Friday, December 28, 2007

Seed controversy sprouts

Some say USDA's insurance break for Monsanto customers unfair
By Stephen J. Hedges, Washington Bureau Chicago Tribune, December 26 2007,0,6085830.story

WASHINGTON - While the federal government doesn't usually endorse products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has struck an unusual arrangement with agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. that gives farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota a break on federal crop insurance premiums if they plant Monsanto-brand seed corn this spring.

The arrangement has raised some eyebrows, particularly among organic farm groups that argue the government agency should not be promoting corn that contains an herbicide; the Monsanto brands contain chemicals that kill weeds and insects.

Monsanto's deal is legal, note USDA officials who point out that such arrangements were encouraged in a 2000 crop insurance law that Congress enthusiastically passed. The idea is to give farmers a break on their insurance premiums if they use corn seeds that are higher yield and shown to resist insects and other threats.

USDA officials said they are aware of the appearance of favoritism toward one of the nation's largest ag companies.

'We knew it would look that way,' said Shirley Pugh, a spokeswoman for USDA's Risk Management Agency, which administers federal crop insurance. 'But other companies can come and do the same thing. We are making the discount available because the corn has shown the traits necessary to reduce the risk.'

Pugh said the arrangement benefits not just farmers, but also taxpayers, since USDA pays a portion of each farmer's insurance premium.

Farm groups said the timing of the USDA-Monsanto agreement will help farmers who face higher crop insurance premiums because of elevated corn prices.

'We're very supportive of the concept,' said Ron Litterer, president of the National Corn Growers Association, and a farmer in Greene, Iowa. 'Not only for Monsanto but for any biotechnology company that can make the case that by using those products, it lowers the risk of providing a corn crop.'

The deal with St. Louis-based Monsanto occurred under a provision called the Biotech Yield Endorsement program, which is part of the Agricultural Risk Protection Act of 2000.

No other companies have taken advantage of the program, Pugh said. The insurance premium benefit to farmers, according to USDA, will be about $2 per acre, or $2,000 for a typical 1,000-acre farm.

Crop insurance prices have skyrocketed for farmers as corn prices have reached near-record highs in recent months. Today, corn trades at about $4 a bushel, double the price of about two years ago.

Those prices have continued to stay high because of increased demand from the ethanol industry, which uses the grain to make fuel, as well as increased corn exports and demands from cattle-feeding businesses.

Crop insurance rates can be as high as $50 an acre, according to Kurt Koester, a vice president and co-owner at AgriSource Inc., a crop insurance agency in West Des Moines, Iowa, involved in the pilot program. Several years ago, Koester said premiums were about $15 to $20 an acre.

'Farmers are going to face some really tough decisions here,' Koester said. 'They've got this high-value corn sitting out in their fields. When you take the cost of this crop insurance, even with government subsidies, there's going to be sticker shock.'

The pilot program with Monsanto covers the country's four most productive corn states. It involves corn that contains YieldGard Plus with Roundup Ready Corn 2 or YieldGard VT Triple technology from Monsanto, the company said. The deal with the Agriculture Department was finalized this month.

The corn grown is generally used as cattle feed and as raw material for ethanol plants.

Monsanto won the BYE designation by providing three years' worth of research that convinced the USDA's Federal Crop Insurance Corporation board that its triple-stack corn variety produces higher yields under difficult conditions, such as weeds and corn borer.

'It really bore out what we've heard from our farmers, saying over and over again that these triple-stack technologies in the corn plant help protect against weeds and root worms,' said Darren Wallis, a Monsanto spokesman. 'What this does is reduce the risk for the farmers.'

Monsanto, however, has earned the wrath of organic agriculture and environmental groups, mostly for promoting the growth of genetically altered crops. The presence of Roundup in its corn seed has also drawn criticism.

Ronnie Cummins, national director of the Organic Consumers Association, characterized the USDA-Monsanto BYE arrangement as one of many examples in which the department has sided with big agribusinesses instead of smaller farmers and farm groups. He said the BYE program will leave farmers with little choice but to buy Monsanto seed.

'We definitely have a problem with all the benefits that [Monsanto] gets,' Cummins said. 'If you really look at our crop subsidy program and what's given to farmers, you really see a lot of those subsidies going to purchase genetically engineered crops.'

Cummins also said that the USDA-Monsanto arrangement excludes organic farmers.

Most of the corn acreage in the four states involved is insured, according to USDA figures. Of the 11 million acres planted in corn in 2006 in Illinois, about 9 million acres, or 79 percent, had federal crop insurance, according to USDA. In Indiana, 68 percent of corn acres were insured, in Iowa, 87 percent and in Minnesota, 89 percent.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

ACTION ALERT: Say NO to the Irradiation of Supplements

Contact: Jim Turner,

Washington, D.C., December 17, 2007 - Citizens for Health has joined with the American Herbal Products Association (AHPA) in opposing a petition filed with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to allow the use of ionizing radiation for the control of microbial contamination on dietary supplements and dietary ingredients.

Take Action Here!

AHPA became aware of the petition when it was referenced in the preamble to FDA's final rule on current good manufacturing practice for dietary supplement on June 25, 2007. Citizens for Health supports AHPA's opposition to this petition on the following grounds:

* Proper handling of dietary supplements under current good manufacturing practice is usually sufficient to ensure that they are not subject to microbial contamination that presents any risk to the health of consumers of these products

* If approved, the use of ionizing irradiation on herbal dietary ingredients will mask one of the factors that is currently relevant to the determination of ingredient quality, since information about microbial levels and the presence of pathogens or yeasts and molds at any time during the handling of a treated ingredient would be lost. Of particular concern are pathogens, since even if pathogenic organisms are eliminated through irradiation, pathogenic by-products such as endotoxins or exotoxins may remain in the material

* Irradiation is currently allowed in the United States for eleven food categories, and in proposing that the limitation of ionizing radiation for dietary supplements be established at 30 kGy, the petition is suggesting that this limit be from 3 to 30 times higher that is currently allowed for all but two food categories. Dietary supplements may be consumed in quantities of several grams per day. Thus, dietary supplement consumers will be exposed to much higher levels of any material changes that occur in a supplement's or ingredient's characteristics or in its consequences of use, if any, as a result of the irradiation.

Send your letter today and just say "No" to the irradiation of dietary supplements!

Take Action Here!

A copy of AHPA's letter is attached here (requires Adobe Acrobat Reader).

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The GM Seed Giants Lumber into the Veggie Patch

In 2005, Monsanto bought Seminis, the world's largest vegetable-seed company. At the time, Monsanto -- which enjoys a dominant position in the global market for GM soy, corn, and cotton traits -- claimed it had no imminent plans to subject veggies to genetic modification.

Now I learn from the excellent new blog SeedStory, by Matthew Dillon of the Organic Seed Alliance, that Monsanto is working on RoundUp Ready lettuce. And the few other transnational giants that dominate the global GM seed industry are also upping their position in vegetables.

Bayer-Crop Science, Dillon reports, has snapped up Paragon, the world's biggest lettuce-seed firm. Dillon reports that he hears from industry reps that Bayer isn't planning on investing in transgenic vegetable crops. Funny -- that's just what Monsanto was saying a couple of years ago.

Incidentally, anyone interested in this topic should read Dillon's "A Brief History of the Seed Industry."

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Rice on Canadian store shelves contaminated - Government fails to detect illegal, genetically engineered variety

MONTREAL and VANCOUVER, Dec. 17 /CNW Telbec/ - An independent investigation by Greenpeace has found rice sold in Canadian supermarkets to be contaminated with an experimental, genetically engineered variety accidentally released into the environment.

Greenpeace is demanding that all long grain rice imported from the United States be removed from store shelves in Canada after independent testing confirmed that rice purchased at two supermarkets in Vancouver and Montreal was contaminated with a variety of genetically engineered rice not approved for human consumption by Health Canada.

'There are no assurances that this genetically engineered rice is safe for people to eat,' said Josh Brandon, agriculture campaigner with Greenpeace.

'Even if genetically engineered food was labelled, which it isn't anywhere in Canada, we would not know about the presence of this variety because of lax testing on the part of the authorities.'

The rice entered the American food chain sometime after 2001 following field trials at nine sites in Arkansas and Louisiana conducted by Bayer, the German multinational chemical corporation, which designed the rice to tolerate its brand of herbicide. Bayer only disclosed the contamination last year.

Many countries took immediate steps to identify contaminated shipments. Rice exports from the United States to Europe were suspended, while Japan tested all U.S. rice imports. So far, contamination has been confirmed in 30 countries, costing farmers, governments and the rice industry, Greenpeace estimates, more than a billion dollars. The Canadian government waited several months before implementing a very weak testing program, and then discontinued testing altogether last fall after failing to detect the presence of the experimental rice.

Recognizing that the testing was inadequate, Greenpeace last month sent rice purchased at Provigo at 50 Ave Mont-Royal in Montreal and at Buy Low Foods in the Kingsgate Mall at 370 East Broadway in Vancouver to Genetic ID, an independent testing facility in Fairfield, Iowa. The presence of the experimental GE rice, LLRICE601, was found in both samples.

'If the Canadian government had taken the kinds of measures adopted by countries such as the UK, Russia or the Philippines, they would have found this experimental rice long ago, and it would not be found on store shelves across Canada today,' continued Brandon. 'Instead, Canadians are being experimented with, as this country becomes a dumping ground for genetically engineered rice that the rest of the world has already rejected.'

Contaminated Rice samples:

- No Name brand, long grain white rice, imported by Loblaws, product code 166J2, bar code, 60383 00833.

- Western Family brand, imported by Overwaitea, best before date: 09 07 16, bar code 62639 17323

For further information: Josh Brandon, Greenpeace agriculture campaigner, (604) 721-7493; Jane Story, Greenpeace communications officer, (416) 930-9055

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Stop GM Soya 356043!

Engineered with novel procedures and constructs for multiple resistances to toxic herbicides Now seeking non-regulated status from obliging regulators. Prof. Joe Cummins and Dr. Mae-Wan Ho

This report has been submitted to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) on behalf of ISIS. Please circulate widely to your policy-makers and register your own protest at the docket below

The United States Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service(USDA/APHIS) has received a petition from Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., seeking non-regulated status for soybean designated as transformation event 356043, which has been genetically engineered for tolerance to glyphosate and acetolactate synthase-inhibiting herbicides. The docket providing background information and instructions for commenting on the proposal, designated APHIS-2007-0019, is located at: Public comments are due by 4 December 2007.

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Novel synthetic constructs, synthetic promoters, and synthetic proteins, all untested for safety

Pioneer’s 356043 soybean has been genetically engineered to express modified glyphosate acetyltransferase (GAT46014) and acetolactate synthase (ALS) proteins. These genes impart tolerance to both glyphosate and ALS-inhibiting herbicides (e.g., sulfonylureas and imidazolinones). The gat46014 gene is a synthetic recombinant of a gene derived from a common soil bacterium Bacillus licheniformis, but artificially improved for activity by DNA shuffling (see below). Its expression is driven by a synthetic promoter (SCP1). The gene conferring tolerance to ALS-inhibiting herbicides is gm-hra, a modified soybean als gene, and its expression is driven by a soybean promoter, also artificially enhanced. A single copy of these genes and other DNA regulatory sequences were introduced into soybean somatic embryos using microprojectile bombardment [1, 2].

DNA shuffling inherently hazardous

Soybean 356043 involves a novel, untried technique called DNA- or gene-shuffling to create a synthetic gene that inactivates the herbicide glyphosate ten thousand times more effectively. In this process, many variants of a DNA sequence from a gene or a portion of a gene are chopped into small fragments and allowed to reassemble at random to generate numerous recombinants [3] (see Death by DNA Shuffling, SiS 18). The original variants are created using directed mutation of selected codons, or error prone gene replication. The numerous recombinants resulting from DNA shuffling are cloned into a vector and introduced into bacteria or virus for rapid screening. Using this technique it has been possible to produce genes for enzymes, regulatory proteins or antibodies with laboratory performance far superior to the natural proteins obtained from living organisms. Unfortunately, the technique is inherently dangerous, as it is likely to produce variants with unexpected and unknown toxicity or immunogenicity. As DNA shuffling can produce billions of recombinants in a matter of hours, it is unlikely that most of the recombinants will be characterized or identified. In spite of these concerns, gene shuffling has been burgeoning. Promoters of the technique sometimes describe the technique as a simple extension of the work of Charles Darwin, or equate it to “intelligent design”. Pioneer Hybrid (a subsidiary of DuPont Chemical) announced that they had applied gene shuffling to produce a gene that encodes a protein 2000 times more potent than a natural glyphosate (herbicide) resistance gene [4]. The research coordinator in charge of gene shuffling at Pioneer, Lynda Castle, was among those applying for a patent on DNA shuffling to produce herbicide tolerant crops when she was associated with Maxygen Inc. Redwood City, California [5]. The synthetic gene designed to inactivate the herbicide glyphosate may be the first crop gene released for commercial application that has been created using gene shuffling.

The gene gat46014 enhanced using DNA shuffling, isolated from the bacterium Bacillus licheniformis, codes for an enzyme that inactivates the herbicide by adding an acetyl group at the nitrogen atom in the glyphosate molecule. Gene shuffling has enhanced the activity of the native enzyme by four orders of magnitude [6-9]. What are the health and environmental impacts of this new synthetic protein? This question has not been addressed.

It should be noted that all transgenic proteins may be immunogenic, even when otherwise harmless proteins are transferred to a closely related species [10, 11] (Transgenic Pea that Made Mice Ill, SiS 29).

Safety of acetylated glyphosate not considered

Glyphosate inhibits 5-enolpyruvylshikimate-3-phosphate synthase (EPSPS), a nuclear-encoded enzyme that is transported into the chloroplast (the shikimic acid pathway of plants and microorganisms is responsible for producing aromatic amino acids), and most currently grown commercial glyphosate tolerant crops are based on an EPSPS enzyme that is insensitive to glyphosate. Inactivation of glyphosate by acetylation should prevent the herbicide from accumulating in food and feed crops as it does in the current glyphosate tolerant crops and be safer provided that acetylated glyphosate is found to be non-toxic to animals (safety evaluations of the compound are not presently available) and that there is no possibility of de-acetylation within the animals.

The Pioneer petition [1], the USDA/APHIS environment assessment [2] and a peer reviewed publication [12] report on a 42 day feeding experiment with soybean 356043 on broiler chickens. They reviewed measurements of broiler weight and organ size but did not include complete necropsy studies for possible changes in the cells and tissues of the treated animals. Acetylated glyphosate certainly accumulates in animals and humans eating modified soybeans but the Pioneer petition [1] and USDA/APHIS environment assessment [2] argued that as acetylated amino acids and proteins are not known to be toxic to animals and humans, acetylated glyphosate herbicide will not be toxic either, which seems a highly fallacious and unjustified extrapolation. There has been no direct study of the potential toxicity of acetyl glyphosate, nor of the transgenic protein. Furthermore, the possibility that de-acetylation of glyphosate may occur within the digestive system and cells of the organism has not been considered.

Novel synthetic promoters and enhancer combinations not tested for safety

Soybean event 356043 has been constructed by transforming the plant using a plasmid containing two gene cassettes. The first cassette contains the synthetic glyphosate acetyl transferace (GAT) gene. The second cassette contains the modified acetolactate (ALS) gene to confer resistance to multiple herbicides (e.g., sulfonylureas and imidazolinones). The GAT gene is driven by a novel synthetic promoter derived from a portion of the CaMV promoter and a core consensus promoter (Rsyn7-SynII). Synthetic promoters have been developed for crop use by Pioneer HyBred company [13] and the herbicide tolerant 356043 soybean is the first genetically modified crop to be proposed for commercial release containing both synthetic promoters and synthetic structural genes. While synthetic structural genes already raise serious safety concerns, synthetic promoters are even more problematic, as they involve higher-level regulations that extend to multiple genes and multiple sets of genes. The GAT synthetic promoter is further followed by a tobacco mosaic virus translation enhancer sequence, a novel combination that has also been completely untested for safety. Similarly, the gm-hra gene cassette contains a promoter from the soybean S-adenosyl –L-methionine synthetase gene (SAMS gene) followed by an intron gene from the SAMS gene, another novel untested combination [1]. These synthetic constructs, especially synthetic promoters are completely untested for safety.

Hazards of horizontal gene transfer not addressed

Particularly worrying is the spread of these synthetic promoter and constructs by horizontal gene transfer and recombination, with the potential of creating new viral and bacteria pathogens, and in the case of animals and human cells, the strong synthetic promoters may trigger cancer if inserted next to protooncogenes. We have been warning of the dangers of horizontal gene transfer in numerous articles (see for example, Horizontal Gene Transfer - The Hidden Hazards of Genetic Engineering [14], ISIS Report; and most recently, GM Food Nightmare Unfolding in the Regulatory Sham [15])

Hazards of herbicides ignored

USDA/APHIS has completed ignored recent evidence on the serious toxicity of glyphosate [16] (Glyphosate Toxic & Roundup Worse , SiS 26) and its lethality to frogs [17, 18]. Similarly, ALS-inhibiting herbicides are known to be acutely toxic for aquatic micro-organisms and other plants and animals living on or around surfaces of submerged rocks at nanomolar concentrations [19, 20].


There is no case for the release of soybean 356043 to the environment, let alone granting it unregulated status. To do so will be making an utter mockery of regulation.

This is number 39 of ISIS submission to USDA.


  1. Rood T, Weber N, Gutsche A, Commun P and Federova M. Petition for the Determination of Nonregulated Status for Herbicide Tolerant 356043 Soybean. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. September 27, 2006.
  2. USDA/APHIS Draft Environmental Assessment In response to Pioneer Hi-Bred International Petition 06-271-01p seeking a Determination of Nonregulated Status for Herbicide Tolerant 356043 Soybean U.S. Department of Agriculture Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Biotechnology Regulatory Services September 2007.
  3. Ho MW. Death by DNA shuffling. Science in Society 18, 9, 2003.
  4. Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc. Pioneer breaks new ground for trait optimization with “gene shuffling” technology” Press Release 2005.
  5. Subamanian V, Stemmer W, Castle L, Muchhal and Siehl D. DNA shuffling to produce herbicide selective plants 2002 United States Patent Application 20020058249
  6. Castle LA, Siehl DL, Gorton R, Patten PA, Chen YH, Bertain S, Cho HJ, Duck N, Wong J, Liu D. and Lassner MW. Discovery and directed evolution of a glyphosate tolerance gene. Science 2004, 304(5674), 1151-4.
  7. Siehl DL, Castle LA, Gorton R, Chen YH, Bertain S, Cho HJ, Keenan R,Liu D and Lassner MW. Evolution of a microbial acetyltransferase for modification of glyphosate: a novel tolerance strategy. Pest Manag Sci. 2005, 61(3), 235-40.
  8. Siehl DL, Castle LA, Gorton R and Keenan RJ. The molecular basis of glyphosate resistance by an optimized microbial acetyltransferase. J Biol Chem. 2007, 282(15), 11446-55.
  9. Castle, L , Siehl, D, Giver,L , Minshull,J, Ivy, C, Chen, Y,Patten, P and Duck,N. Novel glyphosate-N-acetyltransferase (GAT) genes United States Patent Application 20070004912.
  10. Prescott VE, Campbell PM, Moore A, Mattes J, Rothenberg ME, Foster PS, Higgins TJV and Hogan SP. Transgenic expression of bean a-amylase inhibitor in peas results in altered structure and immunogenicity. J Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2005, 53, 9023-30.
  11. Ho MW. Transgenic pea that made mice ill. Science in Society 29, 28-29, 2006.
  12. McNaughton J, Roberts M, Smith B, Rice D, Hinds M, Schmidt J, Locke M, Brink K, Bryant A, Rood T, Layton R, Lamb I and Delaney B. Comparison of broiler performance when fed diets containing event DP-356O43 5 (Optimum GAT), nontransgenic near-Isoline control, or commercial reference soybean meal, hulls, and oil. Poult Sci. 2007, 86(12):2569-81.
  13. Bowen,B,Wesley,B,Lu.G,Sims,L and Tagliani,L. Synthetic Promoters United States Patent 6,072,050, 2000.
  14. Ho MW. Horizontal gene transfer – the hidden hazards of genetic engineering. ISIS Report, 2000,
  15. Ho MW, Cummins J and Saunders PT, Microbial Ecology in Health and Disease 2007, 19, 66-77
  16. Relyea RA. The impact of insecticides and herbicides on the biodiversity and productivity of aquatic communities. Ecological Applications 2005, 15, 618-27.
  17. Ho MW. Roundup kills frogs. Science in Society 26, 13, 2005.
  18. Ho MW. Glyphosate toxic & Roundup worse. Science in Society 26, 12, 2005.
  19. Toxicity of AHL-inhibiting herbicides, US Department of the Interior, US Geological Survey,13 May 2004,
  20. Nystrom B, Bjornsater B and Blanck H. Effects of sulfonylurea herbicides on non-target aquatic micro-organisms. Growth inhibition of micro-algae and short-term inhibition of adenine and thymidine incorporation in periphyton communities. Aquatic Toxicology 1999, 4, 9-22.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Farm Bill: Subsidies' Harvest of Misery

Congress can still act decisively this year to right a wrong that is hurting both small American farmers and the poorest people on the planet. A long-overdue debate is taking place on reform of the 1933 farm bill, passed during the Great Depression to alleviate the suffering of America's family farmers. I was a farm boy then, and the primary cash crops on my father's farm were peanuts and cotton. My first paying job was working for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, measuring farmers' fields to ensure that they limited their acreage and total production in order to qualify for the life-sustaining farm subsidy prices.

Tragically, in its current form this legislation does not fulfill its original purposes but instead encourages excess production while channeling enormous government payments to the biggest producers. This product of powerful lobbyists now punishes small-scale farmers in the United States and is devastating to families in many of the world's least affluent countries.

It is embarrassing to note that, from 1995 to 2005, the richest 10 percent of cotton growers received more than 80 percent of total subsidies. The wealthiest 1 percent of American cotton farmers continues to receive over 25 percent of payouts for cotton, while more than half of America's cotton farmers receive no subsidies at all. American farmers are not dependent on the global market because they are guaranteed a minimum selling price by the federal government. American producers of cotton received more than $18 billion in subsidies between 1999 and 2005, while market value of the cotton was $23 billion. That's a subsidy of 86 percent!

Full Article:

"Doomsday Seed Vault" in the Arctic: Do Bill Gates, Rockefeller and the GMO Giants Know Something We Don't?

One thing Microsoft founder Bill Gates can't be accused of is sloth. He was already programming at 14, founded Microsoft at age 20 while still a student at Harvard. By 1995 he had been listed by Forbes as the world's richest man from being the largest shareholder in his Microsoft, a company which his relentless drive built into a de facto monopoly in software systems for personal computers.

In 2006 when most people in such a situation might think of retiring to a quiet Pacific island, Bill Gates decided to devote his energies to his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the world's largest 'transparent' private foundation as it says, with a whopping $34.6 billion endowment and a legal necessity to spend $1.5 billion a year on charitable projects around the world to maintain its tax free charitable status. A gift from friend and business associate, mega-investor Warren Buffett in 2006, of some $30 billion worth of shares in Buffet's Berkshire Hathaway put the Gates' foundation into the league where it spends almost the amount of the entire annual budget of the United Nations' World Health Organization.

So when Bill Gates decides through the Gates Foundation to invest some $30 million of their hard earned money in a project, it is worth looking at.

No project is more interesting at the moment than a curious project in one of the world's most remote spots, Svalbard. Bill Gates is investing millions in a seed bank on the Barents Sea near the Arctic Ocean, some 1,100 kilometers from the North Pole. Svalbard is a barren piece of rock claimed by Norway and ceded in 1925 by international treaty.

On this God-forsaken island Bill Gates is investing tens of his millions along with the Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto Corporation, Syngenta Foundation and the Government of Norway, among others, in what is called the 'doomsday seed bank.' Officially the project is named the Svalbard Global Seed Vault on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen, part of the Svalbard island group.

Doomsday Seed Vault

The seed bank is being built inside a mountain on Spitsbergen Island near the small village of Longyearbyen. It's almost ready for 'business' according to their releases. The bank will have dual blast-proof doors with motion sensors, two airlocks, and walls of steel-reinforced concrete one meter thick. It will contain up to three million different varieties of seeds from the entire world, 'so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future,' according to the Norwegian government. Seeds will be specially wrapped to exclude moisture. There will be no full-time staff, but the vault's relative inaccessibility will facilitate monitoring any possible human activity.

Did we miss something here? Their press release stated, 'so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future.' What future do the seed bank's sponsors foresee, that would threaten the global availability of current seeds, almost all of which are already well protected in designated seed banks around the world?

Anytime Bill Gates, the Rockefeller Foundation, Monsanto and Syngenta get together on a common project, it's worth digging a bit deeper behind the rocks on Spitsbergen. When we do we find some fascinating things.

The first notable point is who is sponsoring the doomsday seed vault. Here joining the Norwegians are, as noted, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the US agribusiness giant DuPont/Pioneer Hi-Bred, one of the world's largest owners of patented genetically-modified (GMO) plant seeds and related agrichemicals; Syngenta, the Swiss-based major GMO seed and agrichemicals company through its Syngenta Foundation; the Rockefeller Foundation, the private group who created the "gene revolution with over $100 million of seed money since the 1970's; CGIAR, the global network created by the Rockefeller Foundation to promote its ideal of genetic purity through agriculture change.

CGIAR and 'The Project'

As I detailled in the book, Seeds of Destruction1, in 1960 the Rockefeller Foundation, John D. Rockefeller III's Agriculture Development Council and the Ford Foundation joined forces to create the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in Los BaƱos, the Philippines. By 1971, the Rockefeller Foundation's IRRI, along with their Mexico-based International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center and two other Rockefeller and Ford Foundation-created international research centers, the IITA for tropical agriculture, Nigeria, and IRRI for rice, Philippines, combined to form a global Consultative Group on International Agriculture Research (CGIAR).

CGIAR was shaped at a series of private conferences held at the Rockefeller Foundation's conference center in Bellagio, Italy. Key participants at the Bellagio talks were the Rockefeller Foundation's George Harrar, Ford Foundation's Forrest Hill, Robert McNamara of the World Bank and Maurice Strong, the Rockefeller family's international environmental organizer, who, as a Rockefeller Foundation Trustee, organized the UN Earth Summit in Stockholm in 1972. It was part of the foundation's decades long focus to turn science to the service of eugenics, a hideous version of racial purity, what has been called The Project.

To ensure maximum impact, CGIAR drew in the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization, the UN Development Program and the World Bank. Thus, through a carefully-planned leverage of its initial funds, the Rockefeller Foundation by the beginning of the 1970's was in a position to shape global agriculture policy. And shape it did.

Financed by generous Rockefeller and Ford Foundation study grants, CGIAR saw to it that leading Third World agriculture scientists and agronomists were brought to the US to 'master' the concepts of modern agribusiness production, in order to carry it back to their homeland. In the process they created an invaluable network of influence for US agribusiness promotion in those countries, most especially promotion of the GMO 'Gene Revolution' in developing countries, all in the name of science and efficient, free market agriculture.

Genetically engineering a master race?

Now the Svalbard Seed Bank begins to become interesting. But it gets better. 'The Project' I referred to is the project of the Rockefeller Foundation and powerful financial interests since the 1920's to use eugenics, later renamed genetics, to justify creation of a genetically-engineered Master Race. Hitler and the Nazis called it the Ayran Master Race.

The eugenics of Hitler were financed to a major extent by the same Rockefeller Foundation which today is building a doomsday seed vault to preserve samples of every seed on our planet. Now this is getting really intriguing. The same Rockefeller Foundation created the pseudo-science discipline of molecular biology in their relentless pursuit of reducing human life down to the 'defining gene sequence' which, they hoped, could then be modified in order to change human traits at will. Hitler's eugenics scientists, many of whom were quietly brought to the United States after the War to continue their biological eugenics research, laid much of the groundwork of genetic engineering of various life forms, much of it supported openly until well into the Third Reich by Rockefeller Foundation generous grants.2

The same Rockefeller Foundation created the so-called Green Revolution, out of a trip to Mexico in 1946 by Nelson Rockefeller and former New Deal Secretary of Agriculture and founder of the Pioneer Hi-Bred Seed Company, Henry Wallace.

The Green Revolution purported to solve the world hunger problem to a major degree in Mexico, India and other select countries where Rockefeller worked. Rockefeller Foundation agronomist, Norman Borlaug, won a Nobel Peace Prize for his work, hardly something to boast about with the likes of Henry Kissinger sharing the same.

In reality, as it years later emerged, the Green Revolution was a brilliant Rockefeller family scheme to develop a globalized agribusiness which they then could monopolize just as they had done in the world oil industry beginning a half century before. As Henry Kissinger declared in the 1970's, 'If you control the oil you control the country; if you control food, you control the population.'

Agribusiness and the Rockefeller Green Revolution went hand-in-hand. They were part of a grand strategy which included Rockefeller Foundation financing of research for the development of genetic engineering of plants and animals a few years later.

John H. Davis had been Assistant Agriculture Secretary under President Dwight Eisenhower in the early 1950's. He left Washington in 1955 and went to the Harvard Graduate School of Business, an unusual place for an agriculture expert in those days. He had a clear strategy. In 1956, Davis wrote an article in the Harvard Business Review in which he declared that "the only way to solve the so-called farm problem once and for all, and avoid cumbersome government programs, is to progress from agriculture to agribusiness." He knew precisely what he had in mind, though few others had a clue back then--- a revolution in agriculture production that would concentrate control of the food chain in corporate multinational hands, away from the traditional family farmer. 3

A crucial aspect driving the interest of the Rockefeller Foundation and US agribusiness companies was the fact that the Green Revolution was based on proliferation of new hybrid seeds in developing markets. One vital aspect of hybrid seeds was their lack of reproductive capacity. Hybrids had a built in protection against multiplication. Unlike normal open pollinated species whose seed gave yields similar to its parents, the yield of the seed borne by hybrid plants was significantly lower than that of the first generation.

That declining yield characteristic of hybrids meant farmers must normally buy seed every year in order to obtain high yields. Moreover, the lower yield of the second generation eliminated the trade in seed that was often done by seed producers without the breeder's authorization. It prevented the redistribution of the commercial crop seed by middlemen. If the large multinational seed companies were able to control the parental seed lines in house, no competitor or farmer would be able to produce the hybrid. The global concentration of hybrid seed patents into a handful of giant seed companies, led by DuPont's Pioneer Hi-Bred and Monsanto's Dekalb laid the ground for the later GMO seed revolution. 4

In effect, the introduction of modern American agricultural technology, chemical fertilizers and commercial hybrid seeds all made local farmers in developing countries, particularly the larger more established ones, dependent on foreign, mostly US agribusiness and petro-chemical company inputs. It was a first step in what was to be a decades-long, carefully planned process.

Under the Green Revolution Agribusiness was making major inroads into markets which were previously of limited access to US exporters. The trend was later dubbed "market-oriented agriculture." In reality it was agribusiness-controlled agriculture.

Through the Green Revolution, the Rockefeller Foundation and later Ford Foundation worked hand-in-hand shaping and supporting the foreign policy goals of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and of the CIA.

One major effect of the Green Revolution was to depopulate the countryside of peasants who were forced to flee into shantytown slums around the cities in desperate search for work. That was no accident; it was part of the plan to create cheap labor pools for forthcoming US multinational manufactures, the 'globalization' of recent years.

When the self-promotion around the Green Revolution died down, the results were quite different from what had been promised. Problems had arisen from indiscriminate use of the new chemical pesticides, often with serious health consequences. The mono-culture cultivation of new hybrid seed varieties decreased soil fertility and yields over time. The first results were impressive: double or even triple yields for some crops such as wheat and later corn in Mexico. That soon faded.

The Green Revolution was typically accompanied by large irrigation projects which often included World Bank loans to construct huge new dams, and flood previously settled areas and fertile farmland in the process. Also, super-wheat produced greater yields by saturating the soil with huge amounts of fertilizer per acre, the fertilizer being the product of nitrates and petroleum, commodities controlled by the Rockefeller-dominated Seven Sisters major oil companies.

Huge quantities of herbicides and pesticides were also used, creating additional markets for the oil and chemical giants. As one analyst put it, in effect, the Green Revolution was merely a chemical revolution. At no point could developing nations pay for the huge amounts of chemical fertilizers and pesticides. They would get the credit courtesy of the World Bank and special loans by Chase Bank and other large New York banks, backed by US Government guarantees.

Applied in a large number of developing countries, those loans went mostly to the large landowners. For the smaller peasants the situation worked differently. Small peasant farmers could not afford the chemical and other modern inputs and had to borrow money.

Initially various government programs tried to provide some loans to farmers so that they could purchase seeds and fertilizers. Farmers who could not participate in this kind of program had to borrow from the private sector. Because of the exorbitant interest rates for informal loans, many small farmers did not even get the benefits of the initial higher yields. After harvest, they had to sell most if not all of their produce to pay off loans and interest. They became dependent on money-lenders and traders and often lost their land. Even with soft loans from government agencies, growing subsistence crops gave way to the production of cash crops.5

Since decades the same interests including the Rockefeller Foundation which backed the initial Green Revolution, have worked to promote a second 'Gene Revolution' as Rockefeller Foundation President Gordon Conway termed it several years ago, the spread of industrial agriculture and commercial inputs including GMO patented seeds.

Gates, Rockefeller and a Green Revolution in Africa

With the true background of the 1950's Rockefeller Foundation Green Revolution clear in mind, it becomes especially curious that the same Rockefeller Foundation along with the Gates Foundation which are now investing millions of dollars in preserving every seed against a possible "doomsday" scenario are also investing millions in a project called The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa.

AGRA, as it calls itself, is an alliance again with the same Rockefeller Foundation which created the "Gene Revolution." A look at the AGRA Board of Directors confirms this.

It includes none other than former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan as chairman. In his acceptance speech in a World Economic Forum event in Cape Town South Africa in June 2007, Kofi Annan stated, 'I accept this challenge with gratitude to the Rockefeller Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and all others who support our African campaign.'

In addition the AGRA board numbers a South African, Strive Masiyiwa who is a Trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation. It includes Sylvia M. Mathews of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Mamphela Ramphele, former Managing Director of the World Bank (2000 ­ 2006); Rajiv J. Shah of the Gates Foundation; Nadya K. Shmavonian of the Rockefeller Foundation; Roy Steiner of the Gates Foundation. In addition, an Alliance for AGRA includes Gary Toenniessen the Managing Director of the Rockefeller Foundation and Akinwumi Adesina, Associate Director, Rockefeller Foundation.

To fill out the lineup, the Programmes for AGRA includes Peter Matlon, Managing Director, Rockefeller Foundation; Joseph De Vries, Director of the Programme for Africa's Seed Systems and Associate Director, Rockefeller foundation; Akinwumi Adesina, Associate Director, Rockefeller Foundation. Like the old failed Green Revolution in India and Mexico, the new Africa Green Revolution is clearly a high priority of the Rockefeller Foundation.

While to date they are keeping a low profile, Monsanto and the major GMO agribusiness giants are believed at the heart of using Kofi Annan's AGRA to spread their patented GMO seeds across Africa under the deceptive label, 'bio-technology,' the new euphemism for genetically engineered patented seeds. To date South Africa is the only African country permitting legal planting of GMO crops. In 2003 Burkina Faso authorized GMO trials. In 2005 Kofi Annan's Ghana drafted bio-safety legislation and key officials expressed their intentions to pursue research into GMO crops.

Africa is the next target in the US-government campaign to spread GMO worldwide. Its rich soils make it an ideal candidate. Not surprisingly many African governments suspect the worst from the GMO sponsors as a multitude of genetic engineering and biosafety projects have been initiated in Africa, with the aim of introducing GMOs into Africa's agricultural systems. These include sponsorships offered by the US government to train African scientists in genetic engineering in the US, biosafety projects funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the World Bank; GMO research involving African indigenous food crops.

The Rockefeller Foundation has been working for years to promote, largely without success, projects to introduce GMOs into the fields of Africa. They have backed research that supports the applicability of GMO cotton in the Makhathini Flats in South Africa.

Monsanto, who has a strong foothold in South Africa's seed industry, both GMO and hybrid, has conceived of an ingenious smallholders' programme known as the 'Seeds of Hope' Campaign, which is introducing a green revolution package to small scale poor farmers, followed, of course, by Monsanto's patented GMO seeds. 6

Syngenta AG of Switzerland, one of the 'Four Horsemen of the GMO Apocalypse' is pouring millions of dollars into a new greenhouse facility in Nairobi, to develop GMO insect resistant maize. Syngenta is a part of CGIAR as well.7

Move on to Svalbard

Now is it simply philosophical sloppiness? What leads the Gates and Rockefeller foundations to at one and the same time to back proliferation of patented and soon-to-be Terminator patented seeds across Africa, a process which, as it has in every other place on earth, destroys the plant seed varieties as monoculture industrialized agribusiness is introduced? At the same time they invest tens of millions of dollars to preserve every seed variety known in a bomb-proof doomsday vault near the remote Arctic Circle 'so that crop diversity can be conserved for the future' to restate their official release?

It is no accident that the Rockefeller and Gates foundations are teaming up to push a GMO-style Green Revolution in Africa at the same time they are quietly financing the 'doomsday seed vault' on Svalbard. The GMO agribusiness giants are up to their ears in the Svalbard project.

Indeed, the entire Svalbard enterprise and the people involved call up the worst catastrophe images of the Michael Crichton bestseller, Andromeda Strain, a sci-fi thriller where a deadly disease of extraterrestrial origin causes rapid, fatal clotting of the blood threatening the entire human species. In Svalbard, the future world's most secure seed repository will be guarded by the policemen of the GMO Green Revolution--the Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, Syngenta, DuPont and CGIAR.

The Svalbard project will be run by an organization called the Global Crop Diversity Trust (GCDT). Who are they to hold such an awesome trust over the planet's entire seed varieties? The GCDT was founded by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and Bioversity International (formerly the International Plant Genetic Research Institute), an offshoot of the CGIAR.

The Global Crop Diversity Trust is based in Rome. Its Board is chaired by Margaret Catley-Carlson a Canadian also on the advisory board of Group Suez Lyonnaise des Eaux, one of the world's largest private water companies. Catley-Carlson was also president until 1998 of the New York-based Population Council, John D. Rockefeller's population reduction organization, set up in 1952 to advance the Rockefeller family's eugenics program under the cover of promoting "family planning," birth control devices, sterilization and "population control" in developing countries.

Other GCDT board members include former Bank of America executive presently head of the Hollywood DreamWorks Animation, Lewis Coleman. Coleman is also the lead Board Director of Northrup Grumman Corporation, one of America's largest military industry Pentagon contractors.

Jorio Dauster (Brazil) is also Board Chairman of Brasil Ecodiesel. He is a former Ambassador of Brazil to the European Union, and Chief Negotiator of Brazil's foreign debt for the Ministry of Finance. Dauster has also served as President of the Brazilian Coffee Institute and as Coordinator of the Project for the Modernization of Brazil's Patent System, which involves legalizing patents on seeds which are genetically modified, something until recently forbidden by Brazil's laws.

Cary Fowler is the Trust's Executive Director. Fowler was Professor and Director of Research in the Department for International Environment & Development Studies at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences. He was also a Senior Advisor to the Director General of Bioversity International. There he represented the Future Harvest Centres of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in negotiations on the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources. In the 1990s, he headed the International Program on Plant Genetic Resources at the FAO. He drafted and supervised negotiations of FAO's Global Plan of Action for Plant Genetic Resources, adopted by 150 countries in 1996. He is a past-member of the National Plant Genetic Resources Board of the US and the Board of Trustees of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in Mexico, another Rockefeller Foundation and CGIAR project.

GCDT board member Dr. Mangala Rai of India is the Secretary of India's Department of Agricultural Research and Education (DARE), and Director General of the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR). He is also a Board Member of the Rockefeller Foundation's International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which promoted the world's first major GMO experiment, the much-hyped 'Golden Rice' which proved a failure. Rai has served as Board Member for CIMMYT (International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center), and a Member of the Executive Council of the CGIAR.

Global Crop Diversity Trust Donors or financial angels include as well, in the words of the Humphrey Bogart Casablanca classic, 'all the usual suspects.' As well as the Rockefeller and Gates Foundations, the Donors include GMO giants DuPont-Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta of Basle Switzerland, CGIAR and the State Department's energetically pro-GMO agency for development aid, USAID. Indeed it seems we have the GMO and population reduction foxes guarding the hen-house of mankind, the global seed diversity store in Svalbard. 8

Why now Svalbard?

We can legitimately ask why Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation along with the major genetic engineering agribusiness giants such as DuPont and Syngenta, along with CGIAR are building the Doomsday Seed Vault in the Arctic.

Who uses such a seed bank in the first place? Plant breeders and researchers are the major users of gene banks. Today's largest plant breeders are Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta and Dow Chemical, the global plant-patenting GMO giants. Since early in 2007 Monsanto holds world patent rights together with the United States Government for plant so-called 'Terminator' or Genetic Use Restriction Technology (GURT). Terminator is an ominous technology by which a patented commercial seed commits 'suicide' after one harvest. Control by private seed companies is total. Such control and power over the food chain has never before in the history of mankind existed.

This clever genetically engineered terminator trait forces farmers to return every year to Monsanto or other GMO seed suppliers to get new seeds for rice, soybeans, corn, wheat whatever major crops they need to feed their population. If broadly introduced around the world, it could within perhaps a decade or so make the world's majority of food producers new feudal serfs in bondage to three or four giant seed companies such as Monsanto or DuPont or Dow Chemical.

That, of course, could also open the door to have those private companies, perhaps under orders from their host government, Washington, deny seeds to one or another developing country whose politics happened to go against Washington's. Those who say 'It can't happen here' should look more closely at current global events. The mere existence of that concentration of power in three or four private US-based agribusiness giants is grounds for legally banning all GMO crops even were their harvest gains real, which they manifestly are not.

These private companies, Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical hardly have an unsullied record in terms of stewardship of human life. They developed and proliferated such innovations as dioxin, PCBs, Agent Orange. They covered up for decades clear evidence of carcinogenic and other severe human health consequences of use of the toxic chemicals. They have buried serious scientific reports that the world's most widespread herbicide, glyphosate, the essential ingredient in Monsanto's Roundup herbicide that is tied to purchase of most Monsanto genetically engineered seeds, is toxic when it seeps into drinking water.9 Denmark banned glyphosate in 2003 when it confirmed it has contaminated the country's groundwater.10

The diversity stored in seed gene banks is the raw material for plant breeding and for a great deal of basic biological research. Several hundred thousand samples are distributed annually for such purposes. The UN's FAO lists some 1400 seed banks around the world, the largest being held by the United States Government. Other large banks are held by China, Russia, Japan, India, South Korea, Germany and Canada in descending order of size. In addition, CGIAR operates a chain of seed banks in select centers around the world.

CGIAR, set up in 1972 by the Rockefeller Foundation and Ford Foundation to spread their Green Revolution agribusiness model, controls most of the private seed banks from the Philippines to Syria to Kenya. In all these present seed banks hold more than six and a half million seed varieties, almost two million of which are 'distinct.' Svalbard's Doomsday Vault will have a capacity to house four and a half million different seeds.

GMO as a weapon of biowarfare?

Now we come to the heart of the danger and the potential for misuse inherent in the Svalbard project of Bill Gates and the Rockefeller foundation. Can the development of patented seeds for most of the world's major sustenance crops such as rice, corn, wheat, and feed grains such as soybeans ultimately be used in a horrible form of biological warfare?

The explicit aim of the eugenics lobby funded by wealthy elite families such as Rockefeller, Carnegie, Harriman and others since the 1920's, has embodied what they termed 'negative eugenics,' the systematic killing off of undesired bloodlines. Margaret Sanger, a rapid eugenicist, the founder of Planned Parenthood International and an intimate of the Rockefeller family, created something called The Negro Project in 1939, based in Harlem, which as she confided in a letter to a friend, was all about the fact that, as she put it, 'we want to exterminate the Negro population.' 11

A small California biotech company, Epicyte, in 2001 announced the development of genetically engineered corn which contained a spermicide which made the semen of men who ate it sterile. At the time Epicyte had a joint venture agreement to spread its technology with DuPont and Syngenta, two of the sponsors of the Svalbard Doomsday Seed Vault. Epicyte was since acquired by a North Carolina biotech company. Astonishing to learn was that Epicyte had developed its spermicidal GMO corn with research funds from the US Department of Agriculture, the same USDA which, despite worldwide opposition, continued to finance the development of Terminator technology, now held by Monsanto.

In the 1990's the UN's World Health Organization launched a campaign to vaccinate millions of women in Nicaragua, Mexico and the Philippines between the ages of 15 and 45, allegedly against Tentanus, a sickness arising from such things as stepping on a rusty nail. The vaccine was not given to men or boys, despite the fact they are presumably equally liable to step on rusty nails as women.

Because of that curious anomaly, Comite Pro Vida de Mexico, a Roman Catholic lay organization became suspicious and had vaccine samples tested. The tests revealed that the Tetanus vaccine being spread by the WHO only to women of child-bearing age contained human Chorionic Gonadotrophin or hCG, a natural hormone which when combined with a tetanus toxoid carrier stimulated antibodies rendering a woman incapable of maintaining a pregnancy. None of the women vaccinated were told.

It later came out that the Rockefeller Foundation along with the Rockefeller's Population Council, the World Bank (home to CGIAR), and the United States' National Institutes of Health had been involved in a 20-year-long project begun in 1972 to develop the concealed abortion vaccine with a tetanus carrier for WHO. In addition, the Government of Norway, the host to the Svalbard Doomsday Seed Vault, donated $41 million to develop the special abortive Tetanus vaccine. 12

Is it a coincidence that these same organizations, from Norway to the Rockefeller Foundation to the World Bank are also involved in the Svalbard seed bank project? According to Prof. Francis Boyle who drafted the Biological Weapons Anti-Terrorism Act of 1989 enacted by the US Congress, the Pentagon is 'now gearing up to fight and win biological warfare' as part of two Bush national strategy directives adopted, he notes, 'without public knowledge and review' in 2002. Boyle adds that in 2001-2004 alone the US Federal Government spent $14.5 billion for civilian bio-warfare-related work, a staggering sum.

Rutgers University biologist Richard Ebright estimates that over 300 scientific institutions and some 12,000 individuals in the USA today have access to pathogens suitable for biowarfare. Alone there are 497 US Government NIH grants for research into infectious diseases with biowarfare potential. Of course this is being justified under the rubric of defending against possible terror attack as so much is today.

Many of the US Government dollars spent on biowarfare research involve genetic engineering. MIT biology professor Jonathan King says that the 'growing bio-terror programs represent a significant emerging danger to our own population.' King adds, 'while such programs are always called defensive, with biological weapons, defensive and offensive programs overlap almost completely.' 13

Time will tell whether, God Forbid, the Svalbard Doomsday Seed Bank of Bill Gates and the Rockefeller Foundation is part of another Final Solution, this involving the extinction of the Late, Great Planet Earth.

F. William Engdahl is the author of Seeds of Destruction, the Hidden Agenda of Genetic Manipulation just released by Global Research. He also the author of A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order, Pluto Press Ltd

William Engdahl is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG). His writings can be consulted on and on Global Research.


1 F. William Engdahl,Seeds of Destruction, Montreal, (Global Research, 2007).

2 Ibid, pp.72-90.

3 John H. Davis, Harvard Business Review, 1956, cited in Geoffrey Lawrence, Agribusiness, Capitalism and the Countryside, Pluto Press, Sydney, 1987. See also Harvard Business School, The Evolution of an Industry and a Seminar: Agribusiness Seminar,

4 Engdahl, op cit., p. 130.

5 Ibid. P. 123-30.

6 Myriam Mayet, The New Green Revolution in Africa: Trojan Horse for GMOs?, May, 2007, African Centre for Biosafety,

7 ETC Group, Green Revolution 2.0 for Africa?, Communique Issue #94, March/April 2007.

8 Global Crop Diversity Trust website, in

9 Engdahl, op. cit., pp.227-236.

10 Anders Legarth Smith, Denmark Bans Glyphosates, the Active Ingredient in Roundup, Politiken, September 15, 2003, in

11 Tanya L. Green, The Negro Project: Margaret Sanger's Genocide Project for Black American's, in

12 Engdahl, op. cit., pp. 273-275; J.A. Miller, Are New Vaccines Laced With Birth-Control Drugs?, HLI Reports, Human Life International, Gaithersburg, Maryland; June/July 1995, Volume 13, Number 8.

13 Sherwood Ross, Bush Developing Illegal Bioterror Weapons for Offensive Use,' December 20, 2006, in

Saturday, December 8, 2007

France suspends commercial GMO seed use, studies safety

By Tamora Vidaillet and Valerie Parent REUTERS, Dec 6 2007

PARIS (Reuters) - France formally suspended on Thursday the commercial use of genetically modified (GMO) seeds in the country until early February and ordered a biotech safety study.

The future of GMOs has long been the subject of heated debate in France -- Europe's top grain producer -- and the country's reluctance to use GMO crops compares starkly with the United States, which is far more tolerant of the technology.

The French agriculture ministry said it had charged a newly set-up committee with assessing the environmental and health implications of using GMO seeds reliant on the MON 810 technology developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto.

'As a result, there is a need to suspend the end-use of MON 810 maize seeds and related sales while awaiting the results of this mission,' it said in a circular.

Thursday's formal suspension until February 9 at the latest, when parliament is slated to vote on a new biotech law, only concerns MON 810 maize, as it is the sole GMO technology permitted for cultivation in France and the European Union.

Stressing that the suspension was temporary, Monsanto slammed France's action.

'While remembering its desire to respect French law, Monsanto thinks that such a decision is a scandal bereft of scientific foundation and incoherent with the environmental benefits of this technology,' the company said.

Seed makers also decried the move in a statement, echoing Monsanto's complaint that there was no scientific justification.

France's move came as Germany announced it had lifted a temporary sales ban on MON 810 technology after Monsanto agreed to additional monitoring of its cultivation in Germany.

France's suspension will have no immediate impact on farmers using the pest resistant GMO seeds given that the country's maize harvest is in its final stages and new sowings will not take place until April, 2008.

Pro-GMO farmers have urged Paris to speed up plans to create a higher GMO authority and pass a biotech law well before April in the hope that the dispute can be settled and MON 810 seeds can be bought well in time for the next sowings.

Those harboring fears over the potential impact of GMO crops on peoples' health and the country's bio-diversity hope a new authority will find ways to counter European Union decisions on GMO and permanently ban their use in France.

(Additional reporting by Mathilde Cru; Editing by Sybille de La Hamaide and Peter Blackburn)

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

World Faces Food Shortages

  • World faces food shortages, price rises - report
    By Emma Graham-Harrison and Ben Blanchard
    Reuters, December 4, 2007
    Straight to the Source

BEIJING - The world is eating more than it produces and food prices may climb for years because of expansion of farming for fuel and climate change, risking social unrest, an expert and a new report said on Tuesday.

Biofuel expansions alone could push maize prices up over two-thirds by 2020 and increase oilseed costs by nearly half, with subsidies for the industry effectively constituting a tax on the poor, the International Food Policy Research Institute said.

Global cereal stocks, a key buffer used to fight famines around the world, have sunk to their lowest level since the 1980s due to reduced plantings and poor weather, said the institute's director general, Joachim von Braun.

"The world eats more than it produces currently, and over the last five or six years that is reflected in the decline in stocks and storage levels. That cannot go on, and exhaustion of stocks will be reached soon," he told a conference in Beijing.

Countries such as Mexico have already experienced food riots over soaring prices, von Braun added in a report released at the same meeting, held by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research.

"The days of falling food prices may be over," said von Braun, lead author of the "World Food Situation" report.

"Surging demand for food, feed and fuel have recently led to drastic price increases . climate change will also have a negative impact on food production," he added.

Growing financial investor interest in commodity markets as prices climb is fueling price volatility, and world cereal and energy prices are increasingly closely linked.

With oil prices hovering around $90 a barrel, this is bad news for the poor, who have already suffered "quite dramatic" impacts from a tripling in wheat prices and near-doubling in rice prices since 2000, the report said.

More investment in agricultural technology, a stronger social welfare net with particular support for children, an end to trade barriers and improved infrastructure and finance opportunities in less-developed countries, could all help improve food security.

Although increased trade, a key demand of many developing world nations in global talks, would bring economic gains, in many cases it would not significantly reduce poverty, the report added.

Warming, Biofuels Loom Global warming could cut worldwide income from agriculture 16 percent by 2020, despite the potential for increased yields in some colder areas and the fertilizing impact on plants of having higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the atmosphere.

"With the increased risk of droughts and floods due to rising temperatures, crop-yield losses are imminent," the report said.

It warned that Africa would be hit particularly hard by changes in weather patterns, in which scientist say man-made gases pumped into the atmosphere are an important factor.

"When taking into account the effects of climate change, the number of undernourished people in Sub-Saharan Africa may triple between 1990 and 2080," the report said.

Biofuels also threaten nutrition for the poor. Under current investment plans, and assuming expansion in nations with high-potential but without detailed plans, maize prices would rise a quarter by the end of the next decade.

Under a more dramatic expansion, prices could climb up to 72 percent for maize and 44 percent for oilseeds, the report said.

Even when next-generation biofuels that use feedstocks such as wood and straw become commercially viable, competition for resources from water to investment capital may continue.

Global food demand is shifting towards higher-value vegetables, diary, fruits and meat as a result of rapid economic growth in developing countries including China and India.

But it can be difficult for smaller farmers to take advantage of the trend because of large retailers' growing grip on the market and their high safety, quality and other requirements.

(Editing by Ken Wills and Jerry Norton)

© 2007 Reuters

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Get Kids Vaccinated or Go to Jail?

Fox News, USA Today, and a number of other major media outlets reported this week on news from Maryland where dozens of parents were notified by a district court that either they vaccinate their children or go to jail. The media reports have caused a lot of confusion around the US among parents who have chosen not to vaccinate their children for certain illnesses based on concerns about possible negative impacts from the vaccines themselves.

While the mainstream medical community claims vaccines are safe and effective, some people blame immunizations for a rise in autism and other medical problems. In actuality, there are no federal laws requiring vaccinations. Providing schools with vaccine exemption forms for your child is all that is required by federal law.

If you have thoroughly researched the vaccine issue and have decided one or more vaccines may not be right for your children, follow this link to a website where you can download exemption forms for your state or country.

GE Sugar in Thousands of Non-Organic Products In 2008

A new article in the New York Times calls attention to the pending controversy of unlabeled, under-tested, genetically engineered sugar being laced into breakfast cereals, chocolates, and a wide variety of non-organic processed foods and beverages next year. In September, OCA posted an alert to pressure major buyers of sugar beets to boycott Monsanto's latest herbicide-resistant crop.

The American Crystal company, the #1 white sugar provider in the U.S., along with Kellogg, have brazenly announced they will welcome the biotech sweetener in early 2008. The New York Times notes that American Crystal's CEO responded to the deluge of consumer emails stemming from OCA's alert in September by turning off his email.

If American Crystal won't listen, perhaps some of its major customers will. Please send a letter to Hershey's, Mars, and Kellogg demanding they keep their sugar additives GE-free. And of course keep in mind that your only real protection against GE sugar or any Genetically Modified Organism is to buy organic.

Take action:

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Alert of the Week -- USDA Proposes Rule Undermining Organics

The USDA is accepting public comments until December 3 on a new proposed rule that would force small farms growing green leafy vegetables, such as spinach and lettuce, to put into place industrial-style sterilization measures that reduce biodiversity and soil fertility.

The proposal follows in the wake of the USDA's recent controversial crackdown on raw almonds, continued interference with raw milk production, and bans on the sale of locally produced organic meat directly to consumers. The proposed rules basically cover up the fact that e-coli 0157H contamination in lettuce and spinach crops comes from feedlot or industrial livestock-contaminated irrigation waters or contamination in large processing plants.

The rule limits hedgerows, and other non-crop vegetation commonly found on and around small organic and sustainable farms. In addition, although every organic farmer knows that healthy soil is literally alive with multiple types of healthy bacteria, the rules also discourage the development of beneficial microbial life in the soil. Send a message to the USDA today:

Learn more and take action:

Related Quote of the Week

The alarming prevalence of the virulent E. coli 0157 in our food system is due to an animal industry allowed to raise cattle in stressful environments on unnatural diets. Allowing such practices to continue while burdening produce growers with the impossible task of sterilizing their farms is folly beyond belief." -Tom Willey, an organic vegetable producer with T & D Willey Farms in Madera, CA

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Update on Raw Almond Controversy by Cornucopia Institute

I want to give you an update on recent developments with The Cornucopia Institute's work seeking to rescind or modify the almond pasteurization rule.

The Almond Board of California discussed a proposal from The Cornucopia Institute to modify the almond pasteurization mandate at its November meeting. Cornucopia's proposal called for placement of a warning or advisory label on unpasteurized almonds, alerting consumers to the difference. The proposal would have allowed for the continued availability of raw almonds in the marketplace, while alerting consumers such as pregnant women, immune suppressed individuals, and raw almond enthusiasts that there might be some increased risk of pathogenic disease from eating the untreated nuts.

The Almond Board rejected Cornucopia's proposal. The Board's CEO, Richard Waycott, told Cornucopia that they do not have the authority to make such a decision and that only the FDA has the power to do so. While Waycott may be technically correct, the Almond Board's support for such a plan would have carried considerable weight with federal regulators. Furthermore, Waycott indicated that the pasteurization effort was proceeding smoothly with few objections.

Such positive thinking differs markedly from what Cornucopia is hearing from organic and family-scale farmers. A number of growers have reported unexpected increases in processing and transportation costs related to the requirement that they treat their nuts with either a fumigant or steam. And the expenses the growers are experiencing are well above the costs initially estimated by the Almond Board in their economic analysis of the rule's impact on farmers. In fact, one organic almond farmer told Cornucopia that he has lost $450,000 in sales due to the new rule.

In late November, staff from Cornucopia will be in Washington, D.C. One goal of the visit is to deliver more than 1500 individually signed proxy-letters to the USDA calling for suspension of and a full public review of the pasteurization rule, and input from all stakeholders that should have taken place initially. Cornucopia staff members are scheduled to meet with the USDA Undersecretary Bruce Knight and other high officials during their visit to discuss this issue. (Thanks to all of you who have sent us your proxy letters, it really adds to our standing and credibility before regulators and elected officials!)

While in Washington, Cornucopia staff will also appear before the National Organic Standards Board urging them to clarify that the toxic fumigant, propylene oxide, will not be used to treat organic almonds, something that remains unclear at this time.

Should USDA officials remain unmoved, Cornucopia expects to head into federal court seeking a judicial remedy, and staff, along with their legal team, are currently doing associated research. The court option, because of its expense, has been the last choice all along, but it may soon be the only option left to preserve market opportunities for small and organic farmers and the right of consumers to eat truly raw almonds grown in the U.S.

Consumers and industry participants can add their voices to this debate by visiting Cornucopia's web site ( and downloading a proxy-letter to mail back to Cornucopia. We will continue to deliver these as they come in, even after the batch that we leave with the Secretary's office. The proxy, along with other background materials, can be found at the Authentic Almond Project link.

We also expect to release in the very near future our analysis of the elevated cancer risks consumers are being exposed to by consumption of PPO treated almonds. We had been waiting for the ABC to provide us with some additional information that might dispute our research/conclusions but nearly two months have passed and our repeated queries have not being satisfied.

The cancer risk related information is rather startling. It again suggests to us that the PPO treatment plan is aimed at protecting some large growers with poor management practices from lawsuits while shifting the treatment burden from those practices to consumers in the form of PPO-spurred disease problems.

Please stay in touch and share any observations or thoughts you have on the almond pasteurization issue.

Will Fantle
Research Director
The Cornucopia Institute

Eli Penberthy
Food and Farms Policy Analyst
The Cornucopia Institute

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Monsanto Expects to Double Gross Profit

Thursday November 8, 5:45 pm ET
By Christopher Leonard, AP Business Writer

Monsanto Expects to Double Gross Profits Over 5 Years
ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Monsanto Co. upgraded its 2008 outlook Thursday and said it expects to double its profitability over the next five years as the company rolls out new strains of biotech crops.

The world's largest seed company released its guidance during an investor seminar, predicting that annual gross profit will rise from $4.29 billion in 2007 to more than $8 billion in 2012, said spokesman Lee Quarles.

Gross profit is a broad measure of profitability that doesn't include certain costs like research and development, and taxes. Including those costs yields the commonly used profit measure of net income.

News of the guidance sent Monsanto's stock to an all-time high of $99.98. The stock closed up $3.73, or 3.9 percent, at $98.29 a share Thursday.

Biotechnology and genetically engineered seeds will be the main driver behind Monsanto's profit growth as the company moves away from its roots as an agricultural chemical company. Quarles said the seed and genetics business will account for $6.5 to $7 billion of the firm's gross profits in 2012, while its Roundup herbicide will account for $1.2 billion in profits.

Chief Financial Officer Terry Crews also upgraded the firm's outlook for fiscal year 2008, saying net income will come in at the upper end of its previously announced range of $2.20 to $2.40 per share.

Crews also said profit in the first quarter of 2008 will be 35 cents a share, more than double the same period in 2007 when earnings were 16 cents.

"Backed by the growing demand for our seed and trait products, our business is poised for significant organic growth between now and the end of 2012," Chief Executive Hugh Grant said in a statement.

"We believe we can effectively double the gross profit potential of our business just with the businesses we have in hand today while continuing to return value to our shareowners," he said.

Monsanto plans to boost sales growth in part by expanding corn seed sales in the United States. Monsanto has been competing with old-line seed companies like Pioneer Hi-Bred to gain a bigger slice of the profitable market.

The company said it expects its U.S. DeKalb seed brand could grow by as much as 10 percentage points by 2012.

Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley said Monsanto's research and development pipeline could generate new products that increase sales by $5 billion a year by 2020.

Monsanto Co.:

Improve your English and Feed the Hungry

Here is an interesting web site that is worth a look:

Friday, November 9, 2007

An Agricultural Crime Against Humanity

Biofuels could kill more people than the Iraq war
By George Monbiot.
The Guardian, 6th November 2007

It doesn't get madder than this. Swaziland is in the grip of a famine and receiving emergency food aid. Forty per cent of its people are facing acute food shortages. So what has the government decided to export? Biofuel made from one of its staple crops, cassava(1). The government has allocated several thousand hectares of farmland to ethanol production in the county of Lavumisa, which happens to be the place worst hit by drought(2). It would surely be quicker and more humane to refine the Swazi people and put them in our tanks. Doubtless a team of development consultants is already doing the sums.

This is one of many examples of a trade described last month by Jean Ziegler, the UN's special rapporteur, as 'a crime against humanity'(3). Ziegler took up the call first made by this column for a five-year moratorium on all government targets and incentives for biofuel(4): the trade should be frozen until second-generation fuels - made from wood or straw or waste - become commercially available. Otherwise the superior purchasing power of drivers in the rich world means that they will snatch food from people’s mouths. Run your car on virgin biofuel and other people will starve.

Even the International Monetary Fund, always ready to immolate the poor on the altar of business, now warns that using food to produce biofuels 'might further strain already tight supplies of arable land and water all over the world, thereby pushing food prices up even further.'(5) This week the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation will announce the lowest global food reserves in 25 years, threatening what it calls 'a very serious crisis'(6). Even when the price of food was low, 850 million people went hungry because they could not afford to buy it. With every increment in the price of flour or grain, several million more are pushed below the breadline.

The cost of rice has risen by 20% over the past year, maize by 50%, wheat by 100%(7). Biofuels aren’t entirely to blame - by taking land out of food production they exacerbate the effects of bad harvests and rising demand - but almost all the major agencies are now warning against expansion. And almost all the major governments are ignoring them.

They turn away because biofuels offer a means of avoiding hard political choices. They create the impression that governments can cut carbon emissions and - as Ruth Kelly, the British transport secretary, announced last week(8) - keep expanding the transport networks. New figures show that British drivers puttered past the 500 billion kilometre mark for the first time last year(9). But it doesn’t matter: we just have to change the fuel we use. No one has to be confronted. The demands of the motoring lobby and the business groups clamouring for new infrastructure can be met. The people being pushed off their land remain unheard.

In principle, burning biofuels merely releases the carbon they accumulated when they were growing. Even when you take into account the energy costs of harvesting, refining and transporting the fuel, they produce less net carbon than petroleum products. The law the British government passed a fortnight ago - by 2010, 5% of our road transport fuel must come from crops(10) - will, it claims, save between 700,000 and 800,000 tonnes of carbon a year(11). It derives this figure by framing the question carefully. If you count only the immediate carbon costs of planting and processing biofuels, they appear to reduce greenhouse gases. When you look at the total impacts, you find that they cause more warming than petroleum.

A recent study by the Nobel laureate Paul Crutzen shows that the official estimates have ignored the contribution of nitrogen fertilisers. They generate a greenhouse gas - nitrous oxide - which is 296 times as powerful as CO2. These emissions alone ensure that ethanol from maize causes between 0.9 and 1.5 times as much warming as petrol, while rapeseed oil (the source of over 80% of the world’s biodiesel) generates 1-1.7 times the impact of diesel(12). This is before you account for the changes in land use.

A paper published in Science three months ago suggests that protecting uncultivated land saves, over 30 years, between two and nine times the carbon emissions you might avoid by ploughing it and planting biofuels(13). Last year the research group LMC International estimated that if the British and European target of a 5% contribution from biofuels were to be adopted by the rest of the world, the global acreage of cultivated land would expand by 15%(14). That means the end of most tropical forests. It might also cause runaway climate change.

The British government says it will strive to ensure that 'only the most sustainable biofuels' will be used in the UK(15). It has no means of enforcing this aim - it admits that if it tried to impose a binding standard it would break world trade rules(16). But even if 'sustainability' could be enforced, what exactly does it mean? You could, for example, ban palm oil from new plantations. This is the most destructive kind of biofuel, driving deforestation in Malaysia and Indonesia. But the ban would change nothing. As Carl Bek-Nielsen, vice chairman of Malaysia’s United Plantations Bhd, remarked, 'even if it is another oil that goes into biodiesel, that other oil then needs to be replaced. Either way, there’s going to be a vacuum and palm oil can fill that vacuum.'(17) The knock-on effects cause the destruction you are trying to avoid. The only sustainable biofuel is recycled waste oil, but the available volumes are tiny(18).

At this point the biofuels industry starts shouting 'jatropha!' It is not yet a swear word, but it soon will be. Jatropha is a tough weed with oily seeds that grows in the tropics. This summer Bob Geldof, who never misses an opportunity to promote simplistic solutions to complex problems, arrived in Swaziland in the role of 'special adviser' to a biofuels firm. Because it can grow on marginal land, jatropha, he claimed, is a 'life-changing' plant, which will offer jobs, cash crops and economic power to African smallholders(19).

Yes, it can grow on poor land and be cultivated by smallholders. But it can also grow on fertile land and be cultivated by largeholders. If there is one blindingly obvious fact about biofuel it’s that it is not a smallholder crop. It is an internationally-traded commodity which travels well and can be stored indefinitely, with no premium for local or organic produce. Already the Indian government is planning 14m hectares of jatropha plantations(20). In August the first riots took place among the peasant farmers being driven off the land to make way for them(21).

If the governments promoting biofuels do not reverse their policies, the humanitarian impact will be greater than that of the Iraq war. Millions will be displaced, hundreds of millions more could go hungry. This crime against humanity is a complex one, but that neither lessens nor excuses it. If people starve because of biofuels, Ruth Kelly and her peers will have killed them. Like all such crimes it is perpetrated by cowards, attacking the weak to avoid confronting the strong.


1. IRIN Africa, 25th October 2007. Swaziland: Food or biofuel seems to be the question.

2. Energy Current, 29th October 2007. Swaziland joins biofuel drive despite mounting food crisis.

3. Grant Ferrett, 27th October 2007. Biofuels ‘crime against humanity’. BBC Online.

4. George Monbiot, 27th March 2007. A Lethal Solution. The Guardian.

5. Valerie Mercer-Blackman, Hossein Samiei, and Kevin Cheng, 17th October 2007. Biofuel Demand Pushes Up Food Prices. IMF Research Department.

6. Jacques Diouf, quoted by John Vidal, 3rd November 2007. Global food crisis looms as climate change and fuel shortages bite. The Guardian.

7. John Vidal, 3rd November 2007. Global food crisis looms as climate change and fuel shortages bite. The Guardian.

8. Department for Transport, October 2007. Towards a Sustainable Transport System:

Supporting Economic Growth in a Low Carbon World.

9. Department for Transport, 2007. Transport Statistics Great Britain 2007. Table 7.1. Road traffic by type of vehicle: 1949-2006

10. HM Government, 2007. The Renewable Transport Fuel Obligations Order 2007.

11. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, October 2007. Biofuels - risks and opportunities, p4.

12. PJ Crutzen, AR Mosier, KA Smith and W Winiwarter, 1 August 2007. N2O release from agro-biofuel production negates global warming reduction by replacing fossil fuels. Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics Discussions 7, pp11191–11205.

13. Renton Righelato and Dominick V. Spracklen, 17th August 2007. Carbon Mitigation by Biofuels or by Saving and Restoring Forests? Science Vol 317, p902. doi 10.1126/science.1141361.

14. AFP, 17th October 2007. IMF concerned by impact of biofuels on food prices.

15. Lord Bassam of Brighton, 29th March 2007. Parliamentary answer. Column WA310.

16. Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, October 2007. Biofuels - risks and opportunities, p5.

17. Benjamin Low, 24th February 2006. CPO Prices Seen Up In 06 As Biodiesel Fuels Demand

18. You can see the calculations here:

19. Helene Le Roux, 27th July 2007. Singer, songwriter and activist promotes green energy in Africa. Engineering News Online.

20. John Vidal, ibid.

21. Mark Olden, 25th October 2007. Observations on: biofuels. New Statesman.