National Coalition of Minority Growers c/o Onyx Farms & Food Brokers LLC
12138 Central Ave., Suite 323 Mitchellville, MD 20721 (301) 218-5037 ph (301) 218-5354 fax
For Immediate Release
June 17, 2003
BLACK FARMER GROUP SEEKING MINORITY BUSINESS FROM FOOD CHAINS -- GETS NOD FOR BUSINESS IF INSPECTIONS
Mitchellville, MD--The National Coalition of Minority Growers & Agribusinesses (NCMGA), a primarily Maryland-based group of black,
minority and small farms and companies working for several years with major food chains on plans that would allow thousands of black and
minority growers access to greatly needed markets through long-term regional and national contracts, recently began site inspections of
member farms and facilities by some of America's largest food companies.
"This is an idea whose time has come. Our program, the Minority Growers, Agribusiness Reciprocal Procurement Initiative, is based on the
premise that companies believe that as citizens that share this same earth, they have a corporate responsibility to spend/share their
procurement dollars in a way that creates value for the company, customers and society," said NCMGA spokesman Tim Webb.
Webb added, "All we've asked from the beginning is that companies take a look at the problems, not just markets needed for minority
farmers but the disparity of food industry business period going to minorities, and work with us."
Safeway, Kroger, and Giant have agreed to come out for inspections to date with Marriott and Wal-Mart expected to be scheduled soon.
Other companies contacted by the group have not been as receptive.
NCMGA was formed four years ago out of the need to provide markets to black and minority growers and to assist with technical, PR, and
legal support. Its members have the capability/capacity to fulfill contracts locally, regionally and nationally.
The NCMGA urges the public "to let corporate officials know that they support the survival of black, minority and small growers and expects
corporate America to buy from our communities to the extent that our communities spend billions of dollars with them."
Seed-Saving Farmer To
From Agribusiness Examiner
PETER SHINKLE, ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH -- A farmer opposed to
Monsanto Co.'s genetic seed licensing practices was sentenced pMay 7] in
federal court at St. Louis to eight months in prison for lying about a truckload of
cotton seed he hid for a friend.
Kem Ralph, 47, of Covington, Tenn., also admitted burning a truckload of seed,
in defiance of a court order, to keep Monsanto from using it as evidence in a
lawsuit against him.
The prison term for conspiracy to commit fraud is believed to be the first criminal
prosecution linked to Monsanto's crackdown on farmers it claims are violating
agreements on use of the genetically modified seeds.
Ralph pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court on February 21 of lying in a sworn
statement in the civil case.
At issue is seed-saving, the age-old agricultural practice of keeping seed from
one crop to plant another. Monsanto's licensing agreement forbids it, a policy that
has drawn bitter opposition from some farmers.
In court Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Richard Webber ordered Ralph to
serve the prison time and to repay Monsanto $165,649 for about 41 tons of
genetically engineered cotton and soybean seed he was found to have saved in
violation of the agreement.
Monsanto says it has filed 73 civil lawsuits against farmers in the past five years
over this issue.
Officials of the company, based in Creve Coeur, hoped that Ralph's case would
send a stern message. Monsanto has distributed information about it and about
the civil litigation as a warning.
Before Ralph's sentencing Wednesday, a Monsanto official told Judge Webber
that other farmers would closely watch the outcome.
"Their behavior will be set according to the results here today," said Scott
Baucum, an intellectual property protection manager for Monsanto.
The ruddy-faced Ralph appeared in court in blue jeans and a plaid shirt. He
made no comment during or after the hearing. His attorneys have asked him to
hold his peace because his civil case with Monsanto --- in which he has already
been ordered to pay more than $1.7 million to the agribusiness giant --- is still not
But Ralph has been outspoken about his feelings. He said in a deposition in
2000 that opposition to Monsanto led to his decision to burn the bags of seed.
"Me and my brother talked about how rotten and lowdown Monsanto is. We're
tired of being pushed around by Monsanto," he said then. "We are being pushed
around and drug down a road like a bunch of dogs. And we decided we'd burn
Monsanto's new seeds have won widespread acceptance among American
farmers. An example is genetically modified soybean seeds, which are designed
to work with Monsanto's herbicide Roundup.
The seeds, which won government approval in 1994, are expected to account
for 80% of the 73 million acres of soybeans planted in 2002 and 2003, the
Department of Agriculture says.
Monsanto and its supporters say its fees are justified so the company can
recoup costs and pay for future research.
Farmers who refuse to pay the fees obtain an unfair advantage over others,
Some critics contend that the company's pricing is excessive and too tough on
"Farmers were always able to compete by saving seed. It's really a question of
the corporate profit - that's what's being protected. If you can't save seed, you've
got to buy it," said Lou Leonatti, an attorney from Mexico, Missouri, who
represents Ralph in his civil case.
People from Tipton County, near Ralph's home, wrote to tell Judge Webber that
farmers there had suffered some hard years.
Paul D'Agrossa, attorney for Ralph in the criminal case, argued for probation so
his client could continue to work the soil and support his teenage son.
But Webber, who explained that he had saved seed on the family farm where he
grew up, said he could not ignore Ralph's efforts to conceal evidence.
"I'm not interested in making an example of Mr. Ralph. At the same time, I can't
turn a blind eye to his conduct," the judge said.
Taking note of the planting season, Webber said he would not require the
farmer to report to prison before July 1.
Biotech Wars: Food Freedom Vs. Food
Slavery June 15, 2003
By Vandana Shiva
Monsanto through the U.S. government, is trying desperately to reverse
its failing fortunes by creating markets for its genetically engineered
crops (GMOs) through coercion and corruption.
The E.U. has not yet cleared GM crops for commercial planting or GM food
for imports. Brazil has had a ban on GM crops. And India has not
cleared GM food crops and has stopped the spread of genetically
engineered Bt. Cotton to Northern India after its dismal performance in
Southern India in the first season of commercial planting in 2002.
E.U., Brazil and India are all under attack overtly and covertly, for
not rushing into adopting genetically engineered crops without caution
and ensuring biosafety.
The U.S. has threatened to initiate a dispute against the E.U. in the
W.T.O. for not importing genetically modified foods. The U.S. trade
representative, Mr. Zoellick was in Brazil at the end of May to force
Brazil to remove the ban on GM crops. The U.S. Secretary of State tried
to bully Southern African countries to the Earth Summit in Johannesburg
to accept GM food and, but Zambia refused to be bullied. In India, the
U.S. Embassy tried to pressurize the Ministry of Environment through the
Prime Minister's office to clear imports of GM corn, but a major
mobilisation of women's groups organized as the National Alliance of
Women for Food Rights under the movement of Diverse Women for Diversity,
was successful in sending back two ship loads of 10,000 tons of GM
corn. Since then the Chairman of the Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee which rejected GM crops and imports has been removed and the
Agricultural Ministry has been changed.
Free people with free information are saying no to genetically
engineered food for both ecological and health reasons. However,
genetic engineering is being imposed on the world by a handful of global
corporations with the backing of one powerful government.
Commercial crops produced through genetic engineering are not producing
more food nor are they reducing the use of chemicals. While the hunger
argument is the most frequently used argument to promote and push
genetic engineering, GMOs have more to do with corporate hunger for
profits than poor people's hunger for food. As a news item in the
international Herald Tribune of May 29, 2003 titled, "Biotech war recast
as hunger issue" reported,
President George W. Bush is framing his attack on European resistance to
genetically modified crops as part of a campaign against world hunger.
Bush and his aides are making an emotional plea, saying the
administration's stance is part of the fight against world hunger. In a
speech last week be accused Europe of hindering the "great cause of
ending hunger in Africa" with its ban genetically modified corps." (IHT,
May 29, 2003)
The technology of genetic engineering is not about overcoming food
scarcity but about creating monopolies over food and seed, the first
link in the chain and over life itself.
After having pressurized Lula's government in Brazil to temporarily
remove the ban on GMOs, Monsanto is now claiming royalties for genes in
the Round up Resistance Soya crops, showing once again that profits
through royalty collection are the real objective of spreading GM crops.
India has been forced to change its patent laws under TRIPS and the main
beneficiary of the Second Amendment to India's Patent Act of 1970 are
biotech corporations like Monsanto, seeking patents on genetically
Patents also criminalise and make illegal the human work of life's
reproduction. When seeds are patented, farmers exercising their freedom
and performing their duty of saving and exchanging seeds are treated as
"intellectual property thieves". This can reach absurd limits as in the
case of Percy Schmieser whose canola field was polluted by Monsanto's
Round up Resistant Canola, and instead of Monsanto compensating Percy
for pollution on the "polluter pays principle", Monsanto sued him for
$200,000 for theft of their genes. Monsanto uses detective agencies and
police to track farmers and their crops. Patents imply police states.
Genetic engineering is not merely causing genetic pollution of
biodiversity and creating bio-imperialism, monopolies over life itself.
It is also causing knowledge pollution -- by undermining independent
science, and promoting pseudo science. It is leading to monopolies over
knowledge and information.
The victimisation of Dr. Arpad Putzai who showed the health risks of GM
potatoes and Dr. Ignacio Chapela who showed that corn had been
contaminated in its centre of diversity in Mexico are examples of the
intolerance of a corporate controlled scientific system for real
The fabrication of the data by Monsanto on Bt. Cotton India is an
example of the promotion of an unnecessary, untested, hazardous
technology through pseudo science. While yields of GM cotton fell by
80% and farmers had losses of nearly Rs. 6,000/acre. Monsanto used
Martn Qaim (University of Bonn) and David Zilberman) University of
California, Berkeley) to publish an article in Science to claim that
yields of Bt. Cotton increased by 80%. Qaim and Zilberman published the
paper on the basis of data provided by Monsanto from Monsanto's trials
not on the basis of the harvest from farmers fields in the first year of
The fabricated data that presents a failure of Bt. Cotton as a miracle
hides the fact that non-target insects and diseases increased 250-300%,
costs of seed were 300% more and quantity and quality of cotton was
low. This is why on April 25, 2003, the Genetic Engineering Approval
Committee (GEAC) of the Government of India did not give clearance to
Monsanto to sell Bt. Cotton seeds in Northern India.
The false claims of Monsanto were also proved with a total failure of
Hybrid maize in the state of Bihar and a black listing of the company by
In Rajasthan, Monsanto gave itself an award for miracle yields. While
the brochures claimed 50-90 Q/acre, farmers harvested only 7 Q/acre, 90%
lower than the promise. Farmers of the Udaipur district of Rajasthan
have started a campaign to boycott Monsanto seeds.
Reports of these failures do not reach the international level because
Monsanto controls the media with its public relations spin, just as it
is attempting to control governments and science.
Our crops are being polluted, our food contaminated, our scientific
research and regulatory agencies threatened and corrupted.
This is the context in which the Biotech Conference for Agriculture
Ministers in Sacremento, California, hosted by Ann Vanneman, the U.S.
Secretary for Agriculture is taking place. Ann Vanneman used to head
Agracetus, a subsidiary of Monsanto. The Brazilian Agriculture Ministry
is held captive by Monsanto. The removal of India's Agriculture
Minister, Ajit Singh, a few months before general elections is to ensure
that the threat to peasant survival under corporate control of
agriculture is not put high on the agenda and India's Agriculture
Ministry also comes under Monsanto/Cargill control. The first activity
in which the new Agriculture Minister Rajnath Singh participated was a
Global Seed Conference organised by the Biotech industry.
Sustainability and science are being sacrificed for a reckless
experiment with our biodiversity and food systems which is pushing
species and peasants to extinction. We need to re-imbed technology in
ecology and ethics to ensure that the full ecological and social costs
are taken into account.
What is at stake is the evolution of nature and survival of people, our
food sovereignty and food freedom, integrity of creation and our food
systems based on the evolutionary freedom of nature and democratic
freedoms of farmers and consumers. The choice before us is
bio-imperialism or bio-democracy. Will a few corporations have a
dictatorship over our governments, our knowledge and information, our
lives and all life on the planet or will we as members of the Earth
family liberate ourselves and all species from the prison of patents and
We need to reclaim our food freedom and food sovereignty.
Our movement in India seeks to defend our seed freedom (Bija Swaraj) and
food freedom (Anna Swaraj) by defending our rights, and refusing to
cooperate with immoral and unjust laws (Bija Satyagraha). We save and
share our seeds, we boycott corporate seeds, we are creating patent
free, chemical free, genetic engineering free zones of agriculture to
ensure our agriculture is free of corporate monopolies and chemical and
genetic pollution. Our bread is our freedom. Our freedom will ensure
our bread. And each of us has a duty to exercise bread freedm (Anna
Swaraj) -- for the sake of the earth, for all species, and for ourselves
and the generations to come.