February 2, 2000
Subject: Food Safety Files 6: 87th Day of Hunger Strike: Robert Cohen on GE, Biotech & rBGH + Monsanto = Pharmacia .. Corporate Death to Pharma-c.i.a. + Why Will Coke fire 6,000 employees? + The GMO Swindling... "mega-deception, mega-hype and mega-corruption" + On Jan. 29th more than 130 countries agreed to a U.N.-sponsored Biosafety Protocol agreement + Seminis -- GE vegetable seeds
In my continuing Food Safety File Series, this one really emerges as the most revealing compilation about the Monsanto Hydra's multifarious schemes to reap profits at the expense of everyone's health and of an horrendous chemical and biological pollution of the Earth's environment. And the people and NGOs featured in this email are the Davids fighting at the front line to defeat this corporate Goliath.
And with everyone's help, they will succeed!
Earth Rainbow Network Coordinator
Date: Tue, 1 Feb 2000
Subject: 87th Day of Hunger Strike: Robert Cohen on GE, Biotech & rBGH
Today is the 87th day of my hunger strike.
This summer, will the corn "be as high as an elephant's eye?" Human genes have been inserted into pig's cells and fish genes into tomatoes. Will corn stalks resemble elephant tusks, or is biotechnology just an ivory tower?
Biotechnology and genetic engineering are here to save the world from hunger, or so Monsanto and FDA continue to tell us. That promise is a cleverly marketed lie. The new seeds produced by Monsanto actually contain the seeds for the farmer's destruction.
Many thousands of dairy farms will cease to exist in 2000 because there is an enormous surplus of milk. Surplus milk means lower prices. Lower prices spell disaster for dairy producers.
Last year, dairymen were getting over $17 for every hundred pounds of milk they produced. Did they really need more milk? Use of Monsanto's genetically engineered bovine growth hormone increases a cow's milk by up to 25%.
The most recent price farmers received for 100 pounds of milk was under $10, and that spells bankruptcy.
Last summer, American corn prices averaged $1.94 a bushel. It costs a farmer over $3 a bushel to produce that corn. Forty percent of America's crop was grown with Monsanto's genetically engineered seeds. Did America need more corn? Are the world's hungry people benefitting from the surplus? Last year, corn farmers drew 40 percent or more of their income from government subsidies or emergency aid. Two billion bushels of corn are currently being held in warehouses, stocked as surplus.
Emerging world markets will seriously threaten farmers, as inventory increases and prices drop. Asia has been America's number one foreign export market, but, the Chinese will export 5 million metric tons of corn this year, and their freight costs will allow them to do it cheaper and quicker than American producers can. Europe has shown the United States that they want no part of our genetically engineered milk, cheese, meat, corn, or soybeans.
Don't we get it yet? How many farmers will sell their stock this year and close their barn doors, long after it is too late for them to discover the effects of Monsanto's new world?
Robert Cohen http://www.hungerstrike.com
From: "Dave" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: Monsanto = Pharmacia .. Corporate Death to Pharma-c.i.a.
Date: Sun, 30 Jan 2000
Pharmacia, that is: Pharma-C.I.A. is the new name for the well known purveyors of death previously known as Monsanto. Let us all keep the momentum against Monsanto in place, and not fall for the simple expediency of their name change - Pharma-cia = Monsanto. Pharmacia (= Monsanto) has brought us FrankenFoods, rBGH, Aspartame (the excitotoxic poison in "diet" Coke and the majority of other "diet" supermarket products) and last but not least: Bt genetically modified corn, spliced with gene to include a pesticide in the altered crop (yum.) & the recently failed: Terminator seeds & Water supply of the world as a corporate monopoly income source
This company has simply one of the worst records on the planet for poisoning people and environment; for performing Fraudulent "science" testing; for using political pull to cover-up LIES and FRAUD, to coverup DEATH and DEBILITY directly caused by ASPARTAME (this coverup is carefully coordinated with FDA, as most of the others mentioned).
From RACHEL'S ENVIRONMENT & HEALTH WEEKLY
Environmental Research Foundation
P.O. Box 5036, Annapolis, MD 21403
Fax (410) 263-8944; E-mail: email@example.com
Back issues are available from http://www.rachel.org
Monsanto and it's public image
Damaging the environment
In the 1980s, Monsanto Corporation got a bad name for polluting every square foot of the planet with noxious PCBs, dioxin, and harmful pesticides. Now Monsanto is a leader in the biotech revolution that threatens to engineer the genes of every food crop on the planet with potentially disasterous consequences for the environment. In 1996, Monsanto introduced its RoundUp Ready soybean - which has been genetically altered to be resistant to the chemical herbicide glyphosate which is marketed by Monsanto as Roundup. The inbuilt resistance allows farmers to use the herbicide while the crop is growing. Other altered crops likeky to be marketed include maize, wheat, sugar beet, letuce, potatoes and poplar.
Monsanto also owns 49.9 percent of Calgene, the maker of the Flavr Savr tomato engineered for longer shelf life.
Since April 1995, the U.S. FDA has reported over 10,000 volunteered consumer complaints stemming from NutraSweet (aka Equal, Aspartame). Among the symptoms listed are blindness seizures, memory loss, loss of limb control, slurred speech, skin lesions, extremity numbness, depression, mood swings, anxiety attacks, coma and death. Absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream it metabolizes into six to eight byproducts including methyl alcohol and the class A carcinogen, formaldehyde. The early research history of aspartame was plagued with deception. Although the US FDA gave the product approval, it latter emerged that the results of animal experiments had been manipulated to improve the results.
Monsanto's herbicide Butachlor, marketed in foreigh countries as Machete and Lambast, has never been permanently approved by the EPA. Adverse effects of the chemical include weight loss, weight changes in internal organs, reduced brain size together with lesions. Butachlor, reports Multinational Monitor, can be found in the U.S. food supply. It's used in Argentina, Brazil, China, India, the Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Venezuela, which means that the majority of rice imports could contain it.
Monsanto owns the drug company, G.D. Searle - producers of:
- Demulen, an oral contraceptive, is an estrogenic compound. Environmental scientists are linking estrogenic pollutants to breast cancer.
- Flagyl, an oral synthetic antiprotozoal and antibacterial, can cause convulsive seizures, peripheral neuropathy, a significant lessening of white blood corpuscles, and can make candida infections worse.
- Kerlone for "management of hypertension" can contribute to cardiac failure.
- Lomotil, the anti-diarrhea drug, has a number of adverse effects including tachycardia, vomiting, depression, numbness of extremities and pancreatitis.
Monsanto performs experiments on many thousand of animals each year. These tests are as pointless as ever since not only are the results of animal test inconclusive in terms of likely outcome for humans, but Monsanto (like many other companies) has been known to manipulate the results to meet their requirements (as was the case with aspartame). Monsanto's artificial bovine growth hormone BGH (Posilac) is designed to make cows produce more milk. Ignoring the fact that no body needs more milk, one of the problems with the use of the hormone is that it pushes the cow to the limits of production and causes illness such as Mastitis. In Monsanto's own words: "Use of Posilac has been associated with increases in cystic ovaries and disorders of the uterus... digestive disorders... enlarged hocks and lesions (lacerations, enlargements, calluses) of the knee..." On March 1993 the Veterinary Medicine Advisory Committee of the FDA unanimously agreed with the Monsanto conclusion that "Cows injected with Posilac are at an increased risk for clinical mastitis." If you drink milk you will be pleased to know that this disease is treated with high levels of antibiotics which no doubt find their way into the milk supply. Since the introduction of BGH in the USA, reports of serious health and reproductive problems among U.S. cows have increased significantly.
Further information: http://www.envirolink.org/arrs/AnimaLife/spring95/BGH.html
- Background information http://www.envirolink.org/arrs/essays/posilac.html
- Cancer threat http://www.monitor.net/rachel/r381.html - Milk, rBGH, and Biotechnology
Monsanto has tried to intimidate farmers and retailers in the USA who label their milk products as BGH-free (see above). The corporation has actually brought lawsuits against such farmers and, through a related organization, has sued the state of Vermont over its permissive attitude toward BGH labeling. This seems an obvious encroachement on the Americas' First Amendment and is no doubt outrageous, but the Department of Justice appears to do nothing to stop it. Monsanto Corporation, a major manufacturer of phenoxy herbicides, in the late 1970s and early 1980s sponsored studies of workers that the company had exposed to dioxin, and these studies showed no increased cancer deaths among exposed workers. However, the Monsanto studies have been criticized by a report from the National Research Council, which says Monsanto's studies were "plagued with errors in classification of exposed and unexposed groups, according to some reports, and hence have been biased toward a finding of no effect." A 1990 analysis of Monsanto workers, conducted by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health, reported a statistically-significant increase in soft tissue sarcomas.
As part of its multi-year scientific reassessment of dioxin, EPA recently published a draft review of all scientific data linking dioxin to cancer and other health effects in humans. The EPA's draft document concludes that four separate studies of workers exposed to dioxin have revealed an "overall increased mortality from all malignancies combined." EPA speculates that dioxin's ability to mimic hormones gives dioxin the capacity to cause cancer in many different organs and bodily systems in humans.
There seems to be little room left for doubt: As the EPA's "scientific reassessment team" told then-chief of EPA, William Reilly, January 27, 1992: "Dioxin does cause cancer in humans." Suing Monsanto on behalf of plaintiffs who say they were harmed when a Norfolk and Western railroad tank car derailed, spilling 19,000 gallons of a Monsanto chemical called "ocp-crude" into the community of Sturgeon, Missouri the night of January 10, 1979.
Denial of responsibility means, basically, stonewalling pollution, even on your own property. For example, Monsanto's plant in Sauget, Illinois has over a dozen chemical dumps on it, according to the WALL STREET JOURNAL, several of them containing substantial quantities of cancer-causing PCBs, at concentrations as high as 74,000 parts per million (ppm), or 7.4 percent. For years, Monsanto's Sauget plant was the nation's largest single manufacturer of PCBs.
Monsanto officials insist that the PCBs on their property do not necessarily belong to them. Anyone could have dumped PCBs there, they say. All told, there are more than one million tons of chemical wastes on Monsanto's property--chlorinated pesticides,
PCBs and other chemicals that Monsanto manufactured on the site for decades. Monsanto insists the wastes did not necessarily come from their plant, located half a mile north of the dumps. It is company policy to destroy waste records after 4 years.
Meanwhile the state of Illinois has spent 12 years and $1.3 million trying to get the Monsanto site listed on the federal Superfund. An estimated 13 tons of chemical wastes leach off the Monsanto site into the Mississippi River each year.
Monsanto products include: NutraSweet, Equal, BGH (aka rBGH, rBST, Posilac), Simplese (an artificial butter fat), Simple Pleasures Frozen Dairy Desserts, Salad Dressing and Mayonnaise; the artificial fibers Astroturf and Wear Dated Carpets; the home insulation foam sheeting called Fome-Cor; the garden herbicides Roundup and Dimension; agricultural chemicals: Lasso, Harness Plus, Far Go, Avauer, Machete, Bronco, Bullet, Cropstar GB, Freedom, Landmaster BW, Micro-Tech Partner, Ram Rod, Accord, Buckle, Fallow Master, Lariat, Rodeo; the feed supplement and preservative Alimet; the Flavr Savr tomato.
Campaigns and resistance
Boycotts: Family farm Defenders, P.O. Box 581, Hillsboro, Wisconsin, 54634, for BGH Pure Dairy Commission, RR 2, Box 191, New Auburn WI 54757. for BGH Betty Martini, 5940 Brookgreen Road, N.E., Atlanta, Georgia 30328, for NutraSweet Outside links and further information
See also: Monsanto pushes pesticides at http://www.essential.org/monitor/hyper/mm0393.html
Friday January 28, 2000
Monsanto's name radically modified
The Monsanto company name, which has become synonymous with the genetically modified food business, is to be ditched, the company revealed last night.
The beleaguered American biotech company is merging with the US-Swiss drugs group Pharmacia & Upjohn and the $50bn corporation will in future be known as Pharmacia.
"We have chosen a name with power and global relevance," said Robert Shapiro, chairman of Monsanto, who will lead the new company. "This name and logo will create a strong new identity for our 60,000 employees and will build value with our existing customers worldwide."
Mr Shapiro, who championed GM food, was once regarded as a visionary who would mix nutrition, biotechnology, crop protection and medicine in one commercial venture. But the Monsanto name became tainted last year as the consumer backlash against GM food spread from Europe to the US.
In addition to food safety and environmental fears there were concerns that farmers in developing countries would never be able to afford the new Monsanto seeds.
Last month a shareholder campaign in the US unveiled a plan to target 24 companies, including Monsanto, demanding a moratorium on the use of GM food until independent testing had been completed. The campaign is being coordinated by 275 religious and other groups which claim to control $100bn of shares in US companies.
Monsanto, which had been a high-flying pharmaceutical stock and darling of Wall Street, fell swiftly from grace when its crop technology business, which little over a year ago was regarded as a world beater, turned into an albatross. Shareholders watched as their investments lost a third of their value.
The newly merged Pharmacia Corporation will use the names Searle, Pharmacia and Upjohn for its three sales divisions. Only an autonomous agricultural subsidiary will continue to use the Monsanto name.
Date: Fri, 28 Jan 2000
From: Betty Martini <Mission-Possible-USA@Altavista.net>
Subject: Why Will Coke fire 6,000 employees?
The photo of a crumpled can of Diet Coke told the story in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, Coke's hometown paper. Fitting, poetic, just, but tragic for the company once rated "The Most Admired Business in the World". Today Coke wouldn't even make the list. Sales are down, profits collapsing, and 6,000 employees soon will be gone. To make room for 6,000 defense attorneys? The tragedy is stupendously larger than 6,000 jobs; it affects hundreds of millions of unwarned, innocent, afflicted consumers across the broad face of planet earth.
This crisis can't be solved by belt tightening, greater efficiency, more advertising, etc. It's so bad Coke can't say the word; to pronounce it will bring instant cataclysm. That word is aspartame, and their only recourse is denial, denial, denial, though every ad and commercial builds higher the scaffold upon which Coke shall surely hang.
Reality is in that twisted Diet coke can. It's poison. It's killing the unborn, raining tumors and seizures on the population, destroying children, incapacitating workers, mimicking MS, erasing memory and blinding. Inexorably Diet Coke visits a plague of 92 symptoms listed by our FDA on a secret report they'll never show which names diet soda as the first source of aspartame disease. And yes, Death was one of the 92.
Diet Coke is poison. And it's addictive, some victims drink several liters a day and keep it on their nightstands. If Coke changes the formula to remove aspartame the world will heal and the surge of hatred and vengeance by the disabled and bereaved shall certainly destroy Coca Cola.
The poison in Diet Coke is aspartame. As a member of the National Soft Drink Association Coke opposed FDA approval of aspartame for beverages. Their objections, running to several pages published in the Congressional Record of 5/7/85, said aspartame is uniquely and inherently unstable and breaks down in the can. It decomposes into formaldehyde, methyl alcohol, formic acid, diketopiperazine and other toxins. In a study on 7 monkeys 5 had grand mal seizures and one died, a casualty rate of 86%.
Coke knew; and knowing, broke their good faith contract with customers, a breach exhibited by the recent plot to program vending machines to raise the price with the temperature. Dissatisfied with selling flavored sugar water plus phosphoric acid, they switched to pushing an addictive formula called "Diet". Addictive substances multiply markets, so Diet Coke soared off the sales charts, spreading obesity in its flight.. We're fatter because aspartame suppresses seratonin and makes us crave carbohydrates.
So why is aspartame/NutraSweet/Equal/Diet Coke/Diet Pepsi/etc on the market and in thousands of foods? Can you say CORRUPTION? One FDA Commissioner and one acting Commissioner have changed sides to work in the NutraSweet industry, plus 6 underlings and two federal attorneys assigned to prosecute NutraSweet for submitting fraudulent tests to get it approved. "It's like a script for Abbott & Costello." lamented an honest FDA scientist writing to Senator Metzenbaum. It works like this: "Approve our poison, and when you stop being a bureaucrat we'll make you a plutocrat! After its licensed we'll pay off the American Dietetics, the American Diabetes Association, the AMA and anyone we need who's for sale."
The jig's up! Worldwide consumer action has exposed aspartame, and millions have kicked the habit. Coke's profits are down 37% and for a year Monsanto's been trying to sell The NutraSweet Company. Finally they sold NSC, producer of the phenylalanine in NutraSweet for $125 million. Now Monsanto faces a $71 million lawsuit for exaggerating profits. Monsanto stock is in the toilet, but they may have found a buyer in the Swiss firm Pharmacia-Upjohn. P.U. for short! The deal won't finalize for a year. The plans are to ditch the Monsanto name as its stench is unendurable. CEO Bob Shapiro may soon be history, like Doug Ivester of Coke who just resigned. Will the last one out please turn out the lights!
Betty Martini, Mission Possible International, 5950 H State Bridge Road, PMB 215, Duluth, Georgia 30097 Phone: 770 242-2599
References: Thousands of pages on website www.dorway.com
(Send empty email to firstname.lastname@example.org for map)
www.presidiotex.com/aspartame (in Spanish asparspan)
THIS IS A *MUST READ*!
From: Anna Gyorgy <email@example.com>
Sent: Sunday, January 30, 2000
Subject: Women & Life on Earth: the truth will out, but must we wait and suffer until then?
Thanks to Lorna Salzman, long-time environmentalist and safe energy activist, for the following news and commentary:
The Saturday (Jan. 29) New York Times featured a front-page story that all anti-nuclear activists have known for a long time: that low levels of radiation, within the existing government standards for radiation exposure, have caused huge numbers of cancer among workers at nuclear weapons facilities since the 1950s.
QUOTES FROM THE NY TIMES ARTICLE BY MATTHEW WALD:
"After decades of denials, the government is conceding that since the dawn of the nuclear age, workers making nuclear weapons have been exposed to radiation and chemicals that have produced cancer and early death.
"The new conclusion comes from the government's most comprehensive review of studies of worker health and raw health data. The review accepts the conclusion of many of those studies, some of them done under contract for the government, that workers were made sick by their exposure.
"In the 57 years since the Manhattan Project began processing radioactive material to produce bombs, the government has until now minimized the hazards of radiation and chemicals, criticized epidemiological research that raised questions related to them and spent tens of millions of dollars in defending itself against lawsuits charging that the bomb plants had made workers sick...
"The cancers were found among nearly 600,000 people who have worked in nuclear weapons production since the start of World War II. They range from leukemia and Hodgkin's lymphoma to cancer of the prostate, kidney, salivary gland and lung. ...elevated cancer levels were found at Savannah River..Hanford...Rocky Flats...Fernald Feed Materials Center...and at the Lawrence Livermore and Los Alamos national laboratories."
These studies, started by Dr. Thomas Mancuso at the Hanford laboratory (he was later fired because the government didn't like his findings), were simply confirmation of what radiation health experts have known all along, though were reluctant to admit publicly for fear of undercutting their nuclear physicist colleagues. The late respected Dr. Karl Z. Morgan, considered the father of radiation health physics and a long-time government employee, along with Dr. John Gofman (also fired for his integrity and commitment to truth, along with Dr. Arthur Tamplin), were among the very few who dared to speak the truth about low level radiation.
Gofman and Tamplin, formerly at the Lawrence Livermore nuclear weapons lab, were given the job by the Atomic Energy Commission of investigating the claims of Dr. Ernest Sternglass, long-time gadfly and dissident, about the dangers of low level radiation. They came back and said: well, in fact there is merit to his claims. Zap, they lost their jobs.
These things happened in the 1960s and 1970s, thirty to forty years ago. Now we are in a similar position with genetic engineering, where a few biologists are speaking out about the potential hazards and uncertainties connected with GE, while most of them, concerned more about their jobs, grants and status, are keeping mum at best, or actively promoting the technology like Dr. Prakash and his pathetic petition designed to save the asses of the asses whose livelihood depends upon this untested, potentially dangerous technology.
Like the GE proponents who see nothing but a rosy future making profits off foodstuffs peddled to the third world by the first world who has appropriated the third world resources, labor and economies in order to produce those foodstuffs to sell to them, those who pooh-poohed any dangers of low level radiation were proven wrong. Sadly what proved them wrong were the dead bodies, which the government finally, though reluctantly, decided to count.
We now have the same situation with biologists who, one would think, might be more responsive to living things than physicists who diddle around with formulas and don't have to face up to real life forms. But no, we have the same kind of denial, the same kind of anti-scientific attitude which, if practiced in their labs, would produce even more deformed grotesque and dangerous results. I shudder to think that the medicines we take or the medical treatments we undergo - or the food we eat - may have been developed by scientists who cared not a whit about the huge gaps and uncertainties they found in their research and who chose to ignore those, even if it meant risking human health and lives.
While we struggle to keep these scientists honest, let us right now, without delay, point the finger and put the responsibility on the basic biology researchers working in the genetic engineering field. Let us tell them that we hold them directly and personally responsible - perhaps even more than the food corporations - for the ultimate consequences of their work. We cannot let them off the hook or accept the excuse that they were just doing their job, that basic research is separate from its technological application, like the nuclear physicists did. They must be made to understand that they are personally accountable to a fundamental set of ethics that in fact is purportedly embedded in their work: to not do harm, to demand evidence before making wild claims for the benefits of their work, and above all to align themselves not with those who pay them but with the larger society that they claim they are serving.
The deductive method of science - seeking empirical evidence to support a hypothesis and discarding that hypothesis if evidence is contradictory or lacking -was cast to the winds first by the physicists and now by the biologists. They are hell-bent on either ignoring contradictory evidence or on hiding it in any small nook and cranny, to "prove" their hypothesis. If others find damaging evidence, they will ignore it or castigate and denounce those individuals as kooks or a minority voice. They will round up their wagons around them to defend themselves against the marauding citizens who are crying out for proof of safety and efficacy. They will use their positions and connections to hammer the complacent mass media into compliance with their views and hostility towards those of their critics. They will invent the most outlandish but fiendishly imaginative fictions to seduce the gullible: solving world hunger, rescuing third world economies,providing jobs, improving agriculture.
We are talking mega-deception, mega-hype and mega-corruption here. That these are being committed by those endowed with public trust and public money makes such deceit doubly intolerable. Let us make it clear that our battle against unproven genetic engineering is a battle not only for health and environment but for the soul of science itself. If scientists deplore the anti-science attitudes of the public, they have only themselves to blame for it. Let us hope that there are a few courageous individuals out there who have the wisdom to understand this and the strength to change it....soon, not forty years from now.
Lorna Salzman East Quogue, NY, USA firstname.lastname@example.org
SOME GOOD NEWS: Also on Jan. 29th more than 130 countries agreed to a U.N.-sponsored Biosafety Protocol agreement that -- when ratified by at least 50 countries -- will establish an international framework for trade in genetically modified crops. Environmental organizations such as Greenpeace and Friends of the Earth worked hard in support of regulations. Said Greenpeace's Benedikt Harelin: "This is a historic step towards protecting the environment and consumers from the dangers of genetic engineering... These minimum safety standards must be implemented immediately, and until the protocol has come into force all exports of GMOs should be prohibited."
For more information, see postings at: http://www.thecampaign.org/newsupdates/index.htm For background, see also: http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org; http://www.purefood.org And an article in the Feb. 2000 issue of "Mother Jones" discusses ignored warnings of scientists on genetically engineered food. Read "Pandora's Pantry" at: http://www.motherjones.com/mother_jones/JF00/pandora.html
Subject: Seminis -- GE vegetable seeds
Date: Mon, 31 Jan 2000
From: PANUPS <email@example.com>
P A N U P S
Pesticide Action Network Updates Service
Seminis -- GE vegetable seeds
January 31, 1999
In the past five years, the California-based company Seminis Vegetable Seeds has gained control of approximately 19% of the worldwide fruit and vegetable seed market; Seminis now provides the seeds for some 40% of all vegetables sold in the United States. Through the combined strategies of controlling large amounts of germ plasm and entering cooperative agreements with biotech developers such as Monsanto, Seminis Vegetable Seeds is positioning itself to lead the way in future genetic engineering of fruit and vegetable seeds.
Seminis is a subsidiary of the Savia Corporation, formerly known as Empresas La Moderna (ELM). Based in Monterrey, Mexico, Savia is part of the Pulsar Group, headed by Mexican billionaire Alfonso Romo Garza. Pulsar's activities range from health care to insurance to agribusiness. The company was created through the merger of three large seed brands -- Asgrow, Petoseed and Royal Sluis -- plus the acquisition of nine smaller ones. These smaller brands include regional specialties such as Choong Ang, which supplies seeds in South Korea, and Horticeres, which operates in Brazil.
Seminis has seed production facilities in Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington as well as in over 18 other countries; major processing facilities in California, Idaho, Chile and the Netherlands; and research centers in France, Italy, South Korea, the Netherlands and the U.S.
Seminis is developing a range of crops with traits such as herbicide, virus, insect or fungus resistance, as well as foods with "improved" characteristics intended to appeal to consumers. Plans are in the works to introduce fungus-resistant lettuce, virus-resistant melon with longer shelf life, peas with high sugar content, and disease-resistant tomatoes with increased levels of the nutrients beta-carotene and lycopene.
A collaborative agreement established with Monsanto in 1997 lays the groundwork for applying Monsanto's genetic engineering technologies, including insect resistance (Bt toxin) and glyphosate resistance, to vegetable and fruit seeds. Seminis is developing Roundup Ready lettuce (engineered to tolerate Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, active ingredient glyphosate); if approved for sale, the lettuce could enter supermarkets as early as 2003. Work is also under way to develop Roundup Ready tomatoes.
Seminis is currently field testing many of its genetically engineered crops. In California alone, Seminis is testing or has recently tested plots of glyphosate-resistant lettuce, peas, cucumbers, and tomatoes plus a wide variety of fungus-, insect-, and virus-resistant vegetables. Among its activities in other states, Seminis has planted or is currently testing insect-resistant tomatoes in Florida and glyphosate-tolerant lettuce in Georgia and New Jersey.
One of Seminis' genetically engineered products, a virus-resistant squash, is already being grown commercially. Developed by Asgrow, the first transgenic squash was approved for commercial production in 1994. A second variety, with resistance to three viruses, was approved in 1996 and a third is now being field tested. Domestic squash has a number of wild relatives in the United States. Thus a real threat exists of genetic pollution, in which the trait for virus resistance could spread to wild relatives creating "super weeds" with a competitive advantage. Asgrow's tests for ecological safety have been criticized as entirely inadequate by ecologists and organizations such as the Union of Concerned Scientists, but were accepted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture as sufficient for approving commercial cultivation of the crop.
Seminis' 1999 prospectus states that "the application of genetic improvements to crop plants has provided greater value to growers which can be captured by the seed industry through higher prices and greater demand." An illustration is Seminis' long shelf life tomato seeds, which sell for $5,200 per pound, contrasting with $1,400 per pound for traditional varieties. Another way Seminis expects to profit from genetic engineering is by producing a "reallocation of grower spending": farmers will spend less on agricultural chemicals and therefore will be willing to pay more for seeds.
Source: "Expanding the Biotech Frontier -- Seminis Vegetable Seeds," Global Pesticide Campaigner, December 1999.
Contact: Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA)
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