Biotech Bullies: Business as Usual

Agbiotech and corporate special interests in reaction to stubborn

global resistance have stepped-up their propaganda and bullying. This

aggression is evident in the media, the marketplace, the trade and

diplomatic fronts, the legislatures, courts, patent offices, and the

streets of the cities where anti-globalization protests have taken

place. Recognizing that a critical mass of youth, consumers, farmers,

environmentalists, and public interest nongovernmental organizations

(NGOs) all over the world are rejecting, not only the biotech and

industrial agriculture model, but also the entire “Free Trade”

globalization agenda itself, the Gene Giants and their allies know

they are losing ground. Reacting to massive demonstrations in

Seattle, Washington, Quebec, Sweden, and Genoa–with anti-Frankenfoods

concerns often in the forefront-governing elites have clamped down and

repressed youthful protestors, and have begun shifting their meetings

to inaccessible locations such as the oil sheikdom of Qatar, where the

142 nation members of the World Trade Organization (WTO) are scheduled

to hold a ministerial meeting November 9-13.

Since September 11, with public attention focused on terror attacks

and the war in Afghanistan, White House operatives have done their

best to: – sabotage stringent safety testing of genetically engineered

(GE) foods and crops in the WTO Codex Alimentarius negotiations in

Vancouver; – pressed Congress forward for “Fast Track” Presidential

negotiating authority to enable Bush to expand the power of the WTO

and spread Free Trade fundamentalism throughout the Americas; –

inserted language into the Fast Track bill that would ban mandatory

labeling of gene-altered foods and the use of the precautionary

principle; – increased pressure on the EU to lift its moratorium on

genetically modified organisms (GMOs); – and threatened Thailand and

other nations seeking to ban or label GE crops. (See OCA’s website

www.organicconsumers.org for details on these stories and other news

items referred to in this issue).

Monsanto, meanwhile, has tightened its stranglehold over the agbiotech

and seed sector. The company in April was awarded a wide-ranging,

controversial patent from the US Patent office on all antibiotic

resistant marker genes (found in nearly all GMO crops), and continues

to move forward to gain a similar monopoly patent on Agrobacterium

tumefaciens, a vector (sort of a cellular taxi) used widely in

gene-splicing. Monsanto is also requiring strict licensing and

royalty agreements for scientists carrying out research on the genetic

structure or genome of rice-for which the company holds a patent.

(See www.rafi.org)

On the intimidation front, Monsanto continues to press legal charges

against several hundred North American farmers for the “crime” of

saving their seeds without paying a royalty payment to Monsanto.

After gaining a precedent setting court conviction against

Saskatchewan farmer Percy Schmeiser in March, unjustly accused of

growing Roundup Ready canola which had actually drifted onto his

fields from adjoining farms growing GE crops, Monsanto set up a

toll-free “snitch line” in Canada, advertised on radio stations, for

farmers to “turn in” their seed-saving neighbors. After protests the

snitch line was disconnected. A similar snitch line was set up in the

US several years ago.

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