Busy Few Days for Biotech Food Watchers
By Patty Lovera
If you’re following what Monsanto’s up to these days, it’s a truly mixed bag. Today, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a farmer had infringed on Monsanto’s patent by saving biotech seeds and replanting them. The farmer, Vernon Hugh Bowman, was ordered to pay Monsanto $84,000. Thus, Monsanto’s bullying of farmers who don’t play by their rules continues.
The good news? Last Friday, the USDA announced that it would be doing environmental impact statements for crops tolerant to dicamba and 2,4-D—the chemical that Monsanto and Dow, respectively, are seeking to commercialize to deal with superweeds that have evolved to become tolerant of applications of Roundup. The industry currently estimates that at least 60 million acres of crops are now resistant to at least one herbicide.
This more rigorous review of the chemicals is good news and shows that the USDA can be pressured to do the right thing if enough people speak up.
The USDA received over 400,000 petitions against Dow’s applications to deregulate 2,4-D corn and soybeans, and 500 individual comments and 31,000 letters on Monsanto’s petition to deregulate dicamba-tolerant soybeans and cotton. Food & Water Watch supporters submitted more than 50,000 comments opposing the approval of these crops.
This delay in commercialization is a victory for people concerned about industrial agriculture. So far, the Department has failed to address the critical need for a new approach to evaluating biotech crops and the chemical use that accompanies them. To fully address all of the environmental impacts of crops engineered to withstand applications of harsher herbicides, USDA must also review the evolution of superweeds that become resistant in droves to any and all herbicides matched with these biotech crops and the danger posed to the environment, farmer and farm worker health and neighboring crops that could be damaged by drift.
Finally, stay tuned tomorrow for the release of our new report that analyzes State Department diplomatic cables between 2005 and 2009. You’ll be interested to see how many times the name Monsanto comes up in official State Department communications about biotech crops.