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Picking on the little guy

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From page A4 | February 13, 2013 | 67 Comments

It’s the type of case law students will debate in colleges across the country. A David versus Goliath story, corporate conglomerate versus Indiana farmer. In a way, it’s one definition of America versus the other. And in the coming weeks, it’s being played out live in the U.S. Supreme Court.

A 75-year-old Indiana soybean farmer named Vernon Hugh Bowman will face off against multibillion dollar agricultural business Monsanto over seeds planted in the ground. Yes, the fight is over seeds, and it’s one that could change the way American farmers do business in the future.

At the heart of the lawsuit is Bowman’s attempt to beat the system currently in place with ingenuity. Bowman, like thousands of farmers today, purchased soybean known as “Roundup Ready” — soybeans genetically engineered to be resistant to Roundup herbicide or its generic equivalents — from Monsanto. He planted the seeds in the ground, but is technically “obliged to only harvest the resulting crop, not keep any of it back for planting the next year,” according to an article in the Guardian. This forces farmers to buy new Monsanto seeds to plant with each season.

Bowman found a way around the system, buying excess soybeans from local grain elevators, “many of which are likely to be Roundup Ready due to the huge dominance Monsanto has in the market,” the article explained. It’s believed that 90 percent of soybeans for sale in Indiana known as “commodity seeds” could be seeds containing the genes Monsanto developed.

So when Bowman used the seeds from the grain elevator to replant the following season, rather than purchasing new seeds directly from Monsanto as was the norm, he not only started a trend that could save him a ton of money while producing the same results in his crops, but he angered a powerful former business client in the process. Now he’ll have to face them in a lawsuit at the highest level in country.

The debate is a good one. On one hand you have a single farmer trying to make it in a tough economy, cutting corners without stealing a dime. He’s still purchasing the seeds he’s planting, just in a different way than Monsanto wants it.

“We have always had the right to go to an elevator, buy some ‘junk grain’ and use it for seed if you desire,” Bowman told the Guardian.

On the other hand you have a business that sells a specific product, losing business as that product is manipulated and reused without a new purchase. Monsanto claims it maintains patent rights on the seeds even if they are sold by a third party with no restrictions put on its use, even if the seeds are actually only descendants of original Monsanto seeds.

Monsanto won Round 1, suing and winning a settlement against Bowman for $84,456. Now it insists a win by Bowman at the Supreme Court to allow him to keep replanting the seeds legally would “jeopardize some of the most innovative biotechnology research in the country.”

Farming, one of America’s proudest industries, and one that has been the foundation of nearly every civilization, is at risk of losing even more rights to corporations should Monsanto win the case.

We side with Bowman and his supporters, who say that this case could help reform aspects of commercial farming — currently dominated by corporations rather than small or family-run businesses. Monsanto claims a defeat could hurt their innovations, but isn’t their lawsuit from the start hurting Bowman’s?

Mountain Democrat

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Discussion | 67 comments

  • 1036-FrankFebruary 11, 2013 - 2:40 pm

    The point of this is never try to get in a pissing contest against a brewery. The farmer, regardless if right or wrong, will face bankruptcy of court costs which is a corporate attorney's goal. The issue, an interesting one, arises when corporate monopoly of product and profit overrules common sense and long standing tradition.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 11, 2013 - 3:01 pm

    Frank, I have zero legal training. From my gut I'll pick the long shot farmer. Wishful thinking? Perhaps.

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  • James E.February 11, 2013 - 5:36 pm

    Interesting concept -- buy our seed and we get to control it forever as we have patent rights? Hmmm. Does this exist with any other product? Cannot think of one. Lots of products we buy have patents held by the manufacturers? What makes seeds unique? Talk about corporate overreach. I'm going with Phil on this one -- an astounding win by the farmer based on a finding that once a sale of seeds occurs, title for the seeds passes to the purchaser who can plant them, not plant them or do anything with them. Given that, which side has unlimited legal resources? The farmer better have pro bono legal help all the way to the Supreme Court. The fight of the big against the little. Corporation versus a little person. David versus Goliath. Well, David did it, so here's hoping the farmer can do it too.

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  • Paddy O'furnitureFebruary 13, 2013 - 8:08 am

    James, I'm actually in agreement with you on this one. Scary...

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  • EvelynFebruary 13, 2013 - 8:29 am

    What goes around comes around. Does anyone recall -- or even know about -- CPA administrator Paul Bremer's infamous Order 81 issued before he departed Iraq in June 2004? - HERE ********** Good luck to farmer Bowman. Monsanto can't afford to lose this one. I'd bet they'll win, but don't want to spook Bowman's chances.

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  • CherylFebruary 13, 2013 - 9:22 am

    I think we can all agree, we are rooting for the farmer. Especially if you have ever done research on Monsanto.

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  • EvelynFebruary 13, 2013 - 9:37 am

    Speaking of Monsanto, the story of how, after TWICE being banned by the FDA (health problems such as cancer, leukemia, headaches, seizures, fibromyalgia & epilepsy), aspartame became legal - HERE

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  • CherylFebruary 13, 2013 - 9:58 am

    Monsanto produced DDT, PCB, Agent Orange and Roundup, all poisons. Then they produced aspartame which produced health problems. Coincedence they own big pharma companies? Make you sick then sell you some pills. Now they want us to plant their genetically engineered seeds while controlling their use. I don't think so.

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  • REWFebruary 13, 2013 - 3:19 pm

    1. Allowing a corporation to genetically alter a living organism is questionable. 2. Allowing the untested GMO to be used as a food source is criminal. 3. Giving a corporation the patent on a life form is insane. Particularly since it is apparent they cannot control it.

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  • EvelynFebruary 13, 2013 - 3:39 pm

    re Monsanto, let me whisper ever so softly: D*ck you-know-who (aspartame)

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 13, 2013 - 6:59 pm

    RE: CPA administrator Paul Bremer's infamous Order 81 issued before he departed Iraq in June 2004 To the extent that "Order 81" was EVER enforced in Iraq during the period that the U.S. had any substantial influence over Iraq's farmers (probably never) it is now virtually certain that "Order 81" is nullified in the absence of a status of forces agreement. To those Iraqis who “threw down” with us and drove out Al-Qaida in Iraq – good luck. Feel free to pursue a minimal recovery your bad bet by planting Monsanto freely!

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  • EvelynFebruary 13, 2013 - 9:19 pm

    Thanks to the American military conquest of Iraq and the installation of an American Big Agra corporate executive as the region’s agricultural overlord, Iraqi farming has collapsed, and industrially farmed GMOs have replaced the small farms that once supplied all of the nation’s food needs. A once self-sufficient land has been reduced to a food importer, relying on imports, mainly for the U.S., to replace the food it once grew for itself. - HERE

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 13, 2013 - 9:40 pm

    Evelyn, you again point to a time in Iraq that has come and gone. Order 81 is nullified. The material you have reposted is from LINK - By Daniel Stone -Coastal Post, August 2006 Obama has undone Bush’s “dastardly deed”. The Iraqi farmers are now free to tell Monsanto to . . . pound sand.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 13, 2013 - 9:55 pm

    I think that this is the original - LINK - Coastal Post Online - MARIN COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS - But I suspect that "all things Bush" will forever rise zombie-like to frighten the children . . . the new boogie man.

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  • EvelynFebruary 13, 2013 - 10:14 pm

    In war, that which is destroyed is not so readily restored. From THIS. (January 17, 2013) : ‘Eric Hoskins, a Canadian doctor and coordinator of a Harvard study team on Iraq, reported that the allied bombardment: “… effectively terminated everything vital to human survival in Iraq – electricity, water, sewage systems, agriculture, industry and health care. Food warehouses, hospitals and markets were bombed …”

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  • EvelynFebruary 13, 2013 - 10:15 pm

    OFF

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  • James E.February 13, 2013 - 10:15 pm

    Phil, please don't talk about Bush -- you're scaring me.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 13, 2013 - 10:29 pm

    James, sorry. Evelyn started it.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 13, 2013 - 10:33 pm

    RE: In war, that which is destroyed is not so readily restored - I recall that Germany and Japan (with "SOFA") did quite well. Iraq, minus SOFA may not fare so well

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  • EvelynFebruary 13, 2013 - 10:39 pm

    . . . and from the last posted article, Iraq suffered the equivalent of seven (7) Hiroshimas. (Iraq's land mass is about the same as California's.) A UN team called the devastation: “near-apocalyptic.”

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 13, 2013 - 10:55 pm

    All the more reason for Iraq to tell Monsanto to go to hell.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 13, 2013 - 11:01 pm

    LINK - Pre-U.N. Sanctions (1980-89) - During Saddam Hussein's early years in power (1979-1990) the state attempted to foster private sector control and investment in Iraq's agriculture. Surging oil revenues were used to acquire Western technology and to lavish extensive government subsidies on the sector. Area and production expanded through the 1980s for cereals, vegetables, and fruit. However, cereal yields stagnated due to poor production practices and limited varietal development. In addition, the Iran-Iraq War diverted labor and other resources away from agriculture. Population growth continued to outpace agricultural production, increasing the importance of trade. Despite Government efforts at stimulating agricultural production, cereal and poultry imports as a share of domestic consumption nearly doubled to 69 and 48 percent, respectively, during the 1980s. By 1989 Iraq was importing over $2.5 billion in agricultural commodities annually including 78 percent of its cereals and nearly 100 percent of its vegetable oils and sugar.

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  • EvelynFebruary 14, 2013 - 11:00 am

    'Mesopotamia' (Land between the rivers) - HERE

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  • EvelynFebruary 14, 2013 - 11:02 am

    . . . THIS

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 14, 2013 - 3:01 pm

    Evelyn, why do you continue to point to obsolete, nullified forecasts on Iraq? I mean, if yesterday's weather forecast called for rain today would you insist that today's sunny skies are wrong?LINK - Published on Tuesday, October 22, 2002 - - 'The only way they will take Iraq is if they empty it of people' remarked a Jordanian, 'and that is why they will use nuclear weapons - to empty it . . . It is, they say, about a country said to be 'swimming on a sea of oil.'

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  • EvelynFebruary 14, 2013 - 3:35 pm

    Did you read the article? I'm perfectly aware of its publication date. Not a forecast, but rather HISTORY. What happened along the way that reduced Iraq, considered by the West to be the cradle of civilization, to a state of abject dependency?

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  • EvelynFebruary 14, 2013 - 3:41 pm

    Presumably there's no need to study the fall of the Roman Empire = Ancient History. Buy only today's New York Times, or watch your favorite cable channel.

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  • AnthonyFebruary 14, 2013 - 4:14 pm

    Ironic isn't it. We are told by some people that government is the problem, and corporations are the answer to our problems. But as we see, when a corporation is the problem, government (in this case, the court system and the laws passed by the legislative branch) is the only solution available to the ordinary citizen. Government and labor unions are the mechanisms through which the average American can counter the power and influence of major corporations. Concern about big government, with no corresponding concern about big corporations is a fool's errand.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 14, 2013 - 5:59 pm

    Evelyn, “What happened along the way that reduced Iraq, considered by the West to be the cradle of civilization, to a state of abject dependency” certainly is a worthy area of investigation. The Biblical wars of annihilation can be instructive. But the ravages of the Hittites the Shittites and the Fittites (sorry) are not on Bush’s or Monsanto’s CV. The cradle of civilization became a blasphemous $hithole long before Bush and Monsanto came along. It seems that you are attempting to nudge this exchange away from your February 13, 2013 - 8:29AM assertion (incorrect, expired, nullified by subsequent events) that Paul Bremer's infamous Order 81 constrains and tethers Iraqi agriculture. It does not. Iraq’s agriculture has been in the toilet for DECADES – preceding Saddam even. Iraq has successfully evaded and continues to evade the “green revolution”. BUSH DID NOT BLOW UP IRAQ’S RESERVOIRS AND IRRIGATION SYSTEMS. Iraq is free to NOT use GMOs or other advances in agriculture. Obama has left them. They are “free.” (insert sarcasm here)

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 14, 2013 - 6:00 pm

    Evelyn, “What happened along the way that reduced Iraq, considered by the West to be the cradle of civilization, to a state of abject dependency” certainly is a worthy area of investigation. The Biblical wars of annihilation can be instructive. But the ravages of the Hittites the $hittites and the Fittites (sorry) are not on Bush’s or Monsanto’s CV. The cradle of civilization became a blasphemous $hithole long before Bush and Monsanto came along. It seems that you are attempting to nudge this exchange away from your February 13, 2013 - 8:29AM assertion (incorrect, expired, nullified by subsequent events) that Paul Bremer's infamous Order 81 constrains and tethers Iraqi agriculture. It does not. Iraq’s agriculture has been in the toilet for DECADES – preceding Saddam even. Iraq has successfully evaded and continues to evade the “green revolution”. BUSH DID NOT BLOW UP IRAQ’S RESERVOIRS AND IRRIGATION SYSTEMS. Iraq is free to NOT use GMOs or other advances in agriculture. Obama has left them. They are “free.” (insert sarcasm here)

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  • EvelynFebruary 14, 2013 - 6:51 pm

    HOW THE US DELIBERATELY DESTROYED IRAQ’S WATER SUPPLY - HERE

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  • EvelynFebruary 14, 2013 - 6:53 pm

    IRAQ: RIVER TIGRIS BECOMING A GRAVEYARD OF BODIES - HERE - BAGHDAD, 8 May 2007: The River Tigris has long been a symbol of prosperity in Iraq but since the US-led invasion in 2003, this amazing watercourse has turned into a graveyard of bodies. … The river was one of the main sources of water, food, transport and recreation for the local population but after four years of war and pollution, it has been transformed into a stagnant sewer, according to environmentalists.

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  • EvelynFebruary 14, 2013 - 7:01 pm

    The exchange about how outside forces can cripple a country's ability to provide for its own could continue to the point of exhausting everyone. Apologies for straying from Monsanto and GMO. I await the outcome of Vernon Hugh Bowman's tangle with the Big Boys.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 14, 2013 - 8:00 pm

    Evelyn, my exchange with you was not, “about how outside forces can cripple a country's ability to provide for its own.” That is the detour you created in response to my effective rebuttal of your “GMO/Monsanto/patented seed/Paul Bremer's Order 81 misinformation. The Iraq war(s) are not germane to Vernon Hugh Bowman’s challenge of Monsanto.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 14, 2013 - 8:11 pm

    RE: February 14, 2013 - 6:51 pm comment Insert "potable" and the February 14, 2013 - 6:00 pm comment remains TRUE.

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  • EvelynFebruary 16, 2013 - 1:51 pm

    "Monsanto Keeps on Moving Toward A Lock on the World’s Food System" - HERE - Arguments are scheduled to begin next week before the U.S. Supreme Court about whether an Indiana farmer is right when he claims that the seeds he planted should not be considered under the control of Monsanto, the giant transnational chemical and seed monopoly, through its patenting of the seeds. Monsanto typically enters a farmer’s land ... and takes samples ... and then has the samples DNA-tested for their patented genes. If any appear, they sue the farmer and, since farmers are notoriously outgunned, legally and financially, they end up settling for an undisclosed amount with the company.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 16, 2013 - 4:54 pm

    LINK - another level of complexity for MONSANTO and THE FARMERJust as the heavy use of antibiotics contributed to the rise of drug-resistant supergerms, American farmers’ near-ubiquitous use of the weedkiller Roundup has led to the rapid growth of tenacious new superweeds. - “We’re back to where we were 20 years ago,” said Mr. Anderson, who will plow about one-third of his 3,000 acres of soybean fields this spring, more than he has in years. “We’re trying to find out what works.” - Farm experts say that such efforts could lead to higher food prices, lower crop yields, rising farm costs and more pollution of land and water. - “It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen,” said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts. - The first resistant species to pose a serious threat to agriculture was spotted in a Delaware soybean field in 2000. Since then, the problem has spread, with 10 resistant species in at least 22 states infesting millions of acres, predominantly soybeans, cotton and corn. - The superweeds could temper American agriculture’s enthusiasm for some genetically modified crops. Soybeans, corn and cotton that are engineered to survive spraying with Roundup have become standard in American fields. However, if Roundup doesn’t kill the weeds, farmers have little incentive to spend the extra money for the special seeds. - Roundup — originally made by Monsanto but now also sold by others under the generic name glyphosate — has been little short of a miracle chemical for farmers. It kills a broad spectrum of weeds, is easy and safe to work with, and breaks down quickly, reducing its environmental impact.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 16, 2013 - 6:29 pm

    LINK - No-till farming Herbicides make possible “no-till farming”. Monsanto (among others) produce herbicides. Monsanto creates herbicide resistant soy beans. Herbicide usage creates resistant weeds. Super weeds end no-till farming and accelerate soil erosion etc, etc . . . back to the future!

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  • EvelynFebruary 20, 2013 - 3:35 pm

    Surprise!!! HEAR

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  • EvelynFebruary 20, 2013 - 3:36 pm

    ...... or, better yet: HERE

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  • EvelynFebruary 24, 2013 - 8:02 am

    "Monsanto drags over 400 U.S. farmers to court over GM seed patents: When will Big Ag's corrupt reign end?" - HERE - For the record, farmers have, for centuries, harvested seeds from the current years' crop so they could plant again next year; Monsanto and the others have, in essence, made that time-tested practice illegal with a product that, according to reports, is not living up to advertised standards of resistance.

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  • EvelynMarch 20, 2013 - 9:16 am

    "Action Alert: We Have 1 Week Or Less to Stop Genetically Engineered Foods and Destruction of the Separation of Powers" - HERE - If the United States Department of Agriculture – which suffered “regulatory capture” by the big food companies decades ago – approves a genetically modified food without any testing, a court can enjoin (i.e. halt) production of that food until testing occurs. Yet the Monsanto Rider would strip the courts of power, and would allow GMO crops to be planted and put in our food … no matter what a judge has ruled.

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  • EvelynMay 07, 2013 - 4:34 pm

    "European Commission to criminalize nearly all seeds and plants not registered with government" - HERE - As you might suspect, this move is the "final solution" of Monsanto, DuPont and other seed-domination corporations who have long admitted their goal is the complete domination of all seeds and crops grown on the planet. By criminalizing the private growing of vegetables -- thereby turning gardeners into criminals -- EU bureaucrats can finally hand over full control of the food supply to powerful corporations like Monsanto.

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  • francescaduchamp@att.netMay 07, 2013 - 6:04 pm

    The seed emergency: The threat to food and democracy Patenting seeds has led to a farming and food crisis - and huge profits for US biotechnology corporations.http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/201224152439941847.html.

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  • EvelynMay 07, 2013 - 7:43 pm

    "Roundup herbicide causes smorgasbord of fatal diseases, new study concludes" - HERE - When CYP enzymes are blocked from functioning as intended, in other words, a condition known as gut dysbiosis can result, which in turn can lead to inflammatory bowel disease and other chronic gastrointestinal disorders. Such disorders, as you may already know, are often linked to autism spectrum disorders and various other brain conditions.

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  • Phil VeerkampMay 07, 2013 - 8:11 pm

    don't drink roundup

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  • James E.May 07, 2013 - 10:57 pm

    Phil, excellent advice on the roundup.

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  • Phil VeerkampMay 07, 2013 - 11:00 pm

    Colonel, I like to keep it simple.

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  • James E.May 07, 2013 - 11:06 pm

    Phil, I wrote this extensive letter about the size of our government with the conclusion in many areas it's too small. I hit send and it disappeared. Obviously a plot by the MtDemocrat to hide the Truth (with a large T) of the need for a larger government. Oh well, what the hay I'm going to bed and cuddle Mr. Fred. For those of you new to this site, Mr. Fred is my pup who has been sick so he gets extra love and cuddling.

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  • Phil VeerkampMay 07, 2013 - 11:14 pm

    Colonel, Write your epistles in WORD. Copy/paste into MD forms. The MD is ALWAYS killing good stuff. Is there a Missus Colonel? Does Fred sleep between you two?

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  • James E.May 07, 2013 - 11:29 pm

    Phil, there is a wife (five decades) who hogs the CA King bed and makes me and Mr. Fred sleep on the edge like a bunk in a submarine. Life is tough.

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  • EvelynMay 13, 2013 - 8:33 am

    "Scientists Discover Bt Toxins Found In Monsanto Crops Damage Red Blood Cells" - HERE

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  • EvelynMay 31, 2013 - 10:45 am

    W O W !!! "Obama Appoints Monsanto VP To Food Safety Czar" - HERE

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  • EvelynMay 31, 2013 - 10:46 am

    P.S. El Dorado County has some czars who are on an upward mobility trajectory. Obama is calling. Go!

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  • EvelynJune 17, 2013 - 7:52 am

    "Toxic shock: California allows up to one thousand times more glyphosate -- the chemical name of Roundup herbicide -- in drinking water than needed to cause breast cancer in women" - HERE

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  • EvelynJanuary 12, 2014 - 6:52 am

    Fox News Kills Monsanto Milk Story - HERE

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  • EvelynFebruary 22, 2014 - 10:41 am

    Roundup Weedkiller Found In 75% of Air and Rain Samples, Gov't Study Finds - HERE

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 22, 2014 - 1:10 pm

    And still I have a yard bursting forth with weeds. Looks like I need to spray anyway. Damn!

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  • EvelynFebruary 22, 2014 - 1:12 pm

    Breathe deeply!!!

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 22, 2014 - 1:13 pm

    . . . but wait . . . Chance of rain - Wed, Feb 26th - 70%, 27th - 30%, 28th - 70%, Mar 1st - 70%, 2nd - 10%, 3rd - 20% ~~~ That's a total of 270% chance of rain. Better open up Folsom to make room. Plus I may yet get enough roundup from God to kill my weeds. Good stuff!!! I'll hold off and pray.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 22, 2014 - 1:18 pm

    . . . but wait . . . there's more . . . EPIPHANY!!! . . . God must love Roundup or He wouldn't have made MAN smart enough to invent Roundup.

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  • Phil VeerkampFebruary 22, 2014 - 1:23 pm

    Q.E.D. ~~~ Since God loves Roundup further debate would be blasphemy.

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  • Fran DuchampFebruary 22, 2014 - 2:00 pm

    Phil and just where is it proven --im sorry demonstrated that God loves round up? lololol i wondered how they kept heaven so free of vegetation. Remember when paintings of heaven had beautiful meadows, crystal clear lakes, majestic mountains? Now it focuses on clouds. Could roundup be the reason why? are you playing nicely with the folks out there? Back to american harmony--so far Im loving it ♥ good catch James...Evelyn. :) I watching you Phil ...lolololol

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  • James E.February 22, 2014 - 2:23 pm

    Phil, I believe in writing in such a way that the reader has greater understanding without having to go to the dictionary. As in epiphany!!! Why not just say "a light went on?"

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  • James E.February 22, 2014 - 2:29 pm

    Yes, Phil, I know what the word means. But, you know me, just thinking about the man on the street.

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  • EvelynMarch 25, 2014 - 7:44 am

    Monsanto package admits seeds treated with 'poison,' advises against human consumption - HERE

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  • Phil VeerkampMarch 25, 2014 - 7:51 am

    Hopefully today's rain will have enough glyphosate in it to kill my weeds!

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