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Seeds

Soybeans

Project: Genetic Engineering and the Privatization of Seeds
Open-Content project managed by Derek, mtuck

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Farmers interviewed by the Washington Post have different opinions of Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds. (Weiss 2/3/1999)
bullet Ted Megginson, a soybean farmer in Auburn, Illinois, says: “We’re not doing this [farming] for a hobby. We’re looking for net dollars. They’re not holding a gun to my head to make me buy their seeds.” (Weiss 2/3/1999)
bullet Tim Seifert, a soybean farmer from Illinois, tells the newspaper, “It’s made me a better farmer.” He adds that he saved $5 to $6 an acre the previous year in reduced labor and pesticide costs after planting his fields with Monsanto’s pesticide-resistant soybeans. (Weiss 2/3/1999)
bullet Vincent Moye, a farmer in Reinbeck, Iowa, says: “Every year I get catalogues from the seed salesmen, and more and more varieties have the Roundup Ready gene even though I don’t need it. The government’s looking at Microsoft too hard. This is a bigger monopoly. We’re all gonna be serfs on our own land.” (Weiss 2/3/1999)

Pierre Gaudet, owner of a 400-hectare organic soya farm and president of the Quebec Federation of Organic Producers, learns that four percent of his 60-ton crop contains genetically modified soya. His crop was apparently cross-pollinated by his neighbor’s fields. He loses $33,000 when he is forced to sell his contaminated crop on the conventional market, which pays only $190/ton compared to the $750/ton rate that is paid for organic soya. “There is no insurance for that. I can’t sue my neighbor—he followed all the rules,” Gaudet says. “All the companies tell us that cross-pollination [of soya] is impossible, so I didn’t take any special measures.” (Roslin 10/5/2002)

By this year, 68 percent of all soybeans grown in the US is genetically modified. (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology 8/2004)

By this year, 75 percent of all soybeans grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of eight percentage points over the previous year (see 2001). (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology 8/2004)

In Nebraska, USDA inspectors discover that 550,000 bushels of soybeans have been contaminated with a small amount of leaves and stalks from corn plants genetically modified to produce a pig vaccine. (Gillis 11/14/2002; Leahy 6/9/2004) The soybeans were grown in a field that had previously been planted with the experimental pharma corn. The biofirm developing the corn, ProdiGene, neglected to remove volunteer corn plants that had sprouted up alongside the soybeans. (Hudson 12/30/2004) These soybeans were then harvested and shipped to a storage facility where they were mixed with 500,000 bushels of soybeans. Upon discovering the contamination, the USDA orders the company to purchase and destroy all the contaminated soybeans. In December, the company will agree to pay a $250,000 fine, plus an estimated $2.8 million to dispose of the soybeans. (Doering 12/9/2002) This is the second incident this season involving the contamination of conventional crops with ProdiGene’s GM corn (see September 2002).

By this year, 81 percent of all soybeans grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of six percentage points over the previous year (see 2002). (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology 8/2004)

By this year, 85 percent of all soybeans grown in the US is genetically modified, an increase of six percentage points over the previous year (see 2003). (Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology 8/2004)

Monsanto announces that it is temporarily halting sales of genetically modified soybean seeds because farmers are saving and replanting patented seed, making it difficult for the company to collect royalties. “We are suspending our soybean business… because it’s simply not profitable for us,” says Federico Ovejero, a spokesman for Monsanto Argentina. “We remain committed to releasing our technology in places where we can ensure a fair return on our investment.” Monsanto has been pressuring Argentina to clamp down on what it says is “seed piracy.” (Gray 1/19/2004; Latin America News Digest 1/20/2004; ETC Group 2/26/2004) Monsanto estimates that more than half of the seeds planted during the October-November planting season appears to have been pirated. (Smith 1/20/2004) One Argentinean seed industry executive warns that Monsanto’s action “is the first warning sign that all new technologies will abandon us if intellectual property rights are not respected.” (Gray 1/19/2004; ETC Group 2/26/2004)

Farming cooperatives in Brazil’s southernmost state of Rio Grande do Sul agree to pay Monsanto royalties for all genetically modified soybeans they grow in 2004. Exporters and crushers will sign licensing agreements with Monsanto requiring them to collect a $.21 royalty for every 90-kg bag of GM soybeans purchased from farmers. (Latin America News Digest 1/29/2004; Johnson 1/29/2004; Resource News International 1/30/2004; ETC Group 2/26/2004)

A study done by the Union of Concerned Scientists finds that traditional US varieties of corn, soybeans, and canola have become widely contaminated with low levels of transgenic genes. Contamination levels are the highest for canola, the study finds, with six of the six traditional varieties testing positive for genetically modified DNA. Based on the study’s findings, the authors estimate that the level of contaminated seed in the US is probably in the range of 0.05 to 1 percent, which the report notes “would represent huge absolute amounts of seed.” According to the authors, the study shows how easy it is for transgenic genes to escape. It also suggests the possibility that genes not approved for consumption—such as those engineered to produce drugs, plastics, and vaccines—could end up contaminating food crops. (Mellon and Rissler 2/23/2004 pdf file; Mellon and Rissler 2/23/2004 pdf file)


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