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Published on Friday, May 12, 2000 in The Nation
By Nancy Beiles
In a small brick house strung year-round with Christmas lights, behind curtains made of flowered sheets, Jeremiah Smith is listening to his favorite preacher on the radio. As tonight’s installment of the Gospels winds down, Smith, who has warm brown eyes and a shock of graying black hair, takes a seat at a table draped with a zebra-print cloth and piled high with papers and drifts back thirty years, to the brief period when he was a hog farmer. Like others in Anniston, Alabama, an industrial town with rural traditions, Smith used to raise vegetables and livestock in his yard to provide additional food for his family. “We were poor people,” he says in a thick drawl. “We had to raise food ourselves…. We were trying to survive and live.”Smith planted potatoes and greens in his backyard. He also had a cow and rabbits, but most of his time and attention went to his hogs. In 1970 he had about fifty–too many for his small plot of land, so he led them, Pied Piper-like, past the old Bethel Baptist Church, the Lucky-7 Lounge and the labyrinth of pipes and smokestacks that surrounded the Monsanto chemical plant his father helped build, to a grassy hill where they could graze. Each evening before heading off to work the night shift at a pipe company, Smith would check on them, give them some feed and, when the need arose, he’d bring home some bacon.

One night, as he was feeding the hogs, a man from the Monsanto plant drove up the hill in a flatbed truck and made him an offer: $10 apiece for the hogs and a bottle of Log Cabin whiskey. The offer was intriguing. Smith had begun to notice that something was wrong with some of his hogs anyway; their mouths had turned green. And Smith, ever in need of cash, could hardly afford to pass up $500. He sold. But for more than twenty years, he wondered what on earth a chemical company would want with his hogs.

Problem: Damage to the ecological system by contamination from polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB). Legal Liability: Direct lawsuits are possible. The materials are already present in nature having done their “alleged damage.” All customers using the products have not been officially notified about known effects nor [do] our labels carry this information.       –Memo from Monsanto committee studying PCBs, 1969

People Jeremiah Smith’s age are old enough to remember Monsanto’s glory days in Anniston. The company provided well-paying jobs and helped nurture this friendly Southern town’s sense of community. Residents used to marvel at the plant’s well-manicured grounds, which the company sometimes let them use for Easter-egg hunts. Most never thought to connect Monsanto to some of the odder features of life in Anniston. Like the creek, known locally as “the ditch,” which passed through town carrying water that ran red some days, purple on others and occasionally emitted a foggy white steam.

Public Image: The corporate image of Monsanto as a responsible member of the business world genuinely concerned with the welfare of our environment will be adversely affected with increased publicity…. Sources of Contamination: Although there may be some soil and air contamination involved, by far the most critical problem at present is water contamination…. Our manufacturing facilities sewered a sizable quantity of PCB’s in a year’s time….       –Monsanto committee memo, 1969

* * *

Over time, the residents of West Anniston, Alabama, came to believe they had been silently poisoned for decades by Monsanto. Many also believe that if the contamination had occurred in the more affluent (and more heavily white) east side of town, there would have been more scrutiny by the government. The change in attitude was spurred by what at first seemed like a straightforward real estate transaction between Monsanto and a local church.

In December 1995 Donald Stewart, a former state legislator who served briefly in the US Senate, was taking some time off from his legal practice when he received a phone call from a former client, Andrew Bowie. Bowie, a deacon at the Mars Hill Missionary Baptist Church, explained that a Monsanto manager had approached him about buying the church. “It doesn’t seem like we’re going to achieve a satisfactory deal,” Bowie told Stewart. “I think we need a lawyer.” Stewart agreed to help. “I thought it was a simple case,” Stewart says. “And then it just mushroomed.”

Stewart soon learned that Monsanto wanted to buy the church’s property, which was across the street from its plant, because it had discovered high concentrations of PCBs in the area and was planning a cleanup. After an open meeting at the church, Stewart began fielding a flood of calls from concerned residents, who had a dizzying array of health problems they now attribute to the contamination. The neighborhood around the plant is populated by people with cancer, young women with damaged ovaries, children who are learning-impaired and people whose ailments have been diagnosed as acute toxic syndrome. (Medical studies have shown that PCBs cause liver problems, skin rashes and developmental and reproductive disorders in humans. The EPA says that, according to animal studies, they probably cause cancer.) In addition to the church, which filed its own suit against Monsanto, more than 3,000 Anniston residents who have high levels of PCBs in their blood and on their property have filed suit against the company since 1996, alleging that beginning in the sixties, the company knew it was introducing PCBs into the environment, knew the hazards of doing so, failed to inform the community and tried to conceal what it had done.

Monsanto denies the allegations. While it concedes that much of Anniston is contaminated by PCBs, the company says its chemical discharges were negligible–and maintains that it did not fully understand how PCBs affected the environment at the time they were released. “As soon as we discovered there were PCB discharges from the plant, we began our operations to limit and hopefully eliminate those discharges,” says Bob Kaley, director of environmental affairs for Monsanto’s now spun-off chemical division. “At the time, there were no federal regulations with regard to PCBs…. Everything was done voluntarily, and there was really almost no understanding of the effect of PCBs on the environment and human health.” Kaley adds, “I think as we’ve moved forward in the past thirty years, there are potentially some effects at high levels in the environment. But we do not believe even today that there are concerns for human health at those environmental levels.”

The case is beginning to attract the attention of environmental activists, 150 of whom will be taking a bus tour of the contaminated areas this month. The EPA is currently considering whether to order a federally monitored cleanup, and it may declare the area a Superfund site. The likelihood of that is enhanced by PCBs’ number-six spot on the agency’s list of toxic substances at contaminated sites.

Monsanto lawyers have had plenty of practice defending against liability, since the company has been named as a co-defendant in dozens of PCB suits across the country. The company’s track record in court on this front is excellent; while Monsanto has settled a few suits, it has succeeded in getting the vast majority of complaints–most of which have been brought by companies that purchased the chemicals from Monsanto–thrown out by arguing that these companies knew what they were getting into.

But the Anniston case stands out in the annals of PCB litigation in the extent of damage to property and people it alleges. It is also among the first brought by ordinary citizens rather than sophisticated corporations. And this time Monsanto will have to confront its own paper trail in court. The black binders that the plaintiffs’ lawyers have stuffed full of internal memorandums and reports, branded “Hot Documents” and “Hottest Documents” with yellow Post-it notes–many of which have never been seen by the public but which will become public record when the trial begins–make this an especially difficult defense to mount.

* * *

Karen McFarlane lives in plain view of the plant. It’s a mild morning in February, and Karen didn’t sleep much last night. Clothed only in a T-shirt and underwear, with a sweater draped over her lap, she lights her first cigarette of the morning–a bent Basic–and promptly drops it on the shaggy blue rug. Dakota, Karen’s 16-month-old, is playing with the severed head of a Barbie knock-off and there’s not much to eat in the house. But Karen has other worries. Outside, a chain-link fence, six feet high and capped by barbed wire, surrounds the gray Buccaneer trailer where she lives with her husband, Ryan, and their five children, blocking access to gray-green fields once populated by neighbors and small businesses that have been chased away by PCB contamination. “I never thought I’d say it, but I just want to get away from here,” says Karen, who has lived in Anniston her whole life.

She has PCBs in her body fat. According to tests done by a local doctor, Ryan’s blood has nearly triple the level considered “typical” in the United States; for Tiffany, their 6-year-old, it’s double. Nathan, 8, has severe developmental problems, and everyone in the family suffers from respiratory problems and the skin rashes associated with PCB exposure. Chris, Karen’s 11-year-old son, who’s home from school with an upset stomach and is splayed out on the couch, lifts his Panthers basketball T-shirt to reveal brownish-red blotches climbing up the sides of his chest. “It smells like decaying flesh,” Ryan warns. “Like it’s rotten.”

Most of their friends and family have already left, but the McFarlanes can’t afford anything other than the small dirt lot where they park their trailer. Karen was recently hospitalized for respiratory-stress disorder and had two strokes at age 30. Her most recent Pap smear was abnormal, but she says she’s too scared to have a follow-up exam. Ryan, who has small pink growths dotting his neck, wistfully talks of going to an oncologist for a full cancer screening, something he’s unlikely to get soon because he doesn’t have health insurance. The McFarlanes are stuck in a place where, according to the Alabama Department of Public Health, cancer rates are 25 percent higher than in the rest of the state.

* * *

Anniston was founded as a company town. In 1872, Samuel Noble, a British-born businessman, and Daniel Tyler, a Union general and a cousin of Aaron Burr, established Woodstock Iron in a then-barren outpost at the foot of the Appalachian Mountains. The company built a church, a schoolhouse and a general store. To guarantee the moral fiber of their fabricated utopia, the townspeople threw away their whiskey bottles, declared their own Prohibition and erected a fence around the town’s perimeter, creating one of the nation’s earliest gated communities. During World War I, chemical producers arrived, and in 1929, the Theodore Swann Company became the nation’s first maker of PCBs, nonflammable chemicals that lubricate industrial systems that generate heat. By 1935 the Monsanto Company recognized PCBs as big business and bought Swann’s Anniston facility. For close to forty years, Monsanto sold PCBs to companies like General Electric and Westinghouse, helping them insure that webs of electrical wires wouldn’t burst into flames.

In the sixties Monsanto encountered a serious threat to its success. While chemical manufacturers throughout the country were scrutinizing the environmental impacts of their products amid growing pressure to reduce emissions, a team of Swedish researchers discovered PCBs in wildlife. For every electrical wire kept from overheating, some of the chemical had been escaping. This discovery, which received wide publicity in 1966, raised concerns for Monsanto, which worried that it would usher in governmental regulations limiting PCB use. “Truly the PCBs are a worldwide ecological problem,” declared a company memo that included a list of concerns under the heading “Business Potential at Stake on a Worldwide Basis.”

At the time, the government had not yet declared PCBs to be hazardous to human health, but suspicions had been growing for quite a while. As early as 1937 the medical community was examining PCBs to see if they were a public health hazard–a study published that year in the Journal of Industrial Hygiene and Toxicology suggested links between PCBs and liver disease. In the mid-fifties Monsanto researchers and executives began writing confidential memos describing their fears about the chemicals’ toxic effects, but they drafted plans for continuing to sell them despite these suspicions. In 1956 Monsanto considered the chemicals toxic enough to give workers protective gear and clothing, and encourage them to hose off after each shift. Along with other chemical manufacturers, the company publicly expressed skepticism about PCBs’ association with disease, but over the next decade the evidence became harder and harder to dismiss. In 1968 the links between PCBs and disease won wide credibility when residents of a Japanese town were harmed by consuming PCB-contaminated rice oil. Subsequent studies published in leading medical journals showed that PCBs damage the immune system, the reproductive system and the nervous and endocrine systems.

Monsanto had hundreds of millions in PCB sales to lose if regulators placed restrictions on their use. By 1969 the company established a committee to keep abreast of the state of knowledge on PCBs. The issue was beginning to look like “a monster,” in the words of one former executive.

Make the Govt., States and Universities prove their case, but avoid as much confrontation as possible…. We can prove some things are OK at low concentration. Give Monsanto some defense…. We can’t defend vs. everything. Some animals or fish or insects will be harmed…. The Dept. of Interior and/or state authorities could monitor plant outfall and find [discharges] of chlorinated biphenyls at…Anniston anytime they choose to do so. This would shut us down depending on what plants or animals they choose to find harmed….
–Monsanto researcher, September 1969

* * *

At issue in the lawsuit is whether the company was aware of the extent of the PCB contamination and whether it could have protected or warned the community. Many of the answers may be found in the documents.
In the late sixties Monsanto began keeping track of its PCB discharges in an attempt to reduce emissions. According to the company’s July 1970 progress report, Monsanto was dumping about sixteen pounds a day of PCB waste into the town’s waterways. It was a significant amount, but in the closed world of Monsanto executives, it almost seemed like good news–the year before, the company had been dumping about 250 pounds a day.

Monsanto went on the offensive, reporting to regulators at the now-defunct Alabama Water Improvement Commission that it was finding PCBs in the water near the plant. But the regulators, according to a company memo, agreed that “all written effluent level reports would be held confidential by the technical staff and would not be available to the public unless or until Monsanto released it.” Monsanto never did.

To predict whether federal or state regulators would find the chemicals to be a threat to the environment or human health, Monsanto began commissioning animal toxicity studies; the results, in the early seventies, didn’t look good. “Our interpretation is that the PCBs are exhibiting a greater degree of toxicity in this study than we had anticipated…. We have additional interim data which will perhaps be more discouraging,” a company executive wrote. “We are repeating some of the experiments to confirm or deny the earlier findings and are not distributing the early results at this time.”

Testing continued, but the results didn’t get any better. In 1975 the lab submitted its findings from a two-year study of PCBs’ effects on rats. An early draft of the report said that in some cases, PCBs had caused tumors. George Levinskas, Monsanto’s manager for environmental assessment and toxicology, wrote to the lab’s director: “May we request that the [PCB] 1254 report be amended to say ‘does not appear to be carcinogenic.'”

The final report adopted the company’s suggested language and dropped all references to tumors.

Anniston residents got their first glimpse of Monsanto’s troubles with PCBs in late 1993. A contractor doing dredging work on the nearby Choccolocco Creek noticed largemouth bass with blistered scales. Tests showed the fish contained extremely high levels of PCBs. Around the same time, the Alabama Power Company broke ground on land it had acquired from Monsanto in the sixties, opening up a PCB landfill that bled black tar. Alabama Power insisted that Monsanto take back the land and reported its discovery to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. Testing ordered by ADEM and carried out by Monsanto found that a wide swath of West Anniston and local waterways were highly contaminated with PCBs. Soon after, the company made its quiet buyout offer to the church.

The contamination came as news to residents, but Donald Stewart quickly discovered that Monsanto had known about it for decades. “There have been some big bonanzas,” Stewart says of the internal company documents he has collected. “Someone’s going to have to sit down somewhere in the bowels of that company and make it right.”

Since Stewart had never handled a case like this before, he enlisted the help of a Mississippi firm and Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman, a New York firm that represented Liggett in the tobacco suits. Even with all that legal firepower, Stewart still has a formidable task ahead. “It just seems these folks have the skill and the capability to avoid having somebody pin the tail on their donkey. I mean, they’ve just been able to walk away from it,” he says. “I can’t wait to get before a jury to say, ‘Well, this is what happened.’ I’m looking forward to hearing how they’re going to explain this away.”

Early in 1970, we established a target of 10 ppb [parts per billion] of PCBs in our plant waste streams which we expected to achieve by the third quarter 1971. No specific target was established for the quantity of PCBs we could tolerate in the atmosphere. During the year as the plant gained tighter control of known sources of PCB pollution, it became increasingly obvious that the high levels would continue because of the PCBs trapped in the soil and in the sewer systems. Clean-up of these sources can be economically impractical.
–Former Monsanto plant manager, January 1971

Adam Peck, one of Monsanto’s lawyers, isn’t sweating it. The company, which spun off its chemical division as a stand-alone firm, Solutia, in 1997, assigned an environmental manager to lead a $30 million cleanup focusing on everything from a landfill where 150-200 million pounds of PCB waste are buried to waterways and contaminated land in the neighborhood. Beginning with the Mars Hill church, the company began buying out small businesses and residents in West Anniston. They bulldozed buildings, laid thick plastic tarps over the contaminated soil and covered them with clean soil. The company plans to convert some of the contaminated land into a wildlife refuge. It has built perching posts near the landfill to attract purple martins, and recently released salamanders into a pond that catches runoff water from the landfill.

In Peck’s mind, these activities demonstrate convincingly that the corporation has behaved responsibly. “Our position is that when a jury hears all the evidence they will conclude that Monsanto and Solutia acted responsibly in the manufacture of PCBs and in efforts to remediate,” he says. “I think liability will be for a jury to determine. We have offered to acquire property. We’ve offered to clean property. What does that mean? Does that mean we acted responsibly or that we should have done more?” After a pause, he adds, “I’m not sure what more we could have done.”

Peck says Monsanto didn’t notify the community about the PCB releases years ago because at the time there wasn’t sufficient understanding of how the chemicals migrated through the environment. Yet one of the documents Stewart obtained, a sample Q&A on PCBs produced by Monsanto for its customers in 1972, reads in part: “PCB is a persistent chemical which builds up in the environment. It, therefore, should not be allowed to escape to the environment.” Peck continues: “And if you think about it from the perspective of the plant manager and the folks who were there at the time, the levels that were escaping the plant were extremely small compared to the levels that those guys were working with on a daily basis. They weren’t worried for their own health. Why should they be thinking the minute levels that are escaping are of any concern to anybody outside there?” The protective gear worn by workers, Peck insists, was simply routine.

* * *

Ryan McFarlane is lumbering across the dirt lot outside his trailer. Overweight and easily winded  es s y past a broken trampoline to a set of wire pens that house his chickens. Undersized and lethargic, they huddle in the corners of the rusty pens, occasionally exhaling a thin cluck. For years, Ryan raised chickens for food. But these days, knowing they are probably contaminated, and since his health problems have kept him from working for the past five years, Ryan keeps chickens around to give him something to do.

Until the PCB contamination came to light, the McFarlanes, like many of their friends and former neighbors, regularly ate fish from the creeks, and chicken and vegetables raised in their yards. They might have given the practice up long before if Monsanto had told Jeremiah Smith in 1970 when it bought his hogs that it made the purchase because it was worried that people were eating PCB-contaminated pork. (Monsanto admits that the hogs were later shot and buried, although the company contends that its concern about PCB contamination was secondary to its concern about the hogs’ trespassing on its property.) The Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, a division of the US Department of Health and Human Services, completed a health study in Anniston in February, which found that PCB exposure in the town is a public health hazard. It also suggested that eating local pork, fish and chicken has been a major source of PCB contamination. The EPA says eating PCB-contaminated food is one of the most dangerous means of exposure because PCBs biomagnify, or increase in intensity, as they travel up the food chain.

Residents are anxiously awaiting the EPA’s decision on whether to order a federal cleanup. “All they want to do, seem like, is study, study, study, we got to study some more,” says one plaintiff in the case. The lawsuit is also taking longer than residents anticipated. Two weeks before the case was to go to trial, in March 1999, Monsanto appealed to the state Supreme Court to establish procedural rules for the circuit court. Now, more than a year later, the Court still hasn’t returned its rulings. In the meantime, Stewart prepares for trial and works on other cases. He’s hoping the jury will award compensatory damages for the property contamination and punitive damages for the fear the exposure has engendered. He also wants Monsanto to pay for regular health screenings. Early settlement talks went nowhere, both sides say.

Monsanto did settle the original suit on behalf of the Mars Hill congregation. It made no admission of guilt but paid $2.5 million to rebuild the church at another location. “In the Mars Hill case they protested all the time that they didn’t do a thing,” Stewart says. “Then they paid $2.5 million for a church they said was worth $400,000. Sounds like they did something, to me. Now, I’m just a small-town country lawyer, but I wonder how they arrived at that decision.”

Nancy Beiles, a reporter at Talk magazine, lives in Brooklyn.

Copyright �2000 The Nation Company, L.P.

Click on image for full size version, then press “ctrl” and “+” to magnify. Original here

| Wed Jan. 25, 2012 2:43 PM PST
Expect to see lots of this stuff blanketing the Midwest for a long time if Monsanto and Dow get their way. Rastoney/Flickr

During the late-December media lull, the USDA didn’t satisfy itself with green lighting Monsanto’s useless, PR-centric “drought-tolerant” corn. It also prepped the way for approving a product from Monsanto’s rival Dow Agrosciences—one that industrial-scale corn farmers will likely find all-too useful.

Dow has engineered a corn strain that withstands lashings of its herbicide, 2,4-D. The company’s pitch to farmers is simple: Your fields are becoming choked with weeds that have developed resistance to Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide. As soon as the USDA okays our product, all your problems will be solved.

At risk of sounding overly dramatic, the product seems to me to bring mainstream US agriculture to a crossroads. If Dow’s new corn makes it past the USDA and into farm fields, it will mark the beginning of at least another decade of ramped-up chemical-intensive farming of a few chosen crops (corn, soy, cotton), beholden to a handful of large agrichemical firms working in cahoots to sell ever-larger quantities of poisons, environment be damned. If it and other new herbicide-tolerant crops can somehow be stopped, farming in the US heartland can be pushed toward a model based on biodiversity over monocropping, farmer skill in place of brute chemicals, and healthy food instead of industrial commodities.

Yet Dow’s pitch will likely prove quite compelling. Introduced in 1996, Roundup Ready crops now account for 94 percent of the soybean crops and upwards of 70 percent for soy and cotton, USDA figures show. The technology cut a huge chunk of work out of farming, allowing farmers to cultivate ever more massive swaths of land with less labor.

When Roundup Ready crops hit the market in the mid-1990s, farmers started applying more and more Roundup per acre.: From Mortensen, at al, "Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management," BioScience, Jan. 2012

When Roundup Ready crops hit the market in the mid-1990s, farmers started applying more and more Roundup per acre.: From Mortensen, at al, “Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management,” BioScience, Jan. 2012But by the time farmers had structured their operations around Roundup Ready and its promise of effortless weed control, the technology had begun to fail. In what was surely one of the most predictable events in the history of agriculture, it turned out than when farmers douse millions of acres of land with a single herbicide year and after year, weeds evolve to resist that poison. Last summer, Roundup-resistant superweeds flourished in huge swaths of US farmland, forcing farmers to apply gushers of toxic herbicide cocktails and even resort to hand-weeding—not a fun thing to do on a huge farm. A recent article in the industrial-ag trade journal Delta Farm Press summed up the situation: “Days of Easy Weed Control Are Over.”

Dow’s new herbicide-resistant product promises to bring those days back. In itspetition to the USDA to approve 2,4-D-resistant corn, the company explicitly pitched it as the answer to farmers’ Roundup trouble. The 2,4-D trait will be “stacked” with Monsanto’s Roundup trait to “generate commercial hybrids with multiple herbicide tolerances,” the petition states. Note that the new product marks a point of collusion, not competition, between industry titans Dow and Monsanto—they plan to license the 2,4-D and Roundup traits to each other to form “stacked” hybrids.

And once they do, farmers can douse their fields with both 2,4-D and Roundup—and 2,4-D will kill whatever weeds Roundup can’t, and leave the crop pristine. Farmers growers will be able to “proactively manage weed populations while avoiding adverse population shifts of troublesome weeds or the development of resistance, particularly glyphosate- [Roundup-] resistance in weeds,” the petition promises.

The USDA, for its part, is buying what Dow is selling. Its Draft Environmental Assessment(PDF) offers no critique of Dow’s claims, and recommends that the product be deregulated. The agency is currently seeking public comment on the matter; the comment period ends Feb. 17. Doug Gurian-Sherman, a senior scientist with the Union of Concerned Scientists, told me that when the USDA brings a GMO product to the comment stage after having recommended deregulation, it “almost always” greenlights the product. “The only times I’ve seen the USDA hold off at this stage is when there’s a lot of public pushback,” Gurian-Sherman says.

Dow’s new GM corn merits just such a public uproar, it seems to me. A just-released paper from a group of researchers led by Pennsylvania State University crop scientist David A. Mortensen makes a strong case that new herbicide-tolerant crops will lead US agriculture down a path of ever-increasing addiction to agrichemicals. (The abstract is here; I have a PDF of the full paper but can’t upload it because it’s under copyright.)

The authors note that even by Dow and Monsanto’s reckoning, a new stacked 2,4-D/Roundup-resistant product would immediately lead to an increase in herbicide use, because the companies have been advocating an herbicide program that combines current rates of Roundup use with a roughly equal amounts of 2,4-D. That’s good for sales; but not so good for the environment.

And wouldn’t such an herbicide cocktail just lead to weeds that defy both 2,4-D and Roundup? No need to worry about that; Dow and Monsanto claim that it’s extremely unlikely for weeds to survive two different herbicides that attack them simultaneously in entirely different ways.

The authors shred that argument. They retort that resistance to two or more herbicides isn’t a rare occurrence at all—globally, no fewer than 38 weed species across 12 families show resistance to two or more herbicides—”with 44% of these having appeared since 2005.”

They add that in that on millions of acres of farmland in the Midwest and South, many weeds will only need to develop a single resistance pathway, because they’re already resistant to Roundup. That is, when farmers apply 2,4-D at will to weeds that are already resistant to Roundup, they’ll essentially be selecting for weeds that can resist both.

The authors predict that glyphosate (Roundup) use will hold steady at high levels—and use of other herbicides, like 2,4-D, will soar.: From Mortensen, at al, ""Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management," BioScience, Jan. 2012The authors predict that glyphosate (Roundup) use will hold steady at high levels—and use of other herbicides, like 2,4-D, will soar.: From Mortensen, at al, “Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management,” BioScience, Jan. 2012All in all, the authors conclude, chances are “actually quite high” that Dow’s new product will unleash a new generation of superweeds that resist both Roundup and 2,4-D. If 2,4-D resistance does indeed emerge, farmers will likely respond just as they responded to the advent of Roundup resistance—by applying ever higher doses.

Thus the authors project that 2,4-D use will surge for at least decade before the new seeds reach market. Their main ecological concern with an explosion in 2,4-D use is pesticide drift—they say the compound is quite volatile and prone to be carried in air, where it can do damage to non-target plants like the neighbor’s vegetable farm. “Landscapes dominated by synthetic auxin- [2,4-D]–resistant [crops] may make it challenging to cultivate tomatoes, grapes, potatoes, and other horticultural crops without the threat of yield loss from drift,” they write. They also fear that if you’re a farmer determined not to use a stacked 2,4-D/Roundup seed, you could be forced to if your neighbor’s 2,4-D spray keeps knocking down your corn.

As for its toxicity to people and animals, the study’s authors take at face value the EPA’s assessment that 2,4-D and other chemicals in it class have “low acute and chronic toxicities to mammalian, bird, and fish model organisms; degrade fairly rapidly in the soil; and are not known to bioaccumulate.”

However, as I’ve reported before, the advocacy group Beyond Pesticides points to both epidemiological and lab-based evidence linking it non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and other cancers. It’s also an endocrine disruptor, Beyond Pesticides reports, meaning it can “interfere with the body’s hormone messaging system and can alter many essential processes.” And in 2004, a coalition of more than a dozen environmental and social-justice groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and Pesticide Action Network, wrote a letter to the EPA rebuking it for underestimating the health risks of 2,4-D—in particular, its carcinogenicity. The EPA, it goes without saying, brushed those concerns aside.

The frustrating part is, there no reason to send a flood of this stuff onto US farm fields, where it will likely run off into ground water, as both Roundup and Syngenta’s toxic herbicide atrazinealready have.

As the authors of the Bioscience paper show, a simple program called Integrated Weed Management (IWM) could rescue US farm fields from Roundup-resistant superweeds without recourse to more herbicides. The approach relies on low-tech techniques like crop rotation, cover crops, tillage, and targeted herbicide applications. IWM would mean bringing skill and thought back to farming, and it would push farmers into planting more crops than just corn and soy.

The biggest obstacle to IWM over the Dow/Monsanto vision doesn’t lie in efficiency or economics. The authors cite research showing that “cropping systems that employ an IWM approach can produce competitive yields and realize profit margins that are comparable to, if not greater than, those of systems that rely chiefly on herbicides.”

Rather, the obstacle lies in in political economy: the power of the agrichemical companies to set the research agenda both in public universities and at the USDA, and to use farm supports to reward farmers for growing a narrow set of crops. Farmers have been using Roundup technology for nearly a generation; they will grope for the next fix to it until our public ag-research complex shows that them there’s a better, cheaper way.

And here’s where we get to the crossroads in our agriculture. If the agrichemical companies manage to ram through the regulatory process a bunch of patches to Roundup Ready farming, then their herbicide-drenched vision will continue dominating huge swaths of prime farmland throughout the country for the forseable future. We don’t have to go that way. It’s time to raise hell.

In the graphic below, Penn State ag scientist David Mortensen and his co-authors lay out what they see as the crossroads facing US agriculture.

Fork in the road. : From Mortensen, at al, "Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management," BioScience, Jan. 2012Fork in the road. From Mortensen, at al, “Navigating a Critical Juncture for Sustainable Weed Management,” BioScience, Jan. 2012

Food and Ag BloggerTom Philpott is the food and ag blogger for Mother Jones. For more of his stories, click here. To follow him on Twitter, click hereRSS | TWITTER

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11 Minutes…

by Jeffrey M. Smith, Institute for Responsible Technology

11 minutes

It took the audience just 11 minutes to give up food brands they had grown up with and to commit to seek healthier non-GMO food. Of course this group had already been against genetically modified organisms as a concept. This was Greenfest after all; and in San Francisco no less. But when I asked them to honestly rate themselves on a scale of 1-100 how vigilant they had been at avoiding GMOs, the largest number of hands went up for the lowest category — 1-20. That’s typical of most US audiences. And so is what happened next….

 

After showing them photos of damaged organs from lab rats fed GMOs, skin rashes from farm workers picking GM cotton, and dead livestock that had grazed on the cotton plants; when they saw rodent studies showing a 5-fold increase in infant mortality, smaller babies, sterile babies, and severe immune responses; when they realized that genes inserted into GM crops can transfer into the DNA of bacteria inside our intestines and possibly continue to function, and that the poisonous insecticide engineered into Monsanto’s corn is found in the blood of pregnant women and unborn fetuses; when they learned how industry rigs their research to hide dangers and attacks independent scientists and their studies; when they discovered that FDA scientists had repeatedly warned of serious harm from GMOs, but the political appointee in chargeMonsanto’s former attorney allowed GM foods on the market without any required safety tests; and when they discovered that the same doctors’ organization that first identified Gulf War syndrome, chemical sensitivities, and food allergies, now urges physicians to prescribe non-GMO diets to everyone; I asked the audience to rate themselves how vigilant they would be next week to avoid GMOs.

“How many will be low vigilance, 1-20?” No hands.

“20-40?” Still no hands.

“40-60?” A couple of hands.

The most popular category shifted from the lowest vigilance (1-20) in the first vote, to the highest (80-100) in the second just 11 minutes later.

I then reminded the audience of the strategy to eliminate GMOs, which we had discussed at the beginning: If brand managers from major food companies see any drop in market share that was attributable to growing anti-GMO sentiment in the US, it would be the food industry equivalent of a “Sell Signal.” GMO ingredients would be considered a market liability and be discarded. Remember, these same companies had quickly removed GMOs from their European brands when GMO resistance spread there. To hit that sell signal in the US, we think the tipping point requires about 5% of US consumers changing their diet.

I asked the audience, “How in the world are we going to get 15 million Americans to change their diet?” After the 11 minutes, I told them, “Now we know. We just tell them the truth.”

I then asked the audience to rate themselves how active they planned to be to educate people on GMOs. At the start of the presentation, most rated themselves in the lowest category. After 11 minutes, nearly everyone was in the highest.

“So you see,” I said. “The same information that changes peoples’ diets also makes the campaign go viral.”

Endgame for GMOs

Now it’s just a numbers game. Once we disseminate that information to enough people, it’s the endgame for genetically modified food.

The Institute for Responsible Technology has packaged this behavior-changing message into a full range of educational materials, organized local and national action groups, trained 750 people to give public presentations, and reaches 5-10 million people each month.

Because collective consciousness is starting to awaken to this issue, it’s become easier to get the word out and change lives. As the same time, we’re now getting flooded with opportunities and requests. With current staffing levels, we simply can’t keep up. We need your help.

We love our supporters. Our precious donors make our work possible. To you, and to everyone who has ever considered giving a donation, please understand that right now every single dollar has enormous leverage, driving us closer to a non-GMO future.

Help us harvest all this low-hanging non-GMO fruit. Please make a contribution to help end the genetic engineering of our food supply.

I wouldn’t say we’re in the home stretch just yet, but we’re banking the turn and hear the crowd cheering. It’s time to turn on the juice.

Thanks so much,

Jeffrey Smith, Executive Director
Institute for Responsible Technology

Read more 

 

Monsanto already dominates America’s food chain with its genetically modified seeds. Now it has targeted milk production. Just as frightening as the corporation’s tactics–ruthless legal battles against small farmers–is its decades-long history of toxic contamination.
An anti-Monsanto crop circle in the Philippines

No thanks: An anti-Monsanto crop circle made by farmers and volunteers in the Philippines. By Melvyn Calderon/Greenpeace HO/A.P. Images.

Gary Rinehart clearly remembers the summer day in 2002 when the stranger walked in and issued his threat. Rinehart was behind the counter of the Square Deal, his “old-time country store,” as he calls it, on the fading town square of Eagleville, Missouri, a tiny farm community 100 miles north of Kansas City.

The Square Deal is a fixture in Eagleville, a place where farmers and townspeople can go for lightbulbs, greeting cards, hunting gear, ice cream, aspirin, and dozens of other small items without having to drive to a big-box store in Bethany, the county seat, 15 miles down Interstate 35.

Everyone knows Rinehart, who was born and raised in the area and runs one of Eagleville’s few surviving businesses. The stranger came up to the counter and asked for him by name.

“Well, that’s me,” said Rinehart.

As Rinehart would recall, the man began verbally attacking him, saying he had proof that Rinehart had planted Monsanto’s genetically modified (G.M.) soybeans in violation of the company’s patent. Better come clean and settle with Monsanto, Rinehart says the man told him—or face the consequences.

Rinehart was incredulous, listening to the words as puzzled customers and employees looked on. Like many others in rural America, Rinehart knew of Monsanto’s fierce reputation for enforcing its patents and suing anyone who allegedly violated them. But Rinehart wasn’t a farmer. He wasn’t a seed dealer. He hadn’t planted any seeds or sold any seeds. He owned a small—a reallysmall—country store in a town of 350 people. He was angry that somebody could just barge into the store and embarrass him in front of everyone. “It made me and my business look bad,” he says. Rinehart says he told the intruder, “You got the wrong guy.”

When the stranger persisted, Rinehart showed him the door. On the way out the man kept making threats. Rinehart says he can’t remember the exact words, but they were to the effect of: “Monsanto is big. You can’t win. We will get you. You will pay.”

Scenes like this are playing out in many parts of rural America these days as Monsanto goes after farmers, farmers’ co-ops, seed dealers—anyone it suspects may have infringed its patents of genetically modified seeds. As interviews and reams of court documents reveal, Monsanto relies on a shadowy army of private investigators and agents in the American heartland to strike fear into farm country. They fan out into fields and farm towns, where they secretly videotape and photograph farmers, store owners, and co-ops; infiltrate community meetings; and gather information from informants about farming activities. Farmers say that some Monsanto agents pretend to be surveyors. Others confront farmers on their land and try to pressure them to sign papers giving Monsanto access to their private records. Farmers call them the “seed police” and use words such as “Gestapo” and “Mafia” to describe their tactics.

When asked about these practices, Monsanto declined to comment specifically, other than to say that the company is simply protecting its patents. “Monsanto spends more than $2 million a day in research to identify, test, develop and bring to market innovative new seeds and technologies that benefit farmers,” Monsanto spokesman Darren Wallis wrote in an e-mailed letter to Vanity Fair. “One tool in protecting this investment is patenting our discoveries and, if necessary, legally defending those patents against those who might choose to infringe upon them.” Wallis said that, while the vast majority of farmers and seed dealers follow the licensing agreements, “a tiny fraction” do not, and that Monsanto is obligated to those who do abide by its rules to enforce its patent rights on those who “reap the benefits of the technology without paying for its use.” He said only a small number of cases ever go to trial.

Some compare Monsanto’s hard-line approach to Microsoft’s zealous efforts to protect its software from pirates. At least with Microsoft the buyer of a program can use it over and over again. But farmers who buy Monsanto’s seeds can’t even do that.

The Control of Nature

For centuries—millennia—farmers have saved seeds from season to season: they planted in the spring, harvested in the fall, then reclaimed and cleaned the seeds over the winter for re-planting the next spring. Monsanto has turned this ancient practice on its head.

Monsanto developed G.M. seeds that would resist its own herbicide, Roundup, offering farmers a convenient way to spray fields with weed killer without affecting crops. Monsanto then patented the seeds. For nearly all of its history the United States Patent and Trademark Office had refused to grant patents on seeds, viewing them as life-forms with too many variables to be patented. “It’s not like describing a widget,” says Joseph Mendelson III, the legal director of the Center for Food Safety, which has tracked Monsanto’s activities in rural America for years.

Indeed not. But in 1980 the U.S. Supreme Court, in a five-to-four decision, turned seeds into widgets, laying the groundwork for a handful of corporations to begin taking control of the world’s food supply. In its decision, the court extended patent law to cover “a live human-made microorganism.” In this case, the organism wasn’t even a seed. Rather, it was a Pseudomonasbacterium developed by a General Electric scientist to clean up oil spills. But the precedent was set, and Monsanto took advantage of it. Since the 1980s, Monsanto has become the world leader in genetic modification of seeds and has won 674 biotechnology patents, more than any other company, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data.

Farmers who buy Monsanto’s patented Roundup Ready seeds are required to sign an agreement promising not to save the seed produced after each harvest for re-planting, or to sell the seed to other farmers. This means that farmers must buy new seed every year. Those increased sales, coupled with ballooning sales of its Roundup weed killer, have been a bonanza for Monsanto.

This radical departure from age-old practice has created turmoil in farm country. Some farmers don’t fully understand that they aren’t supposed to save Monsanto’s seeds for next year’s planting. Others do, but ignore the stipulation rather than throw away a perfectly usable product. Still others say that they don’t use Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds, but seeds have been blown into their fields by wind or deposited by birds. It’s certainly easy for G.M. seeds to get mixed in with traditional varieties when seeds are cleaned by commercial dealers for re-planting. The seeds look identical; only a laboratory analysis can show the difference. Even if a farmer doesn’t buy G.M. seeds and doesn’t want them on his land, it’s a safe bet he’ll get a visit from Monsanto’s seed police if crops grown from G.M. seeds are discovered in his fields.

Most Americans know Monsanto because of what it sells to put on our lawns— the ubiquitous weed killer Roundup. What they may not know is that the company now profoundly influences—and one day may virtually control—what we put on our tables. For most of its history Monsanto was a chemical giant, producing some of the most toxic substances ever created, residues from which have left us with some of the most polluted sites on earth. Yet in a little more than a decade, the company has sought to shed its polluted past and morph into something much different and more far-reaching—an “agricultural company” dedicated to making the world “a better place for future generations.” Still, more than one Web log claims to see similarities between Monsanto and the fictional company “U-North” in the movie Michael Clayton, an agribusiness giant accused in a multibillion-dollar lawsuit of selling an herbicide that causes cancer.

Gary Rinehart

Monsanto brought false accusations against Gary Rinehart—shown here at his rural Missouri store. There has been no apology. Photographs by Kurt Markus.

Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds have transformed the company and are radically altering global agriculture. So far, the company has produced G.M. seeds for soybeans, corn, canola, and cotton. Many more products have been developed or are in the pipeline, including seeds for sugar beets and alfalfa. The company is also seeking to extend its reach into milk production by marketing an artificial growth hormone for cows that increases their output, and it is taking aggressive steps to put those who don’t want to use growth hormone at a commercial disadvantage.

Even as the company is pushing its G.M. agenda, Monsanto is buying up conventional-seed companies. In 2005, Monsanto paid $1.4 billion for Seminis, which controlled 40 percent of the U.S. market for lettuce, tomatoes, and other vegetable and fruit seeds. Two weeks later it announced the acquisition of the country’s third-largest cottonseed company, Emergent Genetics, for $300 million. It’s estimated that Monsanto seeds now account for 90 percent of the U.S. production of soybeans, which are used in food products beyond counting. Monsanto’s acquisitions have fueled explosive growth, transforming the St. Louis–based corporation into the largest seed company in the world.

In Iraq, the groundwork has been laid to protect the patents of Monsanto and other G.M.-seed companies. One of L. Paul Bremer’s last acts as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority was an order stipulating that “farmers shall be prohibited from re-using seeds of protected varieties.” Monsanto has said that it has no interest in doing business in Iraq, but should the company change its mind, the American-style law is in place.

To be sure, more and more agricultural corporations and individual farmers are using Monsanto’s G.M. seeds. As recently as 1980, no genetically modified crops were grown in the U.S. In 2007, the total was 142 million acres planted. Worldwide, the figure was 282 million acres. Many farmers believe that G.M. seeds increase crop yields and save money. Another reason for their attraction is convenience. By using Roundup Ready soybean seeds, a farmer can spend less time tending to his fields. With Monsanto seeds, a farmer plants his crop, then treats it later with Roundup to kill weeds. That takes the place of labor-intensive weed control and plowing.

Monsanto portrays its move into G.M. seeds as a giant leap for mankind. But out in the American countryside, Monsanto’s no-holds-barred tactics have made it feared and loathed. Like it or not, farmers say, they have fewer and fewer choices in buying seeds.

And controlling the seeds is not some abstraction. Whoever provides the world’s seeds controls the world’s food supply.

Under Surveillance

After Monsanto’s investigator confronted Gary Rinehart, Monsanto filed a federal lawsuit alleging that Rinehart “knowingly, intentionally, and willfully” planted seeds “in violation of Monsanto’s patent rights.” The company’s complaint made it sound as if Monsanto had Rinehart dead to rights:

During the 2002 growing season, Investigator Jeffery Moore, through surveillance of Mr. Rinehart’s farm facility and farming operations, observed Defendant planting brown bag soybean seed. Mr. Moore observed the Defendant take the brown bag soybeans to a field, which was subsequently loaded into a grain drill and planted. Mr. Moore located two empty bags in the ditch in the public road right-of-way beside one of the fields planted by Rinehart, which contained some soybeans. Mr. Moore collected a small amount of soybeans left in the bags which Defendant had tossed into the public right-of way. These samples tested positive for Monsanto’s Roundup Ready technology.

Faced with a federal lawsuit, Rinehart had to hire a lawyer. Monsanto eventually realized that “Investigator Jeffery Moore” had targeted the wrong man, and dropped the suit. Rinehart later learned that the company had been secretly investigating farmers in his area. Rinehart never heard from Monsanto again: no letter of apology, no public concession that the company had made a terrible mistake, no offer to pay his attorney’s fees. “I don’t know how they get away with it,” he says. “If I tried to do something like that it would be bad news. I felt like I was in another country.”

Gary Rinehart is actually one of Monsanto’s luckier targets. Ever since commercial introduction of its G.M. seeds, in 1996, Monsanto has launched thousands of investigations and filed lawsuits against hundreds of farmers and seed dealers. In a 2007 report, the Center for Food Safety, in Washington, D.C., documented 112 such lawsuits, in 27 states.

Even more significant, in the Center’s opinion, are the numbers of farmers who settle because they don’t have the money or the time to fight Monsanto. “The number of cases filed is only the tip of the iceberg,” says Bill Freese, the Center’s science-policy analyst. Freese says he has been told of many cases in which Monsanto investigators showed up at a farmer’s house or confronted him in his fields, claiming he had violated the technology agreement and demanding to see his records. According to Freese, investigators will say, “Monsanto knows that you are saving Roundup Ready seeds, and if you don’t sign these information-release forms, Monsanto is going to come after you and take your farm or take you for all you’re worth.” Investigators will sometimes show a farmer a photo of himself coming out of a store, to let him know he is being followed.

Lawyers who have represented farmers sued by Monsanto say that intimidating actions like these are commonplace. Most give in and pay Monsanto some amount in damages; those who resist face the full force of Monsanto’s legal wrath.

Scorched-Earth Tactics

Pilot Grove, Missouri, population 750, sits in rolling farmland 150 miles west of St. Louis. The town has a grocery store, a bank, a bar, a nursing home, a funeral parlor, and a few other small businesses. There are no stoplights, but the town doesn’t need any. The little traffic it has comes from trucks on their way to and from the grain elevator on the edge of town. The elevator is owned by a local co-op, the Pilot Grove Cooperative Elevator, which buys soybeans and corn from farmers in the fall, then ships out the grain over the winter. The co-op has seven full-time employees and four computers.

In the fall of 2006, Monsanto trained its legal guns on Pilot Grove; ever since, its farmers have been drawn into a costly, disruptive legal battle against an opponent with limitless resources. Neither Pilot Grove nor Monsanto will discuss the case, but it is possible to piece together much of the story from documents filed as part of the litigation.

Monsanto began investigating soybean farmers in and around Pilot Grove several years ago. There is no indication as to what sparked the probe, but Monsanto periodically investigates farmers in soybean-growing regions such as this one in central Missouri. The company has a staff devoted to enforcing patents and litigating against farmers. To gather leads, the company maintains an 800 number and encourages farmers to inform on other farmers they think may be engaging in “seed piracy.”

Once Pilot Grove had been targeted, Monsanto sent private investigators into the area. Over a period of months, Monsanto’s investigators surreptitiously followed the co-op’s employees and customers and videotaped them in fields and going about other activities. At least 17 such surveillance videos were made, according to court records. The investigative work was outsourced to a St. Louis agency, McDowell & Associates. It was a McDowell investigator who erroneously fingered Gary Rinehart. In Pilot Grove, at least 11 McDowell investigators have worked the case, and Monsanto makes no bones about the extent of this effort: “Surveillance was conducted throughout the year by various investigators in the field,” according to court records. McDowell, like Monsanto, will not comment on the case.

Not long after investigators showed up in Pilot Grove, Monsanto subpoenaed the co-op’s records concerning seed and herbicide purchases and seed-cleaning operations. The co-op provided more than 800 pages of documents pertaining to dozens of farmers. Monsanto sued two farmers and negotiated settlements with more than 25 others it accused of seed piracy. But Monsanto’s legal assault had only begun. Although the co-op had provided voluminous records, Monsanto then sued it in federal court for patent infringement. Monsanto contended that by cleaning seeds—a service which it had provided for decades—the co-op was inducing farmers to violate Monsanto’s patents. In effect, Monsanto wanted the co-op to police its own customers.

In the majority of cases where Monsanto sues, or threatens to sue, farmers settle before going to trial. The cost and stress of litigating against a global corporation are just too great. But Pilot Grove wouldn’t cave—and ever since, Monsanto has been turning up the heat. The more the co-op has resisted, the more legal firepower Monsanto has aimed at it. Pilot Grove’s lawyer, Steven H. Schwartz, described Monsanto in a court filing as pursuing a “scorched earth tactic,” intent on “trying to drive the co-op into the ground.”

Even after Pilot Grove turned over thousands more pages of sales records going back five years, and covering virtually every one of its farmer customers, Monsanto wanted more—the right to inspect the co-op’s hard drives. When the co-op offered to provide an electronic version of any record, Monsanto demanded hands-on access to Pilot Grove’s in-house computers.

Monsanto next petitioned to make potential damages punitive—tripling the amount that Pilot Grove might have to pay if found guilty. After a judge denied that request, Monsanto expanded the scope of the pre-trial investigation by seeking to quadruple the number of depositions. “Monsanto is doing its best to make this case so expensive to defend that the Co-op will have no choice but to relent,” Pilot Grove’s lawyer said in a court filing.

With Pilot Grove still holding out for a trial, Monsanto now subpoenaed the records of more than 100 of the co-op’s customers. In a “You are Commanded … ” notice, the farmers were ordered to gather up five years of invoices, receipts, and all other papers relating to their soybean and herbicide purchases, and to have the documents delivered to a law office in St. Louis. Monsanto gave them two weeks to comply.

Whether Pilot Grove can continue to wage its legal battle remains to be seen. Whatever the outcome, the case shows why Monsanto is so detested in farm country, even by those who buy its products. “I don’t know of a company that chooses to sue its own customer base,” says Joseph Mendelson, of the Center for Food Safety. “It’s a very bizarre business strategy.” But it’s one that Monsanto manages to get away with, because increasingly it’s the dominant vendor in town.

Chemicals? What Chemicals?

The Monsanto Company has never been one of America’s friendliest corporate citizens. Given Monsanto’s current dominance in the field of bioengineering, it’s worth looking at the company’s own DNA. The future of the company may lie in seeds, but the seeds of the company lie in chemicals. Communities around the world are still reaping the environmental consequences of Monsanto’s origins.

Monsanto was founded in 1901 by John Francis Queeny, a tough, cigar-smoking Irishman with a sixth-grade education. A buyer for a wholesale drug company, Queeny had an idea. But like a lot of employees with ideas, he found that his boss wouldn’t listen to him. So he went into business for himself on the side. Queeny was convinced there was money to be made manufacturing a substance called saccharin, an artificial sweetener then imported from Germany. He took $1,500 of his savings, borrowed another $3,500, and set up shop in a dingy warehouse near the St. Louis waterfront. With borrowed equipment and secondhand machines, he began producing saccharin for the U.S. market. He called the company the Monsanto Chemical Works, Monsanto being his wife’s maiden name.

The German cartel that controlled the market for saccharin wasn’t pleased, and cut the price from $4.50 to $1 a pound to try to force Queeny out of business. The young company faced other challenges. Questions arose about the safety of saccharin, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture even tried to ban it. Fortunately for Queeny, he wasn’t up against opponents as aggressive and litigious as the Monsanto of today. His persistence and the loyalty of one steady customer kept the company afloat. That steady customer was a new company in Georgia named Coca-Cola.

Monsanto added more and more products—vanillin, caffeine, and drugs used as sedatives and laxatives. In 1917, Monsanto began making aspirin, and soon became the largest maker worldwide. During World War I, cut off from imported European chemicals, Monsanto was forced to manufacture its own, and its position as a leading force in the chemical industry was assured.

After Queeny was diagnosed with cancer, in the late 1920s, his only son, Edgar, became president. Where the father had been a classic entrepreneur, Edgar Monsanto Queeny was an empire builder with a grand vision. It was Edgar—shrewd, daring, and intuitive (“He can see around the next corner,” his secretary once said)—who built Monsanto into a global powerhouse. Under Edgar Queeny and his successors, Monsanto extended its reach into a phenomenal number of products: plastics, resins, rubber goods, fuel additives, artificial caffeine, industrial fluids, vinyl siding, dishwasher detergent, anti-freeze, fertilizers, herbicides, pesticides. Its safety glass protects the U.S. Constitution and the Mona Lisa. Its synthetic fibers are the basis of Astroturf.

During the 1970s, the company shifted more and more resources into biotechnology. In 1981 it created a molecular-biology group for research in plant genetics. The next year, Monsanto scientists hit gold: they became the first to genetically modify a plant cell. “It will now be possible to introduce virtually any gene into plant cells with the ultimate goal of improving crop productivity,” said Ernest Jaworski, director of Monsanto’s Biological Sciences Program.

Over the next few years, scientists working mainly in the company’s vast new Life Sciences Research Center, 25 miles west of St. Louis, developed one genetically modified product after another—cotton, soybeans, corn, canola. From the start, G.M. seeds were controversial with the public as well as with some farmers and European consumers. Monsanto has sought to portray G.M. seeds as a panacea, a way to alleviate poverty and feed the hungry. Robert Shapiro, Monsanto’s president during the 1990s, once called G.M. seeds “the single most successful introduction of technology in the history of agriculture, including the plow.”

By the late 1990s, Monsanto, having rebranded itself into a “life sciences” company, had spun off its chemical and fibers operations into a new company called Solutia. After an additional reorganization, Monsanto re-incorporated in 2002 and officially declared itself an “agricultural company.”

In its company literature, Monsanto now refers to itself disingenuously as a “relatively new company” whose primary goal is helping “farmers around the world in their mission to feed, clothe, and fuel” a growing planet. In its list of corporate milestones, all but a handful are from the recent era. As for the company’s early history, the decades when it grew into an industrial powerhouse now held potentially responsible for more than 50 Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites—none of that is mentioned. It’s as though the original Monsanto, the company that long had the word “chemical” as part of its name, never existed. One of the benefits of doing this, as the company does not point out, was to channel the bulk of the growing backlog of chemical lawsuits and liabilities onto Solutia, keeping the Monsanto brand pure.

But Monsanto’s past, especially its environmental legacy, is very much with us. For many years Monsanto produced two of the most toxic substances ever known— polychlorinated biphenyls, better known as PCBs, and dioxin. Monsanto no longer produces either, but the places where it did are still struggling with the aftermath, and probably always will be.

“Systemic Intoxication”

Twelve miles downriver from Charleston, West Virginia, is the town of Nitro, where Monsanto operated a chemical plant from 1929 to 1995. In 1948 the plant began to make a powerful herbicide known as 2,4,5-T, called “weed bug” by the workers. A by-product of the process was the creation of a chemical that would later be known as dioxin.

The name dioxin refers to a group of highly toxic chemicals that have been linked to heart disease, liver disease, human reproductive disorders, and developmental problems. Even in small amounts, dioxin persists in the environment and accumulates in the body. In 1997 the International Agency for Research on Cancer, a branch of the World Health Organization, classified the most powerful form of dioxin as a substance that causes cancer in humans. In 2001 the U.S. government listed the chemical as a “known human carcinogen.”

On March 8, 1949, a massive explosion rocked Monsanto’s Nitro plant when a pressure valve blew on a container cooking up a batch of herbicide. The noise from the release was a scream so loud that it drowned out the emergency steam whistle for five minutes. A plume of vapor and white smoke drifted across the plant and out over town.Residue from the explosion coated the interior of the building and those inside with what workers described as “a fine black powder.” Many felt their skin prickle and were told to scrub down.

Within days, workers experienced skin eruptions. Many were soon diagnosed with chloracne, a condition similar to common acne but more severe, longer lasting, and potentially disfiguring. Others felt intense pains in their legs, chest, and trunk. A confidential medical report at the time said the explosion “caused a systemic intoxication in the workers involving most major organ systems.” Doctors who examined four of the most seriously injured men detected a strong odor coming from them when they were all together in a closed room. “We believe these men are excreting a foreign chemical through their skins,” the confidential report to Monsanto noted. Court records indicate that 226 plant workers became ill.

Continued (page 4 of 6)

According to court documents that have surfaced in a West Virginia court case, Monsanto downplayed the impact, stating that the contaminant affecting workers was “fairly slow acting” and caused “only an irritation of the skin.”

In the meantime, the Nitro plant continued to produce herbicides, rubber products, and other chemicals. In the 1960s, the factory manufactured Agent Orange, the powerful herbicide which the U.S. military used to defoliate jungles during the Vietnam War, and which later was the focus of lawsuits by veterans contending that they had been harmed by exposure. As with Monsanto’s older herbicides, the manufacturing of Agent Orange created dioxin as a by-product.

As for the Nitro plant’s waste, some was burned in incinerators, some dumped in landfills or storm drains, some allowed to run into streams. As Stuart Calwell, a lawyer who has represented both workers and residents in Nitro, put it, “Dioxin went wherever the product went, down the sewer, shipped in bags, and when the waste was burned, out in the air.”

In 1981 several former Nitro employees filed lawsuits in federal court, charging that Monsanto had knowingly exposed them to chemicals that caused long-term health problems, including cancer and heart disease. They alleged that Monsanto knew that many chemicals used at Nitro were potentially harmful, but had kept that information from them. On the eve of a trial, in 1988, Monsanto agreed to settle most of the cases by making a single lump payment of $1.5 million. Monsanto also agreed to drop its claim to collect $305,000 in court costs from six retired Monsanto workers who had unsuccessfully charged in another lawsuit that Monsanto had recklessly exposed them to dioxin. Monsanto had attached liens to the retirees’ homes to guarantee collection of the debt.

Monsanto stopped producing dioxin in Nitro in 1969, but the toxic chemical can still be found well beyond the Nitro plant site. Repeated studies have found elevated levels of dioxin in nearby rivers, streams, and fish. Residents have sued to seek damages from Monsanto and Solutia. Earlier this year, a West Virginia judge merged those lawsuits into a class-action suit. A Monsanto spokesman said, “We believe the allegations are without merit and we’ll defend ourselves vigorously.” The suit will no doubt take years to play out. Time is one thing that Monsanto always has, and that the plaintiffs usually don’t.

Poisoned Lawns

Five hundred miles to the south, the people of Anniston, Alabama, know all about what the people of Nitro are going through. They’ve been there. In fact, you could say, they’re still there.

From 1929 to 1971, Monsanto’s Anniston works produced PCBs as industrial coolants and insulating fluids for transformers and other electrical equipment. One of the wonder chemicals of the 20th century, PCBs were exceptionally versatile and fire-resistant, and became central to many American industries as lubricants, hydraulic fluids, and sealants. But PCBs are toxic. A member of a family of chemicals that mimic hormones, PCBs have been linked to damage in the liver and in the neurological, immune, endocrine, and reproductive systems. The Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, part of the Department of Health and Human Services, now classify PCBs as “probable carcinogens.”

Today, 37 years after PCB production ceased in Anniston, and after tons of contaminated soil have been removed to try to reclaim the site, the area around the old Monsanto plant remains one of the most polluted spots in the U.S.

People in Anniston find themselves in this fix today largely because of the way Monsanto disposed of PCB waste for decades. Excess PCBs were dumped in a nearby open-pit landfill or allowed to flow off the property with storm water. Some waste was poured directly into Snow Creek, which runs alongside the plant and empties into a larger stream, Choccolocco Creek. PCBs also turned up in private lawns after the company invited Anniston residents to use soil from the plant for their lawns, according to The Anniston Star.

So for decades the people of Anniston breathed air, planted gardens, drank from wells, fished in rivers, and swam in creeks contaminated with PCBs—without knowing anything about the danger. It wasn’t until the 1990s—20 years after Monsanto stopped making PCBs in Anniston—that widespread public awareness of the problem there took hold.

Studies by health authorities consistently found elevated levels of PCBs in houses, yards, streams, fields, fish, and other wildlife—and in people. In 2003, Monsanto and Solutia entered into a consent decree with the E.P.A. to clean up Anniston. Scores of houses and small businesses were to be razed, tons of contaminated soil dug up and carted off, and streambeds scooped of toxic residue. The cleanup is under way, and it will take years, but some doubt it will ever be completed—the job is massive. To settle residents’ claims, Monsanto has also paid $550 million to 21,000 Anniston residents exposed to PCBs, but many of them continue to live with PCBs in their bodies. Once PCB is absorbed into human tissue, there it forever remains.

Monsanto shut down PCB production in Anniston in 1971, and the company ended all its American PCB operations in 1977. Also in 1977, Monsanto closed a PCB plant in Wales. In recent years, residents near the village of Groesfaen, in southern Wales, have noticed vile odors emanating from an old quarry outside the village. As it turns out, Monsanto had dumped thousands of tons of waste from its nearby PCB plant into the quarry. British authorities are struggling to decide what to do with what they have now identified as among the most contaminated places in Britain.

“No Cause for Public Alarm”

What had Monsanto known—or what should it have known—about the potential dangers of the chemicals it was manufacturing? There’s considerable documentation lurking in court records from many lawsuits indicating that Monsanto knew quite a lot. Let’s look just at the example of PCBs.

The evidence that Monsanto refused to face questions about their toxicity is quite clear. In 1956 the company tried to sell the navy a hydraulic fluid for its submarines called Pydraul 150, which contained PCBs. Monsanto supplied the navy with test results for the product. But the navy decided to run its own tests. Afterward, navy officials informed Monsanto that they wouldn’t be buying the product. “Applications of Pydraul 150 caused death in all of the rabbits tested” and indicated “definite liver damage,” navy officials told Monsanto, according to an internal Monsanto memo divulged in the course of a court proceeding. “No matter how we discussed the situation,” complained Monsanto’s medical director, R. Emmet Kelly, “it was impossible to change their thinking that Pydraul 150 is just too toxic for use in submarines.”

Ten years later, a biologist conducting studies for Monsanto in streams near the Anniston plant got quick results when he submerged his test fish. As he reported to Monsanto, according to The Washington Post, “All 25 fish lost equilibrium and turned on their sides in 10 seconds and all were dead in 3½ minutes.”

Jeff Kleinpeter, of Baton Rouge

Jeff Kleinpeter, of Baton Rouge, was accused by Monsanto of making misleading claims just for telling customers his cows are free of artificial bovine growth hormone.

When the Food and Drug Administration (F.D.A.) turned up high levels of PCBs in fish near the Anniston plant in 1970, the company swung into action to limit the P.R. damage. An internal memo entitled “confidential—f.y.i. and destroy” from Monsanto official Paul B. Hodges reviewed steps under way to limit disclosure of the information. One element of the strategy was to get public officials to fight Monsanto’s battle: “Joe Crockett, Secretary of the Alabama Water Improvement Commission, will try to handle the problem quietly without release of the information to the public at this time,” according to the memo.

Despite Monsanto’s efforts, the information did get out, but the company was able to blunt its impact. Monsanto’s Anniston plant manager “convinced” a reporter for The Anniston Star that there was really nothing to worry about, and an internal memo from Monsanto’s headquarters in St. Louis summarized the story that subsequently appeared in the newspaper: “Quoting both plant management and the Alabama Water Improvement Commission, the feature emphasized the PCB problem was relatively new, was being solved by Monsanto and, at this point, was no cause for public alarm.”

In truth, there was enormous cause for public alarm. But that harm was done by the “Original Monsanto Company,” not “Today’s Monsanto Company” (the words and the distinction are Monsanto’s). The Monsanto of today says that it can be trusted—that its biotech crops are “as wholesome, nutritious and safe as conventional crops,” and that milk from cows injected with its artificial growth hormone is the same as, and as safe as, milk from any other cow.

The Milk Wars

Jeff Kleinpeter takes very good care of his dairy cows. In the winter he turns on heaters to warm their barns. In the summer, fans blow gentle breezes to cool them, and on especially hot days, a fine mist floats down to take the edge off Louisiana’s heat. The dairy has gone “to the ultimate end of the earth for cow comfort,” says Kleinpeter, a fourth-generation dairy farmer in Baton Rouge. He says visitors marvel at what he does: “I’ve had many of them say, ‘When I die, I want to come back as a Kleinpeter cow.’ ”

Monsanto would like to change the way Jeff Kleinpeter and his family do business. Specifically, Monsanto doesn’t like the label on Kleinpeter Dairy’s milk cartons: “From Cows Not Treated with rBGH.” To consumers, that means the milk comes from cows that were not given artificial bovine growth hormone, a supplement developed by Monsanto that can be injected into dairy cows to increase their milk output.

No one knows what effect, if any, the hormone has on milk or the people who drink it. Studies have not detected any difference in the quality of milk produced by cows that receive rBGH, or rBST, a term by which it is also known. But Jeff Kleinpeter—like millions of consumers—wants no part of rBGH. Whatever its effect on humans, if any, Kleinpeter feels certain it’s harmful to cows because it speeds up their metabolism and increases the chances that they’ll contract a painful illness that can shorten their lives. “It’s like putting a Volkswagen car in with the Indianapolis 500 racers,” he says. “You gotta keep the pedal to the metal the whole way through, and pretty soon that poor little Volkswagen engine’s going to burn up.”

Kleinpeter Dairy has never used Monsanto’s artificial hormone, and the dairy requires other dairy farmers from whom it buys milk to attest that they don’t use it, either. At the suggestion of a marketing consultant, the dairy began advertising its milk as coming from rBGH-free cows in 2005, and the label began appearing on Kleinpeter milk cartons and in company literature, including a new Web site of Kleinpeter products that proclaims, “We treat our cows with love … not rBGH.”

The dairy’s sales soared. For Kleinpeter, it was simply a matter of giving consumers more information about their product.

But giving consumers that information has stirred the ire of Monsanto. The company contends that advertising by Kleinpeter and other dairies touting their “no rBGH” milk reflects adversely on Monsanto’s product. In a letter to the Federal Trade Commission in February 2007, Monsanto said that, notwithstanding the overwhelming evidence that there is no difference in the milk from cows treated with its product, “milk processors persist in claiming on their labels and in advertisements that the use of rBST is somehow harmful, either to cows or to the people who consume milk from rBST-supplemented cows.”

Monsanto called on the commission to investigate what it called the “deceptive advertising and labeling practices” of milk processors such as Kleinpeter, accusing them of misleading consumers “by falsely claiming that there are health and safety risks associated with milk from rBST-supplemented cows.” As noted, Kleinpeter does not make any such claims—he simply states that his milk comes from cows not injected with rBGH.

Monsanto’s attempt to get the F.T.C. to force dairies to change their advertising was just one more step in the corporation’s efforts to extend its reach into agriculture. After years of scientific debate and public controversy, the F.D.A. in 1993 approved commercial use of rBST, basing its decision in part on studies submitted by Monsanto. That decision allowed the company to market the artificial hormone. The effect of the hormone is to increase milk production, not exactly something the nation needed then—or needs now. The U.S. was actually awash in milk, with the government buying up the surplus to prevent a collapse in prices.

Monsanto began selling the supplement in 1994 under the name Posilac. Monsanto acknowledges that the possible side effects of rBST for cows include lameness, disorders of the uterus, increased body temperature, digestive problems, and birthing difficulties. Veterinary drug reports note that “cows injected with Posilac are at an increased risk for mastitis,” an udder infection in which bacteria and pus may be pumped out with the milk. What’s the effect on humans? The F.D.A. has consistently said that the milk produced by cows that receive rBGH is the same as milk from cows that aren’t injected: “The public can be confident that milk and meat from BST-treated cows is safe to consume.” Nevertheless, some scientists are concerned by the lack of long-term studies to test the additive’s impact, especially on children. A Wisconsin geneticist, William von Meyer, observed that when rBGH was approved the longest study on which the F.D.A.’s approval was based covered only a 90-day laboratory test with small animals. “But people drink milk for a lifetime,” he noted. Canada and the European Union have never approved the commercial sale of the artificial hormone. Today, nearly 15 years after the F.D.A. approved rBGH, there have still been no long-term studies “to determine the safety of milk from cows that receive artificial growth hormone,” says Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist for Consumers Union. Not only have there been no studies, he adds, but the data that does exist all comes from Monsanto. “There is no scientific consensus about the safety,” he says.

However F.D.A. approval came about, Monsanto has long been wired into Washington. Michael R. Taylor was a staff attorney and executive assistant to the F.D.A. commissioner before joining a law firm in Washington in 1981, where he worked to secure F.D.A. approval of Monsanto’s artificial growth hormone before returning to the F.D.A. as deputy commissioner in 1991. Dr. Michael A. Friedman, formerly the F.D.A.’s deputy commissioner for operations, joined Monsanto in 1999 as a senior vice president. Linda J. Fisher was an assistant administrator at the E.P.A. when she left the agency in 1993. She became a vice president of Monsanto, from 1995 to 2000, only to return to the E.P.A. as deputy administrator the next year. William D. Ruckelshaus, former E.P.A. administrator, and Mickey Kantor, former U.S. trade representative, each served on Monsanto’s board after leaving government. Supreme Court justice Clarence Thomas was an attorney in Monsanto’s corporate-law department in the 1970s. He wrote the Supreme Court opinion in a crucial G.M.-seed patent-rights case in 2001 that benefited Monsanto and all G.M.-seed companies. Donald Rumsfeld never served on the board or held any office at Monsanto, but Monsanto must occupy a soft spot in the heart of the former defense secretary. Rumsfeld was chairman and C.E.O. of the pharmaceutical maker G. D. Searle & Co. when Monsanto acquired Searle in 1985, after Searle had experienced difficulty in finding a buyer. Rumsfeld’s stock and options in Searle were valued at $12 million at the time of the sale.

From the beginning some consumers have consistently been hesitant to drink milk from cows treated with artificial hormones. This is one reason Monsanto has waged so many battles with dairies and regulators over the wording of labels on milk cartons. It has sued at least two dairies and one co-op over labeling.

Critics of the artificial hormone have pushed for mandatory labeling on all milk products, but the F.D.A. has resisted and even taken action against some dairies that labeled their milk “BST-free.” Since BST is a natural hormone found in all cows, including those not injected with Monsanto’s artificial version, the F.D.A. argued that no dairy could claim that its milk is BST-free. The F.D.A. later issued guidelines allowing dairies to use labels saying their milk comes from “non-supplemented cows,” as long as the carton has a disclaimer saying that the artificial supplement does not in any way change the milk. So the milk cartons from Kleinpeter Dairy, for example, carry a label on the front stating that the milk is from cows not treated with rBGH, and the rear panel says, “Government studies have shown no significant difference between milk derived from rBGH-treated and non-rBGH-treated cows.” That’s not good enough for Monsanto.

The Next Battleground

As more and more dairies have chosen to advertise their milk as “No rBGH,” Monsanto has gone on the offensive. Its attempt to force the F.T.C. to look into what Monsanto called “deceptive practices” by dairies trying to distance themselves from the company’s artificial hormone was the most recent national salvo. But after reviewing Monsanto’s claims, the F.T.C.’s Division of Advertising Practices decided in August 2007 that a “formal investigation and enforcement action is not warranted at this time.” The agency found some instances where dairies had made “unfounded health and safety claims,” but these were mostly on Web sites, not on milk cartons. And the F.T.C. determined that the dairies Monsanto had singled out all carried disclaimers that the F.D.A. had found no significant differences in milk from cows treated with the artificial hormone.

Blocked at the federal level, Monsanto is pushing for action by the states. In the fall of 2007, Pennsylvania’s agriculture secretary, Dennis Wolff, issued an edict prohibiting dairies from stamping milk containers with labels stating their products were made without the use of the artificial hormone. Wolff said such a label implies that competitors’ milk is not safe, and noted that non-supplemented milk comes at an unjustified higher price, arguments that Monsanto has frequently made. The ban was to take effect February 1, 2008.

Wolff’s action created a firestorm in Pennsylvania (and beyond) from angry consumers. So intense was the outpouring of e-mails, letters, and calls that Pennsylvania governor Edward Rendell stepped in and reversed his agriculture secretary, saying, “The public has a right to complete information about how the milk they buy is produced.”

On this issue, the tide may be shifting against Monsanto. Organic dairy products, which don’t involve rBGH, are soaring in popularity. Supermarket chains such as Kroger, Publix, and Safeway are embracing them. Some other companies have turned away from rBGH products, including Starbucks, which has banned all milk products from cows treated with rBGH. Although Monsanto once claimed that an estimated 30 percent of the nation’s dairy cows were injected with rBST, it’s widely believed that today the number is much lower.

But don’t count Monsanto out. Efforts similar to the one in Pennsylvania have been launched in other states, including New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, Kansas, Utah, and Missouri. A Monsanto-backed group called afact—American Farmers for the Advancement and Conservation of Technology—has been spearheading efforts in many of these states. afact describes itself as a “producer organization” that decries “questionable labeling tactics and activism” by marketers who have convinced some consumers to “shy away from foods using new technology.” afactreportedly uses the same St. Louis public-relations firm, Osborn & Barr, employed by Monsanto. An Osborn & Barr spokesman told The Kansas City Star that the company was doing work forafact on a pro bono basis.

Even if Monsanto’s efforts to secure across-the-board labeling changes should fall short, there’s nothing to stop state agriculture departments from restricting labeling on a dairy-by-dairy basis. Beyond that, Monsanto also has allies whose foot soldiers will almost certainly keep up the pressure on dairies that don’t use Monsanto’s artificial hormone. Jeff Kleinpeter knows about them, too.

He got a call one day from the man who prints the labels for his milk cartons, asking if he had seen the attack on Kleinpeter Dairy that had been posted on the Internet. Kleinpeter went online to a site called StopLabelingLies, which claims to “help consumers by publicizing examples of false and misleading food and other product labels.” There, sure enough, Kleinpeter and other dairies that didn’t use Monsanto’s product were being accused of making misleading claims to sell their milk.

There was no address or phone number on the Web site, only a list of groups that apparently contribute to the site and whose issues range from disparaging organic farming to downplaying the impact of global warming. “They were criticizing people like me for doing what we had a right to do, had gone through a government agency to do,” says Kleinpeter. “We never could get to the bottom of that Web site to get that corrected.”

As it turns out, the Web site counts among its contributors Steven Milloy, the “junk science” commentator for FoxNews.com and operator of junkscience.com, which claims to debunk “faulty scientific data and analysis.” It may come as no surprise that earlier in his career, Milloy, who calls himself the “junkman,” was a registered lobbyist for Monsanto.

Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele are Vanity Fair contributing editors.

Read the original article here

50 comments Supreme Court Overturns California Ban On Slaughtering Downed Animals

Animals raised for food suffered a setback on Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court overturned a California law that mandated slaughterhouses humanely and immediately end the suffering of livestock that arrive at facilities too sick or injured to stand on their own feet.

The unanimous vote was a victory for the National Meat Association, the group that challenged the law.

While several individual Justices noted the “good intentions” behind the California law to protect “downed animals”, as a group they decided the regulation violated a federal meat-safety law. Slaughterhouses fall under the Federal Meat Inspection Act, legislation that prohibits states from regulating any measure that makes an “addition to or is different from” the federal requirements.

California enacted their law in 2009 after the Humane Society of the United States released a video of downed cows being tormented by slaughterhouse workers. The shocking video from a slaughterhouse in Southern California showed cows that could not stand, being kicked, dragged with chains and hosed-down in an attempt to get them on their feet. It also showed animals being picked up with a forklift and placed into slaughter pens.

California’s law was particularly important to the handling of downed pigs because they are the least protected by the federal government. In fact the lawsuit was brought on behalf of California pig farmers.

The federal law allows a downed pig to be slaughtered if a veterinarian or federal inspector determines it is free of disease. The animal can then be forced onto its feet and taken to be killed. HSUS statistics show that 44,000 of the 100 million hogs brought to slaughter each year are unable to walk.

Pork producers say the animals are “overheated, fatigued or stubborn,” and most are back on their feet soon after arriving at a slaughter facility.

Wayne Pacelle, president of the HSUS gave the following statement about the Supreme Court’s ruling:

“This is a deeply troubling decision, preventing a wide range of actions by the states to protect animals and consumers from reckless practices by the meat industry, including the mishandling and slaughter of animals too sick or injured to walk. The fact is, Congress and the USDA have been in the grip of the agribusiness lobby for decades, and that’s why our federal animal handling and food safety laws are so anemic. California tried to protect its citizens and the animals at slaughterhouses from acute and extreme abuses, but its effort was cannibalized by the federal government.”

Read more: http://www.care2.com/causes/supreme-court-overturns-california-ban-on-slaughtering-downed-animals.html#ixzz1kOKweutx

French activists occupy Monsanto

French activists occupy Monsanto

Radikaler Protest: Französische Aktivisten verschütten Monsanto-Genmais Mon 810

AFP
Radical Protest: French activists spill Monsanto’s GM maize Mon 810
The protest against genetically modified seeds in France does not stop: About a hundred of GM maize critics have occupied a site on Monday morning, the U.S. company Monsanto and demonstrated against the inaction of the government in Paris.

Paris – Actually, the attitude of the French Government on GM maize clear: Of man-modified varieties, such as Mon 810 are prohibited. But because the Supreme Administrative Court, the country’s adoption in November last year due to procedural errors again conceded that the discussion is regaining momentum on GM crops. Now some 100 activists have occupied a site of the U.S. agricultural company Monsanto in the southern French Trebes.

In a surprise action early in the morning blocked the opponents of genetic engineering a warehouse and poured sacks of Mon-810-seeds that they are “genetically altered and dangerous” as designated on the ground. They unfurled a banner bearing the words “Genetically Modified Zone” and called for an immediate ban on cultivation of GM crops.
A farmers’ representatives accused the U.S. company, he met concrete preparations to bring the genetically modified Mon 810 varieties in circulation “. Monsanto is already developing seed to bottle it to deliver to its customers,” said the farmer. The Ministry had promised months ago to ban Mon 810 immediately, “but nothing has happened.”

In fact, the government is in Paris remains committed not to allow farming of genetically modified plants – but nothing happened since November. Already in early January so angry farmers had occupied another French Monsanto site.

Worldwide criticism of Monsanto

The U.S. company comes under pressure worldwide and over again – in the past week it was announced that the Argentine tax authority has determined on a Monsanto corn fields supplier slave-like working conditions.

The company had employed all their harvest workers illegally, they prevented from leaving the fields and their wages are not paid, it said. In addition, the workers would have fourteen hours a day corn harvest and buy their food at inflated prices in the corporate business need. The Authority announced that it will take for the Monsanto Company practices of its suppliers to account.
Original article here 

 

Französische Aktivisten besetzen Monsanto

Radikaler Protest: Französische Aktivisten verschütten Monsanto-Genmais Mon 810Zur Großansicht

AFP

Radikaler Protest: Französische Aktivisten verschütten Monsanto-Genmais Mon 810

Der Protest gegen genverändertes Saatgut in Frankreich reißt nicht ab: Rund hundert Gen-Mais-Kritiker haben am Montagmorgen einen Standort des US-Konzerns Monsanto besetzt und gegen die Untätigkeit der Regierung in Paris demonstriert.

Paris – Eigentlich ist die Haltung der französischen Regierung zu Gen-Mais klar: Von Menschenhand veränderte Sorten wie Mon 810 sind grundsätzlich verboten. Weil aber der oberste Verwaltungsgerichtshof des Landes den Erlass im vergangenen November wegen Verfahrensfehlern wieder kassierte, gewinnt die Diskussion über Gen-Pflanzen erneut an Fahrt. Jetzt haben rund 100 Aktivisten einen Standort des US-Agrarkonzerns Monsanto im südfranzösischen Trèbes besetzt.

In einer Überraschungsaktion am frühen Morgen blockierten die Gentechnikgegnereine Lagerhalle und schütteten säckeweise Mon-810-Saatgut, das sie als “genverändert und gefährlich” bezeichnen, auf den Boden aus. Sie entrollten ein Banner mit der Aufschrift “Gentechnisch veränderte Zone” und forderten ein sofortiges Anbauverbot für Gen-Pflanzen.

Ein Bauernvertreter warf dem US-Konzern vor, er treffe konkrete Vorbereitungen, um die genveränderte Sorte Mon 810 in Umlauf zu bringen: “Monsanto ist bereits dabei, Saatgut abzufüllen um es an seine Kunden auszuliefern.”, sagte der Landwirt. Das Ministerium habe vor Monaten versprochen, Mon 810 sofort zu verbieten, “aber es ist nichts geschehen.”

Tatsächlich setzt sich die Regierung in Paris weiterhin dafür ein, keine Landwirtschaft mit gentechnisch veränderten Pflanzen zuzulassen – passiert ist seit November aber nichts. Schon Anfang Januar hatten deshalb wütende Bauern einen anderen französischen Monsanto Chart zeigen-Standort besetzt.

Weltweite Kritik an Monsanto

Der US-Konzern gerät weltweit immer wieder unter Druck – in der vergangenen Woche wurde bekannt, dass die argentinische Steuerbehörde auf Getreidefeldern eines Monsanto-Zulieferers sklavenähnliche Arbeitsbedingungen festgestellt hat.

Die Firma habe alle ihre Erntehelfer illegal beschäftigt, diese am Verlassen der Felder gehindert und ihre Löhne nicht ausgezahlt, hieß es. Außerdem hätten die Arbeiter vierzehn Stunden am Tag Maiskolben ernten und ihr Essen zu überteuerten Preisen im Firmengeschäft kaufen müssen. Die Behörde kündigte an, Monsanto für die Praktiken seiner Zuliefererfirma zur Rechenschaft ziehen zu wollen.

nck/dpa/AFP

Top 10 Facts YOU Should Know About Monsanto

  1. No GMO Labeling Laws in the USA!
  2. Lack of Adequate FDA / USDA Safety Testing
  3. Monsanto Puts Small Farmers out of Business
    Farmer Suicides After GMO Crop Failures
  4. Monsanto Products Pollute the Developing World
    500,000 Agent Orange Babies
  5. Monsanto Blocking Government Regulations
  6. Monsanto Guilty of False Advertising & Scientific FRAUD
  7. Consumers Reject Bovine Growth Hormone rBGH in Milk
  8. GMO Crops Do NOT Increase Yields
  9. Monsanto Controls U.S. Soy Market
  10. Monsanto’s GMO Foods Cause NEW Food Allergies

Some GMO foods have been proven in laboratory tests to…
CAUSE: cancer, sterility, miscarriages, seizures and even death!

RoundUp Ready Seeds
Principal Subsidiaries: Calgene Inc. (leader in plant biotech); Asgrow Seed Co.; DEKALB Genetics Corp. (second-largest seed/corn company in the United States); DEKALB Swine Breeders Inc.;Nutrasweet Co. (aspartame); Monsanto Agricultural Co.; G. D. Searle & Co.

Top 10 Facts YOU Should Know About Monsanto

#1: No GMO Labeling Laws in the USA!

Foods containing GMOs don’t have to be labeled in the USA. Monsanto has fought hard to prevent labeling laws. This is alarming, since approximately 70% of processed foods in the US now contain GMO ingredients. The European Union, Japan, China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and many other nations now require mandatory GMO labeling.

Diet Dr. Pepper Saccharine CAUSES Cancer in laboratory animals

#2: Lack of Adequate FDA / USDA Safety Testing

Sweet 'N Low Aspartame
In May 1992, Vice President Dan Quayle announced the FDA’s anti consumer right-to-know policy which stated that GMO foods need NOT be labeled nor safety-tested.

Meanwhile, prominent scientists such as Arpad Pusztai and Gilles-Eric Seralini have publicized alarming research revealing severe damage to animals (monkeys, lab rats) fed GMO foods including: sterilization, miscarriages, cancer, NEW allergies, seizures, and DEATH!!!

 

#3: Monsanto Puts Small Farmers out of Business

100s of American farmers have been sued. Century-old seed stocks were destroyed. 100,000s of Indian farmers commit suicide by drinking monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide after massive GMO crop failures bankrupted them. Monsanto uses the courts aggressively. It has sued hundreds of American farmers for patent infringement in connection with its GE seed. In a high profile case in Canada, which Monsanto won at the Supreme Courtlevel,

Monsanto sued an independent farmer, Percy Schmeiser, for patent infringement for growing GMO genetically modified Roundup resistant canola in 1998. Percy Schmeiser is a Canadian farmer whose canola fields were contaminated with Monsanto’s Round-Up Ready Canola by pollen from a nearby GMO farm. Monsanto successfully argued in a lawsuit that Schmeiser violated their patent rights, and forced Schmeiser to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages.

Mr. Schmeiser maintained that this was accidental. He testified that in the previous year, 1997, he had suspected contamination by genetically modified Roundup resistant canola along the roadside in one of his fields and hence hadsprayed along the field edge with Roundup, whereupon he found that about 60% of the canola survived. The farm hand performing the harvest saved only seed from this contaminated roadside swathe for replanting in the next year, 1998, and presumably this seed was genetically modified Roundup resistant seed.

The court found that Mr. Schmeiser and his farming company (damages were assessed only against the company as Mr. Schmeiser was found to be acting in his capacity as director), “knew or ought to have known” the nature of the seed which was planted in 1998, and that by planting, growing and harvesting it, there was infringement of Monsanto’s patent on canola cells genetically modified for Roundup resistance. This finding was upheld at the appellate court level.

Monsanto Lawsuits Against Farmers In the United States

This type of biotech bullying is happening all over North America. The non-profit Center for Food Safety listed 112 lawsuits by Monsanto against farmers for claims of seed patent violations. The Center for Food Safety’s analyst stated that many innocent farmers settle with Monsanto because they cannot afford a time consuming lawsuit. Monsanto is frequently described by farmers as “Gestapo” and “Mafia” both because of these lawsuits and because of the questionable means they use to collect evidence of patent infringement.

Indian Farmer Suicides After GMO BT Cotton Crop Failures

There have been 125,000+ small farmer suicides in the past decade, and about 4000+/year *REPORTED* in India. In 2006, 1,044 suicides were reported in Vidarbha alone – that’s one suicide every eight hours.

Some struggles facing Indian farmers are detailed in the article “Seeds of Suicide: India’s Desperate Farmers” on Frontline. The transition to using the latest pest-resistant seeds and the necessary herbicides has been difficult. Farmers have used genetically modified seeds promoted by Cargill and Monsanto hoping for greater yields. Resulting debts from such gambles with genetically modified seeds have led some farmers into the equivalent of indentured servitude. More than 125,000+ farmers have committed suicide, which some claim is mostly due to mounting debt caused by the poor yields, increased need for pesticides, and the higher cost of the Bt cotton seed sold by Monsanto.

Shankara, like millions of other Indian farmers, had been promised previously unheard of harvests and income if he switched from farming with traditional [ORGANIC REUSABLE] seeds to planting GM [GENETICALLY MODIFIED STERILE CARCINOGENIC NON-ORGANIC] seeds instead. Beguiled by the promise of future riches, he borrowed money in order to buy the GM seeds.

But when the harvests failed, Shankara was left with spiralling debts – and no income. So Shankara became one of an estimated 125,000+ farmers to take their own life as a result of the ruthless drive to use India as a testing ground for genetically modified crops…. ‘We are ruined now,’ said [another farmer’s] 38-year-old wife. ‘We bought 100 grams of BT Cotton. Our crop failed twice. My husband had become depressed. He went out to his field, lay down in the [GMO BT] cotton andswallowed insecticide [MONSANTO’s ROUNDUP]”.

A report released by the International Food Policy Research Institute in October 2008 provided evidence that the cause of farmer suicide in India was due to several causes and that the introduction of Bt cotton was not a major factor. It argues that the suicides predate the introduction of the cotton in 2002 and has been fairly consistent since 1997. Other studies also suggest the increase in farmer suicides is due to a combination of various socio-economic factors. These include debt, the difficulty of farming semi-arid regions, poor agricultural income, absence of alternative income opportunities, the downturn in the urban economy forcing non-farmers into farming, and the absence of suitable counseling services.

  1. Child Labour and Trans-National Seed Companies in Hybrid Cotton Seed Production in Andhra Pradesh from India Committee of the Netherlands
  2. Seeds of Suicide: India’s desperate farmers from the Public Broadcasting Service
  3. Farmer’s Suicides“. Z Magazine.
  4. Indian Farmer’s Final Solution“. countercurrents.org.
  5. Rough Cut Seeds of Suicide India’s desperate farmers“. PBS Frontline. July 26, 2005. Retrieved 3 October 2010.
  6. P. Sainath (August 2004). “Seeds of Suicide II “. InfoChange News and Features.
  7. Guillaume P. Gruère, Purvi Mehta-Bhatt and Debdatta Sengupta (2008). “Bt Cotton and Farmer Suicides in India: Reviewing the Evidence“. International Food Policy Research Institute.
  8. Sheridan, C. (2009). “Doubts surround link between Bt cotton failure and farmer suicide.”.
  9. Nagraj, K. (2008). “Farmers suicide in India: magnitudes, trends and spatial patterns“.
  10. Mishra, Srijit (2007). “Risks, Farmers’ Suicides and Agrarian Crisis in India: Is There A Way Out?“. Indira Gandhi Institute of Development Research (IGIDR).

#4: Monsanto Products Pollute the Developing World

Monsanto is responsible for more than 50 United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPASuperfund sites, attempts to clean up Monsanto Chemical’s formerly uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.

Monsanto’s deadly legacy includes the production of Agent Orange, DDT, PCBs, and dioxin. Now massive aerial spraying of Roundup in Colombia is being used by the US and the Colombian government as a counter-insurgency tactic, contaminating food crops and poisoning villagers.

agent orangethere are 500,000 Agent Orange Babies
One Half Million! NOT Including Veterans!

1961-1971: Agent Orange was by far the most widely used of the so-called “Rainbow Herbicides” employed in the Herbicidal Warfare program of the Vietnam WarDow Chemical and Monsanto were the two largest producers of Agent Orange for the U.S. military. According to Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, 4.8 million Vietnamese people were exposed to Agent Orange, resulting in 400,000 deaths and disabilities, and500,000 children born with birth defects.

1969: Monsanto produces Lasso herbicide, better known as Agent Orange, which was used as defoliant by the U.S. Government during the Vietnam War. “[Lasso’s] success turns around the struggling Agriculture Division,” Monsanto’s web page reads.

1987: Monsanto is one of the companies named in an $180 million settlement for Vietnam War veterans exposed to Agent Orange.

Monsanto’s PCBs can be found polluting every corner of the Earth from the penguins in Antarctica, to the Arctic polar bears at the north pole, to you and your children. Dioxin offgasses from plastic food containers because our plastics are made from Rockefeller’s petroleum fossil fuel OIL! BPA is a sex hormone that migrates from plastic food containers (baby bottles, medical devices) into our food, and finally into our bodies.

1976: Monsanto produces Cycle-Safe, the world’s first plastic soft-drink bottle. The bottle, suspected of posing a **CANCER** risk, is banned the following year by the FDA.

Biomass like sugarcane or hemp are far superior replacements for industrial monsanto crops like soy (most “vegetable” oil), corn (HFCS), cotton (seed oil), canola (oil), alfalfa (fodder) – BUT biomass like hemp do NOT need herbicides* (Roundup), pesticides*, NOR the phosphate* fertilizers [***ALL*** made from petroleum fossil fuels] – and plastic bottles and food containers made from BIOMASS are not only **biodegradable**… they are so non-toxic (no BPA, PCBs, dioxin) and so nutrient rich that they’re natural fertilizers… plus EDIBLE!

#5: Monsanto Blocking Government Regulations

Monsanto also has strong ties to the core players in the U.S. administration of George W. Bush, including John Ashcroft,Donald RumsfeldAnn VenemanTommy Thompson, and Clarence Thomas, a former attorney for Monsanto who was appointed to the Supreme Court by George H. W. Bush.

revolving door exists between Monsanto and U.S. regulatory and judicial bodies making key decisions. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, a former Monsanto lawyer, was the one who wrote the majority opinion on a key Monsanto case. Michael Taylor once worked for the FDA, later represented Monsanto as a lawyer, then returned as theFDA’s Deputy Commissioner for Policy when rBGH was granted approval.

Monsanto’s Monster Lobbying Budget

Monsanto spent $8,831,120 for lobbying in 2008. $1,492,000 was to outside lobbying firms with the remainder being spent using in-house lobbyists.

Former Monsanto lobbyist Michael R. Taylor was appointed as a senior adviser to the Food and Drug Administration (United States) Commissioner on food safety on July 7, 2009.

Monsanto’s Monster Political Contributions

Monsanto gave $186,250 to federal candidates in the 2008 election cycle through its political action committee (PAC) – 42% to Democrats, 58% to Republicans. For the 2010 election cycle they have given $72,000 – 51% to Democrats, 49% to Republicans.

Public Officials Formerly EMPLOYED by Monsanto

  • Justice Clarence Thomas worked as an attorney for Monsanto in the 1970s. Thomas wrote the majority opinion in the 2001 Supreme Court decision J. E. M. Ag Supply, Inc. v. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc. | J. E. M. AG SUPPLY, INC. V. PIONEER HI-BREDINTERNATIONAL, INC. which found that “newly developed plant breeds are patentable under the general utility patent laws of the United States.” This case benefitted all companies which profit from genetically modified crops (GMO), of which Monsanto is one of the largest.
  • Michael R. Taylor was an assistant to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner before he left to work for a law firm on gaining FDA approval of Monsanto’s artificial growth hormone in the 1980s. Taylor then became deputy commissioner of the FDA from 1991 to 1994. Taylor was later re-appointed to the FDA in August 2009 by President Barack Obama.
  • Dr. Michael A. Friedman was a deputy commissioner of the FDA before he was hired as a senior vice president of Monsanto.
  • Linda J. Fisher was an assistant administrator at the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) before she was a vice president at Monsanto from 1995-2000. In 2001, Fisher became the deputy administrator of the EPA.
  • Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld (under President Ford AND Bush II) was chairman and chief executive officer of G. D. Searle & Co., which Monsanto purchased in 1985. Rumsfeld personally made at least $12 million USD from the transaction.

#6: Monsanto Guilty of False Advertising & Scientific FRAUD

Monsanto ROundup Herbicide KILLS ALL ORGANICS!France’s highest court ruled in 2009 that Monsanto had lied about the safety of its weed killer Roundup. The court confirmed an earlier judgment that Monsanto had falsely advertised its herbicide as “biodegradable”.

RoundUp herbicide KILLS anything that is ORGANIC. “RoundUp Ready” crops are GMOs that have a resistance to RoundUp – usually by mixing the food (corn) with BT (bacillus thuringiensis) bacteria. FYI RoundUp is made from Rockefeller’s fossil-fuel petroleum OIL. RoundUp foods are corn, soy, alfalfa, canola, and cottonseed oil… if it’s in a box or a can = you can bet it’s GMO.

Difference between regulatory registered
and commercialized formulations

In November 2009, a French environment group (MDRGF) accused Monsanto of using chemicals in Roundup formulations not disclosed to the country’s regulatory bodies, and demanded the removal of those products from the market.

False Advertising

In 1996, Monsanto was accused of false and misleading advertising of glyphosate products, prompting a law suit by the New York State attorney general. Monsanto had made claims that its spray-on glyphosate based herbicides, including Roundup, were safer than table salt and “practically non-toxic” to mammals, birds, and fish.

Environmental and consumer rights campaigners brought a case in France in 2001 for presenting Roundup asbiodegradable and claiming that it left the soil clean after use; glyphosate, Roundup’s main ingredient, is classed by the European Union as “dangerous for the environment” and “toxic for aquatic organisms“. In January 2007, Monsanto was convicted of false advertising. The result was confirmed in 2009.

*Scientific FRAUD*

On two occasions, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has caught scientists deliberatelyfalsifying test results at research laboratories hired by Monsanto to study glyphosate. In the first incident involving Industrial Biotest Laboratories, an EPA reviewer stated after finding “routine falsification of data” that it was “hard to believe the scientific integrity of the studies when they said they took specimens of the uterus from male rabbits”. In the second incident of falsifying test results in 1991, the owner of the lab (Craven Labs), and three employees were indicted on 20 felony counts, the owner was sentenced to 5 years in prison and fined $50,000, the lab was fined $15.5 million dollars and ordered to pay $3.7 million dollars in restitution. Craven laboratories performed studies for 262 pesticide companies including Monsanto.

Monsanto has stated that the studies have been repeated, and that Roundup’s EPA certification does not now use any studies from Craven Labs or IBT. Monsanto also said that the Craven Labs investigation was started by the EPA after a pesticide industry task force discovered irregularities.

#7: Consumers Reject Bovine Growth Hormone rBGH in Milk

In the wake of mass consumer pressure, major retailers such as Safeway, Publix, Wal-Mart, and Kroger banned store brand milk products containing Monsanto’s controversial genetically engineered hormone rBGH. Starbucks, under pressure from the OCA and our allies, has likewise banned rBGH milk.

NO rBSTA recent court ruling found that there **ARE** THREE differences
between ORGANIC and rbST/rBGH monsanto pus milk:

  1. HORMONES in rBGH milk can cause CANCER!
  2. 3%- 20% PUS content (cow white blood cells)
  3. rBGH milk has DEPLETED NUTRITIONAL VALUE!!!

As of May 2008, Monsanto is currently engaged in a campaign to prohibit dairies which do not inject their cows with artificial bovine growth hormone from advertising this fact on their milk carton labels.

When the Federal Trade Commission did not side with Monsanto on this issue, Monsanto started lobbying state lawmakers to implement a similar ban. Pennsylvania Agriculture Secretary Dennis Wolfe attempted to prohibit dairies from using labels stating that their milk does not contain artificial bovine growth hormone (rbST/rBGH), but public outcry led Governor Edward Rendell to step in and reverse his secretary’s position, stating: “The public has a right to complete information about how the milk they buy is produced.”

#8: GMO Crops Do Not Increase Yields

Do you know what a ***YIELD DRAG*** is? The last batch of GMO corn in South Africa came up 80% SEEDLESS. South African farmers suffered millions of dollars in lost income when 82,000 hectares of genetically-manipulated corn (maize) failed to produce hardly any seeds.

Terminator SeedsA major UN / World Bank sponsored report compiled by 400 scientists and endorsed by 58 countries concluded that GM crops have little to offer to the challenges of poverty, hunger, and climate change. Better alternatives are available, and the report championed organic farming as the sustainable way forward for developing countries. One of the best options is organic Permaculture.

In 1999, a review of Roundup Ready soybean crops found that, compared to the top conventional varieties, they had a 6.7% lower yield. This so called “yield drag” follows the same pattern observed when other traits are introduced into soybeans by conventional breeding. Monsanto claims later patented varieties yield 7-11% higher than their poorly performing initial varieties, closer to those of conventional farming, although the company refrains from citing actual yields. Monsanto’s 2006 application to USDA states that RR2 (mon89788) yields 1.6 bu less than A3244, the conventional variety that the trait is inserted into.

This concentration of corporate power drives UP costs for farmers AND consumers. Retail prices for Roundup have increased from just $32 per gallon in December 2006, to $45 per gallon a year later, to $75 per gallon by June 2008 – a 134% price hike in less than 2 years. Because gene technologies can be patented, they also concentrate corporate power – by 2000 five pesticide companies, including Monsanto, controlled over 70% of all patents on agricultural biotechnology. And this concentration again drives up costs. According to Keith Mudd of the U.S.-based Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), “The lack of competition and innovation in the marketplace has reduced farmers’ choices and enabled Monsanto to raise prices unencumbered.”

GenuityAt a July 2008 meeting, Monsanto officials announced plans to raise the average price of some of the company’s GM maize (corn) varieties a whopping 35%, by $95-100 per bag, to top $300 per bag. Fred Stokes of OCM describes the implications for farmers: “A $100 price increase is a tremendous drain on rural America. Let’s say a farmer in Iowa who farms 1,000 acres plants one of these expensive corn varieties next year. The gross increased cost is more than $40,000. Yet there’s no scientific basis to justify this price hike. How can we let companies get away with this?” What holds good for maize, also holds good for other GM crops. The average price for soybean seed, the largest GM crop in the US, has risen by more than 50% in just 2 years from 2006 to 2008 – from $32.30 to $49.23 per planted acre.

Patenting also inhibits public sector research and further undermines the rights of farmers to save and exchange seeds. Monsanto devotes an annual budget of $10 million dollars to harassing, intimidating, suing – and in some cases bankrupting – American farmers over alleged improper use of its patented seeds.

Recent price hikes have taken place in the context of a global food crisis marked by rapid food price inflation, which has exacerbated extreme poverty and hunger, and increased social tensions. The World Bank attributes 75% of this global food price inflation to “biofuels”, and Monsanto has been at the very heart of the “biofuels” lobby, particularly the lobby for corn ethanol. Monsanto has been accused of both contributing to and benefiting from the food crisis, while simultaneously using it as a PR platform from which to promote GM crops as the solution to the crisis.

In 2008, the President of the General Assembly of the United Nations condemned corporate profiteering: “The essential purpose of food, which is to nourish people, has been subordinated to the economic aims of a handful of multinational corporations that monopolize all aspects of food production, from seeds to major distribution chains, and they have been the prime beneficiaries of the world crisis. A look at the figures for 2007, when the world food crisis began, shows that corporations such as Monsanto and Cargill, which control the cereals market, saw their profits increase by 45% and 60%, respectively.”

New York Times Superweed Map

Actual USDA Releases 2010 Crop Yield Reports

Corn: 457.6 million bushels, compared to 446.76 million in 2009; average yield of 143.0 bushels per acre, compared to 150.0 in August and 153.0 last year; harvested area of 3.2 million acres, compared to 2.92 million a year ago.

Soybeans: 228.900 million acres, compared to 230.550 million in 2009; average yield of 42.0 bushels per acre, compared to 42.0 in August and 43.5 last year; harvested area of 5.450 million acres, compared to 5.3 million a year ago.

#9: Monsanto Controls U.S. Soy Market

Roundup Ready SoybeansAlmost any food with oil in it is either Monsanto GMO soy, Monsanto GMO canola, or MonsantoGMO cottonseed oil. The bottle that says pure “vegetable oil” is usually 100% GMO soy. even the “olive oil” mayonnaise lists soy as the second ingredient after water. a safer GREENER plant to make these products out of is organic hemp oil, which would actually treat depression rather than causing cancer, sterility, and NEW allergies.

Soy protein is used in a variety of foods such as salad dressings, soups, imitation meats, beverage powders, cheeses, non-dairy creamer, frozen desserts, whipped topping, infant formulas,breads, breakfast cerealspastas, and pet foods.

Soy protein is also used for emulsification and texturizing. Specific applications include adhesivesasphalts, resins, cleaning materials, cosmetics, inks, pleather, paints, paper coatings, pesticides / fungicides, plastics, polyesters, and textile fibers.

A 2001 literature review suggested that women with current or past breast cancer should be aware of the risks ofpotential tumor growth when taking soy products, based on the effect of phytoestrogens to promote breast cancer cell growth in animals.

In 1996, when Monsanto began selling Roundup Ready soybeans, only 2% of soybeans in the US contained their patented gene. By 2008, over 90% of soybeans in the US contained Monsanto’s GMO gene.

The United States (93%) and Argentina (98%) produce almost exclusively GM soybeans. In these countries, GM soybeans are approved without restrictions and are treated just like conventional soybeans. Producers and government officials in the US and Argentina do not see a reason to keep GM and conventionally bred cultivars separate – whether during harvest, shipment, storage or processing. Soybean imports from these countries generally contain a high amount of GM content – which is WHY GMO CONTAMINATED food shipments from the USA are generally rejected in (better educated) countries such as UK, Germany, France, Russia, China, and even African countries.

Over half of the world’s 2007 soybean crop (58.6%) was genetically modified (GMO), a higher percentage than for any other crop. Each year, EU Member States import approximately 40 million tons of soy material, primarily destined for use as cattle, swine, and chicken feed. Soybeans are also used to produce many food additives.

In 2007, 216 million tons of soybeans were produced worldwide. The world’s leading soybean producers are the United States (33%), Brazil (27%), Argentina (21%), and China (7%). India and Paraguay are also noteworthy soybean producers.

Worldwide soybean production: The first genetically modified soybeans were planted in the United States in 1996. More than a decade later, GM soybeans are planted in 9 countries covering more than 60 million hectares. These GM soybeans possess a gene that confers [MONSANTO RoundUp] herbicide resistance.

#10: Monsanto’s GMO Foods Cause NEW Food Allergies

In March 1999, UK researchers at the York Laboratory were alarmed to discover that reactions to soy had skyrocketed by 50% over the previous year. Genetically modified soy had recently entered the UK from US imports and the soy used in the study was largely GMO. Aspartame is also known to cause NEW allergies and hives by the “reported cases” at the FDA.

Some GMO foods have been proven in laboratory tests (on rats AND mammals including monkeys) to CAUSE: NEW allergies, cancer, sterility (consumers losing their ability to get pregnant and have babies), miscarriages, seizures, and even death!

Click here to read the FULL HISTORY of Monsanto (1901-2011)

Food Documentary Movies (click to watch)

Food Inc. Documentary The World According to Monsanto The Future of Food
Seeds of Deception Sweet Misery A Poisoned World Seeds of Destruction
Seeds of Deception
By Jeffrey M. Smith

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link to pdf file

Small, E. and D. Marcus. 2002. Hemp: A new crop with new uses for North America. p. 284–326. In: J. Janick and A. Whipkey (eds.), Trends in new crops and new uses. ASHS Press, Alexandria, VA.

 


Hemp: A New Crop with New Uses for North America*

Ernest Small and David Marcus


*This paper was considerably improved by criticism provided by A. McElroy.


“Hemp” refers primarily to Cannabis sativa L. (Cannabaceae), although the term has been applied to dozens of species representing at least 22 genera, often prominent fiber crops. For examples, Manila hemp (abaca) isMusa textilis Née, sisal hemp is Agave sisalina Perrine, and sunn hemp is Crotolaria juncea L. Especially confusing is the phrase “Indian hemp,” which has been used both for narcotic Asian land races of C. sativa (so-called C. indica Lamarck of India) and Apocynum cannabinum L., which was used by North American Indians as a fiber plant. Cannabis sativa is a multi-purpose plant that has been domesticated for bast (phloem) fiber in the stem, a multi-purpose fixed oil in the “seeds” (achenes), and an intoxicating resin secreted by epidermal glands. The common names hemp and marijuana (much less frequently spelled marihuana) have been applied loosely to all three forms, although historically hemp has been used primarily for the fiber cultigen and its fiber preparations, and marijuana for the drug cultigen and its drug preparations. The current hemp industry is making great efforts to point out that “hemp is not marijuana.” Italicized, Cannabis refers to the biological name of the plant (only one species of this genus is commonly recognized, C. sativa L.). Non-italicized, “cannabis” is a generic abstraction, widely used as a noun and adjective, and commonly (often loosely) used both for cannabis plants and/or any or all of the intoxicant preparations made from them.

Probably indigenous to temperate Asia, C. sativa is the most widely cited example of a “camp follower.” It was pre-adapted to thrive in the manured soils around man’s early settlements, which quickly led to its domestication (Schultes 1970). Hemp was harvested by the Chinese 8500 years ago (Schultes and Hofmann 1980). For most of its history, C. sativa was most valued as a fiber source, considerably less so as an intoxicant, and only to a limited extent as an oilseed crop. Hemp is one of the oldest sources of textile fiber, with extant remains of hempen cloth trailing back 6 millennia. Hemp grown for fiber was introduced to western Asia and Egypt, and subsequently to Europe somewhere between 1000 and 2000 BCE. Cultivation in Europe became widespread after 500 ce. The crop was first brought to South America in 1545, in Chile, and to North America in Port Royal, Acadia in 1606. The hemp industry flourished in Kentucky, Missouri, and Illinois between 1840 and 1860 because of the strong demand for sailcloth and cordage (Ehrensing 1998). From the end of the Civil War until 1912, virtually all hemp in the US was produced in Kentucky. During World War I, some hemp cultivation occurred in several states, including Kentucky, Wisconsin, California, North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Indiana, Illinois, Ohio, Michigan, Kansas, and Iowa (Ehrensing 1998). The second world war led to a brief revival of hemp cultivation in the Midwest, as well as in Canada, because the war cut off supplies of fiber (substantial renewed cultivation also occurred in Germany for the same reason). Until the beginning of the 19th century, hemp was the leading cordage fiber. Until the middle of the 19th century, hemp rivaled flax as the chief textile fiber of vegetable origin, and indeed was described as “the king of fiber-bearing plants,—the standard by which all other fibers are measured” (Boyce 1900). Nevertheless, the Marihuana Tax Act applied in 1938 essentially ended hemp production in the United States, although a small hemp fiber industry continued in Wisconsin until 1958. Similarly in 1938 the cultivation of Cannabis became illegal in Canada under the Opium and Narcotics Act.

Hemp, grown under license mostly in Canada, is the most publicized “new” crop in North America. Until very recently the prohibition against drug forms of the plant prevented consideration of cultivation of fiber and oilseed cultivars in Canada. However, in the last 10 years three key developments occurred: (1) much-publicized recent advances in the legal cultivation of hemp in western Europe, especially for new value-added products; (2) enterprising farmers and farm groups became convinced of the agricultural potential of hemp in Canada, and obtained permits to conduct experimental cultivation; and (3) lobby groups convinced the government of Canada that narcotic forms of the hemp plant are distinct and distinguishable from fiber and oilseed forms. In March 1998, new regulations (under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act) were provided to allow the commercial development of a hemp industry in Canada, and since then more than a thousand licenses have been issued. Hectares licensed for cultivation for 1998–2001 were respectively, 2,500, 14,200, 5,487, and 1,355, the decreasing trend due to a glut of seed produced in 1999 and pessimism over new potential regulations barring exports to the US. Information on the commercial potential of hemp in Canada is in Blade (1998), Marcus (1998), and Pinfold Consulting (1998). In the US, a substantial trade in hemp products has developed, based on imports of hemp fiber, grain, and oil. The American agricultural community has observed this, and has had success at the state level in persuading legislators of the advisability of experimental hemp cultivation as a means of evaluating the wisdom of re-establishing American hemp production. However, because of opposition by the federal government, to date there has only been a small experimental plot in Hawaii. Information on the commercial potential of hemp in the US is presented in the following.

Cannabis sativa is extremely unusual in the diversity of products for which it is or can be cultivated. Popular Mechanics magazine (1938) touted hemp as “the new billion dollar crop,” stating that it “can be used to produce more than 25,000 products, ranging from dynamite to Cellophane.” Table 1 presents the principal products for which the species is cultivated in Europe, all of which happen to be based on fiber. This presentation stresses the products that hold the most promise for North America, which also include a considerable range of oilseed applications (Table 2; Fig. 1).

Table 1. Hemp fiber usage in the European Union in 1999 (after Karus et al. 2000).

Class of product Quantity
consumed
(tonnes)
Relative
percentage
Specialty pulp (cigarette paper, bank notes, technical filters, and hygiene products) 24,882 87
Composites for autos 1,770 6
Construction & thermal insulation materials 1,095 4
Geotextiles 234 0.8
Other 650 2.2
Total 26,821 100

Table 2. Analysis of commercial Cannabis product potential in North America in order of decreasing value toward the right and toward the bottom.

Seeds (achenes) Long (“bark) fiber Woody stem core Female floral (perigonal) bract Whole plant
Confectionary, baked goods Plastic-molded products Animal bedding Medicinal cannabinoids Alcohol
Salad oil Specialty papers Thermal insulation Essential oil (for flavor & perfume) Fuel
ody care “cosmetics Construction fiberboard Construction (fiberboard, plaster board, etc.) Insect repellant Silage
Animal food (whole seeds for birds, presscake for mammalian livestock) Biodegradable landscape matting & plant culture products
Gamma-linolenic acid dietary supplements Coarse textiles (carpets, upholstery)
Specialty industrial oils Fine textiles

Fig. 1. Major uses of industrial hemp.

BASIC CATEGORIES OF CANNABIS AND THEIR FIELD ARCHITECTURE

Cannabis sativa is an annual wind-pollinated plant, normally dioecious and dimorphic, although sometimes monoecious (mostly in several modern European fiber cultivars). Figure 2 presents the basic morphology of the species. Some special hybrids, obtained by pollinating females of dioecious lines with pollen from monoecious plants, are predominantly female (so-called “all-female,” these generally also produce some hermaphrodites and occasional males). All-female lines are productive for some purposes (e.g. they are very uniform, and with very few males to take up space they can produce considerable grain), but the hybrid seed is expensive to produce. Staminate or “male” plants tend to be 10%–15% taller and are less robust than the pistillate or “female” (note the comparatively frail male in Fig. 3). So prolific is pollen production that an isolation distance of about 5 km is usually recommended for generating pure-bred foundation seed. A “perigonal bract” subtends each female flower, and grows to envelop the fruit. While small, secretory, resin-producing glands occur on the epidermis of most of the above-ground parts of the plant, the glands are very dense and productive on the perigonal bracts, which are accordingly of central interest in marijuana varieties. The root is a laterally branched taproot, generally 30–60 cm deep, up to 2.5 m in loose soils, very near the surface and more branched in wet soils. Extensive root systems are key to the ability of hemp crops to exploit deep supplies of nutrients and water. The stems are erect, furrowed, and usually branched, with a woody interior, and may be hollow in the internodes. Although the stem is often woody, the species is frequently referred to as a herb or forb. Plants vary enormously in height depending on genetic constitution and environment (Fig. 4), but are typically 1–5 m (heights of 12 m or more in cultivation have been claimed).

Fig. 2. Cannabis sativa. This superb composite plate by artist Elmer Smith, often reproduced at a very small scale and without explanation in marijuana books, is the best scientific illustration of the hemp plant ever prepared. 1. Flowering branch of male plant. 2. Flowering branch of female plant. 3. Seedling. 4. Leaflet. 5. Cluster of male flowers. 6. Female flower, enclosed by perigonal bract. 7. Mature fruit enclosed in perigonal bract. 8. Seed (achene), showing wide face. 9. Seed, showing narrow face. 10. Stalked secretory gland. 11. Top of sessile secretory gland. 12. Long section of cystolith hair (note calcium carbonate concretion at base). Reproduced with the permission of Harvard University, Cambridge, MA.

Fig. 3. Photograph of Cannabis sativa. Left, staminate (“male”) plant in flower; right, pistillate (“female”) plant in flower. Fig. 4. United States National Institute of Health, University of Mississippi marijuana plantation site, showing variation in plant size. A tall fiber-type of hemp plant is shown at left, and a short narcotic variety (identified as “Panama Gold”) at right.

There is great variation in Cannabis sativa, because of disruptive domestication for fiber, oilseed, and narcotic resin, and there are features that tend to distinguish these three cultigens (cultivated phases) from each other. Moreover, density of cultivation is used to accentuate certain architectural features. Figure 5 illustrates the divergent appearances of the basic agronomic categories of Cannabis in typical field configurations.

Fig. 5. Typical architecture of categories of cultivated Cannabis sativa. Top left: narcotic plants are generally low, highly branched, and grown well-spaced. Top right: plants grown for oilseed were traditionally well-spaced, and the plants developed medium height and strong branching. Bottom left: fiber cultivars are grown at high density, and are unbranched and very tall. Bottom center: “dual purpose” plants are grown at moderate density, tend to be slightly branched and of medium to tall height. Bottom right: some recent oilseed cultivars are grown at moderate density and are short and relatively unbranched. Degree of branching and height are determined both by the density of the plants and their genetic background.

Highly selected forms of the fiber cultigen possess features maximizing fiber production. Since the nodes tend to disrupt the length of the fiber bundles, thereby limiting quality, tall, relatively unbranched plants with long internodes have been selected. Another strategy has been to select stems that are hollow at the internodes, with limited wood, since this maximizes production of fiber in relation to supporting woody tissues. Similarly, limited seed productivity concentrates the plant’s energy into production of fiber, and fiber cultivars often have low genetic propensity for seed output. Selecting monoecious strains overcomes the problem of differential maturation times and quality of male (staminate) and female (pistillate) plants (males mature 1–3 weeks earlier). Male plants in general are taller, albeit slimmer, less robust, and less productive. Except for the troublesome characteristic of dying after anthesis, male traits are favored for fiber production, in contrast to the situation for drug strains noted below. In former, labor-intensive times, the male plants were harvested earlier than the females, to produce superior fiber. The limited branching of fiber cultivars is often compensated for by possession of large leaves with wide leaflets, which obviously increase the photosynthetic ability of the plants. Since fiber plants have not generally been selected for narcotic purposes, the level of intoxicating constituents is usually limited.

An absence of such fiber-strain traits as tallness, limited branching, long internodes, and very hollow stems, is characteristic of narcotic strains. Drug forms have historically been grown in areas south of the north-temperate zone, often close to the equator, and are photoperiodically adapted to a long season. When grown in north-temperate climates maturation is much-delayed until late fall, or the plants succumb to cold weather before they are able to produce seeds. Unlike fiber strains that have been selected to grow well at extremely high densities, drug strains tend to be less persistent when grown in high concentration (de Meijer 1994). Drug strains can be very similar in appearance to fiber strains. However, a characteristic type of narcotic plant was selected in southern Asia, particularly in India and neighboring countries. This is dioecious, short (about a meter in height), highly branched, with large leaves (i.e. wide leaflets), and it is slow to mature. The appearance is rather like a short, conical Christmas tree.

Until recent times, the cultivation of hemp primarily as an oilseed was largely unknown, except in Russia. Today, it is difficult to reconstruct the type of plant that was grown there as an oilseed, because such cultivation has essentially been abandoned. Oilseed hemp cultivars in the modern sense were not available until very recently, but some land races certainly were grown specifically for seeds in Russia. Dewey (1914) gave the following information: “The short oil-seed hemp with slender stems, about 30 inches high, bearing compact clusters of seeds and maturing in 60 to 90 days, is of little value for fiber production, but the experimental plants, grown from seed imported from Russia, indicate that it may be valuable as an oil-seed crop to be harvested and threshed in the same manner as oil-seed flax.” Most hemp oilseed in Europe is currently obtained from so-called “dual usage” plants (employed for harvest of both stem fiber and seeds, from the same plants). Of the European dual-usage cultivars, ‘Uniko B’ and ‘Fasamo’ are particularly suited to being grown as oilseeds. Very recently, cultivars have been bred specifically for oilseed production. These include ‘Finola,’ formerly known as ‘Fin-314’ (Fig. 6) and ‘Anka’ (Fig. 7), which are relatively short, little-branched, mature early in north-temperate regions, and are ideal for high-density planting and harvest with conventional equipment. Dewey (1914) noted that a Turkish narcotic type of land race called “Smyrna” was commonly used in the early 20th century in the US to produce birdseed, because (like most narcotic types of Cannabis) it is densely branched, producing many flowers, hence seeds. While oilseed land races in northern Russia would have been short, early-maturing plants in view of the short growing season, in more southern areas oilseed landraces likely had moderate height, and were spaced more widely to allow abundant branching and seed production to develop. Until Canada replaced China in 1998 as a source of imported seeds for the US, most seeds used for various purposes in the US were sterilized and imported from China. Indeed, China remains the largest producer of hempseed. We have grown Chinese hemp land races, and these were short, branched, adapted to a very long growing season (i.e. they come into flower very slowly in response to photoperiodic induction of short days in the fall), and altogether they were rather reminiscent of Dewey’s description of Smyrna. Although similar in appearance to narcotic strains of C. sativa, the Chinese land races we grew were in fact low in intoxicating constituents, and it may well be that what Dewey thought was a narcotic strain was not. Although some forms of C. sativa have quite large seeds, until recently oilseed forms appear to have been mainly selected for a heavy yield of seeds, usually recognizable by abundant branching. Such forms are typically grown at lower densities than hemp grown only for fiber, as this promotes branching, although it should be understood that the genetic propensity for branching has been selected. Percentage or quality of oil in the seeds does not appear to have been important in the past, although selection for these traits is now being conducted. Most significantly, modern selection is occurring with regard to mechanized harvesting, particularly the ability to grow in high density as single-headed stalks with very short branches bearing considerable seed.

Fig. 6. ‘Finola,’ the first cultivar of Cannabis sativa bred exclusively for grain. (Courtesy of the breeder, J.C. Callaway, Univ. Kuopio, Finland.) Fig. 7. ‘Anka,’ the first registered North American bred cultivar of Cannabis sativa. This variety is best suited for grain production. (Courtesy of the breeder, P. Dragla, and of the Industrial Hemp Seed Development Company, Chatham, Ontario.)

CONTROLLING THE DRUG ABUSE POTENTIAL OF HEMP

As detailed below, the development of hemp as a new legal crop in North America must be considered in relation to illicit cultivation, so it is important to appreciate the scope of the drug situation. Up until the first half of the 20th century, drug preparations of Cannabis were used predominantly as a recreational inebriant in poor countries and the lower socio-economic classes of developed nations. After World War II, marijuana became associated with the rise of a hedonistic, psychedelic ethos, first in the United States and eventually over much of the world, with the consequent development of a huge international illicit market that exceeds the value of the hemp market during its heyday. Table 3 shows the “economic significance” (dollars generated in the black market plus dollar cost of control measures) of the illicit drug industry associated with C. sativa, and contrasts this with the estimated dollar value of major categories of legitimate uses. In the Netherlands, the annual value of narcotic hemp cultivation (ca. $10 billion) exceeds the value of tulips (Collins 1999). Marijuana has become the most widely disseminated illicit species in the world (Schultes and Hofmann 1980). With the exception of alcohol, it is the most widely used recreational euphoric drug. About 25% of North Americans are believed to have used Cannabis illegally. According to the US National Institute on Drug Abuse (www.nida.nih.gov/Infofax/marijuana.html), more than 72 million Americans (33%) 12 years of age and older have tried marijuana. Cultivation, commerce, and consumption of drug preparations of Cannabis have been proscribed in most countries during the present century. The cost of enforcing the laws against Cannabis in North America is in the billions of dollars annually. In addition, there are substantial social costs, such as adverse effects on users, particularly those who are convicted. Tragically this includes some legitimate farmers who, faced with financial ruin because of the unprofitability of crops being grown, converted to growing marijuana.

Table 3. Comparative annual world economic significance of categories of Cannabis activity.

Category World ($) North America ($) Type of investment
Recreational drugs > 1 trillion 100s of billions Law enforcement, eradication, education
Industrial hemp 100s of millionsz 10s of millions Production, development, marketing, research
Therapeutic drugs 100s of millions 10s of millions Production, development, marketing, research
Phytoremediation 10s of thousands nil Research
Ornamental hemp thousands nil Development

z“The global market for hemp-derived products is valued at between $100 million and $200 million annually” (Pinfold Consulting 1998; De Guzman 2001).

A rather thorough analysis of the scope of the illicit marijuana industry in Canada for 1998 is reported at http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/html/drugsituation.htm#Marihuana and summarized in MacLeod (1999). At least 800 tonnes (t) of marijuana were grown in Canada in 1998, representing a harvest of 4.7 million flowering plants. More than 50% of the marijuana available in Canada is grown domestically. An average mature plant was estimated to produce 170 g of “marketable substance.” The value of the Canadian crop is uncertain, but has been estimated to be in the billions of dollars annually (Heading 1998; MacLeod 1999).

The US Drug Enforcement Administration’s online criminal justice statistics for 2000 (cscmosaic.albany.edu/sourcebook/1995/pdf/t440.pdf) shows the following seizures and eradication of plants of C. sativa: 40,929 outdoor plots (2,597,796 plants), 139,580,728 ditchweed (ruderal plants), 2,361 indoor operations (217,105 plants), for a grand total of 2,814, 903 plants destroyed. Impressively, the species was grown in all 50 states (including outdoor seizures in every state except Wyoming)! It is of course impossible to know exactly how much marijuana is cultivated in the United States, and perhaps only 10% to 20% of the amount grown is seized. The profitability of the illegal crop is indicated by a comparison of the cost of a bushel of corn (roughly $2.50) and a bushel of manicured marijuana (about $70,000; it has been suggested that prices range from $500 a pound, for low-quality marijuana, to more than $5,000 a pound for “boutique” strains like “Northern Lights” and “Afghan Kush”). According to a National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) (mir.drugtext.org/marijuananews/marijuana_ranks_fourth_largest_c.htm) marijuana is at least the fourth most valuable crop in America, outranked only by corn, soybeans, and hay. It was estimated that 8.7 million marijuana plants were harvested in 1997, worth $15.1 billion to growers and $25.2 billion on the retail market (the wholesale value was used to compare marijuana to other cash crops). Marijuana was judged to be the largest revenue producing crop in Alabama, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Kentucky, Maine, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Virginia, and West Virginia, and one of the top five cash crops in 29 other states.

Cannabis contains a seemingly unique class of chemicals, the cannabinoids, of which more than 60 have been described, but only a few are psychoactive. Cannabinoids are produced in specialized epidermal glands, which differ notably in distribution on different organs of the plant (high concentrations occur on the upper surface of the young leaves and young twigs, on the tepals, stamens, and especially on the perigonal bract). Given this distribution, the glands would seem to be protective of young and reproductive above-ground tissues (the roots lack glands). Two classes of epidermal glands occur—stalked and sessile (Fig. 8), but in either case the glandular cells are covered by a sheath under which resin is accumulated, until the sheath ruptures, releasing resin on the surface. The resin is a sticky mixture of cannabinoids and a variety of terpenes. The characteristic odor of the plant is due to the abundant terpenes, which are not psychoactive. The more important cannabinoids are shown in Fig. 9. In the plant the cannabinoids exist predominantly in the form of carboxylic acids, which decarboxylate with time or when heated. Delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (D9-THC, or simply THC) is the predominant psychoactive component. Other THC isomers also occur, particularly D8-THC, which is also psychoactive. Technically, the euphoric psychological effects of THC are best described by the word psychotomimetic. Cannabidiol (CBD) is the chief non-psychotomimetic cannabinoid. A THC concentration in marijuana of approximately 0.9% has been suggested as a practical minimum level to achieve the (illegal) intoxicant effect, but CBD (the predominant cannabinoid of fiber and oilseed varieties) antagonizes (i.e. reduces) the effects of THC (Grotenhermen and Karus 1998). Concentrations of 0.3% to 0.9% are considered to have “only a small drug potential” (Grotenhermen and Karus 1998). Some cannabinoid races have been described, notably containing cannabichromene (particularly in high-THC forms) and cannabigerol monomethyl ether (in some Asian strains). The biosynthetic pathways of the cannabinoids are not yet satisfactorily elucidated, although the scheme shown in Fig. 10 is commonly accepted. At least in some strains, THC is derived from cannabigerol, while in others it may be derived from CBD. CBN and D8-THC are considered to be degradation products or analytical artifacts (Pate 1998a).

Fig. 8. Scanning electron micrographs of the abaxial surface of a perigonal bract (which envelops the fruit). These bracts are the most intoxicating part of the plant, and may contain 20% THC, dry weight. The resin is synthesized both in stalked and sessile glands. Multicellular secretory glands (of phallic appearance), some broken stalks of these (note cellular appearance), and unicellular cystolith hairs (claw-like structures) are pictured. Fig. 9. Some important cannabinoids of cannabis resin. D9-THC (delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol) is the chief intoxicant chemical and predominates in intoxicant strains, while the isomer D8-THC is usually present in no more than trace amounts. CBD (cannabidiol) is the chief non-intoxicant chemical, and predominates in non-intoxicant strains; it has sedative effects. The non-intoxicant CBN (cannabinol) is a frequent degradation or oxidation product. The non-intoxicant cannabichromene (CBC) is typically found in trace amounts in intoxicant strains. The non-intoxicant cannabigerol (CBG) is considered to be a precursor of the other cannbinoids (see Fig. 10).

Fig. 10. Proposed biosynthetic pathways of the principal cannabinoids (after Pate 1998b).

Both in Canada and the US, the most critical problem to be addressed for commercial exploitation of C. sativa is the possible unauthorized drug use of the plant. Indeed, the reason hemp cultivation was made illegal in North America was concern that the hemp crop was a drug menace. The drug potential is, for practical purposes, measured by the presence of THC. THC is the world’s most popular illicit chemical, and indeed the fourth most popular recreational drug, after caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine. “Industrial hemp” is a phrase that has become common to designate hemp used for commercial non-intoxicant purposes. Small and Cronquist (1976) splitC. sativa into two subspecies: C. sativa subsp. sativa, with less than 0.3% (dry weight) of THC in the upper (reproductive) part of the plant, and C. sativa subsp. indica (Lam.) E. Small & Cronq. with more than 0.3% THC. This classification has since been adopted in the European Community, Canada, and parts of Australia as a dividing line between cultivars that can be legally cultivated under license and forms that are considered to have too high a drug potential. For a period, 0.3% was also the allowable THC content limit for cultivation of hemp in the Soviet Union. In the US, Drug Enforcement Agency guidelines issued Dec. 7, 1999 expressly allowed products with a THC content of less than 0.3% to enter the US without a license; but subsequently permissible levels have been a source of continuing contention. Marijuana in the illicit market typically has a THC content of 5% to 10% (levels as high as 25% have been reported), and as a point of interest, a current Canadian government experimental medicinal marijuana production contract calls for the production of 6% marijuana. As noted above, a level of about 1% THC is considered the threshold for marijuana to have intoxicating potential, so the 0.3% level is conservative, and some countries (e.g. parts of Australia, Switzerland) have permitted the cultivation of cultivars with higher levels. It should be appreciated that there is considerable variation in THC content in different parts of the plant. THC content increases in the following order: achenes (excluding bracts), roots, large stems, smaller stems, older and larger leaves, younger and smaller leaves, flowers, perigonal bracts covering both the female flowers and fruits. It is well known in the illicit trade how to screen off the more potent fractions of the plant in order to increase THC levels in resultant drug products. Nevertheless, a level of 0.3% THC in the flowering parts of the plant is reflective of material that is too low in intoxicant potential to actually be used practically for illicit production of marijuana or other types of cannabis drugs. Below, the problem of permissible levels of THC in food products made from hempseed is discussed.

There is a general inverse relationship in the resin of Cannabis between the amounts of THC present and the amount of the other principal cannabinoid, CBD. Whereas most drug strains contain primarily THC and little or no CBD, fiber and oilseed strains primarily contain CBD and very little THC. CBD can be converted to THC by acid catalyzed cyclization, and so could serve as a starting material for manufacturing THC. In theory, therefore, low-THC cultivars do not completely solve the problem of drug abuse potential. In practice, however, the illicit drug trade has access to easier methods of synthesizing THC or its analogues than by first extracting CBD from non-drug hemp strains.

Breeding for low THC cultivars in Europe has been reviewed by Bócsa (1998), Bócsa and Karus (1998), and Virovets (1996). Some researchers have claimed to have produced essentially THC-free strains, although at present no commercial cultivar seems to be 100% free of THC. THC content has proven to be more easily reduced in monoecious than in dioecious varieties. It should be possible to select THC-free strains, and there has been speculation that genetic engineering could be helpful in this regard. As a strategic economic and political tactic, France has been attempting for several years to have the European Union (EU) adopt legislation forbidding the cultivation of industrial hemp cultivars with more than 0.1% THC, which would mean that primarily French varieties would have to be cultivated in Europe. However, the Canadian government has found that some French material has proven to be excessively high in THC.

There is certainly a need to utilize available germplasm sources in order to breed suitable cultivars for North America. A list of the 24 approved cultivars for the 2001 season in Canada is at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb-dgps/therapeut/htmleng/hemp.html. Most of these are regulated by the European Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). These cultivars are “approved” for use in Canada not on agricultural criteria, but merely on the basis that they meet the THC criterion. Indeed, most of these are unsuitable or only marginally suitable for Canada (Small and Marcus 2000), and only a very few Canadian cultivars to date have been created. In Canada, every acquisition of hemp grown at a particular place and time must be tested for THC content by an independent laboratory and, under the industrial hemp regulations, fields of hemp with more than 0.3% THC may require destruction (a slight degree of flexibility is generally exercised). Importation of experimental hemp lines (i.e. other than the approved cultivars) requires importation licenses (as well as phytosanitary clearance of the shipment by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency), and the importation licenses require an indication that the THC contents are low.

In Canada, the methodology used for analyses and sample collection for THC analysis of hemp plantings is standardized (at the Health Canada/Therapeutics Program/Hemp web site at http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca/hpb-dgps/therapeut/htmleng/hemp.html, see “Industrial Hemp Technical Manual” for procedures on sampling plant materials and chemical procedures for determining THC levels). The regulations require that one of the dozen independent laboratories licensed for the purpose conduct the analyses and report the results to Health Canada. Sample collection is also normally carried out by an independent authorized firm. The Canadian system of monitoring THC content has rigidly limited hemp cultivation to cultivars that consistently develop THC levels below 0.3%.

Because C. sativa has been a neglected crop for so long in North America, there are only negligible genetic resources available on this continent. Most germplasm stocks of hemp are in Europe, and the largest and most important collection is the Vavilov Institute gene bank in Leningrad. Figure 11 shows THC concentrations in the Vavilov collection, as well as in our own collection, largely of European germplasm. A disturbingly high percentage of the collections have THC levels higher than 0.3%, making it difficult to incorporate these into breeding programs.

Fig. 11. Frequency histograms of THC concentration in germplasm collections. Left, collection of E. Small and D. Marcus; of the 167 accessions, 43% had THC levels >0.3%. Right, the collection of the Vavilov Institute, St. Petersburg; of the 278 accessions for which chemical analyses were reported in Anonymous (1975), about 55% had THC levels >0.3%.

Soil characteristics, latitude and climatic stresses have been found to have significant effects on THC concentrations, and there are seasonal and even diurnal variations (Small 1979; Pate 1998b). However, the range of THC concentrations developed by low-THC cultivars (those typically with £0.3% THC) under different circumstances on the whole is limited, for the most part generally not varying more than 0.2 percentage points when grown in a range of circumstances, and usually less (note information in Scheifle et al. 1999; Scheifle 2000, Scheifle and Dragla 2000). Practically, this has meant in Canadian experience that a few cultivars have been eliminated from further commercial cultivation because they sometimes exceed the 0.3% level (‘Fedora 19’ and ‘Futura,’ authorized in 2000, have now been removed because some test results in several years exceeded 0.3%; ‘Finola’ and ‘Uniko B’ are under probation because of elevated levels), but on the whole most of the permitted cultivars have maintained highly consistent development of quite low levels of THC.

Hemp seeds contain virtually no THC, but THC contamination results from contact of the seeds with the resin secreted by the epidermal glands on the leaves and floral parts, and also by the failure to sift away all of the bracts (which have the highest concentration of THC of any parts of the plant) that cover the seeds. This results in small levels of THC appearing in hempseed oil and foods made with the seeds. Although most of the western hemp-growing world uses 0.3% THC as a maximum concentration for authorized cultivation of hemp plants, regulations in various countries allow only a much lower level of THC in human food products manufactured from the seeds. Currently, up to 10 ppm THC is permitted in seeds and oil products used for food purposes in Canada. In Germany, more stringent limits were set for food in 2000: 5 ppm in food oil, 0.005 ppm in beverages, and 0.15 ppm in all other foods. The US Drug Enforcement Administration published new regulations on hemp in the Federal Register on October 9th 2001 that in effect 4 months later would ban the food use of hemp in the US because any amount of THC would be unacceptable in foods (follow links at http://www.hempreport.com/). These proposals are currently being challenged by the hemp industry. Limits have been set because of concerns about possible toxicity and interference with drug tests (Grotenhermen et al. 1998). An extensive analysis of literature dealing with the toxicity of hemp is in Orr and Starodub (1999; see Geiwitz 2001 for an analysis). Because hemp food products are considered to have great economic potential, there is considerable pressure on the hemp industry in North America to reduce THC levels.

The Drug Enforcement Agency and the Office of National Drug Control Policy of the US raised concerns over tests conducted from 1995 to 1997 that showed that consumption of hempseed products available during that period led to interference with drug-testing programs for marijuana use. Federal US programs utilize a THC metabolite level of 50 parts per billion in urine. Leson (2000) found that this level was not exceeded by consuming hemp products, provided that THC levels are maintained below 5 ppm in hemp oil, and below 2 ppm in hulled seeds. Nevertheless the presence of even minute trace amounts of THC in foods remains a tool that can be used by those wishing to prevent the hemp oilseed industry from developing.

FIBER USES

Based on world production of fibers in 1999, about 54.5% was synthetic (of which 60.3% was polyester), 42.9% was plant fiber (of which 78.5% was cotton), and 2.6% was wool (Karus 2000). In addition to cotton, flax is the only other significant plant fiber crop grown in temperate regions of the world (kenaf has received some enthusiastic backing in the southern US in recent years, but is most cheaply produced in India, Bangladesh, and China). Flax held 2.7% of the world plant fiber market in 1999, while hemp had only 0.3% (Karus 2000). Hemp fiber can potentially replace other biological fibers in many applications, but also, as noted below, can sometimes compete with minerals such as glass fiber and steel. As forests diminish, cultivation of annual plants as fiber sources is likely to increase. While crop residues like cereal straw will probably supply much of the need, specialty fiber plants such as hemp also have potential. The four conditions that will need to be met are (after Bolton 1995): (1) the material should be produced at a large enough scale; (2) the price should be low enough; (3) the fiber characteristics should be adequate for the end use; and (4) proven technology should be available for the processing of the new raw material. Of these criteria only point 3 is adequately met at this time for hemp in North America, but this is to be expected in a crop that has only begun to be cultivated after an absence of many years.

One of the reasons hemp fiber has been valued is because of its length. The primary bast fibers in the bark are 5–40 mm long, and are amalgamated in fiber bundles which can be 1–5 m long (secondary bast fibers are about 2 mm long). The woody core fibers are short—about 0.55 mm—and like hardwood fibers are cemented together with considerable lignin. The core fibers are generally considered too short for high grade paper applications (a length of 3 mm is considered ideal), and too much lignin is present. While the long bast fibers have been used to make paper almost for 2 millennia, the woody core fibers have rarely been so used. Nevertheless it has been suggested that the core fibers could be used for paper making, providing appropriate technology was developed (de Groot et al. 1998). In any event, the core fibers, have found a variety of uses, as detailed below. The long, lignin-poor bast fibers also have considerable potential to be used in many non-paper, non-textile applications, as noted below.

Selection for fiber has resulted in strains that have much more bark fiber tissues and much less woody core than encountered in narcotic strains, oilseed strains, and wild plants (Fig. 12). In non-fiber strains of Cannabis, bark can be less than one quarter of the stem tissues (i.e. more than three quarters can be woody core). By contrast, in fiber strains half of the stem tissues can be bark, and more than half of this can be the desirable long primary fibers (de Meijer 1995). Non-fiber strains rarely have as much as 15% fiber in the bark.

Fig. 12. Cross sections of stems at internodes of a fiber plant (left) and of a narcotic plant (right). Fiber cultivars have stems that are more hollow at the internodes, i.e. less wood, since this allows more energy to be directed into the production of bark fiber.

Other desirable features of hemp fibers are strength and durability (particularly resistance to decay), which made hemp useful in the past for rope, nets, sail-cloth, and oakum for caulking. During the age of sailing ships,Cannabis was considered to provide the very best of canvas, and indeed this word is derived from Cannabis. Several factors combined to decrease the popularity of hemp in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Increasing limitation of cheap labor for traditional production in Europe and the New World led to the creation of some mechanical inventions, but too late to counter growing interest in competitive crops. Development of other natural fibers as well as synthetic fibers increased competition for hemp’s uses as a textile fiber and for cordage. Hemp rag had been much used for paper, but the 19th century introduction of the chemical woodpulping process considerably lowered demand for hemp. The demise of the sail diminished the market for canvas. Increasing use of the plant for drugs gave hemp a bad image. All this led to the discontinuation of hemp cultivation in the early and middle parts of the 20th century in much of the world where cheap labor was limited. In the 19th century softer fabrics took over the clothing market, and today, hemp constitutes only about 1% of the natural fiber market. At least some production of hemp for fiber still occurs in Russia, China, the Ukraine, Poland, Hungary, the countries of the former Yugoslavia, Romania, Korea, Chile, and Peru. There has been renewed interest in England, Australia, and South Africa in cultivating fiber hemp. Italy has an outstanding reputation for high-quality hemp, but productivity has waned for the last several decades. In France, a market for high-quality paper, ironically largely cigarette paper, has developed (such paper is completely free of the intoxicating resin). Modern plant breeding in Europe has produced several dozen hemp strains, although by comparison with other fiber crops there are relatively few described varieties of hemp. Since World War II, breeding has been concerned most particularly with the development of monoecious varieties. Gehl (1995) reviewed fiber hemp development in Canada in the early 20th century, and concluded that the prospects for a traditional fiber industry were poor. However, as outlined below, there are now many non-traditional usages for hemp fiber which require consideration. Hemp long fiber is one of the strongest and most durable of natural fibers, with high tensile strength, wet strength, and other characteristics that make it technically suited for various industrial products (Karus and Leson 1996).

From 1982 to 2002 the EU provided the equivalent of about 50 million dollars to develop new flax and hemp harvesting and fiber processing technologies (Karus et al. 2000). Because of the similarities of flax and hemp, the technologies developed for one usually are adaptable to the other. In addition, various European nations and private firms contributed to the development of hemp technologies. Accordingly, Europe is far more advanced in hemp development with respect to all fiber-based applications than other parts of the world. The EU currently dedicates about 30,000 ha to hemp production. France is the leading country in hemp cultivation in the EU, and 95% of the non-seed production is used for “specialty pulp” as described below. Harvesting and processing machinery for fiber hemp is highly advanced in Europe, and some has been imported into Canada. However, there is insufficient fiber processing capacity to handle hemp produced in Canada.

Textiles

Hemp is a bast fiber crop, i.e. the most desirable (“long”) fibers are found in the phloem-associated tissues external to the phloem, just under the “bark.” The traditional and still major first step in fiber extraction is to ret (“rot”) away the softer parts of the plant, by exposing the cut stems to microbial decay in the field (“dew retting,” shown in Figs. 46 and 47) or submerged in water (“water retting, ” shown in Fig. 13). The result is to slough off the outer parts of the stem and to loosen the inner woody core (the “hurds”) from the phloem fibers (Fig. 14). Water retting has been largely abandoned in countries where labor is expensive or environmental regulations exist. Water retting, typically by soaking the stalks in ditches, can lead to a high level of pollution. Most hemp fiber used in textiles today is water retted in China and Hungary. Retting in tanks rather than in open bodies of water is a way of controlling the effluents while taking advantage of the high-quality fiber that is produced. Unlike flax, hemp long fiber requires water retting for preparation of high-quality spinnable fibers for production of fine textiles. Improved microorganisms or enzymes could augment or replace traditional water retting. Steam explosion is another potential technology that has been experimentally applied to hemp (Garcia-Jaldon et al. 1998). Decorticated material (i.e. separated at least into crude fiber) is the raw material, and this is subjected to steam under pressure and increased temperature which “explodes” (separates) the fibers so that one has a more refined (thinner) hemp fiber that currently is only available from water retting. Even when one has suitably separated long fiber, specialized harvesting, processing, spinning and weaving equipment are required for preparing fine hemp textiles. The refinement of equipment and new technologies are viewed as offering the possibility of making fine textile production practical in western Europe and North America, but at present China controls this market, and probably will remain dominant for the foreseeable future.

Fig. 13. Water retting of hemp in Yugoslavia. (Courtesy of Dr. J. Berenji, Institute of Field and Vegetable Crops, Novi Sad.) Fig. 14. Fiber in retted hemp stem. This stem was bent sharply after retting, breaking the woody central portion (hurds), leaving the bark fibers unbroken. The two portions of stem are separated in this photograph, and are joined by the tough bark fibers.

There are practical, if cruder alternatives to separate the long fiber for high-quality textile production, but in fact such techniques are used mostly for non-textile applications. This involves production of “whole fibers” (i.e. harvesting both the long fibers from the cortex and the shorter fibers from throughout the stem), and technologies that utilize shortened hemp fibers. This approach is currently dominant in western Europe and Canada, and commences with field dew retting (typically 2–3 weeks). A principal limitation is climatic—the local environment should be suitably but not excessively moist at the close of the harvest season. Once stalks are retted, dried, and baled, they are processed to extract the fiber. In traditional hemp processing, the long fiber was separated from the internal woody hurds in two steps, breaking (stalks were crushed under rollers that broke the woody core into short pieces, some of which were separated) and scutching (the remaining hurds, short fibers (“tow”) and long fibers (“line fiber, ” “long-line fiber”) were separated). A single, relatively expensive machine called a decorticator can do these two steps as one. In general in the EU and Canada, fibers are not separated into tow and line fibers, but are left as “whole fiber.” In western Europe, the fiber is often “cottonized,” i.e. chopped into short segments the size of cotton and flax fiber, so that the fibers can be processed on flax processing machinery, which is very much better developed than such machinery is for hemp. In North America the use of hemp for production of even crude textiles is marginal. Accordingly, the chief current fiber usages of North American, indeed of European hemp, are non-textile.

Although always sold at a premium price, hemp clothing has a natural appeal to a sector of the population. Hemp clothes are resistant to abrasion, but are typically abrasive. However, appropriate processing and blending with other natural fibers has significantly improved the “feel” of the product, and in China hemp textiles indistinguishable from fine linens in texture are available. Weaving of hemp fibers into textiles and apparel is primarily done in China, Hungary, Romania, Russia, and the Ukraine. Processing costs are higher for industrial hemp because the fibers vary from the standard specifications for fiber length and diameter established for the equipment used in most textile and apparel factories, necessitating the use of specialty machines. The North American hemp apparel industry today is based on fiber, yarn, and fabrics imported from Eastern Europe and China. The extraction technology and spinning facilities, to say nothing of much lower labor costs, make it very difficult for the potential development of a hemp textile industry in North America. The fact that spinning facilities for natural fibers are so concentrated in China is making it increasingly difficult to competitively produce hemp fabrics elsewhere. This of course lessens the value-added future of growing hemp for a potential textile industry in North America. It is possible, however, that new technologies could change this situation, and especially in the EU development is underway to establish a fledgling domestic hemp textile industry. In addition to textiles used in clothing, coarser woven cloth (canvas) is used for upholstery, bags, sacks, and tarpaulins. There is very little effort in North America to produce such woven products, and non-woven material (Fig. 15) can be more easily produced. Hempline in Ontario, the first firm to grow hemp for commercial purposes in North America since the second word war (starting with experimental cultivation in 1994), is the exception, and is concerned with production of fiber for upholstery and carpeting.

Fig. 15. Multi-purpose matting, fabricated from hemp. (Courtesy of Kenex Ltd., Pain Court, Ontario.)

Pulp and Paper

Van Roekel (1994) has pointed out that Egyptian papyrus sheets are not “paper,” because the fiber strands are woven, not “wet-laid;” the oldest surviving paper is over 2,000 years of age, from China, and was made from hemp fiber (Fleming and Clarke 1998). Until the early 19th century, hemp, and flax were the chief paper-making materials. In historical times, hemp rag was processed into paper. Using hemp directly for paper was considered too expensive, and in any event the demand for paper was far more limited than today. Wood-based paper came into use when mechanical and chemical pulping was developed in the mid 1800s in Germany and England. Today, at least 95% of paper is made from wood pulp.

The pulp and paper industry based on wood has considered the use of hemp for pulp, but only on an experimental basis. Hemp’s long fibers could make paper more recyclable. Since virgin pulp is required for added strength in the recycling of paper, hemp pulp would allow for at least twice as many cycles as wood pulp. However, various analyses have concluded that the use of hemp for conventional paper pulp is not profitable (Fertig 1996).

“Specialty pulp” is the most important component of the hemp industry of the EU, and is expected to remain its core market for the foreseeable future. The most important specialty pulp products made from hemp are cigarette paper (Fig. 16), bank notes, technical filters, and hygiene products. Other uses include art papers and tea bags. Several of these applications take advantage of hemp’s high tear and wet strength. This is considered to be a highly stable, high-priced niche market in Europe, where hemp has an 87% market share of the “specialty pulp” sector (Karus et al. 2000). In Europe, decortication/refining machines are available that can produce 10 t/hour of hemp fiber suitable for such pulp use. North American capacity for hemp pulp production and value-added processing is much more limited than that of Europe, and this industry is negligible in North America.

Fig. 16. Hemp cigarette paper, the most profitable paper product currently manufactured from hemp.

Hemp paper is useful for specialty applications such as currency and cigarette papers where strength is needed. The bast fiber is of greatest interest to the pulp and paper industry because of its superior strength properties compared to wood. However, the short, bulky fibers found in the inner part of the plant (hurds) can also be used to make cheaper grades of paper, apparently without greatly affecting quality of the printing surface. Hemp is not competitive for newsprint, books, writing papers, and general paper (grocery bags, coffee cups, napkins), although there is a specialty or novelty market for those specifically wishing to support the hemp industry by purchasing hemp writing or printing paper despite the premium price (Fig. 17).

Fig. 17. Hemp paper products (writing paper, notebook, envelopes).

A chief argument that has been advanced in favor of developing hemp as a paper and pulp source has been that as a non-wood or tree-free fiber source, it can reduce harvesting of primary forests and the threat to associated biodiversity. It has been claimed that hemp produces three to four times as much useable fiber per hectare per annum as forests. However, Wong (1998) notes evidence that in the southern US hemp would produce only twice as much pulp as does a pine plantation (but see discussion below on suitability of hemp as a potential lumber substitute in areas lacking trees).

Hemp paper is high-priced for several reasons. Economies of scale are such that the supply of hemp is minute compared to the supply of wood fiber. Hemp processing requires non-wood-based processing facilities. Hemp paper is typically made only from bast fibers, which require separation from the hurds, thereby increasing costs. This represents less than 50% of the possible fiber yield of the plant, and future technologies that pulp the whole stalks could decrease costs substantially. Hemp is harvested once a year, so that it needs to be stored to feed mills throughout the year. Hemp stalks are very bulky, requiring much handling and storage. Transportation costs are also very much higher for hemp stalks than for wood chips. Waste straw is widely available from cereals and other crops, and although generally not nearly as desirable as hemp, can produce bulk pulp far more cheaply than can be made from hemp. In addition to agricultural wastes, there are vast quantities of scrub trees, especially poplar, in northern areas, that can supply large amounts of low-quality wood fiber extremely cheaply. Moreover, in northern areas fast-growing poplars and willows can be grown, and such agro-forestry can be very productive and environmentally benign. And, directly or indirectly, the lumber/paper industry receives subsidies and/or supports, which is most unlikely for hemp.

Plastic Composites for the Automobile and Other Manufacturing Sectors

With respect to fiber, a “composite” is often defined as a material consisting of 30%–70% fiber and 70%–30% matrix (Bolton 1995). However, in North America particleboards and fiberboards, which generally contain less than 10% adhesive or matrix, are sometimes referred to as composites. This section addresses plastic-type composites. In plastics, fibers are introduced to improve physical properties such as stiffness, impact resistance, bending and tensile strength. Man-made fibers of glass, kevlar and carbon are most commonly used today, but plant fibers offer considerable cost savings along with comparable strength properties.

Plastic composites for automobiles are the second most important component of the hemp industry of the EU. Natural fibers in automobile composites are used primarily in press-molded parts (Fig. 18). There are two widespread technologies. In thermoplastic production, natural fibers are blended with polypropylene fibers and formed into a mat, which is pressed under heat into the desired form. In thermoset production the natural fibers are soaked with binders such as epoxy resin or polyurethane, placed in the desired form, and allowed to harden through polymerization. Hemp has also been used in other types of thermoplastic applications, including injection molding. The characteristics of hemp fibers have proven to be superior for production of molded composites. In European manufacturing of cars, natural fibers are used to reinforce door panels, passenger rear decks, trunk linings, and pillars. In 1999 over 20,000 t of natural fiber were used for these purposes in Europe, including about, 2,000 t of hemp. It has been estimated that 5–10 kg of natural fibers can be used in the molded portions of an average automobile (excluding upholstery). The demand for automobile applications of hemp is expected to increase considerably, depending on the development of new technologies (Karus et al. 2000).

Fig. 18. C-class Mercedes-Benz automobiles have more than 30 parts made of natural fibers, including hemp. (Courtesy of T. Schloesser, Daimler-Chrysler.)

Henry Ford recognized the utility of hemp in early times. In advance of today’s automobile manufacturers, he constructed a car with certain components made of resin stiffened with hemp fiber (Fig. 19). Rather ironically in view of today’s parallel situation, Henry Ford’s hemp innovations in the 1920s occurred at a time of crisis for American farms, later to intensify with the depression. The need to produce new industrial markets for farm products led to a broad movement for scientific research in agriculture that came to be labeled “Farm Chemurgy,” that today is embodied in chemical applications of crop constituents.

Fig. 19. Henry Ford swinging an axe at his 1941 car to demonstrate the toughness of the plastic trunk door made of soybean and hemp. (From the collections of Henry Ford Museum & Greenfield Village.)

There is also considerable potential for other industries using hemp in the manner that the automobile industry has demonstrated is feasible. Of course, all other types of transportation vehicles from bicycles to airplanes might make use of such technology. Natural fibers have considerable advantages for use in conveyance (Karus et al. 2000): low density and weight reduction, favorable mechanical, acoustical, and processing properties (including low wear on tools), no splintering in accidents, occupational health benefits (compared to glass fibers), no off-gassing of toxic compounds, and price advantages. Additional types of composite using hemp in combination with other natural fibers, post-industrial plastics or other types of resins, are being used to produce non-woven matting for padding, sound insulation, and other applications.

Building Construction Products

Thermal Insulation. Thermal insulation products (Fig. 20, 21) are the third most important sector of the hemp industry of the EU. These are in very high demand because of the alarmingly high costs of heating fuels, ecological concerns about conservation of non-renewable resources, and political-strategic concerns about dependence on current sources of oil. This is a market that is growing very fast, and hemp insulation products are increasing in popularity. In Europe, it has been predicted that tens of thousands of tonnes will be sold by 2005, shared between hemp and flax (Karus et al. 2000).

Fig. 20. Spun, loosely compacted hemp insulation. (Manufactured by La Chanvrière de l’Aube, France.) Fig. 21. Loose Isochanvre® thermal insulation being placed between joists. (Courtesy of M. Périer, Chènovotte Habitat, France.)

Fiberboard. In North America the use of nonwood fibers in sheet fiberboard (“pressboard” or “composite board”) products is relatively undeveloped. Flax, jute, kenaf, hemp, and wheat straw can be used to make composite board. Wheat straw is the dominant nonwood fiber in such applications. Although it might seem that hemp bast fibers are desirable in composite wood products because of their length and strength, in fact the short fibers of the hurds have been found to produce a superior product (K. Domier, pers. commun.). Experimental production of hemp fiberboard has produced extremely strong material (Fig. 22). The economic viability of such remains to be tested. Molded fiberboard products are commercially viable in Europe (Fig. 23), but their potential in North America remains to be determined.

Fig. 22. Experimental fiberboard made with hemp. (Courtesy Dr. K. Domier, Univ. Alberta, Edmonton.) Fig. 23. Molded fiberboard products. (Courtesy of HempFlax, Oude Pekela, The Netherlands).

Cement (Concrete) and Plaster. Utilizing the ancient technique of reinforcing clay with straw to produce reinforced bricks for constructing domiciles, plant fibers have found a number of comparable uses in modern times. Hemp fibers added to concrete increase tensile strength while reducing shrinkage and cracking. Whole houses have been made based on hemp fiber (Fig. 24, 25). In North America, such usage has only reached the level of a cottage industry. Fiber-reinforced cement boards and fiber-reinforced plaster are other occasionally produced experimental products. Hemp fibers are produced at much more cost than wood chips and straw from many other crops, so high-end applications requiring high strength seem most appropriate.

Fig. 24. New building in France being constructed entirely of hemp. Wall castings are a conglomerate of Isochanvre® lime-hemp, for production of a 200 mm thick monolithic wall without an interior wall lining. (Courtesy of M. Périer, Chènovotte Habitat, France.) Fig. 25. The “hemp house” under construction on the Oglala Lakota Nation (Pine Ridge Reservation), South Dakota. Foundation blocks for the house are made with hemp fiber as a binder in cement. Stucco is also of hemp. Shingles are 60% hemp in a synthetic polymer. Hemp insulation is used throughout. (Courtesy of Oglala Sioux Tribe, Slim Butte Land Use Association, and S. Sauser.)

The above uses are based on hemp as a mechanical strengthener of materials. Hemp can also be chemically combined with materials. For example, hemp with gypsum and binding agents may produce light panels that might compete with drywall. Hemp and lime mixtures make a high quality plaster. Hemp hurds are rich in silica (which occurs naturally in sand and flint), and the hurds mixed with lime undergo mineralization, to produce a stone-like material. The technology is most advanced in France (Fig. 26). The mineralized material can be blown or poured into the cavities of walls and in attics as insulation. The foundations, walls, floors, and ceilings of houses have been made using hemp hurds mixed with natural lime and water. Sometimes plaster of Paris (pure gypsum), cement, or sand is added. The resulting material can be poured like concrete, but has a texture vaguely reminiscent of cork—much lighter than cement, and with better heat and sound-insulating properties. An experimental “ceramic tile” made of hemp has recently been produced (Fig. 27).

Fig. 26. Renovation of plaster walls of a traditional timber frame 16th century house (Mansion Raoul de la Faye, Paris) with Isochanvre® lime-hemp conglomerate. (Courtesy of M. Périer, Chènovotte Habitat, France.) Fig. 27. Hemp “ceramic tile.” (Courtesy of Kenex Ltd., Pain Court, Ontario.)

Animal Bedding

The woody core (hurds, sometimes called shives) of hemp makes remarkably good animal bedding (Fig. 28, 29). The hurds are sometimes molded into small pellets for bedding applications (Fig. 30). Such appears to be unsurpassed for horse bedding, and also make an excellent litter for cats and other pets (Fig. 31). The hurds can absorb up to five times their weight in moisture (typically 50% higher than wood shavings), do not produce dust (following initial dust removal), and are easily composted. Hemp bedding is especially suited to horses allergic to straw. In Europe, the animal bedding market is not considered important (Karus et al. 2000), but in North America there are insufficient hemp hurds available to meet market demand.

Fig. 28. Commercial warehouse of baled hemp animal bedding. (Courtesy of Kenex Ltd., Pain Court, Ontario.) Fig. 29. Animal bedding made from hemp hurds.
Fig. 30. Pelleted hemp hurds. (Courtesy of La Chanvrière de l’Aube, Bar sur Aube, France.) Fig. 31. Songbirds on hemp litter. (Courtesy of La Chanvrière de l’Aube, Bar sur Aube, France.)

The high absorbency of hemp hurds has led to their occasional use as an absorbent for oil and waste spill cleanup. Hemp as an industrial absorbent has generated some interest in Alberta, for use in land reclamation in the oil and gas industry. Because hemp hurds are a costly product, it is likely that animal bedding will remain the most important application.

Geotextiles

“Geotextiles” or “agricultural textiles” include (1) ground-retaining, biodegradable matting designed to prevent soil erosion, especially to stabilize new plantings while they develop root systems along steep highway banks to prevent soil slippage (Fig. 32); and (2) ground-covers designed to reduce weeds in planting beds (in the manner of plastic mulch). At present the main materials used are polymeric (polythene, spun-blown polypropylene) and some glass fiber and natural fibers. Both woven and non-woven fibers can be applied to geotextiles; woven and knitted materials are stronger and the open structure may be advantageous (e.g. in allowing plants to grow through), but non-wovens are cheaper and better at suppressing weeds. Flax and hemp fibers exposed to water and soil have been claimed to disintegrate rapidly over the course of a few months, which would make them unacceptable for products that need to have long-term stability when exposed to water and oil. Coco (coir) fiber has been said to be much more suitable, due to higher lignin content (40%–50%, compared to 2%–5% in bast fibers); these are much cheaper than flax and hemp fibers (Karus et al. 2000). However, this analysis does not do justice to the developing hemp geotextile market. Production of hemp erosion control mats is continuing in both Europe and Canada. Given the reputation for rot resistance of hemp canvas and rope, it seems probable that ground matting is a legitimate use. Moreover, the ability to last outdoors for many years is frequently undesirable in geotextiles. For example, the widespread current use of plastic netting to reinforce grass sod is quite objectionable, the plastic persisting for many years and interfering with lawn care. Related to geotextile applications is the possibility of using hemp fiber as a planting substrate (biodegradable pots and blocks for plants), and as biodegradable twine to replace plastic ties used to attach plants to supporting poles. Still another consideration is the “green ideal” of producing locally for local needs; by this credo, hemp is preferable in temperate regions to the use of tropical fibers, which need to be imported.

Fig. 32. Hemp-based erosion control blanket. Top left: Close-up of 100% hemp fiber blanket. Top right: Grass growing through blanket. Bottom: Demonstration of installation of blanket, near La Rivière, Manitoba. (Courtesy of Mark Myrowich, ErosionControlBlanket.com)

OILSEED USES

The cultivation of hemp in the EU is heavily weighted toward fiber production over oilseed production. In 1999, the EU produced about 27,000 t of hemp fiber, but only about 6,200 t of hemp seeds, mostly in France, and 90% of this was used as animal feed (Karus et al. 2000). The seeds (Fig. 33) have traditionally been employed as bird and poultry feed, but feeding the entire seeds to livestock has been considered to be a poor investment because of the high cost involved (although subsidization in Europe allows such usage, especially in France where hemp seeds are not legally permitted in human food). As pointed out later, higher yield and better harvesting practices may make whole hempseed an economical livestock feed. Moreover, seed cake left after expressing the oil is an excellent feed. Efforts are underway in Europe to add value in the form of processed products for hemp, especially cosmetics and food but, as noted below, the North American market is already quite advanced in oilseed applications.

Fig. 33. “Seeds” (achenes) of hemp, with a match for scale.

In the EU and Canada, hemp has often been grown as a dual-purpose crop, i.e. for both fiber and oilseed. In France, dual purpose hemp is typically harvested twice—initially the upper seed-bearing part of the stems is cut and threshed with a combine, and subsequently the remaining stems are harvested. Growing hemp to the stage that mature seeds are present compromises the quality of the fiber, because of lignification. As well, the hurds become more difficult to separate. The lower quality fiber, however, is quite utilizable for pulp and non-woven usages.

In North America, oilseed hemp has several advantages over fiber hemp. Hemp seed and oil can fetch higher prices than hemp fiber. Hemp seed can be processed using existing equipment, while processing of hemp fiber usually requires new facilities and equipment.

Canada is specialized on oilseed production and processing, so that hemp oil and grain are much more suitable than fiber. Because of the extensive development of oilseeds in Canada, there is extensive capacity to produce high-quality cold-pressed hemp oil. Canada in the last 5 years has made great advances in the growing, harvesting, and processing of hempseed, and indeed has moved ahead of the EU in the development of raw materials and products for the natural foods, nutraceuticals, and cosmetics industries. In the EU, a yield of 1 t/ha is considered good. In Canada, extraordinary yields of 1.5 t/ha have been realized, at least locally, although in the initial years of hempseed development in Canada yields were often less than 500 kg/ha. In 1999, the year of largest Canadian hemp acreage, yields averaged 900 kg/ha. (Ideally, hemp seed yield should be based on air dry weight—with about 12% moisture. Hemp yields are sometime uncertain, and could be exaggerated by as much as 50% when moist weights are reported.)

Canadian experience with growing hemp commercially for the last 4 years has convinced many growers that it is better to use a single-purpose cultivar, seed or fiber, than a dual-purpose cultivar. The recent focus of Canadian hemp breeders has been to develop cultivars with high seed yields, low stature (to avoid channeling the plants’ energy into stalk, as is the case in fiber cultivars), early maturation (for the short growing seasons of Canada), and desirable fatty acid spectrum (especially gamma-linolenic acid).

Food

Dehulled (i.e. hulled) hemp seed is a very recent phenomenon, first produced in quantity in Europe. Hemp seeds have been used as food since ancient times, but generally the whole seed, including the hull, was eaten. Hemp seed was a grain used in ancient China, although there has been only minor direct use of hemp seed as food by humans. In the past, hemp seed has generally been a food of the lower classes, or a famine food. Peanut-butter type preparations have been produced from hemp seed in Europe for centuries, but were rather gritty since technology for removing the hulls was rudimentary. Modern seed dehulling using mechanical separation produces a smooth, white, gritless hemp seed meal that needs no additional treatment before it is consumed. It is important to understand, therefore, that the quality of modern hemp seed for human consumption far exceeds anything produced historically. This seed meal should be distinguished from the protein-rich, oil-poor seed cake remaining after oil has been expressed, that is used for livestock feed. The seed cake is also referred to as “seed meal,” and has proven to be excellent for animals (Mustafa et al. 1999).

Hemp seeds have an attractive nutty taste, and are now incorporated into many food preparations (Fig. 34), often mimicking familiar foods. Those sold in North America include nutritional (granola-type) or snack bars, “nut butters” and other spreads, bread, pretzels, cookies, yogurts, pancakes, porridge, fruit crumble, frozen dessert (“ice cream”), pasta, burgers, pizza, salt substitute, salad dressings, mayonnaise, “cheese,” and beverages (“milk,” “lemonade,” “beer,” “wine,” “coffee nog”). Hemp seed is often found canned or vacuum-packed (Fig. 35). Alcoholic beverages made with hemp utilize hempseed as a flavorant. Hemp food products currently have a niche market, based particularly on natural food and specialty food outlets.

Fig. 34. Some North American food products made with hemp seed and/or hemp seed oil. Fig. 35. Canned hulled hemp seed. (Courtesy of Kenex Ltd., Pain Court, Ontario.)

Edible Oil

The use of Cannabis for seed oil (Fig. 36) began at least 3 millennia ago. Hempseed oil is a drying oil, formerly used in paints and varnishes and in the manufacture of soap. Present cultivation of oilseed hemp is not competitive with linseed for production of oil for manufacturing, or to sunflower and canola for edible vegetable oil. However, as noted below, there are remarkable dietary advantages to hempseed oil, which accordingly has good potential for penetrating the salad oil market, and for use in a very wide variety of food products. There is also good potential for hemp oil in cosmetics and skin-care products.

Fig. 36. Hemp oil. (Courtesy of La Chanvrière de l’Aube, Bar sur Aube, France.)

Foreign sources, China in particular, can produce hemp seed cheaply, but imported seed must be sterilized, and the delays this usually requires are detrimental. Seed that has been sterilized tends to go rancid quickly, and so it is imperative that fresh seed be available, a great advantage for domestic production. An additional extremely significant advantage that domestic producers have over foreign sources is organic production, which is important for the image desired by the hemp food market. Organic certification is much more reliable in North America than in the foreign countries that offer cheap seeds. Whereas China used to supply most of the hempseed used for food in North America, Canadian-grown seeds have taken over this market.

About half of the world market for hemp oil is currently used for food and food supplements (de Guzman 2001). For edible purposes, hempseed oil is extracted by cold pressing. Quality is improved by using only the first pressing, and minimizing the number of green seeds present. The oil varies in color from off-yellow to dark green. The taste is pleasantly nutty, sometimes with a touch of bitterness. Hemp oil is high in unsaturated fatty acids (of the order of 75%), which can easily oxidize, so it is unsuitable for frying or baking. The high degree of unsaturation is responsible for the extreme sensitivity to oxidative rancidity. The oil has a relatively short shelf life. It should be extracted under nitrogen (to prevent oxidation), protected from light by being kept in dark bottles, and from heat by refrigeration. Addition of anti-oxidants prolongs the longevity of the oil. Steam sterilization of the seeds, often required by law, allows air to penetrate and so stimulates rancidity. Accordingly, sterilized or roasted hemp seeds, and products made from hemp seed that have been subjected to cooking, should be fresh. The value of hemp oil from the point of view of the primary components is discussed below. In addition, it has been suggested that other components, including trace amounts of terpenes and cannabinoids, could have health benefits (Leizer et al. 2000). According to an ancient legend (Abel 1980), Buddha, the founder of Buddhism, survived a 6-year interval of asceticism by eating nothing but one hemp seed daily. This apocryphal story holds a germ of truth—hemp seed is astonishingly nutritional.

Fatty Acids. The quality of an oil or fat is most importantly determined by its fatty acid composition. Hemp is of high nutritional quality because it contains high amounts of unsaturated fatty acids, mostly oleic acid (C18:1, 10%–16%), linoleic acid (C18:2, 50%–60%), alpha-linolenic acid (C18:3, 20%–25%), and gamma-linolenic acid (C18:3, 2%–5%) (Fig. 37). Linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid are the only two fatty acids that must be ingested and are considered essential to human health (Callaway 1998). In contrast to shorter-chain and more saturated fatty acids, these essential fatty acids do not serve as energy sources, but as raw materials for cell structure and as precursors for biosynthesis for many of the body’s regulatory biochemicals. The essential fatty acids are available in other oils, particularly fish and flaxseed, but these tend to have unpleasant flavors compared to the mellow, slightly nutty flavor of hempseed oil. While the value of unsaturated fats is generally appreciated, it is much less well known that the North American diet is serious nutritionally unbalanced by an excess of linoleic over alpha-linonenic acid. In hempseed, linoleic and alpha-linolenic occur in a ratio of about 3:1, considered optimal in healthy human adipose tissue, and apparently unique among common plant oils (Deferne and Pate 1996). Gamma-linolenic acid or GLA is another significant component of hemp oil (1%–6%, depending on cultivar). GLA is a widely consumed supplement known to affect vital metabolic roles in humans, ranging from control of inflammation and vascular tone to initiation of contractions during childbirth. GLA has been found to alleviate psoriasis, atopic eczema, and mastalgia, and may also benefit cardiovascular, psychiatric, and immunological disorders. Ageing and pathology (diabetes, hypertension, etc.) may impair GLA metabolism, making supplementation desirable. As much as 15% of the human population may benefit from addition of GLA to their diet. At present, GLA is available in health food shops and pharmacies primarily as soft gelatin capsules of borage or evening primrose oil, but hemp is almost certainly a much more economic source. Although the content of GLA in the seeds is lower, hemp is far easier to cultivate and higher-yielding. It is important to note that hemp is the only current natural food source of GLA, i.e. not requiring the consumption of extracted dietary supplements. There are other fatty acids in small concentrations in hemp seed that have some dietary significance, including stearidonic acid (Callaway et al. 1996) and eicosenoic acid (Mölleken and Theimer 1997). Because of the extremely desirable fatty acid constitution of hemp oil, it is now being marketed as a dietary supplement in capsule form (Fig. 38).

Fig. 37. Content of principal fatty acids in hempseed oil, based on means of 62 accessions grown in southern Ontario (reported in Small and Marcus 2000). Fig. 38. Hemp oil in capsule form sold as a dietary supplement.

Tocopherols. Tocopherols are major antioxidants in human serum. Alpha- beta-, gamma- and delta-tocopherol represent the vitamin E group. These fat-soluble vitamins are essential for human nutrition, especially the alpha-form, which is commonly called vitamin E. About 80% of the tocopherols of hempseed oil is the alpha form. The vitamin E content of hempseed is comparatively high. Antioxidants in hempseed oil are believed to stabilize the highly polyunsaturated oil, tending to keep it from going rancid. Sterols in the seeds probably serve the same function, and like the tocopherols are also desirable from a human health viewpoint.

Protein. Hemp seeds contain 25%–30% protein, with a reasonably complete amino acid spectrum. About two thirds of hempseed protein is edestin. All eight amino acids essential in the human diet are present, as well as others. Although the protein content is smaller than that of soybean, it is much higher than in grains like wheat, rye, maize, oat, and barley. As noted above, the oilcake remaining after oil is expressed from the seeds is a very nutritious feed supplement for livestock, but it can also be used for production of a high-protein flour.

Personal Care Products

In the 1990s, European firms introduced lines of hemp oil-based personal care products, including soaps, shampoos, bubble baths, and perfumes. Hemp oil is now marketed throughout the world in a range of body care products, including creams, lotions, moisturizers, and lip balms. In Germany, a laundry detergent manufactured entirely from hemp oil has been marketed. Hemp-based cosmetics and personal care products account for about half of the world market for hemp oil (de Guzman 2001).

One of the most significant developments for the North American hemp industry was investment in hemp products by Anita and Gordon Roddick, founders of The Body Shop, a well known international chain of hair and body care retailers. This was a rather courageous and principled move that required overcoming American legal obstacles related to THC content. The Body Shop now markets an impressive array of hemp nutraceutical cosmetics (Fig. 39), and this has given the industry considerable credibility. The Body Shop has reported gross sales of about a billion dollars annually, and that about 4% of sales in 2000 were hemp products.

Fig. 39. Body care products offered by the Body Shop. (“Chanvre” is French for hemp.)

Industrial Fluids

The vegetable oils have been classified by “iodine value” as drying (120–200), semi-drying (100–120), and non-drying (80–100), which is determined by the degree of saturation of the fatty acids present (Raie et al. 1995). Good coating materials prepared from vegetable oil depend on the nature and number of double bonds present in the fatty acids. Linseed oil, a drying oil, has a very high percentage of linolenic acid. Hempseed oil has been classified as a semi-drying oil, like soybean oil, and is therefore more suited to edible than industrial oil purposes. Nevertheless hemp oil has found applications in the past in paints, varnishes, sealants, lubricants for machinery, and printing inks. However, such industrial end uses are not presently feasible as the oil is considered too expensive (de Guzman 2001). Larger production volumes and lower prices may be possible, in which case hemp oil may find industrial uses similar to those of linseed (flax), soybean, and sunflower oils, which are presently used in paints, inks, solvents, binders, and in polymer plastics. Hemp shows a remarkable range of variation in oil constituents, and selection for oilseed cultivars with high content of valued industrial constituents is in progress.

MEDICINAL MARIJUANA

Marijuana has in fact been grown for medicinal research in North America by both the Canadian (Fig. 40) and American governments, and this will likely continue. The possibility of marijuana becoming a legal commercial crop in North America is, to say the least, unlikely in the foreseeable future. Nevertheless the private sector is currently producing medicinal marijuana in Europe and Canada, so the following orientation to marijuana as a potential authorized crop is not merely academic.

Fig. 40. A truckload of Canadian medicinal marijuana from a plantation in Ottawa in 1971. More than a ton of marijuana was prepared for experimental research (described in Small et al. 1975).

The objectivity of scientific evaluation of the medicinal value of marijuana to date has been questioned. In the words of Hirst et al. (1998): “The …status of cannabis has made modern clinical research almost impossible. This is primarily because of the legal, ethical and bureaucratic difficulties in conducting trials with patients. Additionally, the general attitude towards cannabis, in which it is seen only as a drug of abuse and addiction, has not helped.” In a recent editorial, the respected journal Nature (2001) stated: “Governments, including the US federal government, have until recently refused to sanction the medical use of marijuana, and have also done what they can to prevent its clinical testing. They have defended their inaction by claiming that either step would signal to the public a softening of the so-called ‘war on drugs.’… The pharmacology of cannabinoids is a valid field of scientific investigation. Pharmacologists have the tools and the methodologies to realize its considerable potential, provided the political climate permits them to do so.” Given these current demands for research on medicinal marijuana, it will be necessary to produce crops of drug types of C. sativa.

Earliest reference to euphoric use of C. sativa appears to date to China of 5 millennia ago, but it was in India over the last millennium that drug consumption became more firmly entrenched than anywhere else in the world. Not surprisingly, the most highly domesticated drug strains were selected in India. While C. sativa has been used as a euphoriant in India, the Near East, parts of Africa, and other Old World areas for thousands of years, such use simply did not develop in temperate countries where hemp was raised. The use of C. sativa as a recreational inebriant in sophisticated, largely urban settings is substantially a 20th century phenomenon.

Cannabis drug preparations have been employed medicinally in folk medicine since antiquity, and were extensively used in western medicine between the middle of the 19th century and World War II, particularly as a substitute for opiates (Mikuriya 1969). A bottle of commercial medicinal extract is shown in Fig. 41. Medical use declined with the introduction of synthetic analgesics and sedatives, and there is very limited authorized medical use today, but considerable unauthorized use, including so-called “compassion clubs” dispensing marijuana to gravely ill people, which has led to a momentous societal and scientific debate regarding the wisdom of employing cannabis drugs medically, given the illicit status. There is anecdotal evidence that cannabis drugs are useful for: alleviating nausea, vomiting, and anorexia following radiation therapy and chemotherapy; as an appetite stimulant for AIDS patients; for relieving the tremors of multiple sclerosis and epilepsy; and for pain relief, glaucoma, asthma, and other ailments [see Mechoulam and Hanus (1997) for an authoritative medical review, and Pate (1995) for a guide to the medical literature]. To date, governmental authorities in the US, on the advice of medical experts, have consistently rejected the authorization of medical use of marijuana except in a handful of cases. However, in the UK medicinal marijuana is presently being produced sufficient to supply thousands of patients, and Canada recently authorized the cultivation of medicinal marijuana for compassionate dispensation, as well as for a renewed effort at medical evaluation.

Fig. 41. Medicinal tincture of Cannabis sativa. (Not legal in North America.)

Several of the cannabinoids are reputed to have medicinal potential: THC for glaucoma, spasticity from spinal injury or multiple sclerosis, pain, inflammation, insomnia, and asthma; CBD for some psychological problems. The Netherlands firm HortaPharm developed strains of Cannabis rich in particular cannabinoids. The British firm G.W. Pharmaceuticals acquired proprietary access to these for medicinal purposes, and is developing medicinal marijuana. In the US, NIH (National Institute of Health) has a program of research into medicinal marijuana, and has supplied a handful of individuals for years with maintenance samples for medical usage. The American Drug Enforcement Administration is hostile to the medicinal use of Cannabis, and for decades research on medicinal properties of Cannabis in the US has been in an extremely inhospitable climate, except for projects and researchers concerned with curbing drug abuse. Synthetic preparations of THC—dronabinol (Marinol®) and nabilone (Cesamet®)—are permitted in some cases, but are expensive and widely considered to be less effective than simply smoking preparations of marijuana. Relatively little material needs to be cultivated for medicinal purposes (Small 1971), although security considerations considerably inflate costs. The potential as a “new crop” for medicinal cannabinoid uses is therefore limited. However, the added-value potential in the form of proprietary drug derivatives and drug-delivery systems is huge. The medicinal efficacy of Cannabis is extremely controversial, and regrettably is often confounded with the issue of balancing harm and liberty concerning the proscriptions against recreational use of marijuana. This paper is principally concerned with the industrial uses of Cannabis. In this context, the chief significance of medicinal Cannabis is that, like the issue of recreational use, it has made it very difficult to rationally consider the development of industrial hemp in North America for purposes that everyone should agree are not harmful.

Key analyses of the medicinal use of marijuana are: Le Dain (1972), Health Council of the Netherlands (1996), American Medical Association (1997), British Medical Association (1997), National Institutes of Health (1997), World Health Organization (1997), House of Lords (1998), and Joy et al. (1999).

MINOR USES

Biomass

It has been contended that hemp is notably superior to most crops in terms of biomass production, but van der Werf (1994b) noted that the annual dry matter yield of hemp (rarely approaching 20 t/ha) is not exceptional compared to maize, beet, or potato. Nevertheless, hemp has been rated on a variety of criteria as one of the best crops available to produce energy in Europe (Biewinga and van der Bijl 1996). Hemp, especially the hurds, can be burned as is or processed into charcoal, methanol, methane, or gasoline through pyrolysis (destructive distillation). As with maize, hemp can also be used to create ethanol. However, hemp for such biomass purposes is a doubtful venture in North America. Conversion of hemp biomass into fuel or alcohol is impractical on this continent, where there are abundant supplies of wood, and energy can be produced relatively cheaply from a variety of sources. Mallik et al. (1990) studied the possibility of using hemp for “biogas” (i.e. methane) production, and concluded that it was unsuitable for this purpose. Pinfold Consulting (1998) concluded that while there may be some potential for hemp biomass fuel near areas where hemp is cultivated, “a fuel ethanol industry is not expected to develop based on hemp.”

Essential Oil

Essential (volatile) oil in hemp is quite different from hempseed oil. Examples of commercial essential oil product products are shown in Fig. 42. The essential oil is a mixture of volatile compounds, including monoterpenes, sesquiterpenes, and other terpenoid-like compounds that are manufactured in the same epidermal glands in which the resin of Cannabis is synthesized (Meier and Mediavilla 1998). Yields are very small—about 10 L/ha (Mediavilla and Steinemann 1997), so essential oil of C. sativa is expensive, and today is simply a novelty. Essential oil of different strains varies considerably in odor, and this may have economic importance in imparting a scent to cosmetics, shampoos, soaps, creams, oils, perfumes, and foodstuffs. Switzerland has been a center for the production of essential oil for the commercial market. Narcotic strains tend to be more attractive in odor than fiber strains, and because they produce much higher numbers of flowers than fiber strains, and the (female) floral parts provide most of the essential oil, narcotic strains are naturally adapted to essential oil production. Switzerland has permitted strains with higher THC content to be grown than is allowed in other parts of the world, giving the country an advantage with respect to the essential oil market. However, essential oil in the marketplace has often been produced from low-THC Cannabis, and the THC content of essential oil obtained by steam distillation can be quite low, producing a product satisfying the needs for very low THC levels in food and other commercial goods. The composition of extracted essential oil is quite different from the volatiles released around the fresh plant (particularly limonene and alpha-pinene), so that a pleasant odor of the living plant is not necessarily indicative of a pleasant-smelling essential oil. Essential oil has been produced in Canada by Gen-X Research Inc., Regina. The world market for hemp essential oil is very limited at present, and probably also has limited growth potential.

Fig. 42. Bottles of hemp fragrance (left) and essential oil (center), and pastilles flavored with hemp essential oil (right).

Pesticide and Repellent Potential

McPartland (1997) reviewed research on the pesticide and repellent applications of Cannabis. Dried plant parts and extracts of Cannabis have received rather extensive usage for these purposes in the past, raising the possibility that research could produce formulations of commercial value. This possibility is currently hypothetical.

Non-Seed Use of Hemp as Livestock Feed

As noted above, hemp seed cake makes an excellent feed for animals. However, feeding entire plants is another matter, because the leaves are covered with the resin-producing glands. While deer, groundhogs, rabbits, and other mammals will nibble on hemp plants, mammals generally do not choose to eat hemp. Jain and Arora (1988) fed narcotic Cannabis refuse to cattle, and found that the animals “suffered variable degrees of depression and revealed incoordination in movement.” By contrast, Letniak et al. (2000) conducted an experimental trial of hemp as silage. No significant differences were found between yield of the hemp and of barley/oat silage fed to heifers, suggesting that fermenting hemp plants reduces possible harmful constituents.

Hemp as an Agricultural Barrier

One of the most curious uses of hemp is as a fence to prevent pollen transfer in commercial production of seeds. Isolation distances for ensuring that seeds produced are pure are considerable for many plants, and often impractical. At one point in the 1980s, the only permitted use of hemp in Germany was as a fence or hedge to prevent plots of beets being used for seed production from being contaminated by pollen from ruderal beets. The high and rather inpenetrable hedge that hemp can produce was considered unsurpassed by any other species for the purpose. As well, the sticky leaves of hemp were thought to trap pollen. However, Saeglitz et al. (2000) demonstrated that the spread of beet pollen is not effectively prevented by hemp hedges. Fiber (i.e. tall) cultivars of hemp were also once used in Europe as wind-breaks, protecting vulnerable crops against wind damage. Although hemp plants can lodge, on the whole very tall hemp is remarkably resistant against wind.

Bioremediation

Preliminary work in Germany (noted in Karus and Leson 1994) suggested that hemp could be grown on soils contaminated with heavy metals, while the fiber remained virtually free of the metals. Kozlowski et al. (1995) observed that hemp grew very well on copper-contaminated soil in Poland (although seeds absorbed high levels of copper). Baraniecki (1997) found similar results. Mölleken et al. (1997) studied effects of high concentration of salts of copper, chromium, and zinc on hemp, and demonstrated that some hemp cultivars have potential application to growth in contaminated soils. It would seem unwise to grow hemp as an oilseed on contaminated soils, but such a habitat might be suitable for a fiber or biomass crop. The possibility of using hemp for bioremediation deserves additional study.

Wildlife Uses

Hemp is plagued by bird predation, which take a heavy toll on seed production. The seeds are well known to provide extremely nutritious food for both wild birds and domestic fowl. Hunters and birdwatchers who discover wild patches of hemp often keep this information secret, knowing that the area will be a magnet for birds in the fall when seed maturation occurs. Increasingly in North America, plants are being established to provide habitat and food for wildlife. Hemp is not an aggressive weed, and certainly has great potential for being used as a wildlife plant. Of course, current conditions forbid such usage in North America.

Ornamental Forms

Hemp has at times in the past been grown simply for its ornamental value. The short, strongly-branched cultivar ‘Panorama’ (Fig. 43) bred by Iván Bósca, the dean of the world’s living hemp breeders, was commercialized in Hungary in the 1980s, and has been said to be the only ornamental hemp cultivar available. It has had limited success, of course, because there are very few circumstances that permit private gardeners can growCannabis as an ornamental today. By contrast, beautiful ornamental cultivars of opium poppy are widely cultivated in home gardens across North America, despite their absolute illegality and the potentially draconian penalties that could be imposed. Doubtless in the unlikely event that it became possible, many would grow hemp as an ornamental.

Fig. 43. ‘Panorama,’ the world’s only ornamental cultivar, with the breeder, Ivan Bócsa. (Courtesy of Professor Bócsa.)

AGRONOMY

The following sketch of hemp cultivation is insufficient to address all of the practical problems that are encountered by hemp growers. Bócsa and Karus (1998) is the best overall presentation of hemp growing available in English. The reader is warned that this book, as well as almost all of the literature on hemp, is very much more concerned with fiber production than oilseed production. McPartland et al. (2000) is the best presentation available on diseases and pests, which fortunately under most circumstances do limited damage. The resource list presented below should be consulted by those wishing to learn about hemp production. Provincial agronomists in Canada now have experience with hemp, and can make local recommendations. Particularly good web documents are: for Ontario (OMAFRA Hemp Series, several documents): http://www.gov.on.ca/OMAFRA/english/crops/hort/hemp.html); for Manitoba (several documents): http://www.gov.mb.ca/agriculture/crops/hemp/bko01s00.html; for British Columbia: (BC Ministry of Agriculture and Foods Fact Sheet on Industrial Hemp, prepared by A. Oliver and H. Joynt): http://www.agf.gov.bc.ca/croplive/plant/horticult/specialty/specialty.htm

In the US, extension publications produced up to the end of World War II are still useful, albeit outdated (Robinson 1935; Wilsie et al. 1942; Hackleman and Domingo 1943; Wilsie et al. 1944).

Hemp does best on a loose, well-aerated loam soil with high fertility and abundant organic matter. Well-drained clay soils can be used, but poorly-drained clay soils are very inappropriate because of their susceptibility to compaction, which is not tolerated. Young plants are sensitive to wet or flooded soils, so that hemp must have porous, friable, well-drained soils. Sandy soils will grow good hemp, provided that adequate irrigation and fertilization are provided, but doing so generally makes production uneconomical. Seedbed preparation requires considerable effort. Fall plowing is recommended, followed by careful preparation of a seedbed in the spring. The seedbed should be fine, level, and firm. Seed is best planted at 2–3 cm (twice as deep will be tolerated). Although the seedlings will germinate and survive at temperatures just above freezing, soil temperatures of 8°–10°C are preferable. Generally hemp should be planted after danger of hard freezes, and slightly before the planting date of maize. Good soil moisture is necessary for seed germination, and plenty of rainfall is needed for good growth, especially during the first 6 weeks. Seeding rate is specific to each variety, and this information should be sought from the supplier. Fiber strains are typically sown at a minimum rate of 250 seeds per m2 (approximately 45 kg/ha), and up to three times this density is sometimes recommended. In western Europe, seeding rates range from 60–70 kg/ha for fiber cultivars. Recommendations for seeding rates for grain production vary widely, from 10–45 kg/ha. Densities for seed production for tall, European, dual-purpose cultivars are less than for short oilseed cultivars. Low plant densities, as commonly found in growing tall European cultivars for seed, may not suppress weed growth adequately, and under these circumstances resort to herbicides may pose a problem for those wishing to grow hempseed organically. Hemp requires about the same fertility as a high-yielding crop of wheat. Industrial hemp grows well in areas that corn produces high yields. Growing hemp may require addition of up to 110 kg/ha of nitrogen, and 40–90 kg/ha of potash. Hemp particularly requires good nitrogen fertilization, more so for seed production than fiber. Adding nitrogen when it is not necessary is deleterious to fiber production, so that knowledge of the fertility of soils being used is very important. Organic matter is preferably over 3.5%, phosphorus should be medium to high (>40 ppm), potassium should be medium to high (>250 ppm), sulfur good (>5,000 ppm), and calcium not in excess (<6,000 ppm).

Finding cultivars suited to local conditions is a key to success. Hemp prefers warm growing conditions, and the best European fiber strains are photoperiodically adapted to flowering in southern Europe, which provides seasons of at least 4 months for fiber, and 5.5 months for seed production. Asian land races are similarly adapted to long seasons. In Canada, many of the available cultivars flower too late in the season for fiber production, and the same may be predicted for the northern US. Fiber production should also be governed by availability of moisture throughout the season, and the need for high humidity in the late summer and fall for retting, so that large areas of the interior and west of North America are not adapted to growing fiber hemp. The US Corn Belt has traditionally been considered to be best for fiber hemp. There are very few cultivars dedicated to oilseed production (such as ‘Finola’ and ‘Anka’) or that at least are known to produce good oilseed crops (such as ‘Fasamo’ and ‘Uniko-B’). Oilseed production was a specialty of the USSR, and there is some likelihood that northern regions of North America may find short-season, short-stature oilseed cultivars ideal.

Although hemp can be successfully grown continuously for several years on the same land, rotation with other crops is desirable. A 3- or preferably 4-year rotation may involve cereals, clover or alfalfa for green manure, maize, and hemp. In Ontario it has been recommended that hemp not follow canola, edible beans, soybeans or sunflowers. However, according to Bócsa and Karus (1998), “it matters little what crops are grown prior to hemp.”

For a fiber crop, hemp is cut in the early flowering stage or while pollen is being shed, well before seeds are set. Tall European cultivars (greater than 2 m) have mostly been grown in Canada to date, and most of these are photoperiodically adapted to mature late in the season (often too late). Small crops have been harvested with sickle-bar mowers and hay swathers, but plugging of equipment is a constant problem. Hemp fibers tend to wrap around combine belts, bearings, indeed any moving part, and have resulted in large costs of combine repairs (estimated at $10.00/ha). Slower operation of conventional combines has been recommended (0.6–2 ha/hour). Large crops may require European specialized equipment, but experience in North America with crops grown mainly for fiber is limited. The Dutch company HempFlax has developed or adapted several kinds of specialized harvesting equipment (Fig. 44, 45).

Fig. 44. A John Deere Kemper harvester, with circular drums that cut and chop hemp stalks, shown in operation in southern Ontario. (Courtesy of Kenex Ltd., Pain Court, Ontario.) Fig. 45. A hemp harvester operated by HempFlax (Netherlands), with a wide mowing head capable of cutting 3 m long stems into 0.6 m pieces, at a capacity of 3 ha/hour. (Courtesy of HempFlax, Oude Pekela, The Netherlands.)

Retting is generally done in the field (Fig. 46, 47). This typically requires weeks. The windrows should be turned once or twice. If not turned, the stems close to the ground will remain green while the top ones are retted and turn brown. When the stalks have become sufficiently retted requires experience—the fibers should have turned golden or grayish in color, and should separate easily from the interior wood. Baling can be done with any kind of baler (Fig. 48). Stalks should have less than 15% moisture when baled, and should be allowed to dry to about 10% in storage. Bales must be stored indoors. Retted stalks are loosely held together, and for highest quality fiber applications need to be decorticated, scutched, hackled, and combed to remove the remaining pieces of stalks, broken fibers, and extraneous material. The equipment for this is rare in North America, and consequently use of domestically-produced fiber for high quality textile applications is extremely limited. However, as described above relatively crude fiber preparations also have applications.

Fig. 46. Windrowed fiber hemp in process of dew retting. Photograph taken in 1930 on the Central Experimental Farm, Ottawa, Canada. Fig. 47. Shocked fiber hemp in process of dew retting. Photograph taken in 1931, near Ottawa, Canada. The shocks shed water like pup-tents, providing more even retting than windrows.

Fig. 48. Baled, retted hemp straw. (Courtesy of Kenex Ltd., Pain Court, Ontario.)

Harvesting tall varieties for grain is difficult. In France, the principal grower of dual-purpose varieties, the grain is taken off the field first, leaving most of the stalks for later harvest (Fig. 49). Putting tall whole plants through a conventional combine results in the straw winding around moving parts, and the fibers working into bearings, causing breakdown, fires, high maintenance, and frustration. Following the French example of raising the cutting blade to harvest the grain is advisable. Growing short varieties dedicated to grain production eliminates many of the above problems, and since the profitability of hemp straw is limited at present, seems preferable. Grain growers should be aware that flocks of voracious birds are a considerable source of damage to hempseed, particularly in small plantations.

Fig. 49. Harvesting hemp in France. (Courtesy of La Chanvrière de l’Aube, Bar sur Aube, France.)

ECOLOGICAL FRIENDLINESS OF HEMP

Although the environmental and biodiversity benefits of growing hemp have been greatly exaggerated in the popular press, C. sativa is nevertheless exceptionally suitable for organic agriculture, and is remarkably less “ecotoxic” in comparison to most other crops (Montford and Small 1999b). Figure 50 presents a comparison of the ecological friendliness of Cannabis crops (fiber, oilseed, and narcotics) and 21 of the world’s major crops, based on 26 criteria used by Montford and Small (1999a) to compare the ecological friendliness of crops.

Fig. 50. A crude comparison of the biodiversity friendliness of selected major crops and three Cannabis sativa crops (fiber, oilseed, drug) based on 26 criteria (after Montford and Small 1999a).

The most widespread claim for environmental friendliness of hemp is that it has the potential to save trees that otherwise would be harvested for production of lumber and pulp. Earlier, the limitations of hemp as a pulp substitute were examined. With respect to wood products, several factors appear to favor increased use of wood substitutes, especially agricultural fibers such as hemp. Deforestation, particularly the destruction of old growth forests, and the world’s decreasing supply of wild timber resources are today major ecological concerns. Agroforestry using tree species is one useful response, but nevertheless sacrifices wild lands and biodiversity, and is less preferable than sustainable wildland forestry. The use of agricultural residues (e.g. straw bales in house construction) is an especially environmentally friendly solution to sparing trees, but material limitations restrict use. Another chief advantage of several annual fiber crops over forestry crops is relative productivity, annual fiber crops sometimes producing of the order of four times as much per unit of land. Still another important advantage is the precise control over production quantities and schedule that is possible with annual crops. In many parts of the world, tree crops are simply not a viable alternative. “By the turn of the century 3 billion people may live in areas where wood is cut faster than it grows or where fuelwood is extremely scarce” (World Commission on Environment and Development 1987). “Since mid-century, lumber use has tripled, paper use has increased six-fold, and firewood use has soared as Third World populations have multiplied” (Brown et al. 1998). Insofar as hemp reduces the need to harvest trees for building materials or other products, its use as a wood substitute will tend to contribute to preserving biodiversity. Hemp may also enhance forestry management by responding to short-term fiber demand while trees reach their ideal maturation. In developing countries where fuelwood is becoming increasingly scarce and food security is a concern, the introduction of a dual-purpose crop such as hemp to meet food, shelter, and fuel needs may contribute significantly to preserving biodiversity.

The most valid claims to environmental friendliness of hemp are with respect to agricultural biocides (pesticides, fungicides, herbicides). Cannabis sativa is known to be exceptionally resistant to pests (Fig. 51), although, the degree of immunity to attacking organisms has been greatly exaggerated, with several insects and fungi specializing on hemp. Despite this, use of pesticides and fungicides on hemp is usually unnecessary, although introduction of hemp to regions should be expected to generate local problems. Cannabis sativa is also relatively resistant to weeds, and so usually requires relatively little herbicide. Fields intended for hemp use are still frequently normally cleared of weeds using herbicides, but so long as hemp is thickly seeded (as is always done when hemp is grown for fiber), the rapidly developing young plants normally shade out competing weeds.

Fig. 51. Grasshopper on hemp. Most insects cause only limited damage to hemp, and substantial insect damage is uncommon, so the use of insecticides is very rarely required.

BREEDING HEMP FOR NORTH AMERICA

The basic commercial options for growing hemp in North America is as a fiber plant, an oilseed crop, or for dual harvest for both seeds and fiber. Judged on experience in Canada to date, the industry is inclined to specialize on either fiber or grain, but not both. Hemp in our opinion is particularly suited to be developed as an oilseed crop in North America. The first and foremost breeding goal is to decrease the price of hempseed by creating more productive cultivars. While the breeding of hemp fiber cultivars has proceeded to the point that only slight improvements can be expected in productivity in the future, the genetic potential of hemp as an oilseed has scarcely been addressed. From the point of view of world markets, concentrating on oilseed hemp makes sense, because Europe has shown only limited interest to date in developing oilseed hemp, whereas a tradition of concentrating on profitable oilseed products is already well established in the US and Canada. Further, China’s supremacy in the production of high-quality hemp textiles at low prices will be very difficult to match, while domestic production of oilseeds can be carried out using technology that is already available. The present productivity of oilseed hemp—about 1 t/ha under good conditions, and occasional reports of 1.5 to 2 t/ha, is not yet sufficient for the crop to become competitive with North America’s major oilseeds. We suggest that an average productivity of 2 t/ha will be necessary to transform hempseed into a major oilseed, and that this breeding goal is achievable. At present, losses of 30% of the seed yields are not uncommon, so that improvements in harvesting technology should also contribute to higher yields. Hemp food products cannot escape their niche market status until the price of hempseed rivals that of other oilseeds, particularly rapeseed, flax, and sunflower. Most hemp breeding that has been conducted to date has been for fiber characteristics, so that there should be considerable improvement possible. The second breeding goal is for larger seeds, as these are more easily shelled. Third is breeding for specific seed components. Notable are the health-promoting gamma-linolenic acid; improving the amino acid spectrum of the protein; and increasing the antioxidant level, which would not only have health benefits but could increase the shelf life of hemp oil and foods.

Germplasm Resources

Germplasm for the improvement of hemp is vital for the future of the industry in North America. However, there are no publicly available germplasm banks housing C. sativa in North America. The hundreds of seed collections acquired for Small’s studies (reviewed in Small 1979) were destroyed in 1980 because Canadian government policy at that time envisioned no possibility that hemp would ever be developed as a legitimate crop. An inquiry regarding the 56 United States Department of Agriculture hemp germplasm collections supplied to and grown by Small and Beckstead (1973) resulted in the reply that there are no remaining hemp collections in USDA germplasm holdings, and indeed that were such to be found they would have to be destroyed. While hemp has been and still is cultivated in Asia and South America, it is basically in Europe that germplasm banks have made efforts to preserve hemp seeds. The Vavilov Institute of Plant Research in St. Petersburg, Russia has by far the largest germplasm collection of hemp of any public gene bank, with about 500 collections. Detailed information on the majority of hemp accessions of the Vavilov Institute can be found in Anon. (1975). Budgetary problems in Russia have endangered the survival of this invaluable collection, and every effort needs to be made to find new funding to preserve it. Maintenance and seed generation issues for the Vavilov hemp germplasm collection are discussed in a number of articles in the Journal of the International Hemp Association (Clarke 1998b; Lemeshev et al. 1993, 1994). The Gatersleben gene bank of Germany, the 2nd largest public gene bank in Europe, has a much smaller Cannabis collection, with less than 40 accessions (detailed information on the hemp accessions of the Gatersleben gene bank are available at fox-serv.ipk-gatersleben.de/). Because hemp is regaining its ancient status as an important crop, a number of private germplasm collections have been assembled for the breeding of cultivars as commercial ventures (de Meijer and van Soest 1992; de Meijer 1998), and of course these are available only on a restricted basis, if at all.

The most pressing need of the hemp industry in North America is for the breeding of more productive oilseed cultivars. At present, mainly European cultivars are available, of which very few are suitable for specialized oilseed production. More importantly, hempseed oil is not competitive, except in the novelty niche market, with the popular food oils. As argued above, to be competitive, hemp should produce approximately 2 t/ha; at present 1 t/ha is considered average to good production. Doubling the productive capacity of a conventional crop would normally be considered impossible, but it needs to be understood just how little hemp has been developed as an oilseed. There may not even be extant land races of the kind of hemp oilseed strains that were once grown in Russia, so that except for a very few very recent oilseed cultivars, there has been virtually no breeding of oilseed hemp. Contrarily, hemp has been selected for fiber to the point that some breeders consider its productivity in this respect has already been maximized. Fiber strains have been selected for low seed production, so that most hemp germplasm has certainly not been selected for oilseed characteristics. By contrast, drug varieties have been selected for very high yield of flowers, and accordingly produce very high yield of seeds. Drug varieties have been observed to produce more than a kilogram of seed per plant, so that a target yield of several tonnes per hectare is conceivable (Watson and Clarke 1997). Of course, the high THC in drug cultivars makes these a difficult source of germplasm. However, wild plants of C. sativa have naturally undergone selection for high seed productivity, and are a particularly important potential source of breeding germplasm.

Wild North American hemp is derived mostly from escaped European cultivated hemp imported in past centuries, perhaps especially from a revival of cultivation during World War II. Wild Canadian hemp is concentrated along the St. Lawrence and lower Great Lakes, where considerable cultivation occurred in the 1800s. In the US, wild hemp is best established in the American Midwest and Northeast, where hemp was grown historically in large amounts. Decades of eradication have exterminated many of the naturalized populations in North America. In the US, wild plants are rather contemptuously called “ditch weed” by law enforcement personnel. However, the attempts to destroy the wild populations are short-sighted, because they are a natural genetic reservoir, mostly low in THC. Wild North American plants have undergone many generations of natural adaptation to local conditions of climate, soil and pests, and accordingly it is safe to conclude that they harbor genes that are invaluable for the improvement of hemp cultivars. We have encountered exceptionally vigorous wild Canadian plants (Fig. 52), and grown wild plants from Europe (Fig. 53) which could prove valuable. Indeed, studies are in progress in Ontario to evaluate the agronomic usefulness of wild North American hemp. Nevertheless, present policies in North America require the eradication of wild hemp wherever encountered. In Europe and Asia, there is little concern about wild hemp, which remains a valuable resource.

Fig. 52. Wild female hemp plant collected Oct. 17, 2000 near Ottawa, Canada. This vigorous plant had a fresh weight of 1.5 kg. Fig. 53. A wild female hemp plant grown in southern Ontario [accession #16 from Georgia (formerly USSR), reported in Small and Marcus (2000)]. Such highly-branched plants can produce very large quantities of seeds, and may be useful for breeding.

HARD LESSONS FOR FARMERS

It is clear that there is a culture of idealistic believers in hemp in North America, and that there is great determination to establish the industry. As history has demonstrated, unbridled enthusiasm for largely untested new crops touted as gold mines sometimes leads to disaster. The attempt to raise silk in the US is probably the most egregious example. In 1826 a Congressional report that recommended the preparation of a practical manual on the industry resulted in a contagious desire to plant mulberries for silk production, with the eventual collapse of the industry, the loss of fortunes, and a legacy of “Mulberry Streets” in the US (Chapter 2, Bailey 1898). In the early 1980s in Minnesota, Jerusalem artichoke was touted as a fuel, a feed, a food, and a sugar crop. Unfortunately there was no market for the new “wonder crop” and hundreds of farmers lost about $20 million (Paarlberg 1990). The level of “hype” associated with industrial hemp is far more than has been observed before for other new crops (Pinfold Consulting 1998). Probably more so than any plant in living memory, hemp attracts people to attempt its cultivation without first acquiring a realistic appreciation of the possible pitfalls. American presidents George Washington and Thomas Jefferson encouraged the cultivation of hemp, but both lost money trying to grow it. Sadly in Canada in 1999 numerous farmers contracted to grow half of Canada’s crop area for hemp for the American-based Consolidated Growers and Processors, and with the collapse of the firm were left holding very large amounts of unmarketable grain and baled hemp straw. This has represented a most untimely setback for a fledgling industry, but at least has had a sobering effect on investing in hemp. In this section we emphasize why producers should exercise caution before getting into hemp.

In Europe and Asia, hemp farming has been conducted for millennia. Although most countries ceased growing hemp after the second word war, some didn’t, including France, China, Russia, and Hungary, so that essential knowledge of how to grow and process hemp was maintained. When commercial hemp cultivation resumed in Canada in 1997, many farmers undertook to grow the crop without appreciating its suitability for their situation, or for the hazards of an undeveloped market. Hemp was often grown on farms with marginal incomes in the hopes that it was a savior from a downward financial spiral. The myth that hemp is a wonder crop that can be grown on any soil led some to cultivate on soils with a history of producing poor crops; of course, a poor crop was the result.

Market considerations also heavily determine the wisdom of investing in hemp. Growing hemp unfortunately has a magnetic attraction to many, so there is danger of overproduction. A marketing board could be useful to prevent unrestrained competition and price fluctuations, but is difficult to establish when the industry is still very small. As noted above, unwise investment in Canada produced a glut of seeds that resulted in price dumping and unprofitable levels for the majority. Cultural and production costs of hemp have been said to be comparable to those for corn, and while the truth of this remains to be confirmed, the legislative burden that accompanies hemp puts the crop at a unique disadvantage. Among the problems that Canadian farmers have faced are the challenge of government licensing (some delays, and a large learning curve), very expensive and sometime poor seed (farmers are not allowed to generate their own seed), teenagers raiding fields in the mistaken belief that marijuana is being grown, and great difficulties in exportation because of the necessity of convincing authorities that hemp is not a narcotic. Unless the producer participates in sharing of value-added income, large profits are unlikely. The industry widely recognizes that value added to the crop is the chief potential source of profit, as indeed for most other crops.

THE POLITICS OF CANNABIS WITH PARTICULAR REFERENCE TO THE US

Cannabis has long had an image problem, because of the extremely widespread use of “narcotic” cultivars as illegal intoxicants. The US Drug Enforcement Administration has the mandate of eliminating illicit and wild marijuana, which it does very well (Fig. 54–56). Those interested in establishing and developing legitimate industries based on fiber and oilseed applications have had to struggle against considerable opposition from many in the political and law enforcement arenas. The United States National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) information web site on marijuana, which reflects a negative view of cannabis, is at http://www.nida.nih.gov/DrugPages/Marijuana.html, and reflects several basic fears: (1) growing Cannabis plants makes law enforcement more difficult, because of the need to ensure that all plants cultivated are legitimate; (2) utilization of legitimate Cannabis products makes it much more difficult to maintain the image of the illegitimate products as dangerous; (3) many in the movements backing development of hemp are doing so as a subterfuge to promote legalization of recreational use of marijuana; and (4) THC (and perhaps other constituents) in Cannabis are so harmful that their presence in any amount in any material (food, medicine or even fiber product) represents a health hazard that is best dealt with by a total proscription.

Fig. 54. The war on drugs: helicopter spraying of Paraquat herbicide on field of marijuana. (Courtesy US Drug Enforcement Administration.) Fig. 55. The war on drugs: clandestine indoor marijuana cultivation. (Courtesy US Drug Enforcement Administration.)

Fig. 56. The war on drugs: burning seized marijuana. (Courtesy US Drug Enforcement Administration.)

Ten years ago hemp cultivation was illegal in Germany, England, Canada, Australia, and other countries. Essential to overcoming governmental reluctance in each country was the presentation of an image that was business-oriented, and conservative. The merits of environmentalism have acquired some political support, but unless there is a reasonable possibility that hemp cultivation is perceived as potentially economically viable, there is limited prospect of having anti-hemp laws changed. Strong support from business and farm groups is indispensable; support from pro-marijuana interests and what are perceived of as fringe groups is generally counterproductive. It is a combination of prospective economic benefit coupled with assurance that hemp cultivation will not detrimentally affect the enforcement of marijuana legislation that has led most industrially advanced countries to reverse prohibitions against growing hemp. Should the US permit commercial hemp cultivation to resume, it will likely be for the same reasons.

The US Office of National Drug control Policy issued a statement on industrial hemp in 1997 (www.whitehousedrugpolicy.gov/policy/hemp%5Fold.html) which included the following: “Our primary concern about the legalization of the cultivation of industrial hemp (Cannabis sativa) is the message it would send to the public at large, especially to our youth at a time when adolescent drug use is rising rapidly… The second major concern is that legalizing hemp production may mean the de facto legalization of marijuana cultivation. Industrial hemp and marijuana are the product of the same plant, Cannabis sativa… Supporters of the hemp legalization effort claim hemp cultivation could be profitable for US farmers. However, according to the USDA and the US Department of Commerce, the profitability of industrial hemp is highly uncertain and probably unlikely. Hemp is a novelty product with limited sustainable development value even in a novelty market… For every proposed use of industrial hemp, there already exists an available product, or raw material, which is cheaper to manufacture and provides better market results…. Countries with low labor costs such as the Philippines and China have a competitive advantage over any US hemp producer.”

Recent European Commission proposals to change its subsidy regime for hemp contained the following negative evaluation of hemp seed: “The use of hemp seed … would, however, even in the absence of THC, contribute towards making the narcotic use of cannabis acceptable… In this light, subsidy will be denied producers who are growing grain for use in human nutrition and cosmetics.”

A USDA analysis of hemp, “Industrial hemp in the United States: Status and market potential,” was issued in 2000, and is available at http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/ages001e/index.htm. This is anonymously-authored, therefore presumably represents a corporate or “official” evaluation. The conclusion was that “US markets for hemp fiber (specialty textiles, paper, and composites) and seed (in food or crushed for oil) are, and will likely remain, small, thin markets. Uncertainty about longrun demand for hemp products and the potential for oversupply discounts the prospects for hemp as an economically viable alternative crop for American farmers.” Noting the oversupply of hempseeds associated with Canada’s 12,000 ha in 1999, the report concluded that the long term demand for hemp products is uncertain, and predicts that the hemp market in the US will likely remain small and limited. With respect to textiles, the report noted the lack of a thriving textile flax (linen) US industry (despite lack of legal barriers), so that it would seem unlikely that hemp could achieve a better market status. With respect to hemp oil, the report noted that hemp oil in food markets is limited by its short shelf life, the fact that it can not be used for frying, and the lack of US Food and Drug Administration approval as GRAS (“generally recognized as safe”). Moreover, summarizing four state analyses of hemp production (McNulty 1995, Ehrensing 1998, Kraenzel et al. 1998, Thompson et al. 1998), profitability seemed doubtful.

Without arguing the merits of the above contentions, we point out that the legitimate use of hemp for non-intoxicant purposes has been inhibited by the continuing ferocious war against drug abuse. In this atmosphere, objective analysis has often been lacking. Unfortunately both proponents and opponents have tended to engage in exaggeration. Increasingly, however, the world is testing the potential of hemp in the field and marketplace, which surely must be the ultimate arbiters. De Guzman (2001), noting the pessimistic USDA report, observed that “Nevertheless, others point to the potential of [the] market. Hemp products have a growing niche market of their own, and the market will remain healthy and be well supported with many competing brands.”

A wide variety of hemp clothing, footwear, and food products are now available in North America. Some American manufacturers and distributors have chosen to exploit the association of hemp products with marijuana in their advertising. Such marketing is unfortunate, sending the message that some in the industry are indifferent to the negative image that this generates in the minds of much of the potential consuming public. Admittedly, such advertising works. But marketing based on the healthful and tasteful properties of hemp food products, the durable nature of hemp textiles, and the environmental advantages of the crop has proven to be widely acceptable, and is likely to promote the long term development of hemp industries.

Will hemp commercial cultivation resume in the US in the foreseeable future? This is difficult to judge, but the following considerations suggest this might occur: (1) increasing awareness of the differences between industrial hemp and marijuana; (2) growing appreciation of the environmental benefits of hemp cultivation; (3) continuing demonstration of successful hemp cultivation and development in most of the remaining western world; all the G8 countries, except the US, produce and export industrial hemp; and (4) increasing pressure on state and federal governments to permit hemp cultivation by farmers, particularly wheat, corn, and tobacco farmers in desperate need of substitute crops, but also for rotation crops to break pest and disease cycles.

More than a century ago, an expert on hemp concluded his manual on hemp-growing in the US by stating “There is no question that when the inventive genius, comprehension and energies of the American people become interested, another grand source of profitable employment and prosperity will be established” (Boyce 1900).

MARKET DEVELOPMENT

Individual entrepreneurs, and indeed whole industries, as a matter of economic survival need to adopt a clear investment policy with respect to whether their market is to be output-driven or demand-led. From the individual producer’s perspective, the old adage “find your market before you plant your seed” remains sound advice.

In the mid 1990s, the EU provided subsidization for hemp cultivation of ca. $1,050/ha. This support was instrumental in developing a hemp industry in western Europe. However, no comparable support is available in North America, and indeed those contemplating entering into hemp cultivation are faced with extraordinary costs and/or requirements in connection with licensing, security, THC analysis, and record keeping. Those involved in value-added processing and distribution are also faced with legal uncertainties and the regular threat of idiosyncratic, indeed irrational actions of various governments. Simply displaying a C. sativa leaf on advertising has led to the threat of criminal charges in the last decade in several G8 countries. Attempting to export or import hemp products among countries is presently a most uncertain activity.

It often takes 10 to 15 years for the industry associated with a new agricultural crop to mature. While it is true that foreign imports have been the basis for hemp products in North America for at least a decade, North American production is only 4 years of age in Canada, and farming of hemp in the US has not even begun. Viewed from this perspective, the hemp industry in North America is still very much in its infancy. Varieties of hemp specifically suited to given products and regions have only started to be developed in North America. There is considerable uncertainty regarding yields, costs of production, harvesting and processing equipment, product characteristics, foreign competition, governmental support, and the vagaries of the regulatory environment. Hemp is not presently a standard crop, and is likely to continue experiencing the risks inherent in a small niche market for some time. Hemp is currently a most uncertain crop, but has such a diversity of possible uses, is being promoted by extremely enthusiastic market developers, and attracts so much attention that it is likely to carve out a much larger share of the North American marketplace than its detractors are willing to concede.

Given the uncertainties and handicaps associated with hemp, it is fortunate that there are compensating factors. As noted, as a crop hemp offers some real environmental advantages, particularly with regard to the limited needs for herbicides and pesticides. Hemp is therefore pre-adapted to organic agriculture, and accordingly to the growing market for products associated with environmentally-friendly, sustainable production. Hemp products are an advertiser’s dream, lending themselves to hyperbole (“healthiest salad oil in the world,” “toughest jeans on the market”). While the narcotics image of C. sativa is often disadvantageous, advertisers who choose to play up this association do so knowing that it will attract a segment of the consuming population. In general, the novelty of hemp means that many consumers are willing to pay a premium price. It might also be said that those who have entered the hemp industry have tended to be very highly motivated, resourceful, and industrious, qualities that have been needed in the face of rather formidable obstacles to progress.

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INFORMATION RESOURCES

Organizations

Web

Journals

  • Journal of the International Hemp Association. Vol. 1 (1994)–Vol. 6 (1999). (Vols. 1–5 and part of Vol. 6 available online at mojo.calyx.net/~olsen/HEMP/IHA/). Superseded by Journal of Industrial Hemp.
  • Journal of Cannabis Therapeutics. Hawarth Press. Vol. 1 published 2001.
  • Journal of Industrial Hemp. Haworth Press. Vol. 1 to be published 2002.

Books

  • Blade (1998), Bócsa and Karus (1998), Ceapoiu (1958), Clarke (1977, 1998a), Joyce and Curry (1970), McPartland et al. (2000), de Meijer (1994), Nova Institute (1995, 1997a, 1997b, 2000), Ranalli (1998), Riddlestone et al. 1994, Small (1979), Van der Werf (1994a).

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Join Farmers vs. Monsanto

Join Farmers vs. Monsanto
Posted by Dave on January 16, 2012

Yes! I Stand with Family Farmers vs. Monsanto!

We have some exciting news.

On January 31, family farmers, organic seed growers and sustainable farm advocates will travel to New York City to take part in the first phase of a lawsuit filed to protect farmers from genetic trespass by Monsanto’s genetically engineered seeds (GMOs), which often contaminates organic and conventional farmers’ crops and exposes them to abusive lawsuits by the world’s largest biotech seed and chemical corporation: Monsanto.

In March 2011, Food Democracy Now! joined the lawsuit Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA) et al v. Monsanto during the first round of plaintiffs, in what could be an historic lawsuit that protects family farmers and challenges the legitimacy of Monsanto’s patents on their genetically engineered (GMO) seeds and their right to sue farmers indiscriminately. There are now 83 plaintiffs in the lawsuit, including sustainable and organic farmers and food, agricultural research and environmental organizations collectively representing more than 300,000 farmers and citizens across the country.

Shortly before the New Year, Judge Naomi Buchwald agreed to hear oral arguments on Monsanto’s motion to dismiss OSGATA et al v. Monsanto in federal district court in lower Manhattan on January 31st, 2012.

This is a crucial moment for America’s family farmers and the future of our food supply. Will you let farmers know you support them on January 31st?

To add your name of support, click here to say: “I Stand With Farmers”.

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/sign/farmersvs_monsanto/

We’ll deliver your comments to the farmers before they enter the court to stand up for their right to grow food without threat of intimidation and harassment.

Judge Buchwald’s upcoming decision on Monsanto’s motion to dismiss is a critical hurdle that the case must clear in order for it to move forward.

The motion by Monsanto falls within their clear pattern of diminishing plaintiff’s rights and filing frivolous legal motions similar to past legal maneuvering and makes it clear that Monsanto fully intends to continue to threaten and harass farmers.

According to the Public Patent Foundation, Monsanto has one of the most aggressive patent assertion agendas in history. Between 1997 and 2010, Monsanto admits to filing 144 lawsuits against America’s family farmers, while settling another 700 out of court for undisclosed amounts.

As a result of these aggressive lawsuits, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear in rural America and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy. Family farmers need your help today to send a message to the world: It’s time to put an end to Monsanto’s campaign of fear.

Click here to say “I Stand with Farmers” so we can deliver that message loud and clear to the farmers who travel to New York to take part in the lawsuit and for farmers everywhere who struggle against Monsanto’s unfair genetic contamination of their crops.

Thank you for participating in food democracy,

Dave, Lisa and the Food Democracy Now! team

P.S. For those who are interested or able, Food Democracy Now! and our fellow plaintiffs invite you to take part in a Citizen’s Assembly for Support Family Farmers vs. Monsanto outside the court in an effort to stand up for America’s farmers at this crucial moment in their quest for justice. Click here to RSVP and learn more about how to participate outside the courtroom.

Original article here 

http://action.fooddemocracynow.org/sign/citizensassembly_monsanto/

Further information:

1.”Monsanto Seed Patents”, Public Patent Foundation

http://www.pubpat.org/monsanto-seed-patents.htm

2. “Judge to consider oral arguments in lawsuit against Monsanto”, Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association (OSGATA), December 29, 2011.

http://www.osgata.org/december-30-2011-press-release