UK environment secretary Owen Paterson has made an inflated and evidence-free speech on the wonders of GM crops. Paterson claimed that GM crops are beneficial to wildlife because they reduce pesticide use and the higher yields GM offers mean they will use less land to produce the food we need. But the scientific evidence indicates just the opposite: GM crops increase pesticide usage; they do not give higher yields and sometimes give lower yields.
Paterson also claimed that without the acceptance of GM crops, young people in Asia "will go to bed blind and some will die". Author and broadcaster Joanna Blythman commented, "It almost sounded as if he had joined a religious cult which regards genetic modification as some kind of miracle cure. Paterson had to resort to such nonsense precisely because his case is so weak."
TAKE ACTION: 1. Write to your MP – http://www.writetothem.com – saying you disagree with Owen Paterson and that evidence shows that he is wrong to push GM. In fact, non-GM farming in the EU is more efficient and resilient than GM farming in the US. Explain that you are also concerned about the use of GM animal feed. This is mainly Roundup Ready soy, which is damaging monarch butterfly populations in the US. Say that you want meat, eggs and dairy to be labelled to show whether it has been produced using GM feed so that you can have the choice of avoiding it.
TAKE ACTION: 2. Write to the supermarkets (gmoaction.org/petition). Say you are concerned about the use of GM animal feed. Point out that the head of Waitrose has said that there is plenty of non-GM soy and that the price difference of the meat and dairy is negligible, so the supermarkets should stop using that excuse and provide the products that consumers want. Say you also want meat, eggs and dairy to be labelled to show whether or not it comes from GM-fed animals so that you can have the choice of avoiding it. Tell them what you think of Owen Paterson, if you wish.
Quote of the month
Germany's Agriculture Ministry:
"The promises of GM industry have not come true for European agriculture, nor have they for the agriculture in developing and emerging economies." Read more
Connecticut first state to require GMO labelling Read more
Owen Paterson has made his exaggerated claims about GM crops at a very bad time. An important new study shows that GM farming as practiced in the US is being left behind by the mostly non-GM farming practiced in Europe. GMOs are lowering yields and increasing pesticide use in North American farming compared to mostly non-GM Western European farming.
The study showed that since the adoption of herbicide-tolerant crops in the US, herbicide use per hectare has marginally increased to 108% of pre-GM levels. Over this time, France, Germany and Switzerland reduced herbicide use to about 85-94% of mid-1990s levels. So the non-GM farming of Western Europe is decreasing chemical herbicide use.
Since the adoption of insecticidal crops in the US, the use of additional chemical insecticides has fallen by only 15% compared to pre-GM levels, while by 2009 in France total insecticide use had fallen to 12%. Similar trends were seen in Germany and Switzerland. So the non-GM farming of Western Europe shows significantly greater reductions in chemical insecticide use. Read more.
GM crop adoption decreases farmer seed choice – study
We are constantly told that European resistance to GMOs is decreasing farmer choice. But a new study shows that the opposite is the case: GM crop adoption by a country decreases farmer seed choice. Also, non-GM adopting countries have more seed choice. And far from non-GM adopting countries losing out or being "left behind", as UK environment secretary Owen Paterson has claimed, the study found "no detectable yield advantage in GM-adopting countries", even when the analysis was extended to the United States. Read more
GM diet "can lead to disease in pigs" – study
Pigs fed GM feed over their commercial lifespan developed severe stomach inflammation and heavier uteri, a groundbreaking new study found. The research is significant because the digestive system and organs of pigs are similar to those of humans, who eat the pork from the animals. Dr Judy Carman, adjunct associate professor at Flinders University in Australia, who led the study, said, "We found these results in farm conditions, not in a laboratory, but with the benefit of strict scientific controls. We need to investigate if people are also getting digestive problems from eating GM crops." Read more
A new website has been set up by citizens and scientists to give more information about Dr Carman's work and to respond to criticisms and attacks from pro-GM lobbyists and campaigners such as Mark Lynas. Read more
In light of the new study on pigs (above), it's clearer than ever that feeding farm animals GM feed is an animal welfare issue. Take action: tell the supermarkets you want your dairy products, eggs and meat produced using non-GM feed: http://gmoaction.org/petition
Unapproved GM wheat found on US farm
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that unapproved GM wheat has been found contaminating an Oregon farmer’s field. The GM wheat, known as Roundup Ready, was developed by Monsanto to withstand application of Roundup (glyphosate) herbicide. After a decade of field trials, Monsanto dropped efforts to introduce the GM wheat in 2004 in the face of intense opposition. However, Monsanto once again began field-testing GM wheat in 2011. Opponents of GM wheat have long argued that it would contaminate conventional wheat.
The USDA claimed the contamination was "isolated". But this is a meaningless statement because the USDA has not revealed how many samples from which sources it has tested. If you don't look, you can't find.
The USDA also claimed, based on Monsanto data, that the wheat was as safe as non-GM wheat. However, Monsanto has performed no animal feeding studies on the wheat beyond acute oral toxicity tests in mice – meaning that medium- and long-term health effects have not been tested for. Read more
The contamination finding has had a damaging effect on markets, with prices falling and Japan suspending US imports. Read more
UK: Rothamsted wheat traits patented by private companies
Staff at Rothamsted Research managed to deflect initial opposition to their GM wheat trials in 2012 in part by emphasising that the research was publicly funded. But (surprise!) Business Secretary Jo Swinson has now revealed that the GM traits in the wheat being trialled at Rothamsted have already been patented by private companies. Swinson was responding to Parliamentary questions by Oldham MP Michael Meacher. Read more
Weedkiller found in human urine across Europe
People in 18 countries across Europe have been found to have traces of the weedkiller glyphosate in their urine, according to tests commissioned by Friends of the Earth Europe. The findings raise concerns about increasing levels of exposure to glyphosate-based weedkillers such as Roundup, which are commonly used by farmers, public authorities and gardeners across Europe. The use of glyphosate is predicted to rise further if more GM crops are grown in Europe. There is little monitoring of glyphosate in food, water or the environment. Read more
Pete Riley of GM Freeze said: "We want to know why GM soya and maize imported into Europe for animal feed is not tested for glyphosate. These GM crops are treated with the chemical and are more likely to contain residues. Is this where the weedkiller is coming from?" Read more
Government urged to act after glyphosate weedkiller found in Britons Read more
Glyphosate induces human breast cancer cell growth – study
A new in vitro study in human cells shows that glyphosate induces the growth of human breast cancer cells via estrogen receptors. The study found that even low, environmentally relevant doses stimulated estrogenic activity. The researchers also found that there was an additive estrogenic effect between glyphosate and genistein, a phytoestrogen in soybeans. Read more
EFSA criticised over assessments of GMOs
At a meeting of the European Parliament’s Petitions Committee, Members of the European Parliament maintained their assault on the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and DG SANCO (the Commission’s Directorate for Health and Consumers) and decided to keep two petitions from Dr Brian John alive. Both petitions deal with the failure of EFSA and DG SANCO to prioritise the public health of European citizens in their assessment of GM crops and foods. Prof GE Seralini spoke at the meeting about the scientific weakness of GMO assessments in Europe. Read more
EU Ombudsman: EFSA fails on conflict of interest
The EU Ombudsman has ruled that the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) failed to take adequate measures to prevent conflict of interests arising from a major 'revolving doors' case in 2008. In the case, Dr Suzy Renckens, who was head of EFSA's unit responsible for the risk assessment of GM plants from 2003 till 2008, moved directly to a top EU lobbying position at Syngenta, a company that produces and markets those very plants. Read more
More pests "resistant to GM crops" – study
More pest species are becoming resistant to GM Bt insecticidal crops, according to a new study. US and French researchers analysed the findings of 77 studies from eight countries on five continents. Of 13 major pest species examined, five were resistant by 2011, compared with only one in 2005, they found. Of the five species, three were cotton pests and two were corn pests. Three of the five cases of resistance were in the United States, which accounts for roughly half of Bt crop plantings, while the others were in South Africa and India. Read more
GM salmon can breed with trout and harm ecosystem, warn scientists
A new study shows GM salmon can breed with trout, creating hybrids that grow more rapidly than even the GM salmon -- which is itself designed to grow faster than normal salmon. Dr Krista Oke, who led the work at the department of biology at McGill University in Quebec, Canada, said, "Hybridisation of transgenic fishes with closely related species represents potential ecological risks for wild populations.” Read more
Non-GM demand rocketing in the US
A major canola crusher is calling for a retreat from the 17-year march toward GM canola. Pacific Coast Canola, a newly constructed processing plant in Washington State, will take as much non-GM canola as it can find. “The market for non-GMO canola in the west coast of the United States seems to have come on very quickly and very strong,” said Joel Horn, president of Legumex Walker Inc., which owns 85 percent of Pacific Coast Canola. Demand for the speciality oil is driven by a push for GM labelling. Read more
Amendment would require labelling of GM fish
A US Senate committee narrowly agreed to add to a spending bill language that would require that GM salmon be labelled. Read more
Organic growers lose to Monsanto over seeds
Monsanto has won another round in a legal battle with US organic growers as an appeals court threw out the growers' efforts to stop the company from suing farmers if traces of its patented GM genes are found in crops. In its ruling, the US Court of Appeals affirmed a previous ruling and said the organic growers must rely on Monsanto assurances on the company's website that it will not sue them so long as the mix is very slight. Andrew Kimbrell, a lawyer with the Center for Food Safety, which joined as a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said the decision made no sense. "It is a very bizarre ruling that relies on a paragraph on a website," he said. "It is a very real threat to American farmers. This is definitely appealable." Read more
Syngenta's dirty tricks campaign against its critics
To protect profits threatened by a lawsuit over its herbicide atrazine, the GM seed and chemical company Syngenta launched an aggressive multi-million dollar campaign that included hiring a detective agency to investigate scientists on a federal advisory panel, looking into the personal life of a judge and commissioning a psychological profile of a leading scientist critical of atrazine. Syngenta also routinely paid “third-party allies” to appear to be independent supporters, and kept a list of 130 people and groups it could recruit as experts without disclosing ties to the company. The company provided strict parameters for what these experts would say. Read more
Many of these people and groups are active in defending and promoting GMOs, too. One of the "outreach" experts used by the PR company working for Sygenta in the campaign was Jon Entine, who has actively worked to discredit the study by Prof GE Seralini, which found serious health risks from a Monsanto GM maize and Roundup herbicide. Read more
China approves three new GMOs for import
China has approved three new varieties of GM soy for import. The move is contrary to previous signals from the Chinese government. It remains to be seen whether China will honour its voiced intention to cater for increased non-GM demand within the country. Read more
Chinese campaigners are challenging the legitimacy of the swift approval. Read more
Closing in on our seeds
Big seed companies, including Monsanto, are working through their lobbyists to control and restrict the European seed market. A vitally important report from Corporate Europe Observatory explains that European institutions will reform the entire package of legislation related to seed marketing using the so-called "Better regulation framework", a strategic approach used by the European Commission to “simplify” existing EU legislation. From the start of the process in 2008, this policy initiative has been an unique opportunity for large seed companies to reinforce their control over a commercial seed supply system that they already largely dominate. Read more
Analysis and joint statement about the dangers of the new seeds legislation. Read more
Monsanto man gets World Food Prize
The biotech industry has awarded itself the World Food Prize. A career Monsanto executive, a Syngenta scientist and a private industrial scientist will share the $250,000 prize for "feeding a growing global population".
This extraordinary move has come in for much ridicule. Eric Holt-Gimenez commented that the foundation's donor list includes Monsanto, Cargill and ADM, which are heavily invested in GM. And Doug Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists said, "While these awardees have made some important contributions to science, it has not translated into major positive contributions to agriculture and food security – the supposed purpose for awarding the World Food Prize."
Even The New York Times suggested that this award may be a PR attempt to counter the growing global backlash against GMOs.
Who do Bono and the ONE campaign really represent: The poor or the rich?
The ONE campaign, founded by the Irish singer Bono, appears to be whitewashing the G8’s policies in Africa, writes George Monbiot. The ONE campaign has defended the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, launched in the US when it chaired the G8 meeting last year. The alliance is pushing African countries into agreements which allow foreign companies to grab their land, patent their seeds and monopolise their food markets. Ignoring the voices of their own people, six African governments have struck deals with companies such as Monsanto, Cargill, Dupont, Syngenta, Nestlé, and Unilever, in return for promises of aid by the UK and other G8 nations. Read more