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ecoglobe [yinyang] news (23 July 1999)
Corporate Blackmail to Introduce GE


By "Albert V. Krebs"

Proving in one country that it is not beneath cooperating in economic blackmail while making it apparent in another country that it owes no loyalty to national interests when it comes to market share, bioengineer giants Novartis and Monsanto continue to give new meaning to Ambrose Bierce's classic definition of a corporation: "that inglorious device for obtaining individual profit without individual responsibility."

In a recent affidavit by Monsanto and Novartis, Novartis threatens that if Ireland does not permit the deliberate release of genetically modified products, then "it may well become uneconomic for Novartis to continue to supply traditional seed to the Irish market. Given the importance of Novartis on the Irish market, this would have serious implications for the Irish sugar beet industry."

Monsanto and Novartis both claim that any delays in the testing of their product will cause them to lose "millions of pounds" of potential profits. The companies are rushing to field test the sugar beets and get them on the market before the patent runs out in 2011. Monsanto has applied for licenses for five other field sites in areas all over the country.

On May 1, 1997 the Irish Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted Monsanto the first license in Ireland for a deliberate release of genetically modified organisms -- Roundup Ready sugar beet (a joint venture between Monsanto and Novartis).

Clare Watson, founding member of Genetic Concern!, sought a High Court Judicial Review of the EPA's decision to grant the license. An interim injunction prevented Monsanto from planting the genetically modified sugar beets in the Carlow test site (a government research center), and a Judicial Review was granted.

The injunction was later overturned, and Monsanto planted the genetically modified sugar beets on the same day. Not long after, members of the Gaelic Earth Liberation Front (GELF) destroyed the crop. The Judicial Review was held on May 19, 1999. If the Court finds that the license was improperly granted, then Monsanto will be forced to abandon its plans to field test the genetically modified sugar beets.

The Roundup Ready sugar beets are designed to tolerate Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, a product that currently accounts for 90% of Monsanto sales in Ireland. The sugar beets would be the first deliberate release of genetically modified organisms in the country.

In Argentina, meanwhile, where 72.6% of the 1998/99 crop of soya was genetically modified (GM), Lindsay Keenan, now working for Greenpeace UK and who previously ran Genetix Food Alert, a group set up by the wholefood trade in the United Kingdom who want to remain GM free, reports that Argentinean farmers did not have to pay Monsanto any technology fee, that they did not have to sign an agreement to use Round-up and that they could save the seeds for use in the next season (indeed they had already been doing so).

Keenan notes that Martin Pietro from Greenpeace confirmed "that yes this was also his understanding of the agreements in Argentina. This is interesting because it would mean that Monsanto is having to forgo the $5 per bag of seed (50lbs) that they currently charge farmers in the U.S. and Canada. In addition, Monsanto is also currently prosecuting many U.S. farmers for saving GM seeds.

"Clearly the cost benefit of Monsanto's package will depend upon the actual price that Monsanto is selling the package for," Keenan adds, "and if they sell it cheaply enough it will be more interesting to farmers. Economically and agronomically there is no particular reason why Monsanto should be able to sell these products at a reduced rate. In fact the increased costs of the biotechnology involved have indeed led to increases in the basic seed plus weedkiller package for farmers in the U.S. and Canada."

** NOTICE: In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, this material is distributed for research and educational purposes only. **
ecoglobe [yinyang] news (23 July 1999)
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