GMWatch News Review archive
MONTHLY REVIEW No. 96
From Claire Robinson, Monthly Review editor
FEEDING THE WORLD
GM APPLICATIONS / EXPANSIONS
REST OF THE MONTH'S NEW IN BRIEF
+ BEETLE DEVELOPS RESISTANCE TO GM CORN
The Western rootworm beetle one of the most serious threats to corn has developed resistance to Monsanto's Bt corn, and entire crops are being lost. The rootworm beetle was the primary target pest of this type of corn. Resistant populations of the beetle have been reported in the cornbelt states of Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota, and South Dakota. Monsanto shares tumbled nearly 4 percent after the news emerged. The bug's larvae eat corn roots. If enough roots are destroyed, the plants can't stand up and they tip over – a process known as lodging.
+ ANTI-VIRAL BUG COULD STOP DENGUE SPREAD
Dengue fever transmission could be suppressed by infecting mosquitoes with natural virus-blocking bacteria, say researchers. Professor Ary Hoffman of the Bio21 Institute at the University of Melbourne and colleagues, reported their research on the Wolbachia bacteria in two papers in the journal Nature. "It's a natural agent that exists within insects to block viruses," says Hoffmann. "We're not genetically modifying the mosquito or anything like that." This is particularly interesting in relation to the work on creating GM mosquitoes for fighting malaria and dengue. These GM mosquitoes are starting to be released into the environment in trials.
+ U.S. PUSHING GMOs WORLDWIDE – WIKILEAKS LATEST
Dozens of US diplomatic cables released in the latest WikiLeaks dump reveal new details of the US effort to push foreign governments to approve GM crops and promote the worldwide interests of GM giants like Monsanto and DuPont. The cables further confirm previous reports on the diplomatic pressure the US has put on Spain and France, two countries with powerful anti-GM crop movements, to speed up their biotech approval process and quell anti-GM sentiment within the European Union (EU).
Several cables describe "biotechnology outreach programs" in countries across the globe, including African, Asian and South American countries where Western biotech agriculture had yet to gain a foothold. In some cables, US diplomats ask the State Department for funds to send US biotech experts and trade industry representatives to target countries for discussions with high-profile officials. The cables also list target countries in the US push for market access for GM products.
+ EU COURT RULING PUTS LIMITS ON GM-CONTAMINATED HONEY
Honey that contains traces of pollen from GM crops needs special authorization before it can be sold, the European Union's top court said, in a judgment that could have widespread consequences on the bloc's policy on GMOs. The ruling from the European Court of Justice came after several Bavarian beekeepers demanded compensation from their government for honey and food supplements that contained traces of pollen from genetically modified maize. The beekeepers had their hives close to fields where the Bavarian government was growing Monsanto's MON 810 maize for research purposes.
"This is a victory for beekeepers, consumers, and the movement for GM-free agriculture in Europe," Mute Schimpf, a food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said. "This ruling rewrites the rule book and gives legal backing to stronger measures to prevent contamination from the likes of Monsanto."
FEEDING THE WORLD
+ GM CROPS ARE DANGEROUS DIVERSION
Genetic diversity, conventional breeding, and agroecology are the real solutions to feeding the world, and GM crops are a dangerous and expensive diversion, writes Doug Gurian-Sherman in a response to US biotech promoter Nina Fedoroff's New York Times op-ed, which hyped GM crops as the route to feeding the world. Gurian-Sherman's article is published in the excellent new blog of the Union of Concerned Scientists (http://blog.ucsusa.org).
More on Fedoroff's piece:
+ INDUSTRIAL AG IS "BANKRUPT"
Society has gone "properly wrong" in the way it produces and consumes food, according to Hans Herren. Dr Herren, a renowned scientist and international development expert, is on a mission to promote a better alternative to the current global industrial food production system, which he describes as "bankrupt". He advocates agroecology instead.
"We have tried to have more efficient farming, with fewer people, more machines and a greater dependency on pesticides, fertilisers, GM crops and energy, using 10 kilocalories to produce one kilocalorie. But that is only possible if there is cheap oil," said Dr Herren. "The system basically is bankrupt, which is why we need to change it to a more modern, advanced system, which will create energy, rather than consume it, and is not dependent on fossil energy, but more on people and better science."
Dr Herren was dismissive of the concept of "sustainable intensification", the alternative view of food security with food production at its heart, championed by the UK Government-commissioned Foresight report. He described it as "an excuse to sneak in GMOs and to continue with business as usual".
+ GLYPHOSATE USED ON GM CROPS FOUND IN U.S. RIVERS, RAINFALL
Monitoring by the US Geological Survey (USGS) has revealed that glyphosate, the chemical ingredient of Roundup herbicide, and its breakdown product Aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) are frequently found in rainfall and rivers in the Mississippi Basin, where most GM crops tolerant to glyphosate are grown.
Published studies on the findings:
*Chang FC, Simcik MF and Capel CD, 2011. Occurrence and fate of the herbicide glyphosate and its degradate Aminomethylphosphonic acid in the atmosphere. Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, 30, 548 555 *Coupe RH, Kalkhoff SK, Capel PD and Gregoire C, 2011. Fate and transport of glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid in surface waters of agricultural basin. Pesticide Management Science, 67, doi: 10.1002/ps.2212
GM APPLICATIONS / EXPANSIONS
+ DOW LAUNCHES MULTI-HERBICIDE-TOLERANT GM SOY
Dow has launched a new multi-herbicide tolerant GM soybean. Designed as a solution to Roundup-resistant superweeds, the soybean is not only engineered to tolerate Roundup, but also the herbicide glufosinate and 2,4-Da component of Agent Orange. Farmers will be able to spray this cocktail of weedkillers on fields without killing the crop.
All these herbicides stand accused of causing serious harm. Roundup has been linked in studies to birth defects, cancer, and other serious toxic effects.
Glufosinate is neurotoxin and causes birth defects in laboratory animals.
2,4-D, an ingredient of Agent Orange, causes birth defects in laboratory animals, damages DNA, and is an endocrine disruptor. It is toxic to bees and fish.
+ CONAGRA SUED OVER GM "100% NATURAL" COOKING OIL
Food giant ConAgra is being sued for labelling its Wesson brand cooking oil "100% natural" when it is actually made from GMOs. The complainant said the "labels are intended to evoke a natural, wholesome product" but are deceptive. The case has far-reaching impacts because the "natural" claim, which has no legal definition, is widely used, and around 70% of processed foods in the US contain GMOs.
See also this article by a Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University Law School who says "the number of potential law suits concerning such claims, and the number of potential plaintiffs for individual or class actions, is unbelievably large."
+ POLAND DELAYS LEGALISING GM PLANTING
In the face of huge resistance on 31 July the Senate of the Polish parliament voted to pass into law the Seeds Act, which would have legalised the planting of GM seeds in Poland. But after widespread protests, the Polish President vetoed the bill.
+ WHY THIS CANADIAN FARMER STOPPED GROWING GM CANOLA
Canadian farmer Ross Murray used to grow GM canola, until he discovered it wasn't delivering on its promises and had become a weed problem itself.
+ MONSANTO'S OWN STUDIES SHOWED GM MAIZE CAUSED ORGAN DAMAGE
Interview with Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini, the leader of the research team that obtained Monsanto's confidential raw data of its GM maize feeding trials on rats, after a European court made it public. Seralini says the data "clearly underlines adverse impacts on kidneys and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs," as well as other bodily organs and systems.
REST OF THE MONTH'S NEWS IN BRIEF
For those who do not receive GMWatch Reviews
+ GMOs TO BLAME FOR PROBLEMS IN PLANTS, ANIMALS
Scientists are seeing new, alarming patterns in plants and animals due to increased use of the herbicide Roundup, said Michael McNeill, an agronomist who owns Ag Advisory Ltd. in Algona, Iowa. McNeill cited Roundup-resistant superweeds and Roundup's tendency to make important nutrients unavailable to plants, thereby harming crops and making them vulnerable to disease. "When you spray glyphosate on a plant, it's like giving it AIDS," he said.
He said he and his colleagues are seeing a higher incidence of infertility and early-term abortion in cattle and hogs that are fed on GM crops. He adds that poultry fed on the suspect crops have been exhibiting reduced fertility rates. McNeill advises his farmer clients to rotate chemicals, or not use them at all.
The number of mainstream agricultural experts raising serious concerns over Monsanto's Roundup herbicide is growing all the time. These include Robert Kremer, a USDA microbiologist, and Don Huber, a plant pathologist and former Purdue University professor.
+ U.S. PUSH FOR GM WHEAT IN AUSTRALIA
American GM lobbyists are busy in Australia trying to bring GM wheat to market with minimal controversy, says Dana Peterson, chief executive officer of the American National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG).
+ GM WHEAT SCANDAL IN AUSTRALIA
Read Greenpeace's report about CSIRO's GM wheat trials in Australia:
TAKE ACTION: Tell the Australian government to end its controversial GM wheat trials
Why Greenpeace's opposition to GM wheat trials is not "anti-science":
+ ACTIONS AGAINST TOXIC SOY IN DUTCH SUPERMARKETS
Actions against GM toxic soy have taken place at supermarkets in Amsterdam and Belgium. The actions are protesting against the greenwashing of GM soy sprayed with glyphosate herbicide, which is being imported into Europe under the Round Table on Responsible Soy initiative of WWF and GM firms including Monsanto. Leaflets were handed out to the public and non-organic meat products, eggs and dairy were stickered with "made with toxic soy" stickers.
+ PUBLIC PRESSURE HALTS GM PHARMA TRIALS IN SPAIN
In Spain, Valencia's local government revoked the permit of an Italian pharmaceutical company to experiment with GM rice engineered with human genes after protests from social, ecologist and peasant organizations. The aim of the GM trial was to obtain enzymes to treat Gaucher's disease. However, there are several treatments for this disease that are obtained through genetic engineering in confined environments.
+ UK GM WHEAT TRIAL IN PIPELINE
A new application for a GM wheat trial was announced in July 2011. The Soil Association has submitted information to the consultation highlighting how the trial is potentially risky, unnecessary and a waste of public money. The GM wheat has been engineered to repel aphids, using a technique which has already been shown to work using non GM methods.
+ UK SHOPPERS BACK GM – EXCEPT THEY DON'T!
A headline from the UK's Farmers Weekly says, "Shoppers back GM in face of rising food costs". This suggests a majority of shoppers "back GM". But when one comes to the detail of the Crop Protection Association's survey, it turns out that only around a third of shoppers think GM foods should even be allowed to be sold in the UK, unless they are given inducements. The inducements include GM foods being shown to keep prices down, be more nutritious or "proved safe for the environment". And even under those entirely hypothetical conditions, a majority (over 50%) of UK shoppers do not think GM foods should be allowed to be sold in the UK.
+ BIG GM CANOLA SPILL IN WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Several tonnes of GM canola have been spilled in Williams, Western Australia. A fire split the truck trailer and GM canola seed spilled along the roadway and verges. After the spill, a farmer reported seeing flocks of parrots feeding on the GM canola seed. Also, the seed is germinating on the roadside after rain. The Safe Food Foundation has retained Slater & Gordon lawyers to provide legal advice and support to local GM free grain growers who face having their crops contaminated. The Safe Food Foundation will provide free GM test kits for growers who want to test their crops.
+ LAW FIRM TAKES UP CASE OF DECERTIFIED ORGANIC FARMER
Law firm Slater & Gordon will take up the case of decertified organic farmer Steve Marsh, whose farm in Western Australia was contaminated with GM canola.
+ MONSANTO'S GM SWEETCORN WILL BE SOLD UNBRANDED AND UNLABELLED
Monsanto will launch this fall a GM sweet corn seed for farmers to grow. The corn will then be sold in grocery stores in the US and Canada. While the sweetcorn is being hailed as a "consumer-oriented vegetable product", it has been genetically modified to contain an insecticide and to tolerate being sprayed with Roundup herbicide. Yum.
+ INDIA: MONSANTO TO BE PROSECUTED FOR BIOPIRACY
In an unprecedented decision, the National Biodiversity Authority of India (NBA) has decided to prosecute Monsanto and its Indian collaborator Mahyco for allegedly "stealing" indigenous plant material for developing GM Bt brinjal (eggplant/aubergine). Taking plant material without permission and using it for commercial purposes is considered an act of biopiracy. Monsanto could face criminal proceedings.
+ "MONSANTO, QUIT INDIA!" DAY
On Quit India Day, August 9, thousands of Indians vowed to uphold the country's food and seed sovereignty and resist the increasing corporate takeover of agriculture.
+ INDIA'S GM BILL "ANTI-PEOPLE, ANTI-NATURE"
India's proposed BRAI (Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India) bill is coming under heavy criticism. More than 50,000 people have signed a petition opposing the bill, which Greenpeace said will create "a single window clearance system for GM crops".
+ INDIAN POLITICIAN CALLS GM CROP REGULATION "DEFUNCT"
Apart from issues related to seed monopoly and rural livelihood, there are serious biosafety concerns over GM crops, writes Basudev Acharya, chair of the Indian parliament's standing committee on agriculture, in a well-informed article. He calls the regulatory system "defunct" and points out: "For any GM crop that is being developed in any part of the world right now, there exists ecological alternatives which are economically and socially sustainable."