This year the World Food Prize was awarded to executives from Monsanto and Syngenta for their pioneering work in GMO research. The move caused outrage worldwide and was challenged with protests, petitions signed by hundreds of thousands, counter meetings, and even an alternative prize, the Food Sovereignty Prize. The World Food Prize is heavily sponsored by Monsanto, Syngenta, and other like-minded organisations, so essentially the biotech companies were honouring themselves. Read more
Small farms produce more per acre than large farms. And contrary to claims of skeptics, this conclusion is not just an artefact of measurement bias, a recent paper shows. Small-scale farmers already feed around 70% of the world's population. Read more
Lawmakers in Kauai, Hawaii, have passed a bill aimed at reining in widespread pesticide use by companies testing GM crops on the island. The Kauai County Council passed the bill by a vote of six to one after months of protests by islanders and mainland US groups. DuPont, which fought to defeat the bill, may sue to block its implementation. Read more
An appeals court in the Philippines has denied a motion to reverse its ban on field testing of GM Bt eggplants, because of safety concerns. Farmer-scientist group MASIPAG reports that no less than seven expert witnesses tried, but failed, to rebut the Seralini 2012 study, which found serious health effects in rats fed GM maize NK603 and tiny amounts of Roundup herbicide. Read more
Smallholder farmers in the Philippines were lured into growing GM corn with promises of better harvests and sure markets. But the reality has proven to be poor harvests and incomes – and increasing indebtedness. Farmers who cannot pay their debts lose their land, according to a new report by farmer-scientist organisation MASIPAG. Read more
The right of the Maharastra state government to regulate GM seed prices and to order compensation to farmers when the seeds fail has been upheld by the Bombay High Court. Read more
The Karnataka High Court has dismissed a petition seeking the quashing of criminal prosecution of representatives of Mahyco/Monsanto, state authorities, and a university for biopiracy in promoting GM Bt brinjal (eggplant). Read more
A judge has ordered the Mexican authorities to immediately stop the planting of GM corn due to the imminent threat to the environment. Read more
The Brazilian Congress has withdrawn a bill that would have allowed the sale and use of GMO suicide seeds (Terminator), taking into account social concerns and the national and international opposition. Silvia Ribeiro, Latin America director for ETC Group, said, “This should be taken as a victory for food sovereignty and farmers’ rights around the world." Read more
A judge in Brazil has blocked Monsanto's attempt to make farmers sign restrictive agreements before they can gain access to the company's new GM seed, RR2 Intacta soybeans. Farmers who signed the agreement would have signed away important rights. Read more
In Argentina, the legality of the approval of Monsanto's new RR2 Intacta soybean has been challenged in court amid reports of a "dodgy dossier" containing alleged illegalities. And in Brazil, the public prosecutor has asked the regulator CTNBio not to approve any new GMOs, including 2,4-D-tolerant corn, until in-depth studies on environmental and health risks have been done. Read more
Doctors and scientists in Argentina link agrochemical spraying on GM soy to escalating rates of birth defects and cancers. While the president ordered an investigation into human health impacts in 2009, nothing has been done, according to an excellent article for Associated Press. Read more
Glyphosate has been found in Argentine soy at levels higher than the maximum residue level allowed in the EU (20 mg/kg). One sample had a massively high residue level of almost 100 mg/kg. This situation doubtless explains why no routine testing is done by government authorities. Read more
Argentina's GM soy-based agro-export model is socially and ecologically unsustainable, according to a new peer-reviewed study. The paper takes in the depopulation of the countryside and violent landgrabs for GM soy expansion, the decreased food security as food crops decline, and the effects on public health of herbicide spraying on GM soy. Read more
In March 2013, NGOs filed a lawsuit at the European Court of Justice against an EU Commission decision approving Monsanto's GM soybeans, Intacta, in food and feed. The complainants maintain that EFSA has not carried out the risk assessments for the GM soybean as legally required. Now Monsanto, the British government, and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are joining forces in court to defend the right to import the GM soybeans. Read more
As the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) held a conference on transparency, a coalition of NGOs denounced the secret industry safety studies that form the basis of approvals of pesticides and GMOs. While EFSA has published the industry dossier on NK603 maize, its action triggered a legal threat from Monsanto.Industry's chronic safety studies on glyphosate and other pesticides are still kept secret. Read more
A lobby group for major American food manufacturers has violated campaign finance laws in its attempt to block a measure that would require labelling of GM foods in Washington State, according to a lawsuit filed by the state’s attorney general. The attorney general says the group, the Grocery Manufacturers Association, illegally collected and spent more than $7 million while shielding the identity of its contributors. Read more
A devastating disease, Goss's wilt, is laying waste to GM corn in the US, slashing yields. Monocultures of GM corn all developed from varieties with low resistance to the disease are primarily blamed. The no-till farming practiced with GM herbicide-tolerant crops is also named as a possible culprit, since corn debris left on the soil can harbour disease. Read more
The "Monsanto rider" in a US bill would have allowed farmers to continue to plant GM crops even though they were under legal challenge – but now it's been stripped from the bill by the Senate. The Center for Food Safety welcomed the decision as “a major victory for the food movement”. Read more
Dissent is being suppressed where it conflicts with powerful interests, while scientists who are "on message" are encouraged to speak out. For example, the BBSRC, the UK's public funding body for science, forbids staff at publicly funded organisations via employment contracts from becoming "involved in political controversy in matters affecting research in biotechnology". But if you are a scientist at a BBSRC-funded institute who wants to speak out in support of GM foods, you are likely to be encouraged to do so. Read more
The introduction of GM crops has corresponded with increasing monopolization of seed by GM companies and higher seed costs. This has led to tragedies in some countries, while pushing out conventional, non-GM seeds and reducing farmer seed choices. These impacts are being seen in the United States, Brazil, India, the Philippines, South Africa, and Europe. Read more
Molecular biologist and genetic engineer Dr Michael Antoniou has challenged Grist food writer Nathanael Johnson's misleading claims about GM food safety, pointing out that some studies show GM foods can be more toxic than non-GM foods. And Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network, has also taken Johnson to task for his lack of rigour in evaluating evidence from pro-GM lobbyists.
Civil society groups on five continents warn that plans to release non-native strains of GM flies in olive fields in Spain and fruit orchards in Brazil pose major risks to crops and the environment, as pesticide resistance or other harmful traits could spread into wild pest populations. Read more
Dr Thierry Vrain moved from being a regulator who reassured the public about GMO safety as part of his job, to a whistleblower. Unlike Mark Lynas, a GMO convert who went the other way, Dr Vrain understands the science. Read more
US farmers are heading for a crisis, according to weed experts. Weeds resistant to glyphosate herbicide are now present in most soy, cotton, and corn farms in some states. Even worse, weeds that can shrug off multiple other herbicides are on the rise - and chemical companies have no answers in the form of new herbicides in the pipeline. Read more
A Washington farmer whose alfalfa crop has been found to have been GM-contaminated even before the approval of GM alfalfa is advising other farmers to "test everything". His crop was rejected for export. Read more
UK environment secretary Owen Paterson says opponents of GM crops in Africa and Asia are "wicked" for depriving poor and hungry people of GM golden rice.
But despite $100 million already having been spent on it, golden rice is still not ready. Meanwhile other proven methods are solving Vitamin A Deficiency.
The World Development Movement (WDM), which campaigns against the root causes of poverty and inequality, has condemned Paterson's statement as an attempt to promote UK agribiz interests. WDM adds that malnutrition is caused not by a lack of food, of which there's plenty, but by a lack of access to food, which golden rice won't solve. Marches or protests against GMOs were recently held in over 20 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, from Ghana and Kenya to Bolivia and Indonesia. Read more
In branding critics emotively as "wicked" and "disgusting", GM advocates like Owen Paterson relinquish any claims to reason, writes Prof Andy Stirling in The Guardian. Read more
You can't genetically modify your way out of poverty, writes John Sauven of Greenpeace. Dr Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace says: "Owen Paterson believes problems caused by vitamin A deficiency have one and only one solution: GM 'golden' rice. And if you don't agree with him, you are 'wicked'. There are more than half a dozen vitamin A strategies in use today. Golden rice is not one of them because it doesn't yet exist."
Nathan Oxley of Communications for Future Agricultures and the Steps Centre says what's lacking in the chorus baying for the deployment of golden rice is the voice of the poor people that it's meant to help and the basic science showing the rice is effective.
Dr Chito Medina, environmental scientist and national co-ordinator of the Philippines farmer-scientist group Masipag, said: "Vitamin A deficiency and malnutrition are complex issues that are inextricably linked to poverty and access to resources. Golden rice is a simplistic, techno-fix solution to the problem."
A new briefing from the Soil Association shows there are already up to half a dozen strategies used to tackle vitamin A deficiency. While they may be less exciting to some journalists, politicians, and scientists than the idea of beta-carotene producing rice, they work and have saved many lives. For example, in the Philippines, vitamin A deficiency in young children has fallen by 25% in just 5 years by using these strategies. Read more
A new Greenpeace briefing on golden rice rounds up the scientific arguments. Read more
Quotes of the month
Bruce M Owen and Ronald Braeutigam, in their 1978 book, "The Regulation Game: Strategic Use of the Administrative Process", on how corporate executives can gain control of government risk regulatory policy-making:
"Regulatory policy is increasingly made with the participation of experts, especially academics. A regulated firm or industry should be prepared whenever possible to co-opt these experts. This is most effectively done by identifying the leading experts in each relevant field and hiring them as consultants and advisors, or giving them research grants and the like. This activity requires a modicum of finesse; it must not be too blatant, for the experts themselves must not recognize that they have lost their objectivity and freedom of action. At a minimum, a program of this kind reduces the threat that the leading experts will be available to testify or write against the interests of the regulated firms."
Michael Crichton, physician, producer, and writer, in a lecture at the California Institute of Technology:
"Historically, the claim of consensus has been the first refuge of scoundrels; it is a way to avoid debate by claiming that the matter is already settled. Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you’re being had."
BBC runs ads for GMO technology Read more
Suspended prison sentences for pulling up unlawfully planted GM potatoes Read more
Russia considers ban on all GMO products Read more
Scientific American taken to task for factually incorrect editorial about GM Read more
Debunking Prof Anthony Trewavas's stale GM lies over Seralini study Read more
No consensus on GMO safety – scientists release statement
This important statement obtained international media coverage, but needs maximum exposure, so please spread the news far and wide and invite qualified scientists and physicians who agree with it to sign on. It's available in English, German, French and Spanish.
List of initial signatories (now at 93)
Agbiotech industry expert agrees there's no consensus on GMO safety
The view that there's no consensus on GMO safety is shared by biotech industry expert Sano M. Shimoda, president and founder of BioScience Securities, Inc., a strategic corporate advisory and investment banking firm in California. Mr Shimoda gave a remarkable presentation about the scientific and technical problems of GM technology at a biotech industry conference. Read more
Other GMWatch links