Farmers' seed options drastically reduced in GM-producing countries
One of the claims made by proponents of GM crops is that GM technology increases farmers' seed choices. They also claim that farmers in countries that restrict GM production have fewer seed options. But recent research shows the opposite — that instead of increasing farmers' choice, the introduction of GM crops has limited farmers' seed options. Angelika Hilbeck, senior scientist at the Institute of Integrative Biology at ETH Zurich (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology), and other researchers analyzed seed catalogs in Spain, Germany, Austria, and Switzerland. They found that in Spain — the largest European country to adopt GM corn — farmers' seed choices declined and increasingly became a choice among GM varieties.
Meanwhile, in Germany, Austria, and Switzerland, which prohibit production of GM corn, farmers have significantly more corn seed varieties available to them now than in the 1990s. In the US the number of non-GM corn seed varieties decreased 67% from 3,226 in 2005 to 1,062 in 2010, while the number of GM corn seed varieties increased 6.7%. Farmers in North and South America have trouble finding non-GM soybean seeds. Ricardo Tatesuzi de Sousa, executive director of ABRANGE (Brazilian Association for the Producers of Non-GM Grains), says thatin Brazil, companies such as Monsanto dictate what seed growers produce and what seed distributors sell to farmers. He refers to a commonly used term — the 85/15 rule, which means that distributors will sell 85% GM seeds and just 15% non-GMO. "This is control of the market," Tatesuzi de Sousa said.
Initiatives on several continents focus on increasing supplies of non-GM seed in response to farmer and consumer demand. Read more.
Who does Jane Goodall despise most?
Jane Goodall, primatologist, ethologist, anthropologist, and UN Messenger of Peace, in answer to the question, "Which living person do you most despise, and why?":
"The agricultural company Monsanto, because I know too much about GM organisms and crops."
US farmers may stop planting GM crops after poor global yields
Some US farmers are considering returning to conventional seed after increased pest resistance and crop failures meant GM crops saw smaller yields globally than their non-GM counterparts, reports Farmers Weekly. Farmers in the USA pay about an extra $100 per acre for GM seed, and many are questioning whether they will continue to see benefits from using GMOs. "It's all about cost benefit analysis," said economist Dan Basse, president of American agricultural research company AgResource. "Farmers are paying extra for the technology but have seen yields which are no better than 10 years ago. They're starting to wonder why they're spending extra money on the technology." Read more
More evidence that GM crops do not have higher yields
In a study funded by the US Department of Agriculture, University of Wisconsin researchers compared crop yields from various varieties of hybrid corn, some GM and some not, between 1990 and 2010. While some GM varieties delivered small yield gains, others did not. Several showed lower yields than non-GM counterparts. With the exception of one commonly used trait — a Bt type designed to kill the European corn borer — the authors conclude, "we were surprised not to find strongly positive transgenic yield effects." Both the glyphosate-tolerant (Roundup Ready) and the Bt trait for corn rootworm caused yields to drop. Read more.
Monsanto sued farmers to protect patents — report
Monsanto has sued hundreds of small farmers in the US in recent years in attempts to protect its patent rights on its GM seeds that it produces and sells, a new report says. The report by the Center for Food Safety and Save Our Seeds outlines what it says is a concerted effort by the multinational to dominate the seeds industry in the US and prevent farmers from replanting crops they have produced from Monsanto seeds. The CFS says it tracked numerous lawsuits that Monsanto had brought against farmers and found some 142 patent infringement suits against 410 farmers and 56 small businesses in more than 27 states. In total the firm has won more than $23m from its targets. Read more
What ISAAA left out of its rose-tinted GM survey
The lobby group ISAAA has released its annual report of the status of GM crops. As usual, the report claims remarkable increases in GM plantings around the world. But GM Freeze describes it as "rose-tinted", saying it fails to describe the growing opposition and problems with GM crops. GM crops still occupy a tiny percentage of global farmland (3.4% of all farmed land) and are grown by a small minority of farmers (17.3 million out of a total 513 million: 3.4%). One less country grew GM crops in 2012 compared to 2011 (28 down from 29). In the US expansion slowed to less than a 1% increase in 2012, as farmers struggled with glyphosate-resistant weeds and growing pest resistance to Bt crops. Read more
Mariam Mayet, director of the African Centre for Biosafety (ACB), says of ISAAA's figures for South Africa: "The ISAAA, in its desperate attempt to bolster the popularity of GM crops in the media, has overestimated the spread of GM crops in SA by a staggering 400%! Read more
Food can seriously damage your health
The horsemeat scandal is just the tip of the iceberg, as consumers don't know what's in their food, says an article in the Belgian newspaper De Morgen. More and more food contains residues of herbicides linked in studies with birth defects and cancer, such as Roundup. Farmers like the Danish pig farmer Ib Borup Pedersen have seen the health of their animals decline after being fed GM feed. Yet the European Food Safety Authority dismissed Seralini's GM maize and Roundup study — as it does with many independent studies that show risks from industry's products. This is not surprising, as conflicts of interest with industry persist on EFSA's expert panels. The EU is considering 19 GM crops for cultivation in Europe and 13 of those are glyphosate-resistant. Read more
Exposé of French Academys' hatchet job on Seralini study
A small lobby within the French Academy of Sciences conspired to produce a rushed attack on Prof Gilles-Eric's study, which found increased organ damage, cancer, and premature death in rats fed a Monsanto GM maize and the Roundup herbicide it is engineered to tolerate. Paul Deheuvels, eminent statistician and member of the French Academy of Sciences, says he was not consulted — and he's angry. He says the Academy's statement was equivalent to an arbitrary act of state and that its main criticisms of the study were "ridiculous" and examples of "rash judgement, with no solid foundation". Deheuvels has examined Seralini's study and the raw data on the tumour findings, and says it's clear that there's a problem with GM maize and Roundup.
Deheuvels concludes, "This case shows the pressures that are applied to manipulate the Academy, and to transform it into a lobbying tool... It is no longer the science that speaks, but the wallet!" Read more
Roundup more toxic than glyphosate
The most toxic substance in Roundup herbicide is not glyphosate, the substance that is tested and assessed in regulatory authorisations, but a compound not always listed on the label, called POE-15. This is the finding of a new in vitro study on human cells by Robin Mesnage, Benoit Bernay and Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini, from the University of Caen, France. The study shows that glyphosate-based herbicides tested are more toxic than glyphosate alone. Thus regulatory assessments and the maximum residue levels authorized in the environment, food, and feed, are erroneous. Read more
Flawed new European GMO Regulation passed
A new Regulation laying out how risk assessments for GM food and feed will be carried out was voted into law on 25 February in the European Commission's Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health. The new law was developed in an untransparent system known as comitology. As far as we can tell from an early draft and unofficial reports, the new law contains improvements over the current system but also serious flaws. Nevertheless, if it were applied properly, it would create problems for the 93 GMO application dossiers in the approval pipeline, which do not meet the requirements of even this lax law. So EU governments have come to the rescue of the GM companies by deciding not to apply the law to the 93 GMOs in the pipeline! Read more
EU-US trade deal may dismantle EU health protections
A proposed EU-US free trade deal threatens to dismantle Europe's public health protections on GMOs and hormone-treated animal products because it will be illegal for Europe to have stronger protections in place than the US. The deal will be hammered out behind closed doors, very likely at the expense of consumers. Read more.
Is the hidden viral gene safe?
Following reports that a transgenic viral gene, Gene VI, has been newly identified in commercialized GM crops and foods, scientists Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson explain why public statements by EFSA and FSANZ are misleading and do not address the biosafety concerns raised by Gene VI. Read more.
Brazilian farmers oppose Monsanto deal in royalties dispute
In April 2012, a court in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil suspended the collection of royalties on GM soy seeds by Monsanto as a result of a lawsuit brought by farmers' groups. The judgement also provided for the reimbursement of royalties paid in previous years, which were ruled to have been illegally collected by Monsanto. According to a lawyer for the farmers associations, the claim lodged could lead to Monsanto having to reimburse up to five million farmers in Brazil to the tune of about 6.2 billion euros.
Monsanto has now come up with a proposed agreement to try to buy off the farmers. But lawyers for the farmers association FAMATO point to reasons why the proposed agreement is a bad deal for farmers. The lawyers note that under the terms of the Monsanto deal, farmers in the state of Mato Grosso alone will forgo the equivalent of 163 million Euro, because "It is clear that the last Roundup Ready patent of Monsanto expired in 2010". Read more
Monsanto suspends Roundup Ready royalties in Brazil
Monsanto says it will hold off collecting royalties on its GM Roundup Ready soybean technology in Brazil until a patent dispute is resolved in the local courts. Recently Brazil's Upper Tribunal of Justice rejected Monsanto's request to extend its patent on its RR1 technology until 2014. Monsanto says it will appeal, which will put the case before Brazil's Supreme Court. Read more.