May 28

Related articles:

Exposed: the great GM crops myth
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“Genetic modification actually cuts the productivity of crops, an authoritative new study shows, undermining repeated claims that a switch to the controversial technology is needed to solve the growing world food crisis.”

BIODIVERSITY: Privatisation Making Seeds Themselves Infertile

U.S. using food crisis to boost bio-engineered crops

From Seeds of Suicide to Seeds of Hope: Navdanya’s Intervention to Stop Farmers’ Suicides in Vidharbha

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Heather Meek leafs through the seed catalogue she wrote on the family computer, on winter nights after the kids went to bed.

There are Kahnawake Mohawk beans and Painted Mountain corn; Tante Alice cucumber and 40 varieties of heritage tomatoes.

Selling seeds is more than just an extra source of income on this organic farm an hour northwest of Montreal.

For Meek and partner Frederic Sauriol, propagating local varieties is part of a David and Goliath struggle by small farmers against big seed companies.

At stake, they believe, is no less than control of the world’s food supply.

Since the dawn of civilization, farmers have saved seeds from the harvest and replanted them the following year.

But makers of genetically modified (GM) seeds — introduced in 1996 and now grown by some 70,000 Canadian farmers, according to Monsanto, the world’s largest seed company — have been putting a stop to that practice.

The 12 million farmers worldwide who will plant GM seeds this year sign contracts agreeing not to save or replant seeds. That means they must buy new seeds every year.

Critics charge such contracts confer almost unlimited power over farmers’ lives to multinational companies whose priority is profit. They say GM seeds are sowing a humanitarian and ecological disaster.

But Trish Jordan, a Canadian spokesman for Monsanto, explains that requiring farmers to sign “technology use agreements” allows companies to recoup the cost of developing products.

“Farmers choose these products because of benefits they provide,” Jordan says. “That’s why we’re successful as a company.”

The debate over GM seeds has come into sharp focus as the world faces a food-price crisis that threatens to push millions into starvation.

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Apr 05

Monsanto already dominates America’s food chain with its genetically modified seeds. Now it has targeted milk production. Just as frightening as the corporation’s tactics-ruthless legal battles against small farmers-is its decades-long history of toxic contamination.

No thanks: An anti-Monsanto crop circle made by farmers and volunteers in the Philippines.
By Melvyn Calderon/Greenpeace HO/A.P. Images.

Gary Rinehart clearly remembers the summer day in 2002 when the stranger walked in and issued his threat. Rinehart was behind the counter of the Square Deal, his “old-time country store,” as he calls it, on the fading town square of Eagleville, Missouri, a tiny farm community 100 miles north of Kansas City.

The Square Deal is a fixture in Eagleville, a place where farmers and townspeople can go for lightbulbs, greeting cards, hunting gear, ice cream, aspirin, and dozens of other small items without having to drive to a big-box store in Bethany, the county seat, 15 miles down Interstate 35.

Everyone knows Rinehart, who was born and raised in the area and runs one of Eagleville’s few surviving businesses. The stranger came up to the counter and asked for him by name.

“Well, that’s me,” said Rinehart.

As Rinehart would recall, the man began verbally attacking him, saying he had proof that Rinehart had planted Monsanto’s genetically modified (G.M.) soybeans in violation of the company’s patent. Better come clean and settle with Monsanto, Rinehart says the man told him-or face the consequences.

Rinehart was incredulous, listening to the words as puzzled customers and employees looked on. Like many others in rural America, Rinehart knew of Monsanto’s fierce reputation for enforcing its patents and suing anyone who allegedly violated them. But Rinehart wasn’t a farmer. He wasn’t a seed dealer. He hadn’t planted any seeds or sold any seeds. He owned a small-a really small-country store in a town of 350 people. He was angry that somebody could just barge into the store and embarrass him in front of everyone. “It made me and my business look bad,” he says. Rinehart says he told the intruder, “You got the wrong guy.”

When the stranger persisted, Rinehart showed him the door. On the way out the man kept making threats. Rinehart says he can’t remember the exact words, but they were to the effect of: “Monsanto is big. You can’t win. We will get you. You will pay.” Continue reading »

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