GMWatch News Review archive
MONTHLY REVIEW No. 101
GMWATCH MONTHLY REVIEW No. 101
Many thanks to all our friends and supporters who have donated in recent weeks. We promise to make good use of your donations in 2012. For those who have been meaning to donate, please go to: http://www.gmwatch.org/donations
Claire Robinson, Monthly Review editor
FEEDING THE WORLD
REST OF THE MONTH'S NEW IN BRIEF
+ TRADITIONAL PLANT BREEDING OUTPERFORMS GM ON YIELD
+ USDA SCIENTIST REVEALS HAZARDS OF GLYPHOSATE
Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University and USDA senior scientist, delivered to the UK Houses of Parliament a damning indictment of glyphosate agriculture as a most serious threat to the environment, livestock, and human health.
+ NOW GLYPHOSATE FOUND IN CITY-DWELLERS' URINE
A German university study has found significant concentrations of glyphosate in the urine samples of city dwellers. All had concentrations of glyphosate at 5 to 20-fold the limit for drinking water. News of this study comes not long after the publication of a study confirming glyphosate was contaminating groundwater. Last year also saw the publication of two US Geological Survey studies which consistently found glyphosate in streams, rain and even air in agricultural areas of the US. Other recent studies indicate that people may not only be absorbing glyphosate from multiple sources but that it can circulate in the blood and can even cross the placental barrier and so reach the developing foetus.
+ INDIA: SUPER CROP OR SUPER FLOP?
In spite of countless tales of Bt cotton failure, India's government is pushing ahead with the BRAI bill, which would fast-track GM approvals and supress the free flow of information.
+ GOLDEN LIES: THE GOLDEN RICE PROJECT
Golden Rice may soon be placed on the market after more than ten years of development. But it is still highly questionable if this rice really can help defeat vitamin A deficiency, according to a new Testbiotech report. Problems include:
*No feeding trials have investigated health risks. Nevertheless, the rice has already been fed to children in China.
*Long term ecological risks have not been examined.
*Data on the stability of the carotenoids are missing.
*Data on bioavailability are lacking. Therefore it cannot be predicted how efficiently the carotenoids in the rice can be used by the human body to meet its need for a supply of vitamin A.
+ QUESTIONS OVER REPORTING OF GM FEEDING TRIAL
Under the headline "Genetically Modified Food Safe, Animal Study Suggests", Science Daily reports on how "no adverse health effects" were found in 3 feeding studies on pigs fed GM maize. But one of the studies – the short-term (31 day) one – has just been published and there the researchers note a number of differences in the pigs fed on Monsanto's Bt maize, including a lower feed conversion ratio and intestinal changes. The authors of the paper then claim that there were "no adverse effects" even though their abstract states that the significance of the differences requires further clarification!
+ GM CROPS UNDERMINE SUSTAINABLE AG – NEW STUDY
An article published in the journal BioScience documents not only the current state of glyphosate resistant weeds, but also ties the development of GM herbicide resistant crops, especially 2,4-D and dicamba resistant crops, to the decline of sustainable weed management and sustainable agriculture. As the BioScience piece puts it, "This technology will allow these herbicides to be used over vastly expanded areas and will likely create three interrelated challenges for sustainable weed management. First, crops with stacked herbicide resistance are likely to increase the severity of resistant weeds. Second, these crops will facilitate a significant increase in herbicide use, with potential negative consequences for environmental quality. Finally, the short-term fix provided by the new traits will encourage continued neglect of public research and extension in integrated weed management."
+ VICTORY FOR GM OPPONENTS AS BASF MOVES ITS GM DIVISION OUT OF EUROPE
BASF is moving its GM division out of Europe because "there is still a lack of acceptance for this technology in many parts of Europe – from the majority of consumers, farmers and politicians". Those are the words of Stefan Marcinowski, BASF Board member, who added, "We have no chance of a successful commercialisation of GM plants in Europe."
BASF's HQ will relocate to North Carolina in the US. BASF says development and commercialisation of all GM crops targeted solely at cultivation in the European market will be halted: "These include genetically modified starch potatoes (Amflora, Amadea and Modena), a potato resistant to the disease late blight called Fortuna as well as a late blight resistant starch potato and a wheat variety resistant to fungal disease."
However, BASF is still planning to hold GM field trials in three different European countries in 2012. In response to an enquiry about what would happen to any ongoing field trials, BASF said they are planning trials of a GM potato in Sweden, the Netherlands and in Germany.
Ignacio Chapela on BASF's exit from Europe:
BASF's retreat follows string of defeats:
+ DALLI: "I NEVER FAVOURED GM INDUSTRY"
European health commissioner John Dalli, who in 2010 lifted a 13-year ban on BASF's Amflora GM potato, said he never "favoured the GM industry" and claimed he has been "highly critical of the industry".
+ MONSANTO WON'T SELL ITS GM MAIZE IN FRANCE
Monsanto said it does not plan to sell its GM maize MON810 in France, even though the country's highest court overturned a 3-year ban in November. "Monsanto considers that favorable conditions for the sale of the MON810 in France in 2012 and beyond are not in place," the company said. The French government said earlier this month it would uphold its ban on the insect-resistant strain of maize, despite the court's decision to annul the ban.
+ MONSANTO OCCUPIED IN FRANCE
Protesting beekeepers and others invaded a Monsanto plant in Trebes in southern France to stop GM maize seed being distributed.
+ MONSANTO TARGETED IN CAMBRIDGE PROTEST
Protesters from the Occupy movement staged a "flash protest" outside Monsanto's UK headquarters in Cambridge.
+ OCCUPY PTOTESTERS TAKE ON MONSANTO IN HAWAII
A week of Occupy Wall Street Maui events kicked off with the establishment of an encampment near Monsanto's offices. A series of marches, rallies and vigils were held to express concerns over herbicide use, production of GMO products, and impacts on small farmers.
+ PROTESTERS OCCUPY MONSANTO OUTSIDE SASKATOON,CANADA
+ MONSANTO ATTEMPTS TO LOCKOUT SOCIALLY RESPONSIBLE SHAREHOLDER
Monsanto initially refused to allow a spokesperson for socially responsible investment firm Harrington Investments to speak at its annual shareholders' meeting in St Louis on behalf of a resolution to create a study of "material financial risks or operational impacts" associated with its chemical products and GMOs.
See the pictures on Facebook from the protests around Monsanto's annual shareholders' meeting:
+ FROM THE ARCHIVES: RESISTANCE AND COUNTER-TERROR IN ST LOUIS
In 2003 St Louis hosted the agribusiness-friendly World Agricultural Forum, prompting activists and scholars to plan a "Biodevastation" counter-conference across town. Advised by the FBI Counter-terrorism office, which had been egged on by Monsanto, city police arrested and detained would-be conference participants on charges later admitted to be baseless. The police arrested and detained members of an anti-GM group for bicycling without a license (a non-existent offence). Police also forced their way into a house where conferees were staying, claimed a box of roofing nails to be a weapon, slashed bicycle tires, removed artwork, submitted a woman to a strip search, urinated on the inhabitants' clothing, and made arrests for inhabiting a condemned building (which had just been condemned by an inspector who came with the police!).
+ USDA GREENLIGHTS UTTERLY USELESS GM CORN
The USDA has deregulated Monsanto's so-called drought-tolerant GM corn. The trouble is, as Tom Philpott points out, that it doesn't work very well. The USDA acknowledged as much in its environmental assessment of the crop. It makes clear that the product's "drought tolerance" extends only to "moderate" drought conditions, and it has the same "minimum water requirements" as conventional corn. And then it drops this bombshell, citing Monsanto's own field tests: "It is prudent to acknowledge that the reduced yield-loss phenotype of MON 87360 does not exceed the natural variation observed in regionally-adapted varieties of conventional corn (representing different genetic backgrounds)." Translation: In areas of the US corn belt where drought is a factor, conventional breeders have already developed varieties that do just as well.
+ THE MOTHER OF ALL HERBICIDE MARKETING PLANS
The USDA is preparing to deregulate Dow's corn that is genetically engineered to resist the highly toxic herbicide 2,4-D. The move will mark the beginning of at least another decade of ramped-up chemical-intensive farming of a few chosen crops (corn, soy, cotton), beholden to a handful of large agrichemical firms working in cahoots to sell ever-larger quantities of poisons, writes Tom Philpott in Mother Jones.
FEEDING THE WORLD
+ RESEARCH AGROECOLOGY, NOT GM
70 per cent of the global population eats local food grown and harvested mainly by small-scale farmers, gardeners, livestock keepers and artisanal fishers – and they do this mostly without recourse to proprietary chemicals and seeds, write Patrick Mulvany of Practical Action. So agricultural scientists should work with farmers to produce more ecological and healthier food – not GM, says Mulvany in a must read article.
+ PUSHING BACK AGAINST GATES PROPAGANDA FOR GM
The Center for Food Safety (CFS) has criticised the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation over its announcement that it has invested nearly $2 billion in a campaign to fund the development of GM crops in an attempt to address global hunger. "The biotech industry has exploited the image of the world's poor and hungry to advance a form of agriculture that is expensive, input-intensive, and of little or no relevance to developing country farmers," said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for CFS. "It's long past time that the Gates Foundation redirect its investments in biotech companies like Monsanto, and its funding of dead-end GE crop projects, to promote agroecological techniques with a proven record of increasing food production in developing countries."
+ THE GREED REVOLUTION – NEW REPORT
A new report that documents the growing influence of agribusiness on the food system and the lack of transparency in research funding has been released by ETC Group. The Greed Revolution: Mega Foundations, Agribusiness Muscle In On Public Goods presents three case studies – one involving the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and two involving CGIAR Centers, which point to a dangerous trend that will worsen rather than solve the problem of global hunger. The report details the involvement of Nestle, Heineken, Monsanto, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and Syngenta Foundation. "It is unacceptable that the UN is giving multinational agribusiness privileged access to alter their agricultural policies," said Pat Mooney, executive director of ETC Group.
Download the new report here:
+ BAYER AND THE HOLOCAUST
Friday 27 January was Holocaust Memorial Day. Yet many people remain unaware of the key role of companies like Bayer and BASF in Hitler's crimes, including the holocaust. Their role was so critical that it led the Chief Prosecutor at Nuremburg to warn: "These companies, not the lunatic Nazi fanatics, are the main war criminals. If the guilt of these criminals is not brought to daylight and if they are not punished, they will pose a much greater threat to the future peace of the world than Hitler if he were still alive." But despite the enormity of their crimes, their guilt has remained largely hidden and by the early 1950s a number of those convicted of slavery, looting and mass murder were already back at the helm of Bayer, Hoechst and BASF – companies that were still owned and led by the very people who had helped Hitler to power and provided the technical know-how for his wars of aggression and the holocaust.
+ ARGENTINA SAYS MONSANTO CONTRACTOR ABUSES WORKERS
Argentina's tax agency has raided a Monsanto contractor and found what it calls slave-like conditions among workers in its cornfields. The AFIP tax agency says Rural Power SA hired all its farmhands illegally, prevented them from leaving the fields and withheld their salaries. AFIP says it holds Monsanto responsible.
+ SIGN PETITION TO PROTECT ACADEMIC STANDARDS FROM MONSANTO-LINKED PROPAGANDA
Oxford University Press in 2010 released Food Politics: What Everyone Needs to Know, by Professor Robert Paarlberg, a work that fails to meet minimal scholarly standards, i.e. those required of students even at the undergraduate level. Moreover, Oxford University Press misleadingly cast this book ‚ÄÃ® via the choice of subtitle, as well as in promotional copy – as an overview rising above "polarized" and "conflicting claims and accusations from advocates". Yet this work is in fact strongly partisan, as would be expected from its author's links to Monsanto.
Sign petition asking OUP to uphold academic standards: http://scholarlystandardsatrisk.wordpress.com/
+ WWF EXPOSE BLACKED OUT BY LEGAL THREAT
GMWatch subscribers in Germany have been wondering why they can't see the award-winning film-maker Wilfried Huismann's documentary on WWF, The Silence of the Pandas (German original: Der Pakt mit dem Panda). The film goes into devastating detail about WWF's support for dodgy corporate activities like the Round Table on Responsible Soy, which greenwashes Roundup-drenched soy as "responsible". But residents of Germany who have tried to view the film on Youtube have been blocked from doing so.
Our sources have told us the story behind the blackout. It seems WWF hired a top media law firm to put legal pressure on WDR, the German TV station that broadcast the documentary, not to broadcast the film again and to reach an out-of-court settlement with WWF. It seems the settlement never happened and moves are ongoing to have the film distributed in more countries. It is also legally possible to air the film again in Germany, though it's already been shown there on the country's largest national network during prime time and probably six or more times on state channels. So if German residents who want to see the film still find themselves blocked, they should complain to Youtube.
+ CLASS ACTION LAWSUIT AGAINST GM COMPANY CONAGRA
ConAgra are being sued for calling GM canola "natural". If you feel lied to by a "natural" label on GM food, you can join the suit against the country's largest agribusinesses.
REST OF THE MONTH'S NEWS IN BRIEF
For those who do not receive our GMWatch Review
+ INDIA: KERALA GOVERNMENT SAYS "NO" TO GM
In India, the Kerala state government has told the central government it will not permit any GM crop trials or research in the state.
+ COTTON FOR MY SHROUD – NEW FILM ON BT COTTON AND FARMER SUICIDES
A new award-winning documentary film showing the devastating impact of Bt cotton on farmers has been released in India. "Cotton for my shroud" calls the Bt cotton fiasco a "mass genocide" of farmers carried out by the Indian cotton-producing state of Vidarbha and Monsanto.
+ INDIAN GOVT BRUSHES ASIDE BT COTTON FRAUD
Brushing aside an embarrassing scandal in government-funded Bt cotton research as a one-off case, the agriculture ministry has said it would continue to aggressively push public research in GM. The ministry is hyping a "super Bt cotton" resistant to multiple pests and diseases – that apparently does not yet exist – in a project worth Rs 8,200 crore. Two Bt cotton variants claimed by government scientists as "indigenous technology" were recently found to be based on Monsanto's Bt cotton gene, damaging the credibility of government-funded GM science.
+ MONSANTO IN TROUBLE OVER FALSE ADVERTISING IN INDIA
India's advertising regulator has found that claims made by Monsanto about the benefits of GM Bt cotton are baseless. The company, in a series of newspaper advertisements in August 2011, claimed that GM cotton technology had boosted the income of Indian cotton farmers by over Rs 31,500 crore, by reducing pesticide use and increasing yield. The monetary claim was apparently sourced from reports of GM industry lobby group ISAAA. But the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) found that the monetary claim was unsubstantiated and asked Monsanto to drop it.
Monsanto's shameful record of false advertising:
The corrupting influence of ISAAA
+ PAKISTAN: PUNJAB DROPS MONSANTO BT COTTON PLAN
Punjab, the largest cotton producing province of Pakistan, has decided to drop Monsanto's proposal of a Bt cottonseed deal. Official sources said Bt cotton offers no solution to the biggest threat to cotton in Punjab, a mutated type of cotton leaf curl virus, or to the mealy bug pest. Moreover, they say, differences of opinion exist over the effectiveness of Bt cotton and there are reports of adverse impacts from GM technology.
+ NEW RESEARCH SHOULD NAIL COFFIN LID SHUT ON TOXIC BEE-KILLING PESTICIDE
The Sierra Club has called on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the insecticide clothianidin, based on new evidence of contamination in bees and soil. Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid, a class of pesticides that are highly toxic to bees. A new study has documented major adverse impacts from clothianidin, used as a seed treatment in corn, on honeybee health. The results showed clothianidin present in foraging areas long after treated seed had been planted.
+ BT CORN, INSECTICIDE USE, AND BEES
Those who tout the benefits of GM fail to mention that today virtually all corn seed is treated instead with neonicotinoid insecticides to ward off several corn insects not well controlled by Bt toxins, writes Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman, commenting on the new study (see item above).
+ SUPERWEED SPREADS INTO CANADA
Monsanto has said the bushy plant Kochia is no longer being killed by the company's Roundup in parts of Canada, a sign that resistance is spreading.
+ BEEKEEPERS OCCUPY MONSANTO FRANCE
Earlier this month a one hundred-strong force of beekeepers, anti-GM voluntary reapers and farmers invaded and peacefully occupied premises of Monsanto France to try to stop the sowing of Mon 810 maize this spring.
+ GM MAIZE THREATENS EU WATER
Spanish researchers have confirmed that the weedkiller glyphosate applied to GM crops can leach into groundwater. EU Member States are discussing approving two more controversial GM crops designed to use more of the chemical routinely.
+ LATVIA ON BRINK OF COMPLETE GMO BAN
More than 100 of the 110 municipalities of Latvia have decided that their land will be GM-free by the end of 2012 and Latvia may completely ban cultivation of GMOs nationally before the end of 2012.
+ GM HAS PRODUCED NOTHING OF VALUE TO FEED PEOPLE WELL – EXPERT
One billion out of 7 billion are undernourished, half our fellow creatures are in danger of extinction, the Earth is falling apart before our eyes – and all this is due not to the fecklessness of humanity or the shortcomings of the Earth but to truly destructive strategies imposed from above, writes food and ag expert Dr Colin Tudge in an article for The Guardian.
+ AGROECOLOGY THE ONLY WAY TO FEED THE WORLD – ANOTHER EXPERT
We already produce more food than needed and despite this we have 950 million people hungry, says sustainable development expert Dr Hans Herren: "In India food is rotting in warehouses, yet India has the highest childhood malnutrition rate in the world. The proof that this system does not work is confirmed by the fact that after 20 years of GMOs the global situation has not improved. Why continue and emphasize further a system that is failing to change food security?
+ COMPANY HIDES EVIDENCE THAT ITS GM MOSQUITOES ARE NOT STERILE AS PLANNED
British biotech company Oxitec plans to release GM mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, and also to begin trials of GM diamond-back moths, which eat cabbages, in Britain. But GeneWatch has uncovered evidence from the company's own documents that the GM mosquitoes that Oxitec claimed were "sterile" are, in fact, not sterile and their offspring have a 15 per cent survival rate in the presence of the common antibiotic tetracycline. This antibiotic is widely used in agriculture and is present in sewage as well as in industrially-farmed chicken and other meat.