ISIS Report 26/08/08
USDA Gift to Monsanto
The US Department of Agriculture’s give-away insurance rates for GM crops
risk bankrupting the public coffers. Prof.
The Federal Crop Insurance Corporation (FCIC) is part of the Risk
Management Agency (RMA) that serves under the USDA (United States Department
of Agriculture), a Federal Executive Department (or Cabinet Department).The
USDA-FCIC safeguards the economic stability of agriculture through a system
of crop insurance and provides the means for research in devising and establishing
such insurance. It is managed by a Board of Directors, subject to the general
supervision of the Secretary of Agriculture.
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On 12 September 2007,
the FCIC Board of Directors approved a Biotech Yield Endorsement (BYE) pilot
programme submitted under section 523(d) of the Federal Crop Insurance Act.
The result is that farmers growing Monsanto’s
genetically modified (GM) maize receives crop insurance at a greatly reduced
cost of between 20 and 70 percent.
The BYE programme was crafted by the Monsanto Corporation
and its first beneficiary is limited to its GM maize. This insurance bonanza
is intended for farmers planting Monsanto’s GM maize that has Bt genes against
corn borer and root worm stacked with a gene for tolerance to Round-up herbicide.
The FCIC Board of Directors, at its 14
August 2008 meeting, approved additional seed technologies for premium rate
reduction for producers planting certain corn hybrid varieties; i.e., those
containing Bt genes for corn borer and rootworm stacked with genes for tolerance
to herbicides such as glyphosate and glufosinate. The companies benefiting
from the largesse of the USDA give-away insurance include besides Monsanto,
Dow, Syngenta and Pioneer Hi-Bred [1, 2].
The crop insurance policies insure producers against yield
losses due to natural causes such as drought, excessive moisture, hail, wind,
frost, insects, and disease . It is clear that the stacked
GM maize lines are protected against corn borer and rootworm, but not particularly
well protected against drought, excessive
moisture, hail, wind, frost and disease, nor against the numerous insect pest that are likely to take advantage
of reduced competition from borer or root worm. It may be that the stacked
maize lines will benefit from a USDA give-away insurance that specifically
protects against any such secondary insect pests; for they have indeed already
emerged in China and India as the result of growing Bt cotton [4, 5] (see
Why Prince Charles is Right,
SiS 40 and Deadly gift from
Monsanto to India, SiS 39)
FCIC is presuming that the stacked GM maize lines will consistently
produce more than conventional or organic maize,
but that has not been proven scientifically. It is based solely on an act
of faith on the part of the USDA bureaucrats.
Why then do these new GM constructs deserve the
gift of reduced insurance cost at the US taxpayers’
expense? Have the taxpayers been consulted before such egregious largesse
has been doled out to well-heeled farmers and the corporations who licence
the GM seeds?
The rest of the farming community may feel especially aggrieved
at this blatant display of favouritism on the part of the FCIC. After all,
insured organic farmers were not compensated for damages from epidemics of
fungal disease, even though the conventional fungicides were ineffective against the fungus disease. It seems that FCAC
is taking on the role of sugar daddy to the GM industry and compliant farmers.
And that may go a long way towards promoting universal GM farming practices
and bankrupting the public coffers.
S. FCIC BOARD EXTENDS BIOTECHNOLOGY PILOT COVERAGE AREAS AND QUALIFYING HYBRIDS
Pilot biotechnology yield endorsement Insurance Standaards Handbook 2008
and Succeeding Years, http://www.rma.usda.gov/handbooks/20000/2008/08_20070.pdf
Policies Risk Management Agency Actual Production History 2008 http://www.rma.usda.gov/policies/
V and Ho MW. Why Prince Charles is right. We need GMO-free food and agriculture
for food security. Science in Society 40 (to
R. Deadly gift from Monsanto to India. SIS 38 - Letters to
the editor. Science
in Society 38, 51, 2008.