tagged w/ NON GMO Month
Billed as "a political thriller on GMOs and freedom of speech", this film by the German film-maker Bertram Verhaag tells the stories of two scientists, Dr Arpad Pusztai and Dr Ignacio Chapela, whose research showed negative findings on GM foods and crops. Both suffered the fate of those who challenge the powerful vested interests that dominate agribusiness and scientific research. They were vilified and intimidated, attempts were made to suppress and discredit their research, and their careers were derailed.
Pusztai found that the internal organs of rats fed GM insecticidal potatoes either increased in size or did not develop properly compared with controls. His experiments turned up no less than 36 significant differences between GM-fed and non-GM-fed animals. Pusztai, encouraged by his research institute, gave a 150-second interview on British TV in which he summarised his findings and said it was unfair to use our fellow citizens as guinea pigs for GM foods.
For two days, Pusztai was treated as a hero by his institute. But following a phone call from UK prime minister Tony Blair to the institute's head, Pusztai was fired and gagged under threat of a lawsuit. His research team was disbanded and his data were confiscated. Lies were circulated about his research that he could not counter due to the gagging order, lifted only later when he was due to appear before a Parliamentary Committee. For Pusztai’s co-researchers, the gagging order remains in place for life.
Pusztai's results threatened the GM industry because they showed that it wasn't the insecticide engineered into the potatoes that damaged the rats, but the genetic engineering process itself. So the problem wasn't just with these GM potatoes but potentially with all GM foods on the market. The only solution for the industry and its friends in government was to shoot the messenger.
Traumatic though this was for Pusztai, it wasn't the biggest shock he had to face regarding GM foods. That came when he was asked to review safety submissions from the GM industry for crops we were already eating – and found that they were scientifically flimsy. "That was a turning point in my life," said Pusztai. "I was doing safety studies; they were doing as little as possible [in terms of safety testing] to get their foods on the market as quickly as they could."
Another scientist whose run-in with the GM industry is featured in the film is Ignacio Chapela, a molecular geneticist at UC Berkeley. His research, co-authored with David Quist and published in the journal Nature, revealed that Mexican maize had been contaminated with GM genes. The finding was explosive because Mexico is the centre of origin for maize and the planting of GM maize there was illegal.
Chapela found himself the target of a vicious internet campaign condemning him as more of an activist than a scientist and claiming that his paper was false. Nature's editor published a partial retraction of the paper. As Chapela points out in the film, the editor's action flew in the face of scientific method. In the normal way of things, a journal editor publishes a study that he and peer reviewers judge to be sound. It is for subsequent published studies to confirm or correct the findings. It is not for the editor to state that he would not have published a study had he known then what he knows now – without the benefit of further peer reviewed scientific input. The editor's move showed how the GM industry is rewriting the rules of science for its own ends.
To add insult to injury, the internet campaign against Chapela turned out not to have been initiated and fuelled not by his scientific peers but by fake citizens, "sockpuppets" invented by the Bivings Group, a public relations firm contracted by Monsanto.
Scientists Under Attack goes on to show how the GM industry has blocked the evolution of scientific knowledge. When Russian scientist Irina Ermakova's study found high mortality rates and low body weight in rats fed GM soy, and when Austrian government research found that decreased fertility in mice fed GM maize, the industry carried out its usual campaign of vilification. If the industry were interested in scientific truth, it would push for studies to be repeated with the alleged "flaws" corrected. But this never happens. Instead, GM companies use their patent-based ownership of GM crops to deny scientists access to research materials – the GM crop and the non-GM parent line control. So the original research showing problems with GM crops is buried under a deluge of smears and follow up studies are not done. For the public, the difficulty and expense involved in accessing full research papers makes it hard to find where the truth lies.
The film also highlights an extreme example of the corporate takeover of science – at University of California, Berkeley (UCB), where Chapela is a professor. In 1998, UCB entered into a $25 million research partnership with biotech company Novartis (now Syngenta). The deal provoked angry debate on campus and was criticized by a number of faculty members, including Chapela. Then in 2007, UCB entered into a $500 million research deal with oil giant BP. The partnership was negotiated in secret, without consultation even within the university. In return for its money, BP gained access to UCB’s researchers, control over the research agenda, and co-ownership of commercial rights over inventions. Chapela says of BP, "They decide what is called science."Billed as "a political thriller on GMOs and freedom of speech", this film by... more
BBC World Service - One Planet: The Father of Genetic Engineering....
First broadcast 10:32am, 7 Oct 2010
GMWatch comment: This programme, part of the BBC World Service’s One Planet series on the environment, interviews genetic engineer Dr Roger Beachy. Beachy's interview appears to be part of a new evangelical push on the part of the US government hyping GM crops as the solution to world hunger.
In the BBC interview, Beachy claims GM is being demonized but then proceeds to demonize organic production, as he has done before (even suggesting organic food may be dangerous to eat!) http://www.grist.org/article/usda-research-chief-concerned-about-safety-of-organic-food
Beachy characterizes people who oppose GM crops as anti-science or just plain ignorant. He also uses straw man arguments, dismissing scientifically valid concerns about the uncontrollability of GM contamination with a story about a man who (according to Beachy) had an irrational concern about potatoes being contaminated by GM corn or cotton.
This strategy exactly fits with what Guy Cook, Professor in Language and Education at the Open University (OU) and author of Genetically Modified Language, a book which critically analyses the war of words waged by those arguing for GM crops, found in research investigating the type of language deployed by GM crop scientists. The 'public', Cook's data revealed, tend to be portrayed as as frequently emotional, rather than rational, and as uniformly ignorant. Cook notes that this "characterization of the public is often achieved through anecdotes of some farcical encounter with a particularly 'uninformed’ member of the public: a commonly voiced one concerns people who are worried that they may be 'eating genes'." Interestingly, research suggests that technical knowledge of GM does not necessarily lead to increased acceptance of GM crops.
Beachy also seems to suggest, by implication, that those concerned about GM foods may be candidates for psychiatry ("They choose, not based on science. Where have those attitudes come from?"). He also deliberately attempts to link those concerned about GM with people typically characterised as anti-technology or anti- modern medicine.
It is therefore amusing that another interviewee in this BBC programme is a genetic engineer working in the field of medical biotechnology (Dr Michael Antoniou) who does not share Beachy's confidence about the safety of GM when applied to agriculture.
The BBC calls Beachy "the father of GM foods" and mentions in passing one of Beachy's links to Monsanto: "Two decades ago, his research - in collaboration with Monsanto - helped develop the world's first genetically modified crop (a tomato)".
But the BBC does not mention that Beachy was the founding president of St. Louis' Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, which was principally established by Monsanto, or that he is still a trustee and a member of its scientific advisory board (along with the Monsanto-connected British GM promoter Jonathan Jones, and Monsanto's CEO Hugh Grant).
Beachy is now working for the US government. In September 2009, President Obama put Beachy in charge of a USDA agency, the National Institutes of Food and Agriculture, that will fund R & D in agricultural "technological innovations". So don't expect a lot of research dollars for badly needed agro-ecological approaches.
Beachy is also joined in the BBC programme by Jack Bobo, senior advisor for biotech in the US Dept of State, and Beachy's BBC appearance seems to coincide with a new GM push on the part of US government. On 7 October, the same day that the BBC broadcast Beachy's GM hype, the USDA put out a press release flagging up research claiming there were benefits from GM crops for neighbouring non-GM farmers as they have fewer corn borer pests. The release quoted US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack plugging GM. (But see why the corn borer may not be such a problem on organic farms: here and here)
On 8 October, Jose Fernandez, the US assistant secretary of state for economic, energy and business affairs published an article in the Huffington Post claiming - surprise - that "Unjustified and impractical legal obstacles are stopping genetically-enhanced crops from saving millions from starvation and malnutrition".
So stand by for more evangelical efforts to win us all over to the U.S. GMO way.BBC World Service - One Planet: The Father of Genetic Engineering....
First broadcast... more
Monsanto's herbicide Roundup used on genetically manipulated (GM) Roundup Ready crops is linked to human cell death, birth defects, cancer and miscarriages, says a report released at the European Parliament by an international group of scientists.
The report comes at a crucial time for Australia, where a popular infant soy formula has tested positive to unlabelled GM soy and corn, and Roundup Ready canola and cotton are grown.
The report, “GM Soy: Sustainable? Responsible?”, highlights new research by Argentine government scientist Professor Andrés Carrasco and an international coalition of scientists. They found serious health impacts from Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, other chemicals in the formulated herbicide and its breakdown products. The report also provides a global overview of scientific papers and other documents on the impacts of GM soy production. The new research is published in the American Chemical Society journal ‘Chemical Research in Toxicology’.
GM Roundup Ready (RR) soy is now more than 90% of soy grown in North American and Argentina, and is also widely spread in Brazil, Paraguay, Uruguay and Bolivia. Monsanto's own data shows Roundup herbicide sales have skyrocketed since GM RR crops were first planted in the USA in 1996[i]. The amount of toxic herbicide now used on soy has public health implications.
At the European Parliament in Brussels where the report was presented[ii], Prof Carrasco said childhood cancer had increased by 300% and babies with birth defects by 400% during the past decade in parts of Argentina. GM RR soy is grown there to supply European and Australian farmers with cheap GM animal feed: "I suspect the toxicity classification of glyphosate is too low… in some cases this can be a powerful poison," he said.
The report also refers to studies that found: the uterus and ovaries of female rats fed GM RR soy showed changes; rabbits' kidney and heart enzyme functions were disturbed. An intergenerational study of hamsters fed GM soy found slower growth rates and higher mortality among pups, and widespread infertility in the third generation[iii].
Bob Phelps, Executive Director of GM-free Australian advocacy group Gene Ethics, says the Australian response to genetically manipulated ingredients in baby formula is grossly inadequate.
"Every test for GM contamination of S-26 formula has been positive for GM contamination. Yet our food regulator FSANZ refuses to mandate a recall, while Coles and Woolworths refuse to remove S-26 from their shelves.
"This routine contamination requires GM labelling under the law. If FSANZ won't act on this false and misleading failure to label GM ingredients, then the ACCC should intervene," he says.
"The Gillard Government must support independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Greens Senator Rachel Siewert who both want to fix up our food labelling laws. Labels must enable parents to choose baby formulas that that are not GM polluted. We call for the Government to ensure the assessment criteria of all novel foods, including GM, are amended and to remove the loopholes in Standard 1.5 that exempt most GM and other novel food products from any requirement to be labelled as such," he concludes.Monsanto's herbicide Roundup used on genetically manipulated (GM) Roundup Ready... more
Reality's biting for Monsanto. John Gilbert, an Iowa farmer tells the Christian Science Monitor about GM crop uptake: "A lot of it, to be perfectly honest, is herd mentality. They believe Monsanto when they say it's going to yield more." But scepticism has begun to set in, with the Christian Science Monitor noting that a common criticism now being leveled at GM firms like Monsanto is that crop yield increases have largely been the result of advances in conventional breeding, but that those features are only being made available in strains sold with genetically-modified traits as well.
1.Monsanto's Fortunes Turn Sour
The New York Times, 4 October 2010
As recently as late December, Monsanto was named "company of the year" by Forbes magazine. Last week, the company earned a different accolade from Jim Cramer, the television stock market commentator. "This may be the worst stock of 2010," he proclaimed.
Monsanto, the giant of agricultural biotechnology, has been buffeted by setbacks this year that have prompted analysts to question whether its winning streak from creating ever more expensive genetically engineered crops is coming to an end.
The company’s stock, which rose steadily over several years to peak at around $145 a share in mid-2008, closed Monday at $47.77, having fallen about 42 percent since the beginning of the year. Its earnings for the fiscal year that ended in August, which will be announced Wednesday, are expected to be well below projections made at the beginning of the year, and the company has abandoned its profit goal for 2012 as well.
The latest blow came last week, when early returns from this year’s harvest showed that Monsanto’s newest product, SmartStax corn, which contains an unprecedented eight inserted genes, was providing yields no higher than the company’s less expensive corn that contains only three foreign genes.
Monsanto has already been forced to sharply cut prices on SmartStax and on its newest soybean seeds, called Roundup Ready 2 Yield, as sales fell below projections.
But there is more. Sales of Monsanto’s Roundup, the widely used herbicide, has collapsed this year under an onslaught of low-priced generics made in China. Weeds are growing resistant to Roundup, dampening the future of the entire Roundup Ready crop franchise. And the Justice Department is investigating Monsanto for possible antitrust violations.
Until now, Monsanto’s main challenge has come from opponents of genetically modified crops, who have slowed their adoption in Europe and some other regions. Now, however, the outspoken critics also include farmers and investors who were once in Monsanto’s camp.
“My personal view is that they overplayed their hand,” William R. Young, managing director of ChemSpeak and a consultant to investors in the chemical industry, said of Monsanto. “They are going to have to demonstrate to the farmer the advantage of their products.”
Brett D. Begemann, Monsanto’s executive vice president for seeds and traits, said the setbacks were not reflective of systemic management problems and that the company was already moving to deal with them.
“Farmers clearly gave us some feedback that we have made adjustments from,” he said in an interview Monday.
Mr. Begemann said that Monsanto used to introduce new seeds at a price that gave farmers two thirds and Monsanto one third of the extra profits that would come from higher yields or lower pest-control costs. But with SmartStax corn and Roundup Ready 2 soybeans, the company’s pricing aimed for a 50-50 split.
That backfired as American farmers grew only 6 million acres of Roundup Ready 2 soybeans this year, below the company’s goal of 8 million to 10 million acres, and only 3 million acres of SmartStax corn, below the goal of 4 million.Reality's biting for Monsanto. John Gilbert, an Iowa farmer tells the Christian... more
The petition for a Europe free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has hit the one million signatories target and will be handed to European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, campaigners have announced.
The petition calling for a moratorium on all new GM crop production in Europe until a proper safety regime has been put in place was launched in March 2010.
Spearheaded by Greenpeace, the initiative follows the authorisation by the Commission of a BASF antibiotic-resistant GM potato that month – the bloc's first GM cultivation approval in 12 years.
According to Greenpeace, one million signatures from across every country in the EU were collected by 28 September and "signatures continue to pour in from across Europe".
Commission President Barroso will be informed of the petition results today (6 October) and the organisers hope to arrange a "personal handover of the petition and signatures in the coming weeks".
The petition is the first to be presented under the 'Citizens' Initiative', a principle enshrined in the EU's Lisbon Treaty since December 2009. The idea is to allow citizens to directly participate in the EU legislative process.
Once an initiative has attracted one million signatures from citizens who are nationals of a significant number of EU member states, the Commission, as a college, is obliged to give serious consideration to the request.
Organisers stressed that the Commission cannot ignore public rejection of GM crops and urged the EU executive "to act swiftly" to address the concerns of European citizens, EU governments and independent scientists.The petition for a Europe free from genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has hit the... more
Just a reminder that October has been designated as Non GMO month and hoping you will take the opportunity to learn more about GMOs, how to avoid them and actions you can take to call for labelling and proper oversight. This is an important issue that connects to our health, economy and the biodiversity of our world as well as impacting the affects of climate change. So if you also miss the days when people participated on Current and posted pods, well now is your chance to post one to the Sustainable Agriculture Group this month on GMOS, sustainable agriculture, or your opinion about them and labelling them. More information on that can be found in the video.
Thank you, and let's work for a healthier and more biodiverse world for our children. They deserve nothing less.Just a reminder that October has been designated as Non GMO month and hoping you will... more
October 16th, join with farmers to stand up against agribusiness and Monsanto. Stand up to preserve the seed and the biodiversity of our planet. Stand up for real food and food sovereignty.
The Sustainable Agriculture Group will be commemorating that day with action as well as coverage all day October 16th, exposing the lies of Monsanto and their move to patent and own all seed.
More information to come.
October is also NON -GMO Month. Look for information on going NON GMO and other features all of this month on the Sustainable Agriculture Group ( see tag. )October 16th, join with farmers to stand up against agribusiness and Monsanto. Stand... more
This October, more than 580 natural food stores nationwide will take part in the first ever Non‐GMO Month, celebrating consumers' right to choose food and products that do not contain genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Organized by the non‐profit Non‐GMO Project, the event coincides with the launch of the "Non‐GMO Project Verified" seal on retail products.
The process of genetic modification, which takes place in a laboratory, typically merges DNA from different species, creating combinations of plant, animal, bacteria and viral genes that cannot occur in nature or in traditional crossbreeding. Virtually all commercial GMOs are bred to withstand direct application of herbicide and/or to produce an insecticide. None of the GMO traits currently on the market offer increase yield, drought tolerance, enhanced nutrition, or any other consumer benefit.
Studies, meanwhile, increasingly show a correlation between consumption of GMOs and an array of health risks. With U.S. consumer confidence shaken by ongoing food safety failures, distrust of GMOs is growing. As a result, more and more consumers are seeking non‐GMO choices, and Nielson reported in February of this year that "GMO‐free" is now the fastest growing store brand label claim.
The Grocery Manufacturers Association estimates that GMOs currently are in approximately 80% of conventional processed foods in the United States, but they are not labeled. This is in sharp contrast to most other developed nations around the world, where there are significant restrictions or outright bans on GMOs because they're not considered proven safe.
To fill the information gap, a "Non‐GMO Project Verified" seal has been created. Manufacturers earn the seal through compliance with rigorous GMO avoidance standards, including ingredient testing, as part of the nation's first third party non‐GMO verification program. Nearly 900 products have been verified to date, with thousands more in the process of becoming verified and new products joining the program every day. Non‐GMO Month celebrations will draw consumer attention to Non‐ GMO Project products, as well as educate them about the GMO issue.
"The Non‐GMO Project stays true to our mission to offer food in its most natural and unadulterated state, " said Michael Besancon, Whole Foods Market senior global vice president of purchasing, distribution and marketing. "We're committed to offering non‐GMO food and products and to educating consumers so they can make informed choices." Whole Foods Market stores nationwide will be participating in Non‐GMO Month, and Whole Foods also in the process of having its entire 365 private label brand verified to the Non‐GMO Project Standard.
Close to 300 independent retailers and co‐ops also are participating in Non‐GMO Month. "Retailers started the Non‐GMO Project because of consumer concern and requests for non‐GMO foods," said Corinne Shindelar, CEO of the Independent Natural Food Retailers Association (INFRA). "We have a responsibility to consumers to ensure the integrity of our food system, and among shoppers who value safe, healthy food, there is a strong desire to avoid GMOs. Non‐GMO Month is a fantastic opportunity to give people the information and non‐GMO choices they are looking for."This October, more than 580 natural food stores nationwide will take part in the first... more