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Does Going Green Always Mean Organic?

Green Wedding
My best friend is a bride to be and I have been asked to be one of her bridesmaids. Part of my duties as a member of the bridal party is to assist with planning and to find unique (and affordable) ideas for the special day. I take my bridesmaid role very seriously–lately I’ve been watching a lot of wedding-related TV to collect inspirations.
Surfing the channels the other day I flipped to the program “Gorgeous and Green – A Martha Stewart Wedding.” The TV show followed Martha’s assistant, Liesl Menning, as she planned her green wedding. As a Monsanto employee, and just someone who cares about the environment, I was excited to watch. I wasn’t disappointed; the program had a lot of great tips for staying green like how to make your own bouquet from local blooms and e-cards for save-the-dates.

Weddings are generally big affairs that require a lot of resources so it’s great to see ideas to make a wedding that is environmentally friendly. The show had a good focus on using sustainable products–sustainability is an important aspect of living green. Monsanto has made a commitment to sustainability and we have an award-winning internal publication that features sustainability facts and ideas for green living.

Sustainability is something that I’ve become very passionate about and I think that it is the future of agriculture. “Gorgeous and Green” frequently mentioned organic products and, while I am certainly not here to try to argue about whether organic is sustainable, I do wonder if it can be considered the only sustainable form of agriculture. Organic products have certainly marketed themselves well as green goods but there is more than one method to reduce the environmental impact of agriculture and related products. Biotechnology often gets overlooked although it continues to make environmentally responsible practices available to farmers.

Conservation tillage is one sustainable practice that has been made possible (and profitable) by biotechnology. The use of herbicide resistant crops means that herbicides can be applied to weeds after they’ve emerged (without tilling or turning over the soil). The plant residue is then left to cover the fields – protecting it from wind and water erosion. The ground cover also provides home for small animals, such as birds, mice and frogs. The practice of conservation tillage has reduced soil erosion by 1 billion tons. In addition, no-till can capture carbon in the soil and the reduction in fuel use decreases greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions – helping to control greenhouse gases.

Another sustainable attribute of biotech is resistance to unwanted insects. Since biotech plants are resistant to harmful insects they need very little, if any at all, pesticide applications. This means fuel and energy to manufacture and apply pesticides are reduced or eliminated. It also allows beneficial insects to live in the field (which can serve as food for local birds and other insect eaters).

The cumulative reduction in pesticides due to biotech for the period 1996-2006 was estimated at 289,000 metric tons of active ingredients. The ability to decrease pesticide and herbicide spraying has resulted in reduction in the release of GHG emissions, from machinery fuel, by 14.8 million metric tons (2006).

So if you, like my friend, are planning a green and affordable wedding or just want to live a little greener then it doesn’t have to mean going with just organic. There are plenty of sustainable sources for products and sometimes a little bit of research can uncover several green options for your needs.

Kate works on the corporate website for Monsanto in the public affairs department. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Truman State University. Kate grew up in an Air Force family and has lived in sevaral states and countries but spent the majority of her childhood growing up in Iowa. Kate enjoys art and photography as well as horseback riding.

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61 Responses to "Does Going Green Always Mean Organic?"

  1. How misleading!
    Tillage is not going to be reduced by GM crops. Most farmers already use minimal tillage and the change is nothing to do with GM, it is about using agricultural herbicides.
    Most of Australia’s canola crop is resistant to chemicals that are more suited to our weeds than GM crops so tillage will not be affected. It may however be required if Roundup Ready crops are adopted as part of the resistance management is to remove glyhosate from the rotation which is usually used instead of tillage.
    And Bt varieties only require less pesticide because the plant is developed to constantly produce their own Bt insecticide. Farmers can spray Bt externally to control budworm and bollworm in cotton and corn but this is not required because the plant excretes it. Therefore, if the Bt produced from the plant is included in the assessment (as it should be) there is an increase in the pesticide released to the environment.

  2. Julie,
    Personally, I would be far more concerned with pesticides in the environment that are sprayed than those that are expressed in the actual plant. I see no reason to include the Bt produced by the plant in pesticide usage, the plant doesn’t ooze pesticide. Bt is preferable to a lot of the alternative pesticides people use in these crops. Bt is a natural bacterium found in soils and has been used in organic farming for over 50 years. Not to mention that biotech plants significantly reduce fuel costs and GHG emissions for pesticide application. I don’t see a downside to reduced fuel use and GHG emissions.

    Certainly conservation tillage is used outside of biotech crops. I did not mean to suggest otherwise. However, HT crops have greatly facilitated and increased the use of reduced tillage/no-till in those crops in which the technology is available.

    One other benefit I did not touch on in the post was drought-tolerant technology which is currently being developed. Agriculture uses a tremendous amount of water, a good portion of it is fresh water, and reducing that input would benefit everyone.

    Biotechnology is a tool in agriculture that can greatly enhance the sustainability of agriculture along with sound agronomic practices.

  3. My neighbor is trying to grow organic grapes for wine. In three years she has yet to harvest a crop due to Japanese beetles. In an effort to control the beetles and weeds she is keeping the ground between the rows tilled year round. With this springs rain her soil is washing down the hill. Is this sustainable? I have watched the heavy clay soils in my area greatly improved over the last 40 years by farmers taking up new technolgies, reduced or no-till, as they are introduced. It is by changing methods as they are developed that agriculture will remain sustainable.

  4. “289,000 metric tons of active ingredients”

    Kate, I think you need to note that number in context; it’s less than 1/2 of 1%, in actuality. And the USDA disputes Monsanto’s figure and claims it’s more in the order of 150,000 metric tons.

  5. Avoiding the example of pesticides in tillage, can the spread of genetically modified genes into native or saved seed stocks be considered “green?”

    Green, as a movement, can incorporate more than a commitment to reduction in emissions and pesticide spillage; it can also encompass a dedication to preserving natural diversity.

    I also question as to whether the creation of these genetically modified varieties is in any way a solution to problems created by our current system of farming. Throwing more technology at a problem is unsustainable, but changing practices can be.

  6. What about the potential danger of GMOs getting out into the wild or onto organic farms and disrupting nature and/or the organic certification process?

  7. And Ed – it’s great to change our methods, but we’ve got to be careful about the consequences. No-till is great, but when it uses pesticides, what’s the benefit of it? If the benefit is less soil erosion, then the pesticides and herbicides kind of undo that, because they poison streams just as soil erosion does. If the benefit is storing carbon in the soil, then you’re undoing that by using the herbicides, which take a lot of carbon to produce and release a lot of methane. And if the goal is to use less labor, then you’re undoing that by having to spray weeds whenever they come up.

  8. Kate, the drought tolerant promise is just that… a promise not a reality.
    There are no commercial GM drought tolerant varieties being grown but there are non-GM drought tolerant varieties that have been adopted in the past (eg Drysedale wheat in Australia).
    Herbicide tolerance is also a non-GM trait and almost all of our canola grown in West Australia is non-GM.
    The most popular commercial GM trait is Monsanto’s Roundup Ready which offers restistance to glyphosate. This is a trait that is naturally occurring in our weeds despite every effort to avoid it so it is easy to produce by non-GM means. In fact it only took a year for enterprising drug barons to develop non-GM glyphosate tolerant coca plantations when they started the aerial spraying of glyphosate.
    Monsanto however developed glyphosate tolerance by taking genes from the factory sludge where continual exposure to glyphosate led to the soil bacteria being resistant to glyphosate. A complicated process involving isolating genes was developed along with the patent.
    The reason for Monsanto choosing to develop glyphosate tolerance by GM means is easy… they can patent GM and farmers become contract growers for Monsanto’s selected supply chain.

  9. The scuttlebutt amongst plant scientists and students that I have talked to is that there are quite a few “organic” farms that relentlessly till their soils to combat agronomic issues such as pests and weeds. Although there are probably some organic farms that are doing it very well, there are also some conventional farms that are doing equally well, whether or not they use GE crops in their system.

    I think that people need to understand that we do not know what sustainable is. We know what ‘organic’ is, and we know what ‘conventional’ is, too. But then logically, it follows that we do not know if either organic or conventional is sustainable. Sustainability should be the goal, by whatever means is practical to achieve it.

  10. HA! Good luck greenwashing the Monsanto name, guys – if you work for this company you should quit on the spot tomorrow. How do you sleep at night?

  11. I’ll answer the easy questions first. I’d also like to thank those who have posted thought-provoking comments about sustainability, I think there are some great thoughts here.

    – If you think everything we talk about here on the blog is ‘spin’ or ‘greenwashing’ then no amount of posting if going to change your mind. This blog exists as a tool to engage those who are interested in more than just a one sided view of Monsanto and biotechnology.

    – It should be noted that all the bloggers here blog in addition to our jobs. We are not being paid to blog but we do find the value in engaging in our critics in a civilized manner so we dedicate time here on top of our normal workload.

    – Drought tolerance is a reality: Monsanto Completes Regulatory Submissions in U.S. and Canada for World’s First Biotech Drought-Tolerant Corn Product

    – On GM ‘contamintion’: No organic farm has ever lost organic certification due to accidental contamination from biotech crop.

    – Finally, I’ve said this in a previous post (Organic vs Biotech) but biotechnology is not a cure-all but neither is organic. I think the future of sustainability in agriculture lies in a cooperation of biotechnology and organic farming practices.

  12. Julie – as far as I understand it if Monsanto had developed glyphosate resistant crops by conventional breeding we would still be able to apply for, obtain, and enforce patents around the resistance – non-GM breeder developed crops are patentable also.

    I think (and again I could be wrong here) that the main benefit currently for Monsanto in using a GM trait rather than breeding techniques to produce glyphosate tolerance is that this tolerance can then be directly inserted into elite germplasm (ie the breeders can breed plants purely for yield under certain conditions without having to try and breed for yield and tolerance to glyphosate) and that the mode of action and reliability of the GM trait is better understood.

    As to the 289,000 reduction – in the report cited this is given as

    “15.5% reduction in the associated environmental impact of pesticide use on these crops, as measured by the Environmental Impact Quotient (EIQ) – a composite measure based on the various factors contributing to the net environmental impact of an individual active ingredient.”

    which even if the 150,000 quoted above is true would still be an approximate 7% (I’d assume the reduction in actual active ingredient use may be closer to the 1-2% figure but the fact that less environmentally impactful chemicals are being used allows this small reduction in active ingredient to have a much larger effect – also in many cases the more harmful chemicals are used in smaller quantities (for the same or greater environmental impact) so a direct metric ton to metric ton of active ingredient comparison is not really the best way to express a benefit

    To illustrate – if 0.1g of A is needed to cover X amount of land and 1.0g of B is needed to cover the same amount of land then switching from A to B will give a 10 fold increase in active ingredient useage – however if A is 20 times more damaging to the environment than B – the obvious environmental solution is to increase chemical useage 10 fold to reduce environmental damage by 1/2. (hence the measure of environmental impact quotient which is a far more elegant way of approaching the matter)

  13. Kate I love that “No organic farm has ever lost organic certification due to contamination. But you sure as hell have sued and created havoc on farmers who unknowingly has their crop contaminated by your adjacent crops. So ya your right they never lost their organic certs. but they sure as hell lost their farm when your company took them to court and sued them saying that they stole your “wonder seed” for their benefit.
    I just wish that someone on your side would not try speaking in half truths about these things and would actually try to engage in a real truthful conversation.

  14. Scared Stiff,
    Your ‘half-truths’ comment suggests to me that you would probably fall in the category of people who are never going to believe anything I say, despite that I will answer your claim/question.

    First of all there are about 250,000 growers and over the past 10 years just 128 suits have been filed with only 8 of them going to court. That’s less than .05% of the grower population for the past decade.

    Also note that when we win a case we don’t keep the money, it’s put into the community in the form of scholarships and to the local 4H and FFA (Future Farmers of America).

    Additionally, it has never been, nor will it be Monsanto policy to exercise its patent rights where trace amounts of our patented traits are present in farmer’s fields as a result of inadvertent means. So the old rumor that Monsanto will sue you for GM pollen that drifted into your field is incorrect.

    A famous case you might be thinking of is Percy Schmeiser. He claims that Monsanto sued him for GM pollen that drifted into his fields. In fact, 95 to 98 percent of his 1,000 acres of canola crop was made up of Roundup Ready plants – 95% percent of your crop cannot be pollinated by accident. If you want to find out more about his case check out the court documents:

    http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2001/2001fct256/2001fct256.html
    http://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/en/2002/2002fca309/2002fca309.html
    http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2004/2004scc34/2004scc34.html

    For more information about seed patents and lawsuits please check out this site: http://www.monsanto.com/seedpatentprotection/
    It addresses a lot of the allegations and misconceptions about Monsanto and patent infringement.

  15. The BIG myths are that “organic” is sustainable, better for the environment, and healthier. Two recent stories about “organic” food and production methods are worth noting.

    Norman Borlaug Interview
    Reason: What do you think of organic farming? A lot of people claim it’s better for human health and the environment.
    Borlaug: That’s ridiculous. This shouldn’t even be a debate. Even if you could use all the organic material that you have–the animal manures, the human waste, the plant residues–and get them back on the soil, you couldn’t feed more than 4 billion people. In addition, if all agriculture were organic, you would have to increase cropland area dramatically, spreading out into marginal areas and cutting down millions of acres of forests.
    At the present time, approximately 80 million tons of nitrogen nutrients are utilized each year. If you tried to produce this nitrogen organically, you would require an additional 5 or 6 billion head of cattle to supply the manure. How much wild land would you have to sacrifice just to produce the forage for these cows? There’s a lot of nonsense going on here.
    If people want to believe that the organic food has better nutritive value, it’s up to them to make that foolish decision. But there’s absolutely no research that shows that organic foods provide better nutrition. As far as plants are concerned, they can’t tell whether that nitrate ion comes from artificial chemicals or from decomposed organic matter. If some consumers believe that it’s better from the point of view of their health to have organic food, God bless them. Let them buy it. Let them pay a bit more. It’s a free society. But don’t tell the world that we can feed the present population without chemical fertilizer. That’s when this misinformation becomes destructive…
    More… http://reason.com/blog/printer/132479.html

    Test Failures A Threat for Organic Pesticides

    William Surman, Farmers Guardian (UK), March 26, 2009

    http://www.farmersguardian.com

    NEARLY half of the pesticides specially approved for use in organic farming have failed EU safety tests and more could follow as the rules are tightened, according to the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA).

    Most organic food is produced without the use of pesticides but farmers are allowed to use a limited range as a last resort on particular crops. Some pesticides approved for organic farming failed safety tests ‘based on good science’ and more could be removed when rules tighten.

    As part of the ongoing assessment of all pesticides, the European Food Safety Authority has approved just 14 of the 27 organic pesticides put before it since the EU’s Plant Protection Products (pesticides) regulations came into force in 1996, although many have received a derogation for continued use. The ECPA said the pesticides had failed the safety tests ‘based on good science’ but warned tighter rules on pesticides due next year could remove more organic pesticides from farmers’ armoury.

    It said new pesticides regulation could result in reduced yields and force organic prices up for no good reason. “Our concern is that pesticides could be removed from organic farmers under the new regulation that is not based on rational science or risk analysis,” said an ECPA spokesman. “Organic farmers already have limited options for crop protection and if more products are removed productivity could fall and prices could increase.”

    He added the organic industry would find it increasingly difficult to meet food production targets and supply the growing organic market. “We are concerned about sustaining Europe’s ability to maintain a sufficient and affordable food supply if too many pest management solutions are lost too quickly,” he said.

  16. Julie, you are half-right that there has never been a drought-tolerant GM variety.

    Corn has been modified through biotech to express Bt in its roots. This was done to protect from corn rootworm. However it has had the added benefit of allowing the corn to thrive better in low-moisture conditions. Essentially, by protecting the roots from attack by insects, they develop more robust root systems and are able to more efficiently capture water from the soil.

    It has been so successful, that it is part of the Biotech Yield Endorsement, where growers who plant certain biotech crops receive a reduced premium in their crop insurance because the crops are less susceptible to loss.

    You will see biotech crops that are engineered specifically to be drought-resistant in the next few years.

    I fully agree that biotech is only one of the tools in helping to create drought resistant crops (and crops with other desirable traits). Breeding is a big part of it as well.

  17. WHy is it always a line between organic and nonorganic?
    I feel that it is much easier than that. The term organic has become just as much a marketing tool as “going green”.
    What it is really about is the chemicals and the manipulation of genetics. It seems that on both sides the real issue get overlooked and often not discussed because of the marketing tag lines.
    I feel that if it is so controversial to do these alterations to humans why is it ok to do these things to plants.
    It seems like one of those things of a good conscience and moral integrity.
    We as people have forgotten the basic principle of life to live in unity with the environment. For hecks sake most people wouldnt even know how to grow their own food anymore, there by giving government and huge companies the open door to provide food. If we as humanity had kept that one trait of growing food for ourselves and our community and teaching others. What would the big agri food business be today.
    Plants have been around forever damn near. And they all have survived and naturally evolved on their own without chemical additive/ or pesticides and especially without altering DNA or what have you. But somehow we as humans think these things will be for the better. That doesnt seem logical once again it is a question I think of what is a morally conscionable life sustaining ideology.
    WE ARE WHAT WE EAT> might not hurt us now but what about 30yrs from now or say 2 generations from now. Then what.

  18. Scared stiff –

    you’re correct that by and large organic has become a marketing tool (this isnt to say there arent ‘organic’ farmers who do their utmost to farm in as ‘green’ a manner as they can, just that ‘organic’ farming is probably as industrialized as ‘conventional’ farming for the most part)

    However, your moral equivalency between humans and plants doesnt make sense – we dont think it right to mass produce humans as foodstuff, we wouldnt give a human as a gift on valentines day, we wouldnt chop humans up and use them to build housing, or furniture. Etc etc ad infinitum.

    There is no principle of life to live in harmony with the environment, and if there were even the most good intentioned organic farm categorically is not living in harmony with the environment – farming is completely unnatural (well, some ants do it too, but I think my point still stands)

    If everyone grew food for themselves we’d still pretty much be living in the dark ages, or possibly somewhat earlier. There probably isnt even enough available land for everyone to grow their own food any more – specialization was one of the key aspects of human cultural development that brought us to the technologically advanced state we are in today, if everyone had to worry about producing their own food we’d get very little else done (which some might think an ideal way to live I guess, but I’ll assume that the majority of people would rather not)

    As I stated in another response to you, plants havent been around ‘near forever’ by any stretch of the imagination, land plants as we know them only arrived on the scene about 475 million years ago, started producing seeds 400 million years ago, started producing flowers 130 million years ago, and didnt evolve some of the biochemical trickery they utilize today in corn (C4 metabolism for anyone who cares) until as recently as 40 million years ago (by the by every one of these changes was contingent on large scale DNA changes, way more extreme than anything any human alteration has amounted to. (pedantism again… sorry)

    In terms of human tinkering ‘for the better’ – look at all modern crop plants, all domesticated animals etc etc – not one of these is ‘natural’ – each is the result of thousands of years of human interference with genetics, modern genetic engineering of crop plants is a perfectly logical extention of our ability to manipulate other species to behave in a way which is most useful to us – a continuation of agricultural practices which are now required to sustain an ever growing global population.

    I view the genetic modification of plants as part of a perfectly morally conscionable life sustaining ideology, my personal belief is that without continued advances in the genetic engineering of crop plants and other organisms global crises in food, energy and water will have crippling effects on the human population within my lifetime – to turn our backs on these technologies, to me, is far more risky than proceeding with them, and far more morally reprehensible.

  19. Of course you would critique organics. It is not in your company’s interest to admit the benefits of truly organic agriculture. I am not saying that you are being paid to write on this blog, and you might very well believe what you say. If so, your perception of this subject has been altered by the propaganda-filled environment you reside in.

    Monsanto surely does spend a LOT of money on lobbying, PR campaigns, and providing dinners and other perks to several members of Congress (particularly members of agriculture-related subcommittees, and this has been well-documented) because it is in their interest to keep various subsidies flowing, and keep up the political support within Congress and various committees. And of course the “revolving door” in between government and corporations, like Monsanto but also many others, helps out a lot. So your voluntary, probably earnest articles in this blog are only a small part of the giant self-advocacy machine that is Monsanto, and by extension, Agribusiness.

    Now you are probably a very intelligent person who has worked their way up to the position they hold – i.e. someone who doesn’t want to lose it, someone who wants to believe in the career they have and the corporation that is responsible for their most likely comfortable life. But primarily, I would like to ask you this. Why would you EVER you think a corporation, who is by nature and definition an entity interested in MAXIMIZING PROFITS and acts primarily in the interest of THEIR SHAREHOLDERS, has the public’s best interest at heart?

  20. Mia – I’ve been a strong supporter of GM technology since about age 16, living in the UK, which while being a propaganda filled environment, was not quite the propaganda you are alluding to.

    Why would I ever think a corporation would have the public’s best interest at heart?

    First let me preface this by saying that I fully concur that first and foremost any succesful corporation will have profitability and shareholder returns as a main goal.

    As such, meeting the needs of the public is a way to make a profit and to benefit shareholders (higher yielding crops, nitrogen efficient crops, water efficient crops, pesticide use reducing crops – all beneficial to the public but also profitable (or potentially so)).

    On the flip side, producing something that is harmful to the general public is clearly a horrible idea from a business perspective considering the costs associated with paying out on numerous lawsuits etc – from a purely business (without even taking morals into account) sense avoiding harming the public is a no brainer.

    Finally, and here’s where the credulity of any non-Monsanto employee will most likely be stretched, I believe that Monsanto has the interest of farmers, the environment, and the general public (pretty much in that order) at heart – I believe this because I work here, because I see what is said in meetings, I see the focus of the monsanto scientific community and where they want it to go, I receive the countless emails and internal intranet links to information around what Monsanto is doing contrary to the perceived image of corporate monstrosity which appears to be the general perception of the company amongst ‘greens’ – all things which have definitely helped improve my personal opinion around GMOs and where they are going, but in no way having actually shaped these opinions.

    I’m sure there are many monsanto employees who have similar stories about their convictions, aswell as others who came in neutral and have had their minds changed (and possibly even people who came in neutral and still are…)

  21. your arguments are hollow to be sure.
    – not one of these is ‘natural’ – each is the result of thousands of years of human interference with genetics, modern genetic engineering of crop plants is a perfectly logical extention of our ability to manipulate other species to behave in a way which is most useful to us
    your quote here counters your own arguments. Of course we have “domesticated and manipulated” plants and animals to our benefit but not until the illustrious beginnings of Mansanto have we done this on a molecular level. But the key to that theory is that it has taken hundred of years to make these changes.
    But then a company comes along and you want to do it in a blink of an eye. ANd then try to tell all of us your consumers that there is nothing to worry about it wont kill you…..yet.
    SO yes all the changes that have been made to domestic plants and animals over thousands of years are in no way comparable to anything that monsanto does. As it is so often coined “franken food” is a gamble at best, shoot some pig hormone or what ever the hell else you can think of and lets see how that helps.
    Do we honestly think we as humans have the right or need to completely change the make up of our food. just look at some of the other things you folks are responsible for. if I remember right Agent Orange was you product as well. But oh if we know our history for years and years we were told that that stuff couldnt harm us humans but oh wait maybe it does.
    And maybe your right maybe if all of us still did our own farming maybe we would be in the “dark ages” but really the only concrete conclusion is that we wouldnt have companies like yourself possibly destroying our food touting that it is all for the good.

  22. Brad, to be truly drought tolerant, it should be able to live without water. Really what is being developed is plants that have better water use efficiency which has been happening in conventional plant breeding for a very long time.
    And Ewan, the patent over non-GM is nothing like GM. Farmers are allowed to replant our own seeds and low level contamination does not lead to a deduction of an end point royalty in the countries that signed the UPOV 91 International Treaty allowing an end point royalty deduction out of grain payments.
    With non-GM plant breeding the farmer owns the seed and pays a fee for its breeding either at the seed end or on delivery of its progeny, they are not contract growers for Monsanto.

  23. Julie,

    You are incorrect. “Drought tolerant” does not mean “drought proof”. No plant can live without water.

    I agree, and stated in my earlier reply, that conventional breeding has a lot to offer in improved plant genetics. Monsanto is as involved in plant breeding as we are in developing biotech traits.

    Biotech can, and has, added considerably to the tools available to breeders. Corn rootworm control is a good example. It could never have been developed through conventional breeding.

    You are also incorrect in stating that patents are non-GM plants are different from GM. They are very much the same. Farmers are not allowed to plant replant their own seeds. Case in point regarding wheat (non-GM) at http://www.agjournalonline.com/homepage/x776483524/Unauthorized-seed-sales-nabbed-by-Kansas-group

    Also, see the following bulletin from the NCSU on saving wheat at http://www.agjournalonline.com/homepage/x776483524/Unauthorized-seed-sales-nabbed-by-Kansas-group

  24. Scared stiff – every manipulation we have done has been at the molecular level. Ever. Just because we did not understand that the molecular level existed doesnt make it any less true. We just now have more knowledge and rather than basing our molecular modifications on a downstream phenotype we can modify directly at the molecular level in an attempt to obtain a phenotypic difference.

    I think you make a fine point however in the area of the timescales it takes to achieve the modifications we need for improving crops (although with modern breeding the hundreds or thousands of years for change doesnt neccesarily hold) – with genetic engineering we can reduce the timescale for a given desired change from 100’s of years to a handful of years (although with all the regulatory and efficacy checking anything less than a decade from product conception to in the field performance is probably the bare minimum) – given that the human population is increasing exponentially I’d argue that we absolutely cannot solely rely on processes which take much longer – we need to maintain and expand our toolbox for feeding a growing population.

    Do we have the right or need to ‘completely’ change the makeup of our food?

    First I’d take the completely out of there – genetically modified food is nutritionally equivalent to non GM food – the differences between ‘organic'(or probably more importantly now ‘beyond-organic’) and ‘non-organic’ are down to processing and differences in the industrial machinations used to produce an end product – the differential use of GMOs in these systems has literally nothing to do with the differences in end product.

    As to the right or need to change our food – categorically yes on both counts – historically we’ve changed our food, and how it is processed, if not we’d all be living on foraged berries and raw meat (and the global population would probably be less than 1/100th of its present size) – we had the right and need to fortify bread early last century (making rickets pretty much unheard of), the right and need to modify varieties of wheat to yield higher, grow shorter and be more disease resistant (which saved billions of lives and earned Norman Borlaug (a proponent of GM tech) a nobel prize) etc etc.

  25. Brad, you misunderstand the law. The International Law of Trade Related Intellectual Property(TRIPs) covers plant breeding with UPOV 91 being the latest of Australias plant breeding law basis.
    Legally the plant breeder can collect their non-GM payments for plant breeding at either the seed stage or the end point royalty stage (on delivery of produce).
    Your example is of a seed breeder that has opted to collect his payment on the seed. It is the additional contract law that covers the restriction of seed planting.
    ACIPA has some good summaries in their research reports and submissions to governments for policy amendments. http://www.acipa.edu.au/frame_research.html

    And your reaction to my comments about drought tolerance… exactly thats my point. It doesn’t rain in the drought so the plant needs to survive and set seed without water in a similar yield to with water. Not possible.
    The words “drought tolerant” or “drought resistant” is not really accurate.
    What is being proposed is just the normal plant breeding aim of getting better water use efficiency.

  26. Your statement that GM patents differ from other patents remains incorrect.

    Methods of collecting payment vary with location regardless of whether the patented variety is GM or not. This is a function of what works with the local infrastructure, not whether the plant is GM, or the law. For example, in South America, Monsanto has collected payment at the silo. In the US, we do it up front.

    Monsanto considered a program for soy where farmers in the US would be able to save their seed and pay a “patent fees” afterwards rather than purchase seed from us seasonally. The idea was proposed to farmers and they rejected it in favor of the up front system we have now. My understanding is that quality control was a major factor in their preference to buy seed each season.

    I never stated that patent law determined when and how a payment is to be collected. Regardless of whether payment is up front or after the fact, the bottom line is the growers who purchase patented crops (GM or not) pay the patent holder. They cannot legally save and reuse seed (or other propative material) without compensating the patent holder.

    Your arguments on drought tolerance/resistance seem semantic rather than substantive.

    We both agree I think that all plants need water. Short of the plasic azelias on grandma’s porch, this is a given.

    Plants that grow and thrive with less water, or are abe to survive/produce/thrive through a period of water scarcity can be considered drought tolerant or resistant.

    Tolerance or resistance can take place because the plant is more efficient at taking water up out of the soil (as with Bt rootworm contro), because it has physicall characteristics that inhibit the loss of water from plant surfaces, or because it utilizes water in vitro much more efficiently – there are probably other methods as well.

    The bottom line is that both biotech and breeding are very useful tools in conveying drought tolerance to plants. Traditional beeding is exceptionally important. Marker assisted breeding greatly expands the speed and scope of our abilities to convey traits into plants beyond the capabilities of traditional breeding. Biotech expands our capabilities even beyond traditional and marker assisted breeding.

    Given climate change and the challenges water shortages pose in places like sub-Saharan Africa, it would be foolish not to avail ourselves of all the tools we have.

  27. Brad – According to the link Julie provided Australian law does not forbid a replanting of patented material from the first generation (seed direct from supplier into the ground) however after this point it is considered an infringement of the patent if the farmer sells the crop – once saved the only thing that can be done with the seed is to perpetually save the seed – not sure as to why this would be useful to farmers due to the general 20-30% loss of yield on selfed hybrids, but I suppose it is a reasonable compromise between not allowing saving of seed for personal use, and allowing personal use of seeds from a first generation.

    Cant link directly to the info – to get there follow

    http://www.acipa.edu.au/frame_research.html

    select intellectual property : understanding breeders rights and that takes you to the info – there’s a link to a diagram about half way down the page. Assuming the info on the site about Australian law is current and true of course.

    Julie – is this an accurate reflection of how non-GM hybrid material is dealt with or is the info wrong?

  28. http://www.responsibletechnology.org/GMFree/MediaCenter/ReleaseAustrianGovernmentStudy/index.cfm

    http://www.organicconsumers.org/articles/article_16348.cfm

    http://articles.mercola.com//sites/articles/archive/2009/04/07/Monsantos-Roundup-Residues-in-GM-Food-Cause-Cell-Damage.aspx

    Here’s a few links to show how worthless Monsanto is. Monstanto should label all of their food as GMO’s, instead of trying to hide everything. I bet once the public gets rid of Monsanto, then the public won’t have so many health problems.

    By the way, everyone should visit mercola.com to find the truth out!

  29. Since I have discontinued my consumption of non-organic foods, 2 pilonidal cysts have disappeared, that the Dr.’s told me I would have to have surgically removed. Chronic skin conditions that i’ve had since I was a child magically went away. Since I was conscious of what was going into my body, I was only consuming healthy foods, resulting in the loss of 60lbs. I attribute my health and happiness to staying as far away from your products as possible

  30. Stephen – I think you sum up perfectly what you achieved when you say consuming “only healthy foods” – As predominantly GM products will be found more often in highly processed industrially manufactured foods whereas a conscious effort to eat more healthy (less processed generally, although the bulk of organic food produced now is also highly industrialized and processed completely at odds with the initial mindset) food will avoid GM foods not because GM foods are inherently unhealthy, but because manufacturers of healthy foods generally cater to a market which sees GM as unhealthy and therefore they go to lengths to avoid GM.

    I have every confidence that GM products, as part of a healthy diet, would have zero health impact.

    In avoiding unhealthy food you also avoid a lot of pesticides (not all), a lot of herbicides (although not all), many food additives, factory farmed animals (although the extent to which this is true has diminished recently and so depends a lot on exactly how healthily/local you choose to eat) with either more fat, or different balances of omega fatty acids, etc etc – all dietary inputs which can be severely thrown 1) by not thinking about what you eat (I personally saw a huge improvement in health and a cessation of weight gain simply from changing portioning of foods without a shift from one type to another) 2) Eating highly processed factory foods.

    Not knowing your age I cant factor that into the situation – its a pretty fair assumption that you’ll have been exposed to industrialized agriculture from childhood (unless you’re 60+), and uncertain whether GM food will always have been present to any degree in industrialized food (essentially if you’re under 16 then yes)
    however if the chronic skin conditions pre-date the advent of GM, then it isnt easy to see how you’d lay the blame on GM products there, and if over 60 then even industrial agriculture cant be to blame.

  31. Stephen,
    While I applaud your improved health I might add that correlation does not imply causation.

    My favorite example comes from stats concerning crimes rates and ice cream sales. It was found that as ice cream sales rose as crime rose. Does that mean that ice cream makes you commit a crime? No. It simply implies that there is probably another variable or variables to consider. In the case of ice cream and crime the likely culprit would be the weather – warmer temperatures to be specific.

    Biotech crops are heavily scrutinized for safety and there has never been a peer-reviewed scientific study that suggests these products are unsafe or less nutritious. Good health should never be scoffed at but I don’t believe that non-organics caused your ailments.

  32. Monsanto reminds me of the makers of vaccines.

    Merck amoung other drug companies say mercury, formaldehyde, aluminum, borax, etc (ingredients in some vaccines) is not bad for you. Merck states are no studies available to prove drug companies wrong.

    But, nobody break a thermometer and drink it. Or, inject themselves with the formaldehyde out of the frog jar at science class.

    My question is: Will Monstato ever take responsibility and just label GMO’s?

  33. Kate Says:

    April 1, 2009 at 11:54 am

    A famous case you might be thinking of is Percy Schmeiser. He claims that Monsanto sued him for GM pollen that drifted into his fields. In fact, 95 to 98 percent of his 1,000 acres of canola crop was made up of Roundup Ready plants – 95% percent of your crop cannot be pollinated by accident. If you want to find out more about his case check out the court documents:

    ******************************
    I wonder if it could be by accident, since Schmeiser saved his own seed. If his seed was contaminated by pollen drift and went through a few cycles of saving, planting, and saving–or depending on where he collected his seed to save.

    Consider this posted elsewhere on the 2% contamination of IR seed stock in Canada with glyphosate resistant seeds:

    http://agron.scijournals.org/cgi/reprint/95/5/1342

    The planting of pedigreed canola seedlots that do not exceed the 0.25% contamination guideline for certified seed does not necessarily mean that there will be no agronomic concern the following year with regard to the unexpected presence of herbicide resistance traits in volunteer canola seedlings. Given some reasonable assumptions regarding canola seeding rates and thousand-seed weight (5.5 kg/ha, 4.0 g per thousand seeds), there are approximately 1.4 million seeds planted per hectare. At the 0.25% contamination level of a herbicide resistance trait in a seedlot, there will be 3500 resistant seeds planted per hectare. If one-half of these seeds result in mature canola plants, which is a typical establishment rate for a commercial canola crop in western Canada, then there will be 1750 resistant canola plants per hectare. Given a 2000 kg/ha crop yield and harvest losses of 6% (Gulden et al., 2003), there will be 120 kg/ha of seed remaining in the field. Resistant seeds will be 0.25% of this 120 kg/ha. [In the absence of selection and given equal fitness of susceptible and resistant individuals, a resistance trait will remain at the same frequency in a population over time (Jasieniuk et al., 1996).] Therefore, 300 g of resistant seed will shatter onto the soil per hectare, or 75000 resistant seeds per hectare. If one-tenth of these seeds successfully establish a seedling the following year, there will be one herbicide-resistant volunteer canola plant every 1.3 m2.

  34. Deborah,
    The study you reference also says:
    “Given current knowledge of pollen-mediated gene flow in B. napus (Staniland et al., 2000; Rieger et al., it is unlikely that pollen flow would cause greater than 0.1% contamination in a single generation of pedigreed seed production. Pedigreed seed crops are grown with mandatory isolation distances from sexually compatible species (CSGA, 2002), which limits pollen-mediated gene flow. Therefore, the contamination occurring in certified canola seedlots with contamination level greater than .25% is either the result of inadvertent mechanical mixing of certified seedlots during harvest or handling or the result of contamination occuring in earlier generation of pedegreed seed production. (i.e., Breeder or Foundation seed) that was not tested for or detected (Downey and Beckie, 2002) ”

    The answer is no, that level of contamination could not have been an accident. Percy said in his case that he sprayed 3 acres of his land to “test” to see if those plants were glyphosate tolerant. Which is odd in itself, had his plants not been tolerant he would have lost 3 acres of canola. He then harvested the remaining plants that did not die and segregated this seed. The next year (1998) he had this seed treated and used this seed to plant 1,030 acres on his farm.

    Why would he harvest seed that he says he didn’t want on his farm and deliberately plant it the following year?

    The deliberate testing, segregating, and cultivation of the seed is proof. Your study states that gene flow over .1% is not likely the cause of gene flow. Percy did not get his seed from his seedlot, he own website states “that for 55 years, Percy had saved and used his own seed.” So, as your study says, it would have to be a result of a early generation contamination and the 95-98% contamination rate was a direct result of Percy’s careful and deliberate selection for the trait.

    Please read Percy Schmeiser’s case.

    As expressed in the Canadian Supreme Court judgment documents:

    “Mr. Schmeiser complained that the original plants came onto his land without his intervention. However, he did not at all explain why he sprayed Roundup to isolate the Roundup Ready plants he found on his land; why he then harvested the plants and segregated the seeds, saved them, and kept them for seed; why he planted them; and why, through his husbandry, he ended up with 1,030 acres of Roundup Ready canola which would have cost him $15,000.”

    “…tests revealed that 95 to 98 percent of this 1,000 acres of canola crop was made up of Roundup Ready plants. …The trial judge found that “none of the suggested sources [proposed by Schmeiser] could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality” ultimately present in Schmeiser’s crop.”

    * Schmeiser was first found to have violated Monsanto’s patent in 2001 when the federal court found he “knew or ought to have known” he had saved and planted Roundup Ready seed and infringed Monsanto’s Roundup Ready patented technology. You can read the original Canadian court decision at http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2001/2001fct256/2001fct256.html.
    * He lost again upon appeal in 2002, when the three-member Canadian Federal Court of Appeal unanimously dismissed all 17 grounds of appeal submitted for Mr. Schmeiser. Read the entire decision at http://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/en/2002/2002fca309/2002fca309.html.
    * He lost again, in 2004, in an appeal to the Canadian Supreme Court–exhausting all his legal options. See the court judgment document at http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2004/2004scc34/2004scc34.html.

  35. Ewan,

    I think we are saying pretty much the same thing. There will be slight variations in law, but the bottom line of all patent law is that if someone benefits from a patented plant, they owe the patent owners some compensation.

    The other major point here is that that patents exist for both GM and non-GM plants, and the same basic concepts apply to both.

  36. Kate Says:

    April 9, 2009 at 6:38 am
    Deborah,
    The study you reference also says:
    “Given current knowledge of pollen-mediated gene flow in B. napus (Staniland et al., 2000; Rieger et al., it is unlikely that pollen flow would cause greater than 0.1% contamination in a single generation of pedigreed seed production. Pedigreed seed crops are grown with mandatory isolation distances from sexually compatible species (CSGA, 2002), which limits pollen-mediated gene flow. Therefore, the contamination occurring in certified canola seedlots with contamination level greater than .25% is either the result of inadvertent mechanical mixing of certified seedlots during harvest or handling or the result of contamination occuring in earlier generation of pedegreed seed production. (i.e., Breeder or Foundation seed) that was not tested for or detected (Downey and Beckie, 2002) ”

    The answer is no, that level of contamination could not have been an accident. Percy said in his case that he sprayed 3 acres of his land to “test” to see if those plants were glyphosate tolerant. Which is odd in itself, had his plants not been tolerant he would have lost 3 acres of canola. He then harvested the remaining plants that did not die and segregated this seed. The next year (1998) he had this seed treated and used this seed to plant 1,030 acres on his farm.

    ====================

    But Percy S. did not have “a single generation of pedigreed seed production.” He saved his seeds regularly, year after year from my understanding. You cite “that for 55 years, Percy had saved and used his own seed.” So how many of those years were his crops exposed to GM pollen, seed blowing, etc? I’ve read about the case, or I wouldn’t have written this. I just wonder if his field and seeds were not the victim of an unwanted contamination. It doesn’t seem to me like he wanted his fields and seeds contaminated. How would that benefit him?

    My reference above shows the amount of volunteers that can result from a .25% certified seed contamination in one generation. But seed stocks have been shown to be contaminated above 2%–although neither of these apply to P. Schmeiser who was saving his own seeds year after year–not growing certified.

  37. Deborah – he knowingly applied roundup to his crop, harvested seed from the plants which werent killed, segregated these seeds and used them to plant 1000 acres of land.

    In what way does this reflect the actions of someone who does not want roundup resistant traited crops on their land?

    According to the info I have roundup ready canola was introduced to Canada in 1996 at a 0.1% gene flow by pollen drift you could reasonably expect that at a maximum 0.1% of the crop would be “contaminated” by GM meaning that in 1997 it is plausible that 0.1% of seeds planted would be traited – in this year Percy Schmeisser sprayed his crops, saved the seeds from these plants (I believe that far in excess of 0.1% of plants survived which would lead me to believe Mr Schmeisser obtained traited seeds in the prior season), replanted them, and sold them.

    Mr Schmeisser’s fields were subject to a single previous year of potential cross pollination from GM crops before he selected for the trait.

    (I had kinda hoped that would be marginally harder to do and require some multi-year %age type calculating, but sadly no)

  38. Deborah,

    I apologize, I should have mentioned that Roundup Ready Canola was launched commercially in Canada in 1996. The court document also states that Mr. Schmeiser’s neighbors purchased the technology in 1996. The court found that Percy’s 1998 crop was derived from seed from his 1997 crop. So assuming his fields were contaminated by drifting pollen: his 1996 crop would have been contaminated by GM pollen and the seed from that crop (seed planted in 1997) contains the gyphosate tolerant trait, presumably less than 0.1%. Given that the study states that “it is unlikely that pollen flow would cause greater than 0.1% contamination in a single generation of pedigreed seed production.” It would not be possible to go from a 0.1% contamination (1997) to 95% (1998) in the next generation with out intentional selection.

    Direct from the court decision:

    I have found that he seeded that crop from seed saved in 1997 which he knew or ought to have known was Roundup tolerant, and samples of plants from that seed were found to contain the plaintiffs’ patented claims for genes and cells. His infringement arises not simply from occasional or limited contamination of his Roundup susceptible canola by plants that are Roundup resistant. He planted his crop for 1998 with seed that he knew or ought to have known was Roundup tolerant.

    Other farmers who found volunteer Roundup tolerant plants in their fields, two of whom testified at trial, called Monsanto and the undesired plants were thereafter removed by Monsanto at its expense.

    The court ruled that he knew or should have known that the seed he planted was Roundup tolerant – a clear infringement. He could have simply not saved and planted the contaminated seed, or, contacted Monsanto to have the Roundup tolerant plants removed.

  39. Was Percy Schmeiser a PEDIGREED SEED PRODUCER who used mandatory isolation distances or a conventional farmer with an open field?

  40. BRAVO Karl! who stated on March 31 that this should not be about Organic vs Other. Rather is should be about mutual commitment to a goal of sustainability. Nobody can say in truth they know the path. We do, however, know from history many of the failures.

    Scared Stiff – you scare me! I respect your beliefs, but when they fly in the face of scientific knowledge, they are nothing short of ignorance. Perhaps, in some desperate attempt to justify your personal definition of “natural”, you stated “Plants have been around forever damn near. And they all have survived and naturally evolved on their own without chemical additive/ or pesticides and especially without altering DNA or what have you.” FACT: Flowering plants are recent newcomers to our planet and they are here because of altering and assimilating DNA. Secondly, they haven’t ALL survived naturally (whatever that means). FACT: Many plants have gone extinct (primarily because of invasive species and habitat loss), and glyphosate is an important tool to keep many endangered species including plants from going extinct. Prudent use of glyposate helps control populations of invasive plants and is used in habitat restoration projects (check with the people at the Nature Conservancy).

    I hate to be so blunt, perhaps rude, but all this weilding of agendas without questioning their veracity is dangerous. Consider GK Chesterton’s words: “Fallicies do not cease to be fallacies because they beome fashions”, and “What embitters the world is not excess of criticism, but absence of self-criticism.”

  41. Deborah,
    To my knowledge Percy Schmeiser is not a pedigreed seed producer.

    BUT, according to the court statements the closest neighboring (growing RR Canola) was 5 miles away. Most research I’ve seen suggests a distance of 30 meters between non-gm and gm canola (although I’ve seen some disagreement over that but the distance has stayed within a matter of meters).

    Additionally, the article you referenced still supports, IMO, that a 95-98% contamination level is not possible in two generations without intentional selection. Given the rate of volunteer GM plants in that article.

    Your original question: “I wonder if it could be by accident, since Schmeiser saved his own seed.”

    Considering only two generations of seed saving and additional evidence, I still say no. Not an accident. The Canadian Court thought so too.

    If you’re still interested in Percy’s case I think there will be blog post on that matter soon. This conversation has certainly got away from if going green always means organic.

  42. Deborah – not sure what impact being a pedigreed seed producer or the use of mandatory isolation distances would have in this case – lets assume that he wasnt a pedigreed seed producer, and that he didnt use mandatory isolation distances :-

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/full/296/5577/2386

    still shows that in large scale canola production cross pollination from GM fields to non GM fields does not exceed 1% (maximum quantity of herbicide resistance transferred in a single field was 0.197%) and in most cases was lower than 0.03% (the 0.03% is quoted as also being the figure found for fields seperated by 30m which is well under any mandatory isolation distance) – none of these numbers would account for the levels of cross pollination Mr Schmeisser would need for the levels of “contamination” he was sued over (or indeed the bizarre practice of spraying 3 acres with roundup, saving the seeds from the surviving plants, and then planting 1000+ acres with this *unwanted* seed)

  43. Not only is that level of contamination not possible through chance, but take this into consideration:

    If seeds “blow in” by chance, do they also plant themselves in neat rows for herbicide application and harvest? Or do they scatter in random places? If you believe the latter, then you shouldn’t believe Percy’s story.

  44. There is no way Mr. Schmeiser could have been a certified seed producer. Monsanto did not authorize him to do so. As note above, the only way to achieve the level of genetic presence that he had was if he purposely planted it. The entire body of literature on pollen mediated gene flow supports this as fact.

    Mica, canola is not typically planted in rows. Its arrangement in a field provides no evidence for or against in this case. Regardless, your first statement is factual.

  45. Kate Says:

    April 10, 2009 at 1:51 pm

    The court document also states that Mr. Schmeiser’s neighbors purchased the technology in 1996. The court found that Percy’s 1998 crop was derived from seed from his 1997 crop. So assuming his fields were contaminated by drifting pollen: his 1996 crop would have been contaminated by GM pollen and the seed from that crop (seed planted in 1997) contains the gyphosate tolerant trait, presumably less than 0.1%. Given that the study states that “it is unlikely that pollen flow would cause greater than 0.1% contamination in a SINGLE GENERATION OF PEDIGREED SEED PRODUCTION.” It would not be possible to go from a 0.1% contamination (1997) to 95% (1998) in the next generation with out intentional selection.

    [ note: The sampling methodology was disputed.]

    Kate Says:

    April 9, 2009 at 6:38 am
    Deborah,
    The study you reference also says:
    “Given current knowledge of pollen-mediated gene flow in B. napus (Staniland et al., 2000; Rieger et al., it is unlikely that pollen flow would cause greater than 0.1% contamination in a single generation of PEDIGREED SEED PRODUCTION. Pedigreed seed crops are grown with MANDATORY ISOLATION DISTANCES from sexually compatible species (CSGA, 2002), which LIMITS pollen-mediated gene flow. Therefore, the contamination occurring in certified canola seedlots with contamination level greater than .25% is either the result of inadvertent mechanical mixing of certified seedlots during harvest or handling or the result of contamination occuring in earlier generation of pedegreed seed production. (i.e., Breeder or Foundation seed) that was not tested for or detected (Downey and Beckie, 2002) ”

    ——————-

    But Percy Schmeiser was not using a certified seed lot; he is not the producer of PEDIGREED SEED PRODUCTS WHICH ARE GROWN WITH MANDATORY ISOLATION DISTANCES, which would have been produced under much more stringent guidelines to prevent contamination–the type that occurs in the FIELD.

    This type of contamination as well as uncontrolled pollen flow:

    http://www.historycommons.org/context.jsp?item=gm-30&scale=1#gm-30

    Fall 1996: Roundup Ready Canola Farmer Loses Seed As He Drives by Percy Schmeiser’s Farm Elmer Borstmeyer, a farmer who is a licensed Roundup Ready Canola grower, drives his grain truck by four of Percy Schmeiser’s canola fields. He later testifies in court that on one or two of his trips the tarp was loose, and he believes he lost A LOT [emphasis mine] of canola seed. “THE TARP ACTED LIKE A CYCLONE [emphasis mine],” he will recall. “I lost some seed. That’s for sure.” [Star Phoenix (Saskatoon), 6/16/2000; Monsanto Canada Inc. v. Percy Schmeiser, 3/29/2001, pp. 50 ]
    Entity Tags: Borstmeyer
    Timeline Tags: Seeds

    Fall 1996: Wind Blows Swaths onto Percy Schmeiser’s Fields from Neighbor’s Roundup Ready Canola Field According to the 2000 court testimony of Percy Schmeiser’s field hand, Carlyle Moritz, swaths (swaths are the debris left over after a field has been mowed) from a neighbor’s field planted with Monsanto’s Roundup Ready Canola are blown onto one of Schmeiser’s fields. The swaths are subsequently picked up by a combine and deposited into the grain bins on that field. It is later suggested that some of the Roundup Ready Canola later found in Schmeiser’s crop may have grown from seeds carried onto his property in these swaths. [Federal Court of Canada, 6/22/2000, pp. 6 ]
    Entity Tags: Carlyle Moritz
    Timeline Tags: Seeds
    +++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

    The context in which I was trying to present the amount of volunteers that can result from using CERTIFIED SEEDS was to contrast it with the results of using CONTAMINATED saved seeds or the effects of volunteers from the year before that had blown into his field as SEEDS–assuming the rate of contamination to be higher due to the lack of controls, size of canola seeds, and type of contamination.

    If the amount of volunteers cited above can occur from that low of an amount of contamination in a single generation of CERTIFIED SEEDS, what happens when seed is windblown from a passing truck or two into your field, and swaths contaminate your field, and pollen? And when those volunteers pollinate with your planted crop? The level of contination is not presumed to be less than 0.1%. He was not growing certified seed stock under stringent conditions. He was a farmer, growing canola in the OPEN FIELD. So I would expect his level of contamination to be higher, considering the documented spills near his field.

    http://agron.scijournals.org/cgi/reprint/95/5/1342

    If the contamination were only 0.25% and the volunteers not removed, one could expect ”
    Therefore, 300 g of resistant seed will shatter onto the soil per hectare, or 75000 resistant seeds per hectare. If one-tenth of these seeds successfully establish a seedling the following year, there will be one herbicide-resistant volunteer canola plant every 1.3 m2.”

    If those volunteers are not removed, their dominant gene bearing pollen would then cross contaminate with his planted crop.

    If RR canola can contaminate a neighboring field to the rate of 95% as you claim–it was not established that Schmeiser ever bought illegal seed–in just one year, there is a serious gene flow issue that should not have been overlooked in the deregulatory process.

  46. Deborah,
    “If RR canola can contaminate a neighboring field to the rate of 95% as you claim–it was not established that Schmeiser ever bought illegal seed–in just one year, there is a serious gene flow issue that should not have been overlooked in the deregulatory process.”

    That’s certainly not what I am claiming. I am explaining that a 95% rate of contamination is a direct result of INTENTIONAL selection. It was no accident.

    Again – from the court document:
    Other farmers who found volunteer Roundup tolerant plants in their fields, two of whom testified at trial, called Monsanto and the undesired plants were thereafter removed by Monsanto at its expense.

    Mr. Schmeiser complained that the original plants came onto his land without his intervention. However, he did not at all explain why he sprayed Roundup to isolate the Roundup Ready plants he found on his land; why he then harvested the plants and segregated the seeds, saved them, and kept them for seed; why he planted them; and why, through his husbandry, he ended up with 1,030 acres of Roundup Ready canola which would have cost him $15,000.

    Schmeiser didn’t have a few Roundup Ready plants in his field. His fields had mostly Roundup Ready plants in them (95-98%)– far more than could have ever grown there by accident.

    I remain unconvinced Percy Schmeiser could have ‘accidently’ ended up with 95% of his crop as RR canola – not by any stretch of the imagination.

  47. It is well established that Monsanto technology did end up on Mr. Schmeiser’s property by chance or aaccident, but through Mr. Schmeiser’s deliberate actions – despite the internet mythology what Mr. Schmeiser claims on his speaking tours:

    Key quotes from Canadian court documents:

    “Mr. Schmeiser complained that the original plants came onto his land without his intervention. However, he did not at all explain why he sprayed Roundup to isolate the Roundup Ready plants he found on his land; why he then harvested the plants and segregated the seeds, saved them, and kept them for seed; why he planted them; and why, through his husbandry, he ended up with 1,030 acres of Roundup Ready canola which would have cost him $15,000.”

    AND:

    …tests revealed that 95 to 98 percent of this 1,000 acres of canola crop was made up of Roundup Ready plants. …The trial judge found that “none of the suggested sources [proposed by Schmeiser] could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality” ultimately present in Schmeiser’s crop.

    Read the court findings (lower court, appeals AND Supreme Court) at:

    http://decisions.fct-cf.gc.ca/en/2001/2001fct256/2001fct256.html

    http://decisions.fca-caf.gc.ca/en/2002/2002fca309/2002fca309.html

    http://scc.lexum.umontreal.ca/en/2004/2004scc34/2004scc34.html

  48. Kate Says:

    April 15, 2009 at 8:27 am

    That’s certainly not what I am claiming.

    ===========

    I did mean to edit out the “as you claim” but stand by the rest. I realize that isn’t what you actually claim. But I do consider it.

  49. Kate Says:

    April 15, 2009 at 8:27 am

    Again – from the court document:
    Other farmers who found volunteer Roundup tolerant plants in their fields, two of whom testified at trial, called Monsanto and the undesired plants were thereafter removed by Monsanto at its expense.

    ===================
    One thing I would say to that, look how early on the contamination/”volunteer,” which sounds so much more friendly, started. Immediately. There is clearly a problem.

  50. Deborah,
    First – volunteer is a common term used in agriculture. You can ask any farmer. I didn’t use it because it sounds friendlier.

    Perhaps, instead of this ‘problem’ of contamination by drifting pollen (again, the closest Roundup Ready canola field was 5 miles away) there is another culprit in the case of Mr. Schmeiser? The court case stated that none of Mr. Schmeiser’s suggested possible sources can explain the concentration of the patented trait in his field.

    It may be that some Roundup Ready seed was carried to Mr. Schmeiser’s field without his knowledge. Some such seed might have survived the winter to germinate in the spring of 1998. However, I am persuaded by evidence of Dr. Keith Downey, an expert witness appearing for the plaintiffs, that none of the suggested sources could reasonably explain the concentration or extent of Roundup Ready canola of a commercial quality evident from the results of tests on Schmeiser’s crop. His view was supported in part by evidence of Dr. Barry Hertz, a mechanical engineer, whose evidence scientifically demonstrated the limited distance that canola seed blown from trucks in the road way could be expected to spread. I am persuaded on the basis of Dr. Downey’s evidence that on a balance of probabilities none of the suggested possible sources of contamination of Schmeiser’s crop was the basis for the substantial level of Roundup Ready canola growing in field number 2 in 1997.

  51. Kate Says:

    April 16, 2009 at 8:53 am
    Deborah,
    First – volunteer is a common term used in agriculture. You can ask any farmer. I didn’t use it because it sounds friendlier.
    —————-
    I understand you did not coin the term and did not mean to imply it. I only meant to note that it is quite a euphemism for “contamination.”

  52. Kate, my point was not that you coined the term “volunteer,” I was merely pointing out the euphemism. The real point is that the gm contamination problem started immediately in Canada. And probably elsewhere, but here we have documentation.

  53. Brad and Ewan,
    You’ve got it wrong. Plant breeders rarely breed hybrids in Australia, therefore buying seed is a a rarity. Not only is it far more expensive due to seed industry cuts and freight etc but you are risking introducing new weeds to your property. Farmers like saving their own seed as we select the cleanest and best grain and store it on farm without the excessive costs associated with processing certified seed. It has also adapted by survival of the fittest for the soil and weather conditions of our farm.
    Any Plant Breeder Right specifically retains the ability for farmers to replant our own seeds. The plant breeder can however deduct a small fee at either the seed stage or when delivering the grain for sale.
    What is a key issue in Australia is the identification of the specific variety. Currently we run an honour system where farmers identify which grain they are delivering and pay the appropriate end point royalty.
    What will happen with a patent?
    How much GM is to be present for Monsanto to deduct their end point royalty? A positive test? If so, the lithmus test registers positive at between 0.1% and 0.5% contamination which will occur even though the non-GM farmer does not want it.

  54. A quck Google search reveals plenty of companies selling hybrid seed in Australia. I can only assume someone must be buying it. Here is one of the links http://www.fatcow.com.au/t/Hybrid-Seeds

    Growers have a choice whether to choose a seed that can be saved, or not. Many will choosen(even in Australia) seeds that cannot be saved legally when the “plusses” of buying annually outweigh the “minuses”.

    Accidental presence will not trigger requirement to pay “royalty”.

  55. Julie,

    When you say I got it wrong do you mean the link you supplied us got it wrong?

    and I quote

    “The seed or other propagating material which is purchased with the authority of the breeder can be sown and the harvested material (first generation crop) can be sold. A farmer can save the seed (or other propagating material) from the first crop and use it to grow a second generation crop. The harvested product from it can only be sold with further authorisation from the grantee.”

    So yes, you have the right to replant whatever seed you grow. However, you specifically do not have the right to sell anything other than the first generation seed without “further authorisation”

    I dont see how this functionally differs from a patented product – other than, in general, as I understand it, patented seeds will not allow you to grow the second generation (essentially the permission to grow is enforced as a seed purchase each season)

  56. Yes, it does differ considerably. A patented GM product means the farmer is a contract grower for the patented product and seeds can not be replanted meaning the GM company dictates future planting options. A plant breeder right only covers the recovery of a fee for plant breeding.
    And Brad, I did not say hybrids were never grown, they are rare in broadacre cropping. Almost all Australian broadacre farmers replant almost all of their seed.

  57. Julie:-

    A patented GM product means the farmer pays a fee for the GM product(and the breeding).

    A plant breeder right means the farmer pays a fee for the breeding.

    In neither case does the farmer have an explicit right to replant and subsequently sell second, third, or n generation products without the consent of the initial seed supplier (be that the patent holder, or the breeder)

    Unless the information in the link you initially provided was wrong. It may be that breeders waive these rights, or charge fees less than patent fees – but the rules, as your source presents them, show no appreciable commercial difference between the treatment of patented or plant breeder right covered crops.