MONTHLY REVIEW CONTENTS
NEW REPORT ON EFSA AND GM SAFETY
CORPORATE TAKEOVER – TAKE ACTION!
ANIMAL FEED LOBBYWATCH
MYTH OF THE MONTH
FEEDING THE WORLD
GM BT BRINJAL
PATENTS ON LIFE
REST OF THE MONTH’S NEWS IN BRIEF
NEW REPORT ON EFSA AND GM SAFETY
+ NEW REPORT SLAMS EFSA COMPLACENCY AND BIAS
The GM lobby has long claimed that, unlike in the U.S., GM food safety risk assessments in the EU are overly rigorous. But an important new report shows that this is untrue.
The report, called “Risk Reloaded – Risk analysis of genetically engineered plants within the European Union”, exposes the failings of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA): its assumptions of GM safety, its inadequate terms of reference, its defective science, its acceptance of poor submissions and experimental reports from GM applicants, and its strong bias towards the GM industry. As a result, it places the people of Europe at risk.
This should be required reading for all MEPs and the members of supposedly independent GM advisory and regulatory bodies (like ACRE and ACNFP in the UK). For NGOs and consumer groups it gives a chilling insight into EFSA’s corrupt working methods.
++ READ THE REPORT:
Risk Reloaded – Risk analysis of genetically engineered plants within the European Union
++ READ BULLET POINT SUMMARY OF EFSA FOOD SAFETY REQUIREMENTS FROM THE
++ READ ABOUT BEE DIE-OFF, GM CROPS, AND SUPPRESSED RESEARCH
An interview with the bee researcher Prof Dr Hans-Hinrich Kaatz about GM crops and bee research, taken from Risk Reloaded, is doubly interesting.
First, it suggests that GM Bt maize could be a co-factor in bee die-off.
Second, it seems to confirm the recent concern, including pieces in Scientific American and Nature Biotechnology, over the control and interference that the biotech industry and its supporters may exert over the conduct and publication of research.
+ BILL GATES’ LOVE OF GMOs
Bill Gates has appointed himself the unelected agriculture commissioner for the African continent, writes Tom Philpott — and he is using his position to foist GM crops onto African farmers. Philpott points out Gates’
uncritical admiration of Norman Borlaug’s chemical-based Green Revolution and writes: “I wondered how many African farms will survive the embrace of the great software magnate.”
+ ROYAL SOCIETY CALLS FOR GM CROPS TO PREVENT FOOD CATASTROPHE
The Royal Society has issued a report, “Reaping the benefits: towards sustainable intensification of global agriculture”, which claims, as expected, that GM crops are needed to prevent a catastrophic food crisis by 2050.
For why the GM lobby badly needed the Royal Society report and for a profile of the scientist who chaired the Royal Society Working Group that produced it, see:
+ ROYAL SOCIETY ACCEPTS THAT GM NOT THE ONLY ANSWER
The Royal Society report takes care not to repeat the claims, put forward by some proponents of the technology, that genetic modification can itself end world hunger. Indeed it condemns such simplistic stances, noting that past debates “have failed to acknowledge that there is no technological panacea”.
A report in The Daily Telegraph comments: “That is welcome for, as Prof James Specht of the University of Nebraska has pointed out, the ‘hype-to-reality ratio’ has at times reached ‘infinity’.”
+ GOVT SCIENTIST AND ROYAL SOCIETY IN DOUBLE PUSH FOR GM
John Beddington, the UK Government’s chief scientific adviser, has joined the Royal Society in lobbying for GM crops to be grown in the UK to ensure global food security. Beddington claimed GM food is an essential tool to help tackle the “perfect storm” of climate change and rising population. He said the only way to do this is to grow more crops on less land by using the latest scientific innovation, including crops genetically modified to be drought or disease resistant.
Oddly, Beddington made no mention of the numerous drought- and disease-resistant crop breakthroughs achieved without GM instead, preferring to focus on imaginary GM versions.
+ CRITICAL REACTIONS TO ROYAL SOCIETY REPORT
*Emma Hockridge, Soil Association policy coordinator: “GM is past its sell by date. For over two decades huge claims have been made about the potential for GM, which have not come to fruition. Why is an organisation like the Royal Society banging the drum for a failing technology when exciting new developments such as Marker Assisted Selection, included in the report recommendations, are producing almost all of the successful innovations in crop breeding.”
*Friends of the Earth’s GM campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran: “Science has a key role to play in reducing hunger and poverty, but the report’s focus on GM crops ignores mounting evidence that this technology is failing.
crops are an extension of big-business factory farming that is already wiping out wildlife, destroying communities and making climate change worse.
The UK Government has already invested millions of pounds in GM technology, with little benefit to farmers, consumers and the planet – meanwhile research into green farming methods have been starved of funds.
More critical reactions to the Royal Society report:
+ WHY ARE WE SO OBSESSED WITH TECHNO-FIXES?
A good article from Tom Laskawy for Grist asks why every challenge we face now has an “easy” technological silver bullet that will spare us sacrifice or even change: “GMOs will end hunger. Geo-engineering will solve climate change. A pill will cure obesity.” Of course, no such fake solutions exist.
+ GM FOOD CAN CAUSE CANCER AND DISORDERS IN PREGNANCY EXPERT
Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini summarises his research findings on Roundup Ready
soybeans: “Our study found that even minute doses of Roundup (a natural
herbicide) disrupt sex hormones like androgen and estrogen. The inert ingredients in Roundup Ready (RR) soybean . kill human cells and disrupt the synthesis and action of human sex hormones. The research was published in this year’s July edition of the journal Toxicology. Some pregnant women who consumed RR soybean developed disorders. This combined with certain studies on animals in labs (conducted by others) made us conclude that Roundup is an endocrine disruptor.”
Seralini comments on the health impact of herbicide-tolerant crops like RR
soybean: “Toxins in GM plants can cause cancer, hormonal and reproductive problems and disorders of the nervous system. These chronic diseases are exploding all over the world and to our knowledge bacteria or viruses are not causing them. They may be due to chemicals contained in food. So, we definitely do not need food full of synthetic chemicals.”
CORPORATE TAKEOVER – TAKE ACTION!
+ U.S.: TAKE ACTION: GET MONSANTO MEN OUT OF GOVERNMENT
Tell Obama: Get Monsanto & CropLife men out of your government. Sign the petition to Obama re Islam Siddiqui and Roger Beachy: http://bit.ly/4yImW5
+ AFRICA HEADS FOR ECOLOGICAL DISASTER
South Africa is heading for ecological and agricultural disaster because of its massive shift to GM and monoculture crops, says Mariam Mayet, director and founder of the African Centre for Biosafety. Mayet says South Africa is a poor steward of Africa’s biodiversity: it has granted close to 1600 GM permits since 2003, yet its regulatory, biosafety and administrative capacities lag far behind.
+ FARMERS USE MORE PESTICIDES, DEEPER TILLAGE TO CONTROL SUPERWEEDS
+ GM FARMING IN LATIN AMERICA: RESOURCES
In South America, GM soy production for EU livestock has caused the destruction of 21 million hectares of forest in Brazil, 14m in Argentina, and 2m in Paraguay. It has also caused violent land grabs, displaced indigenous peoples, dramatically increased the use of Monsanto’s toxic Roundup weedkiller, caused major health problems, and created vast unsustainable GM monocultures – all to produce cheap animal feed for farmers in Ireland and other European countries. Articles, reports, and videos on these catastrophes:
ANIMAL FEED LOBBYWATCH
+ IRELAND GRAIN GROUP LOBBIES FOR MORE GM CONTAMINATION
Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association (NIGTA) President Garth Boyd has expressed outrage at the European Commission’s decision not to include the issue of zero tolerance levels for non-approved GMOs at the upcoming meeting of EU farm ministers. Boyd claims “it puts the future prospects of the intensive livestock sector here in Northern Ireland at great risk”. His argument centres on the idea that unless the EU approves contamination of animal feed by unapproved GMOs, supplies of animal feed will run out.
What seems to be going on here – both from the GM lobby and the grain traders – is desperate scare-mongering (all livestock in EU will have to be culled/Britain will starve, etc.), in order to enable pro-GM politicians to ram through liberalisation measures on GM.
COMMENT from GM-free Ireland: The Northern Ireland Grain Trade Association
(NIGTA) has 33 members. These include the obvious feed importers such as Beck & Scott Ltd, Cefetra Ltd, James Holland & Co Ltd, R&H Hall Ltd, and W&R Barnett Ltd. NIGTA’s members also include some of the world’s biggest transnational companies directly involved in agricultural biotechnology such as DSM Nutritional Products AG, Alltech, Yara International ASA and Twow Nutrition International. Moreover, all full members of NIGTA also belong to lobby groups, most of which campaign vigorously against the EU’s precautionary policies on GMOs.
+ EU EXEC APPROVE GM MAIZE AFTER MINISTERS DISAGREE
+ BOEL AND CORRUPT GM SCIENCE
In attempting to allow the import of unauthorised GM soya in the face of the opposition of the majority of EU nation states and people, EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel is espousing corrupt GM science, says Brian John of GM Free Cymru:
+ QUOTES OF THE MONTH ON GM AND ANIMAL FEED
On the biotech lobby and commodity traders’ big lie on the need for GM feed:
“The big US agricultural commodity traders Cargill, ADM and Bunge have major biotech seed research projects of their own. They have deep alliances with Monsanto and Syngenta. They want US GM soya to be accepted uncritically in Europe and they would prefer every soya bean on the planet to be equal to every other soya bean because that’s what profitable commodity trading is about.” – John Fagan of Cert-ID in The Guardian http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11598:eu
“For years, Monsanto and the animal feed cartels have claimed that European livestock face imminent starvation unless the EU agreees to legalise the importation of US animal feed contaminated by new and untested GMOs. But in [a recent] article, Monsanto finally admits that this much-hyped catastrophic “shortage” of legal GM feed continues to remain on the far side of an ever-receding 12 to 18 month horizon! The EU’s resistance to GM food and farming is a crisis for Monsanto, whose profits are decreasing. But informed European farmers continue to source certified Non-GM soy feed from Brazil and other countries. And the US and EU markets for Non-GM fed animal produce are increasing rapidly.” – GM-free Ireland http://www.gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/11635-ever-receding-gm-fe
MYTH OF THE MONTH
+ “PURPLE TOMATO CAN BEAT CANCER”
How another story about a GM “miracle” was lapped up uncritically by the media, and who was responsible for the misleading hype.
FEEDING THE WORLD
+ HOW TO FEED THE WORLD IN 2050
Following a high-level UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) forum on feeding the world in 2050, Aruna Rodrigues explains why FAO must first get rid of the distraction of GM crops if we are to succeed.
GM BT BRINJAL
+ INDIA: GM BRINJAL (AUBERGINES) PUT ON ICE
Stiff opposition from activists has persuaded the Indian government to put off commercial release of the country’s first GM food crop, despite clearance from the nation’s top biotechnology regulator. The 14 October ruling by the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) granted permission for Indian farmers to grow a GM aubergine, or brinjal. But barely
24 hours later, Jairam Ramesh, India’s minister of environment and forests, said that permission for its cultivation will be given only after consulting “all stakeholders”. Ramesh says that the ministry will seek public comments until the end of the year and that he “will have a series of consultations with scientists, agriculture experts, farmers’ organizations, consumer groups and NGOs” in January and February 2010 before deciding whether to go forward.
+ STUDIES ON GM BRINJAL NOT VALID EXPERT
The data on GM brinjal submitted to India’s GM regulator GEAC by Monsanto’s partner company Mahyco is not valid as it has not been signed by the scientist who did the tests, says Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini. He adds, “What is more scandalous is that the studies on the effects of Bt brinjal were conducted for just three months. If the product is to be consumed by humans, the tests should have been for a period of at least two years – the lifespan of a rodent.”
Seralini adds, “Worse, Mahyco tried to cover up the side-effects by jumbling data on various types of brinjal in a way that it was hard to compare Bt brinjal with normal brinjal. I am sorry to say people in the GEAC did not carefully assess the data. It is also not clear how the GEAC overlooked the fact that Bt brinjal has a protein that induces resistance to antibiotics.
Mahyco has not studied hormonal impacts of Bt brinjal – Bt toxin found in it could lead to reproductive health problems.”
+ EXPERT ALLEGES CORRUPT APPROVAL PROCESS FOR GM BRINJAL
In a revealing interview, Dr Pushpa M. Bhargava, the Supreme Court appointee to the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), discusses how GEAC went about approving GM brinjal, which could become India’s first ever GM food crop cleared for cultivation.
Dr Bhargava, who was at GEAC’s meeting on October 14, describes how GEAC reached its decision in response to a report by an Expert Committee (ECII).
This committee had been established in response to earlier accusations that the report submitted in support of the biosafety of Bt brinjal by the seed company Mayhco (Monsanto’s partner in India) was full of inaccuracies and missing data, and of poor quality.
The Expert Committee submitted their findings on October 9 and by October 14 Bt brinjal had clearance from GEAC. Commenting on the haste of the regulators, Dr Bhargava paints a picture of people hell-bent on approval. He says the typical attitude amongst the regulators was, “Whatever Monsanto says is God’s own word but if anybody… no matter who it is… says you must do more tests, the man is a fool”.
Read the interview transcript:
+ CONFLICTS OF INTEREST IN BT BRINJAL APPROVALS PANEL
+ NO PROPER GENE FLOW TESTS FOR GM BRINJAL – EXPERT
A former EPA biotech specialist explains why the gene flow testing on Bt brinjal was not remotely adequate to determine environmental risk.
+ BT BRINJAL WILL NOT BE ALLOWED IN MADHYA PRADESH: AGRICULTURE MINISTER
Bt Brinjal will not be allowed into the state of Madhya Pradesh, said Dr Ramakrishna Kusmariya, Minister for Farmer Welfare and Agriculture Development, Government of Madhya Pradesh. He said: “GM crops are the latest version of the way East India Company colonized India in the past; these seeds will destroy Indian farming and enslave farmers.” The state of Orissa also opposes GM brinjal.
+ BT BRINJAL: WHY IT’S STUPID TO RELEASE IT
Opening the door to Bt brinjal is a step towards disaster, says a good article for rediff.com.
+ WHO WANTS BT BRINJAL IN INDIA? AMERICA AND MONSANTO
+ SOUTH AFRICA: GOVT REJECTS GM POTATOES
The South African government has rejected the Agriculture Research Council’s
(ARC’s) application to commercialise GM potatoes, saying it was concerned about its safety and economic effect. Said the African Centre for Biosafety’s director Mariam Mayet, “This is probably the most significant victory of my career. For a pro-genetically modified government to refuse a commercial application on safety grounds is quite groundbreaking.”
+ PAKISTAN: FARMERS SAY NO TO GM RICE
On October 15, 2009, the Lok Sanjh Foundation and the Pakistan Dehqan Assembly organized a conference on rice and the food crisis, focusing on small farmer livelihoods. More than 600 farmers, tenants, landless workers and partner organizations participated.
Farmers at the conference stressed that GM crops and seeds should be banned in Pakistan. A key recommendation was to protect Basmati growing areas from all non-Basmati varieties, including GM and hybrid rice. Participants rejected the Seed Act and the Plant Breeder’s Right Act and demanded their rights to save and exchange seeds. They called on the government to withdraw corporate-centric agricultural policies and implement genuine land reform measures.
+ SCIENTISTS AND OTHERS TELL PRESIDENT OF MEXICO: NO TO GMOs!
Mexicans are urging the president of Mexico to protect the country’s indigenous maize varieties by halting the rushed release of GM maize.
+ IMPORTANT PETITION: NO TO GM MAIZE IN MEXICO
Please sign today!
+ MONSANTO’S DIRTY TRICKS CAMPAIGN OVER MEXICAN MAIZE
+ HOW MONSANTO MADE WORLD’S WORST GM POLLUTION INCIDENT VANISH
+ THE SOUTH REJECTS GM: RESOURCES
+ REVIEWS: WHO OWNS YOU? / THE FOOD WARS
Reviews of two new books:
*Who Owns You? The Corporate Gold Rush to Patent Your Genes: David Koepsell investigates the philosophical, scientific and legal issues of patenting human genes.
*The Food Wars: Walden Bello criticises the “institutionalised stupidity” of World Bank and IMF-imposed food programs in the Third World and blames the agrofuel bubble for food price inflation.
PATENTS ON LIFE
+ NEW PLANT AND ANIMAL PATENTS THREATEN FOOD SECURITY
A global civil society coalition sent a public warning to the UN General Assembly that a new class of patents covering plants and animals derived from conventional breeding endangers both innovation and food security, echoing the sentiments of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food.
The “Global alert against Monstantosizing’ our food” was released on 21 October by the “No Patents on Seeds” coalition, coinciding with the presentation of similar concerns by the UN Special Rapporteur, Olivier de Schutter, on the Right to Food, at the Third Committee (dealing with Social, Humanitarian and Cultural issues) in New York.
REST OF THE MONTH’S NEWS IN BRIEF
+ MONSANTO FOUND GUILTY IN FALSE AD ROW
France’s highest court has ruled that Monsanto had not told the truth about the safety of its best-selling weed-killer, Roundup. The court confirmed an earlier judgment that Monsanto had falsely advertised its herbicide as “biodegradable” and claimed it “left the soil clean”. The company was fined 15,000 euros (GBP13,800; $22,400). In October Monsanto reported a fourth quarter loss of $233m (GBP147m), driven mostly by a drop in sales of its Roundup brand.
+ IRELAND ADOPTS GM-FREE ZONE POLICY
The Irish Government will ban the cultivation of all GM crops and introduce a voluntary GM-free label for food including meat, poultry, eggs, fish, crustaceans, and dairy produce made without the use of GM animal feed.
+ GM INDUSTRY’S STRONG-ARM TACTICS WITH RESEARCHERS
The GM crop industry’s strong-arm tactics and close-fisted attitude to sharing seeds is holding back independent research on GM crops, says an article for Nature Biotechnology that’s well worth reading in full.
+ GLYPHOSATE WHISTLE-BLOWER COMES UNDER SUSTAINED ATTACK
Following his research that showed the devastating effects of the herbicide Roundup on human embryos, Prof Andres Carrasco is having to cope with a vicious campaign of vilification in Argentina, involving Monsanto and its cohorts inside and outside of government. There are echoes of what happened in 1999 with Arpad Pusztai.
+ HUMANS ARE GUINEA PIGS FOR NEW GMOs
French research body CRIIGEN has denounced the possible approval of a new GM maize variety in Europe named 59122xNK603. The maize contains four pesticides with cumulative health and environmental risks.
avoid calls for transparency and availability of results from previous investigations addressing the health consequences of eating GM crops and foods, governments and GM firms have decided to dispense with animal feeding studies.
+ FOX PUT IN CHARGE OF HEN HOUSE
One of the world’s biggest pesticide companies, Syngenta, has been accused of a “howling conflict of interest” for funding research into the disappearance of honeybees a problem which some people claim it may have helped cause. Among the products it markets to farmers are neonicotinoid insecticides which have been blamed for harming honeybees. It now also co-funds a GBP1m project in the UK to research the decline of the bees.
+ IS ELI LILLY MILKING CANCER BY PROMOTING AND TREATING IT?
Breast Cancer Action and a coalition of consumer and health organizations have launched a campaign called Milking Cancer, where you can demand from Eli Lilly that they withdraw their dangerous (Monsanto-originated) bovine growth hormone (rBGH, rBST) from the market.
+ AUSTRALIA: MAJOR GRAIN BUYERS SNUB GM CANOLA
Major canola purchasers CBH and Elders will not be buying GM canola this season, in a nod to the market sensibilities of major customers in Europe and Japan. GM lines are selling at a discount.
+ AUSTRALIA: COMMERCIAL BEEHIVES CONTAMINATED WITH GM CANOLA POLLEN
Greenpeace has found GM Roundup Ready canola pollen in honey from commercial beehives in southern Victoria.
+ ILLEGAL GM FLAX NOW IN 30 COUNTRIES WORLDWIDE UK FOOD SAFETY BODY
The illegal GM Triffid flax has been found in 30 countries worldwide, including the UK. But the UK Food Standards Agency has not issued an official Food Alert regarding this contamination.
+ THE BORLAUG I KNEW DEVINDER SHARMA
Devinder Sharma has written a fascinating and carefully considered obituary of the “Father of the Green Revolution”, Norman Borlaug.
+ BORLAUG’S LEGACY: SAVING MILLIONS?
+ U.S. JUSTICE DEPARTMENT PROBES SEED INDUSTRY
The US Dept of Justice and the US Dept of Agriculture are going ahead with plans to investigate the seed industry regarding antitrust concerns. One of the first companies in its sights is expected to be Monsanto.
+ U.S.: KILLER PIGWEED THREATENS CROPS IN THE SOUTH
Glyphosate (Roundup)-resistant pigweed is choking more than a million acres of cotton and soybeans in America’s South, according to a report by ABC News. In the last three months, Jim Hubbard of Double H Farms has spent more than $500,000 fighting the pigweeds, and they still won’t die.
+ ORGANIC FARMING COULD STOP CLIMATE CHANGE
How organic farming can massively sequester carbon.
+ EXPLOITING THE CLIMATE CRISIS
Stop the patenting of climate genes in Africa by the biotech industry http://bit.ly/2M08AF
+ NO FALSE SOLUTIONS ON CLIMATE
GMOs are being pushed for carbon credit profits http://bit.ly/3eTHWW