For immediate release: January 10, 2005
Contact: Heather Gray
Federation of Southern Cooperatives/
Land Assistance Fund
404 765 0991
U.S District Court Denies Motion to Modify
Black Farmer Law Suit
Judge Paul Friedman Recommends
ATLANTA....Last year the Black Farmers and
Agriculturalists, Inc. filed motions in the U.S. District
Court in Washington DC to modify the Consent Decree in
the Black farmers class action lawsuit against the U.S.
Department of Agriculture and to disqualify Class
Counsel. At issue were, for example, questions of
adequate notification to potential class members;
inadequate financial awards, problems with injunctive
relief. On January 3, 2005 U.S. District Court Judge Paul
Friedman denied all the motions. (click here for the full
After a lengthy history and discussion about the case,
Judge Friedman summarized as follows: "Forty acres and
a mule. The Court invoked that broken promise when it
approved what was then "the largest civil rights settlement
in history." Pigford v Glickman, 185 F.R.D. at 112. At the
time, the Court noted that '(h)istorical discrimination
cannot be undone' but believed that the Consent Decree
'represent(ed) a significant first step' toward undoing its
effects. Less than two years later, the Court was able to
report that (i)n the 20 months since that settlement was
approved, more than 11,000 African American farmers
have filed successful claims for relief and have received
monetary compensation and/or debt relief totaling
Friedman continued by saying that "...it is without
hesitation that this Court recalls the parties' belief that the
Consent Decree 'is a grand, historical first step toward
righting the wrongs visited upon thousands of African
American farmers.'"Friedman stated further "That the
Consent Decree has not solved every problem faced by
African American farmers is less an indictment of its terms
and implementation than a reflection of the scope of the
problem and the limitations of litigation. The task of
'assuring that the kind of discrimination that has been
visited on African American farmers since Reconstruction
will not continue into (this) century' is far from
Interestingly, Judge Friedman suggests that
legislative remedies regarding issues of concern to
class members is not unprecedented that that this
might be one way to address some of the concerns.
He sites the Japanese interment reparations and the
reparations for Rosewood, Florida families. The
Judge says, " The judicial power reaches only so far.
Legislatures, however, can take steps that judges
cannot. If Congress believes that burdens imposed by
the administration of the Consent Decree are unfair,
or that a significant number of African American
farmers - despite extraordinary efforts to reach them
- never received notice...then it surely has means at
its disposal to correct these wrongs."
AP: India Tribe Members Survive Tsunami
January 6, 2005
By THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
Filed at 7:39 a.m. ET
JIRKATANG, India (AP) -- Members of the ancient Jarawa
tribe emerged from their forest habitat Thursday for the
first time since the Dec. 26 tsunami and earthquakes that
rocked the isolated Andaman and Nicobar Islands, and in a
rare interaction with outsiders announced that all 250 of
their fellow tribespeople had survived.
``We are all safe after the earthquake. We are in the
forest in Balughat,'' Ashu, an arrow-wielding Jarawa, said
in broken Hindi through an interpreter in a restricted
forest area in the northern reaches of South Andaman
According to varying estimates, there are only 400 to 1,000
members alive today from the Jarawas, Great Andamanese,
Onges, Sentinelese and Shompens. Some anthropological DNA
studies indicate the generations may have spanned back
70,000 years. They originated in Africa and migrated to
India through Indonesia, anthropologists say.
Government officials and anthropologists believe that
ancient knowledge of the movement of wind, sea and birds
may have saved the indigenous tribes from the tsunami.
Seven men -- wearing only underwear and amulets -- emerged
from the forest to meet with government officials to say
they had all fled to the forest and survived by eating
coconuts. The men were all carrying bows and five arrows
each and wore colored headbands with leaves.
Two reporters and a photographer for The Associated Press
were allowed to accompany government officials to an
outpost in the isolated northern region.
Ashu, who said he was in his early 20s, gave his name and
those of three others of his tribe as Danna, Lah and Tawai.
Like many south Indians, they use only one name.
The men stopped an AP photographer from taking pictures.
``We fall sick if we are photographed,'' Ashu said.
He also did not want to talk about how his people survived
the tsunami, which killed 901 people and left 5,914 are
missing on the Andaman and Nicobar islands.
Ashu showed off his bow, arrows and a metal box tied around
his waist with a thread containing ash with which he
smeared his face and forehead during ceremonies.
He gestured with his hands and asked for ``khamma'' --
water in the dialect used by the Jarawas -- and drank from
a bottle offered to him.
When asked what they typically eat, Ashu said pork and fish
caught with their bows and arrows. ``And we like honey.''
He said tourists sometimes throw packages of cookies at
them from buses, but the packaged food upsets their
stomachs. ``We prefer to eat raw, roasted bananas. Ripe
bananas make us sick,'' he said.
Though friendly, the tribesmen were wary of the visitors.
``My world is in the forest,'' said Ashu. ``Your world is
outside. We don't like people from outside.''
Jirkatang police have had a love-hate relationship with the
Jarawas. In 1997, a year after the tribe made its
first-ever contact with government authorities, they
stormed the Jirkatang police outpost and shot a guard dead
with their arrows. Relations have since improved.
Elsewhere on the remote island chain, bodies still hang
from trees and float in water in wiped-out villages on Car
Nicobar island, said leaders of the Nicobarese tribe, the
largest tribe on the islands.
At a relief center in Port Blair, the capital of the
Andaman and Nicobar territories, Robert Henry, 66, the
headman of Mus village on Car Nicobar, described the scene
12 days after the tsunami hit.
``Bodies are on the ground, trapped in trees. The blood of
dead bodies is floating on the island,'' said Henry.
Thousands of Nicobarese were killed when the tsunami
flattened 12 of the island's 15 villages, he said.
Dense forests and tough terrain have made it difficult to
penetrate many areas where the Nicobarese died. Returning
villagers say horrific sights await relief workers.
``We couldn't stay there because of the stench. We had to
evacuate the island,'' said Henry, who said about 14,000
Nicobarese were without food and water for at least four
Other Nicobarese said they had come to terms with destiny.
``We have a lot of emotions inside us, but what is the use
if I keep crying all the time?'' said Elsie Moses, 23, as
she described how the wave flattened her village, killing
her brother, grandfather, grandmother and two nieces.
``We saw them go down in the water. It was as if someone
was pulling them down,'' she said, her eyes widening in
horror at the memory.
NEW REPORT: Climate change will push wildlife northward
and upward. Animals, entire forests could migrate
By JOEL GAY
Anchorage Daily News
(Published: January 3, 2005)
A new national report paints a bleak picture for the
wilds of North America if global warming continues,
with waterfowl struggling to find wetlands, game
animals losing their protective cover and plants
possibly unable to pollinate.
In Alaska and northern Canada, where temperatures have
risen faster than in most places, the effects could be
heightened, according to the report distilled from
hundreds of scientific papers by The Wildlife Society,
an association of nearly 9,000 wildlife managers,
research scientists, biologists and educators, based in
"Global warming presents a profound threat to wildlife
as we know it in this country," said Douglas Inkley,
who chaired the committee that wrote the report.
Among the eight co-authors were representatives from
the Institute of Arctic Biology at the University of
Alaska Fairbanks, the Marine Biological Laboratory at
Woods Hole, Mass., Stanford University's Institute for
International Studies, Ducks Unlimited's Institute for
Wetland and Waterfowl Research in Canada and the
National Wildlife Federation.
The earth's climate is constantly changing, the authors
point out. But hundreds of studies in the last 20 years
show that human activity has contributed to global
warming during the last century.
The effect of rising temperatures has fallen unequally
across North America. Nights have warmed more than
days, while land surfaces have heated up more than
ocean surfaces. Winters have warmed more than summers,
the report notes, and temperatures and precipitation in
northern latitudes have grown more than in the tropics.
There are too many variables to predict exactly what
may happen in the next 100 years, the report says, but
models by the leading climate research centers in the
United Kingdom, Germany and the United States suggest
warming will increase from two to 10 times more in the
21st century than it did in the 20th.
In the broadest terms, researchers believe North
American animals and plants will move higher in
elevation and farther north as temperatures rise. Some
species may benefit from warmer air and water, but the
report suggests that others may have a hard time
keeping up with the changes.
Animals may find their migratory paths blocked by
cities, transportation corridors or farmland. Predators
and their prey may not move at the same time, upsetting
natural balances. Plants could suffer if the birds and
insects that pollinate them head to cooler climes.
Entire forests will migrate over time, the report says.
Sugar maples could abandon the northeastern United
States, perhaps replaced by the pine and hardwood
forests of the southeast. Deer, bears and other animals
that inhabit them would move on also.
The changing forest ecosystem could make the forests
more susceptible to disease. Rapid warming is thought
to have played a role in the spruce bark beetle
epidemic that ravaged Southcentral Alaska in the 1990s.
The report notes that the growing season in parts of
Alaska lengthened by 20 percent during the last
century. In the future, that could mean more wildfires,
which can disrupt caribou migration, moose survival and
fur-bearer populations for years.
On Alaska's coast, biologists and longtime residents
already have seen the effects of thinner sea ice, which
is crucial to the survival of walrus, polar bears and
some seabird species. For animals already living at the
northern edge of North America, there may be no colder
places to go.
Bird hunters could see dramatic declines in waterfowl,
the report suggests. Wetlands in the Midwest and
central Canada are expected to dry up, causing some
duck species to decline by as much as 69 percent over
the next 75 years. Nesting habitat could be lost as
wetlands become more suitable for row crops.
The question before policy-makers and wildlife
managers, the report says, is how to soften the impacts
of global climate change. The authors suggest that
managers adopt a more cautious approach to their work.
Old weather patterns may no longer hold, and extreme
events such as 100-year floods could become more
common, affecting fish runs and waterfowl habitat.
Hunting seasons may have to be revised to account for
later rutting periods or declining populations.
The report also suggests that managers maintain healthy
populations, which can better withstand a changing
climate, and to consider moving affected wildlife
populations to guard against extinctions.
The report doesn't call for curbing emissions of
greenhouse gases but notes that efforts to improve
wildland habitat by planting trees or restoring
grasslands and wetlands "has significant potential to
offset impacts from global climate change."
Others see the new report as a call to action. After
laying out "the full dimensions of global warming's
forecast for wildlife," National Wildlife Federation
president Larry Schweiger said, "now it is incumbent
upon us to change that forecast."
For a copy of the report, see www.nwf.org/news.
Daily News reporter Joel Gay can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org or at 257-4310.
Monsanto 'Seed Police' Scrutinize Farmers
By Stephen Leahy
January 15, 2004 by the Inter Press Service
BROOKLIN, Canada - Agribusiness giant Monsanto has sued more
than 100 U.S. farmers, and its "seed police" have
investigated thousands of others, for what the company terms
illegal use of its patented genetically engineered seeds, and
activists charge is "corporate extortion".
Monsanto prohibits farmers from saving seed from varieties
that have been genetically engineered (GE) to kill bugs and
resist ill-effects from the herbicide glyphosate (sold under
the brand name Roundup).
Kem Ralph of Covington, Tennessee is believed to be the first
farmer to have gone to jail for saving and replanting
Monsanto's Roundup Ready soy seed in 1998. Ralph spent four
months behind bars and must also pay the company 1.8 million
dollars in penalties.
In total, U.S. courts have awarded Monsanto more than 15
million dollars, according to a new report by the Washington-
based Center for Food Safety (CFS) called "Monsanto vs. U.S.
"Monsanto's business plan for GE crops depends on suing
farmers," said Joe Mendelson, legal director for CFS.
It is the first detailed study of how U.S. Farmers have been
impacted by litigation arising from the use of GE crops.
In an interview with IPS, a company spokesperson said
Monsanto was well within its rights to enforce patent laws.
"Monsanto has never sued a farmer who unknowingly planted our
seeds," said Chris Horner.
When asked how the company differentiates between intentional
and unintentional use Horner said: "You can tell just by
looking at field."
"It's not like we're actively going out to find farmers who
illegally use our seed," he added. "But if it comes to our
attention we'll look into it."
Horner confirmed that Monsanto provides a toll-free phone
number for farmers to report suspected abuses by other
While refusing to comment on the accuracy of the CFS report,
Horner said it only looks at a very small group of its
customer base. "We have more than 300,000 licenses with
growers that use our products."
According to the report, court awards are just a fraction of
the money the company has extracted from farmers. Hundreds of
farmers are believed to have been coerced into secret
settlements over the past eight years to avoid going to
Farmers generally lack the knowledge and the legal
representation to defend themselves against Monsanto's
allegations, Mendelson said at a press conference Thursday.
"Often, there's no proof offered but farmers give up without
a fight," he said.
Very little is known about the terms of these settlements,
but in one instance, a North Carolina farmer agreed to pay
1.5 million dollars, he said.
Monsanto has a budget of 10 million dollars and a staff of 75
devoted solely to investigating and prosecuting farmers, the
The tactic has proved very successful. In 2004, nearly 85
percent of all soy and canola were GE varieties. Three-
quarters of U.S. cotton and nearly half of corn is also GE.
Monsanto controls roughly 90 percent of GE soy, cotton and
canola seed markets and has a large piece of the corn seed
The issue of GE crops and small farmers has featured
prominently at the World Social Forum (WSF), an annual
gathering of civil society groups from around the globe that
has called for a moratorium on biotech agriculture.
Monsanto, in particular, has been singled out for "forcing GE
crops on Brazil and the rest of the rest of the world",
according to the environmental group Greenpeace.
This year's WSF takes place Jan. 26-31 in Porto Alegre,
Brazil, and will present a new chance for anti-GE campaigners
to compare notes on the successes, and setbacks, of the
movement in the last year.
So why don't farmers just buy non-GE seed? North Dakota
farmer Rodney Nelson says there is actually very little
conventional seed left to buy anymore because seed dealers
don't make nearly as much money from them.
Monsanto charges technology use fees ranging from 6.25
dollars per bag for soy to an average of 230 dollars for
cotton -- more than three times the cost of conventional
cotton seed. The company argues these fees are necessary to
recoup its research investment.
The other problem is that some non-GE seed is now
contaminated by Monsanto's patented genes, Nelson said.
Monsanto sued Nelson and his family in 1999 for patent
infringement, charging they had saved Roundup Ready soybean
seeds on their 8,000-acre farm. Two years of legal hell
ensued, Nelson said. The matter ended with an out of court
settlement that he is forbidden to talk about. "We won, but
we feel forever tainted."
The report contains a number of similar individual stories
that often end in bankruptcy for the farmer.
Even if a farmer decides to stop using Monsanto seeds, the GE
plants self-seed and some will spring up of their own accord
the following year. These unwanted "volunteers" can keep
popping up for five or more years after a farmer stops using
the patented seeds.
Under U.S. patent law, a farmer commits an offense even if
they unknowingly plant Monsanto's seeds without purchasing
them from the company. Other countries have similar laws.
In the well-known case of Canadian farmer Percy Schmeiser,
pollen from a neighbor's GE canola fields and seeds that blew
off trucks on their way to a processing plant ended up
contaminating his fields with Monsanto's genetics.
The trial court ruled that no matter how the GE plants got
there, Schmeiser had infringed on Monsanto's legal rights
when he harvested and sold his crop. After a six-year legal
battle, Canada's Supreme Court ruled that while Schmeiser had
technically infringed on Monsanto's patent, he did not have
to pay any penalties.
Schmeiser, who spoke at last year's World Social Forum in
India, says it cost 400,000 dollars to defend himself.
"Monsanto should held legally responsible for the
contamination," he said.
Another North Dakota farmer, Tom Wiley, explains the
situation this way: "Farmers are being sued for having GMOs
on their property that they did not buy, do not want, will
not use and cannot sell."
"It's a corporation out of control," says Andrew Kimbrell,
the executive director of CFS.
Unfortunately, he adds, there will be no help for farmers
from the U.S. Department of Agriculture or the Food and Drug
Administration as key positions are occupied by former
Monsanto employees and the company has a powerful lobby in
To help farmers facing lawsuits or threats from Monsanto, the
CFS has established a toll-free hotline to get guidance and
Among other actions, the CFS supports local and state-wide
moratoriums on planting GE crops, and laws to prevent farmers
from being liable for patent infringement through biological
ROCHELLE RILEY: Ideas backed by
money equal power
December 19, 2004
BY ROCHELLE RILEY
FREE PRESS COLUMNIST
Something amazing happened to me recently. I sat in a room full of
accomplished, handsome, black men, preparing to receive an award, and a
man I'd never met rose to speak.
He was Charles E. Allen, a real estate developer and member of Omega Psi
Phi Fraternity, whose Detroit Chapter had just named me Citizen of the
Year. I was honored that a room full of brothers and fathers and uncles who
look like my brother and father and uncles found my community work
worthy. But I also got to hear Allen call this point in America history "a real
time when African-American capital is being welcomed at the table of U.S.
"More so than at any time since the Industrial Revolution, technology... and
communications are fostering dramatic innovations and creativity in both
entrepreneurs and corporations," he said.
So the time when black Americans invented things only to watch others get
rich from them may be over.
Power, price of money
Consider these: Benjamin Banneker, who created the first striking clock to
be made completely in America, yet there are no Banneker clocks? Lewis
H. Latimer, who invented the filament that made Thomas Edison's lightbulb
burn in 1881, but wasn't allowed to let his own light shine; Thomas Jennings,
who gained a patent in 1821 for a dry-cleaning process, only to have us
drop off at Comet or Martinizing; Sarah Boone, who invented the ironing
board in 1892, but we have no Boone boards to buy. "What would it be like
to find that high clump of grass on the tee box with your great, great Big
Bertha without the tee invented by George F. Grant in 1899?" Allen asked.
Then he asked the question at the heart of poor race relations in America:
"Where are the African-American companies that bring to market these
innovations?" he said. "Where is our Bulova Watch company? Where are
our ironing board manufacturing companies, fishing rod companies, our
IBMs and Hewlett-Packards? Where are the instruments by which we can
employ ourselves, buy from ourselves, enrich ourselves?"
That is the question people dismiss during race debates. The problem isn't as
much about the social or emotional stain of racism as in the economic strain
of racism. Black and white people don't get along in America mostly
because of money.
Allen called for African Americans to stop asking for help and to help
themselves, to become "economically militant in our vision of ourselves."
"We seem to have forgotten a lesson of the civil rights struggle," he said. "It
was not the morality of the Montgomery (Ala.) community that gave rise to
the public accommodations act," he said, referring to legal changes resulting
from the Montgomery bus boycotts. "It was the loss of our money that
changed the law." When black Americans have the capital to match their
ideas, then the genius of black inventors can go from drawing board to
boardroom without leaving the creators behind. I knew I'd heard something
profound, a reminder that the America in King's dream, and in mine, is one
where affirmative action is unneeded and black entrepreneurs can ensure
capital for future inventors. Then the next time a black inventor creates
something amazing -- she can create a company to sell her invention, a
company that will trade on the New York Stock Exchange and create
capital for other black inventors to build wealth that can create capital for
other black inventors to build wealth that can create capital for other black
inventors to build wealth to create capital for ...
Contact ROCHELLE RILEY at 313-223-4473 or e-mail
email@example.com. Her columns appear on Sundays, Wednesdays and