the corner on corn…

if you’ve seen the amazing food, inc., you know about the monopoly monsanto holds on corn and soy with its genetically engineered seeds – created to survive their roundup pesticide (it kills everything green except the crop) and requiring no tilling of the soil. they have the corner on the market and intend to stay that way – they go so far as to investigate (many times using threats and informants) and sue farmers who hold back seeds to plant the next season.

now here is this story from npr about monsanto and how they are introducing roundup ready2 yield – seeds engineered with an additional trait that “provides farmers the same benefits as the original roundup ready trait, with even higher, top-end yield potential” (from the monsanto website). the thing is, the patent on roundup ready1 is about to expire and with it, half a billion dollars per year or so in royalty fees. to prevent generic forms of roundup ready1 or other competitors from cutting into their absolute dominance of the market, they are pressuring their licensees to embrace the roundup ready2 trait.

for the first time in two decades, farmers potentially could choose between breaking free of the roundup monopoly (they will be able to save and replant their seeds from season to season in 2014) or even plant non-GMO seeds (although some believe the soil has been so devastated by the roundup pesticide, it will be years before it can grow something different). an additional problem is whether a farmer can even find non-GMO seeds…monsanto has pretty much put everyone out of business through threats and litigation.

according to the new york times, the justice department is looking into anti-competitive issues against monsanto and dupont is suing monsanto in court. dupont had licensed the roundup trait, but then added their own gene – which didn’t make monsanto very happy. recently, the st. louis federal court ruled that dupont had violated its contract with monsanto by adding the gene to their seed, the “optimum GAT”, while under license with monsanto. but it still leaves the door open for dupont to challenge the contract itself on antitrust grounds. it’s big business and it’s going to be a long fight…

update: in related news from civileats.com:

Beginning in 2006, the Center for Food Safety (CFS) took legal action against the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) illegal approval of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. The federal courts agreed and banned GE alfalfa until the USDA fully analyzed the impacts of the plant on the environment, farmers, and the public in an environmental impacts statement (EIS).

USDA released its draft EIS on December 14, 2009. A 60-day comment period is now open until February 16, 2010. CFS has begun analyzing the EIS and it is clear that the USDA has not taken the concerns of non-GE alfalfa farmers, or organic dairy farmers seriously, for example, having dismissed the fact that contamination will threaten export markets and domestic organic markets. You can review the EIS here and supplemental documents here.

This is the first time the USDA has prepared an EIS for any GE crop and therefore will have broad implications for all transgenic crops, and its failure to address the environmental and related economic impacts of GE alfalfa will have far-reaching consequences. CFS is spearheading a campaign to make sure all affected parties know and are involved in the public process and have the opportunity to comment.

This is a call to action to all who have concerns about the environmental and economic consequences of uncontrolled nation-wide growth of GE alfalfa, to all who believe in the public’s right to choose to eat non-GE food and the farmer’s right to sow the crop of his or her choice, and to those who care about the impacts of pesticides and invasive weeds on biodiversity and endangered species.

the true food network page has a wealth of information and links for you participate and take action. this is not just about the alfalfa in your salad or sandwich, but the impact of genetically engineered alfalfa on the crops and environment around it, as well as the livestock who will feed on it. the battle against GE alfalfa has been going on for years now and this is the first time the public can have a say in what’s to happen.

update 2: monsanto is suing more small family farms. the organic consumers association is filled with links to action you can take to break monsanto’s monopoly on our food supply, including their millions against monsanto campaign. this petition will be delivered to monsanto and their upcoming court cases.

update 3: send a letter to USDA secretary tom vilsack and prevent monsanto from lifting the ban on roundup ready on alfalfa crops.

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