed. She said she was glad to be brought up with such a love of nature, but that she knew she must adopt peaceful means to make change. She spoke about her burgeoning spiritual practice, and her gratitude at being given a chance to redeem herself. She said she has plans to tutor in prison, and believes prison is a place she could make some positive contributions.
Judge Aiken responded by saying she thought Gerlach's statements were insightful and thoughtful. "You are sentencing yourself to a better life." She said that most people will come out of prison bitter, angry and likely to re-commit. She said our obligation as a society is to see that the people coming out of prison are people we can embrace and welcome back into the community. She then read an excerpt from a book (that I didn't catch the name of) whose message was "service is the rent we pay for living". She then berated Chelsea's parents for allowing a sixteen year old to drive to Idaho alone and become prey to the likes of Bill Rogers. She said, "That's not how you raise children." She said she hopes people are listening, that if parents don't stop being so self-absorbed she will be seeing a lot more smart young people going away to prison. About her job, she said, "If we don't believe in people, this job would be nothing more than pushing paper. There can be nothing more important than giving young people a future and hope. You will be given a chance to rejoin the community. However, you must be held accountable for your crimes." She said Gerlach's crimes had caused fear and destroyed people's property. She also said she hoped Gerlach would choose more positive means to affect change in the world. "The legitimate actions of the environmental movement live under a cloud of suspicion in part because of your actions." However, she noted Gerlach's extraordinary cooperation, and said, "Your courage is noted."
She then sentenced Chelsea Gerlach to 9 yrs. The terrorism enhancement was applied for Jefferson Poplar, WEPD, and BPA.
Gerlach's lawyers moved that she be released pending self-surrender, and the government did not object. However, a representative from pre-trial services said that nothing had changed from their perspective. Judge Aiken said she was going to err on the side of caution and not allow it. She said, "Someone needs to set boundaries, so I'm taking the role of a parent and setting boundaries."
*by Andrew Apel, guest editor, andrewapel+at+wildblue.net