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June 5, 2007


Bt Seed Rush; Food vs. fuel a nonissue; Re-Planting GM Crops; GM Terrorists & Vandals Sentenced & Fined


Today in AgBioView from* AgBioWorld, June 5, 2007

* India Grapples With Food Security
* Rush of farmers at Bt seed distribution
* Food vs. fuel a nonissue
* Re-Planting Biotech Crops
* Debate the science not the values
* Tasmania to review crop ban
* Orange cauliflower may lead to more nutritious crops
* Hope for African Malaria Patients
* GM Arsonists & Vandals Sentenced & Fined


India Grapples With Food Security

Modified cotton sees acceptance, success; are other crops next?

- Sameer Monindru, Wall Street Journal, June 5, 2007, sameer.mohindru+at+dowjones.com


NEW DELHI -- Cotton output in India is surging just a few years after it started growing genetically modified varieties. Now some are saying the country may have to shift that model to other crops if it is going to succeed in its quest for food security.

Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, cotton, is the only genetically modified crop commercially grown in India. And the wide acceptance of Bt cotton has catapulted India into its new role as a major producer and exporter of raw cotton and textiles.

Cotton production is on an upswing at a time when production of most food crops, including staples such as wheat and rice, has stagnated, leaving a supply gap for food that can be met only by high-priced imports.

At the National Development Council meeting in New Delhi last week, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh referred to India's "technology fatigue" and "the lack of any breakthrough in agricultural-production technologies in recent years."

Agricultural growth in India lags behind even sub-Saharan Africa, while farm incomes remain perilously low and most farmers struggle with high debt.

The consequences for the Indian economy couldn't be starker. India employs more than 650 million of its 1.1 billion people in agriculture, which last year contributed some 18.5% of gross domestic product, or the total value of goods and services produced there.

And yet even as the second-most populous nation struggles to produce enough food for its own people, it is remaking itself as a major producer of cotton, accounting for almost a fifth of global output, second only behind China, and providing 12% of global exports -- all on the back of Bt cotton.

India has around 120 million hectares under agriculture, but almost 700,000 hectares is lost each year to nonfarm activities. For cotton, plantings are on the rise, to 8.87 million hectares this year from 8.47 million in the 2005-06 season.

Of the current total, Bt cotton accounts for 3.8 million hectares, against fewer than 50,000 hectares in 2002-03. Since the 2003 period, India's cotton output has almost doubled, to 27 million bales weighing 170 kilograms each, and average yields are up around two-thirds, largely because of lower rates of pest infestation in the hardier Bt-cotton varieties.

While increases in cotton plantings have largely come at the expense of cash crops such as peanuts and not food crops, tighter land supply makes the wider acceptance of higher-yielding, genetically modified foods a necessity, according to some.

"If more volumes have to be produced on less land and with limited supplies of water, transgenics will have to play a pivotal role," said Bhagirath Choudhary, national coordinator, South Asia, for the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, a nonprofit organization.

The agency promotes the use of transgenics, or genetically modified crops. Mr. Choudhary reckons that next year will see cotton production hit 30 million bales.

Observers say Bt cotton is the only significant technological breakthrough in Indian agriculture since the Green Revolution of the 1970s, when the introduction of hybrid seeds jump-started production and ended India's reliance on imports for its staples.

Scientists in India are investigating the use of transgenics in at least 16 crops, including rice, wheat, corn, rapeseed and potatoes, but large-scale trials have yet to be conducted.

Many foods can be grown only once a year, so testing can take a decade or more -- from laboratory to field trial to commercial sign-off.

Observers worry it may take several more years before commercial cultivation of food crops begins, unless research is accelerated. But for cotton farmers, circumstances couldn't be better: The number of transgenic Bt-cotton hybrids available for sowing this year has reached an unprecedented 111 from just 62 in 2005-06.

"In the next few years, India's entire cotton crop will be genetically modified," said R.K. Baldua, vice president at Gujarat Ambuja Exports, a cotton-trading firm.

Higher yields for each hectare sown also mean better returns for farmers. Government studies of a few areas under Bt cotton show that on average, annual incomes of farmers can rise around 11,000 rupees, or over $270, a hectare.

But the enormous increase in acreage hasn't been without controversy. Echoing concerns first raised over a decade ago, particularly in Europe, environmental activists point to the biosafety risk that Bt cotton poses to agriculture at large.

They fear that the Bt gene could contaminate crops grown in adjoining fields and enter the human food chain. New genes in foods can be problematic in two ways: by releasing harmful toxins or by raising a food's propensity to cause allergic reactions. Scientists test transgenic crops for both.

One activist filed a petition last year in the Supreme Court, seeking to restrict trials of several genetically modified crops, including cotton. The court has yet to rule, but has allowed transgenic trials for the time being, subject to a set of technical guidelines that must be followed.


Heavy rush of farmers at Bt cotton seed distribution

- The Hindu, June 5, 2007


ADILABAD: Distribution of Bt cotton seeds at all the five mandal headquarters on Monday was a peaceful affair, barring a woman fainting. Heavy rush of farmers was witnessed at all the centres since early morning.

A woman who had stood for a longer time in the queue in the hot sun at Jainad fainted. She was admitted to the Government hospital. However, the incident affected the disbursal for some time before it could resume. Agriculture Department officials kept a strict watch over the proceeding throughout the day. Besides, there was adequate police bandobust at the MPDO offices where the seed distribution counters were set up. Though the officials feared shortfall in supply of seed by a meagre quantity, the process of disbursal was, however, peaceful because a majority of the farmers could obtain the required quantity.


Corn official: Food vs. fuel a nonissue

- Steve Tarter, Pittsburgh Journal Star, June 5, 2007, starter+at+pjstar.com


PEORIA - Increasing ethanol production doesn't threaten the world's food supply, said an official with the St. Louis-based National Corn Growers Association.

"The whole food vs. fuel issue is driven by the oil industry," said the association's CEO Rick Tolman, in Peoria recently to meet with the Journal Star editorial board.

While accepting ethanol as a 10 percent blend in unleaded gasoline, oil companies aren't embracing the corn-based fuel, he said.

"Despite what (the oil companies) say, they accept ethanol under duress," said Tolman, citing the industry's lack of support for E-85, a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent unleaded gas.

"There's only one major oil company that carries E-85 in St. Louis but they don't advertise its availability. You have to know it's there. On the E-85 pump, signs alert you that it's not a Mobil product and that you can't charge it on your Mobil credit card," said Tolman, who said he's heard many of the arguments raised by the oil industry regarding biofuels.

"The latest charge was that (oil firms) blame the growth of biofuels as the reason that there hasn't been a refinery built in this country since 1978," he said.

The charge that ethanol's growth will endanger the lives of the world's hungry also is disputed by Tolman. "(The United States) doesn't export much corn to developing countries. Due to the rising price of corn, they grow their own," he said.

But the oil industry isn't the only business Tolman is battling. He recently took issue with Tyson Foods, the world's largest processor and marketer of beef, chicken and pork.

"At a meeting of food analysts in March, Tyson said the cost of corn had doubled, creating problems for the company," he said. "I questioned that ($4 a bushel) figure as an average cost when the U.S. Department of Agriculture was then forecasting an average price of $3.20 a bushel."

Tyson CEO Richard Bond told investors that the American consumer would have to choose whether to use corn for feed or corn for fuel, he said. "There is no conflict between food and fuel and no need for there to be one," said Tolman, who concedes that corn prices are up. But he adds that Tufts University researchers recently released a study estimating that Tyson saved more than $2.5 billion between 1997 and 2005 when corn prices were down.

Continued advances in the biotech field are expected to provide corn yields of 300 bushels an acre by 2030, he said. "Drought tolerant corn is also in the pipeline," said Tolman.


Re-Planting Biotech Crops A No-No

- Stephen Albainy-Jenei, Patent Baristas, June 4, 2007


While the practice of savings seeds after a harvest to plant the next season is as old as farming itself, farmers have found that patent laws count in the end.

In Monsanto v. McFarling (05-1570, -1598), Monsanto went after the farmer for breaching a technology agreement over genetically modified crops that resist glyphosphate herbicide. Upon planting such crops, farmers can spray glyphosphate herbicide over their fields to kill weeds while sparing the resistant crops. Monsanto sells the glyphosphate herbicide under the trade name Roundup and sells seeds of the genetically modified crops, in this case soybeans, under the trade name Roundup Ready.

Monsanto's U.S. Patent No. 5,633,435 claims a plant cell containing a DNA molecule that encodes a genetically modified enzyme. That enzyme allows plants to survive exposure to glyphosphate herbicide. Monsanto's U.S. Patent No. 5,352,605 claims a plant cell containing a genetic promoter sequence that facilitates a plant's production of the modified enzyme.

Monsanto distributed the patented seeds by authorizing various companies to produce the seeds and sell them to farmers. Monsanto required those seed companies to obtain a signed "Technology Agreement" from purchasers. The Technology Agreement licensed the '435 and '605 patents to farmers on several conditions and required that farmers promise not to violate those conditions - specifically, the farmers promised not to replant seeds that were produced from the purchased seeds or to supply those seeds to others for replanting.

The purchasers also paid a fee to Monsanto for the license. For the time periods relevant here, Monsanto charged a license fee of $6.50 per 50-pound bag of Roundup Ready soybean seed. Mr. McFarling also would have had to pay a seed company between $19 and $22 for each bag of the seed that he purchased.

In 1998, McFarling purchased Roundup Ready soybean seeds and signed the Technology Agreement for that year and paid the required fees. However, he saved 1500 bushels of seeds from his 1998 soybean crop and planted those seeds in 1999. He did the same thing the next year, saving soybeans from his 1999 crop and planting them in 2000.

The saved seeds contained the patented genetic traits, but McFarling did not pay the license fee for the 1999 or 2000 growing seasons. Hence, Monsanto sued him asserting that he had breached the Technology Agreement and infringed the '435 and '605 patents.

McFarling raised various defenses, including patent misuse and preemption by the Plant Variety Protection Act. The district court rejected those defenses and granted Monsanto's motion in full except as it concerned damages for breach of contract and infringement of the '605 patent.

On appeal, the CAFC affirmed the dismissal of McFarling's antitrust counterclaim and the rejection of his defenses of patent misuse and preemption by the Plant Variety Protection Act.

The jury returned a damages verdict of $40 per bag of saved seed, well in excess of the $6.50 per bag for which Mr. McFarling had argued, but substantially less than the $80.65 per bag (for 1999) and $73.20 per bag (for 2000) urged by Monsanto based on the analysis of its expert. Mr. McFarling again moved to limit the damages award to what he contended was Monsanto's $6.50 per bag established royalty for use of its patented technology. The district court denied the motion, adopted the jury's verdict, and awarded Monsanto approximately $375,000 in damages.

McFarling argued that the damages should should have been limited to the "established royalty" for Roundup Ready seeds, i.e., the "Technology Fee" of $6.50 per bag that Monsanto charged licensees who purchased Roundup Ready seeds under its Technology Agreement.

By statute, damages for patent infringement are to be "adequate to compensate for the infringement, but in no event less than a reasonable royalty for the use made of the invention by the infringer, together with interest and costs as fixed by the court." 35 U.S.C. 284.

Monsanto agreed to let other soybean farmers use the patented traits in planting and growing soybean crops and to let them sell the harvested seeds as a commodity. In exchange, farmers agreed to pay Monsanto a Technology Fee and to refrain from planting Roundup Ready seed saved from a previous season's crop and from selling Roundup Ready seed from their crop to others for planting.

The parties agreed that the amount of the Technology Fee was $6.50 per 50-pound bag of Roundup Ready soybean seed for the pertinent years, 1999 and 2000. Because that fee does not take into account the added obligation imposed on all authorized licensees under the Technology Agreement - to purchase seed from an authorized seed store - the CAFC held that the trial court was correct to refuse to treat the $6.50 Technology Fee as the established royalty for a license comparable to the infringing conduct.

The CAFC did not take kindly to McFarling being an infringer trying to get a sweet deal. Specifically, the court stated that:

Picking $6.50 as the upper limit for the reasonable royalty would create a windfall for infringers like McFarling. Such infringers would have a huge advantage over other farmers who took the standard Monsanto license and were required to comply with the provisions of the license, including the purchase-of-seed and non-replanting provisions. The evidence at trial showed that Monsanto would not agree to an unconditional license in exchange for a payment of $6.50, and the explanation - that Monsanto would lose all the benefits it gets from having the cooperation of seed companies in promoting Monsanto's product and controlling its distribution - is a reasonable commercial strategy.

By insisting that the established royalty is $6.50 per bag, Mr. McFarling does not acknowledge the significance of the requirement that licensees not only pay the $6.50, but also purchase the genetically modified seeds from a seed company rather than replanting saved seed. He does not argue, even in the alternative, that the court should have limited the reasonable royalty to the total amount paid by licensed farmers for patent-protected seeds.

Monsanto's experts testified that the no-saving-seed requirement (1) decreased the risk of under-reporting and the consequent reputation harm to Monsanto with farmers, (2) ensured Monsanto's knowledge of the quality of seed planted each year, and (3) provided a bargaining chip for signing up new seed companies. It is difficult to assign a dollar value to those benefits, but the benefits nonetheless justify the jury's finding that a reasonable royalty for a license to engage in conduct like Mr. McFarling's would exceed the amount of the payments made by farmers who participated in the licensing program.

In determining the amount of a reasonable royalty, it was proper for the jury to consider not only the benefits of the licensing program to Monsanto, but also the benefits that Monsanto's technology conferred on farmers such as Mr. McFarling.

In this case, we hold that the jury's verdict was supported by evidence and was not grossly excessive, particularly in light of the evidence of the savings Mr. McFarling achieved by his infringement, the benefits to Monsanto from requiring farmers to adhere to the terms of its standard licensing agreement, and the benefits conferred by the patented technology over the use of conventional seeds.

In the end, McFarling reaped what he had sown.


Monsanto Co. v. Homan McFarling, United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit 05-1570, -1598, Appealed from: United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, http://fedcir.gov/opinions/05-1570.pdf <http://fedcir.gov/opinions/05-1570.pdf>


GM: debate the science not the values

- Max Rheese, The National Forum (Australia), June 4, 2007


The recent claim that southern Australia is in the grip of a lobbying war over the impending expiry of the moratoria on genetically modified crops is a manifestation of the silliness that impedes progress on many science-based issues in society today.

If indeed there is a lobbying war over whether to allow the expiry of the moratorium on growing GM crops on February 29, 2008, imposed by the Victorian Government in 2004 - or to extend it to 2013 - then it is a war based on imposition of values, not science.

Moratoria on GM crops will expire in most states in 2008.

Anti GM groups have argued that the introduction of GM technology will have adverse effects on the environment without providing any evidence to substantiate their claims. Conversely, GM proponents have presented detailed, documented studies of very large reductions of pesticide use - up to 80 per cent in the Namoi valley in New South Wales where 90 per cent of the cotton grown is GM.

Further to this, anti GM groups have been presented with the results of the Brooks Barfoot ten-year study released earlier this year, into the socio-economic and environmental effects of GM crops grown overseas that show they have been wildly successful for individual farmers who have been able to choose whether they grow GM or conventional crops.

No such choice is available in Australia except for cotton and 90 per cent of farmers choose GM cotton.

The study also shows that the reduction in greenhouse gases emitted through minimum tillage by growing GM crops is equal to removing four million cars from the road. These are very substantial, proven environmental benefits from biotech crops.

The accumulated area of biotech crops planted globally over eleven years, 1996 to 2006, has reached 577 million hectares, grown by about 10.3 million farmers, 90 per cent of whom are in developing countries. This massive practical experience on millions of farms generating our food, feed, fibre and fuel is solid confirmation that biotech crops do not pose any substantiated risk beyond those posed by conventional crops, without harming the planet.

Clearly the evidence in many studies shows that biotech crops leave a smaller ecological footprint on the landscape than conventional crops.

Those opposed to GM crops grasp at any argument to deny our farmers the freedom to choose and in doing so deny the environment and the economy the advantages of technological innovation that our major trading partners overseas already enjoy.

These arguments, which science show to be baseless, along with the myths about premiums for non GM status are disingenuous and all about imposing their values on the rest of society.

The UN predicts the world population will rise to 9.3 billion people by 2050 - a 42 per cent increase on the present - and nobody is predicting that the world will get any bigger to accommodate an extra three billion people.

Short of cutting down all the world's forests for more arable land - an environmental disaster of huge proportions - the only way we will produce enough food for an increase in population of this size is through technological innovation such as biotech crops.

These are simple facts. Most people in the developed world have already shown they are not willing to allow further widespread clearing of forests for agriculture. So we must be able to produce at least 42 per cent more food in 40 years time than we do now, from about the same amount of arable land.

Those opposed to the use of biotech crops could do society a favour and outline how this will be achieved. If they are so confident of the claims they make against GM technology - that our markets and our consumers do not want the benefits of GM crops - let them choose.

Australian farmers and consumers have shown themselves to be very discerning when it comes to making choices that affect their livelihoods and their quality of life. Farmers will not invest their time, effort and money in technology they do not have faith in or a market for.

Earlier this month at a forum on GM, Victorian parliamentarians heard from Professor Rick Roush, the dean of Land and Food Resources at Melbourne University about the science of GM crops. They also heard from Dr Jennifer Marohasy, who heads the Environment Unit at the Institute of Public Affairs and is a board member of the Australian Environment Foundation, that GM technology is good for the environment.

And Chris Kelly, convenor of the Producers Forum in Victoria and a grain grower, told them about the choices farmers want to make to be able to remain competitive in world markets - a choice currently denied them. This was a forum based on facts and science.

The Victorian Government will now start the review process that will decide whether the current moratorium should expire or be extended. If this decision is to be based on science, on what is good for the environment, about farmers being able to make informed choices about what crops they will grow on their land - this will favour biotechnology.

This should be a decision on how the benefits science delivers can best be utilised - not how values based on ideology can deny choice.


Tasmanian govt to review GM crop ban

- ABC Rural (Australia), June 5, 2007


Tasmania's $40 million poppy industry will argue for future approval to grow genetically modified plants.

The state government has announced a review of its current moratorium on GM crops, which is due to expire in late 2009.

The Tasmanian Organic Coalition believes the ban should remain, citing concerns about potential cross contamination of GM and non-GM crops.

But Rick Rockcliff, from poppy processor Tasmanian Alkaloids, says there are advantages for his industry.

"We know other people are working on GMOs in the field of poppies and if we don't keep up we'll be left behind and that could spell the end of the Tasmanian poppy industry," he said.


Discovery in orange cauliflower may lead to more nutritious crops

- Cornell University News Service press release via Biology News Net, June 4, 2007


While orange cauliflower may seem unappealing to some, it has distinct nutritional advantages. Now, Cornell researchers have identified the genetic mutation behind the unusual hue. The finding may lead to more nutritious staple crops, including maize, potato, rice, sorghum and wheat.
The genetic mutation recently isolated by Cornell plant geneticist Li Li and colleagues -- and described in the December issue of The Plant Cell -- allows the vegetable to hold more beta-carotene, which causes the orange color and is a precursor to the essential nutrient vitamin A. While cauliflower and many staple crops have the ability to synthesize beta-carotene, they are limited partially because they lack a "metabolic sink," or a place to store the compound.

Developing staple crops with more vitamin A is important because vitamin A deficiency, common in developing countries, leads to compromised immune systems and is the leading cause of blindness in children.

"A large percentage of the human population depends on staple crops for nutrition," said Li, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Plant Breeding and Genetics and a scientist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- Agricultural Research Service's U.S. Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory at Cornell. "The research provides a possible new technique for genetically modifying staple crops to increase their ability to store beta-carotene and increase nutritional content in staple crops."

Other researchers have created "golden rice" by inserting several genes that increases the synthesis of beta-carotene. But this technique has proved less effective in many plants. Li's research, which increases a plant's ability to store beta-carotene, may offer an alternate and complementary technique for making staple crops more nutritious.

Li, in collaboration with Joyce Van Eck from the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research at Cornell, is currently working on transgenic potatoes, altering genes to increase both the metabolic sink and beta-carotene synthesis.

Orange cauliflower was first discovered in a farmer's white cauliflower field in Canada about 30 years ago and is now available at supermarkets.


Dafra Brings Hope to African Malaria Patients

- Naa Norley, Ghanaian Chronicle (Accra), web posted June 4, 2007


DAFRA PHARMA International, private market leader in Arteminisin -based Combination Therapies [ACTs] in Africa, has commissioned Plant Research International [PRI] to start new research to optimize the production method of artemisinin through genetically modified chicory plants.

This research is to lower the price of large-scale production of artemisinin, a basic raw material used in ACTs, the latest generation and most effective anti malaria treatment, according to the WHO [World Health Organization] of the UN.

It is also to reduce the cost to such an extent that the treatment of the African patient will soon cost no more than half a dollar.

According to a WHO report, some 200-500 million malaria cases are reported annually worldwide. Each year this results in the death of 1.5 to 2 million people of which 90% occur in Africa and yet malaria is perfectly treatable.

A release issued by Rics Consult Limited in Accra, noted that Malaria is the main cause of death in most African countries, more that HIVIAIDS. The disease is in particular, fatal for pregnant women [10,000 per year] and young children [3,000 per day] Each 30 seconds, a child under five dies of malaria in Africa and yet malaria is perfectly treatable.

Rapid diagnosis and treatment with an ACT can cure a patient before the disease becomes life thre

atening. Since the malaria parasite has become resistant to the older conventional anti malaria treatments such as chloroquine SP among others, the WHO recommends ACTs as the first time treatment in the African countries.

New research of PRI also for Dafra Pharma Intemational NV is now being initiated to see how the precursor of artemisinin can best be produced in chicory.

Dafra Pharma Intemational NV has the chemical expertise required for the conversion, after extraction of the precursor into artemisinin that is directly suitable for the production of ACTs.

Dafra Pharma Intemational NV is a Belgian pharmaceutical company has a unique distribution and promotional network in 38 countries in Africa including Ghana and with more than 120 local African medical representatives.

Ebenezer Pharmacy Limited formally Spelling 'B' with Mr. Kwabena Bediako Sampong, Chief Executive, is the sole representative of Dafra Pharma in Ghana.


Man sentenced to seven years for ecoterrorism fires

- Associated Press via KOMO TV, June 4, 2007


EUGENE, Ore. - Declaring that a fire set at a tree farm was terrorism because it was intended to influence legislation, a federal judge sentenced a New York man Monday to seven years in prison for his part in arsons claimed by the Earth Liberation Front.

Daniel McGowan was the ninth of 10 people to be sentenced after pleading guilty to conspiracy and arson for their parts in a string of 20 arsons from 1996 through 2001.

He also was ordered to pay his share of $1.9 million in restitution.

Responsibility was claimed by a Eugene-based cell of the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front called The Family. Damage totaled $40 million.

Judge Ann Aiken told McGowan, the son of a New York city transit cop, that he was a coward for donning a mask and setting fires to scare people rather than working positively to protect the environment.

She said she doubted the sincerity of his remorse when a Web site raising money for his legal defense carried nothing from him denouncing his crimes.

"You are not a poster child for the environment," Aiken said. "You are an arsonist."

McGowan had pleaded guilty to conspiracy and arson in fires set at the Superior Lumber Co. office in Glendale in January, 2001, and the Jefferson Poplar Farm in Clatskanie in May 2001.

Judge Aiken declared the tree farm fire to be terrorism because the communique issued afterward made reference to potential legislation to curb radicals, but cut one year from the eight-year sentence recommended by prosecutors in recognition of McGowan's help getting other defendants to plead guilty.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Peifer said McGowan joined The Family in 2000 after taking part in anarchist riots in Seattle to protest World Trade Organization meetings.

Primarily interested in stopping genetic engineering, McGowan helped a Midwest cell of the Earth Liberation Front attack a U.S. Forest Service laboratory in Wisconsin in 2000, but has not been charged in that case, Peifer said. He said McGowan also spiked trees on a timber sale in Oregon, but was not charged.

Defense attorney Amanda Lee argued that McGowan had put radicalism behind him, retiring from The Family in 2002 and returning to New York, where he was born, and was working for a women's advocacy law firm and doing volunteer work for the homeless.

Peifer questioned whether McGowan had left radicalism behind, citing news stories in which McGowan was quoted as the leader of a group trying to disrupt the Republican National Convention in 2004 by posting on the internet hotels where delegates were staying and restaurants where they were eating.

McGowan also found an old copy of a manual for building timers for incendiary devices written by William "Avalon" Rodgers, the leader of The Family, and planned to send it to distributors of radical materials, Peifer said.

McGowan was tripped up by Jacob Ferguson, a fellow arsonist who had agreed to wear a wire for investigators and seek out his old friends. Ferguson has yet to be charged, but is expected in court this month.

In excepts of those recordings played in court, McGowan said he checked news accounts on Google on the anniversaries of major fires set by The Family, and was encouraged that they reported no hard evidence against them.

He told Ferguson that as long as everyone kept his mouth shut and no one turned Judas for money, they could all lead normal lives.

"That's uh, that's a, that's a joke that they're going to pay," Ferguson replied.

Asked by Ferguson if he ever thought the fires were for nothing, because nearly everything was rebuilt, McGowan disagreed.

"That should never be the barometer of the victory man," McGowan said. "The victory is like the (expletive) publicity. That's what it is. It's the putting it on the map, man."

McGowan added that an arson at a Vail, Colo., ski resort, which was done by others in The Family, had spurred recruitment for the ELF and raised their activities to a new level.

"It got people's attention, man," McGowan said. "It totally changed the extreme of eco-resistance. It made tree-sits look calm, you know."

McGowan's wife, who married him after his arrest, made a tearful plea for mercy, saying she was shocked to learn of his past, which was so different from the man she loved.

McGowan added his own statement, saying he got sick to his stomach before the arsons, but took full responsibility for his actions and regretted them. At the same time, he felt threats to the environment were dire.

Outside the courtroom, McGowan, who is free on bail, was given a round of applause by supporters after saying former Vice President Al Gore's efforts to stop global warming were ineffective, old growth forests were still being cut down and genetic engineering was still going on.


Highest French court confirms jail for anti-GMO protester

- Originally published on 6/1/2007 by AFP in French


The Court of Cassation [highest French court of appeal] has confirmed the sentences pronounced in June 2006 by the court of appeal in Orleans against 49 anti-GMO activists, including Jean-Emile Sanchez, a former spokesman of the Farmers' Confederation, who had been sentenced to two months' imprisonment, AFP has learnt from the court.

In a ruling pronounced on Thursday [31 May], the court rejected the appeals lodged by the defendants, thus making the sentences final. On 27 June 2006 the court of appeal in Orleans overturned the ruling of the magistrates' court in the same city, which acquitted the 49 defendants on 9 December, accepting the "condition of necessity" of their voluntary reaping action. The court of appeal sentenced Jean-Emile Sanchez, a former spokesman of the Farmers' Confederation, to two months' imprisonment and handed down suspended two-month sentences on the other 48 anti-GMO activists for reaping genetically modified maize on plots in the Loiret department [in central-northern France] in 2004 and 2005.

Forty-four reapers - including two elected representatives of the Greens: Francine Bavay, vice-president of the Ile-de-France region, and Yves Contassot, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of the environment - had been prosecuted for a reaping action committed on 14 August 2004 in Greneville-en-Beauce (Loiret). Five others, as well as three from the group of 44, also had to answer for another action carried out on 7 July 2005 in Greneville-en-Beauce and Neuville-aux-Bois (Loiret). The 49 "voluntary reapers" had also been ordered to pay a 1,000-euro fine each.


*by Andrew Apel, guest editor, andrewapel+at+wildblue.net