April 28, 2010

"The battle over genetically modified crops is being waged before the U.S. Supreme Court -- the first time the nation’s highest court is specifically weighing in on genetically modified organisms and the federal approval process that allows them to roll out from the laboratory to the nation’s farm fields.

The fight is between seed giant Monsanto Co. and Geertson Seed Farm, a far smaller Idaho-based rival, and the case revolves around whether Monsanto should be prevented from selling its genetically engineered Roundup Ready alfalfa seeds.

The biotech behind the seeds was reviewed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and later approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture prior to the company’s product launch in 2005.

Geertson has argued that such seeds should not be allowed to be sold, because of concerns that they can cross-contaminate nearby fields planted with organically produced alfalfa. They also argue that because these GMO seeds have been engineered to resist a commonly used herbicide that Monsanto makes, killing off such unwanted plants would be extremely difficult.

Monsanto argues that such fears are far-fetched and that such cross-pollination is unlikely. Instead, the company contends that using its seeds helps the environment because farmers don’t have to use as much weed killer on their fields. (Monsanto said in court filings that alfalfa, which is used to feed livestock, is grown on about 22 million acres across the nation.)

In addition, “the plaintiffs in the case have not demonstrated that continued planting of the crop was likely to cause irreparable harm to other alfalfa growers,” the company said in a statement posted on its website Tuesday. (The italics were an emphasis that Monsanto used.)

A lower court sided with Geertson and, since 2007, Monsanto has been barred from selling these seeds nationwide. So the issue now before the Supreme Court is whether the lower court had the authority to order such a far-reaching ruling under the National Environmental Policy Act.

Both sides faced off before the court on Tuesday. A ruling is expected later in the year.

But here’s the real question that farmers and environmentalist are asking: Considering the USDA is slated to wrap up an environmental study on this and other issues next year, and the agency reportedly is expected to approve sales of such seeds, will the court’s ruling matter in the long run?

-- P

Monsanto moves up the food chain claiming meat.

"The global coalition "No Patents on Seeds" has issued an alert. It pertains to the latest patent filed by Monsanto. In a pending patent application (filed on Jan 29, 2009) from Monsanto even bacon and steaks are claimed: Patent application WO2009097403 is claiming meat stemming from pigs being fed with the patented genetically engineered plants of Monsanto.

I looked at the patent claim, and found it to be simply absurd. The patent is filed for an invention: "Method for Feeding Pigs and Products comprising Beneficial Fatty Acids." To me, this looks to be a simple improvement in the feeding process, but if you read the claims carefully you realise how cleverly Monsanto has drafted it to include almost everything under the sun. Which means, Monsanto (which already has a patent on pig breeding) actually now lays claim over the entire production cycle of pig rearing -- from what goes into the feed, to pig breeding processes and finally to the production of pork."

Read more from Devinder Sharma at Ground Reality; Understanding the politics of food, agriculture and hunger

The "No Patents on Seeds" alert where you can link to the absurd patent.

April 26, 2010

food inflation

This is not loaves and fishes inflating:

U.S. Food Inflation Spiraling Out of Control. From here

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) today released their Producer Price Index (PPI) report for March 2010 and the latest numbers are shocking. Food prices for the month rose by 2.4%, its sixth consecutive monthly increase and the largest jump in over 26 years. NIA believes that a major breakout in food inflation could be imminent, similar to what is currently being experienced in India.

Some of the startling food price increases on a year-over-year basis include, fresh and dry vegetables up 56.1%, fresh fruits and melons up 28.8%, eggs for fresh use up 33.6%, pork up 19.1%, beef and veal up 10.7% and dairy products up 9.7%. On October 30th, 2009, NIA predicted that inflation would appear next in food and agriculture, but we never anticipated that it would spiral so far out of control this quickly.

The PPI foreshadows price increases that will later occur in the retail sector. With U-6 unemployment rising last month to 16.9%, many retailers are currently reluctant to pass along rising prices to consumers, but they will soon be forced to do so if they want to avoid reporting huge losses to shareholders.

Food stamp usage in the U.S. has now increased for 14 consecutive months. There are now 39.4 million Americans on food stamps, up 22.4% from one year ago. The U.S. government is now paying out more to Americans in benefits than it collects in taxes. As food inflation continues to surge, our country will soon have no choice but to cut back on food stamps and other entitlement programs.

Most financial experts in the mainstream media are proclaiming that the recession is over and inflation is not a problem in the U.S. Unfortunately, they fail to realize that rising food and gasoline prices accounted for 58% of February's year-over-year 3.85% rise in retail sales. NIA believes price inflation is beginning to accelerate in many areas of the economy besides food and energy, and all increases in U.S. retail sales this year will be entirely due to inflation.