On 19 August, Colombian farmers' organisations initiated a massive nationwide strike. They blocked roads, dumped milk on cars, and stopped producing food for the cities in protest at government policies which are driving farmers out of existence. The government has passed a law that criminalises the saving, exchange, and sale of unregistered seeds, in line with a free trade agreement with the US. It even destroyed 70 tonnes of rice that it said did not comply with the law. After the uprising, the government announced that it is suspending the seeds law for two years. Read more
A new report from the UN is a rallying cry for action to move away from intensive farming and GM toward greater sustainability. The report emphasises that hunger and malnutrition are mainly related to poverty and lack of access to land, not to a global shortage of food. Read more
Members of Coalition for GM Free India submitted petitions signed by over 400,000 people to the parliamentary committee of science and technology which is deliberating on the Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) Bill, which would fast-track GM authorisations in the country. Read moreIs Monsanto undermining opposition to GM crops in India by introducing them via India's neighbours? Read more
Questioning a technology, especially of the kind that has serious unknowns and lacks clear social benefits, is not an attack on science, writes Prof Jack Heinemann in an article defending India's moratorium on the commercialisation of Bt brinjal (eggplant). Read more
Massive pressure is being applied to get GM crops approved in Pakistan. Activist-farmer Ijaz Ahmed Rao says, “Large-scale GM trials have still not been conducted in Pakistan and the process is being bulldozed so that everything is approved before the new government realises what’s really going on." Read more
62 of Costa Rica's 81 cantons (administrative regions) have adopted a legal strategy to make themselves GMO-free. Read more
The long march against Monsanto in Costa Rica Read more
The US Embassy in Harare has recently been promoting GM crops, including on Twitter, as part of a "biotech outreach" programme in Zimbabwe. Earlier this year Jay Byrne, Monsanto's most notorious spin doctor and a former US State Dept employee, was in Africa liaising with local industry front groups. He was followed by Mark Lynas on a GM promotional tour. From what little is know about Lynas' funding it seems possible that it is coming from groups and programmes with US State Dept backing. Read more
Pro-GM campaigner Mark Lynas has been touring Africa, India and the Philippines promoting GM. The only information on who funds his lobbying efforts emerged in an admission that Cornell University paid for his trip to the Philippines. We wonder if this actually means the Agricultural Biotechnology Support Project II (ABSP II), a project led by Cornell but funded by USAID, i.e. the US State Dept. Other ABSP II funders include Monsanto. Read more
An editorial in Scientific American attacking GM labelling has been condemned as sloppy and unscientific. The editorial contains many factual inaccuracies, even claiming that the US FDA tests all GMOs on the market to ensure they are safe! Public health lawyer Michele Simon commented, “It reads like the biotech industry handed Scientific American its talking points." The article had the opposite effect to that intended on at least one academic/agriculture student.
Hot on the heels of the Scientific American editorial attacking GMO labelling comes more of the same from the journal Science. Called "Standing Up for GMOs", the editorial lauds golden rice and pretty much declares all opposition to GMOs irrational and wicked. But most shamefully of all, the editorial claims: "[Golden] rice has been ready for farmers to use since the turn of the 21st century..." This is a lie. As recently as February 2013, the IRRI - the institute overseeing golden rice trials – directly contradicted claims that golden rice would shortly be made available to farmers and admitted it was still unproven. Read more
Tufts University says one of its researchers broke ethical rules while carrying out a study of GM golden rice in China. The researcher has been banned from conducting research on human subjects for 2 years. According to Tufts, the researchers did not explain to the subjects that the rice was GM. The Tufts report has not been made public but is unlikely to mention what is perhaps the most serious breach of ethics: the rice was fed to children without first testing it on animals for toxicity. Read more
Parents of the children involved in the experiments are concerned about possible long-term health effects. Read more
Three excellent articles explain why golden rice is not so golden. Read more
Farmers in the Philippines are among those accusing the developers of golden rice of "sugar-coating" GMOs with "a humanitarian face". Read more
Food writer Michael Pollan says golden rice is just another glittering Western techno-fix to a problem with far better solutions. Read more
See our golden rice resources page with articles, profiles and reports. Read more
Claims that a protest in he Philippines against golden rice was not led by farmers but by people who didn't understand what they were doing have been condemned as an insult by the farmer-scientist organisation MASIPAG. MASIPAG adds that Vitamin A deficiency should be addressed by a comprehensive approach to combat poverty and hunger. Read more
Monsanto and DuPont have poured $7.7 million into the campaign to defeat GM food labelling in the state of Washington. Read more
The US House of Representatives has approved an extension of a law allowing farmers to keep growing a GM crop while it's being challenged in court. Read more
Alfalfa seed and plant samples taken from a Washington farm were found to be GM-contaminated, even though the farmer did not want to grow such crops. The testing was ordered after a hay farmer who intended to grow non-GM alfalfa had his crop rejected for export. State Senator Maralyn Chase commented, "Our state's farmers are becoming collateral damage to the reckless practices of the agriculture industry in this country. More than 60 of our trade partners throughout the world have bans on the import of unlabelled GMO foods." Read more
GM canola has spread out of control in Canada, the US, Japan, Australia, and Europe, says a new report by Testbiotech. The plants have escaped far beyond the fields into the environment and transgenes have moved into populations of wild relatives. Furthermore, new combinations of DNA constructs have been found which were never approved for release. Read more
While most existing GM plants are designed to make new proteins, a new type of GM plants and products make a form of genetic information called dsRNA in order to alter the way genes are expressed. A new study reveals that the expression of nearly 1,400 of honeybees' genes was unexpectedly altered in response to a certain type of dsRNA - representing around 10% of known honeybee genes. The affected genes are involved in important processes such as RNA processing and transport, hormone metabolism, immunity, and response to stress. Read more
A new study shows that Roundup is toxic to the normal metabolism of dairy cows. All cows investigated at eight Danish dairy farms excreted glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, in their urine, and toxicity parameters correlated with glyphosate levels. The researchers also found that levels of essential trace minerals were too low in the animals for proper function and immune response. Glyphosate binds these minerals in the soil, making them unavailable to plants and the animals and humans that eat them and potentially causing serious deficiency diseases. Read more
Glyphosate herbicide (e.g. Roundup) enhances the growth of aflatoxin-producing fungi, according to a new study. Aflatoxins are toxic to animals and humans and the fungi that produce them cause plant diseases. Aflatoxins were found last year at high levels in US corn. Much of the Bt corn planted in the US is now also tolerant to Roundup herbicide. Speculating on the new study's findings, it could be that applications of Roundup have increased the aflatoxin levels in the corn. Read more
US farmers and scientists are growing increasingly concerned about glyphosate's detrimental effect on soil quality. Monsanto is recommending additional soil inputs to counter the mineral deficiencies in plants caused by glyphosate. But at least one farmer has gone back to non-GM crops combined with good soil management methods and has already noticed improvements in his soil. Read more
El Salvador has voted to ban glyphosate, the pesticide that most GM crops are designed to be grown with, along with 52 other chemicals. Predictably, protests have been raised by the GM lobby group CropLife, which is scaremongering about losses of 40-60% in crop production if the chemicals are banned. CropLife is funded by the big GM companies, including Monsanto. Read more
CropLife cites the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as the origin of their 40–60% figure, though it fails to give a reference. But the only FAO figure of this nature that we could find was one relating to rodent damage in stored crops. To control rodents, the FAO recommends rodent-proof storage, hygiene, and keeping cats! Chemical control in the form of specific rodenticides is mentioned only as a last resort. That's hardly a ringing endorsement for the use of pesticides in growing food crops.
The Australian regulator APVMA has cancelled registrations of 2,4-D herbicides of the "high volatile ester (HVE)" type on the grounds that they pose an unacceptable risk to the environment. 2,4-D has been the go-to herbicide of the GM industry since the spread of glyphosate-resistant weeds has challenged the viability of glyphosate herbicides and of GM crops tolerant only to glyphosate. Read more
GM proponent Pam Ronald has launched a wildly inaccurate attack on the Union of Concerned Scientists and a UCS senior scientist, Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman, in GM promotional articles for the Boston Review. Ronald tried to discredit Gurian-Sherman's impeccably evidenced reports on GM by providing a link to an article by Ronald Bailey, the climate change denier/downplayer and science correspondent of the ultra-libertarian Reason magazine. Gurian-Sherman has responded to Ronald. But instead of responding to his points, Ronald then published her view of UCS's position on GM, which misrepresented UCS by making it look as if UCS had few, if any, concerns. Margaret Mellon, another UCS scientist, has also responded to Ronald.
Prof GE Seralini was recently in the UK for "GM Health Risks Week" to describe the findings of his research study, which found that GM maize and tiny amounts of Roundup damaged the health of rats. Prof Seralini accused the UK Food Standards Agency of "recklessly endangering public health" in ignoring his research findings. Prof Seralini was forced to pull out of the tour before the end due to illness, but has made a good recovery. Other speakers included Danish pig farmer Ib Pedersen, who described the positive effects on his pig herd of switching to non-GM feed. He said the savings in medicines costs more than makes up for the extra cost of non-GM feed. More reports on GM Health Risks Week are here and here.
The BBC is pursuing what appears to be its long-term policy of promoting GM, this time in a series called Science Britannica, fronted by Prof Brian Cox. The producer-director of the first programme in the series was Michael Lachmann. Lachmannn was also the producer-director of the BBC programme "Jimmy's GM Food Fight", another prime time soft-sell GM advertisement. He is the son of Sir Peter Lachmann, who was at the forefront of the campaign to discredit Dr Arpad Pusztai and, according to an article in The Guardian, threatened the editor of The Lancet over his planned publication of Pusztai's research on GM. Read more
UK company Oxitec has applied to release of millions of male GM olive fruit flies in Spain and GM Mediterranean fruit flies (Medfly) in Brazil. The company also plans to release GM olive flies in Italy, Greece, and Morocco. The female offspring of the flies are genetically programmed to die at the larval stage, in an attempt to crash the numbers of wild pests. However, large numbers of dead larvae (maggots) are expected to remain inside olives and fruit, where fruit flies lay their eggs, and enter the food chain. The health risks of this scenario have not been tested for or assessed. Read more
Prof Jack Heinemann on the ability of GM to solve real farming problems:
"By the year 2005, over 1,000 applications were approved to field trial stress-tolerant GM plants in the United States alone. None ever progressed out of the testing phase. The explanation for this is likely because stress tolerance is not a solution to the causes of stress. No matter how tolerant you make the plant to drought, using it in soil low in organic matter and unable to hold water will eventually further deplete the soil of moisture and the plant will struggle or die. GM is an attempt to use genetics to overcome the environment. This never works for long. That is why some call GM a distraction from investing in real solutions to the problems faced by real farmers."
Dr James Le Fanu on the failure of the GM paradigm:
"The practical applications of the massive commitment to genetic research [are] scarcely detectable. The biotechnology business promised to transform both medicine and agriculture — but ... it has turned out to be 'one of the biggest money-losing industries in the history of mankind'. There are promises that given 30, 40 or even 100 years all will become clear, that stem cell therapy will permit the blind to see and the lame to walk and we will have a theory of everything — or, as Stephen Hawking puts it, 'know the mind of God'. But they remain promises."
Dilnavaz Variava of the Alliance for Sustainable and Holistic Agriculture, on the ability of GM to address hunger in India:
"India has enough food grain — almost two-and-a-half times the required buffer stock — and yet 200 million Indians go hungry. The problem of sufficiency is not one of production, but of economic and physical access, which the Food Security Bill attempts to address. Poverty, mounds of rotting food grain, wastage and leakages in the Public Distribution System are the real causes of food insecurity. GM food cannot address this."
In the U.S., food insecurity has risen from 12% in pre-GM 1995 to 15% in 2011. In Paraguay, where nearly 65% of land is under GM crops, hunger increased from 12.6% in 2004-06 to 25.5% in 2010-12. In Brazil and Argentina, GM food has not reduced hunger. Read more
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