Tag Archive | "DuPont"

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That’s How Monsanto Makes Money

Posted on 08 April 2013 by Jerry

It takes teams of people to craft a viable strategy that gives a business success while no one is looking.  These include the best legal and legislative minds money can buy to make progress a word or a bill at a time.  Case in point is Monsanto.  The last couple of months show how Monsanto operates legislatively, corporately with other agricultural biotechnology behemoths, and globally to insure greater sales of genetically modified crops and herbicides.

Legislatively, Monsanto brought together its inside Congress man (Roy Blunt – U.S. Senator (R) from Missouri), its attorneys and strategists to craft a rider to benefit Monsanto that could be snuck into a bigger piece of legislation that would certainly pass.  It needed to be crafted in such a way as to not offend and yet compel the U.S. government to overrule the federal courts and act in accordance with Monsanto’s wishes.  It was written a word at a time to set precedents that would serve as the basis of future lobbying and political end-runs.

Such was what has been dubbed the “Monsanto Protection Act” that Barack Obama signed into law with his signature on House Resolution 933, which was a continuing resolution spending bill that Congress passed to give the government ongoing funding for its day-to-day operations.  The full text of the “Monsanto Protection Act” appears in article cited from The Guardian, below.  Of significance is selection of the phrase, “the secretary of agriculture shall”.  Shall is such a more pleasant word than Must even though its meaning is the same.

At the same time, it was announced that Monsanto and DuPont reached an agreement where they would stop their reciprocal lawsuits and DuPont would pay Monsanto royalties amounting to $1.75 billion over several years for access to Monsanto’s technology for genetically modified seeds.  After having lost one big case against Monsanto, DuPont saw great promise for its own seeds and herbicides using Monsanto’s technology to produce the next wave of herbicide resistant crops that will face a new wave of herbicide resistant weeds invading U. S. farms.

DuPont’s Pioneer brand agricultural seeds generated some $7.3 billion in sales in 2012.  Monsanto had total revenues of about $13.5 billion last year.  This is a sweet deal for these two leaders in the agricultural biotechnology space.

Separately, Monsanto reported its second quarter earnings for the beginning of 2013.  A Forbes article reporting Monsanto’s results cited net income for the quarter ending with February 2013 as $1.48 billion.  The article further cites Michael E. Cox of Piper Jaffrey as observing that higher sales of Roundup (Monsanto’s herbicide) and a lower-than-expected tax rate were responsible for the performance.  Oh look, herbicide sales are booming.  What a surprise!  Many have argued that Monsanto genetically modified seeds, which make plants impervious to Roundup, are really a way of allowing farmers to use Roundup indiscriminately to kill weeds since it will not hurt their GM crops.

Monsanto continues its full court press to spread use of its seeds around the world.  Even in its own sanitized press releases, Monsanto’s ambition is obvious.  This press release gives only hints of the complexity of its strategy, pervasiveness and costs it is incurring in just this one continent.  This is big international business at its most powerful and yet devious.  Its concentration on South American markets and Africa are where it expects it future profits to come from.  Blocked from many European Union countries and other developed nations in the world, developing nations are a key focus.  So far only the U.S. and Canada have completely embraced Monsanto and DuPont’s genetically modified crops.

The Guardian article cited below states that Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds make up 93% of U.S. soybeans, 88% of cotton and 86% of corn crops last year.  We do not have comparable data for Canada but are sure they closely follow the U.S. in GM crop percentages.

Chapter 13 of Beyond Animal, Ego and Time is completely focused on genetic engineering and synthetic biology and the inherent dangers they represent.

Use the following links to obtain more information:

http://www.salon.com/2013/04/05/who_snuck_in_the_monsanto_protection_act/

http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/03/26/statement-press-secretary-hr-933/

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/blog/2013/apr/04/monsanto-protection-act-gm/

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/print/2013-04-03/monsanto-raises-forecast-as-profit-tops-estimates-on-corn-seed.html

http://www.monsanto.com/newsviews/pages/intacta-rr2-pro-benefits-for-south-american-countries.aspx

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Speed/Slow/Stop…or LABEL Genetically Modified Foods

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Jerry

genetically modified foods

In the early 1990’s advances in genetic engineering changed the nature of the chemical business at firms such as Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Bayer.  They went from manufacturing chemical substances such as herbicides like Roundup, to patenting genetically modified seeds for crops such as corn, rice, soybeans and wheat.  These seeds were genetically engineered to have many different characteristics.  In some cases they added genes to crops that made them impervious to herbicides such as Roundup.  These crops were branded as “Roundup Ready” in that a farmer could use Roundup in his fields to kill weeds with no fear the herbicide would damage their crop.  In other cases they added genes that were from other species of plants that produced natural pesticides. These made the resulting crops impervious to various insect pests.  With active support from the United States government and the deep pockets of these multinational chemical companies, there was a concerted push to have these seeds approved for use and planted throughout the world.

The chemical companies insisted there was little environmental or heath risk from these genetically modified crops.  They said that human or animal consumption involved taking these crops into the digestive tract and that any potentially harmful toxins or chemicals were destroyed in the digestive process.  Opponents claimed there was insufficient research to determine possible effects.  Since these seeds were patented products of their respective companies, information about them was withheld as proprietary and access to them for research was not granted.  Recent research indicates their toxins are not destroyed in the digestive process but instead can be found in the human blood stream, see the related story “Where there’s toxins, there’s….what?” June 1, 2011.

Some governments reacted aggressively, e.g. the United States, while others reacted cautiously, e.g. the European Union.  Different groups of farmers accepted the crops, others rejected them citing consumer concerns about genetically modified foods.  With little regulation and much governmental support, the industry has been very successful in the United States at replacing natural crops with genetically modified crops.  The following chart was published by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in 2011.  It shows various modified crops achieving between 65% – 94% of planted acreage in the United States.  This leads to very high reliance on genetically modified ingredients in the American food supply.  A recent estimate is that 80% of the products purchased at an average grocery store in the US contain some ingredient that is from a genetically modified source.

Designations before the crop type refer to the type of genetic modification that has been made:
HT = herbicide-tolerant varieties   Bt = insect resistant varieties

The chemical industry, assisted by the U. S. Government, has actively fought labeling of genetically modified food with every tactic at their disposal.  This has included using provisions in the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) to block any country from requiring mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods.  They have asserted the labeling would amount to adoption of “technical regulations” that erect “unnecessary obstacles to trade” or are more “trade restrictive than necessary” under the Technical Barriers Trade (TBT) Agreement or the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement of the GATT.   On this basis they have blocked labeling of genetically modified foods as violations of the GATT and threatened legal challenges through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In addition, they have derailed progress by the Codex Alimentarious Commission in Geneva which was established jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  As a part of its mission to establish internationally recognized standards for food safety, the Codex has sought an agreement to allow countries to have a valid argument for requiring genetically modified labeling domestically under Article XX of the GATT.

In a surprise move at the July 5, 2011 Codex meeting, the United States, the lone holdout to an agreement on genetically modified food labeling, abruptly reversed its two decades old position and endorsed a labeling guidance document.  While the Codex cannot order labeling, its guidance document gives countries the international permission to require genetically modified labeling of food consumed in their country. Over a hundred countries signed the guidance document and a substantial number will now begin their process to initiate mandatory labeling.

There is little agreement however, on what labeling standards should be followed.  Two major camps have emerged over the years with some arguing for “product” labeling with others endorsing a “process” labeling.  Under the product option, which is the minimalist approach, genetically modified foods would require labeling only when the products are not substantially equivalent to their unmodified cousins in composition, nutritional value or intended use. In addition, labels would be required if the modified food contained allergens or ingredients from certain fats not found in their natural counterparts.  The process option would call for labeling of all genetically modified foods and food ingredients regardless of whether they were substantially equivalent to their natural counterparts or not.  This process option has been adopted and implemented by the European Union (EU), Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and to some extent China.

It is very doubtful that the chemical industry or the U.S. government will change their long held position against labeling of genetically modified foods.  They adhere to the argument there is no substantial difference between genetically modified foods and their natural counterparts.  This acceleration of labeling internationally can serve as the opportunity for American citizens who favor mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods to renew and redouble their lobbying efforts to secure labeling at home.  In addition, we must encourage organizations which will push for labeling nationally to embrace this as a priority effort.  This is the opportunity to reverse the tide and make progress in this area.

Organizations who are leaders on this issue and who could use support and further encouragement are as follows:

Greenpeace International: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/agriculture/problem/

Organic Seed Alliance:

http://www.seedalliance.org/ten-ways-to-respond-to-usda-s-ge-alfalfa-and-sugar-beets-decision/

The Center for Food Safety

http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/

Letters to elected officials are also a required part of lobbying for labeling.  The following link provides access to a data base with which to indentify your elected representative and their address.  You are encouraged to take a stand and demand full “process” labeling of genetically modified foods in the United States.

Congressional Representatives: http://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Background:  In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 13: Protect Life Imperative – Synthetic Biology, there is a description of the history of genetic engineering and synthetic biology and the risks associated with both.  The book calls for “mandatory and detailed” labeling of all genetically or synthetically engineered plant or animal food.  It takes the position “Only an informed citizenry should decide to consume genetically engineered food.”

 

Use the following links for more information:

 

GM Foods in the Supermarket:  http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/opinion/comments/supermarket_foods_0520111206.html

Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.:  http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/biotechcrops/

 

Country Adoption of GM Crops – a recent sampling:

South Africa: http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/201106081109.html  and  http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/201107060142.html

Peru: http://www.farming.co.uk/articles/view/4140 Peru’s Congress bans GM crops

Ireland: http://canadianawareness.org/2011/04/ireland-says-not-in-this-country-bans-genetically-modified-crops/

Canada: http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=5790

European Union: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14045365

Approval of GM Food Labeling: http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_food_safety/017860.html

http://www.codexalimentarious.net/web/archives.jsp?lang=en  See session 39 Codex Committee on Food Labeling, click English pdf, scroll to REP 11/FL Appendix III.

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