Tuesday, December 21, 2010

House passes food safety bill to send to Obama

By the CNN Wire Staff
December 21, 2010 -- Updated 2247 GMT (0647 HKT)

Washington (CNN) -- A major food safety bill that passed the House and Senate earlier this year before stalling because of a procedural problem won final approval Tuesday and now goes to President Barack Obama to be signed into law.

The bill, designed to increase government inspections of the food supply in the wake of recent deadly foodborne disease outbreaks, originally passed with wide support in both chambers after originating in the Senate. However, it needed approval again because it violated a constitutional requirement that bills that raise revenue be initiated in the House.
The Senate passed its version of the Food Safety Modernization Act on Sunday, and the House voted 215-144 for final approval on Tuesday in one of the final sessions of the lame-duck Congress.

The bill, which represents the most sweeping overhaul of the food safety system since 1938, allows for greater governmental regulation of the U.S. food system -- currently in the national spotlight for numerous egg and produce recalls.

Among its provisions, the bill gives the federal Food and Drug Administration the authority to issue direct recalls of foods that are suspected to be tainted, rather than relying on individual producers to issue recalls voluntarily.

Currently, the FDA can negotiate with companies, but has no power to enact a mandatory recall.

It also requires food producers to develop written food safety plans, accessible by the government in case of emergency.

Under the measure, the secretary of Health and Human Services would be required to create a food tracing system that would quickly focus on the source of contamination should an outbreak occur. It also requires food importers to verify the safety of all imported foods to make sure they are in accordance with U.S. food safety guidelines.

In the Senate version, an amendment sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jon Tester of Montana exempted relatively small-scale producers that sell most of their food directly to consumers within their state or within a 275-mile radius of where it was produced.

Tester had called his amendment a "win for anyone who eats food," noting the local food processors still would be responsible for demonstrating that they had identified potential hazards and were implementing preventive controls to address the hazards, or demonstrating to the FDA that they were in compliance with state or local food safety laws.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Back from the Dead: Food Safety Bill Passes Senate in Unexpected Last-Minute Move

ABC News’ Matthew Jaffe reports:

In an unexpected move, the Senate today passed a sweeping food safety bill by unanimous consent, sending the bill back for a vote in the House before it will move on to President Obama’s desk.

“Very very important for our country,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said this evening on the Senate floor. “Perfect legislation? No. But a broad broad step in the right direction. We haven’t done anything in this regard for more than a hundred years for our country. With all the changes in processing food, it’s so very important. I’ve spoken to the Speaker tonight and this will pass the House when they come back Monday night or Tuesday.”

The surprising development is only the latest bizarre twist for the measure. Just a few days ago the food safety bill was seen as dead on Capitol Hill, but the Senate this weekend modified it to resolve a revenue technicality and managed to pass it.

That revenue issue is key in the long bizarre story of the bill.

In July 2009 the House first passed the bill, aiming to prevent massive outbreaks of tainted food by giving the Food and Drug Administration the authority to order mandatory recalls and require more frequent inspections of high-risk food processing plants.

But the bill then languished in the Senate for 15 months in the face of opposition from Republicans who objected to it adding around $1.5 billion to the deficit.

Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., argued that the bill needed to be fully paid for and do a better job of addressing regulatory failures. However, in November the Senate finally passed the food safety bill.

Except for one problem.

A tax provision included in the Senate bill violated the revenue rule, so instead of getting sent to President Obama’s desk, the bill remained stuck in Congress.

The Senate then put the food safety bill into the massive $1.1 trillion year-end omnibus bill, giving supporters of the measure renewed hope that it might still get passed after all.

But no.

Last Thursday, Reid, in the face of widespread GOP opposition, decided to scrap the omnibus bill in favor of a short-term continuing resolution to fund the government into early 2011.

At that point the food safety bill was considered dead. Until Sunday’s surprising development in the Senate, that is.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

In Lame Duck Flux, Food Safety Bill All But Dead

Saturday morning update: Asked about the status of  the food safety bill during a morning press conference covered by C-Span, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) said: "The good news is it is not dead, the conversation is still alive on the floor of the Senate today."

Durbin said he is hopeful the measure can be included in "the wrap up" of the lame duck session.

Someone asked if he knew a Republican co-sponsor was saying it was dead, and Durbin replied: "I would have said the same thing an hour ago."
----------------
Friday the House and Senate approved a measure to keep the government bills paid through Tuesday, as Democrats and Republicans scrambled to come to a deal for a longer-term stop gap measure.

As the budget situation becomes more contentious, major food safety legislation, which was attached to spending measures that failed to come to fruition last week, seems all but dead.

"It's not going anywhere. It's dead," Sen. Tom Coburn, the bill's most outspoken opponent, told ABC News Friday.

A spokesman from Coburn's office confirmed to Food Safety News that the senator would object to attaching the "so-called food safety bill" to the continuing resolution. Coburn's opposition forced Senate Democrats to file cloture to advance the bill in November.

Key Democrats maintain they will work to include the bill--which easily passed the House and Senate, but got caught in a constitutional glitch--in the final agreement. 

"We are working with our Republican colleagues to include this in the continuing resolution," a spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid's (D-NV) told Food Safety News via email.

A spokeswoman from Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin's (D-IA) office reiterated that Democrats had not ceded defeat yet.

"Chairman Harkin is making every effort to ensure that the bipartisan food safety bill is included in legislation that will be voted on before the end of the year," spokeswoman Justine Sessions said in an email. "We'll be able to send it to the President unless a Senator raises an objection to overhauling our food safety system for the first time in 70 years."

"This bill, which will create stronger protections against contaminated foods for American families, enjoys strong bipartisan support, and we hope that politics will not get in the way of good policy," added Sessions

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Purdue Scientists Develop a Nanoparticle with Antimicrobial Ability against Listeria

A team of scientists from Purdue University developed a nanoparticle which is important in lengthening the shelf life of foods susceptible to Listeria monocytogenes. The nanoparticle was derived by altering the surface of phytoglycogen, a carbohydrate found in sweet corn. Several forms of that nanoparticle have the ability to attract and release nisin, a food-based antimicrobial agent, that fights Listeria which is present in meats, dairy, and vegetables and can cause harmful effects to pregnant women, infants, adults, and those with weak immune systems.

"People have been using nisin for a number of years, but the problem has been that it is depleted quickly in a food system," said Arun Bhunia, a Purdue professor of food science who co-authored a paper with Yao on the findings in the early online version of the Journal of Controlled Release. "This nanoparticle is an improved way to deliver the antimicrobial properties of nisin for extended use."

Read more at http://www.purdue.edu/newsroom/research/2010/101207YaoNisin.html.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Vatican scientists see “moral imperative” in GMO

(3 December 2010 GMO Compass) In a statement released at the end of November 2010, forty international scientists including seven Vatican advisors have called for the relaxation of “excessive, unscientific regulations” applied to genetically modified (GM) crops. The foundation of the statement lies in a week-long closed meeting held in May 2009 at the Vatican.

The scientists were brought together by Ingo Potrykus, one of the 80 members of the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. The retired Professor of Plant Sciences at the Federal Institute of Technology (FIT) in Zurich developed what is known as ‘golden rice’, a bioengineered grain with enhanced levels of vitamin A to combat the childhood blindness that poses a problem in some developing countries in Asia.

Although an official endorsement of the statement has not been released, the Academy already had expressed provisional support for GM crops ten years ago and the seven Academy members present at the meeting included Chancellor Marcelo Sánchez Sorondo.

The statement consists of 31 articles. Citing the development of crops for “the public good”, its authors referred to the potential of newly-developed plants to reduce malnutrition and poverty while enhancing food security. Other advantages of GM crops would include increased independence from pesticides and herbicides as well as the development of new tools against global warming and other types of environmental damage linked to agriculture.

The scientists cited the “magnitude of challenges facing the world’s poor and undernourished” as “a matter of urgency” while pointing to current projects developing genetically improved tropical crops that will be “of direct benefit to the poor”. In the light of these considerations and of scientific findings, one may derive “...a moral imperative to make the benefits of GE [i.e. genetically engineered] technology available on a larger scale to poor and vulnerable populations”.

Specific routes to this goal would include a reassessment of the ten-year-old Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety that addresses potential environmental risks to regulate the movement of GM organisms between countries. According to the scientists, the risks in question have failed to materialise and the protocol contains regulatory hurdles that hinder the development of crops by anyone other than large multinational firms.

Dr Potrykus uses his own experience with golden rice as an example and states, “It took 10 years longer and $20 million more than a normal variety ...  future use of [such] technology for the poor totally depends on reform of regulation.”

House Passes Food Bill as Part of Spending Bill

Late Wednesday the House of Representatives passed on a 212-206 vote, a continuing resolution to fund the government through September 2011. Attached to the bill was the FDA Food Safety and Modernization Act, which would give the Food and Drug Administration more authority. The language of the food safety rider is nearly identical to the bill passed last week by the Senate. However that bill was deemed unconstitutional due to a fee included in it as any taxes or fees must originate in the House.

The controversial Tester-Hagan amendment, a provision added to the Senate bill to exempt small farms and producers under certain conditions, is part of the legislation going back to the Senate for consideration. It appears that the small farm exemptions will be a part of the legislation if it becomes law this year. United Fresh Senior Vice President Robert Guenther issued a statement expressing disappointment that the provision was included.


"The statutory enactment of non science-based exemptions would limit FDA's ability to assure consumers that all foods they purchase, whether at grocery stores, restaurants, farm markets, or elsewhere, have met the same food safety standards," Guenther said. "We fear that this profound error will come back to haunt the Congress, public health agencies, consumers and even those who thought they would benefit from food safety exemptions. While the food safety bill will do much good, it is highly regrettable that the House leadership failed to exercise its responsibility to engage with the Senate in a conference to fix these provisions."


According to Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., the Senate will take up the bill in the next day or two.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Senate Passes Historic Food Safety Bill, Now What?

Senate Approves Food Safety Bill 73-25, But Road Ahead Looks Rocky:

In a rare demonstration of bipartisanship, the Senate passed the most sweeping food safety reform bill in seven decades Tuesday morning. Despite high tempers in the wake of a contentious cycle, the upper chamber voted 73-25 vote to approve S. 510, the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, a bill that would increase the Food and Drug Administration's fractured oversight of an increasingly globalized food supply.

Though the bill's passage--lauded by the major food industry, consumer, and public health groups--follows a similar measure that passed the House with bipartisan support in July 2009, the road ahead for comprehensive food safety reform is uncertain.  With the clock running on the lame duck session, most advocates for the bill want to see the House take up the Senate version as soon as possible to get the legislation to President Obama's desk.

In a statement yesterday, Obama called on the House to act quickly on the legislation.  "I urge the House--which has previously passed legislation demonstrating its strong commitment to making our food supply safer--to act quickly on this critical bill, and I applaud the work that was done to ensure its broad bipartisan passage in the Senate."

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), a key proponent of the measure in the Senate, indicated before Thanksgiving that key leaders in the House agreed to take up the Senate version, but it is not clear that is the game plan for House leadership.  The House version of the bill requires far more frequent inspections, augments the cost of the bill with a flat $500 fee for each food facility, and does not contain a hard-fought amendment to exempt small farms and food producers from certain new regulations.

House lawmakers who worked tirelessly to get bipartisan support for their version in 2009 have been noncommittal about adopting the Senate version.

"The Senate bill makes improvements to FDA's existing authorities to ensure the safety of the American food supply just as the House bill does," Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), who has been working on food safety legislation for years, told Food Safety News yesterday.  "I commend my colleagues for their hard work over the past year and four months.  However, there are some remaining concerns with the final Senate legislation, but the Senate bill is a still a giant leap forward toward ensuring the safety of the American food supply."

"I look forward to discussing the Senate bill with my House colleagues and determining what the appropriate next steps should be to ensure that we provide the greatest protections for American's consumers," added Dingell.

To add to the uncertainty in the House, large produce industry groups, including the United Fresh Produce Association and the Produce Marking Association, are working feverishly to convince lawmakers that the final legislation should not include the small farm exemptions, which were recently adopted into the Senate bill at the urging of Sens. Jon Tester (D-MT and Kay Hagan (D-NC).

The Tester-Hagan amendment intends to protect small farmers and the burgeoning local food movement from cumbersome regulation.  The larger produce industry, which is in favor of broad safety requirements to help prevent dangerous and economically damaging foodborne illness outbreaks, has remained squarely against any blanket exemptions based solely on farm size or geography.

"We're pushing for a conference and for the removal of the Tester amendment.  We think there is time to do conference," Robert Guenther, executive vice president of public policy at United Fresh, told Food Safety News yesterday.  "[The amendment] fundamentally undermines the entire legislation, the rest of the bill is science- and risk-based."

Guenther said the industry would continue to push against the amendment, which he called "arbitrary" and "politically expedient."

Though disagreements remain, the prospect of a conference committee to iron out key differences is seriously in question with so many competing items on the Congressional agenda--including the Bush-era tax cuts and the defense reauthorization bill, which includes a provision to repeal the controversial "don't ask, don't tell" policy.

Casting further doubt on the bill's chances at becoming law before the new year, Capitol Hill newspaper Roll Call reported late last night predicted the food safety bill will likely be sent back to the Senate because Democrats violated Article 1, Section 7 of the Constitution, which clearly states that revenue-raising provisions originate in the House.

According to Roll Call, Section 107 of S. 510, which allows for the collection of fees, has "ruffled the features of Ways and Means Democrats" who are expected to use a procedure known inside the beltway as "blue slipping" to block the legislation.

"We understand there is a blue slip problem, and we expect the House to assert its rights under the Constitution to be the place where revenue bills begin," a GOP aide told the paper.

If the House blue slips the bill, Senate Democrats would have to use precious floor time to go back through procedural votes to re-introduce an amended version of the bill because Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) would, as he did earlier this year, object to a unanimous consent agreement to limit debate on the bill.

Sen. Coburn remains the most outspoken opponent of the legislation, arguing that it does not address systemic problems with federal food safety oversight and is too costly. Coburn introduced a substitute bill on Tuesday that failed in a 36-62 vote.  

Friday, November 19, 2010

Tester’s amendment for family-scale producers now part of Food Safety Bill

Thursday, November 18, 2010 

(U.S. SENATE) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester has reached an agreement with consumer groups and the bipartisan authors of the Senate’s Food Safety Bill to include his amendment to protect family-scale food producers from expensive federal paperwork and unnecessary new regulations.

“This important legislation is shaping up to be a much better bill with the inclusion of my amendment for family-scale producers, and it protects the jobs of family farmers and ranchers and processers,” Tester said today during a speech to the Senate.  “It really is time to get this bill passed and strengthen food safety for all Americans.”

Under Tester’s amendment, food producers who sell their goods directly to consumers and have less than $500,000 in annual sales would not be subject to the onerous new requirements designed for industrial-scale food producers.  Family-scale producers would, however, continue to be overseen by local and state food safety and health agencies.

Negotiators have agreed on the following minor revisions to include Tester’s amendment in the Food Safety Bill:

  • New language that gives U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s authority to withdraw an exemption from a farm or facility that has been associated with a food-borne illness outbreak.
  • The distance from a facility or farm that is eligible to be a local “qualified end-user” has been reduced from 400 miles to 275 miles, or within the same state.
Tester says his amendment is a major victory for family agriculture, safer food, and for the local food movement.

“We deal with consolidation in our energy sector, we deal with consolidation in our banking sector,” Tester said.  “We have consolidation in our food industry too. The fact is we need to not encourage that consolidation.  I think if we can get more locally grown food—if we can get producers to connect up the consumers eyeball to eyeball—that’s a positive thing.  And I don’t want to diminish their ability to do this.”

Although Tester is himself a family-scale grain farmer, Tester’s own farm does not qualify under the amendment because he does not sell grain directly to consumers.

The Senate is currently debating the Food Safety Bill.  A final vote on the bill, including Tester’s amendment, could happen as early as today.


RESOURCES
  • Tester’s Food Safety Bill resource page is now available online at: http://tester.senate.gov/foodsafety
  • A summary of Tester’s revised amendment is online HERE
  • The latest version of Tester’s amendment is online HERE
  • A YouTube video of Tester’s Senate floor speech is online HERE

Why the Tester Amendment?
“[Family-scale producers] are small. There’s a pride of ownership there that is real.  They raise food; they don’t raise a commodity as happens when these operations get bigger and bigger. And there is a direct customer relationship with that customer or that farmer that means a lot.  And if a mistake is made, which rarely happens, it doesn’t impact hundreds of thousands of people.  We know exactly where the problem was.  And we know exactly how to fix it.” –Senator Jon Tester

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Food and Ag Groups Rally Against Tester Amendment

As the Senate gears up to vote on a motion to limit debate and move the pending food safety bill forward on Wednesday, interest groups are kicking into high gear to lobby for and against key amendments.

Monday a group of 30 meat, pet food, and fresh produce industry groups sent a letter to the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee chairman and ranking members, Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Michael Enzi (R-WY), respectively, urging key staff and lawmakers working on the bill to oppose a measure to exempt small farms and producers from the crux of the legislation.

"We believe an operation's size, the growing practices used, or its proximity to customers does not determine whether the food offered is safe," read the letter, which was signed by the American Meat Institute, the United Fresh Produce Association, and the United Egg Producers.

"What matters is that the operation implements prudent product safety practices, whether the product is purchased at a roadside stand, a farmers' market, or a large supermarket," continues the letter. "We support FDA food safety programs developed through a scientific, risk-based approach and that benefit public health."

As the food safety bill, which would increase the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's authority and mandate over the food supply, has languished, an amendment by Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), now also backed by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), has gained widespread support. The measure would ease the regulatory burden on small farmers and producers.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and several other sustainable ag groups have been issuing a last round of action alerts to rally support for the Tester amendment.

"The bill takes important steps to improve corporate food safety rules but it is not appropriate for small farms and processors that sell to restaurants, food coops, groceries, schools, wholesalers and at farm stands and farmers markets," said NSAC in its alert late last week.

NSAC asked its supporters to call Senators in support of the Tester provision to prevent "one-size-fits-all" regulations from being created.

Though the details are still being worked out, insiders expect the Tester amendment to garner enough support to be added to the bill. The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, also known as S. 510, is also expected to pass, with bipartisan support, this week.

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To read more on the debate over small farm and producer exemptions, see Debate Over Small Farm Exemptions Rolls On, October 26, 2010.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Biotechnology in fruit and vegetables: a lot of research, few approvals

(GMO Compass 23 October 2010) A multitude of plants bearing fruit and vegetables is the subject of research world-wide. Many plants developed in this manner with new traits have been tested successfully in greenhouses and in field trials. However, few endeavours currently are made towards the commercial use of such types of fruit and vegetables, as indicated by a study published in the current issue of the professional journal Nature Biotechnology.
 
To date, the commercial use of plants with new, biotechnologically-conferred traits has been restricted world-wide to soybeans, maize, rapeseed, cotton and, for the past four years, sugar beets.
For other cultivated plants – yielding fruit, vegetables, nuts and flowers – genetically modified (GM) varieties have not yet reached the market. Exceptions are the virus-resistant papayas that have been farmed on Hawaii for years and which in the meanwhile occupy 90 per cent of local fields and the GM squash (similar to zucchini) grown regionally in the USA, as well as GM carnations.
Fruits, vegetables and other ‘specialties’ are all of great significance in agriculture. However, new varieties with traits achieved through biotechnological processes have played no role to date. The reasons for this have been investigated in a study by Jamie Miller and Kent Bradford, two scientists at the University of California (Davis, USA). To do so, they assessed publications in scientific magazines and field trials with GM plants in 24 countries during a time period of almost six years (January 2003 to October 2008).
World-wide, 313 publications were registered on research projects with fruit, vegetables and other plant types. According to Miller and Bradford, a majority of cases indicated that the particular approach to the transfer of a new trait functioned in principle. In addition to the USA, the list compiled by the scientists cites publications from research groups from Europe, India, Japan, China, Brazil, South Korea, Israel, Tunisia and many other countries. During the time period under scrutiny, more than 800 field trials with such plants were conducted in the USA alone.
According to the study, "biotechnological plant research" addressed 77 ‘specialty types’ and transferred 206 various individual traits. The majority of these were farm-related traits (known as ‘input traits’), such as resistance to diseases or to pests but also such as an enhanced tolerance of drought, salt or heat stress. Increasingly, research projects aim towards modified product characteristics (‘output traits’) of nutrient composition or of enrichment with compounds beneficial to health.
However, this multifaceted and ‘successful’ research does not lead to commercial applications. According to Miller and Bradford, the ‘bottleneck’ is formed by the approval procedures to which all GM plants are subject world-wide and that have become more elaborate and demanding in the past years. Approvals for GM fruits and vegetables – such as tomatoes – mostly lie more than ten years in the past and new applications have not been submitted.
From the point of view of companies, new GM varieties of fruit and vegetables hardly are financially attractive. In addition to the costs associated with research, GM plants – in contrast to new breeds produced through other methods – are subject to costs incurred by the approval procedure. Miller and Bradford indicate a cost of as much as 15 million dollars for each new GM plant (event). A further consideration is that the market for such plant varieties as a rule is significantly smaller than is the case for field produce such as maize or soy.
A secondary risk for companies is consumer acceptance of food from GM plants. Such acceptance is difficult to anticipate and the rejection of such food is very pronounced in some regions. Collectively, reliable experience hardly exists with regard to consumer reaction towards GM varieties of fruit and vegetables.
In the opinion of both Californian scientists, the market introduction of such varieties will remain financially risky as long as their possible advantages are not more highly considered during approval.

Monday, November 1, 2010

U.S. Says Genes Should Not Be Eligible for Patents

ANDREW POLLACK
New York Times, October 29, 2010
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/30/business/30drug.html?_r=1&hp

Reversing a longstanding policy, the federal government said on Friday that human and other genes should not be eligible for patents because they are part of nature. The new position could have a huge impact on medicine and on the biotechnology industry.

The new position was declared in a friend-of-the-court brief filed by the Department of Justice late Friday in a case involving two human genes linked to breast and ovarian cancer.

"We acknowledge that this conclusion is contrary to the longstanding practice of the Patent and Trademark Office, as well as the practice of the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies that have in the past sought and obtained patents for isolated genomic DNA," the brief said.

It is not clear if the position in the legal brief, which appears to have been the result of discussions among various government agencies, will be put into effect by the Patent Office.

If it were, it is likely to draw protests from some biotechnology companies that say such patents are vital to the development of diagnostic tests, drugs and the emerging field of personalized medicine, in which drugs are tailored for individual patients based on their genes.

"It's major when the United States, in a filing, reverses decades of policies on an issue that everyone has been focused on for so long," said Edward Reines, a patent attorney who represents biotechnology companies.

The issue of gene patents has long been a controversial and emotional one. Opponents say that genes are products of nature, not inventions, and should be the common heritage of mankind. They say that locking up basic genetic information in patents actually impedes medical progress. Proponents say genes isolated from the body are chemicals that are different from those found in the body and therefore are eligible for patents.

The Patent and Trademark Office has sided with the proponents and has issued thousands of patents on genes of various organisms, including on an estimated 20 percent of human genes.

But in its brief, the government said it now believed that the mere isolation of a gene, without further alteration or manipulation, does not change its nature.

"The chemical structure of native human genes is a product of nature, and it is no less a product of nature when that structure is 'isolated' from its natural environment than are cotton fibers that have been separated from cotton seeds or coal that has been extracted from the earth,” the brief said.

However, the government suggested such a change would have limited impact on the biotechnology industry because man-made manipulations of DNA, like methods to create genetically modified crops or gene therapies, could still be patented. Dr. James P. Evans, a professor of genetics and medicine at the University of North Carolina, who headed a government advisory task force on gene patents, called the government’s brief “a bit of a landmark, kind of a line in the sand.”

He said that although gene patents had been issued for decades, the patentability of genes had never been examined in court.

That changed when the American Civil Liberties Union and the Public Patent Foundation organized various individuals, medical researchers and societies to file a lawsuit challenging patents held by Myriad Genetics and the University of Utah Research Foundation. The patents cover two genes, BRCA1 and BRCA2, and the over $3,000 analysis Myriad performs on the genes to see if women carry mutations that predispose them to breast and ovarian cancers.

In a surprise ruling in March, Judge Robert W. Sweet of the United States District Court in Manhattan ruled the patents invalid. He said that genes were important for the information they convey, and in that sense, an isolated gene was not really different from a gene in the body. The government said that that ruling prompted it to re-evaluate its policy.

Myriad and the University of Utah have appealed.

Saying that the questions in the case were "of great importance to the national economy, to medical science and to the public health," the Justice Department filed an amicus brief that sided with neither party. While the government took the plaintiffs' side on the issue of isolated DNA, it sided with Myriad on patentability of manipulated DNA.

Myriad and the plaintiffs did not comment on the government's brief by deadline for this article.

Mr. Reines, the attorney, who is with the firm of Weil Gotshal & Manges and is not involved in the main part of the Myriad case, said he thought the Patent Office opposed the new position but was overruled by other agencies. A hint is that no lawyer from the Patent Office was listed on the brief.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Machines of war - Blackwater, Monsanto, Gates

Silvia Ribeiro and La Jornada, Pravda Ru
http://www.mathaba.net/news/?x=625026
Monday, 18 October 2010 21:17
A report by Jeremy Scahill in The Nation (Blackwater's Black Ops, 9/15/2010) revealed that [Monsanto bought the services of] the largest mercenary army in the world, Blackwater (now called Xe Services) ... Blackwater was renamed in 2009 after becoming famous in the world with numerous reports of abuses in Iraq, including massacres of civilians. It remains the largest private contractor of the U.S. Department of State "security services," that practices state terrorism by giving the government the opportunity to deny it.

Many military and former CIA officers work for Blackwater or related companies created to divert attention from their bad reputation and make more profit selling their nefarious services-ranging from information and intelligence to infiltration, political lobbying and paramilitary training - for other governments, banks and multinational corporations. According to Scahill, business with multinationals, like Monsanto, Chevron, and financial giants such as Barclays and Deutsche Bank, are channeled through two companies owned by Erik Prince, owner of Blackwater: Total Intelligence Solutions and Terrorism Research Center. These officers and directors share Blackwater.

One of them, Cofer Black, known for his brutality as one of the directors of the CIA, was the one who made contact with Monsanto in 2008 as director of Total Intelligence, entering into the contract with the company to spy on and infiltrate organizations of animal rights activists, anti-GM and other dirty activities of the biotech giant.

Contacted by Scahill, the Monsanto executive Kevin Wilson declined to comment, but later confirmed to The Nation that they had hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and 2009, according to Monsanto only to keep track of "public disclosure" of its opponents. He also said that Total Intelligence was a "totally separate entity from Blackwater."

However, Scahill has copies of emails from Cofer Black after the meeting with Wilson for Monsanto, where he explains to other former CIA agents, using their Blackwater e-mails, that the discussion with Wilson was that Total Intelligence had become "Monsanto's intelligence arm," spying on activists and other actions, including "our people to legally integrate these groups." Total Intelligence Monsanto paid $ 127,000 in 2008 and $ 105,000 in 2009.

No wonder that a company engaged in the "science of death" as Monsanto, which has been dedicated from the outset to produce toxic poisons spilling from Agent Orange to PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), pesticides, hormones and genetically modified seeds, is associated with another company of thugs.

Almost simultaneously with the publication of this article in The Nation, the Via Campesina reported the purchase of 500,000 shares of Monsanto, for more than $23 million by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which with this action completed the outing of the mask of "philanthropy." Another association that is not surprising.

It is a marriage between the two most brutal monopolies in the history of industrialism: Bill Gates controls more than 90 percent of the market share of proprietary computing and Monsanto about 90 percent of the global transgenic seed market and most global commercial seed. There does not exist in any other industrial sector monopolies so vast, whose very existence is a negation of the vaunted principle of "market competition" of capitalism. Both Gates and Monsanto are very aggressive in defending their ill-gotten monopolies.

Although Bill Gates might try to say that the Foundation is not linked to his business, all it proves is the opposite: most of their donations end up favoring the commercial investments of the tycoon, not really "donating" anything, but instead of paying taxes to the state coffers, he invests his profits in where it is favorable to him economically, including propaganda from their supposed good intentions. On the contrary, their "donations" finance projects as destructive as geoengineering or replacement of natural community medicines for high-tech patented medicines in the poorest areas of the world. What a coincidence, former Secretary of Health Julio Frenk and Ernesto Zedillo are advisers of the Foundation.

Like Monsanto, Gates is also engaged in trying to destroy rural farming worldwide, mainly through the "Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa" (AGRA). It works as a Trojan horse to deprive poor African farmers of their traditional seeds, replacing them with the seeds of their companies first, finally by genetically modified (GM). To this end, the Foundation hired Robert Horsch in 2006, the director of Monsanto. Now Gates, airing major profits, went straight to the source.

Blackwater, Monsanto and Gates are three sides of the same figure: the war machine on the planet and most people who inhabit it, are peasants, indigenous communities, people who want to share information and knowledge or any other who does not want to be in the aegis of profit and the destructiveness of capitalism.

* The author is a researcher at ETC Group
Translated from the Spanish version by:
Lisa Karpova, Pravda.Ru

NY Rep wants 50% discount for fresh produce bought with food stamps

By Stephen C. Webster
Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Congressman Anthony Weiner (D-NY) has an interesting idea: instead of paying the poor to buy cheap, processed foods that make them sick, offer a discount -- and thereby more food -- if they purchase fresh produce.

It's an innovation to welfare that does much more than maintain the status quo. The congressman argues that his program could even result in a significant savings on the total amount Americans spend annually on health care.

Under legislation Rep. Weiner has proposed, food stamp recipients would get a 50 percent discount for every government dollar they spend on fresh fruit and vegetables. Grocers who sell produce to food stamp recipients would still get the full sticker price.

The congressman hopes his bill would lead to more adults choosing to eat healthier foods from local sources, instead of centering their diets around mass-produced, processed food products that tend to be cheaper and more readily available.

With more than 72 million Americans currently considered obese, the proposed front-end investment of nearly $2.6 billion seems modest when compared to the government's annual obesity-related health costs, estimated to be approaching $168 billion a year. A media advisory from Weiner's office estimated that the initial investment in the program represents about 3.8 percent of the total spent on food stamps in 2009.

“We think this is a good way to incentivize good behavior and also to save tax payers a lot of money because obese citizens wind up costing the treasury an enormous amount,” the congressman told CBS New York.

Weiner's move follows a proposal by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who asked the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) to forbid the use of food stamps to purchase sugary sodas in New York, as part of what he called an "experiment". The mayor's suggestion, while seemingly well-meaning, was largely viewed as unworkable in that the USDA does not have the authority to change federal law, which is rather particular about how to define "food" -- and soda is not omitted.

According to The New York Times, the law permits that food stamps be used to purchase "any food or food product for home consumption except alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and hot foods or hot food products ready for immediate consumption."

The USDA also rejected a similar proposal from Minnesota in 2004, the Times noted.
Weiner's proposal, on the other hand, seems like it would have a better chance at accomplishing its goals, but only if Democrats can get it through Congress.

"On average, persons who are obese have medical costs that are $1,429 more than persons of normal weight," Rep. Weiner's office said in its advisory. "According to the [National Institutes of Health], American life expectance will drop by as much as 5 years unless aggressive efforts are made to slow rising rates of obesity."

A recent Colombia University study placed life expectancy in the US at 49th when compared to other industrialized nations. The study's authors posited that high rates of obesity, smoking, homicides and traffic fatalities may have contributed to the decline.

"We know Americans will make healthy food decisions when they have the means to do so," Rep. Weiner said. "This program will help curb obesity, cut health costs and provided much needed financial relief to 41 million Americans."

Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's Alive! Reid Files Cloture on Food Safety Bill

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) filed cloture on the food safety bill late yesterday, a move that will ready the measure for a vote after the midterm election, an aide told Food Safety News.

The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act has stalled in recent weeks despite heightened concerns about food safety following a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella linked to eggs.  The bill, which has had bipartisan support, would, among other things, give the U.S. Food and Drug Administration greater authority to test food, enhance its ability to trace outbreaks and empower it to order recalls of contaminated food.

Now the languishing measure may be one of the first bills up for consideration in November when Congress reconvenes after the election, although it will compete with a variety of high profile issues, including a defense authorization bill and whether to extend the Bush tax cuts.

Majority leadership tried twice last week asked for unanimous consent to bring the bill to the floor for consideration.  Both times Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) objected, citing the bill's price tag and a number of other concerns.

Filing cloture begins the process of moving the bill to the floor under restricted debate, removing the possibility of a filibuster and circumventing Coburn's objection to bringing the bill to the floor.  The procedure requires 60 votes.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) recently told reporters he believes he has over 90 votes for the bill.  It is likely that the amendments allowed to be offered will remain the same.

Carol Tucker-Foreman, food policy fellow at Consumer Federation of America, says the bill will pass "if it can just get to the floor," but expressed caution in assuming there would be a lame duck session vote, because as many as 20 bills may be competing for consideration in the very short time period.

"If [Republicans] win control of the Senate or even make big inroads on the [Democrat] majority [in the election], they'll be reluctant to pass any bill that they think could be 'improved' next year by a Republican-controlled Congress," explained Tucker-Foreman in an email response to Food Safety News.  "However, S 510 may be the least objectionable."

Though several news outlets have pronounced the food safety bill dead, Tucker-Foreman disagrees. "It's an important public health bill--and we'll work hard to get it considered during the lame duck session," she said.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

October Newsletter

Berea Gardens Agriculture Ministries
October Newsletter

The heat of summer has finally passed and the incredible beauty of the Appalachian Fall is upon us.  This is the time of year we love most here, and the gardens love it too.  The transition to our fall crops is complete and we have a beautiful array of plants growing wonderfuly without the stress from weeds and pests that are so troublesome during the hotter months.  Broccoli, cauliflower, beets, spinach, carrots, lettuce, and a wide array of other vegetables are looking beautiful and will provide for a nice harvest over the coming months.  Our greenhouses will allow us to grow many things right through the winter.

We have had a wonderful season at or Farmer's Market and have made many warm friends from the local folks that we have met.  The season ends the last week in October, but for us it will also be a new beginning.  Our vison of opening a bulk food store to serve our community is close to reality.  Betty Nicholson, a dear friend from Hartland and recently from Black Hills Health & Education Center, has joined us to take charge of starting up and operating the store.  We look forward to meeting some of the needs in our area, as well as having an opportunity for health education and a way of providing practical advice and products for healthy eating.  The store will also give us a year-round venue for marketing the produce from the farm.  In time, we hope to be able to offer an online version of the store that can serve a wider region with bulk beans, grains, nuts and a variety of other products.  Please pray for this venture and our ability to use it as a means to further other aspects of health and lifestyle education that will benefit our community.

Our Agriculture Training Program has had a good season and dozens of people took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about this important skill.  Many of our attendees have sent comments that their gardening success has been enhanced by what they learned here.   We still have openings for the October 11 session, and if you desire to participate you may find information on the Berea Gardens Website.




True Education Conference Series Scheduled for November
  26-28

The annual True Education Series hosted by Bob Jorgensen is coming again to Berea Gardens at the end of November.  Please plan now to join us from November 26-28 for a wonderful opportunity to fellowship and share more about true Christian education.  Speakers this year will include Pastor Dave Westbrook, author of "Out of the Cities and Director of Back to Enoch Ministires, Elvin Easton of The Living Choice in the Dominican Republic, and others. Bob Jorgensen of Medical Missionary Press will host the series.  Bob has made a very thorough study of the principles of True Education and the implementation of these principles in Adventist history. I will be sending updated information as the total speaker schedule is selected.

Agriculture Training Week
Nov. 29 - Dec. 2
The week following the True Education Conference will be an opportunity to get some practical agriculture training. From Monday, November 29 to December 2 class sessions will be held on developing land for growing crops, soil chemistry and fertility, plant pathology and pests, hazards of modern commercial agriculture and regulatory compliance issues for small market growerrs as well as round table discussions with the 'experts' speaking at the weekend conference. 

Agriculture Conference December 3-5

The first conference for many of the Adventist educators and promoters of agriculture is an opportunity to meet and talk with those that are actively engaged in this work; the A,B, and C of education. Speakers include Bob Jorgensen, Jerry Travers, Brad Neely, John Dysinger, Elvin Easton, Bob Gregory and others. Topics will cover cutting edge trends in the understanding of healthful agricultural production.

Please plan now to join us.  Further announcements and details about speakers and accomodations will be coming to you soon.

Tester Offers Hope on S. 510, Help for Small Farms

Senator Jon Tester (D-MT) says he expects the Senate to approve his amendment aimed at lessening the impact of the pending food safety bill on small-scale food producers. While the fate and immediate timeline for the legislation remains highly uncertain, Tester's office released an updated version of his amendment late last week.

"While I agree that we need to have better regulations for these multistate, huge corporations that take food off fields, throw it all together and distribute it to many states, I think the state and local entities can do a much better job (regulating) the people who are direct-marketing food," Sen. Tester, a third-generation farmer, told reporters during a visit to PEAS Farm in Missoula, Montana Friday.

The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition and other groups continue to lobby for the Tester amendment, which would exempt certain food facilities and farms with under $500,000 in gross annual sales from preventative control plan requirements and exempt direct-market farmers from the coming produce safety regulations. The measure, co-sponsored by Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC), has been the subject of intense negotiations, but was ultimately not included in the final manager's package for the bill.

Carol Tucker-Foreman, a fellow at the Consumer Federation of America's Food Polity Institute, told Food Safety News in August that she was surprised some of Tester's language wasn't included.  Tucker-Foreman believes at least portions of the amendment will ultimately be added to the Senate bill.

"People don't want to hurt small farmers and farmers markets, but they also don't want to keep getting sick," said Tucker-Foreman in an interview with Food Safety News after the manager's amendment was released.  "If you put aside the rants, the language of the bill will be there. They are really taking the middle course here."

If the Tester amendment is added, NSAC says it will support the Senate bill.  "However, we strongly oppose the companion House measure, and stand ready to defend the Senate bill in conference with the House should that prove necessary," the group said in a statement.

The latest version of Tester's amendment was released Friday, the measure still charges local and state food safety and health agencies to oversee small-scale producers. According to his office, the measure would apply to producers that:

-Have annual sales of less than $500,000, and sell the majority of their product directly to consumers, restaurants and retailers within the same state--or within 400 miles, or that

-Fall within the Food and Drug Administration's category of "very small business"

Tester addressed reporters along with Josh Slotnick, who operates PEAS Farm.  Slotnick said his farm lacks the resources to meet the would-be requirements in the food safety bill, stressing the need for Tester's amendment.

According to a release from Tester's office, Paul Hubbard, a consumer advocate with the Community Food Agriculture Coalition, also strongly supports Tester's amendment.

"Jon understands that a one-size-fits-all, cookie-cutter approach to food safety just won't work," Hubbard said.  "We appreciate his work to boost food safety in a common sense way that will keep small family farms and ranches in business for future generations."

"The folks with me here today know firsthand that foodborne illnesses don't come from family agriculture," said Tester.  "As we do the vital work to make sure the food on our kitchen tables is safe, we've also got to make sure we don't treat small producers the same way we treat big corporate farms.  That's exactly what my amendment will fix."

Tester's amendment is supported by more than 150 local, state, and national food organizations, including NSAC.  Consumer and industry groups in Washington, DC argue that the amendment would leave large loopholes in a food safety bill they've been fighting for over a year.

The unanimous consent agreement offered by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) last week would allow Tester to bring his amendment to the floor during debate. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) remains opposed to the UC proposal, creating a roadblock for the bill unless Reid decides to take the time to invoke cloture.

Tester offered a hint of optimism for the legislation, which has been pronounced dead by several media outlets.

"He's showed some leanings toward pulling his hold on the bill this last week, so we're hopeful that will happen soon at this point," said Tester.  

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Monsanto and Blackwater's black ops

NOTE: Internal company documents show Monsanto paid a Blackwater entity (Total Intelligence) over $200,000 to scan "activist blogs and websites", and suggest the issue of infiltration also arose.
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Blackwater's Black Ops
Jeremy Scahill
The Nation, September 15 2010
http://www.thenation.com/article/154739/blackwaters-black-ops?page=0,0

Over the past several years, entities closely linked to the private security firm Blackwater have provided intelligence, training and security services to US and foreign governments as well as several multinational corporations, including Monsanto, Chevron, the Walt Disney Company, Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines and banking giants Deutsche Bank and Barclays, according to documents obtained by The Nation. Blackwater's work for corporations and government agencies was contracted using two companies owned by Blackwater's owner and founder, Erik Prince: Total Intelligence Solutions and the Terrorism Research Center (TRC). Prince is listed as the chairman of both companies in internal company documents, which show how the web of companies functions as a highly coordinated operation. Officials from Total Intelligence, TRC and Blackwater (which now calls itself Xe Services) did not respond to numerous requests for comment for this article.

One of the most incendiary details in the documents is that Blackwater, through Total Intelligence, sought to become the "intel arm" of Monsanto, offering to provide operatives to infiltrate activist groups organizing against the multinational biotech firm.

Governmental recipients of intelligence services and counterterrorism training from Prince's companies include the Kingdom of Jordan, the Canadian military and the Netherlands police, as well as several US military bases, including Fort Bragg, home of the elite Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), and Fort Huachuca, where military interrogators are trained, according to the documents. In addition, Blackwater worked through the companies for the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the US European Command.

On September 3 the New York Times reported that Blackwater had "created a web of more than 30 shell companies or subsidiaries in part to obtain millions of dollars in American government contracts after the security company came under intense criticism for reckless conduct in Iraq." The documents obtained by The Nation reveal previously unreported details of several such companies and open a rare window into the sensitive intelligence and security operations Blackwater performs for a range of powerful corporations and government agencies. The new evidence also sheds light on the key roles of several former top CIA officials who went on to work for Blackwater.

The coordinator of Blackwater's covert CIA business, former CIA paramilitary officer Enrique "Ric" Prado, set up a global network of foreign operatives, offering their "deniability" as a "big plus" for potential Blackwater customers, according to company documents. The CIA has long used proxy forces to carry out extralegal actions or to shield US government involvement in unsavory operations from scrutiny. In some cases, these "deniable" foreign forces don't even know who they are working for. Prado and Prince built up a network of such foreigners while Blackwater was at the center of the CIA's assassination program, beginning in 2004. They trained special missions units at one of Prince's properties in Virginia with the intent of hunting terrorism suspects globally, often working with foreign operatives. A former senior CIA official said the benefit of using Blackwater's foreign operatives in CIA operations was that "you wouldn't want to have American fingerprints on it."

While the network was originally established for use in CIA operations, documents show that Prado viewed it as potentially valuable to other government agencies. In an e-mail in October 2007 with the subject line "Possible Opportunity in DEA—Read and Delete," Prado wrote to a Total Intelligence executive with a pitch for the Drug Enforcement Administration. That executive was an eighteen-year DEA veteran with extensive government connections who had recently joined the firm. Prado explained that Blackwater had developed "a rapidly growing, worldwide network of folks that can do everything from surveillance to ground truth to disruption operations." He added, "These are all foreign nationals (except for a few cases where US persons are the conduit but no longer 'play' on the street), so deniability is built in and should be a big plus."

The executive wrote back and suggested there "may be an interest" in those services. The executive suggested that "one of the best places to start may be the Special Operations Division, (SOD) which is located in Chantilly, VA," telling Prado the name of the special agent in charge. The SOD is a secretive joint command within the Justice Department, run by the DEA. It serves as the command-and-control center for some of the most sensitive counternarcotics and law enforcement operations conducted by federal forces. The executive also told Prado that US attachés in Mexico; Bogotá, Colombia; and Bangkok, Thailand, would potentially be interested in Prado's network. Whether this network was activated, and for what customers, cannot be confirmed. A former Blackwater employee who worked on the company's CIA program declined to comment on Prado's work for the company, citing its classified status.

In November 2007 officials from Prince's companies developed a pricing structure for security and intelligence services for private companies and wealthy individuals. One official wrote that Prado had the capacity to "develop infrastructures" and "conduct ground-truth and security activities." According to the pricing chart, potential customers could hire Prado and other Blackwater officials to operate in the United States and globally: in Latin America, North Africa, francophone countries, the Middle East, Europe, China, Russia, Japan, and Central and Southeast Asia. A four-man team headed by Prado for countersurveillance in the United States cost $33,600 weekly, while "safehouses" could be established for $250,000, plus operational costs. Identical services were offered globally. For $5,000 a day, clients could hire Prado or former senior CIA officials Cofer Black and Robert Richer for "representation" to national "decision-makers." Before joining Blackwater, Black, a twenty-eight-year CIA veteran, ran the agency's counterterrorism center, while Richer was the agency's deputy director of operations. (Neither Black nor Richer currently works for the company.)

As Blackwater became embroiled in controversy following the Nisour Square massacre, Prado set up his own company, Constellation Consulting Group (CCG), apparently taking some of Blackwater's covert CIA work with him, though he maintained close ties to his former employer. In an e-mail to a Total Intelligence executive in February 2008, Prado wrote that he "recently had major success in developing capabilities in Mali [Africa] that are of extreme interest to our major sponsor and which will soon launch a substantial effort via my small shop." He requested Total Intelligence's help in analyzing the "North Mali/Niger terrorist problem."

In October 2009 Blackwater executives faced a crisis when they could not account for their government-issued Secure Telephone Unit, which is used by the CIA, the National Security Agency and other military and intelligence services for secure communications. A flurry of e-mails were sent around as personnel from various Blackwater entities tried to locate the device. One former Blackwater official wrote that because he had left the company it was "not really my problem," while another declared, "I have no 'dog in this fight.'" Eventually, Prado stepped in, e-mailing the Blackwater officials to "pass my number" to the "OGA POC," meaning the Other Government Agency (parlance for CIA) Point of Contact.

What relationship Prado's CCG has with the CIA is not known. An early version of his company's website boasted that "CCG professionals have already conducted operations on five continents, and have proven their ability to meet the most demanding client needs" and that the company has the "ability to manage highly-classified contracts." CCG, the site said, "is uniquely positioned to deliver services that no other company can, and can deliver results in the most remote areas with little or no outside support." Among the services advertised were "Intelligence and Counter-Intelligence (human and electronic), Unconventional Military Operations, Counterdrug Operations, Aviation Services, Competitive Intelligence, Denied Area Access...and Paramilitary Training."

The Nation has previously reported on Blackwater's work for the CIA and JSOC in Pakistan. New documents reveal a history of activity relating to Pakistan by Blackwater. Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto worked with the company when she returned to Pakistan to campaign for the 2008 elections, according to the documents. In October 2007, when media reports emerged that Bhutto had hired "American security," senior Blackwater official Robert Richer wrote to company executives, "We need to watch this carefully from a number of angles. If our name surfaces, the Pakistani press reaction will be very important. How that plays through the Muslim world will also need tracking." Richer wrote that "we should be prepared to [sic] a communique from an affiliate of Al-Qaida if our name surfaces (BW). That will impact the security profile." Clearly a word is missing in the e-mail or there is a typo that leaves unclear what Richer meant when he mentioned the Al Qaeda communiqué. Bhutto was assassinated two months later. Blackwater officials subsequently scheduled a meeting with her family representatives in Washington, in January 2008.

Through Total Intelligence and the Terrorism Research Center, Blackwater also did business with a range of multinational corporations. According to internal Total Intelligence communications, biotech giant Monsanto—the world's largest supplier of genetically modified seeds—hired the firm in 2008–09. The relationship between the two companies appears to have been solidified in January 2008 when Total Intelligence chair Cofer Black traveled to Zurich to meet with Kevin Wilson, Monsanto's security manager for global issues.

After the meeting in Zurich, Black sent an e-mail to other Blackwater executives, including to Prince and Prado at their Blackwater e-mail addresses. Black wrote that Wilson "understands that we can span collection from internet, to reach out, to boots on the ground on legit basis protecting the Monsanto [brand] name.... Ahead of the curve info and insight/heads up is what he is looking for." Black added that Total Intelligence "would develop into acting as intel arm of Monsanto." Black also noted that Monsanto was concerned about animal rights activists and that they discussed how Blackwater "could have our person(s) actually join [activist] group(s) legally." Black wrote that initial payments to Total Intelligence would be paid out of Monsanto's "generous protection budget" but would eventually become a line item in the company's annual budget. He estimated the potential payments to Total Intelligence at between $100,000 and $500,000. According to documents, Monsanto paid Total Intelligence $127,000 in 2008 and $105,000 in 2009.

Reached by telephone and asked about the meeting with Black in Zurich, Monsanto's Wilson initially said, "I'm not going to discuss it with you." In a subsequent e-mail to The Nation, Wilson confirmed he met Black in Zurich and that Monsanto hired Total Intelligence in 2008 and worked with the company until early 2010. He denied that he and Black discussed infiltrating animal rights groups, stating "there was no such discussion." He claimed that Total Intelligence only provided Monsanto "with reports about the activities of groups or individuals that could pose a risk to company personnel or operations around the world which were developed by monitoring local media reports and other publicly available information. The subject matter ranged from information regarding terrorist incidents in Asia or kidnappings in Central America to scanning the content of activist blogs and websites." Wilson asserted that Black told him Total Intelligence was "a completely separate entity from Blackwater."

Monsanto was hardly the only powerful corporation to enlist the services of Blackwater's constellation of companies. The Walt Disney Company hired Total Intelligence and TRC to do a "threat assessment" for potential film shoot locations in Morocco, with former CIA officials Black and Richer reaching out to their former Moroccan intel counterparts for information. The job provided a "good chance to impress Disney," one company executive wrote. How impressed Disney was is not clear; in 2009 the company paid Total Intelligence just $24,000.

Total Intelligence and TRC also provided intelligence assessments on China to Deutsche Bank. "The Chinese technical counterintelligence threat is one of the highest in the world," a TRC analyst wrote, adding, "Many four and five star hotel rooms and restaurants are live-monitored with both audio and video" by Chinese intelligence. He also said that computers, PDAs and other electronic devices left unattended in hotel rooms could be cloned. Cellphones using the Chinese networks, the analyst wrote, could have their microphones remotely activated, meaning they could operate as permanent listening devices. He concluded that Deutsche Bank reps should "bring no electronic equipment into China." Warning of the use of female Chinese agents, the analyst wrote, "If you don't have women coming onto you all the time at home, then you should be suspicious if they start coming onto you when you arrive in China." For these and other services, the bank paid Total Intelligence $70,000 in 2009.

TRC also did background checks on Libyan and Saudi businessmen for British banking giant Barclays. In February 2008 a TRC executive e-mailed Prado and Richer revealing that Barclays asked TRC and Total Intelligence for background research on the top executives from the Saudi Binladin Group (SBG) and their potential "associations/connections with the Royal family and connections with Osama bin Ladin." In his report, Richer wrote that SBG's chair, Bakr Mohammed bin Laden, "is well and favorably known to both arab and western intelligence service[s]" for cooperating in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. Another SBG executive, Sheikh Saleh bin Laden, is described by Richer as "a very savvy businessman" who is "committed to operating with full transparency to Saudi's security services" and is considered "the most vehement within the extended BL family in terms of criticizing UBL's actions and beliefs."

In August Blackwater and the State Department reached a $42 million settlement for hundreds of violations of US export control regulations. Among the violations cited was the unauthorized export of technical data to the Canadian military. Meanwhile, Blackwater's dealings with Jordanian officials are the subject of a federal criminal prosecution of five former top Blackwater executives. The Jordanian government paid Total Intelligence more than $1.6 million in 2009.

Some of the training Blackwater provided to Canadian military forces was in Blackwater/TRC's "Mirror Image" course, where trainees live as a mock Al Qaeda cell in an effort to understand the mindset and culture of insurgents. Company literature describes it as "a classroom and field training program designed to simulate terrorist recruitment, training, techniques and operational tactics." Documents show that in March 2009 Blackwater/TRC spent $6,500 purchasing local tribal clothing in Afghanistan as well as assorted "propaganda materials—posters, Pakistan Urdu maps, etc." for Mirror Image, and another $9,500 on similar materials this past January in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

According to internal documents, in 2009 alone the Canadian military paid Blackwater more than $1.6 million through TRC. A Canadian military official praised the program in a letter to the center, saying it provided "unique and valid cultural awareness and mission specific deployment training for our soldiers in Afghanistan," adding that it was "a very effective and operationally current training program that is beneficial to our mission."

This past summer Erik Prince put Blackwater up for sale and moved to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. But he doesn't seem to be leaving the shadowy world of security and intelligence. He says he moved to Abu Dhabi because of its "great proximity to potential opportunities across the entire Middle East, and great logistics," adding that it has "a friendly business climate, low to no taxes, free trade and no out of control trial lawyers or labor unions. It's pro-business and opportunity." It also has no extradition treaty with the United States.

Monday, August 23, 2010

USDA to Hold Public Meeting on Codex Standards

USDA to Hold Public Meeting on Codex Committee on Processed Fruits and Vegetables

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Food Safety yesterday announced a public meeting to receive comments on a draft U.S. position for the 25th session of the Codex Committee on Processed Fruits and Vegetables, the group responsible for setting worldwide standards for a variety of processed fruits and vegetables.

The Committee is scheduled to meet in Denpasar, Indonesia October 25-29 to hash out global standards for everything from dried fruits and veggies to canned peas and beans and jams and jellies. According to the USDA, revising standards for quick frozen fruits and vegetables is a top agenda item for the meeting.

The public meeting to provide information and accept comments on the U.S. draft position is scheduled for Monday, August 30, 2010, from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m., in Room 2068, USDA, South Building, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, DC. To participate through teleconference, dial (888) 996-4918, and enter the passcode 63757.

A complete agenda and documents relating to the Committee meeting will be available on the Codex Alimentarius Website at www.codexalimentarius.net/current.asp.

Individuals are invited to submit written comments electronically, indicating they apply to the 25th session of the Codex Committee on Processed Fruits and Vegetables, to uscodex@fsis.usda.gov.

For further information about the public meeting, contact Doreen Chen-Moulec at (202) 720-4063 or Doreen.Chen-Moulec@fsis.usda.gov.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

FEDERAL COURT RESCINDS USDA APPROVAL OF GENETICALLY ENGINEERED SUGAR BEETS

MICHAEL LIEDTKE
Associated Press, 14 August 2010
http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5ggF-I0WscO7Ejo_-2GgVKjVFe7XQD9HJFJ8O0

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal judge has revoked the government's approval of genetically altered sugar beets until regulators complete a more thorough review of how the scientifically engineered crops affect other food.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey S. White Friday means sugar beet growers won't be able to use the modified seeds after harvesting the biotechnology beets already planted on more than 1 million acres spanning 10 states from Michigan to Oregon. All the seed comes from Oregon's Willamette Valley.

Additional planting won't be allowed until the U.S. Department of Agriculture submits an environmental impact statement. That sort of extensive examination can take two or three years.

White declined a request to issue an injunction that would have imposed a permanent ban on the biotech beets, which Monsanto Co. developed to resist its popular weed killer, Roundup Ready. Farmers have embraced the technology as a way to lower their costs on labor, fuel and equipment.

The Center for Food Safety, Organic Seed Alliance and Sierra Club have been trying to uproot the biotech beets since filing a 2008 lawsuit.

Andrew Kimbrell, the Center for Food Safety's executive director, hailed Friday's decision as a major victory in the fight against genetically engineered crops and chided the Agriculture Department for approving the genetically engineered seeds without a full environmental review.

"Hopefully, the agency will learn that their mandate is to protect farmers, consumers and the environment and not the bottom line of corporations such as Monsanto," Kimbrell said in a statement.

Attempts to reach the Agriculture Department for comment Saturday were unsuccessful. Monsanto, based in St. Louis, referred requests for comment to the America Sugarbeet Growers Association, which pointed to a Saturday statement from the Sugar Industry Biotech Council.

In the statement, the sugar beet council said it intends to help the Agriculture Department come up with "interim measures" that would allow continued production of the genetically altered seeds while regulators conduct their environmental review.

If a temporary solution isn't found, the planting restrictions are likely to cause major headaches for sugar beet growers and food processors.

The genetically altered sugar beets provide about one-half of the U.S. sugar supply and some farmers have warned there aren't enough conventional seeds and herbicide to fill the void. The scientific seeds account for about 95 percent of the current sugar beet crop in the U.S.

"The value of sugar beet crops is critically important to rural communities and their economies," the Sugar Industry Biotech Council said Saturday.

White expressed little sympathy for any disruption his decision might cause. He noted in his 10-page ruling that regulators had time to prepare for the disruption because he had already overturned the deregulation of the genetically altered beets in a decision issued last September.

The Agriculture Department "has already had more than sufficient time to take interim measures, but failed to act expediently," White wrote.

Organic farmers, food safety advocates and conservation groups contend genetically altered crops such as the sugar beets could share their genes with conventionally grown food, such as chard and table beets.

Those arguments helped persuade another federal judge in San Francisco to stop the planting of genetically altered alfalfa seeds in 2007 pending a full environmental review that still hasn't been completed.

Monsanto took that case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which in June overturned an injunction against the company's sale of the modified seeds.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Alarming effects in GM wheat

Genetically engineered wheat shows unexpected ecological behaviour
Testbiotech, 26 July 2010
http://www.testbiotech.org/en/node/406

*Testbiotech calls for new concept in risk assessment

Munich - Recent research by Swiss scientists has shown some alarming effects in genetically engineered wheat. The wheat grew normally and had better resistance to a certain fungal disease in the greenhouse, but the metabolism of the plants went out of control after being exposed to environmental conditions. The plants were severely affected by the extremely toxic fungal disease (ergot disease) and yield was lowered by up to 50 percent. Testbiotech is calling for genetically engineered plants to undergo comprehensive 'stress tests' before they are released into the environment.

„The results from Switzerland show a huge gap in the risk assessment of genetically engineered plants. So far, we don't know enough about how these plants behave under certain environmental conditions such as climate change. The technically inserted gene sequences are not under the control of the plants' genome regulation. Their stability needs to be tested systematically under various conditions,” says Christoph Then from the German expert group Testbiotech.

The observed effects are a general problem in genetically engineered plants. It is known that the regulation of a plants' genome can be disturbed by the invasive methods involved in genetic engineering. If these plants are exposed to environmental stress factors, their regulation can derail. Possible negative impacts can be a higher content of toxic or anti-nutritious compounds, a higher infestation of pests or loss of yield. So far very little has been published on the interrelation of environmental factors and possible unintended effects in genetically engineered plants.

Testbiotech does not agree with the Swiss researchers who are arguing for experimental field trials to explore the plants' reaction. As Christoph Then explains: ”Field trials are not appropriate for systematic testing of the plants' reaction to defined environmental conditions. There are too many random factors, depending on certain circumstances. The change of extreme climatic conditions can be simulated much better under greenhouse conditions than by just growing the plants on some field sites.” These tests should be mandatory for the risk assessment of genetically engineered plants. The expert group first defined their concept of what they call a 'crash test' in a publication in October 2009.

Publication Zeller S.et al (2010). Transgene × Environment Interactions in Genetically Modified Wheat: http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0011405

Report of Testbiotech about risk assessment and concept of 'Crash-Test': http://www.testbiotech.org/node/96
Contact:

For further questions please contact Christoph Then: 0151 54638040

Institute for Independent Impact Assessment in Biotechnology
Frohschammerstr. 14,
80807 München
Fon: +49 (0)89-358 99 92 76
Fax: +49 (0)89-359 66 22
info@testbiotech.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
www.testbiotech.org

Crops Absorb Pharmaceuticals From Treated Sewage

Environmental Pollutants: Soybeans can accumulate drugs and personal care products commonly found in wastewater and solid waste.

Each year, U.S. farmers fertilize their fields with millions of tons of treated sewage and irrigate with billions of gallons of recycled water. Through this treated waste, an array of pharmaceutical and personal care products (PPCPs) make their way unregulated from consumers' homes into farm fields. Now researchers find that at least one crop, soybeans, can readily absorb these chemicals, which raises concerns about the possible effects on people and animals that consume the PPCP-containing plants (Environ. Sci. Technol., DOI: 10.1021/es1011115).

Researchers have previously shown that food crops take up veterinary medicines from manure fertilizer and some cabbage species absorb human pharmaceuticals when grown in hydroponic conditions. But environmental scientist Chenxi Wu and colleagues at the University of Toledo in Ohio wanted to determine if a major food crop could absorb common PPCPs under more realistic agricultural conditions, such as plants grown in soil.  If the chemicals do find their way into the crops under real-life conditions, they could be toxic to the plants, Wu says. "Or they could accumulate through the food chain, and eventually end up in human consumers," he adds.

In a greenhouse experiment, the scientists focused on soybeans, the second most-widely grown crop in the U.S. Half the plants grew in PPCP-tainted soil, to simulate fertilization with treated solid waste, while the researchers irrigated the other half with chemical-spiked water, to replicate wastewater irrigation. They laced water and soil with three pharmaceuticals-carbamazepine, diphenhydramine, and fluoxetine-and two antimicrobial compounds found in personal care products-triclosan and triclocarban. 

>>> Read the Full Article

Monday, August 2, 2010

Monsanto: The world's poster child for corporate manipulation and deceit

NaturalNews.com printable article

Originally published July 30 2010  
by Jeffrey M. Smith

(NaturalNews) At a biotech industry conference in January 1999, a representative from Arthur Anderson, LLP explained how they had helped Monsanto design their strategic plan. First, his team asked Monsanto executives what their ideal future looked like in 15 to 20 years. The executives described a world with 100 percent of all commercial seeds genetically modified and patented. Anderson consultants then worked backwards from that goal, and developed the strategy and tactics to achieve it. They presented Monsanto with the steps and procedures needed to obtain a place of industry dominance in a world in which natural seeds were virtually extinct.

This was a bold new direction for Monsanto, which needed a big change to distance them from a controversial past. As a chemical company, they had polluted the landscape with some of the most poisonous substances ever produced, contaminated virtually every human and animal on earth, and got fined and convicted of deception and wrongdoing. According to a former Monsanto vice president, "We were despised by our customers."

So they redefined themselves as a "life sciences" company, and then proceeded to pollute the landscape with toxic herbicide, contaminate the gene pool for all future generations with genetically modified plants, and get fined and convicted of deception and wrongdoing. Monsanto's chief European spokesman admitted in 1999, "Everybody over here hates us." Now the rest of the world is catching on.

"Saving the world," and other lies

Monsanto's public relations story about genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are largely based on five concepts.

1. GMOs are needed to feed the world.
2. GMOs have been thoroughly tested and proven safe.
3. GMOs increase yield.
4. GMOs reduce the use of agricultural chemicals.
5. GMOs can be contained, and therefore coexist with non-GM crops.

All five are pure myths -- blatant falsehoods about the nature and benefit of this infant technology. The experience of former Monsanto employee Kirk Azevedo helps expose the first two lies, and provides some insight into the nature of the people working at the company.

In 1996, Monsanto recruited young Kirk Azevedo to sell their genetically engineered cotton. Azevedo accepted their offer not because of the pay increase, but due to the writings of Monsanto CEO Robert Shapiro. Shapiro had painted a picture of feeding the world and cleaning up the environment with his company's new technology. When he visited Monsanto's St. Louis headquarters for new employee training, Azevedo shared his enthusiasm for Shapiro's vision during a meeting. When the session ended, a company vice president pulled him aside and set him straight. "Wait a second," he told Azevedo. "What Robert Shapiro says is one thing. But what we do is something else. We are here to make money. He is the front man who tells a story. We don't even understand what he is saying." Azevedo realized he was working for "just another profit-oriented company," and all the glowing words about helping the planet were just a front.

A few months later he got another shock. A company scientist told him that Roundup Ready cotton plants contained new, unintended proteins that had resulted from the gene insertion process. No safety studies had been conducted on the proteins, none were planned, and the cotton plants, which were part of field trials near his home, were being fed to cattle. Azevedo "was afraid at that time that some of these proteins may be toxic."

He asked the PhD in charge of the test plot to destroy the cotton rather than feed it to cattle, arguing that until the protein had been evaluated, the cows' milk or meat could be harmful. The scientist refused. Azevedo approached everyone on his team at Monsanto to raise concerns about the unknown protein, but no one was interested. "I was somewhat ostracized," he said. "Once I started questioning things, people wanted to keep their distance from me. . . . Anything that interfered with advancing the commercialization of this technology was going to be pushed aside." Azevedo decided to leave Monsanto. He said, "I'm not going to be part of this disaster."

Monsanto's toxic past

Azevedo got a small taste of Monsanto's character. A verdict in a lawsuit a few years later made it more explicit. On February 22, 2002, Monsanto was found guilty for poisoning the town of Anniston, Alabama with their PCB factory and covering it up for decades. They were convicted of negligence, wantonness, suppression of the truth, nuisance, trespass, and outrage. According to Alabama law, to be guilty of outrage typically requires conduct "so outrageous in character and extreme in degree as to go beyond all possible bounds of decency so as to be regarded as atrocious and utterly intolerable in civilized society."(1)

The $700 million fine imposed on Monsanto was on behalf of the Anniston residents, whose blood levels of Monsanto's toxic PCBs were hundreds or thousands of times the average. This disease-producing chemical, used as coolants and lubricants for over 50 years, are now virtually omnipresent in the blood and tissues of humans and wildlife around the globe. Ken Cook of the Environmental Working Group says that based on Monsanto documents made public during a trial, the company "knew the truth from the very beginning. They lied about it. They hid the truth from their neighbors." One Monsanto memo explains their justification: "We can't afford to lose one dollar of business." Welcome to the world of Monsanto.

Infiltrating the minds and offices of the government

To get their genetically modified products approved, Monsanto has coerced, infiltrated, and paid off government officials around the globe. In Indonesia, Monsanto gave bribes and questionable payments to at least 140 officials, attempting to get their genetically modified (GM) cotton accepted.(2) In 1998, six Canadian government scientists testified before the Senate that they were being pressured by superiors to approve rbGH, that documents were stolen from a locked file cabinet in a government office, and that Monsanto offered them a bribe of $1-2 million to pass the drug without further tests. In India, one official tampered with the report on Bt cotton to increase the yield figures to favor Monsanto.(3) And Monsanto seems to have planted their own people in key government positions in India, Brazil, Europe, and worldwide.

Monsanto's GM seeds were also illegally smuggled into countries like Brazil and Paraguay, before GMOs were approved. Roberto Franco, Paraguay's Deputy Agriculture Ministry, tactfully admits, "It is possible that [Monsanto], let's say, promoted its varieties and its seeds" before they were approved. "We had to authorize GMO seeds because they had already entered our country in an, let's say, unorthodox way."

In the US, Monsanto's people regularly infiltrate upper echelons of government, and the company offers prominent positions to officials when they leave public service. This revolving door has included key people in the White House, regulatory agencies, even the Supreme Court. Monsanto also had George Bush Senior on their side, as evidenced by footage of Vice President Bush at Monsanto's facility offering help to get their products through government bureaucracy. He says, "Call me. We're in the 'de-reg' business. Maybe we can help."

Monsanto's influence continued into the Clinton administration. Dan Glickman, then Secretary of Agriculture, says, "there was a general feeling in agro-business and inside our government in the US that if you weren't marching lock-step forward in favor of rapid approvals of biotech products, rapid approvals of GMO crops, then somehow, you were anti-science and anti-progress." Glickman summarized the mindset in the government as follows:

"What I saw generically on the pro-biotech side was the attitude that the technology was good, and that it was almost immoral to say that it wasn't good, because it was going to solve the problems of the human race and feed the hungry and clothe the naked. . . . And there was a lot of money that had been invested in this, and if you're against it, you're Luddites, you're stupid. That, frankly, was the side our government was on. Without thinking, we had basically taken this issue as a trade issue and they, whoever 'they' were, wanted to keep our product out of their market. And they were foolish, or stupid, and didn't have an effective regulatory system. There was rhetoric like that even here in this department. You felt like you were almost an alien, disloyal, by trying to present an open-minded view on some of the issues being raised. So I pretty much spouted the rhetoric that everybody else around here spouted; it was written into my speeches."(4)

He admits, "when I opened my mouth in the Clinton Administration [about the lax regulations on GMOs], I got slapped around a little bit."

Hijacking the FDA to promote GMOs

In the US, new food additives must undergo extensive testing, including long-term animal feeding studies.(5) There is an exception, however, for substances that are deemed "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS). GRAS status allows a product to be commercialized without any additional testing. According to US law, to be considered GRAS the substance must be the subject of a substantial amount of peer-reviewed published studies (or equivalent) and there must be overwhelming consensus among the scientific community that the product is safe. GM foods had neither. Nonetheless, in a precedent-setting move that some experts contend was illegal, in 1992 the FDA declared that GM crops are GRAS as long as their producers say they are. Thus, the FDA does not require any safety evaluations or labels whatsoever. A company can even introduce a GM food to the market without telling the agency.

Such a lenient approach to GM crops was largely the result of Monsanto's legendary influence over the US government. According to the New York Times, "What Monsanto wished for from Washington, Monsanto and, by extension, the biotechnology industry got. . . . When the company abruptly decided that it needed to throw off the regulations and speed its foods to market, the White House quickly ushered through an unusually generous policy of self-policing." According to Dr. Henry Miller, who had a leading role in biotechnology issues at the FDA from 1979 to 1994, "In this area, the U.S. government agencies have done exactly what big agribusiness has asked them to do and told them to do."

The person who oversaw the development of the FDA's GMO policy was their Deputy Commissioner for Policy, Michael Taylor, whose position had been created especially for him in 1991. Prior to that, Taylor was an outside attorney for both Monsanto and the Food Biotechnology Council. After working at the FDA, he became Monsanto's vice president. He's now back at the FDA, as the US food safety czar.

Covering up health dangers

The policy Taylor oversaw in 1992 needed to create the impression that unintended effects from GM crops were not an issue. Otherwise their GRAS status would be undermined. But internal memos made public from a lawsuit showed that the overwhelming consensus among the agency scientists was that GM crops can have unpredictable, hard-to-detect side effects. Various departments and experts spelled these out in detail, listing allergies, toxins, nutritional effects, and new diseases as potential problems. They had urged superiors to require long-term safety studies.(6) In spite of the warnings, according to public interest attorney Steven Druker who studied the FDA's internal files, "References to the unintended negative effects of bioengineering were progressively deleted from drafts of the policy statement (over the protests of agency scientists)."(7)

FDA microbiologist Louis Pribyl wrote about the policy, "What has happened to the scientific elements of this document? Without a sound scientific base to rest on, this becomes a broad, general, 'What do I have to do to avoid trouble'-type document. . . . It will look like and probably be just a political document. . . . It reads very pro-industry, especially in the area of unintended effects."(8)

The FDA scientists' concerns were not only ignored, their very existence was denied. Consider the private memo summarizing opinions at the FDA, which stated, "The processes of genetic engineering and traditional breeding are different and according to the technical experts in the agency, they lead to different risks."(9) Contrast that with the official policy statement issued by Taylor, Monsanto's former attorney: "The agency is not aware of any information showing that foods derived by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way."(10) On the basis of this false statement, the FDA does not require GM food safety testing.

Fake safety assessments

Monsanto participates in a voluntary consultation process with the FDA that is derided by critics as a meaningless exercise. Monsanto submits whatever information it chooses, and the FDA does not conduct or commission any studies of its own. Former EPA scientist Doug Gurian-Sherman, who analyzed FDA review records obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, says the FDA consultation process "misses obvious errors in company-submitted data summaries, provides insufficient testing guidance, and does not require sufficiently detailed data to enable the FDA to assure that GE crops are safe to eat."(11)

But that is not the point of the exercise. The FDA doesn't actually approve the crops or declare them safe. That is Monsanto's job! At the end of the consultation, the FDA issues a letter stating:

"Based on the safety and nutritional assessment you have conducted, it is our understanding that Monsanto has concluded that corn products derived from this new variety are not materially different in composition, safety, and other relevant parameters from corn currently on the market, and that the genetically modified corn does not raise issues that would require premarket review or approval by FDA. . . . As you are aware, it is Monsanto's responsibility to ensure that foods marketed by the firm are safe, wholesome and in compliance with all applicable legal and regulatory requirements."(12)

The National Academy of Sciences and even the pro-GM Royal Society of London(13) describe the US system as inadequate and flawed. The editor of the prestigious journal Lancet said, "It is astounding that the US Food and Drug Administration has not changed their stance on genetically modified food adopted in 1992. . . . Governments should never have allowed these products into the food chain without insisting on rigorous testing for effects on health."(14)

One obvious reason for the inflexibility of the FDA is that they are officially charged with both regulating biotech products and promoting them -- a clear conflict. That is also why the FDA does not require mandatory labeling of GM foods. They ignore the desires of 90 percent of American citizens in order to support the economic interests of Monsanto and the four other GM food companies.

Monsanto's studies are secret, inadequate, and flawed

The unpublished industry studies submitted to regulators are typically kept secret based on the claim that it is "confidential business information." The Royal Society of Canada is one of many organizations that condemn this practice. Their Expert Panel called for "completely transparent" submissions, "open to full review by scientific peers" They wrote, "Peer review and independent corroboration of research findings are axioms of the scientific method, and part of the very meaning of the objectivity and neutrality of science."(15)

Whenever Monsanto's private submissions are made public through lawsuits or Freedom of Information Act Requests, it becomes clear why they benefit from secrecy. The quality of their research is often miserable, and would never stand up to peer-review. In December 2009, for example, a team of independent researchers published a study analyzing the raw data from three Monsanto rat studies. When they used proper statistical methods, they found that the three varieties of GM corn caused toxicity in the liver and kidneys, as well as significant changes in other organs.(16) Monsanto's studies, of course, had claimed that the research showed no problems. The regulators had believed Monsanto, and the corn is already in our food supply.

Monsanto rigs research to miss dangers

(17)
Monsanto has plenty of experience cooking the books of their research and hiding the hazards. They manufactured the infamous Agent Orange, for example, the cancer and birth-defect causing defoliant sprayed over Vietnam. It contaminated more than three million civilians and servicemen. But according to William Sanjour, who led the Toxic Waste Division of the Environmental Protection Agency, "thousands of veterans were disallowed benefits" because "Monsanto studies showed that dioxin [the main ingredient in Agent Orange] was not a human carcinogen." But his EPA colleague discovered that Monsanto had allegedly falsified the data in their studies. Sanjour says, "If they were done correctly, [the studies] would have reached just the opposite result."

Here are examples of tinkering with the truth about Monsanto's GM products:

• When dairy farmers inject cows with genetically modified bovine growth hormone (rbGH), more bovine growth hormone ends up in the milk. To allay fears, the FDA claimed that pasteurization destroys 90 percent of the hormone. In reality, the researchers of this drug (then owned by Monsanto) pasteurized the milk 120 times longer than normal. But they only destroyed 19 percent. So they spiked the milk with a huge amount of extra growth hormone and then repeated the long pasteurization. Only under these artificial conditions were they able to destroy 90 percent.

• To demonstrate that rbGH injections didn't interfere with cows' fertility, Monsanto appears to have secretly added cows to their study that were pregnant BEFORE injection.

• FDA Veterinarian Richard Burroughs said that Monsanto researchers dropped sick cows from studies, to make the drug appear safer.

• Richard Burroughs ordered more tests on rbGH than the industry wanted and was told by superiors he was slowing down the approval. He was fired and his tests canceled. The remaining whistle-blowers in the FDA had to write an anonymous letter to Congress, complaining of fraud and conflict of interest in the agency. They complained of one FDA scientist who arbitrarily increased the allowable levels of antibiotics in milk 100-fold, in order to facilitate the approval of rbGH. She had just become the head of an FDA department that was evaluating the research that she had recently done while an employee of Monsanto.

• Another former Monsanto scientist said that after company scientists conducted safety studies on bovine growth hormone, all three refused to drink any more milk, unless it was organic and therefore not treated with the drug. They feared the substantial increase of insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1) in the drugged milk. IGF-1 is a significant risk factor for cancer.

• When independent researchers published a study in July 1999 showing that Monsanto's GM soy contains 12-14 percent less cancer-fighting phytoestrogens, Monsanto responded with its own study, concluding that soy's phytoestrogen levels vary too much to even carry out a statistical analysis. Researchers failed to disclose, however, that they had instructed the laboratory to use an obsolete method of detection -- one that had been prone to highly variable results.

• To prove that GM protein breaks down quickly during simulated digestion, Monsanto uses thousands of times the amount of digestive enzymes and a much stronger acid than what the World Health Organization recommends.

• Monsanto told government regulators that the GM protein produced in their high-lysine GM corn was safe for humans, because it is also found in soil. They claimed that since people consume small residues of soil on fruits and vegetables, the protein has a safe history as part of the human diet. The actual amount of the GM corn protein an average US citizen would consume, however, if all their corn were Monsanto's variety, would be "about 30 billion to four trillion times" the amount normally consumed in soil residues. For equivalent exposure, people would have to eat as much as 22,000 pounds of soil every second of every day.

• Monsanto's high-lysine corn also had unusual levels of several nutritional components, such as protein and fiber. Instead of comparing it to normal corn, which would have revealed this significant disparity, Monsanto compared their GM corn to obscure corn varieties that were also far outside the normal range on precisely these values. On this basis, Monsanto could claim that there were no statistically significant differences in their GM corn content.

Methods used by Monsanto to hide problems are varied and plentiful. For example, researchers:

• Use animals with varied starting weights, to hinder the detection of food-related changes;
• Keep feeding studies short, to miss long-term impacts;
• Test Roundup Ready soybeans that have never been sprayed with Roundup -- as they always are in real world conditions;
• Avoid feeding animals the GM crop, but instead give them a single dose of GM protein produced from GM bacteria;
• Use too few subjects to obtain statistical significance;
• Use poor or inappropriate statistical methods, or fail to even mention statistical methods, or include essential data; and
• Employ insensitive detection techniques -- doomed to fail.

Monsanto's 1996 Journal of Nutrition study, which was their cornerstone article for "proving" that GM soy was safe, provides plenty of examples of masterfully rigged methods.

• Researchers tested GM soy on mature animals, not the more sensitive young ones. GMO safety expert Arpad Pusztai says the older animals "would have to be emaciated or poisoned to show anything."

• Organs were never weighed.

• The GM soy was diluted up to 12 times which, according to an expert review, "would probably ensure that any possible undesirable GM effects did not occur."

• The amount of protein in the feed was "artificially too high," which would mask negative impacts of the soy.

• Samples were pooled from different locations and conditions, making it nearly impossible for compositional differences to be statistically significant.

• Data from the only side-by-side comparison was removed from the study and never published. When it was later recovered, it revealed that Monsanto's GM soy had significantly lower levels of important constituents (e.g. protein, a fatty acid, and phenylalanine, an essential amino acid) and that toasted GM soy meal had nearly twice the amount of a lectin -- which interferes with the body's ability to assimilate nutrients. Moreover, the amount of trypsin inhibitor, a known soy allergen, was as much as seven times higher in cooked GM soy compared to a cooked non-GM control. Monsanto named their study, "The composition of glyphosate-tolerant soybean seeds is equivalent to that of conventional soybeans."

A paper published in Nutrition and Health analyzed all peer-reviewed feeding studies on GM foods as of 2003. It came as no surprise that Monsanto's Journal of Nutrition study, along with the other four peer-reviewed animal feeding studies that were "performed more or less in collaboration with private companies," reported no negative effects of the GM diet. "On the other hand," they wrote, "adverse effects were reported (but not explained) in [the five] independent studies." They added, "It is remarkable that these effects have all been observed after feeding for only 10 to 14 days."(18)

A former Monsanto scientist recalls how colleagues were trying to rewrite a GM animal feeding study, to hide the ill-effects. But sometimes when study results are unmistakably damaging, Monsanto just plain lies. Monsanto's study on Roundup, for example, showed that 28 days after application, only 2 percent of their herbicide had broken down. They nonetheless advertised the weed killer as "biodegradable," "leaves the soil clean," and "respects the environment." These statements were declared false and illegal by judges in both the US and France. The company was forced to remove "biodegradable" from the label and pay a fine.

Monsanto attacks labeling, local democracy, and news coverage

• On July 3, 2003, Monsanto sued Oakhurst dairy because their labels stated, "Our Farmers' Pledge: No Artificial Growth Hormones." Oakhurst eventually settled with Monsanto, agreeing to include a sentence on their cartons saying that according to the FDA no significant difference has been shown between milk derived from rbGH-treated and non-rbGH-treated cows. The statement is not true. FDA scientists had acknowledged the increase of IGF-1, bovine growth hormone, antibiotics, and pus, in milk from treated cows. Nonetheless, the misleading sentence had been written years earlier by the FDA's deputy commissioner of policy, Michael Taylor, the one who was formerly Monsanto's outside attorney and later their vice president.

• Monsanto's public relations firm created a group called the Dairy Coalition, which pressured editors of the USA Today, Boston Globe, New York Times and others, to limit negative coverage of rbGH.

• A Monsanto attorney wrote a letter to Fox TV, promising dire consequences if the station aired a four-part exposé on rbGH. The show was ultimately canceled.

• A book critical of Monsanto's GM foods was three days away from being published. A threatening letter from Monsanto's attorney forced the small publisher to cancel publication.

• 14,000 copies of Ecologist magazine dedicated to exposing Monsanto were shredded by the printer due to fears of a lawsuit.

• After a ballot initiative in California established Mendocino County as a GM-free zone -- where planting GMOs is illegal, Monsanto and others organized to push through laws in 14 states that make it illegal for cities and counties to declare similar zones.

Monsanto's promises of riches come up short

Biotech advocates have wooed politicians, claiming that their new technology is the path to riches for their city, state, or nation. "This notion that you lure biotech to your community to save its economy is laughable," said Joseph Cortright, an Oregon economist who co-wrote a report on the subject. "This is a bad-idea virus that has swept through governors, mayors and economic development officials."(19) Indeed, The Wall Street Journal observed, "Not only has the biotech industry yielded negative financial returns for decades, it generally digs its hole deeper every year."(20) The Associated Press says it "remains a money-losing, niche industry."(21)

Nowhere in the biotech world is the bad-idea virus more toxic than in its application to GM plants. Not only does the technology under-deliver, it consistently burdens governments and entire sectors with losses and problems.

Under the first Bush administration, for example, the White House's elite Council on Competitiveness chose to fast track GM food in hopes that it would strengthen the economy and make American products more competitive overseas. The opposite ensued. US corn exports to Europe were virtually eliminated, down by 99.4 percent. The American Corn Growers Association (ACGA) calculated that the introduction of GM corn caused a drop in corn prices by 13 to 20 percent.(22) Their CEO said, "The ACGA believes an explanation is owed to the thousands of American farmers who were told to trust this technology, yet now see their prices fall to historically low levels while other countries exploit US vulnerability and pick off our export customers one by one."(23) US soy sales also plummeted due to GM content.

According to Charles Benbrook, PhD, former executive director of the National Academy of Sciences' Board on Agriculture, the closed markets and slashed prices forced the federal government to pay an additional $3 to $5 billion every year.(24) He says growers have only been kept afloat by the huge jump in subsidies.(25)

Instead of withdrawing support for failed GM crops, the US government has been convinced by Monsanto and others that the key to success is to force open foreign markets to GMOs. But many nations are also reeling under the false promise of GMOs.

Canola crashes on GM

When Canada became the only major producer to adopt GM canola in 1996, it led to a disaster. The premium-paying EU market, which took about one-third of Canada's canola exports in 1994 and one-fourth in 1995, stopped all imports from Canada by 1998. The GM canola was diverted to the low-priced Chinese market. Not only did Canadian canola prices fall to a record low,(26) Canada even lost their EU honey exports due to the GM pollen contamination.

Australia benefited significantly from Canada's folly. By 2006, the EU was buying 38 percent of Australia's canola exports.(27) Nonetheless, Monsanto's people in Australia claimed that GM canola was the way to get more competitive. They told farmers that Roundup Ready canola would yield up to 30 percent more. But when an investigator looked at the best trial yields on Monsanto's web site, it was 17 percent below the national average canola yield. When that was publicized, the figures quickly disappeared from the Monsanto's site. Two Aussie states did allow GM canola and sure enough, they are suffering from loss of foreign markets.

In Australia and elsewhere, the non-GMO farmers also suffer. Market prices drop, and farmers spend more to set up segregation systems, GMO testing, buffer zones, and separate storage and shipping channels to try to hold onto non-GMO markets. Even then, they risk contamination and lost premiums.

GM farmers don't earn or produce more

Monsanto has been quite successful in convincing farmers that GM crops are the ticket to greater yields and higher profits. You still hear that rhetoric at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). But a 2006 USDA report "could not find positive financial impacts in either the field-level nor the whole-farm analysis" for adoption of Bt corn and Roundup Ready soybeans. They said, "Perhaps the biggest issue raised by these results is how to explain the rapid adoption of [GM] crops when farm financial impacts appear to be mixed or even negative."(28)

Similarly, the Canadian National Farmers Union (NFU) flatly states, "The claim that GM seeds make our farms more profitable is false."(29) Net farm incomes in Canada plummeted since the introduction of GM canola, with the last five years being the worst in Canada's history.

In spite of numerous advertising claims that GM crops increase yield, the average GM crop from Monsanto reduces yield. This was confirmed by the most comprehensive evaluation on the subject, conducted by the Union of Concerned Scientists in 2009. Called Failure to Yield, the report demonstrated that in spite of years of trying, GM crops return fewer bushels than their non-GM counterparts. Even the 2006 USDA report stated that "currently available GM crops do not increase the yield potential of a hybrid variety. . . . In fact, yield may even decrease if the varieties used to carry the herbicide tolerant or insect-resistant genes are not the highest yielding cultivars."(30)

US farmers had expected higher yields with Roundup Ready soybeans, but independent studies confirm a yield loss of 4 to 11percent.(31) Brazilian soybean yields are also down since Roundup Ready varieties were introduced.(32) In Canada, a study showed a 7.5 percent lower yield with Roundup Ready canola.(33)

The Canadian National Farmers Union (NFU) observed, "Corporate and government managers have spent millions trying to convince farmers and other citizens of the benefits of genetically-modified (GM) crops. But this huge public relations effort has failed to obscure the truth: GM crops do not deliver the promised benefits; they create numerous problems, costs, and risks. . . . It would be too generous even to call GM crops a solution in search of a problem: These crops have failed to provide significant solutions."(34)

Herbicide use rising due to GMOs

Monsanto bragged that their Roundup Ready technology would reduce herbicide, but at the same time they were building new Roundup factories to meet their anticipated increase in demand. They got it. According to USDA data, the amount of herbicide used in the US increased by 382.6 million pounds over 13 years. Monsanto's Roundup Ready soybeans accounted for 92 percent of the total increase. Due to the proliferation of Roundup resistant weeds, herbicide use is accelerating rapidly. From 2007 to 2008, herbicide used on GM herbicide tolerant crops skyrocketed by 31.4 percent.(35) Furthermore, as weeds fail to respond to Roundup, farmers also rely on more toxic pesticides such as the highly poisonous 2,4-D.

Contamination happens

In spite of Monsanto's assurances that it wouldn't be a problem, contamination has been a consistent and often overwhelming hardship for seed dealers, farmers, manufacturers, even entire food sectors. The biotech industry recommends buffer zones between fields, but these have not been competent to protect non-GM, organic, or wild plants from GMOs. A UK study showed canola cross-pollination occurring as far as 26 km away.(36)

But pollination is just one of several ways that contamination happens. There is also seed movement by weather and insects, crop mixing during harvest, transport, and storage, and very often, human error. The contamination is North America is so great, it is difficult for farmers to secure pure non-GM seed. In Canada, a study found 32 of 33 certified non-GM canola seeds were contaminated.(37) Most of the non-GM soy, corn, and canola seeds tested in the US also contained GMOs.(38)

Contamination can be very expensive. StarLink corn -- unapproved for human consumption -- ended up the US food supply in 2000 and resulted in an estimated price tag of $1 billion. The final cost of GM rice contamination in the US in 2006 could be even higher.

Deadly deception in India

Monsanto ran a poster series called, "TRUE STORIES OF FARMERS WHO HAVE SOWN BT COTTON." One featured a farmer who claimed great benefits, but when investigators tracked him down, he turned out to be a cigarette salesman, not a farmer. Another poster claimed yields by the pictured farmer that were four times what he actually achieved. One poster showed a farmer standing next to a tractor, suggesting that sales of Bt cotton allowed him to buy it. But the farmer was never told what the photo was to be used for, and said that with the yields from Bt, "I would not be able to buy even two tractor tires."

In addition to posters, Monsanto's cotton marketers used dancing girls, famous Bollywood actors, even religious leaders to pitch their products. Some newspaper ads looked like a news stories and featured relatives of seed salesmen claiming to be happy with Bt. Sometimes free pesticides were given away with the seeds, and some farmers who helped with publicity got free seeds.

Scientists published a study claiming that Monsanto's cotton increased yields in India by 70 to 80 percent. But they used only field trial data provided to them by Monsanto. Actual yields turn out to be quite different:

India News(39) reported studies showing a loss of about 18 percent.

• An independent study in Andhra Pradesh "done on [a] season-long basis continuously for three years in 87 villages" showed that growing Bt cotton cost 12 percent more, yielded 8.3 percent less, and the returns over three years were 60 percent less.(40)

• Another report identified a yield loss in the Warangal district of 30 to 60 percent. The official report, however, was tampered with. The local Deputy Director of Agriculture confirmed on Feb. 1, 2005 that the yield figures had been secretly increased to 2.7 times higher than what farms reported. Once the state of Andhra Pradesh tallied all the actual yields, they demanded approximately $10 million USD from Monsanto to compensate farmers for losses. Monsanto refused.

In sharp contrast to the independent research done by agronomists, Monsanto commissioned studies to be done by market research agencies. One, for example, claimed four times the actual reduction in pesticide use, 12 times the actual yield, and 100 times the actual profit.(41)

In Andhra Pradesh, where 71 percent of farmers who used Bt cotton ended up with financial losses, farmers attacked the seed dealer's office and even "tied up Mahyco Monsanto representatives in their villages," until the police rescued them.(42)

In spite of great losses and unreliable yields, Monsanto has skillfully eliminated the availability of non-GM cotton seeds in many regions throughout India, forcing farmers to buy their varieties.

Farmers borrow heavily and at high interest rates to pay four times the price for the GM varieties, along with the chemicals needed to grow them. When Bt cotton performs poorly and can't even pay back the debt, desperate farmers resort to suicide, often drinking unused pesticides. In one region, more than three Bt cotton farmers take their own lives each day. The UK Daily Mail estimates that the total number of Bt cotton-related suicides in India is a staggering 125,000.

Doctors orders: no genetically modified food

A greater tragedy may be the harm from the dangerous GM foods produced by Monsanto. The American Academy of Environmental Medicine (AAEM) has called on all physicians to prescribe diets without GM foods to all patients.(43) They called for a moratorium on GMOs, long-term independent studies, and labeling. They stated, "Several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food," including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system. "There is more than a casual association between GM foods and adverse health effects. There is causation…"

Former AAEM President Dr. Jennifer Armstrong says, "Physicians are probably seeing the effects in their patients, but need to know how to ask the right questions." Renowned biologist Pushpa M. Bhargava believes that GMOs are a major contributor to the deteriorating health in America.

Pregnant women and babies at great risk

GM foods are particularly dangerous for pregnant moms and children. After GM soy was fed to female rats, most of their babies died -- compared to 10 percent deaths among controls fed natural soy.(44) GM-fed babies were smaller, and possibly infertile.(45)

Testicles of rats fed GM soy changed from the normal pink to dark blue.(46) Mice fed GM soy had altered young sperm.(47) Embryos of GM soy-fed parent mice had changed DNA.(48) And mice fed GM corn had fewer, and smaller, babies.(49)

In Haryana, India, most buffalo that ate GM cottonseed had reproductive complications such as premature deliveries, abortions, and infertility; many calves died. About two dozen US farmers said thousands of pigs became sterile from certain GM corn varieties. Some had false pregnancies; others gave birth to bags of water. Cows and bulls also became infertile.(50)

In the US, incidence of low birth weight babies, infertility, and infant mortality are all escalating.

Food that produces poison

Monsanto's GM corn and cotton are engineered to produce a built-in pesticide called Bt-toxin -- produced from soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis. When bugs bite the plant, poison splits open their stomach and kills them. Organic farmers and others use natural Bt bacteria spray for insect control, so Monsanto claims that Bt-toxin must be safe.

The Bt-toxin produced in GM plants, however, is thousands of times more concentrated than natural Bt spray, is designed to be more toxic,(51) has properties of an allergen, and cannot be washed off the plant.

Moreover, studies confirm that even the less toxic natural spray can be harmful. When dispersed by plane to kill gypsy moths in Washington and Vancouver, about 500 people reported allergy or flu-like symptoms.(52)(53) The same symptoms are now reported by farm workers from handling Bt cotton throughout India.(54)

GMOs provoke immune reactions

GMO safety expert Arpad Pusztai says changes in immune status are "a consistent feature of all the [animal] studies."(55) From Monsanto's own research to government funded trials, rodents fed Bt corn had significant immune reactions.(56)(57)

Soon after GM soy was introduced to the UK, soy allergies skyrocketed by 50 percent. Ohio allergist Dr. John Boyles says "I used to test for soy allergies all the time, but now that soy is genetically engineered, it is so dangerous that I tell people never to eat it."

GM soy and corn contain new proteins with allergenic properties,(58) and GM soy has up to seven times more of a known soy allergen.(59) Perhaps the US epidemic of food llergies and asthma is a casualty of genetic manipulation.

Animals dying in large numbers

In India, animals graze on cotton plants after harvest. But when shepherds let sheep graze on Bt cotton plants, thousands died. Investigators said preliminary evidence "strongly suggests that the sheep mortality was due to a toxin. . . . most probably Bt-toxin."(60) In one small study, all sheep fed Bt cotton plants died; those fed natural plants remained healthy.

In an Andhra Pradesh village, buffalo grazed on cotton plants for eight years without incident. On Jan. 3, 2008, 13 buffalo grazed on Bt cotton plants for the first time. All died within three days.(61) Monsanto's Bt corn is also implicated in the deaths horses, water buffaloes, and chickens in the Philippines.(62)

Lab studies of GM crops by other companies also show mortalities. Twice the number of chickens fed Liberty Link corn died; seven of 40 rats fed a GM tomato died within two weeks.(63) And a farmer in Germany says his cows died after exclusively eating Syngenta's GM corn.

GMOs remain inside of us

The only published human feeding study revealed that even after we stop eating GMOs, harmful GM proteins may be produced continuously inside of us; genes inserted into Monsanto's GM soy transfer into bacteria inside our intestines and continue to function.(64) If Bt genes also transfer, eating corn chips might transform our intestinal bacteria into living pesticide factories.

Hidden dangers

Biologist David Schubert of the Salk Institute says, "If there are problems [with GMOs], we will probably never know because the cause will not be traceable and many diseases take a very long time to develop." In the nine years after GM crops were introduced in 1996, Americans with three or more chronic diseases jumped from 7 percent to 13 percent.(65) But without any human clinical trials or post marketing surveillance, we may never know if GMOs are a contributor.

Un-recallable contamination

In spite of the enormous health dangers, the environmental impacts may be worse still. That is because we don't have a technology to fully clean up the contaminated gene pool. The self-propagating genetic pollution released into the environment from Monsanto's crops can outlast the effects of climate change and nuclear waste.

Replacing nature: "Nothing shall be eaten that we don't own"

As Monsanto has moved forward with its master plan to replace nature, they have led the charge in buying up seed businesses and are now the world's largest. At least 200 independent seed companies have disappeared over 13 years, non-GMO seed availability is dwindling, and Monsanto is jacking up their seed prices dramatically. Corn is up more than 30 percent and soy nearly 25 percent, over 2008 prices.(66)

An Associated Press exposé (67) reveals how Monsanto's onerous contracts allowed them to manipulate, then dominate, the seed industry using unprecedented legal restrictions. One contract provision, for example, "prevented bidding wars" and "likely helped Monsanto buy 24 independent seed companies throughout the Farm Belt over the last few years: that corn seed agreement says that if a smaller company changes ownership, its inventory with Monsanto's traits 'shall be destroyed immediately.'"

With that restriction in place, the seed companies couldn't even think of selling to a company other than Monsanto. According to attorney David Boies, who represents DuPont -- owner of Pioneer Seeds: "If the independent seed company is losing their license and has to destroy their seeds, they're not going to have anything, in effect, to sell," Boies said. "It requires them to destroy things -- destroy things they paid for -- if they go competitive. That's exactly the kind of restriction on competitive choice that the antitrust laws outlaw." Boies was a prosecutor on the antitrust case against Microsoft. He is now working with DuPont in their civil antitrust lawsuit against Monsanto.

Monsanto also has the right to cancel deals and wipe out the inventory of a business if the confidentiality clauses are violated:

"We now believe that Monsanto has control over as much as 90 percent of (seed genetics). This level of control is almost unbelievable,' said Neil Harl, agricultural economist at Iowa State University who has studied the seed industry for decades."

Monsanto also controls and manipulates farmers through onerous contracts. Troy Roush, for example, is one of hundreds accused by Monsanto of illegally saving their seeds. The company requires farmers to sign a contract that they will not save and replant GM seeds from their harvest. That way Monsanto can sell its seeds -- at a premium -- each season.

Although Roush maintains his innocence, he was forced to settle with Monsanto after two and a half years of court battles. He says his "family was just destroyed [from] the stress involved." Many farmers are afraid, according to Roush, because Monsanto has "created a little industry that serves no other purpose than to wreck farmers' lives." Monsanto has collected an estimated $200 million from farmers thus far.

Roush says, "They are in the process of owning food, all food." Paraguayan farmer Jorge Galeano says, "Its objective is to control all of the world's food production." Renowned Indian physicist and community organizer Vandana Shiva says, "If they control seed, they control food; they know it, it's strategic. It's more powerful than bombs; it's more powerful than guns. This is the best way to control the populations of the world."

Our food security lies in diversity -- both biodiversity, and diversity of owners and interests. Any single company that consolidates ownership of seeds, and therefore power over the food supply, is a dangerous threat. Of all the corporations in the world, however, the one we should trust the least is Monsanto. With them at the helm, the impact could be cataclysmic.

To learn more about the health dangers of GMOs, and what you can do to help end the genetic engineering of our food supply, visit www.ResponsibleTechnology.org.

To learn how to choose healthier non-GMO brands, visit www.NonGMOShoppingGuide.com.