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Economic Issues Surrounding Genetically Modified Foods
Posted By admin On June 23, 2010 @ 6:15 am In Featured Stories | Comments Disabled
Catherine J Frompovich
June 23, 2010
“Gene technology is driven by bad science. It may well ruin our food supply, destroy biodiversity and unleash pandemics of antibiotic resistant infectious diseases.”
– Dr Mae-Wan Ho, head of the Bio-Electrodynamics laboratory at the Open University in Milton Keynes, UK
“Farmers are really starting to question the profit enhancing ability of products that seem to be shutting them out of markets worldwide.”
– Cory Ollikka, President of Canada’s National Farmers Union, December 2000
Food producers—and non-agricom farmers in particular—are upset about the economics of growing and producing food. The promised profits from growing genetically modified (GM) crops have not materialized for most farmers and growers. A case on point is demonstrated in the report North American Farmers’ Experiences of GM Crops dated September 2002 and produced by Soil Association, U.K.
Farming advertisements promised handsome profits from Asgrow Roundup Ready soybeans. However, when economist Michael Duffy of Iowa State University (USA) made an analysis of soybean crops, he found that herbicide tolerant GM soy LOST more money per acre than non-GM soy after all factors were considered.
Duffy’s findings indicated that GM soy lost $8.87/acre while non-GM soy lost only 2 cents ($0.02) per acre. His calculations took into consideration the GM technology fee increases.
From 1996 to 2001 American farmers paid close to $659 MILLION in price premiums to buy and plant Bt corn (maize). Farmers lost $92 MILLION or about $1.31 per acre from raising Bt corn (maize), according to Dr. Charles Benbrook.
Iowa State’s Michael Duffy’s Bt corn study showed Bt corn (maize) losing
$28.28 per acre, whereas non-Bt corn lost $25.02 an acre.
A “technology fee” that dramatically raises the cost of seeds is added to GM seeds. That fee adds from 25 to 40 percent more to seed costs. Furthermore, farmers must sign a legal contract with GM seed producers whereby farmers agree that they cannot and will not save seed from their harvests despite the common farming practice of saving seed for the next planting. Farmers legally are PREVENTED from saving seed.
Globally in 2005 farmers paid a premium of $2.2 billion for GMO seeds, which represents the “technology fee”.
Moe Parr, a United States seed harvester for nearly thirty years, said that in 2007 he was sued by the bio-tech company Monsanto for “aiding, abetting and encouraging” farmers to break patent laws by collecting seeds from their crops for re-use in the next season. As part of a court settlement, Mr. Parr has to now send the results of contamination tests to Monsanto from all seeds he harvests. As a result of such practices, he says that farmers are being sued for breach of patent because their supposed non-GM crops contain GM seeds.
The above illustrates just how economically unreasonable and unprofitable it is for farmers to plant GM crops if they can be sued because of crosswind pollination, something they cannot prevent nor control: breeze and wind patterns.
At harvest time in eleven Midwestern U.S. states, some grain elevator storage facilities offered premiums for non-GM corn (maize) and soy, which ranged from 5 to 35 cents per bushel. According to one Minnesota farmer, GM-free soy got 50 cents per bushel MORE than GM soy and organic soy received a 200 percent additional premium.
Farmers’ incomes definitely are down in the United States. That is attributed to high technology fee costs for GM seeds plus more herbicide costs, instead of reduced herbicide use as advertised.
Peter Melchett, Director of the Soil Association, says,“GM technology was introduced to the USA when farmers were financially vulnerable. The biotechnology industry’s claims that their products would bring benefits were widely accepted, but GM crops have now proved to be a financial liability.”
Not only are crop yields down about 6 percent, agrochemical use and costs are increased. According to some, the “GM brand” seems to have lost both its appeal and international market.
The Soil Association September 2002 report states: “The lessons from North America are disturbing. Canada has lost its entire organic oilseed rape industry to GM contamination in a few, short years, and the Saskatchewan Organic Directorate has launched a lawsuit against the GM company responsible.”
• The average price for soybean seed, the largest GM crop in the US, has risen more than 50% in just two years from 2006 to 2008 – from $32.30 to $49.23 per planted acre.
• The price of Monsanto’s GM triple-stack corn will reportedly increase by around 35% in 2009 by $95-100 per bag, to $300 per bag.
• Retail prices for Roundup herbicide have increased from just $32 per gallon in December 2006 to $45 per gallon a year later, to $75 per gallon by June 2008 –134% price hike in less than two years.
• Monsanto controls roughly 60% of the market for glyphosate (the active ingredient in Roundup)
2009 Fact Sheet – Institute for Responsible Technology
United States maize exports to the European Union have decreased steadily since the introduction of GM crops. Exports went from a high of 2.8 million tons in 1995-96 to virtually nothing during 2000-01! That’s a dramatic economic impact on U.S. farmers. According to Keith Dittrich, maize farmer and president of the American Corn Growers Association, “Biotech corn has already proven to be a market destructor for US corn farmers.”
European markets have rejected GM crops. However, in the United States there is no freedom of consumer choice or transparency regarding GM foods. Genetically modified foods are force-fed to consumers, who don’t realize it, with USDA and FDA approval. How can other countries accept the GM hype and misinformation coming out of the USA when there is absolutely no transparency on research, labeling, or marketing in the United States? Such tactics regarding GMOs are not accepted or emulated by other nations; therefore, they don’t want U.S. food exports.
There has been a virtual collapse of the North American food export trade due to the rejection of GM crops by other countries. Nations and their food oversight laws ought to preserve traditional/cultural diets and food-growing methods rather than forfeit them to multinational agricom companies whose GM seeds will destroy not only their markets but also their natural food sources. Take note and learn from what happened in North America
“By the time it had become evident to everyone that we were losing EU markets, it was basically too late…When they announced they were going to apply the GMO process to wheat, alarm bells went off,” said Todd Leake, a North Dakota wheat farmer.
Patent Infringement Costs Involving GMs
Since genetically modified crops are patented—weren’t food crops on the face of the earth long before the agricoms—GM-seed producers like Monsanto have filed patent infringement lawsuits against farmers and WON. Another issue is “overleaf” whereby seed companies can recoup “royalties” on a farmer’s entire crop because a farmer’s non-GM crops were cross-contaminated with GMs by forces of nature, such as insects and wind!
In 1998 Monsanto issued a press release that bragged it has sued and won the following monetary rewards:
• $35,000 royalty paid by Kentucky farmer David Chaney
• $25,000 from another Kentucky farmer (name not provided)
• $16,000 from an Iowa farmer (name not provided)
• $15,000 from an unidentified Illinois farmer
• $10,000 from another unidentified Illinois farmer
Contrary to U.S. patent law, laws preventing chemical companies from destroying the pristine food plant genetic gene pool, which has been around for millennia, need to be enacted and enforced by the courts and government oversight agencies, e.g., USDA and FDA. However, in the U.S. big agricom lobbyists are very effective in writing legislation for members of Congress to enact and regulatory agencies to enforce. To illustrate that, here’s a case in point.
Michael Taylor, an attorney, former Monsanto employee and lobbyist, who led the campaign for—and obtained—FDA approval of Monsanto’s recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), was hired in November 2009 as an adviser to Margaret Hamburg, the current FDA commissioner. His official title at FDA is Deputy Commissioner for Foods. Taylor has been an outspoken critic of the famous Delaney Clause that protected U.S. food from chemicals. Taylor’s employment history includes working in and out of the FDA, which goes back to 1976. From 1998 to 2000 Taylor was Monsanto’s vice president for public policy.
He began at the FDA in 1976 as a litigating attorney. He served as the FDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Policy from 1991 to 1994, overseeing FDA’s policy development and rulemaking, including the implementation of the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act and issuance of new seafood safety rules.
From 1994 to 1996, he served at the U.S. Department of Agriculture as Administrator of the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Acting Under Secretary for Food Safety. During that time, he spearheaded public health-oriented reform of the FSIS. http://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/Newsroom/PressAnnouncements/2009/ucm170842.htm
Taylor is credited with being “the brains” behind the FDA’s decision to treat GMOs as “substantially equivalent” to non-modified organisms, which permits bypassing the need for safety studies or labeling of those ingredients. From a consumer’s standpoint—and that of every nation, which values the genetic purity and safety of its food chain—“substantially equivalent” ought to be considered criminal, or at least deceitful and non-scientific.
Coincidentally, FDA Deputy Commissioner for Foods Michael R. Taylor’s wife is Dr. Elizabeth Yetley, the U.S. Codex Representative, and Director, Office of Special Nutritionals at the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Currently there’s a genetically modified organism case regarding alfalfa up before the U.S. Supreme Court. Guess who is the justice assigned to hear the case? It’s none other than Justice Clarence Thomas, a former Monsanto corporate lawyer. http://www.celsias.com/article/ex-monsanto-lawyer-clarence-thomas-hear-major-mons/ One would think that Justice Thomas would recuse himself, which is the ethical thing to do, because of conflict of interest. No way!
The people of Ireland have realized the importance of food chain safety, integrity, and freedom from GMs. Consequently, they had initiated a GM-free Ireland Petition that was circulating on the Internet. The petition addresses seven (7) issues to keep Ireland GM-free and protect the health and security of Irish citizens, which they feel is their constitutional right.
Nation states can take actions by utilizing the Codex Alimentarius Two Step Opt Out Process and remain GMO-free, something most U.S. citizens prefer and would choose because many surveys indicate U.S. consumers fear and don’t like, trust or want GMO foods. However, we have no choice; we are eating GMO food crops and processed foods all the time since here in the U.S. there absolutely is no labeling required and GMO ingredient content is prohibited by FDA directive for GMO food.
Codex Two Step Opt Out Process
Traditional foods and herbal remedies plus individual bio-identity rights are at risk for citizens in countries that want to remain GMO-free. Even though Codex Alimentarius is the official world food code at the United Nations and its Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), there is a provision within Codex for nations to deviate from Codex standards and guidelines regarding food and food trade.
The World Health Organization (WHO) and Codex accept “presumptive evidence” [that which is derived from circumstances which necessarily or usually attend a fact as distinct from direct evidence or positive proof; indirect or circumstantial evidence (The Free Dictionary by Farlex)] regarding food issues.
However, since Codex operates merely in an advisory capacity (as stated within its documents), it allows nation states to opt out of Codex/WHO guidelines. In order to opt out, however, there are two steps nation states need to take, adopt, and adhere by. They are:
Each nation state that wants to protect its traditional foods and remedies adopts its own food guidelines that can be as strict as it wishes regarding GMOs, organic/biologique farming, toxins, and labeling to protect the integrity of its food supply either grown within its borders or imported. However, the nation’s food guidelines must be based upon science and not “presumptive evidence”.
[However, note that Codex and WHO accept “presumptive evidence.” In the USA, the criterion is “substantially equivalent,” thanks to Michael Taylor, which is accepted by Codex, WHO, FAO, FDA, and USDA. Shouldn’t every nation state be expected to provide “presumptive evidence” as the standard rather than science for the opt out process, and not have a different and tougher standard for NON-genetically modified foods, which have been around since time began, than for genetically modified (GM) food that has been engineered and patented only since the 1980s? There’s a double standard and it seems like the cards are NOT being dealt from the top of the deck in this game.]
Each nation state must adopt and enact legislation that implements its food guidelines as talked about in Step One as science-based guidelines. Such adopted legislation then over-rides Codex with its “presumptive evidence”.
In any food trade disputes that may arise, a nation’s adopted guidelines based upon science [not “presumptive evidence” or “substantially equivalent”] prevail at international law. The WTO and Codex must accept those science-based guidelines that protect a nation’s traditional food and herbal remedies. Why are WTO, Codex, and the USA exempt from presenting science-based guidelines? Good question?
In March 2010 the nation of Bulgaria passed a law banning GMO crops.
http://www.forexyard.com/en/news/Bulgaria-approves-law-to-ban-GMO-crops-2010-03-18T124907Z There are GMO-free regions in Lower Austria. Several countries (Estonia, Finland, Poland, and Russia) definitely are not supporting GMO agriculture. Their citizens vigorously protest GMOs. Why isn’t there a massive outcry in the United States regarding our being forced to eat genetically modified organisms in just about every thing we eat? Good question?
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