tagged w/ BT toxin
There is genetically modified produce in a lot of the processed food you eat, but this is the first time that Monsanto is taking fresh GM produce from the ground straight to your mouth. If it works out, there will be plenty more.
Monsanto, the world's largest seed company, is known for developing engineered crops (i.e. corn and soybeans) that end up in many of the food products found on grocery store aisles, as well as in fibers and animal feed. Up until now, the company's GM crops have only been available in processed foods--in other words, in little bits and pieces. But now Monsanto is making a move into the consumer market with GM sweet corn, which will be found in a supermarket produce bin or farmer's market near you starting this fall.
There is a good chance you've already eaten GM sweet corn: Syngenta--a Monsanto rival--has been selling it for a decade. And Monsanto already sells GM squash developed by Seminis, which the company bought in 2005. So why is Monsanto's sweet corn a big deal? This is the first consumer product actually developed by Monsanto. While previous industry attempts to introduce GM consumer-oriented vegetables in the 1990s failed miserably (see Calgene's Flavr Savr tomatoes), Monsanto may be warming up to the idea. "I think Monsanto is trying to test the waters here," says Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety. If GM sweet corn works out for the agri-giant, we might see even more GM produce on our supermarket shelves.
Monsanto, which already controls 60% of the U.S. corn market, is including traits in the new sweet corn that make it resistant to both Monsanto's Roundup herbicide and to insects (through the inclusion of Bt toxin, a trait that disrupts insect digestive systems and eventually kills them). As we have mentioned before, at least 21 weed species have become resistant to Roundup. And Bt toxin may have negative health effects--a recent study found the toxin in the maternal and fetal blood of pregnant women, though the implications of that aren't known quite yet.
"There's a concern with these GE crops that we eat with minimal processing [like sweet corn]...we're exposed to a lot more of whatever is in it versus a processed corn product," says Freese. This may be one of the rare cases where processed food is better for you than fresh food.
The market for sweet corn is smaller than the market for grain corn, and up until now GM sweet corn sales have been dominated by Syngenta, which also uses Bt toxin in its product. Now that Monsanto is entering the game, there will be even more room for cross-pollination with non-GM corn crops. "Corn is very promiscuous, meaning it's easy for cross-pollination to occur," says Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, senior scientist at the Pesticide Action Network North America. "Farmers won't be able to access conventional seeds, and they may lose local varieties."
Think that consumers would never buy a Monsanto-branded ear of sweet corn given the company's controversial reputation? Maybe not--but it doesn't matter. A Monsanto representative told the LA Times: "It's up to us to make sure we help tell people about the benefits...given how sweet corn is normally sold--by the ear, in larger bins in produce sections of the market--it's not really something that can be easily branded."
More at the link.There is genetically modified produce in a lot of the processed food you eat, but this... more
My final video for 2010 from the Sustainable Agriculture Group on GMO news. We need to see the momentum gaining more in 2011. Here's hoping that the coming year brings us one year closer to a GMO free world to protect the biodiversity and health of our food and planet.
Thank you to all who have supported my endeavors and posts this year.
JanMy final video for 2010 from the Sustainable Agriculture Group on GMO news. We need to... more
BAGUIO CITY - Farmers groups have protested the field testing of genetically modified (GM) eggplants in the Philippines.
Known as the Philippine Fruit and Shoot Borer (FSB) resistant eggplants (Bt brinjal) or Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) eggplant, the Department of Agriculture has started multi-location field testing prior to commercialization. This is an eggplant that was embedded with Bacillus thuringiensis to make it resistant to the fruit and shoot borers.
The people of India where the Bt brinjal originated were successful in pressuring their government to issue a moratorium for the commercialization of Bt-eggplant. A French scientific study slammed the commercialization of Bt brinjal, heating up the controversy over the biotech crop’s safety. Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Company Ltd (Mahyco) developed the genetically modified eggplant. Mahyco is the Indian partner of US biotech giant Monsanto.
A study team led by Caen University professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the Committee for Independent Research and Information on Genetic Engineering has not only branded Bt brinjal “unsafe for human consumption” but also raised serious doubts on safety data presented by developers Mahyco to the government.
Last February 9, Jairam Ramesh, India’s Minister of Environment and Forests, has imposed a moratorium on the release of Bt brinjal due to food safety, food security, and loss of biodiversity considerations. Minister Ramesh said: “It is my duty to adopt a cautious, precautionary principle-based approach and impose a moratorium on the release of Bt brinjal, till such time independent scientific studies establish, to the satisfaction of both the public and professionals, the safety of the product from the point of view of its long-term impact on human health and environment, including the rich genetic wealth existing in brinjal in our country.”
Here in the Philippines a petition letter is being circulated on the internet and among advocates where farmers, environmentalists and concerned individuals can sign to protest the field testing and intent to commercialize the Bt brinjal. Farmers reason we have enough experience with Bt-corn and RR-Corn to fear the entry of Bt brinjal.
Now the transnational corporation proponents of Bt-eggplants are doing the groundwork aimed at generating public acceptance to this genetically modified crop.
The Bt brinjal of Mahyco are being tested in 1) Sta. Maria, Pangasinan; 2) UPLB, Bay, Laguna; 3) CSSAC, Pili, Camarines Sur; 4) Sta. Barbara, Iloilo; 5) VSU, Baybay, Leyte; 6) UP Mindanao Davao City; and 7) University of Southern Mindanao, Kabacan, North Cotabato .
Bt eggplant seeds' commercial release in 2011 will follow after another set of multilocational field trials for the dry season which starts in October this year. Seed production deals will be entered with the Department of Agriculture with other State Universities and Colleges. Field tests in the seven (7) sites are pushed by Dr. Desiree Hautea, project leader of the FSBR project and it is funded by the USAID.
The farmers are appealing to the Department of Agriculture to stop the field trials and eventual commercialization on the following basis:
One, there is little or no information about the Bt eggplant. The calls for the release of information about the Bt eggplant were met with silence by agencies under the DA. The Bureau of Plant Industry, Dr. Hautea, the National Committee on Biosafety of the Philippines of which the DA is a member, have the obligation to release information on Bt eggplant because its study and eventual release will affect Filipino farmers and consumers.
Two, the is no genuine public consultation. There was very little transparency in the assessment and approval process done by DA. The farmers will need to know the risks in planting Bt eggplant and must not be treated as a mere market for Bt eggplant seeds. Moreover, the public has the right to know what food they consume, from where, and how they are produced.
Three, regulatory mechanisms of GMOs in the country were not followed, are lacking, or inadequate or compromised. There should be specific requisites for biosafety decisions such as risk assessments and studies to ensure food safety and other concerns. The country does not have a GMO labeling law, as well as a law that addresses liability and redress issues resulting from GMO release.
Four, contamination and loss of biodiversity is not a figment of the imagination. Although the approval is for Food, Feed and Processing (FFP), there is a growing trend that approved GM commodities for FFP are eventually approved for propagation.
This is very alarming and it is a real threat and one only has to look back at what happened in Mexico where their local maize varieties got contaminated with Monsanto’s GE corn. It has seriously destroyed not only their local germplasm, but the culture and traditions of the Mexican people that are so embedded with it.
The same happened in Hawaii and Thailand with GM papaya, which seriously compromised the livelihoods of many Hawaiian and Thai farmers, and jeopardized the countries’ agricultural trade. To let this happen in the Philippines – and compromise the biodiversity and the livelihood of Filipino vegetable farmers – would be plainly careless and irresponsible.
cont.BAGUIO CITY - Farmers groups have protested the field testing of genetically modified... more
Washington, DC-- While the U.S. Supreme Court hears its first-ever case involving a genetically modified organism, alarms are sounding over the proposed planting of more than a quarter of a million genetically engineered (GE) eucalyptus trees in the U.S., and transgenic trees are being globally condemned.
On April 27, the Supreme Court began to hear a case challenging a ban on the planting of a genetically engineered perennial alfalfa. The ban was implemented due to concerns about escape and contamination, and the inability of U.S. regulators to protect the public. 
In April, Reuters released a report exposing the fact that U.S. regulating agencies have "dropped the ball" when it comes to evaluating the potential risks of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). 
Reuters highlighted concerns that, "the U.S. government conducts no independent testing of these biotech crops before they are approved, and does little to track their consequences after." The report even went so far as to state, "Indeed, many experts say the U.S. government does more to promote global acceptance of biotech crops than to protect the public from possible harmful consequences."
This is a particular concern since the USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), one of the named agencies in the report, is considering approving a request by ArborGen to plant 260,000 GE trees across seven states even though researchers admit some of these trees produce viable pollen and some seedlings are assured to escape.
Referring to the questionable efficacy of the altered fertility technology in these GE trees, researcher Steve Strauss said, "There does not seem to have been any serious field studies, in any crop, sufficient to estimate the operational effectiveness of containment genes." Adding, "Until many such studies are published, it would be unwise to assume that genes can be fully and safely contained in the near future." 
Additionally, MSNBC , NPR  and PLoS Pathogens  recently reported that a new strain of a deadly pathogenic fungus, Cryptococcus gattii, has been causing fatal human illnesses throughout the Pacific Northwest. The fungus, which is known to grow on some species of eucalyptus trees, has killed one on four people in Oregon, and 40 out of 220 people infected throughout the region. While it is not known whether genetically engineered eucalyptus plantations would be a host for the fungus, the fact that some of the GE eucalyptus would have reduced lignin has raised concerns that they could be more susceptible to fungal infection.
Another study by researcher Claire Williams, recently published in the American Journal of Botany, found that pollen from trees remains viable over long distances.  This raises concerns about the potential for pollen from genetically engineered versions of native tree species like pines to travel large distances and contaminate forests. Williams' study found that, "GM pine plantings have the potential to disperse viable pollen at least 41 kilometers from the source."
On April 22, during the World Peoples' Global Summit on Climate Change in Cochabamba, Bolivia, a broad gathering of Indigenous Peoples, social movements and organizations from around the world, issued a consensus condemnation of transgenic trees (GMO trees) and monoculture plantations. 
"Given all of this evidence, the USDA should not even consider approving the release of any genetically engineered trees," insisted Anne Petermann of Global Justice Ecology Project and the STOP GE Trees Campaign.  "The fact that there are so many unknowns and no independent studies evaluating the risks of GE trees--which include human health risks and damage to forests and wildlife--is a major reason why the UN Convention on Biological Diversity in 2006 and 2008 urged countries to use the Precautionary Principle with regard to GE trees. The Precautionary Principle would require GE trees to be proven safe before they are released." Washington, DC-- While the U.S. Supreme Court hears its first-ever case involving a... more
Update: The USDA has reopened the comment period for their Environmental Assessment of ArborGen's proposal to plant 260,000 genetically engineered eucalyptus trees across the Southern U.S. Comments needed by 18 February to oppose this dangerous and destructive plan. They plan to use these trees for bioenergy schemes under the false claim that they will help stop global warming.
to sign on to the public comment letter.
More information below:
Release of Dangerous Genetically Engineered (GE) Eucalyptus Trees Threatens U.S. Forests/ Communities.
ACTION NEEDED BY 18 February! Tell the USDA NO WAY to ArborGen's Eucalyptus Frankentrees
In an unprecedented move toward commercial large-scale release of GE forest trees in the United States, ArborGen is petitioning the U.S. government for permission to plant an estimated 260,000 flowering GE eucalyptus trees  across seven southern U.S. states in so-called "field trials."
The mass-planting of 260,000 flowering GE eucalyptus trees is a major step toward the unregulated development of large-scale GE eucalyptus plantations in the U.S. ArborGen has also requested permission to develop large-scale commercial plantations of GE cold tolerant eucalyptus across the U.S. South which the USDA has not yet ruled on.
Government approval of GE eucalyptus trees will set a dangerous precedent to allow the release of other experimental GE forest trees, including poplars and pines, that would inevitably and irreversibly contaminate native trees with destructive GE traits, devastating forest ecosystems and wildlife. Once GE trees escape, there is no way to call them back.
The only way to prevent the genetic contamination of forests is to ban the commercial release of GE trees before it is too late.
Tell the USDA that GE cold-tolerant eucalyptus plantations pose an unprecedented threat to U.S. forests, wildlife and communities. Tell them to reject ArborGen's request to plant more than a quarter of a million dangerous invasive GE trees across the Southern U.S. Since these field trials are a concrete step toward unregulated commercial growing of dangerous GE eucalyptus, they must be rejected.
Sign on to the STOP GE Trees Campaign's Comments to the U.S. government
Have your organization become a STOP GE Trees Campaign partner and endorse our goal of a global ban on GE trees!Update: The USDA has reopened the comment period for their Environmental Assessment of... more