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January 27, 2009


Secretly Growing GM Crops; Pakistan Joins the Club; Smart Maize for Africa; Europe Needs Time; Ethical Dilemmas in a Hungry World


* UK: Farmer Breaks GM-free Wales Rule
* Farmer Secretly Grows GM Crops in Wales
* Pakistan: Farmers to Grow Bt Cotton With Government's Nod
* Hawaii: We Must Not Squander Our Biotech Expertise
* U.S.-African Partnership Developing Drought-Tolerant Maize
* In Defense of GM Crops
* Future Foods: Join the GM Debate
* Ag Biotech Can Help Mitigate Climate Change, But Will Europe Benefit?
* Hugh Grant: Europe Needs Time
* Biotech Nanotech for Sustainable Agriculture
* Food, Famine and Future Technologies: Ethical Dilemmas in a Hungry World
UK: Farmer Breaks GM-free Wales Rule

- BBC Radio, Jan 26, 2009 http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/wales/7851374.stm

A farmer claims to have defied a Welsh Assembly Government vote to keep Wales free from genetically modified crops. Jonathan Harrington, who farms at Tregoyd, near Hay-on-Wye, Powys, said he grew two varieties of GM maize there and gave seeds to two other farmers.

He denied breaking any laws, but anti-GM campaigners said he had for failing to register with the authorities. The Welsh Assembly Government said it could not legally ban GM crops, but had a restrictive GM crop policy.

Mr Harrington, aged 53, told BBC Radio 4's Today programme there were "enormous potential advantages" to Welsh farmers if they decided to grow GM maize as feed for livestock. "Unless some farmers show an interest in it, none of the plant breeders are going to to bother to develop crops for UK conditions," he said.

"I'm extremely interested in the new technology that's available through GM plant breeding ." He questioned if he was really the first to break the voluntary ban on GM crops in Wales. "What I've done is entirely legal. The Welsh government does not have legal responsibility for these crops," he added.

Mr Harrington chose from an EU-approved list of crops which he said was approved for growing anywhere in the EU. He claimed as he was growing crops commercially and not as a trial, he was not required to inform the authorities of the location. "I didn't tell anyone where I grew them because you get the anti-GM lobbyists coming around in their white suits and gloves and masks and ripping them all up," he said.

'Grossly irresponsible'
However Dr Brian John from GM Free Cymru said he believed Mr Harrington could face prosecution. "Our reading of the regulations is that he is required to provide advance information as to where the plantings will take place, which varieties and to ensure that his neighbours are not going to be negatively affected," he said. "I think this is a grossly irresponsible act on his part. He's making a political point here.

"He's entitled to his view and that's fair enough but to actually go ahead and plant a totally unsuitable maize variety, or two varieties, in the Brecon Beacons National Park which is a protected area is quite extraordinary. "If he has not informed the Welsh assembly and the county council of the location, the varieties, his monitoring plan to check for contamination and to enable people to follow this material through the food chain, he has quite clearly broken the regulations and should be prosecuted."

But Mr Harrington said: "If the authorities want to prosecute me that's fine, I'll fight my corner.
"I've taken legal advice and I'm advised I've done nothing wrong."


U.K.: Farmer Secretly Grows GM Crops in Wales

- Barry Alston, Farmers Guardian, Jan 26, 2009


Environmentalists are calling for his prosecution, but a farmer who is claimed to have sabotaged Wales's GM-free status by secretly planting and harvesting genetically modified maize and feeding it to cattle and sheep is totally unrepentant.

In a political stunt that has infuriated the Welsh Assembly and anti-GM campaigners, Jonathan Harrington claims to have imported two varieties of GM maize from Spain, planted them on his land and given seeds away to two other farmers who also planted the banned crops.

He says it was done as an act of defiance to the Assembly’s 'childish' attitude to GM food after eight years of campaigning against its GM-free stance taken 2000. In his view the Assembly policy is “ill advised and mistaken” and that while the technology was available one in six people in the world were going to bed starving.

Welsh agriculture should be at the forefront of the technology – not lagging behind. He also claims the Assembly had no legal right to ban the adoption of a pro-GM policy and that he and two unnamed farmers had done 'nothing illegal' by planting a small area of GM maize on land near Felindre, midway between Talgarth and Hay-on-Wye, not far from the Wales-England border.

Their actions have, however, been condemned as 'grossly irresponsible' by GM-free campaigners and the Assembly is said to be considering its legal options. “To plant it, then deliberately push it into the food chain is absolutely insane,” said plant scientist, Brian John, of GM Free Cymru.

Friends of the Earth Cymru has also said it was concerned the maize had entered the food chain without any control, traceability or labelling. Even if it was only a small quantity, it meant Wales was not GM-free any more.

But Mr Harrington is unrepentant, saying he had resorted to the secret planting because the Assembly, which voted unanimously for GM-free status in 2000, had refused to have any meaningful discussions over its policy.

“Out of frustration I went and bought some varieties of maize bred to be resistant to a pest called the European corn borer and which are grown widely in Spain, France, Germany and the Czech Republic.” The chosen varieties were on the EU common variety list, and as such it was legal to grow them anywhere in Europe.

“It was a poor summer, so they did not do terribly well – but we did have enough for some silage which has been used to feed cattle and sheep. “I have no qualms, no regrets at all. I am waiting for the backlash and very happy morally, ethically and legally, if need be, to defend my actions.”

The Assembly has admitted that despite its policy, which has otherwise been strictly adhered to throughout Wales, it has no actual legal power to ban GM crops. But anti-GM campaigners believe Mr Harrington can be prosecuted for not complying with stringent regulations that require monitoring, labelling and traceability of GM crops.

The Assembly has said in a statement that it believed the introduction of GM crops could undermine some of the achievements and future ambitions for Welsh agriculture.“We are committed to close monitoring and control of any proposals for GM crops in Wales. However, we cannot legally ban GM crops in Wales because we have to work within a European legal framework. “Our policy is to take a precautionary and restrictive GM crop policy stance which is in line with our commitment to sustainable agriculture.

“We believe it has broad public support and reflects the Welsh Assembly Government’s legal duty to act responsibly within the UK and EU legislation.”


Pakistan: Farmers to Grow Bt Cotton With Government's Nod

http://www.pakissan.com/english/news/newsDetail.php?newsid=19763 January 23, 2009

KARACHI - Farmers will start growing Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton with official permission from next kharif, Federal Textile Minister Rana Farooq Mohammad Khan informed a gathering of local businessmen on Thursday at Karachi Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The textile minister in his first visit to the KCCI told businessmen about his efforts within the government to ensure payment of Rs10 billion arrears of the research and development subsidy to textile exporters He did not make any specific reference but implied that this amount pertained to subsidy on textile exports made during June 25 to June 30 last year for which the SBP had suspended disbursement.“I am also trying to support textile exporters in any other possible way if not by research and development subsidy,” he stated while pointing out that he knows nothing about the textile industry since he was a grower and therefore knows how vital is cotton and textile are for the country’s economy.

The minister declares that textile is mainstay of the economy and though he is not involved in this business but wants revive the lost glory of this sector. He wondered as to why his predecessor in the textile ministry who was a leading textile businessman failed to deliver any good to his colleagues.


Hawaii: We Must Not Squander Our Biotech Expertise

- Jay Fidell, The Honolulu Advertiser. Jan 25, 2009 http://www.honoluluadvertiser.com Via Agnet

Jay Fidell, a business lawyer practicing in Honolulu who has followed tech and tech policy closely and is a founder of ThinkTech Hawaii, writes in this piece that those who fuel the controversy on biotech crops call them GMOs — genetically modified organisms.

One thing we can expect in the Legislature this year is a hornet's nest of anti-GMO bills. In past Legislatures these bills have failed, but they keep coming back. Sadly, one-third of all of the anti-biotech bills in the country are introduced in Hawai'i.

Agriculture in Hawai'i is a $500 million business. To block research and thus the use and benefit of this technology will undoubtedly affect that business. Is that what we want?

The Big Island seems to be moving backward. A handful of anti-tech activists somehow enlisted the native Hawaiian community and the County Council into a permanent ban on research on biotech taro and coffee. Not only did they adopt this ban 9-0, over the opposition of the business farmers, but they then overrode Mayor Harry Kim's veto.

The council had lost touch with 21st century agriculture. This ban stifles our progress and reverses our history of agricultural achievement. It denies us technology that can protect and improve our crops, and it could darken the industry's outlook for years. The new council should step up and promptly reverse the ban.

In fact, biotech crops are more regulated than any other agricultural commodity in the country, with federal oversight by the USDA, EPA and FDA. Impulsive county actions like this ban create an overlay of regulation that inhibits investment in the industry. Clearly, the time has come for the state to step in and limit this kind of county rulemaking.


U.S.-African Partnership Developing Drought-Tolerant Maize: African-led project using biotechnology to increase grain harvest

- Nancy Pontius, January 26, 2009. America.gov http://www.america.gov/st/scitech-english/2009/January/20090126135419abretnuh0.9448206.html?CP.rss=true

Biotechnology is a key component of a public-private partnership that could save millions of lives by developing drought-tolerant maize for small-scale farming operations in sub-Saharan Africa. More than 300 million Africans depend on maize as their main food source. The partnership — known as Water Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) — was formed because crop yields are reduced greatly by frequent droughts in Africa, leading to hunger and poverty.

“This project, conducted mostly in Africa for Africans, will result in improved maize hybrids, yielding an additional 25 percent more grain under moderate drought conditions, compared to the best African seed currently available,” Vanessa Cook, U.S. agricultural company Monsanto’s WEMA project lead, told America.gov. “Approximately 0.8 million metric tons of additional grain would be produced if 1 million hectares of maize showed this increase in a moderate drought year,” Cook said. “This would feed an additional 4.8 million people, providing the equivalent of $320 million in food aid and increased income to farmers.”

With the support of Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, WEMA is led by the African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), an African-run charity facilitating public-private partnerships in appropriate proprietary technologies to increase productivity for poor farmers in sub-Saharan Africa.

These are the other WEMA partner members:
• The International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, which provides high-yielding maize varieties adapted to African conditions and expertise in conventional breeding and drought-tolerance testing
• The U.S. firm Monsanto, which contributes proprietary corn lines, testing of genetically modified maize and the substantial expertise and capabilities of its molecular breeding research laboratories and data analysis
• National agricultural research systems, farmer groups and seed companies in Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, which contribute expertise in field testing and knowledge of local conditions and product requirements
• The Howard Buffett Foundation, which has pledged $5 million for this project
• The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has committed funding of $42 million

The Gates Foundation director of agricultural development, Rajiv Shah, told America.gov, “Our long-term goal with this project is to give farmers access to crops that can protect them from frequent drought, so [farmers] can feed their families, increase their incomes and build better, healthier lives.”

By 2018 or earlier, the enhanced seeds are expected to be available without royalty charges to small-scale African farms.

The new maize varieties will be developed using a combination of conventional plant breeding and biotechnology (also called genetic modification or genetic engineering). Conventional breeding involves repeatedly crossing and pollinating plants, then selecting the best varieties. This method takes eight years to 10 years or longer. For WEMA, Monsanto will accelerate the selection process with marker-assisted breeding, which allows researchers to find and track genetic material associated with drought tolerance and focus on developing those lines.

Genetically modified crops are produced by introducing a new piece of DNA from another plant or bacterium to strengthen the desired characteristic, Cook said. For this process, a “gene gun” powered by air pressure is used to shoot DNA pieces coated onto microscopic gold particles into plant cells, with the goal of inserting a new, desirable genetic trait. Plants then are grown to see if the desired change occurs.

“Ten million farmers have been using [genetically modified] crops in 23 countries in the last 12 years,” Bruce Chassy, professor at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, told America.gov, “and they have seen higher yields and healthier soil, in addition to reduced pesticide use, energy use and emissions of greenhouse gases.” “And, of particular benefit to developing countries, [genetically modified] crops also can be nutritionally enhanced and made more resistant to fungal infections that produce toxins dangerous to humans,” Peggy Lemaux, University of California, Berkeley, faculty member, told America.gov.

“Genetic engineering is a powerful tool to improve crop yield in sub-Saharan Africa, in addition to conventional plant breeding, soil conservation, increasing soil nutrients and increasing access to fertilizer and quality seeds,” Cook said.

“Concerns have been raised about [genetically modified] crops regarding the possibility of introducing harmful and irreversible changes to the gene pool, human health problems and unknown future safety risks, which may be inadequately regulated,” Chassy said, “but genetic engineering has been practiced for 45 years with no known adverse affects, and instead the improved crops have generally been very productive and beneficial.”

To preserve existing genetic diversity, Lemaux said, gene banks worldwide have collected and stored samples of most crop and plant seeds. In terms of human health, “commercial genetically engineered crops and products available today are at least as safe in terms of food safety as those produced by conventional methods,” she added.

“In the United States, 10 to15 years of research and safety testing of [genetically modified] products make them the best understood and most researched foods on the market,” Chassy said. “In Kenya, Mozambique, South Africa, Tanzania and Uganda, there are national teams to ensure that the regulatory frameworks are in place for testing [genetically modified] crops and that the WEMA project follows the necessary procedures,” Monsanto’s Cook said.

“Leading scientists around the world have attested to the health and environmental safety of agricultural biotechnology,” C.S. Prakash, a Tuskegee University professor, told America.gov, “and they have called for bioengineered crops to be extended to those who need them most — hungry people in the developing world.”


In Defense of GM Crops

- Niklaus H. Ammann, Science, December 5, 2008: Vol. 322. no. 5907, pp.1465

P. Mitchell's Letter "Doubts about GM crops" (25 July, p. 489), referring to N. Fedoroff's Editorial (1), cannot go unanswered. Mitchell claimed that increasing yields with GM crops promoted by corporations hinders biodiversity management. Contrary to this old-fashioned framing of the issue, it is possible to combine efforts that benefit the poor as well as commercial ecological agriculture (2).

Mitchell referred to the IAASTD report (3) to degrade the importance of transgenic crops, but this report does not meet scientific review standards and comes to questionable negative conclusions about biotechnology in agriculture: "Information [about GM crops] can be anecdotal and contradictory, and uncertainty on benefits and harms is unavoidable." Such biased judgment ignores thousands of high-quality science papers; it is not surprising that most renowned experts left the IAASTD panel before the final report was published.

Meta-analysis papers conclude that Bt crops are beneficial to nontarget insects (4). In addition, Mitchell cited Marnier's understandable call for more data (5) but ignores her previous statement that "[a] meta-analysis of 42 field experiments indicates that nontarget invertebrates are generally more abundant in Bt cotton and Bt maize fields than in non-transgenic fields managed with insecticides."

While sparing harmless (and often beneficial) insects, Bt effectively protects crops from harmful insects. Due to fewer infected insect bites and thus fewer fungal infections (6), Bt maize has been shown to contain fewer cancer-causing mycotoxins, an important benefit for human health (7). Particularly in developing countries, where storage can be problematic, regulatory offices should promote Bt maize as the healthier alternative to conventional maize.

Finally, apart from industrialized agriculture, there are positive trends associated with the adoption of GM crops by smallholders. Public research is leading to local solutions (8) and to verifiable successes (9).

- Niklaus H. Ammann, Department of Biotechnology, Delft University of Technology; Delft NL-2628 BC, Netherlands

1 N. Fedoroff, Science 320, 425 (2008).
2 K. Ammann, New Biotechnol. 25, 1 (2008).
3 IAASTD, www.agassessment.org/ (2007).
4 L. L. Wolfenbarger, S. E. Naranjo, J. G. Lundgren, R. J. Bitzer, L. S. Watrud, PLoS ONE 3, e2118 (2008).
5 M. Marvier et al., Science 320, 452 (2008).
6 D. L. Kershen, Food Drug Law J. 61, 197 (2006).
7 W. F. O. Marasas et al., J. Nutrition 134, 711 (2004).
8 J. I. Cohen, Nat. Biotechnol. 23, 366 (2005).
9 R. Paarlberg, Int. J. Technol. Globalisation 2, 81 (2006).

Doubts About GM Crops- Phil Mitchell (25 July 2008); Science 321 (5888), 489b. [DOI: 10.1126/science.321.5888.489b]


Future Foods: Join the GM Debate


Supporters of genetically modified foods claim we need GM technology to help feed the developing world. Are these just claims made to gain acceptance for genetic modification? Or is our choice not to buy GM food ultimately contributing to world hunger? We’ve rounded up a panel of experts to debate these important questions with you.

Find out about the solutions GM could provide in developing countries from Rodomiro Ortiz, from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre. Get the lowdown on the key elements of the food crisis from food policy expert Tim Lang.

Four hundred experts and 60 governments looked at the global problem of providing food for the future. Bob Watson, Defra Chief Scientific Adviser, headed the project. He’ll share his views on how we can meet future food needs. What role should GM play?

In Europe we are still undecided about GM technology, while many countries around the world already grow GM crops. Is GM a good option on the menu? Would you buy and eat GM if it could make a difference for developing countries? Or would you rather stay away from it and investigate other alternatives? Join the debate and share your opinions with our experts.

This event is supported by CGIAR. This event is organised by: The Science Museum.

Speakers: Bob Watson, Defra Chief Scientific Adviser; Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, City University, London; Rodomiro Ortiz, Director of Resources Mobilisation, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT); Facilitator: Ian Sample, Science Correspondent, the Guardian

An Exibition Debating Genetic Modifications


One billion people in the world go hungry every day. But is genetically modified (GM) food the answer?

In Antenna we've spent the last three months investigating this question. We've found powerful gut reactions to GM food, even within our own team. While Rob felt GM crops could be the best option on the menu, they left a bad taste in Raphael's mouth.

Now, you can explore the science, the ethics and the risks of GM food as we present our findings. See why Rob and Raph have both ha


Ag Biotech Can Help Mitigate Climate Change, But Will Europe Benefit?

Brussels, 27 January 2009 – Agricultural biotechnology has a key role to play in helping Europe reach its ambitious carbon reduction targets and assisting farmers to better adapt to a shifting climate, according to a briefing (1) released today by the European Association for BioIndustries during a round table on climate change at the European Parliament.

Jorgo Chatzimarkakis, Member of the European Parliament, and one of the speakers at the roundtable, said, “Agriculture biotech definitely has a role to play in Europe’s fight against climate change. With over ten years experience of commercial biotech planting, it is very important to have an open and balanced debate in Europe on the contribution that modern agriculture technologies could make to help European farmers face today’s challenges.”

“Farmers must respond to increased demand for food. We need access to modern technologies that help us to remain competitive. At the same time we have to protect our fragile environment” said Pekka Pesonen, Secretary General of COPA-COGECA and a speaker at the roundtable.

Europe wants and needs to meet the ever increasing demand for food while mitigating the effects of agriculture on climate change. Ag biotech can contribute to meeting these goals by reducing the production of greenhouse gases, helping crops adapt to varied and often adverse environments and by helping to increase yields while using fewer hectares of land and other inputs.

“If we want to feed people and create a viable bio-based economy without destroying our resources, we must use science and technology to support agriculture” said Willy De Greef, Secretary General of EuropaBio. “European farmers must be given the right to choose to grow GM crops. The benefits from ag biotech will only be seen in Europe as GM crops are more widely adopted and farmers are given the right to choose to grow them” he concluded.

(1) Green Biotechnology & Climate Change:


Hugh Grant: Europe Needs Time

- Jutta Hoffritz, Die Zeit (Germany), Jan 22, 2009. Translated text below

'Hugh Grant:, CEO of Genetech-Company Monsanto, is convinced: EU-Farmers will soon demand his high-tech seed.'

DIE ZEIT: When you started Monsanto was hated by shareholders almost as much as by environmentalists because of its huge losses. In the meantime you generate record earnings in spite of all criticism. How have you managed to do this?

GRANT: We’ve realized early that a growing world population needs to be fed. China is a great example: The question is how you produce more food on the same acres, because there is no new land. From the business point of view our conclusion was - and that goes back to my predecessors the 1980s- , that simply improved chemicals wouldn’t be enough. I have accelerated that process, but it was something that has started before. Today we spend virtually nothing on pesticide research, but we spend 3 million dollars a day. And this is, why we now feel comfortable to announce, that we can double yields in corn in soy and in cotton in the next 20 years.

DIE ZEIT: Is this oath not overambitious, if one takes into account that until recently GM seeds delivered lower yields than conventional seeds?
GRANT: This is not an oath and not aspirational but an achievable goal.

DIE ZEIT: Goals are a special thing in your industry. Since years we are hearing of vaccination-bananas, gluten-free wheat and healthy oils. But the portfolio is dominated by insect-tolerant seeds and herbicide-tolerance which at best make farmers happy. When do you fulfill your promises with regard to the consumers?
GRANT: Yes, we do have something to offer to the consumer – with our Vistive-soy-brand. Soy oil tends to get rancid very easily, that’s why oil mills treat soy which hydrogen. Unfortunately that process produces transfats which are a problem for people over 40 in terms of cholesterol. It’s bad for the blood vessels. So we have removed the part of the bean that tends to get rancid. The mills don’t have to treat it anymore and Kentucky Fried Chicken and other fast food chains really like our product.

DIE ZEIT: This gives us a less unhealthy product – but when can we expect the “health-restorers”?
GRANT: But wait for the next generation of this soy bean, which we will sell by 2013 or 2014. It has additional features and all the qualities of olive oil – apart from the taste.

DIE ZEIT: One bean? After that many years?
GRANT: Research and Development take time

DIE ZEIT: Isn’t it rather the case that you have removed from the sensitive food categories because it is easier to earn money with fiber and feed crops?
GRANT: I don’t see an either or. Our business for the last ten years has been in corn, soy and cotton. And in those businesses the success has been in weed control and in insect control. Every year, everywhere in the world, when farmers seed, there is weeds and bugs, that’s a reality.

DIE ZEIT: On wheat fields there are also quite a number of weeds and bugs - in spite of this you have stopped research in this area.
GRANT: That’s been one of my early decisions. I stopped those things, because of the economic condition of the company. We continued on our oil research and the first oil product to emerge was a zero transfat oil. Rudy Guiliani – by that time mayor of N.Y - declared NY as zero transfat city and a lot of other cities adopted the policy. So our researches went on. Better lucky than smart. With wheat it was different, wheat prices were on the floor. So for someone looking at replacing traditional wheat control economics were average.

DIE ZEIT: Was this the spontaneous decision of an economically operating CEO from Scotland? If so – then you would have to get into it again. Price for wheat and Monsanto have recovered.
GRANT: We’ve been looking on wheat. I think there might be an opportunity in wheat, which is drought management. It might take ten years before you have a product.

DIE ZEIT: Limited on corn, soy bean and cotton you have formed a co operation with the German company BASF which focused on the topic of drought. What support does the market leader Monsanto expect from a gentech greenhorn as BASF?
GRANT: Wait a moment: the BASF deal has been a fabulous deal right from the beginning. Very often companies announce a cooperation and say they are win-wins when its not. This is a win-win, because BASF was in a whole new field, that we never really had looked at. So we had the gene libraries, we were doing all the gene selections. They have a technology platform that looks at metabolics. You can marry these two groups of data together and it allows you a much deeper insight and a much greater chance to find new products.

DIE ZEIT: So far BASF has only one GM plant: the potato Amflora. As approval stagnates the company is fighting on all levels in Europe. Monsanto with ist many products has only succeeded to bring one maize product over the EU-hurdle – and this sells badly. Do you expect advantages in this respect as well from your alliance with the well connected Europeans?
GRANT: No, this has nothing to do with this. BASF has fantastic science. No, the attraction of the deal is the pure intellectual capacity. Besides our business in Europe is bigger than it has ever been. Our base seed business has grown.

DIE ZEIT: And how does the GM maize develop?
GRANT: And our corn is grown on some fields in Germany as well as in the Czech Republic and on large acres in Spain and Portugal. In France unfortunately things slowed down - But the same French farmers who destroyed field trials a decade ago are saying now, we want the choice, we want the opportunity to try these new opportunities. So I think Europe is going to take a while, but my experience is once farmers see, what the new technology holds in store for them, there is a lot more interest.

DIE ZEIT: In the US, where thousands of farmers work with your products, the enthusiasm has cooled down in the meantime.
GRANT: Excuse me? Why that?

DIE ZEIT: This is something we wanted to ask you. Maybe because you spy on farmers and prohibit that they do what they have always done: saving part of their harvest for next year’s seed.
GRANT: Seed is stolen, multiplied and sold. These are very significant thefts. This is not like taking a DVD of the Lion King and making a copy for your friends. It’s like walking into a car show room and steeling 5 or 6 Mercedes. We talk about hundreds of thousands of dollars of stolen seed.

DIE ZEIT: But is it a good business policy to drag hundreds of customers in front of the court?
GRANT: Indeed taking your customers to court is not really the best thing to do. We can´t have the growth rates we have and sue our customer base. The reality is, we´ve been doing business with 250. 000 farmers in the US every year and we've had a total of 120 suits in the last 12 years. Of these, we have proceeded through trial with only eight farmers. And all cases were found in Monsanto´s favor.

DIE ZEIT: Some of the farmers – presumably those with whom you have agreed settlement – say that they have never used your high-tech seeds, but that pollen have drifted from neighboring fields on their own field.
GRANT: There is only one case, a very famous case in Canada, with a gentleman called Percy Schmeiser. He claimed the wind bear the blame that hundreds of hectares of this crop had become biotech - in straight lines. This did not spontaneously occur. So the case went to the Supreme Court in Canada and the ruling was against Schmeiser.

DIE ZEIT: Would you also mobilize your patent sheriffs in Europe – where fields are smaller and neighboring fields closer?
GRANT: Yes, of course we would. We would, because we spend a lot of money into research and are not willing to abandon our return.

DIE ZEIT: To develop seed with a built-in resistance towards your herbicide was a clever trick to increase herbicide sales. But in the meantime the chemical has been sprayed that often, that many weeds became resistant as well. What do you plan to do against this?
GRANT: We build tolerances towards other herbicides into our seeds.

DIE ZEIT: Once again back to Germany: Besides its plant science research BASF owns a second bigger division which is of interest for you: agricultural chemicals. Already during the last economic crisis there had been speculations if the complete division was up for sale. Would you grasp the opportunity, if this would be the case now?
GRANT: We are happy with the deal, just as it is. Our investments in the future are focused on continued opportunities in the seed or Biotechnology area.

DIE ZEIT: When you presented your financial statement last autumn you promised to more than double the profit within the next years. Don’t you have to cut back in view of the crises?
GRANT: Yes I still think we can double, what I announced for the period from 2007 to 2012 is still achievable.

DIE ZEIT: Your seed costs seven times as much as conventional seeds. Who would be willing to pay 350 $ for a bag of Monsanto seeds when purchaser prices go south.
GRANT: Inventories haven’t been as low as at the moment. And believe me, in a situation like this, when the farmer is still sitting on a lot of cash, the last thing he compromises in is seed.


Meeting: Biotech Nanotech for Sustainable Agriculture

- February 13-14, 2009; New Delhi, India http://www.assocham.org/6thbionano2008

The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry (ASSOCHAM ) of India will hold the 6th Global Knowledge Millennium Summit, "Biotechnology and Nanotechnology for Sustainable Agriculture: Eradicate Global Hunger and Ensure Food Security,". The program will showcase different nanotechnologies and biotechnologies that could "revolutionize" agriculture and agro-based enterprises.

Indian Minister for Agriculture and Consumer Affairs Sharad Pawar will deliver the opening speech at the summit. 2007 World Food Prize Laureate Philip Nelson will also speak.


Conference: Food, Famine and Future Technologies: Ethical Dilemmas in a Hungry World

- New York, May 22-23, 2009 http://www.humanistbioethics.org/appignani-upcoming-events.html

The Appignani Bioethics Center in collaboration with the University of Montreal, Canada is organizing a conference entitled: Food, Famine and Future Technologies: Ethical Dilemmas in a Hungry World from May 22 to May 23, 2009 under the auspices of the United Nations Headquarters in NYC.

The conference provides an international forum for the exchange of ideas, experiences and views regarding the priority needs and possible strategic means of enhancing the capacities of developing countries and countries with transitional economies to assess risk and monitor genetic modified organisms (GMOs). The conference will identify and suggest a number of concrete steps to alleviate world hunger.

Taking a broad and cross-disciplinary approach to addressing ethical dilemmas raised by genomic applications in agriculture, conference topics include agri-genomic innovations and their impact on society as a whole; environmental, economic, ethical, and social issues within agri-genomics.

Accepted papers will be peer-reviewed and published in our conference proceedings. analita@americanhumanist.org