[tomato] USDA

ChuckWyatt/Md/Z7 (Tomato@GlobalGarden.com)
Mon, 8 Mar 1999 18:27:18 -0500

I just got the following and thought it might interest some of you.

Chuck Wyatt

>>imidate seed-saving farmers.

"The proposed legislation is part of a dangerous trend to eliminate or
restrict the right of farmers to save and exchange seed - all in the
name of increasing seed industry profits" explains Hope Shand, Research
Director of RAFI.  "We weren't surprised to learn that Monsanto is
behind the bill, because the company is already waging a ferocious
campaign against seed-saving farmers and it's actively developing the
controversial suicide seeds - or Terminator technology," said Shand.
Terminator is a technique for genetically altering a plant so that the
seeds it produces are sterile. 

According to the Ohio Seed Improvement Association, the proposal to
amend Ohio's seed law originated with agribusiness giant Monsanto last
year. Monsanto is the world's largest seller of genetically modified
seed. Under US patent law it is illegal for farmers to save patented
seed. To enforce its exclusive monopoly, Monsanto has aggressively
prosecuted farmers for what the company calls "seed piracy." But seed
saving is illegal only if the farmer is saving or re-using patented
seed. Farmers who grow soybeans and wheat, for example, typically save
seed from their harvest to re-plant the following year. An estimated
25% of North American soybean seed is farm-saved seed. 

Monsanto has waged an aggressive, Draconian campaign against
seed-saving farmers in North America. The company has hired Pinkerton
investigators to root-out seed-saving farmers and it is using radio ads
and telephone "tiplines" in farming communities to identify and
intimidate farmers who might save or re-use the company's patented
seed. Under Monsanto's gene licensing agreement, the company reserves
the right to come onto the farmer's land and take seed samples to
insure that the farmer is not violating patent law.

"It appears that Monsanto's newest strategy is to shift the expense and
burden of policing rural communities to the seed cleaners and state
governments. If the bill becomes law, Monsanto's "gene police" will
ultimately become state regulators who are working on behalf of
Monsanto," explains Pat Mooney, Executive Director of RAFI. 

 "The Ohio legislation is unfair to farmers because it places an
onerous regulatory burden on all seed-saving farmers and seed cleaners
- not just farmers who buy Monsanto's patented seed," explains Shand. 
If the bill becomes law, it would require seed cleaners to keep
detailed records on every seed cleaning transaction, to document the
name of the farmer, seed variety names and whether or not the seed is
protected by patents or breeders' rights.  "In essence, the bill
discriminates against farmers who are lawfully saving and re-planting
open-pollinated seed varieties," asserts RAFI's Shand.

Ohio farmer and custom seed cleaner Roger Peters opposes the proposed
bill to regulate open-pollinated seed cleaners.  "Why should any farmer
be forced to keep records on law-abiding farmers who clean their own
seed?" asks Peters. "And why should public tax dollars be used to
protect the patents of private seed companies like Monsanto?" questions

 "State-level seed laws are supposed to protect farmers, not penalize
them," asserts Sean McGovern, Executive Administrator of the Ohio
Ecological Food and Farmers Association, a Columbus, Ohio-based
organization that promotes sustainable agriculture and certifies
organic farmers. "I can't imagine any use for this bill accept to
enforce Monsanto's patents," concludes McGovern.


Background information on HB 85, introduced in the Ohio State
Legislature on January 28, 1999. 

Specifically, H.B. 85, amendments to the Ohio Seed Law would:

<fontfamily><param>Symbol</param> </fontfamily>Require all seed
cleaners to register as a seed cleaner or conditioner. (The bill states
that the Director of Agriculture will determine the minimum quantity of
self-pollinated seed that when cleaned or conditioned would require the
person to become registered.)

<fontfamily><param>Symbol</param> </fontfamily>Require the seed
cleaner to keep records on every farmer and seed cleaning/conditioning
transaction. The seed cleaner would be required to keep all records for
a minimum of five years and make the records available to the State
Director of Agriculture on request.<<

There is more and if anybody wants it, send me a private E Mail and I'll
attach the whole thing to my reply.