MONTHLY REVIEW JULY 2005
from Claire Robinson, editor
+ AFRICANS NEED SAFE FOOD AND CLEAN WATER - NOT GMOs
Amadou Kanoute, Director of Consumers International Regional Office for Africa, spoke in Edinburgh on 6 July about debt relief and foreign aid, and attended the G8 in Gleneagles (7-8 July). He says: "Some companies and governments are trying to promote GM as a miracle solution to world hunger. But the long-term effects of GMOs on human health and the environment are unknown. African consumers need basics like access to clean water and safe food - not GMOs."
+ G8 CREATES "DISASTER FOR THE WORLD'S POOR
Responding to the outcome of the G8 summit, World Development Movement (WDM) Head of Policy, Peter Hardstaff said:
"”¦ The deals on debt and aid fall way short of what is needed to achieve global poverty reduction targets and on trade it's business as usual as the G8 attempt to bulldoze more liberalisation out of the poor. These tiny sums of money are nothing more than a sticking plaster over the deep wounds the G8 are inflicting by forcing failed economic policies such as privatisation, free trade and corporate deregulation, on Africa."
+ WAMBUGU'S 'AFRICA HARVEST' GETS $16.9 MILLION
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is to pour $16.9 million into a consortium headed by Africa Harvest, of which Florence Wambugu is the CEO. The consortium includes Pioneer Hi-Bred International, a subsidiary of DuPont.
One African activist commented, "These guys really know how to waste money!" Wambugu previously headed the disastrous Monsanto GM virus-resistant sweet potato project. Three years of field trials showed the project, which has cost over $6 million, to be a total failure, delivering lower yields than conventional crops and no virus resistance!
+ AFRICA NEEDS NON-GM AGRICULTURE
In a typically incisive article, Dr Colin Tudge, Research Fellow at the London School of Economics, spells out why Africa can only flourish by building on traditional agriculture.
EXCERPT: The notion that [African countries] actually need GMOs to provide sufficient yields is simply a misunderstanding, or a straightforward lie... their introduction suppresses local production and increases the dependency of poor countries on those who supply the new technologies. The argument in favour of GMOs, supported not least by Tony Blair, rests on the assumption that they are necessary. If they are not needed, there is no point in taking any risk at all.
+ GHANA STOPS IMPORTATION OF GM FOODS
Ghana's Food and Agriculture minister Ernest Debrah said that the country would reject, without hesitation, the importation of any GM foods, crops and materials into the country.
+ BT AND ORGANIC COTTON IN AFRICA
Paul Desmarais, director of the Kasisi Agricultural Training Centre in Zambia, reports: "We have successfully grown organic cotton for two years now at Kasisi. We have good control of insects and there is not resistance built in the system as there is even with Bt cotton. Our yields are double the national yields.
"Farmers using the conventional route are barely ekeing out an existence with the price of cotton dropping and the price of inputs climbing up. We have just had the seed cotton tested for fibre length, micronair, etc. and our cotton did very well on all the scores. Let us pursue the growing of organic cotton. It is possible and it is sustainable."
Meanwhile, Andrew Taynton reports: "There are allegations circulating in South Africa at the moment that where NGO's have taught organic and sustainable methods of farming, government officials come in and tell these farmers they will never make money that way and distribute chemicals and GM seeds."
+ US PROMOTING GM IN AFRICA
For an interesting commentary + links on how the US is pushing Africa to accept GM on American terms:
+ U.S. BRINGS GMOs AND NUKES TO INDIA
In a new US-India move to increase scientific cooperation, the US has pledged to provide India with nuclear reactors and materials and technology to deal with crop pests and diseases and food storage problems. That translates as GMOs.
+ INDIA: GOVT STUDY SHOWS GM COTTON FAULTS
Indian government scientists have acknowledged flaws in the GM Bt cotton plants under commercial cultivation, endorsing what NGOs have long claimed and contradicting Monsanto's hype.
In a study released 25 July, scientists at the Central Institute of Cotton Research (CICR), Nagpur said the amount of protein varies across different varieties and, in some plants, decreases to levels inadequate to protect the plants 110 days after sowing.
Their experiments also revealed that production of the protein is lowest in the bollworms' most favoured sites of attack - the plants' ovaries found in the flowers and the thick green peel of the cotton boll from which cotton blooms.
Because the findings have been kept under wraps and apparently not passed on to regulators, a series of fresh releases of Bt cotton in India have been made possible.
One of the researchers at the CICR commented, "The decline in resistant power means that the farmer has to apply more chemical pesticides to save his crop. Already, the cost of Bt cotton seeds are high and added to this, he incurs additional costs on pesticides. Eventually, he lands up in heavy debts."
+ BT COTTON PROBLEM FOUND IN CHINA AND U.S. TOO
The recent research from India's Central Institute of Cotton Research showing the Bt protein in GM cotton is not always enough to kill insects has been presented in some quarters as a problem that is peculiar to Bt cotton in India.
But in fact, the Indian research on Bt cotton isn't the only one to show these Bt expression problems - it is confirmed by a recent Chinese study and a recent US study.
The US study even suggests a mechanism (poor expression of the Bt toxin in tissue with low levels of chlorophyll) which indicates a systemic problem with Bt cotton. All of which suggests this problem is not just something limited to Indian varieties or to growing conditions in India.
See abstracts of the Chinese and US studies at http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5566
+ SOLUTION TO FAILING GM CROPS - MORE GM!
It would be a mistake to think that in the wake of the latest research showing Bt cotton is ineffective and potentially disastrous for farmers, India's scientific establishment are about to provide the politicians with the wake-up call they so badly need. Far from drawing the obvious lesson that it is time to withdraw from a discredited technology, the research results are being spun as showing the need to go still further and faster along the same path in the hope of finding a way out!
Looming and ineffectual Bt resistance is the result of gene monoculture, scientists now claim, pointing to a need for stacked genes and a diverse use of genes in GM crops. And, guess what? Here come Monsanto and Syngenta, amongst others, with exactly those kinds of products.
+ MONSANTO BRINGS ON THE DANCING GIRLS
Forget science. Monsanto's Indian subsidiary Monsanto-Mahyco has been hyping GM seeds to India's poor farmers as magical, as celebrity-endorsed and now, as sexy!
This spring in the Punjab, where GM cotton varieties have recently been approved for the first time, the company hired Bollywood star Nana Patekar to give glamour to its products. It also made use of Guru Nanak in its sales pitch to the state's Sikh farmers in order to try and give its seeds a miraculous aura. And now it has emerged that the company even resorted to using dancing girls in its promotional tours of Punjabi villages.
+ CORPORATE AGRIBIZ AND THE DESTABLIZATION OF FARMING
An article for CounterPunch explains how corporations destabilize traditional farming, leaving farmers with only one option: to use its own harmful and expensive products. This tactic has been used in the Philippines and is now being implemented in Iraq.
+ THAILAND'S GM PAPAYAS FOUND UNSAFE
GM papaya seeds used in in experimental field trials by the agricultural research station in Khon Kaen contain the tetracycline antibiotic-resistant gene, recognised as an unsafe GM marker gene by various international food safety organisations, said Greenpeace South East Asia.
+ EUROPEAN AND ASIAN CONSUMERS MAY BE EATING THAI GM PAPAYA
Greenpeace activists on 7 July dumped thousands of papayas at the offices of Thailand's Department of Agriculture, Bangkok in a protest against the government's disregard for consumer and environmental protection from threats caused by the spread of illegal GM papaya in Thailand. The threat also concerns many European countries that import papaya from Thailand; it is possible that GM contaminated papaya is already on European markets.
+ PHILIPPINES: BIOLOGICAL CONTROLS BETTER THAN BT CORN
While Bt corn is meant to address the perennial problem of corn borer, it appears to be an expensive remedy. The National Crop Protection Center has been developing biological controls against the corn borer and other pests. These biological control agents are not only much cheaper but environment-friendly. And it is a local technology.
Greenpeace reports that "the corn borer has been reduced to the status of a secondary pest [in Cagayan Valley] because of the success of the Department of Agriculture's Trichogramma program, which has reached about 60-70 percent of corn farmers in [Cagayan Valley]." The occurrence of corn borer in Isabela has reportedly been reduced by 80 percent to 85 percent. Trichogramma is a wasp that attacks the eggs of moths and butterflies.
+ JAPAN FINDS 6th CONTAMINATED CARGO
Japan has discovered a sixth cargo of US feed grain containing Syngenta's unapproved GM corn (Bt10) and refused to accept it. It is now looking for other corn supplies than those coming from the US.
+ BUMPER RICE HARVESTS IN NEPAL - WITHOUT GM
Rice farmers in eastern Nepal are reaping bumper paddy harvests from fewer seeds - without GM. A normal mansuli variety of local seed is used. Only the method of cultivation is different: instead of waiting six weeks, the seedlings are transplanted when they are only two weeks old. The field doesn't have to be flooded, in fact it needs to be drained of excess water. The seeds are planted farther apart so that while a normal paddy field needs 50 kg of seed per hectare, the new method uses less than 10 kg. And the harvest? It is more than double.
+ CHINA: EMINENT SCIENTIST BEHIND ILLEGAL GM RICE?
According to an article in the South China Morning Post, "Mainland farmers are continuing to grow GM rice against both Chinese law and the advice of concerned critics, due in part to the efforts of an eminent scientist."
The article indicates collusion between GM scientists and a commercial company to sell farmers GM seeds without informing them that the seeds were GM or that it was illegal to plant them. This apparently started five years ago and the man at the centre of the scandal is Zhang Qifa, described as "China's leading biotechnology scientist".
Testing has shown that the GM traits in the illegally grown rice, which has been found being sold in markets across China, are identical to those researched by Zhang. Zhang has used the cultivation and consumption of the GM rice as the basis of a claim for its safety!
If Zhang was behind this illegal proliferation of GM rice, what could be his motivation?
According to the article, Professor Zhang's national plant gene centre has received major funding from the Ministry of Science and Technology. This scale of investment, according to James Keeley, a British researcher studying China's biotech policy, "puts pressure on scientists" to make sure their products are used - otherwise, spending on biotech research could dry up.
Scientists quoted in the article suggest that some scientists are deliberately colluding in the illegal proliferation of unapproved GM seeds in order to force governments to approve them. This strategy has proven effective as a means of forcing GM legalisation in countries including India and Brazil.
+ CHINA: CARREFOUR SELLS ILLEGAL GM RICE, SAYS GREENPEACE
Greenpeace said it had found GM rice not approved for human consumption (see above item) on sale at a Carrefour supermarket in Hubei province, central China. This rice produced allergic reactions when tested on mice.
+ MONSANTO'S NEW INVENTION: THE PIG!
Monsanto has filed several patents on breeding herds of pigs! If these patents are granted, Monsanto can legally prevent breeders and farmers from breeding pigs whose characteristics are described in the patent claims, or force them to pay royalties.
+ SCIENTISTS BLASE ON TERROR
Scientists in the UK are failing to consider potential terror threats resulting from their work and dismissing warnings about bio-weapons, new research reveals. Interviews with more than 600 life scientists from 26 universities indicated that the majority of academics believe that terrorism is not their problem.
+ A SUMMER OF CORRUPT SCIENCE
Links to numerous articles on this subject at
22/7/2005 Honest Science Under Siege
"We have merely scratched the surface here. The corruption of the scientific enterprise has proceeded very far. In some areas of scientific endeavor, there are almost no independent researchers left because nearly every scientist in the field is funded by corporations with an axe to grind."
+ GM CROPS INVOLVED IN STEEP DECLINES OF BUTTERFLIES
For five years, butterfly watchers have reported steep declines in the population of all butterflies. Counts of monarch butterflies, which migrate north from Mexico in the spring, have been especially low - about 75 percent of historic averages.
One threat to butterflies involves GM crops. A type of corn grown throughout the Midwest contains a gene poisonous to moths and butterflies, which spreads via pollen to the monarchs' food plants. A GM soybean plant, sometimes grown in Florida, contains a gene that resists herbicide - allowing farmers to spray tons of it without risk. This kills the plants that butterflies and caterpillars feed on.
+ MONSANTO TO GET ROYALTIES FOR CONTAMINATION
If Monsanto's genes contaminate Brazilian farmers' soybeans over 2%, the farmers will have to pay royalties on the whole crop, says Rita Froes of IQS-Genlab. This is a blank cheque to Monsanto as their test can detect contamination to 0.5% and contamination will not be able to be avoided (particularly as farmers are supposed to tolerate 0.5% contamination in non-GM seed).
+ BRAZIL'S POLLITICIANS BRIBED TO PASS MONSANTO LAW
In the 2003 elections Brazil's president Lula pledged to keep his country GM-free. For those who've been wondering how he ended up releasing GM crops and then gaining sufficient political support to pass Brazil's now notorious "Monsanto law", new revelations supply an answer.
EXCERPT: [revelations have emerged about] the depth of corruption all parties have been involved in, including the PT [Lula's party]. The rotten smell is still choking all Brazil with anger.
The most despicable revelation was that the mensalao was alive and well. Mensalao is the name given to a weekly bribe the government party pays to opposition parties in order to ensure the government can pass the legislation it wants. Lula apparently used mensalao to pass such anti-worker laws as his superannuation legislation, and allowing genetically modified food to be grown.
+ HELP BRAZIL GET A PROPER BIOSAFETY POLICY
Take action: http://www.lobbywatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=5560
+ HAWAIIANS CHALLENGE ALGAE "BIOPHARMING"
Citizen groups represented by Earthjustice filed a lawsuit in the Circuit Court of the State of Hawaii, against the Board of Agriculture, State of Hawaii, challenging the approval of a permit to allow the production of potentially dangerous GMOs on the Big Island.
The permit allows biotech company Mera Pharmaceutical to import and produce in a state facility in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii Island seven novel strains of "biopharmaceutical" algae genetically modified to produce unapproved experimental drugs.
+ CALIFORNIA TRIES TO OUTLAW LOCAL GM BANS
In California last month, Democratic State Senator Dean Florez introduced an amendment that would remove a community's control over its food supply. The move comes in response to three California counties and two cities that banned the raising of GM crops and livestock. Moreover, the bill, known as SB 1056, takes pre-emptive measures to preclude people from raising concerns about GMOs in the future, depriving the public of any debate.
+ WATCH OUT FOR PEOPLE AGAINST BIOTECH, SAYS FBI
When asked for clues that someone might be interested in engaging in terrorism, Jerry Lyons, an FBI special agent who serves in the weapons of mass destruction countermeasures unit, told a convention of the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation that a potential bioterrorist might strongly oppose the use of GM crops.
+ FIRST US LABELLING LEGISLATION FOR GM FOOD
Alaska has become the first state to give its citizens what 90 percent of Americans want - labels for genetically engineered foods. The Center for Food Safety anticipates that this legislation will be a bellwether for other state efforts to label GM foods. "It's only a matter of time before all states move to fill in the regulatory gap left by the Federal government's failure to require mandatory labeling."
+ BIOPHARM BILL PASSES OREGON SENATE
The Oregon Senate has passed SB 570, the biopharm bill, by a 17-13 count. The bill, introduced by Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, places a four-year moratorium on the growing of biopharmaceutical and industrial crops and limits growing to non-food crops grown indoors. The Oregon bill won't have time to go all the way, unlike the Alaska one (above), but the issue's visibility has now risen to the point where Oregon's governor has asked for a task force to study the issue and make recommendations for a new policy.
+ VENTRIA PLANTS ITS PHARMA RICE IN NORTH CAROLINA
Ventria Bioscience has planted 75 acres of GM pharma rice near Plymouth, North Carolina. Ventria were run out of California, run out of Missouri, and then welcomed with open arms in North Carolina!
+ GOVT OFFICIALS REWARDED FOR LYING, PUNISHED FOR TRUTH
The US federal government suffers from a "severe disinformation syndrome" in which agency specialists are pressured to alter reports by managers who are promoted for breaking the law, according to congressional testimony delivered by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER). As a consequence, scientific and technical papers, particularly within environmental agencies, are routinely censored, altered or manipulated for political purposes.
In one survey of scientists in a federal agency more than half of all respondents (56%) reported cases where "commercial interests have inappropriately induced the reversal or withdrawal of scientific conclusions or decisions through political intervention".
Jeff Ruch, executive director of PEER, said, "On a daily basis, public employees in crisis contact PEER. In our D.C. office alone, we average five 'intakes' per day. A typical intake involves a scientist or other specialist who is asked to shade or distort the truth in order to reach a pre-determined result, such as a favorable recommendation on a project or approval; of commercial release of a new chemical.
+ GERMS GONE WILD
Canada and the US have virtually no special legal or regulatory requirements for the safety of labs that work with GM bacteria and viruses, says an excellent article at
+ QUEBEC TALKS GM LABELLING
The Quebec government is to try to convince other Canadian governments that mandatory labelling for GM foods should be the law in Canada.
+ FARMERS ASK WHY GM CROPS PERFORM WORSE IN DROUGHT
The Network of Concerned Farmers, an Australia-based alliance of farmers with concerns regarding GM crops, is calling for research to determine why GM crops perform worse during droughts.
+ FARMERS SLAM BAYER FOR CONTAMINATION
Farmers are outraged at the report that GM contamination was found in an Australian Barley Board non-GM canola consignment destined for Japan. The GM variety was Bayer's Topas 19/2.
"If Bayer Cropscience think that farmers are going to accept losses in markets or additional costs because of these unwanted GM genes, they can think again," said Julie Newman, National Spokesperson for the Network of Concerned Farmers. "We don't want liability for a product we do not want and do not need, yet farmers sign guarantees that we have no GM in our produce," she explained. "Liability should be on Bayer Cropscience's shoulders, not on farmers."
+ DELIBERATE GM CONTAMINATION IN AUSTRALIA
The Network of Concerned Farmers (NCF) has revealed evidence of deliberate GM canola contamination in New South Wales.
"GM canola is meant to be banned because of the risk to our industry but it was deliberately bought into New South Wales and added to our non-GM canola," explained Juliet McFarlane, NCF spokesperson and farmer.
+ GM CANOLA CREATES "MOUNTAIN" OF CONCERN
Australian canola crushers are fielding a "mountain" of concern from overseas customers since the identification of GM canola in an export shipment, according to Pete Macsmith from Macsmith Milling in New South Wales.
+ GM WHEAT TRIAL FUNDED BY FARMERS?
It has been reported in Australia that GM wheat trials are being funded by the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC), which gets money from compulsory levies on Australian farmers.
+ ASIAN FLOUR MILLS DON'T WANT AUSTRALIAN GM WHEAT
Asian flour mills say they are unlikely to buy Australian GM wheat because it would affect their ability to sell to their markets, yet GM contamination of wheat in Australia ia a real possibility because of ongoing GM wheat trials.
+ GM MAIZE FOUND GROWING IN NZ
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) officials are trying to work out how a big maize consignment has tested positive for GM seed. The maize - all grown for food in one region of New Zealand - was tested by a food manufacturer.
No GM maize has been approved for commercial crops in New Zealand. But this is about the sixth such incident in the past three years, according to a MAF official. Around 13,500 tonnes of maize may have to be dumped.
+ GOVT STUDY FINDS UK's FIRST SUPERWEED
New UK government research, revealed 25 July, reports on the discovery of the first GM superweed in the UK - the result of GM oilseed rape cross-breeding with a common weed, charlock, during the UK's GM farm scale trials.
The revelation raises yet more concerns about the impact of growing GM oilseed rape in the UK. It also comes less than a month after the UK tried to persuade other European countries to lift their own bans on growing GM oilseed rape. The UK government claimed to be acting on scientific grounds but it now seems it was already aware of this study at the time of the votes. The UK's Environment Minister was the only Minister to vote against all of Europe's GM bans.
What has given this news particular impact is that scientists had dismissed this problem as virtually impossible.
+ BAYER WITHDRAWS GM OILSEED RAPE IN EU
Bayer has withdrawn its applications to grow GM oilseed rape in the EU. The move comes as public calls for GM-free zones spreads across Europe and follows a series of research findings which have uncovered environmental damage resulting from the GM crop being grown.
+ NEW EU MORATORIUM ON GM CULTIVATION
The EU Environment Commissioner has blocked all new applications for growing GM crops in Europe. Stavros Dimas has ordered all to be halted until the issues of co-existence and the contamination of seeds are addressed at a European level. The new moratorium is likely to be a big set back for the biotech companies; they were hoping this year would see the first approval to grow GM crops for seven years.
+ ORGANIC FARMING YIELDS SAME AS CONVENTIONAL BUT USES LESS ENERGY, NO PESTICIDES
Organic farming produces the same yields of corn and soybeans as does conventional farming, but uses 30 percent less energy, less water and no pesticides, a 22-year farming trial study concludes.
David Pimentel, a Cornell University professor of ecology and agriculture, is the lead author of a study published in the July issue of Bioscience, analyzing the environmental, energy and economic costs and benefits of growing soybeans and corn organically versus conventionally. The study is a review of the Rodale Institute Farming Systems Trial, the longest running comparison of organic vs. conventional farming in the United States.
Although organic corn yields were about one-third lower during the first four years of the study, over time the organic systems produced higher yields, especially under drought conditions. The reason was that wind and water erosion degraded the soil on the conventional farm while the soil on the organic farms steadily improved in organic matter, moisture, microbial activity and other soil quality indicators.
+ NEW WAY TO INHERIT ENVIRONMENTAL HARM
New research shows that the environment is more important to health than anyone had imagined. Recent information indicates that toxic effects on health can be inherited by children and grandchildren, even when there are no genetic mutations involved. These inherited changes are caused by subtle chemical influences, and this new field of scientific inquiry is called "epigenetics."
In other words, the cancer you get today may have been caused by your grandmother's exposure to an industrial poison 50 years ago, even though your grandmother's genes were not changed by the exposure.
- Tim Montague, Rachel's Environment & Health News, June 9 2005