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Anti-Biotech Activists Plan Anti-trust Lawsuits

Here's today's GE foods news. There may be some hope of winning this battle
after all. So write to Dan Glickman and tell him what you think of all of
this ( see yesterday's ACGA list serve digest #117 item 1) and read this
news below for hope.

Laura Berman

Sept. 13, 1999
Anti-Biotech Activists Plan Lawsuits

 The Associated Press


WASHINGTON (AP) - Opponents of genetic engineering have come up with a new
tactic to stop the spread of altered crops: antitrust lawsuits against the
companies responsible for the technology.

The lawsuits, to be filed in 30 countries later this year, will accuse the
companies of using the technology to gain control of world agriculture, said
antibiotech activist Jeremy Rifkin, director of the Foundation on Economic

Major grain traders and processors also will be named in the lawsuits.

Until now, biotech opponents have focused their efforts on persuading food
manufacturers not to buy genetically modified crops and getting governments
to require the labeling of altered foods.

The antitrust actions will force governments to consider curbing the power
of a shrinking number of giant agribusiness companies, Rifkin predicted

Eight major antitrust law firms have agreed so far to handle the lawsuits,
he said.  In addition to Rifkin, the plaintiffs will include individual
farmers and the National Family Farm Coalition.

Biotech companies are genetically manipulating plants to make fruits and
vegetables more attractive, speed the growth of crops or make them resistant
to insects, disease and weedkillers.

The companies control the spread of the technology by patenting the seeds
and then leasing them to growers, rather than selling them, to prevent the
farmers from reproducing the seeds.

While the crops have grown quickly in popularity with American farmers, the
technology has had trouble getting accepted by consumers in Asia and Europe.

Defenders of the technology say it can increase yields while reducing the
need for pesticides and eventually will lead to nutritionally enhanced

``Biotechnology is being adopted at an unprecedented rate by American
farmers because it's giving them more choices than ever before in how they
grow their crops.  It's producing benefits for them in terms of higher
yields and less use of pesticides,'' said Carl Feldbaum, president of the
Biotechnology Industry Organization.

But critics say the technology raises a number of environmental concerns in
addition to giving giant agribusiness companies, such as St. Louis-based
Monsanto Co. and Novartis AG of Switzerland, new power over farmers.

``In less than five, six years from now virtually no farmer in the world
will own any seed again,'' Rifkin said.

A third of the nation's corn crop and about 55 percent of the soybeans U.S.
farmers are growing this year have been genetically engineered.  The soybean
seeds are sold by Monsanto for use with its popular Roundup weedkiller.

Rifkin said the lawsuits would be filed before the next round of
negotiations by the World Trade Organization starts in November.
Biotechnology is expected to be a major issue of the global trade talks.

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