tagged w/ BT toxins
This year, we are eating from the first harvest of Monsanto’s eight-trait “SmartStax” genetically modified (GM) corn. Approved in 2009 and grown for the first time in North America last year, the new GM corn appears as processed food ingredients and feed for dairy and meat animals.
Canada’s approval of SmartStax corn exposed just how little Health Canada cares to investigate the potential risks of GM crops and foods – in the case of SmartStax, not at all. Now the process to approve SmartStax in Europe has identified many of the risk issues being ignored on both sides of the ocean. Confidential industry summaries of data as well as critiques by European experts show more studies must be done to determine any potential health and environmental risks.
No risk assessment in Canada
In July 2009, Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences announced they had received approval in Canada and the US to introduce their new eight-trait GM corn SmartStax (it combines technologies from both companies). However, Health Canada did not actually assess SmartStax for human health safety. Because the individual eight GM traits were previously approved in separate crops, Canadian regulators decided there was nothing new in combining the eight together. Health Canada assumed the corn was a harmless amalgam of GM traits and did not even issue any paperwork to rubberstamp its approval.
In September 2010, the GMO Panel of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded SmartStax “is unlikely to have adverse effects on human and animal health and the environment, in the context of its intended uses.” Unlike in Canada, the European Authority actually looked at some industry documents (summarizes of studies). The German non-governmental group Testbiotech published a report in June that examined these documents as well as critiques from regulators in European countries. Its report points to many safety questions still not being addressed in Europe – questions Health Canada should have asked but never did (Testbiotech, June 2011, “How industry and EFSA have been systematically undermining the risk assessment of ‘SmartStax” www.testbiotech.de/node/515)
More GM traits, more risks?
SmartStax corn is the first GM crop that has more than three GM traits “stacked” together. SmartStax produces six different insecticidal toxins (Bt toxins) and is tolerant to two herbicides. SmartStax is also known as MON 89034 x 1507 x MON 88017 x 59122, which represents the four GM events or parental lines bred together to make SmartStax. The possible implications of such complexity were entirely overlooked by Health Canada.
Canadian regulation is essentially based on the view that moving genes around is not inherently risky. Instead of examining the process of genetic engineering, Canada evaluates the end product using, in part, the widely discredited concept of “substantial equivalence.” Substantial equivalence allows for a comparison of a GM organism with its “equivalent” already out in the environment with a “history of safe use.” Health Canada’s approval of SmartStax is an extreme application of substantial equivalence. The European Food Safety Authority chose a similar approach. As Christoph Then of Testbiotech explains, “EFSA based its approval of SmartStax to a large extent on data derived from the parental plants. But this approach is highly complicated since SmartStax has many insecticidal toxins, thus more interactions can to be expected. These interactions remain unstudied.” (June 28, 2011, CBAN press release: “Report Exposes Unstudied Risks of Monsanto’s Genetically Modified “SmartStax” Corn: EU Member State Critiques and Leaked Industry Documents Uncover Safety Questions.”)
While insect resistant crops are engineered using genes from the naturally occurring soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), the risks posed by Bt toxins cannot be assessed by comparing them with the Bt toxins that occur naturally. As the Austrian Federal Ministry of Health states, “concerning all Bt toxins, a history of safe use cannot be argued on the basis of the safety of Bt sprays applied in organic farming. The inserted genes are truncated and arranged with expression modulating DNA parts originating from different organisms and permanently expressed compared to a tight timely Bt spraying schedule.”
Additionally, the Bt toxin Cry1A.105 in SmartStax was artificially synthesized and as stated by Austria, “There is no safe use of the new recombinant protein expressed by an artificially arranged insert such as Cry1A.105.”
In their comments on the EFSA SmartStax decision, regulators from Austria summarized: “A stacked organism has to be regarded as a new event, even if no new modifications are introduced.” This view is consistent with EU regulations and with United Nations Codex guidelines that Canada helped negotiate. Austrian experts take this view because “The gene-cassette combination is new and only minor conclusions could be drawn from the assessment of the parental lines, since unexpected effects (e.g. synergistic effects of the newly introduced proteins) cannot automatically be excluded.”
More at the link.This year, we are eating from the first harvest of Monsanto’s eight-trait... more
Don Huber spent 35 years as a plant pathologist at Purdue University and knows a lot about what causes green plants to turn yellow and die prematurely. He asked the seed dealer why the SDS was so severe in the one area of the field and not the other. “Did you plant something there last year that wasn’t planted in the rest of the field?” he asked. Sure enough, precisely where the severe SDS was, the dealer had grown alfalfa, which he later killed off at the end of the season by spraying a glyphosate-based herbicide (such as Roundup). The healthy part of the field, on the other hand, had been planted to sweet corn and hadn’t received glyphosate.
This was yet another confirmation that Roundup was triggering SDS. In many fields, the evidence is even more obvious. The disease was most severe at the ends of rows where the herbicide applicator looped back to make another pass (see photo). That’s where extra Roundup was applied.
Don’s a scientist; it takes more than a few photos for him to draw conclusions. But Don’s got more—lots more. For over 20 years, Don studied Roundup’s active ingredient glyphosate. He’s one of the world’s experts. And he can rattle off study after study that eliminate any doubt that glyphosate is contributing not only to the huge increase in SDS, but to the outbreak of numerous other diseases. (See selected reading list.)
Sudden Death Syndrome is more severe at the ends of rows, where Roundup dose is strongest. Photo by Amy Bandy.
Roundup: The perfect storm for plant disease
More than 30% of all herbicides sprayed anywhere contain glyphosate—the world’s bestselling weed killer. It was patented by Monsanto for use in their Roundup brand, which became more popular when they introduced “Roundup Ready” crops starting in 1996. These genetically modified (GM) plants, which now include soy, corn, cotton, canola, and sugar beets, have inserted genetic material from viruses and bacteria that allows the crops to withstand applications of normally deadly Roundup.
(Monsanto requires farmers who buy Roundup Ready seeds to only use the company’s Roundup brand of glyphosate. This has extended the company’s grip on the glyphosate market, even after its patent expired in 2000.)
The herbicide doesn’t destroy plants directly. It rather cooks up a unique perfect storm of conditions that revs up disease-causing organisms in the soil, and at the same time wipes out plant defenses against those diseases. The mechanisms are well-documented but rarely cited.
1.The glyphosate molecule grabs vital nutrients and doesn’t let them go. This process is called chelation and was actually the original property for which glyphosate was patented in 1964. It was only 10 years later that it was patented as an herbicide. When applied to crops, it deprives them of vital minerals necessary for healthy plant function—especially for resisting serious soilborne diseases. The importance of minerals for protecting against disease is well established. In fact, mineral availability was the single most important measurement used by several famous plant breeders to identify disease-resistant varieties.
1.Glyphosate annihilates beneficial soil organisms, such as Pseudomonas and Bacillus bacteria that live around the roots. Since they facilitate the uptake of plant nutrients and suppress disease-causing organisms, their untimely deaths means the plant gets even weaker and the pathogens even stronger.
1.The herbicide can interfere with photosynthesis, reduce water use efficiency, lower lignin , damage and shorten root systems, cause plants to release important sugars, and change soil pH—all of which can negatively affect crop health.
1.Glyphosate itself is slightly toxic to plants. It also breaks down slowly in soil to form another chemical called AMPA (aminomethylphosphonic acid) which is also toxic. But even the combined toxic effects of glyphosate and AMPA are not sufficient on their own to kill plants. It has been demonstrated numerous times since 1984
Glyphosate with sterile soil (A) only stunts plant growth. In normal soil (B), pathogens kill the plant. Control (C) shows normal growth.
that when glyphosate is applied in sterile soil, the plant may be slightly stunted, but it isn’t killed (see photo).
1.The actual plant assassins, according to Purdue weed scientists and others, are severe disease-causing organisms present in almost all soils. Glyphosate dramatically promotes these, which in turn overrun the weakened crops with deadly infections.
“This is the herbicidal mode of action of glyphosate,” says Don. “It increases susceptibility to disease, suppresses natural disease controls such as beneficial organisms, and promotes virulence of soilborne pathogens at the same time.” In fact, he points out that “If you apply certain fungicides to weeds, it destroys the herbicidal activity of glyphosate!”
By weakening plants and promoting disease, glyphosate opens the door for lots of problems in the field. According to Don, “There are more than 40 diseases of crop plants that are reported to increase with the use of glyphosate, and that number keeps growing as people recognize the association between glyphosate and disease.”
cont.Don Huber spent 35 years as a plant pathologist at Purdue University and knows a lot... more
An organic farmer in the Great Southern says he will sue the owner of a neighbouring farm, after being stripped of his organic certification because genetically modified canola was found on his property.
Kojonup farmer Steven Marsh alleges the GM material blew in from a neighbouring property belonging to Michael Baxter.
Mr Marsh says he will lose a significant amount of income without his organic certification.
"Clearly I'm facing losses because I've lost my premiums on those crops and products I produce," he said.
"How long those seeds are going to be in that ground and viable now because they are just everywhere, we've got to ascertain."
He says he has been left with no option but to take legal action.
"Nobody enjoys pursuing their neighbour but what do we do?" he said.
Mr Marsh's lawyer says the damage bill could reach millions of dollars.
Mr Baxter has vowed to defend the allegation and says he will have the backing of multinational biotechnology company Monsanto, which certified his GM crop.
Western Australia's organic farming community has rallied behind Mr Marsh.
The state president of the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture, Kim Hack, said previously that Mr Marsh has the support of many farmers across the state.
"We're going to back him all the way and he's being backed up by conventional farmers as well," he said.
The Network of Concerned Farmers' Julie Newman also said previously that this case highlighted that GM farmers could face legal action if neighbouring properties are contaminated.
Ms Newman said the State Government had failed to listen to calls for a risk management strategy.
"The GM farmer should be worried because they are ultimately liable and this is an avenue where the non-GM farmer can say right we'll follow this example and we'll do the same and it could be a class action if you're not sure who causes it," she said.
The Agriculture Minister Terry Redman said earlier the government was working with Mr Marsh to try to regain his organic status.
He said while he is confident the incident is a one-off, the department would look at measures to prevent a repeat.
Mr Redman said there are no plans to reinstate a ban on the growing of GM canola.An organic farmer in the Great Southern says he will sue the owner of a neighbouring... 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