GM Watch: Top Articles on GMO Food & Crops for June 2009
An summation of the month's GMO news from GM Watch.
July 2, 2009 | Source: GM Watch | by
GM WATCH MONTHLY REVIEW No. 70 =====================================================
MONTHLY REVIEW CONTENTS
RESISTANCE / BANS ON GM
REST OF THE MONTH’S NEWS IN BRIEF
+ SCIENTIFIC CONSENSUS ON GM AN ILLUSION SEED magazine has published a series of articles about the roots of Europe’s supposed “scientific disconnect” over GM crops. The contributors are Pamela Ronald, a pro-GM plant geneticist, Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved, Nina Fedoroff, the pro-GM science and technology adviser to the US Secretary of State, Noel Kingsbury, a pro-GM horticulturalist and writer, and Tom Philpott.
Philpott points out in a well-documented article that no “global scientific consensus has formed around the value of patent-protected transgenic crops, analogous to the general agreement around human-induced climate change”. Unlike many GM critics, Philpott does not skate around the problem of ill health effects of GM foods on lab animals. http://seedmagazine.com/content/article/scientific_flip-flop/#philpott
+ DID THE VATICAN ENDORSE GM CROPS? May’s pro-GM study week at the Vatican’s Pontifical Academy hosted speakers who are all known GM advocates, some with vested interests in the technology. It was no surprise when the official report on the event hyped GM crops as a solution to poverty and hunger in the third world. However, as Fr Sean McDonagh of the Columbans has pointed out, the views of events held at the Pontifical Academy do not represent the views of the Pope, the Vatican, or the Catholic Church.
But the study week has been spun to the media so that the resulting coverage suggests that the Vatican has endorsed GM crops. The Des Moines Register reported that the Vatican “has given a somewhat surprising endorsement of genetically modified crops. A report issued by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences in May 2009, says that genetically modified crops offer food security, better health and environmental sustainability.” New Scientist also claimed that “GM crops were heartily endorsed at a week-long seminar held by the academy (Pontifical Academy of Sciences) in Mid-May. Participants agreed that the crops offer food safety and security, better health and environmental sustainability.” http://tiny.cc/RLsCR http://tiny.cc/miTja
+ ROUNDUP PROVES DEADLY TO HUMAN CELLS Used in yards, farms and parks throughout the world, Roundup has long been a top-selling weedkiller. But now researchers have found that one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.
The new findings intensify a debate about so-called “inerts” – the solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other substances that manufacturers add to pesticides. Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients are approved for use by the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Controversy about the safety of the weedkiller recently erupted in Argentina, one of the world’s largest exporters of soy. An environmental group petitioned Argentina’s Supreme Court, seeking a temporary ban on glyphosate use after an Argentine scientist and local activists reported a high incidence of birth defects and cancers in people living near crop-spraying areas. Scientists there also linked genetic malformations in amphibians to glysophate. In addition, last year in Sweden, a scientific team found that exposure is a risk factor for people developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma. http://www.scientificamerican.com/article.cfm?id=weed-whacking-herbicide-p
+ MONSANTO TO CUT 900 JOBS AS ROUNDUP SALES DECLINE A steep, swift decline in sales of Roundup herbicide is leading Monsanto to eliminate 900 jobs, or about 4 percent of its workforce. The seed giant announced the cuts at the same time as reporting a 14 percent decline in fiscal third-quarter earnings. http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/business/stories.nsf/manufacturingtechnolog y/story/C2501EC67FAE8E8C862575DF0049B6CB?OpenDocument
+ ROUNDUP PROFITS LIKELY TO HALF Monsanto Co will see gross profit from its Roundup herbicide business drop by half to about $US1 billion ($1.58b) annually because of increased competition, the company said. http://www.gisborneherald.co.nz/Default.aspx?s=3&s1=2&id=12481
+ U.S.: MONSANTO MINE VIOLATES LAW Federal regulators say an Idaho mine that Monsanto uses to make Roundup weedkiller has violated federal and state water quality laws almost since it opened, sending selenium and other heavy metals into the region’s streams. The Environmental Protection Agency says problems at the St. Louis-based company’s mine near the Idaho-Wyoming border were documented starting in April 2002, 15 months after it won Bureau of Land Management approval. http://www.idahobusiness.net/archive.htm/2009/06/29/EPA-says-Monsanto-mine-v iolates-law
+ WHY EATING SOYA IS DAMAGING THE PLANET A good article summarizing some of the problems with soy cultivation and consumption – and pointing out the widespread opposition to the WWF/industry initiative, the Round Table on Responsible Soy – is at http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/jun/21/ethical-living-soya
+ WWF AND MONSANTO: IS GM SOYA NOW OK? An incisive article in The Ecologist on the Round Table on Responsible Soy asks of WWF, “Has it gone a step too far in order to appease the multinationals?” http://www.theecologist.org/News/news_analysis/271944/wwf_and_monsanto_is_gm _soy_now_okay.html
RESISTANCE / BANS ON GM
+ U.S. COURT RULES GM ALFALFA CAN CAUSE IRREVERSIBLE HARM The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the planting of GM alfalfa can cause potentially irreversible harm to organic and conventional crops. Monsanto’s petition to rehear was denied in full. “This ruling affirms a major victory for consumers, ranchers, organic farmers, and most conventional farmers across the country [It] is a turning point in the regulation of biotech crops in this country,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. http://usfoodpolicy.blogspot.com/2009/06/court-rules-ge-alfalfa-can-result-i n.html http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/press_rele.cfm
+ EU TO EXAMINE NATIONAL OPT-OUTS FOR GM CROPS Eleven European Union countries have called for the right to opt out of growing GM crops. The countries are Austria, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Slovenia and the Netherlands. No decisions have been taken yet. http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/feedarticle/8569274
+ EFSA BACK IN BED WITH GMO INDUSTRY The supposedly independent European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) shared a key scientific paper, which gives its opinion on the future of a controversial GM crop in Europe, with producer corporation Monsanto before making it accessible to the public, Friends of the Earth Europe revealed.
The European Food Safety Authority today refused to issue the Opinion to Friends of the Earth Europe, saying it would be published in the next few days, but Monsanto had already issued a statement ‘welcoming’ the positive EFSA opinion on its GM.
The scientific opinion concerns Monsanto’s GM maize (MON810), which is undergoing a re-approval request as required under EU law. The authority is believed to have stated that the GM crop is safe to be grown – the same recommendation it has made for all previous GM approvals since it was established.
“EFSA just has no credibility left. This genetically modified maize is the most controversial authorisation issue in Europe at the moment, and to give privileged access to Monsanto over the public, environmental, consumer and health organisations shows just how pro-GMO and pro-industry the Authority is,” Helen Holder, European GM campaign coordinator at Friends of the Earth Europe said. http://www.foeeurope.org/press/2009/Jun30_EFSA_back_in_bed_with_GMO.html
EFSA has now posted the MON810 opinion on its website after coming under pressure from critics and journalists: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1211902628240.htm
+ AUSTRALIA RESEARCH BODY WORKS AGAINST FARMERS Australian farmers are forced to pay the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) almost $80 million/year by a research and development levy on all grain produced. But the farmers do not own the intellectual property they pay for and neither are they given the same 125% tax benefit for R&D that applies to other business enterprises, says a letter published in the press from Julie Newman of the Network of Concerned Farmers. The seeds produced are intended to be GM, with the patents owned by corporations. Thus farmers are subsidizing GM crop development for the likes of Monsanto. Julie points out that GRDC’s strategic plan 2007-2012 is to increase wheat yields by only 1%, which is far less value than farmers’ payments.
+ TRADITIONAL FARMING HAS A BRILLIANT FUTURE – NEWSWEEK In the wake of worldwide rejection of GM, crop scientists, seed companies and clever farmers are using marker assisted selection and traditional breeding to create new and better crops, says an article in Newsweek. The article reports on some non-GM successes (EXCERPT):
Without resorting to GM, researchers at the Brazilian agricultural institute Embrapa are breeding varieties of upland rice that not only ward off pests and increase yield, but also contain up to double the vital minerals (iron, zinc) found in unimproved varieties. They have tripled the amount of vitamin A in corn and boosted iron uptake in wheat. Cimmyt, a wheat- and maize-improvement center in Mexico, is breeding corn for pest resistance that has cut losses to weevils in half. The German biotech company BASF has launched an improved, non-GM strain of corn that resists striga, a weed that ravages African fields, and is working to breed high-yielding commercial strains of wheat that also resist fungus and drought. http://www.newsweek.com/id/204234
REST OF THE MONTH’S NEWS IN BRIEF
+ GM CROPS, POVERTY AND HUNGER – NEW REPORT An important new report by Dominic Glover, published by the UK’s Institute of Development Studies, reviews the literature published in peer reviewed journals on Bt cotton. It concludes: *Bt cotton has had only a marginal impact on pesticide use *Bt cotton has been shown in some studies to have less impact than farmer training *Bt cotton’s impacts are not, as has been claimed, necessarily significant, consistent or even positive. http://www.ids.ac.uk/go/news/gm-crops-and-the-global-food-crisis Dominic Glover’s paper: Undying Promise: Agricultural Biotechnology’s Pro-poor Narrative, Ten Years On: http://www.ids.ac.uk/go/idspublication/undying-promise-agricultural-biotechn olog y-s-pro-poor-narrative-ten-years-on
+ WWF AND ROUND TABLE ON RESPONSIBLE SOY: “YOU’RE STABBING US IN THE BACK” A group of NGOs based in Germany has written a powerful open letter to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) condemning it for participating in the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS), a WWF-industry initiative that attempts to greenwash GM and intensively farmed soy as “responsible”. The RTRS includes Monsanto, Syngenta, Bunge and Cargill on its board. The German original can be found at http://www.bluehende-landschaft.de/nbl/nbl.news/news.nbl.6/index.html In addition, over 90 international organizations signed a statement of opposition to the RTRS: http://www.bangmfood.org/take-action/23-take-action/36-letter-of-critical-op position-to-the-round-table-on-responsible-soy
+ NEW REPORT: “RESPONSIBLE SOY” IN PARAGUAY A new report has been published by Corporate Europe Observatory exposing the reality of “responsible” soy production in Paraguay. http://www.corporateeurope.org/agrofuels/content/2009/05/responsible-soy-par agua y-grupo-dap http://www.lasojamata.org/en
+ GM CROPS – POISONING THE PLANET A damning article detailing the terrible effects of soya expansion in South America, by Miguel A. Altieri, lecturer in agroecology at the University of California, is at http://www.resurgence.org/magazine/article2803-Poisoning-The-Planet.html
+ DOW’S GM SOYA CROP A STEP BACK TO DARK AGES Dow AgroSciences’ request to the regulatory authorities in Brazil to field test a new GM soyabean tolerant to weedkillers 2,4 D and haloxyfop R has been described by GM Freeze as “a step back into the Dark Ages”. 2,4 D was a constituent of Agent Orange – the devastating defoliant produced by Dow and Monsanto and used by the US military during the Vietnam war. http://www.gmfreeze.org/page.asp?id=385&iType=
+ ARGENTINA PRESSED TO BAN GLYPHOSATE AFTER HEALTH CONCERNS Argentina’s government is under pressure to ban glyphosate, the world’s best selling herbicide, after new research found it might harm human health. http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/3d74344c-4be8-11de-b827-00144feabdc0.html
+ NEW STUDY ON ROUNDUP-RESISTANT WEEDS IN ARGENTINA A new paper – ‘Transgenic treadmill’: Responses to the emergence and spread of glyphosate-resistant johnsongrass in Argentina – has been published: http://icta.uab.es/99_recursos/1241769532578.pdf
+ GROWING PROBLEM OF GLYPHOSATE RESISTANCE In an effort to manage the growing problem of glyphosate resistant weeds in North America, farmers are being advised, “Don’t wait too long before spraying your weeds” and don’t go easy on the amount of herbicide applied. This, of course, makes a nonsense of the claims made by GM promoters in Europe, like Brooms Barn in the UK, that GM herbicide resistant crops need not damage biodiversity if farmers delay spraying their GM crops long enough. http://www.agweek.com/articles/?id=4364&article_id=14360&property_id=41
+ COLOMBIAN COTTON GROWERS WANT TO SUE MONSANTO Colombian cotton growers want to sue Monsanto for selling them a bad GM seed that caused damage to crops. http://www.colombiareports.com/colombia-news/economy/4472-colombian-cotton-g rowe rs-want-to-sue-monsanto.html
+ GM CROPS FOOD SECURITY CONCERN – HEALTH REGULATOR Australia’s food security is being severely compromised by GM crops and the use of pesticides, according to a former senior health regulator from Canada. Far from being the answer to higher yields or a drought-proofing option, Dr Shiv Chopra told a forum in Parliament in Canberra that GMOs and pesticides in particular were a serious threat to public health. Dr Chopra believes they are behind huge increases in cancer rates, neurological and reproductive disorders and breakdowns in immune systems. http://sl.farmonline.com.au/news/state/grains-and-cropping/general/gm-crops- food -security-concern-says-senior-health-regulator/1542076.aspx http://www.abc.net.au/rural/news/content/200906/s2599503.htm
+ AGRESEARCH LOSES BID TO EXPAND GM ANIMAL RESEARCH GE-Free New Zealand has won a legal challenge to an AgResearch application to expand its research into GM animals. http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/stories/2009/06/07/1245b5811d2c http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/PO0906/S00077.htm
+ AUSTRALIA: REPORT SHOWS NO FINANCIAL ADVANTAGE IN GM CANOLA A cross-industry information paper on GM canola has been released which shows that, despite non-GM yields being affected by inadequate weed control, if technology access fees were included, there is no financial advantage in using Roundup Ready canola. In addition, the report shows there may be health risks to livestock that eat GM canola – and to the humans who eat their produce. Report available at: http://www.agric.wa.gov.au/OBJTWR/imported_assets/content/food/Ministerial_G MO_I ndustry_Reference_GM_Canola.pdf
+ GM CANOLA WILL IMPACT JAPANESE MARKET — WESTERN AUSTRALIA OFFICIAL Email correspondence has revealed Western Australia’s (WA’s) trade commissioner to Japan has serious concerns about the production and sale of GM crops to Japan. http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/06/07/2591540.htm http://www.watoday.com.au/wa-news/minister-denies-trade-with-japan-threatene d-by-gm-canola-20090607-bzof.html
+ IRISH DOCTORS CALL FOR A MORATORIUM ON GM FOODS The Irish Doctors’ Environmental Association (IDEA) has backed calls for an immediate moratorium on GM foods. http://www.ideaireland.org/gmfood.htm
+ INTERVIEW WITH ARPAD PUSZTAI ON GM FOOD RISKS An excellent interview with Dr Arpad Pusztai, the scientist who conducted groundbreaking research into the safety of GM foods, is at http://organicconsumers.org/articles/article_18101.cfm
+ FUTURE OF BASF GM POTATO IN DOUBT The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been unable to reach a unanimous opinion on the use of antibiotic resistance genes in GM plants. EFSA’s panel on GM crops claims it is “unlikely” that antibiotic resistance genes in GM crops pose health and environmental risks. However, two senior scientists from EFSA’s biohazard panel did not agree and raised serious concerns about adverse effects on public health and the environment. http://www.greenpeace.org/eu-unit/press-centre/press-releases2/EFSA-opinion- GM-p otato-09-06-11 BASF says EFSA deems GM potato safe http://www.iii.co.uk/news/?type=afxnews&articleid=7366739&subject=economic&a ctio n=article
+ FRANCE: “GM-FREE” LABELLING FOR ANIMAL PRODUCTS France’s National Consumer Council (CNC) has announced its position in favour of GM-free (“sans OGM”) labelling for certain products (meat, eggs, fish) produced from livestock fed without GM animal feed. http://www.infogm.org/spip.php?article3984 More about GM in animal feed: http://www.bangmfood.org/stealth-gmos TAKE ACTION: If you’re in the UK, tell the supermarkets you want animal products free from GMOs: http://www.bangmfood.org/take-action
+ GM-FREE PRODUCTS: THE ILLEGAL BRETON STICKER “Animals fed without GMO” stickers will soon flourish on food products in Brittany, thanks to a move by the Regional Council of Brittany. They will probably be approved in future, but in the meantime are illegal. http://www.letelegramme.com/ig/generales/regions/finistere/produits-sans-ogm -la- pastille-bretonne-anticipe-02-06-2009-405916.php Consumer guide to GM-free products and where to buy them: http://www.consommersansogmenbretagne.org
+ MONSANTO INDIA’S DISMAL FINANCIAL FIGURES Monsanto India Ltd reported dismal financial figures for its fourth quarter results for 2009. http://www.commodityonline.com/commodity-stocks/Monsanto-India-tanks-9-on-di smal -Q4-results-2009-06-11-18571-3-1.html
+ INDIA: BT BRINJAL CAN WAIT – MINISTER There is “no great urgency for Bt brinjal [eggplant/aubergine] to be launched,” says India’s forests and environment minister Jairam Ramesh. http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/articleshow/4641818.cms
+ INDIA: CORPORATES ENDANGERING FOOD SECURITY – MINISTER Kerala’s Agriculture Minister, Mullakkara Ratnakaran, has stressed the need for the state to create a bulwark against corporate monopoly trends in agriculture that pose a serious threat to food security. Ratnakaran said sustainable agriculture was a defence against greedy corporates. He stressed the need to promote organic farming and protect natural resources. http://www.hindu.com/2009/06/06/stories/2009060661000300.htm
+ DUPONT AND BASF IN LEGAL BUNFIGHT GM firms DuPont and BASF have sued each other, charging patent infringement over GM herbicide tolerant technology. http://www.reuters.com/article/marketsNews/idUSN0125324620090601
+ NEW FILM: BIG AG SHUDDERS AT FOOD, INC. In the wake of the US release of the film Food, Inc., an expose of industrialized food production, corporations and corporate-supported groups from Monsanto to the National Chicken Council have created sections of their websites in an attempt to counter the facts that the film is bringing to light. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paula-crossfield/food-inc-gets-rave-review_b_2 1476 6.html Around the Web: Official Food, Inc. Movie Site – Hungry For Change? http://www.foodincmovie.com/ YouTube – Food, Inc http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QqQVll-MP3I Apple – Movie Trailers – Food, Inc. http://www.apple.com/trailers/magnolia/foodinc/ Food, Inc. Review: Rolling Stone http://www.rollingstone.com/reviews/movie/24044311/review/28631104/food_inc