From Claire Robinson, Monthly Review editor
GM SOY UPDATES
GM INSECTS AND ANIMALS
QUOTES OF THE MONTH
CORPORATE CRIMES – EXPERIMENTS ON CHILDREN
GM SOY UPDATES
+ LANDMARK RULING AGAINST AGROCHEMICAL SPRAYING ON GM SOY IN ARGENTINA
An Argentine court sentenced a GM soy producer and a crop spraying pilot to a conditional prison sentence for contaminating with pesticides the residents of a neighborhood in the province of Cordoba. The ruling was historic in the country and the continent. It represents the first trial to judge the application of chemicals in cultivated fields and their harmful effects on human health.
The judges of the First Criminal Court of Cordoba sentenced one farmer and the pilot, two of the three defendants in the judicial process, to a three-year conditional prison sentence and community service tasks. The other farmer was acquitted for lack of evidence.
The Mothers of Ituzaingo, the group of women who have led the campaign against pesticide spraying and the GM soy model of agriculture, expressed disappointment that none of the defendants are likely to serve prison time, but said they believe the case will set a valuable precedent.
BBC manages to report the story without mentioning GM or glyphosate:
+ BACKGROUND TO THE ARGENTINE COURT CASE
Doctoral researcher Renata Motta travelled to Argentina to find out more about the Argentine court case. She interviewed the Mothers of Ituzaingo and a doctor who led the court action against the soy producers. Her report on the background behind the court case is here:
+ NEW BOOK CHAPTER REVIEWS SCIENTIFIC LITERATURE ON HEALTH EFFECTS OF GM CROP PESTICIDES
A new book chapter by Prof Andres Carrasco and colleagues reviews the scientific literature on the health effects of the pesticides used in large amounts on GM soy and other GM crops. It draws damning conclusions about the unsustainable nature and harmful effects of GM/pesticide-based agriculture and calls for the adoption of policies that prioritise environmental safety and and food security over the interests of private agrochemical industries and markets. Carrasco's previous research, published in 2010, found that Roundup and glyphosate cause birth defects in animal embryos.
+ ECUADOR PRESIDENT WANTS THE GM DREAM – OR NIGHTMARE
In a media interview in August 2012, the President of Ecuador expressed regret for the incorporation into the constitution a ban on GM crops and seeds, because it missed "a historic opportunity to build the country of which we dream". This is coupled with his previous statements to the effect that Ecuador should relax the constitutional ban and have a national debate on this subject. The president's latest statements came just two weeks after an Argentine criminal court sentenced a GM soy producer and crop spraying pilot to three-year conditional prison sentences for pollution.
+ BRAZILIAN FARMERS' LEGAL FEUD WITH MONSANTO OVER GM SOY
A useful summary of the legal case that Brazilian farmers have brought (and thus far won) against Monsanto over its GM soy royalty practices is here:
More about this important case: http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=14091
+ BRAZIL COURT CONVICTS MONSANTO FOR FALSE ADVERTISING OF GM SOY AND GLYPHOSATE
in Brazil, Monsanto has been convicted by a court for false advertising claims that GM soy and the herbicide glyphosate, as used in the "no-till with herbicides" model of cultivation, are beneficial to the environment. Monsanto was ordered to pay compensation of 500,000 Brazilian real [unit of currency] for moral damages caused to consumers. This is not the first time Monsanto has been convicted by a court for false advertising over claims that its glyphosate-based herbicides are safe and environmentally friendly. Court rulings against Monsanto's misleading advertising of glyphosate herbicides as safe for human health and the environment date back to the 1990s.
+ COMPLAINT AGAINST EU AUTHORISATION OF GM "INTACTA" SOYBEAN WITH STACKED TRAITS
Organisations including the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER) are filing a complaint against a decision of the EU Commission to authorise Monsanto's new GM soybean, Intacta. The soybeans will be mostly sold and grown in Brazil and the harvest will be imported to the EU for use in food and feed. The new GM soybean expresses an insecticidal protein and is resistant to the herbicide glyphosate.
The EU gave permission for use of the soybeans in food and feed at the end of June. However, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has not carried out the risk assessment for this product in the way legally required. This is evident from a technical dossier compiled by Testbiotech and from a legal dossier that will be sent to the Commission.
+ BRAZIL: MONSANTO TO DESTROY 600,000 BAGS OF INTACTA GM SOY SEED
Europe has approved Monsanto's new stacked trait GM soy, RR2 Intacta, for import into the EU – but China hasn't. Monsanto has been giving out Intacta seeds to Brazilian farmers to plant – along with a waiver that the farmers have to sign, accepting legal liability for damages arising from contamination!
But as China is Brazil's biggest customer for its soy exports and may reject shipments contaminated with this soy, Monsanto's promotion of Intacta seems premature. Unless, that is, Monsanto is following its time-honoured tactic of "contaminate prior to approval so that governments have to approve it", which worked so well in getting Brazil growing its GM soy in the first place. In which case, Monsanto's actions are perfectly logical.
Now, in a gesture that might be interpreted as theatrical, Monsanto has said it will destroy 600,000 sixty-kilo bags of Intacta soybean seeds that it had intended to offer to Brazilian farmers. Meanwhile, the Mato Grosso Soybean and Corn Producers Association (APROSOJA) has taken on the role of watchdog over Brazilian farmers' interests, pleading with them not to plant Intacta soybeans unless and until they are approved in China.
At the time this Monthly Review went to press, our GMWatch bulletin covering these stories had yet to arrive in subscribers' email boxes – but it will soon be archived, under news from 7 Sept, here: http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_dategroup
+ EUROPEAN COMMISSION DETERMINED TO REPEAT GM NIGHTMARE IN EUROPE
In Europe, EU Commission officials, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), and some politicians seem unable to learn from the experiences with GM crops of North and South America but are determined to lead Europe's citizens into the same nightmare. The EU gave permission for use of the soybeans in food and feed at the end of June and EFSA has given a positive opinion on the cultivation of GM Roundup Ready soy in Europe. If such cultivation is allowed to go ahead, Europe will follow North and South America down the route of the failed technology of GM herbicide-tolerant crops.
At the beginning of September, representatives of the EU Commission heard Sofia Gatica and Maria Godoy, two of the Mothers of Ituzaingo from Argentina, speak about their communities' terrible experiences with glyphosate herbicide spraying on GM soy at the GMO Free Regions Conference in Brussels. These women have led the campaign against glyphosate spraying on GM soy, which has resulted in massive contamination of their neighbourhood and and high rates of birth defects and cancer. According to a doctor commissioned by the Argentine government to report on the situation, the neighbourhood has been made "uninhabitable". The Mothers warned Europeans that they face the same future if GM herbicide-tolerant crops are grown in the EU.
At the conference, Eric Poudelet, director for safety of the food chain at the Commission's health and consumer affairs directorate DG SANCO, was questioned in the presence of the Mothers of Ituzaingo about the Commission's apparent support for GM crops in light of the Argentine situation. Poudelet said the problem was not with GM crops but with incorrect use of glyphosate, which was used in amounts 5-10 times more than recommended application rates. He said agricultural conditions and practices in Europe were "different" from those in South America, though he did not explain how they would remain different once GM herbicide-tolerant soy monocultures have arrived here.
Poudelet did not explain how soy producers are supposed to deal with the problem of glyphosate resistant superweeds, which have to be controlled with ever-increasing amounts of glyphosate. Perhaps, when superweeds arise in the EU from cultivation of glyphosate-tolerant soy, Poudelet will personally organise teams of volunteers to hand-weed fields (a practice that North American farmers have been forced to return to), in order to ensure that farmers do not spray more than the recommended amount of herbicide on the crops.
Nor did Poudelet explain the logical steps by which he managed to subtract the "GM" part of the "GM crops engineered to tolerate being sprayed with unlimited amounts of glyphosate" concept to conclude that this is not a GM issue. Around three-quarters of all GM crops are engineered to tolerate glyphosate.
Video interview with Sofia Gatica: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CifTHaPaZjk
+ WWF GERMANY DEMANDS ACTION ON GM SOY
WWF Germany is calling for mandatory labelling on products from animals fed on GM soy and other feed. WWF consultant Birgit Wilhelm said the current regulations were ridiculous – growing GM soy is banned in the European Union, but over 80 percent of the 4.5 million tonnes of soy products on the German market is GM. "Europe has made a clear decision: the consumer does not want genetic engineering," she said.
As an alternative, WWF Germany suggests the use of soy from the "GMO-free supply chain of the RTRS" (Round Table on Responsible Soy), a platform of WWF and the GM industry which certifies GM soy as "responsible". Strangely, however, non-GM RTRS soy is currently not available on the market, according to a WWF spokesperson! GM-free soy certified by other certification bodies has been available for European buyers since 2006.
+ U.S.: PLANTING OF GM CANOLA STAYED IN OREGON
The Center for Food Safety ("The Center") has announced that the legal action filed at the State of Oregon's Court of Appeals requesting an immediate stay on illegal planting of GM canola in the Willamette Valley was successful. The Court found sufficient cause to order an immediate halt to planting subject to further judicial review. The lawsuit, filed jointly by the Center with Friends of Family Farmers (FoFF) and three Willamette Valley specialty seed producers, challenges the Oregon Department of Agriculture's (ODA) new temporary rule approving planting of GM canola on vital farming land, without a public comment period or hearing. ODA's improper sanctioning of planting of canola in the Willamette Valley poses a number of risks to Oregon's farmers, citizens and agricultural economy, including potential irreparable destruction of the state's small farms and thriving organic agriculture industry through GM contamination, and the dissemination of resistant weeds, pests and d
+ OCCUPY PROTESTS TO TARGET MONSANTO
An expanding network of concerned individuals known as Occupy Monsanto has emerged over the past 8 months staging numerous protests at companies connected to the global trade of GM foods. The network has announced that on September 17, 2012 protests will begin for an entire week in St Louis, home of Monsanto; across the US (including California, where voters will decide if they will label GMOs this election); in Argentina, Canada, Germany, India, Philippines; and in other countries where concern over GMOs' impacts on the environment and human health is growing.
The protests will vary in size and nature but are unified in pushing back GMO food into the lab from which it came. An interactive map with times, dates and locations of the 60+ protests can be found at http://occupy-monsanto.com/genetic-crimes-unit/.
+ CAMPAIGN AGAINST MONSANTO STARTS IN PARAGUAY
A campaign called Operation Monsanto has begun in Paraguay in protest against the increase in the supply of GM seeds and herbicides, described as disastrous for the land and farmers' health, and the government's decision to boost use of GM corn and cotton seeds. The group Anonymous Paraguay attacked the websites of national institutions that collaborate with the company.
+ U-TURN ON GM IN TURKEY
Turkey's Food and Beverage Associations Federation (TGDF) has withdrawn applications to import 29 GM food items due to negative public reaction. Nadir Gulluoglu, owner of one of the leading baklava producers in the country, had resigned from TGDF after seeing his brand's name in a list of companies that demanded the importation of GM products.
+ IRELAND: LEGAL CHALLENGE REFUSED OVER GM POTATO TRIAL
A group of campaigners in the Irish Republic has been refused a legal challenge over the first trial of a GM potato crop. In July, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave the go ahead for a GM blight-resistant potato crop to be tested in County Carlow. The group sought approval from the High Court to take a case on the basis of the Aarhus Convention, which was ratified earlier this year by the Irish government. Article nine of the convention requires that people have the ability to challenge critical environmental decisions, without facing the threat of large legal costs.
"Mr Justice Gerard Hogan said he had no jurisdiction to make such an order because the Arhaus Convention has yet to be put into Irish law," said Green Party Environment spokesperson, Cllr Malcolm Noonan.
+ INDIA: PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ON AGRICULTURE DAMNS GM CROPS
India's Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture has issued a damning report on GM crops, citing, among other abuses:
*** safety tests that were requested but not carried out on Bt brinjal (eggplant/aubergine)
*** pressure brought to bear by industry and the Agriculture Minister on the co-chair of the GM regulator GEAC to approve Bt brinjal
*** inexplicable changes in the organs and tissues of Bt cottonseed-fed lambs
*** the grossly inadequate and antiquated regulatory mechanism for assessment and approval of transgenics in food crops
*** the serious conflict of interest of various stakeholders involved in the regulatory mechanism
*** the total lack of post-commercialization monitoring.
The Committee has asked for an end to all GM field trials; recommended an in-depth probe to track the decision making involved in commercial release of Bt cotton, "including how Bt cotton became a priority when the avowed goal of introduction of transgenics in agricultural crops was to ensure and maintain food security"; and asked the government to take into consideration the effects of GM crops on agricultural exports when considering whether to approve.
The Coalition for a GM-Free India welcomed the report. It said the Indian government should stop calling Bt cotton a success and throw out the BRAI bill, which would fast-track GM approvals and impose draconian punishments on critics of GM crops.
If there's any logic and justice in the world, this should mean the end of India's ill-fated experiment with GM agriculture, but logic and justice are scarce commodities in the strange world of GM crops.
+ HOW INDIA'S MPs DISCOVERED THE TRUTH ABOUT MONSANTO'S "MODEL VILLAGE"
As part of the research for their report on GM crops, the members of India's all party Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture ended up visiting Monsanto's "model village", despite strenuous efforts to divert them elsewhere. There, they discovered the grim truth about the impacts of Bt cotton.
MPs got to meet the widows of 14 farmers who committed suicide in the "model village" even though the Times of India had reported that thanks to Bt cotton, "Not a single person" had committed suicide there.
They also found out how the accounts of prosperity had been obtained: "A few prosperous villagers had been taken to a large, lush green irrigated farm belonging to a distributor in [the district of] Beed and their photographs had been clicked there as visuals of their prosperity. Their incomes – from other sources – were passed off as prosperity from Bt cotton."
The MPs also discovered that the farmers in Monsanto's "model village" wanted a ban on Bt cotton.
+ INDIA: INTERVIEW WITH CHAIR OF PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE ON ITS REPORT
Here's an excerpt from an interview (worth reading in full) by Gargi Parsai of The Hindu newspaper with Basudeb Acharia, Chairman of India's Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, on its new report, "Cultivation of Genetically Modified Food Crops Prospects and Effects". In answer to a question on whether GM crops were needed for food security, Acharia said:
"GM is not the panacea [for food security]. We have 2,200 varieties of Brinjal. If we allow GM brinjal, all our varieties will get contaminated and vanish as has happened in cotton. When the committee members visited Yavatmal in Vidarbha, we asked farmers why they were growing Bt cotton if the input costs were high and profits were low. They said they had no other option as alternate seeds were no longer available.
"Initially a 450 gm packet of Monsanto's Bt cotton seeds was sold at Rs 1,700. Then after the Andhra Pradesh government challenged this in court, it was brought down to Rs.750 per packet but the royalty of Rs.250 per packet is paid to Monsanto that developed the seed. Last year, a packet was sold between Rs.1,200 to Rs.2,000 because of the monopoly of this private seed company. An artificial scarcity was created and the price was hiked. This will happen in Bt brinjal too if it is allowed.
"If our quest is for food security then why must we select this technology which has nothing to do with food security? The only motive behind this is profit for the seed companies”¦ We wanted to make an objective report. We invited those in favour of GM crops, including Monsanto, and those who were not. We visited five States including Maharashtra, Goa, Kerala, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. We examined 18,000 documents 1,000 memoranda and 56 witnesses. The panel members met 100 farmers' widows and heard from lakhs of farmers their plight in each State. The arguments of those against were stronger. That is why the entire committee is unanimous. There was not a single amendment or dissent."
+ GM CROPS NO WAY FORWARD FOR INDIA: MEMBER OF PARLIAMENTARY COMMITTEE SPEAKS
Satyarat Chaturvedi, a spokesperson for the Indian National Congress and a member of Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture that issued the report on GM crops (see above), reveals the unanimity and strength of feeling of the Committee in an interview with The Hindu newspaper. He said:
"A major argument by the Department of Agriculture and Cooperation before the committee in favour of GM crops was their potential to ensure the country's food security. But the issue of food security is not about production alone; it also means access to food for the poorest. Moreover, there is no evidence as yet that GM crops can actually increase yields.
"The committee, therefore, recommended the government come up with a fresh road map for ensuring food security in the coming years without jeopardising the vast biodiversity of the country and compromising with the safety of human and livestock health.
"The committee unanimously feels that the government should take decisive action on the recommendations of this report and rethink its decision of introducing transgenics in agriculture as a sustainable way forward."
+ INDIA: MAHARASHTRA BANS BT COTTON SEEDS
The Maharashtra government has banned the sale and distribution of GM Bt cotton seeds of Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company (Mahyco), a partner of Monsanto, in the state with immediate effect for supplying inferior quality seeds. A top state agriculture department official, requesting anonymity, said henceforth all trading activities of the company shall be illegal and any violations could be prosecuted.
+ GM COTTON PROVES UNSUSTAINABLE IN AUSTRALIA
GM cotton is proving unsustainable in Australia as well as India, with even pro-GM expert Andrew Parkes warning that the crop's viability is being undermined by Bt toxin-resistant pests and herbicide-resistant weeds. Parkes concluded: "If we don't focus on what happens in the long term we won't have an industry," which perfectly describes the cul-de-sac into which GM has driven farmers.
Parkes commented on the state of GM cotton cultivation in North America: "Fifty percent of upland American cotton is infested with glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth [a large and disruptive weed]. Prior to 2005, 17 percent of the growers in Georgia were hand-weeding 50 per cent of their area, at a cost of $2 an acre. Seven years later, they are hand-weeding 52 percent of the area, and it's costing them $24/ac."
Far from being the progressive, state-of-the-science technology that proponents claim, GM is sending farming back to the stone age.
+ "MOUNTING EVIDENCE" OF ROOTWORM RESISTANCE TO GM CORN CONFIRMED BY US EPA
There's "mounting evidence" that a Monsanto corn that's genetically modified to control insects is losing its effectiveness in the Midwest, the US Environmental Protection Agency said. The agency's latest statement on rootworm resistance comes a year after the problem was first documented and just as US corn yields are forecast to be the lowest in 17 years amid drought in the Corn Belt.
+ MONSANTO MAKING CROPS MORE VULNERABLE TO DROUGHT
Resistant rootworms are munching away at the roots of Monsanto's GM corn – a crop engineered to kill this very pest – and that's making the plants more vulnerable to drought because the plant cannot take up water efficiently, according to University of Minnesota extension agent Bruce Potter. University of Illinois entomologist Michael Gray reported, "The western corn rootworm 'season' is underway at a pace earlier than I have experienced since I began studying this versatile insect as a graduate student in the late 1970s."
These reports are confirmed by accounts from US farmers that reached the GMO-Free Regions Conference in Brussels (4-5 September). It seems fields full of shrivelled GM corn plants will yield very little this year, whereas non-GM corn has fared better. Observers commented that the soil the GM corn was grown in was grey and "like dust", possibly due to herbicide use, whereas the soil the non-GM corn was grown in had more organic matter and held more moisture. We've heard similar, though less dramatic, reports about GM vs non-GM soy in the North American Midwest. We hope to bring you more details soon.
+ PROP 37: CONSUMERS NEED TO KNOW
GM, agrochemical and food companies are pumping millions of dollars into an increasingly hefty war chest to fight a November ballot measure, called Proposition 37, that would require labels on GM foods. In all, they've collected $25 million. The roster of financial backers for the opposition campaign includes Monsanto, with $4.2 million. Close behind is DuPont with $4 million. Manufacturers of popular household brands also contributed: PepsiCo has given $1.7 million; Coca-Cola $1.2 million; Nestle USA, $1.2 million; Kellogg, $633,000; and jam maker J.M. Smucker, $388,000. Cargill, the international grain and oil producer and marketer, contributed $202,2229.
+ TOP TEN LIES TOLD BY MONSANTO ON GM LABELING
The battle in California over Prop 37 is heating up. Millions of dollars are being poured into the opposition campaign, with much of it going to former Big Tobacco shills. Monsanto has published an article called "Taking a Stand: Proposition 37, The California Labeling Proposal," which explains why it is opposing the measure. Trouble is, Monsanto's article is riddled with deception and outright falsehoods about the initiative and its proponents, says public health lawyer Michelle Simon. Read Simon's excellent response, "Top 10 lies told by Monsanto on GMO labeling in California":
+ WHO WILL VOTERS BELIEVE ON LABELING?
Chuck Greenwood, a supporter of Prop 37, explains the dilemma facing California voters bombarded with contradictory messages from pro-labeling activists on one side and Big GM/Agorchem on the other: "I have four children, 11 grandchildren, three great-grandchildren. I work for them, and Monsanto's gun-hands work for a paycheck. Our opponents show up in limousines; our Butte County speakers take time off from jobs in our communities and from grandchildren and gardening, and our younger volunteers babysit and hold bake sales for gas money to get to your meetings. Who are you going to believe?"
+ SWISS STUDY CLAIMING "LOW RISK" FROM GMOs IS BASED ON INDUSTRY DATA
Media in Switzerland have uncritically reported the newly published results of a publicly funded research programme on GM. The programme concluded: "Low risks, unused potentials". However, this conclusion is not surprising as first insights into the project show that it is based on data supplied by the industry.
But the Swiss Working Group on Genetic Engineering (SAG) criticised the report of the National Research Programme 59 (NRP) as "biased". Existing problems of GM farming and its risks are played down. As NFP 59 states on its website, long-term risks to health were not evaluated.
Also many of the data that were taken into consideration come from the GM industry or organizations close to it. For example, the literature overview on health issues of GMOs cites EFSA (European Food Safety Authority), which has been heavily criticised for its close relationships with GM companies and for its biased evaluations of GMOs – as well as its failure to take seriously independent scientific findings of harm from GM foods.
Other data comes from the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), a lobby organization of the producers of GMOs. The NFP 59 used ILSI data when giving examples of "GM plants with health benefits" such as GM canola, rice and soy.
+ EFSA'S NEW SCIENTIFIC PANELS STILL BIASED
On June 18, EFSA published the names and accompanying Declarations of Interest of the 167 scientists who will start working with the Authority on its Scientific Committee and eight of its Panels, including the GMO panel, from 1 July 2012 onwards for a three-year term.
A first assessment by CEO and Testbiotech, NGOs that follow EFSA's work, shows that although progress has been made, there are still concerns about some of the panels, including the GMO Panel. Conflicts of interest and influence of industry lobby group International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) on the panels have apparently not been stopped. According to Testbiotech, the GMO panel is still biased, with a majority of its scientists known proponents of GMOs.
The continuing influence of industry on EFSA looks set to remain an issue in October, when MEPs will discuss whether to discharge EFSA's budget, after the discharge was postponed for these same reasons on May 10.
+ CONTROVERSIAL DUTCH GM POTATO TRIAL OPEN TO PUBLIC
Wageningen University in the Netherlands opened its GM potato trial to the public on 23 August, perhaps in response to negative publicity attracted by other secretive GM trials.
GM INSECTS AND ANIMALS
+ GM MOSQUITO RISKS NOT PROPERLY ASSESSED
In a new briefing, GeneWatch UK highlights numerous errors and omissions in the risk assessment process for GM mosquitoes. UK company Oxitec has released GM mosquitoes in large numbers in the Cayman Islands (3 million mosquitoes) and Brazil (10 million) and a smaller number in Malaysia (6,000), as part of experiments to reduce the incidence of the tropical disease dengue fever. Risk assessments were not published prior to the releases in Cayman or Brazil and only Malaysia had any kind of consultation process.
The new briefing is based on an analysis of Oxitec's risk assessments obtained using Freedom of Information requests in the UK. It identifies many issues that have not been properly considered, including: the possibility that another invasive mosquito species which carries dengue becomes established at release sites; the potential for large numbers of GM mosquitoes to survive and breed in sites contaminated with the antibiotic tetracycline; and loss of human immunity and cross-immunity if the releases are only temporarily or partially effective in dengue-endemic areas.
Oxitec's Genetically Modified Mosquitoes: Ongoing Concerns. GeneWatch UK Briefing:
+ GM BUGS WILL SREAD IN FRUIT AND VEG UNDER EFSA'S NEW RULES
The European Food Safety Agency's new draft rules for approving GM insects, fish, farm animals and pets will allow billions of GM insect eggs and caterpillars to be spread in fruit and vegetables, warns GeneWatch UK.
Oxitec's GM moths and flies are likely to be approved by the EU under the new rules. The GM insects have been genetically engineered so their caterpillars die inside olives or tomatoes or on the leaves of cabbages. The company plans to release GM pests across the EU to mate with wild pests, in an attempt to reduce their numbers. Millions of GM pests must be released each week to have any effect on wild populations.
For example, GM olive flies will die as pupae. This will normally be before the adult flies emerge from the olives in which the flies lay their eggs. Oxitec proposes that this should be treated as an "adventitious presence" under EU law – meaning that the presence in food of any dead, dying or surviving insects would be treated as accidental and would not require regulation, traceability or labelling of the olives. Most of the offspring of the GM insects die at the late larval caterpillar – or pupal stage, but some will survive to adulthood and could also pose environmental risks. The firm is currently working on GM tomato borers, GM diamond back moths – which eat cabbages and broccoli – and GM fruit flies as well as GM olive flies.
The EFSA's draft guidance specifically excludes testing whether GM insects and caterpillars are safe to eat. It claims that the health risks of GM insects in food were addressed by a previous consultation, which in fact explicitly excluded them.
+ GM ANIMALS COMING TO EUROPE WITH HELP OF SCIENTISTS WITH VESTED INTERESTS
GM Freeze warned farmers that moves by the EC to approve GM animals for commercial use in food are gathering pace and could spark a major consumer backlash if the Commission does not change direction. GM Freeze wrote to EC Health and Consumer Commissioner Dalli asking why scientists involved in commercial development of GM insects were asked to take part in drafting the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA's) Draft Guidance on the Environmental Risk Assessment for GM animals.
The letter also challenges the premature continued development of regulatory regimes for the introduction of both GM animals and clones when they are not needed and are clearly rejected by EU citizens and the Parliament. GM Freeze says this pre-empts proper public debate about the ethics and acceptability of using animals in this way.
+ INFORMED PEOPLE OPPOSE GM MOSQUITOES
Most people oppose the release of GM mosquitoes once the risks are explained, shows a research study from North Carolina State University. However, a problem with this study was that the people polled were manipulated by being given a "choice" between GM mosquitoes or insecticide spraying – when naturally, they preferred GM mosquitoes. As ever with these fake "choices" with which the GM issue is framed, people are not told about other solutions, including "none of the above".
+ NEW BIOTECH TECHNIQUES FOR THE LAYPERSON
Inf'OGM published in October 2011 a report in French on new techniques of biotechnology. In summer 2012, Inf'OGM published an English version of this report. Covering such techniques as cisgenesis and zinc finger nuclease technology, the report is available on Inf'OGM's website: http://www.infogm.org/spip.php?article5191
QUOTES OF THE MONTH
+ GM FOODS AREN'T NECESSARY – NESTLE OFFICIAL
"Genetically modified (GM) food is unnecessary to feed the world and the food industry would reap more benefits from using resources more sustainably and employing other techniques. That's the view of Hans Johr, corporate head of sustainable agriculture at Nestle and honorary president of SAI Platform, a group of top global food and drink manufacturers working to improve supply chain sustainability." – Rod Addy in an article for Food Navigator
+ GMOs WON'T CONTRIBUTE TO FOOD SECURITY
"I don't think GMOs have contributed, or will likely contribute much, to food security. Most of the GMO traits are focused on pest and herbicide resistance, which is arguably a good thing, but are not improving yield characteristics all that much (at least compared to conventional breeding, or better yet, marker-assisted breeding). Furthermore, there are other approaches to managing pests and weeds that would be equally (or more) effective, like not planting such large monocultures in the first place." – Jonathan Foley, director of the Institute on the Environment (IonE) at the University of Minnesota and co-author of a study on water management and yield production
+ NESTLE'S PHILOSOPHY ON GM FOODS
"We [Nestle] have a very simple way of looking at GM: listen to what the consumer wants. If they don't want it in products, you don't put it in them." – Hans Johr, corporate head of sustainable agriculture at Nestle (but apparently he hasn't told this to Nestle USA, which doesn't exclude GM ingredients from its products for the American market or label them)
+ WHY IS AMERICAN AGRICULTURE SICK?
"Corn used to be the healthiest plant you could grow. Now, multiple diseases, pests, and weak plants are the common denominator of 'modern' hybrids. Wheat, that staple grain for mankind, is now loaded with toxins, allergens, and chemicals. Sickness and disease are increasing in our crops, animals and people in spite of the broad array of fungicides and drugs administered. One can only ask, what has changed so drastically in this ecology we call farming?
"Over three decades ago we started the shift to a monochemical glyphosate herbicide program that was accompanied by glyphosate- and insect-resistant genetically engineered crops. These two changes in agricultural practices – the excessive application of a strong essential mineral-chelating, endocrine-disrupting chemical for weed control and the genetically engineered production of new toxins in our food crops – was accompanied by abandonment of years of scientific research based on the scientific precautionary principle. We substituted a philosophical 'substantially equivalent', a new term coined to avoid accountability for the lack of understanding of consequences of our new activities, for science." – Dr Don Huber, emeritus professor of plant pathology, Purdue University
+ SCIENTISTS DECRY GOLDEN RICE EXPERIMENTS ON CHILDREN
US scientists have denounced a 2008 nutrition research project that allegedly fed GM rice to a group of Chinese primary school students. The study involving 68 Chinese children aged 6 to 8 has generated public anxiety about potential harm to the children and controversy over ethics and rules.
The study's lead author, Tang Guangwen of Tufts University in Boston, Massachusetts, published a report in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showing that 100 to 150 grams of golden rice could provide 60 percent of the daily intake of vitamin A.
However, the three listed authors from the university's Chinese partners, Hu Yuming, Yin Shi'an and Wang Yin, all denied the use of golden rice in the study in Hengyang, Hunan province.
David Schubert, professor and laboratory head of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in San Diego, California, said the test was done on Chinese children "most likely because they could not pass the review process required for doing this type of clinical trial in the US". Schubert was among the 22 scientists from all over the world who wrote an open letter to caution Tufts' research on golden rice in 2009. He said this kind of experiment "should not have been done unless there was extensive safety testing of the rice".
According to a report commissioned by nonprofit organization Foodwatch in Germany, a sample of the golden rice grains was sent to Germany in 2001 for a feeding trial with mice. But when the grains were tested for carotenoid content, the scientists were "surprised to find it contained less than 1 percent of the amount expected". After the rice was cooked, this was reduced another 50 percent, so the trial was abandoned.
+ MONSANTO'S POINT OF NO RETURN: THE TRUTH ABOUT GM AND "FARMER CHOICE"
What happens to farmer and consumer choice once Monsanto achieves the required degree of penetration in the seed market? It simply disappears, because Monsanto ensures that only GM seeds are available to farmers, as a perceptive article in Boulder Weekly explains.
This trend lends ironic confirmation to the GM industry propaganda that the world must accept GM or starve. But insofar as this claim is true, it is not because GM seeds are remarkably productive or resilient, but because once GM companies own a large enough portion of the seed industry, they simply remove non-GM seeds from the market. This has happened in North America, as the article documents, but also in Brazil and India.