GMOs: The Best and Worst of 2016

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GMOs: The Best and Worst of 2016

Notable events, publications and news

By Jeff Kirkpatrick – Ban GMOs Now

Updated April 22, 2017

 

A lot happened in 2016. The DARK Act Extreme was made into law in July. In October, one highly anticipated event that took place was the Monsanto Tribunal. One of the main goals of the Tribunal was to get a legal opinion about alleged crimes committed by Monsanto, with the goal of focusing on ecocide. This legal opinion will not be legally binding, but it is expected to set the groundwork for hopefully transforming international laws – specifically, the inclusion of the legal definition and an enforcement procedure for criminal conduct known as ecocide.

At this point it is too early to assess the overall long-term impact the Tribunal may have. Initially a goal was set for December 2016 for the legal opinion to be issued. However, the time frame has been pushed back and it is now estimated that it will be delivered in April 2017 (see the notice HERE).

It should be acknowledged that if the legal opinion contributes to the formation of any enforceable international laws such as ecocide, it may be years before such laws can result in criminal charges. You can read more about ecocide and how it relates to international law in the following publications:

Ending Ecocide – the next necessary step in international law,” by Prisca Merz, Valérie Cabanes & Emilie Gaillard; April 6, 2014 (18 pages)

End Ecocide: A Global Citizens’ Initiative to Protect Ecosystems – Future generations depend on present decision,” by End Ecocide; September 2014 (19 pages)

The Ecocide Project – ‘Ecocide is the missing 5th Crime Against Peace’,” by Anja Gauger, Mai Pouye Rabatel-Fernel, Louise Kulbicki, Damien Short and Polly Higgins, Human Rights Consortium; June 2013 (13 pages)

To understand how the tribunal connects to the creation of ecocide as a law, see this article: “The duty to care for our common home,” by Femke Wijdekop, New Internationalist; May 1, 2016

The Monsanto Tribunal website is HERE. To read more about the tribunal itself, see these articles:

The People take on Monsanto for Crimes against Humanity in International Tribunal,” by Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch; October 13, 2016

Monsanto Faces People’s Tribunal for Crimes against Planet and Humanity,” by Nika Knight, Common Dreams; October 14, 2016

Chair of the Monsanto Tribunal explains what it means and what it might do,” by GMWatch; October 17, 2016


UPDATE: April 18, 2017

The Monsanto Tribunal judges presented their legal opinion on April 18, 2017. Among the opinion, the five international judges* stated that Monsanto “has engaged in practices which have negatively impacted the right to a healthy environment, the right to food, and the right to health.”

[*] The judges were: Dior Fall Sow (Senegal), Jorge Fernández Souza (Mexico) Eleonora Lamm (Argentina), Steven Shrybman (Canada) and Françoise Tulkens (Belgium)

For more information, see:

Monsanto isn’t feeding the world, it’s damaging food security – Monsanto Tribunal judges,” by Claire Robinson, GMWatch; April 21, 2017

Monsanto Tribunal Judges Slam Monsanto over Violation of Human Rights,” by Sustainable Pulse; April 18, 2017

Tribunal Finds Monsanto Endangers Right to Food, Health, Environment,” by Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams; April 18, 2017

International Monsanto Tribunal Advisory Opinion – The Hague,” by the Monsanto Tribunal; April 18, 2017 (60 pages)

Summary of the advisory opinion of the International Monsanto Tribunal Delivered on the 18th of April 2017 in The Hague, Netherlands,” by Sonia Conchon, Foundation Monsanto Tribunal; April 18, 2017 (7 pages)


As for the DARK Act Extreme, (S.764) it was signed by Obama on July 29, 2016 and it was codified as a public law: Public Law No. 114-216-July 29, 2016. It was given the name “National Bioengineered Food Disclosure Standard.” A seven page version of the bill is available HERE. It was promoted as a mandatory labeling bill – especially after Obama signed it (headlines often said variations of “Obama signs mandatory GMO labeling bill”). The assertion that any law could be mandatory when there is no punishment for violating that law or any means to enforce that law is ludicrous.  With no enforcement mechanism in place and no way to punish those who violate that law, it is not really a law – it is tantamount to a suggestion. The law is largely based on QR codes which require a certain type of smart phone, the right plan with that phone company and internet access in all places. It preempted the rights of states to enact their own GMO labeling laws, effectively wiping out Vermont’s law (Act 120) which was set to go into effect July 1, 2016. One of the arguments used by opponents of Vermont’s GMO labeling law was that states did not have the right to label GMO foods because this would interfere with federal interstate commerce laws. This was false. (See: “The Constitutionality of State-Mandated Labeling for Genetically Engineered Foods: A Definitive Defense,” by George A. Kimbrell & Aurora L. Paulsen, Vermont Law Review, Vol. 39; 2014). After GMO proponents lost a lawsuit followed by a ruling against them on an appeal, it was clear that Vermont had the right to demand GMO labels. Biotech puppets in Congress responded to the call of their masters and S.764 eventually materialized. You can read more about the GMO labeling bill here: “GMO Labeling Bill S.764,” by Jeff Kirkpatrick, Ban GMOs Now; July 15, 2016

The law is discriminatory against millions of elderly, poor and minority people. Andrew Kimbrell (Center for Food Safety) appropriately said that it was a “sham – and a national embarrassment.” A petition was signed by over 100,000 people asking Obama to veto the bill, but the request was denied. In the response from the White House that justified Obama’s signature, rather than a veto, it was pretty clear that there was a serious lack of comprehension about the bill and the facts related to this topic. For example, this statement sounds like the kind of talking points written by the biotech industry itself: “In recent years, Americans have expressed increased interest in understanding how their food is produced – including whether it was produced using bioengineering (sometimes referred to as genetically modified organisms or GMOs).” That’s pretty disingenuous on multiple levels. The fight for GMO labels has existed since the 1990’s – how is that a recent development? There was even a best-selling book in 1999 which was re-published in 2001 that addressed this very issue. (Kimberly A. Wilson & Martin Teitel Ph.D., Genetically Engineered Food: Changing the Nature of Nature, Park Street Press (2nd Edition – March 2001).

And nobody has ever really used the terminology “bioengineered food” until recently, when politicians who support GMOs tried to replace “GMOs” with “bioengineered food” because of the stigma attached to GMOs (gee, I wonder why GMOs have such a negative image associated with them). The attempt to bend language, or use alternative words, is nothing more than a feeble attempt to rebrand GMOs with a new name because – as Senator Roberts (sponsor of S.764) said in 2015: “We don’t call it GMO; we call it biotech for a purpose. We are trying to prove to the American people that their food is safe.” Talk about Lipstick on a Pig!

Is there a silver lining in the cloud about S.764? Perhaps. Carmen Bain & Tamera Dandachi observed that,

“Ironically, for the anti-GMO movement the non-GMO governance efforts of food retailers and others may turn out to undermine the broader, long-term objectives of their cause. The GMO labeling movement emerged out of an anti-GMO movement that is fundamentally opposed to GMO crops and foods and ultimately seeks to banish them entirely from the agri-food system. This stance is rooted in broad based concerns that the technology is inherently tied to – and reinforces – an agri-food system that favors large-scale, corporate-controlled industrial production with little concern for socially and environmentally healthy and just outcomes for farmers, consumers, and the environment. From this perspective, GMOs are problematic because they perpetuate a system that relies on silver bullet technological fixes to address complex social and environmental problems, instead of approaches that emphasize holistic and systems thinking.”

See: “Governing GMOs: The (Counter) Movement for Mandatory and Voluntary Non-GMO Labels,” by Carmen Bain & Tamera Dandachi, Sustainability Vol. 6 Issue 12; December 18, 2014 (21 pages).

The problems with GMOs are many. They are not just limited to whether or not a consumer has the Right to Know or transparency in the food system, or even about health related concerns. Ultimately, GMOs represent the corporate takeover of the world’s food system by a handful of corporations. Through patent and IP “rights” and international trade agreements, the spread of GMOs around the world translates into the decrease of small family farms; the promotion of industrial agriculture; the reliance on and promotion of monocultures; the reduction of biodiversity and plant genetic resources; the attack on food sovereignty and food justice. Seen in this context, GMOs represent a threat to food security on a global scale (see: “Food for Thought”). Perhaps some of those who fought so hard for GMO labels will now give more attention and energy to these very significant problems associated with GMOs. When GMOs are regarded and defined by this more comprehensive and inclusive definition, the problems with them clearly exceed the separate facets of the Right to Know and health concerns; GMOs are not just a personal, local or national issue. Whether it is ever successful or not, the greater goal of calling for a global ban on GMOs is not only justifiable, but necessary in order to protect the environment from an industry and its products that depends on, supports and promotes the industrial agricultural model which is a major contributor to climate change and loss of biodiversity; ultimately GMOs must be banned to assure food justice and protect the food system for future generations.


2016 was also a difficult year for another reason. Two older websites shut down. Neither one had been actively posting for years, but I know that many people would share links from them from time to time. The first website that disappeared was Mindfully.org. In this case, there was a sort of warning that it was going to shut down. On the top right hand of the website, there was an advertisement saying the website address was for sale. I attempted to get as much of the website as I could here and there during the next few weeks, but was too busy to focus on that project completely, and then it was gone. The other website that disappeared was psrast.org (Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Application of Science and Technology). An affiliation of PSRAST known as Physicians and Scientists for Responsible Genetics (PSRGNZ) located in New Zealand still has an active website, but I don’t think they have publications from the former website, PSRAST. Also, PSRGNZ has changed its name to Physicians and Scientists for Global Responsibility. Their website is HERE. A similar website, Physicians for Social Responsibility, is HERE.

After the losses of the different websites, I decided that I would make more effort to download important studies, reports and articles – just in case. It may be a good idea if people do that in case links change or websites shut down. If people have blogs or websites, they can upload them to make them available for others.


mae-wan-small-oval“Take it upon yourself to understand the science behind genetic engineering, expose the lies and half-truths you’ve been told; that’s how to learn real science, and it is fun. Don’t be intimidated by the ‘experts’.” – Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, quoted in “Mae-Wan Ho Answers 10 (actually 11) Questions on GMOs, Science, and Life,” interview by Paul Haeder, Institute of Science in Society; January 13, 2014


joe-cummins-meme-via-gmwatch-small-2This past year we also lost some giants in the science community. Joe Cummins, described as a “renowned London environmentalist” passed away from cancer on January 11 at the age of 82. [Image source: GMWatch]

He had co-authored a number of publications on the website Institute of Science in Society, including “Food Futures Now: Organic – Sustainable – Fossil Fuel Free,” which was published in 2008.

Soon after Joe Cummins passed away, Dr. Mae Wan-Ho, who founded the website Institute of Science in Society, also passed away on March 24. Among the many publications by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, two very important ones that she co-authored are, “Banishing Glyphosate,” by Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji, Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, et al., Institute of Science in Society; September 2015 and “Ban GMOs Now – Health and Environmental Hazards, Especially in Light of the New Genetics,” by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho and Dr. Eva Sirinathsignhji, Institute of Science in Society; July 2013. I never met Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, or communicated directly with her, but I admired her tenacity and unique spirit. The blog Ban GMOs Now was named after the report of the same name. Of course pro-GMO advocates vilified her (and they still do) because she was one of the first scientists to call for a ban on GMOs.

mae-wan-ho-gm-ag-recipe-for-disaster-small

Soon after she passed away, the website was archived by the U.K. government and re-named Institute of Science in Society Archive. It has recently been redesigned and some links to certain reports were not working at the time of this writing, but it is expected that those will be corrected. In the meantime, I have uploaded a number of important reports to this website so that they would still be accessible. A number are listed on the homepage of Ban GMOs Now, and they can also be found on my blog post, “GMO Reports” which links to a large pdf file that will be constantly updated.

The losses that happened in 2016 did increase my appreciation for what we have, for all those who work hard to change the food system and for organizations that have really made significant contributions over the years. Center for Food Safety not only provides information on a continual basis, but the legal work they do may sometimes be under-recognized and overlooked. They have appeared before the Supreme Court; they have sued Monsanto, the FDA, the EPA, the USDA and more. Many of the positive changes that have taken place that may not be fully recognized right away can be attributed to their tireless efforts. It seems that without them, certain regulations would never have been enforced. As Andrew Kimbrell once said, it is “Regulation by litigation.” (See: Congressional Hearing: “Statement of Andrew Kimbrell – Are Superweeds an Outgrowth of USDA Biotechnology,” by the House Committee on Oversight & Government Reform, July 28, 2010).

Additionally, one of the best sources of daily information on GMOs is the U.K. based organization, GMWatch. You can sign up for a newsletter subscription HERE. Both of these non-profit organizations have done outstanding work over the years. For those who are interested and able, donations can be made to Center for Food Safety by clicking on the link on this page and to GMWatch HERE.

I would also like to acknowledge Jonathan Latham PhD and express my gratitude to him for sharing his experiences, knowledge, and wisdom with us through his two websites: Independent Science News and his more technical website, Bioscience Resource Project. His valuable contributions have helped many of us increase our scientific understanding about the complexity of GMOs and related subjects. Independent Science News (part of the Bioscience Resource Project) “relies entirely on the generous support of our readers … We do not accept commercial advertisements or funding.” On the “About” page, he links to an article which reveals his reasoning (“The Progressive Movement is a PR Front for Rich Democrats,” by John Stauber, CounterPunch, March 15, 2013). He says that even “a small financial contribution helps maintain our legal non-profit status.” If you are able and would like to make a donation, you can do so HERE.



Summary of 2016’s “Best and Worst” Publications

There were a lot of publications this past year that gained a lot of attention. The report by the National Academy of Sciences was probably one of the worst in many ways. In May, the pre-publication version of “Genetically Engineered Crops: Experiences and Prospects,” was published (over 400 pages). The final version (around 600 pages) was quietly released in December – around the same time that the New York Times published an article about conflicts of interests of members in the Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources and Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops behind the report. The Times article confirmed the findings of the two year investigation by Food & Water Watch that was made public in May with their publication, “Under the Influence: The National Research Council and GMOs.” One of the main messages associated with this report was the false claim that all GMOs are safe, and major media outlets repeated the mantra with the kind of mindless lack of scrutiny we have come to know and expect.

The timing of the pre-publication was curious because it served as an obvious tool for members of Congress who referred to it when they promoted the absurd [non-GM] labeling act, S.764. Certain Congressional members referred to it during the floor debates, including Senator Debbie Stabenow (one of the co-sponsors of the final version of S.764); they made a point about how a group of “independent scientists” made the [unfounded] claim that GMOs are safe. The NAS committee reviewed studies that confirmed their arguments, and ignored others that contradicted the findings that they wanted to convey. It is not widely known, but a representative from one of the non-profit organizations delivered a number of studies to the committee, and the report makes no reference to any of those studies at all. It’s one thing to dispute the findings of a number of studies concerning adverse health concerns, and another to ignore them altogether.

In fact, the report was so bad it also dismissed any environmental damage caused by the use of GE crops; on page 154, the report states that “Overall, the committee found no evidence of cause-and-effect relationships between GE crops and environmental problems.” Such reckless and biased statements negate any potential validity this report attempts to portray. To briefly illustrate the absurdity of such claims consider the fact that Congress held hearings in 2010 about the explosive growth of glyphosate resistant weeds (superweeds). They were deemed the “single largest threats to production agriculture” that the United States had ever seen (see: “U.S. Farmers Cope with Roundup-Resistant Weeds,” by William Neuman and Andrew Pollack, New York Times; May 3, 2010). The use of GM crops has resulted in insecticide resistance worms, an increase in the population of secondary pests, the negative impact on off-target species and so on. All-in-all, the report was really nothing more than a convenient propaganda tool that helped Congressional members pass the GMO labeling bill and I have no doubt that it will be used to further justify and promote GMOs globally – all based on junk science and lies. The NAS is billed as an “independent group of scientists” – but this is utterly false, in large part because of conflicts of interest and sources of funding.

This past year Golden Rice reappeared in the news in a magnificent show of propaganda. Once again, the timing of the Golden Propaganda influenced speeches given by members of Congress who spewed literal falsehoods to fend off true GMO labeling efforts and fight back against resistance to S.764.

There were so many events and publications in 2016 that it’s difficult to narrow down the list. GM mosquitoes became a significant issue with the spread of the Zika virus. New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBTs), especially CRISPR, drew a great deal of attention. There were many studies, reports and articles that were published, and it’s very likely that the “Best and Worst of 2016” will omit many that deserve to be mentioned (either intentionally or by oversight). That being said, here are some of the highlights:

One of the best overall authors who has been consistently publishing articles for years about GMOs and agricultural issues is Colin Todhunter. Colin’s articles are so well-researched that if one follows the many links that he provides, and reviews those sources as well, then his articles can be elevated to the status of research papers. He has also become the de facto representative voice of Dr. Rosemary Mason. Among her many accomplishments, Rosemary Mason was co-author of “Banishing Glyphosate,” published by the Institute of Science in Society in 2015. Rosemary is a prolific writer and her open letters to government agencies and officials and her other publications are given an extra boost by Colin who summarizes her main points in some of the articles he publishes. For example, see:

Monsanto And The Poisoning Of Europe: An Open letter to the EFSA Chief Attorney about Re-licensing Glyphosate in the EU,” by Colin Todhunter, EAST BY NORTHWEST; May 17, 2016

Toxic Allegiances and Corporate Power: Open Letter to the Oxford Martin Commission,” by Colin Todhunter, CounterPunch; October 7, 2016

Agrochemicals and the Cesspool of Corruption: Dr. Mason writes to the US EPA,” by Colin Todhunter, CounterPunch; October 26, 2016

And more recently, “The British Government has Colluded with Monsanto and should be held accountable in the International Criminal Court,” by Colin Todhunter, Countercurrents; January 27, 2017

The combination of Rosemary Mason’s scientific background and Colin Todhunter’s powerful writing skills is an invaluable contribution that has helped to amplify the voices of those who are concerned about GMOs, pesticides, and especially glyphosate-based herbicides. One sure sign that Colin Todhunter is successful at exposing the lies and myths propelled by the biotech industry and its supporters is the ubiquitous and immediate presence of pro-GMO proponents who comment on some of his articles (when they are initially published in the Huffington Post, for example). A number of these shills are repeat offenders who misquote Colin and the sources he links to in fevered but feeble and impotent attempts to discredit him. It is somewhat comical and absolutely predictable. Colin is an independent writer who gratefully accepts public support to ensure that he can continue to publish; those who wish to support his work can reach him through his website HERE. A number of his articles are listed as some of the best publications of 2016.

One of the most notable publications this year was by Jonathan Latham, PhD: “God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and the Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing,” Independent Science News, published on April 25, 2016. This article should be read by everyone who has any concerns about GMOs, particularly those who would like to understand not only CRISPR, but the propaganda that is used to promote it.

Some of the other most notable publications include:

Field-Evolved Resistance in Corn Earworm to Cry Proteins Expressed by Transgenic Sweet Corn,” by Galen P Dively, Dilip Venugopal and Chad Finkenbinder, PLoS One, Vol. 11, No. 12; December 30, 2016 (22 pages)

An integrated multi-omics analysis of the NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize reveals metabolism disturbances caused by the transformation process,” by Robin Mesnage, Sarah Z. Agapito-Tenfen, Vinicius Vilperte, George Renney, Malcolm Ward, Gilles-Eric Séralini, Rubens O. Nodari & Michael N. Antoniou, Scientific Reports, Vol. 6, Article number: 37855; December 2016 (14 pages)

Risks of GM crops engineered to utilise RNA interference,” by Eva Sirinathsinghji, Biosafety Briefing, Third World Network; November 2016 (10 pages)

GM crops: rebuttal of claims on safety and benefits,” by Claire Robinson, Ban GMOs Now; October 30, 2016 (31 pages) [originally published by Corporate Europe Observatory on June 13, 2016]

Why the Food Movement is Unstoppable,” by Jonathan Latham, Independent Science News; September 20, 2016

The Root of the Rootworm Problem: What a Tiny Beetle Can Tell Us about Our Broken Agricultural System,” by Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman, Civil Eats; August 25, 2016

The GMO Debate: One Student’s Experience at Cornell,” Robert Schooler, Independent Science News, August 1, 2016

Biodiversity, GMOs, Gene Drives and the Militarized Mind,” by Vandana Shiva, Common Dreams; July 10, 2016

Genetically modified Golden Rice falls short on lifesaving promises,” by Gerry Everding, The Source, Washington University in St. Louis which was published on June 2, 2016.

Risks and side effects for humans and animals: What really goes wrong in the regulation of genetically engineered plants – Risk assessment of genetically engineered plants used for food and feed and flaws in the work of the European Food Safety Authority EFSA,” by Christoph Then & Andreas Bauer-Panskus, Testbiotech; June, 2016 (33 pages)

From Uniformity to Diversity – A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems,” by IPES-Food; June 2016 (96 pages) [International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems]

Farming for the Future: Organic and Agroecological Solutions to Feed the World,” by Christopher D. Cook, Kari Hamerschlag & Kendra Klein, PhD., Friends of the Earth, June 2016 (23 pages)

CFS “Comments on the Food and Drug Administration’s Draft Environmental Assessment and Preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact for the Release of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes as an Investigational New Animal Drug,” by Center for Food Safety (Docket No. FDA-2014-N-2235); May 13, 2016 (82 pages)

Essential Features of Responsible Governance of Agricultural Biotechnology,” by Sarah Hartley, Frøydis Gillund, Lilian van Hove & Fern Wickson, PLoS Biology, vol. 14, No. 5; May 4, 2016 (7 pages)

Glyphosate: Too Much of a Good Thing?” by Marek Cuhra, Thomas Bøhn and Petr Cuhra, Frontiers in Environmental Science, Vol. 4, Article 28; April 2016 (14 pages)

Seed Laws, Certification and Standardization: Outlawing Informal Seed Systems in the Global South,” by Tamara Wattnem, The Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 43, Issue 4; March 16, 2016 (19 pages)

Co-Formulants in Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Disrupt Aromatase Activity in Human Cells below Toxic Levels,” by Nicolas Defarge, Gilles-Eric Séralini, et al, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , Vol. 13, No. 3; February 26, 2016 (17 pages)

Concerns over use of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Risks Associated with Exposures: A Consensus Statement,” by John Peterson Myers et al., Environmental Health, Vol. 15, Issue 19; February 17, 2016 (13 pages)

Trends in Glyphosate Herbicide Use in the United States and Globally,” by Charles M. Benbrook, Environmental Sciences Europe, Vol. 28 Issue 3; February 2, 2016 (15 pages)

Pathology reports on the first cows fed with Bt176 maize (1997–2002),” by Gottfried Glöckner and Gilles-Éric Séralini, Scholarly Journal of Agricultural Science Vol. 6, No. 1; January 2016 (8 pages)

Transgenic Transboundary Pollution: Liability when Genetically Modified Pollen Crosses National Borders,” by Teal O. Miller, The University of the Pacific Law Review, Vol. 47, Issue 2; January 2016 (23 pages)

These publications and more are discussed below. The review starts with the best books, then reports and issue briefs, followed by articles and other publications. Then I list a few articles about mergers. After that I look back to some of the publications that were overlooked from 2015 and finish with a special section on Golden Propaganda – the Golden Rice event of 2016.



 

Best Books of 2016:

 

GMO-Free Child: The book is listed as one of the best publications in 2016 for a number of reasons. It is highly recommended as a useful source for those who would like to learn some basic history and information about GMOs. GMOs are ubiquitous in our food supply and yet relatively few people know this and many don’t understand what they are. As a result, they may not be aware of or fully understand the many concerns that people have about them. Having a basic understanding about GMOs is especially important for all parents; just as parents know the importance of feeding their children healthier food (less sugars, fewer processed foods, more vegetables, etc.), a growing number of parents understand that it is equally important to have an awareness about GMOs and the pesticides and herbicides that are associated with them. gmo-free-child-front-cover

These unique food products have never existed in nature before are not required to undergo long-term chronic toxicity studies on a case-by-case basis (nor are there any requirements for post-marketing studies); consequently some parents have decided to exclude GMOs from their children’s diets and in some cases, they witness a concurrent improvement in the health of their children. The book is well-written and well-researched. If you have relatives or friends who are not aware of (or do not understand GMOs), consider buying them a copy as a gift.  Available on Amazon:

April Scott, GMO-Free Child: A Parent’s Guide to Dietary Cleanup of Genetically Modified Organisms, Inkwater Press, (November 2016). From the description on Amazon:

In GMO-Free Child you will discover:

  • Why Genetically Modified Food is so controversial and how it could be affecting the health of your child
  • What many doctors are reporting about GMOs and how they have been affecting their patients
  • Why adopting a healthy GMO-Free lifestyle is the best health insurance money can buy.
  • In addition, we will explore a variety of tips, tricks and tools to help you raise your GMO-Free child.

Featuring personal interviews with GMO-Free champions Jeffrey Smith (Institute for Responsible Technology), Diana Reeves (GMO Free USA) and Amber King (Moms Across America) and testimonials from several GMO-Free moms that will help guide you from farm to table with confidence and conviction.

This is the GMO-Free guide you’ve been waiting for, packed with resources galore, including kid-friendly and allergy-free recipes that are guaranteed to warm the heart and nourish the body.

Warning: You might expect any or all of the following serious side effects: improved digestion, loss of allergies, better sleep, stronger immunity, improved moods, higher functioning, better behavior and clearer thinking.

As a powerful voice for your right to know what you are feeding your family, April Scott is the “Cleanfood Advocate.” She believes that America is ignoring a public health emergency that is perpetuating a silent storm of illness and disease upon our vulnerable children.

“Your book is amazing! You have done a great job with a vast space of material, and I can see that you have carefully researched it. Thanks for all that you have done and continue to do to fight this important cause!” – Stephanie Seneff, PhD, MIT Research Scientist

“GMO Free Child is THE book to give a new mom! April Scott compiles all you need to know to navigate the toxic food supply with ease and raise a healthy GMO-free child in this essential guidebook. She gathers the science, explains the food system clearly, and uses her criminology background to suss out the corruption in our food system. She also explains the solutions and provides inspiring testimonials. If you or your friends are concerned about allergies, a fussy baby, picky eater, behavioral issues or autoimmune conditions, grab a couple copies of this book and share it. It is up to us, moms, parents, and grandparents, to protect our families!” -Zen Honeycutt, Executive Director Moms Across America

Read a review by Emily-Jane Hills Orford on Reader’s Favorite HERE. April has also posted a brief YouTube video which describes a little background about her personal experience and which is behind her motivation to write this book. See: “GMO-Free Child …”– YouTube (2:32) published by April Scott on December 10, 2016


The Great Climate Robbery: This is a very important book that examines the links between industrial agriculture, the global proliferation of GMOs, and fertilizers that are derived from fossil fuels (and the influence of oil giants) which go hand-in-hand with agricultural biotechnology. One of the main themes of this book is how the consequence of this corporate control of the world’s food system is a main contributor to climate change. It is also an examination of the forces who are behind climate change denial and why. This book takes the subject of GMOs from a localized and personal point-of-view and broadens our understanding of how vast this problem is. It demonstrates that the opposition to GMOs must not only be on a local level, but we must also take actions based on the recognition that this is a worldwide issue which ultimately poses a global threat to humanity.the-great-climate-robbery-2

A related summary article is here: “The Exxons of agriculture,” by GRAIN; September 2015

A summary article is here: “The great climate robbery,” by GRAIN; December 17, 2016

Excerpt from the article: During the pasts five years, we have pulled together the available data to show how the industrial food system is a major driver of climate change and how food sovereignty is critical to any lasting and just solution. With governments, particularly those from the main polluting countries, abdicating their responsibility to deal with the problem, it has become ever more critical for people to take action into their own hands. Changing the food system is perhaps the most important and effective place to start.
The various articles on climate change selected for this book should provide readers with solid information about how the industrial food system causes climate change, how food and agribusiness corporations are getting away with it and what can be done to turn things around. Other chapters provide a picture of how this climate-killing food system is expanding through the consolidation of corporate control over lands, seeds and markets, and how struggles are under way to stop it.
We hope this book will help readers to better understand the ways in which corporations seek to increase their control over the food system so that this control can be more effectively challenged. We hope it will inspire people to take action and we hope that it will provide readers with some information and analysis that they can use directly in their own work.

The book is available on Amazon: Henk Hobbelink (GRAIN) editor, The Great Climate Robbery: How the Food System Drives Climate Change and What We Can Do about It, New Internationalist (September 2016).

Some reviews of the book:

“This book is a must read for movements addressing climate change as well as Seed and Food Sovereignty. It shows that industrial corporate agriculture is a major part of the climate crisis, and small scale ecological farming is a significant solution. It also alerts us to the false solutions being offered by those who created the problem — the Exxons of Agriculture.” – Dr. Vandana Shiva, author of Soil, Not Oil and Who really feeds the world

“Food, land and seeds: protecting them is as essential to climate justice as rooftop solar, wind co-ops, or democratic public transit. This book lifts up the voices of indigenous and peasant farmers around the world, comprehensively explaining why their fight to stop the industrial food juggernaut is the same as the fight for a habitable, just planet.” – Naomi Klein, author of This Changes Everything and The Shock Doctrine

“It’s about time that the role agriculture plays in the climate crisis–and the role it could play in the solution–got a concentrated dose of attention. This is fine work that will provoke much new activism!” – Bill McKibben, author of Deep Economy

“This publication is an instrument of great analytical value providing an alternative for moving forward in the fight for sustainable human development and for the right to life on the planet.” –Víctor Hugo Jijon, Commission for the Defense of Human Rights, Quito, Ecuador


 

Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat?

By now, most people involved with GMOs have seen this image:

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Source: “Seed Industry Structure 1996-2013,” by Philip H. Howard, Associate Professor, Michigan State University

The person who researched and created the seed industry structure image published an informative book about that research: Philip H. Howard, Concentration and Power in the Food System: Who Controls What We Eat? Bloomsbury Academic (February 2016). His bio states:

Philip H. Howard is Associate Professor of Community Sustainability at Michigan State University, USA. He has published widely in scholarly food and agriculture journals, as well as numerous outlets aimed at broader audiences, and is a member of the editorial board of the journal Agriculture and Human Values.

From the description on Amazon:

“Nearly every day brings news of another merger or acquisition involving the companies that control our food supply. Just how concentrated has this system become? At almost every key stage of the food system, four firms alone control 40% or more of the market, a level above which these companies have the power to drive up prices for consumers and reduce their rate of innovation. Researchers have identified additional problems resulting from these trends, including negative impacts on the environment, human health, and communities.

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“This book reveals the dominant corporations, from the supermarket to the seed industry, and the extent of their control over markets. It also analyzes the strategies these firms are using to reshape society in order to further increase their power, particularly in terms of their bearing upon the more vulnerable sections of society, such as recent immigrants, ethnic minorities and those of lower socioeconomic status. Yet this study also shows that these trends are not inevitable. Opposed by numerous efforts, from microbreweries to seed saving networks, it explores how such opposition has encouraged the most powerful firms to make small but positive changes.”

 

The book is very well-researched and Howard goes into great detail about how food-based corporations are able to influence what people eat and how they sway policy decisions. Although this book is not at all specific to GMOs, the information provided shows how complex the entire food system can be, and so it is recommended for anyone who is interested in food activism in any way. To see his writing style and get an understanding of some of the concepts in his book, two earlier publications can be informative:

Intellectual Property and Consolidation in the Seed Industry,” by Philip H. Howard, Crop Science, Vol. 55; November-December 2015 (7 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

Visualizing Consolidation in the Global Seed Industry 1996-2008,” by Philip H. Howard, Sustainability, Vol. 1, No 4; December 8, 2009 (22 pages)

This publication is also HERE in HTML format where a pdf version can also be downloaded.


 

Who Really Feeds the World? Technically, this next book should have been on last year’s list because it was originally published in August 2015 by ZED Books. However, it was republished in 2016 and was on Amazon for sale in June 2016: Vandana Shiva, Who Really Feeds the World?: The Failures of Agribusiness and the Promise of Agroecology, North Atlantic Books (June 2016).

vandana-shiva-book-who-really-feeds-the-world

The description from the back cover states: Debunking the notion that our current food crisis must be addressed through industrial agriculture and genetic modification, author and activist Vandana Shiva argues that those forces are in fact the ones responsible for the hunger problem in the first place. Who Really Feeds the World? is a powerful manifesto calling for agricultural justice and genuine sustainability, drawing upon Shiva’s thirty years of research and accomplishments in the field. Instead of relying on genetic modification and large-scale mono-cropping to solve the world’s food crisis, she proposes that we look to agroecology – the knowledge of the interconnectedness that creates food—as a truly life-giving alternative to the industrial paradigm. Shiva succinctly and eloquently lays out the networks of people and processes that feed the world, exploring issues of diversity, the needs of small farmers, the importance of seed saving, the movement toward localization, and the role of women in producing the world’s food.

A review by Booklist states that Vandana Shiva: “makes many points that refute reflexive anger and demand immediate discussion. [She] brings new urgency to her explanations of the problems caused by monoculture agriculture, anchored by corn and soybeans in America … A book to jump-start conversations about a crucial subject.”

I came across an interesting low-key YouTube video about this book. The video features Neil Charter who describes himself as “a philosophy hobbyist and enthusiast interested in critically thinking with others” on his blog, The Black Ponderer. On his YouTube channel (HERE), he reads sections from a variety of different books for viewers, and then he reflects on what he has read by summarizing, in his own words, his understanding of the text. He has a pleasant demeanor and his intelligent and insightful contemplation do justice to some of the main points in Vandana Shiva’s book. I recommend that if anyone is curious to learn more about the book, they take a look at the video:

Who Really Feeds the World by Vandana Shiva | Book Discourse” YouTube (21:17) published by The Black Ponderer on December 12, 2016



 

Best Reports & Issue Briefs of 2016:

 

Net Loss – Economic Efficacy and Costs of Neonicotinoid Insecticides Used as Seed Coatings: Updates from the United States and Europe,” by Peter T. Jenkins, Center for Food Safety; December 2016 (26 pages)net-loss-by-cfs-2016

A summary article is here: “Net Loss – Economic Efficacy and Costs of Neonicotinoid Insecticides Used as Seed Coatings: Updates from the United States and Europe,” by the Center for Food Safety; December 6, 2016

 

 

 

 

Synthetic biology – biosafety and contribution to addressing societal challenges,” by Odd-Gunnar Wikmark, Trygve Brautaset, Sarah Z. Agapito-Tenfen, Arinze Stanley Okoli, Anne Ingeborg Myhr, Rosa Binimelis and Lim Li Ching, GenØk, December 2016 (70 pages)

 

Human health implications of organic food and organic agriculture,” by Axel Mie, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot, Johannes Kahl, Helle Raun Andersen, Philippe Grandjean and Stefan Gunnarsson of the Scientific Foresight Unit (STOA) for the European Parliamentary Research Service (EPRS); December 2016 (88 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

Related summary articles are here: “Year-End Gift to Organic Advocates: Study Shows Organic Foods Provide Health Benefits,” by Joey DeMarco, Food Tank; December 31, 2016

Organic foods backed by landmark report – warning pesticides far more dangerous than was thought,” by GMWatch; June 3, 2017

This publication is cited in this related article: “Can Organic Food Prevent a Public Health Crisis?” by Elizabeth Grossman, Civil Eats; March 8, 2017

 

Glyphosate: Unsafe on Any Plate,” by David Murphy (Food Democracy Now) and Henry Rowlands (Detox Project); November 2016 (29 pages)

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This publication can also be found HERE and HERE.

A summary article is here: “Alarming Levels of Glyphosate Contamination Found in Popular American Foods,” by Food Democracy Now; November 14, 2016

 

 

 

 

The Permanent People’s Tribunal Session on Agrochemical Transnational Corporations: Indictment and Verdict (December 3-6, 2011),” edited by Barbara Dinham and Dr. Meriel Watts, Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific; October 2016 (292 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

Please note that this publication is a review of a People’s Tribunal that took place in 2011 – not the more recent Monsanto-related Tribunal that took place in 2016.

Description: This publication details the indictment and the verdict of the Permanent People’s Tribunal Session on Agrochemical Transnational Corporations spearheaded by PAN International in Bangalore, India on December 3-6, 2011. The publication contains the evidence of the violations of human rights of the world’s six largest agrochemical companies Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer, Dow Chemical, DuPont and BASF. It includes the verdict of the Tribunal which found the agrochemical TNCs “responsible for gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, and women and children’s rights.” And finally it includes the testimonies of victims and survivors, expert witnesses and submissions of the lawyers.

 

Glyphosate Monograph,” by Dr. Meriel Watts, Peter Clausing, Angeliki Lyssimachou, Gesine Schutte, Rina Guadagnini and Emily Marquez, Pesticide Action Network International; October 2016 (96 pages) [This not a publication from the IARC]

A related summary article is here: “Glyphosate is Not Safe, Reveals New Review by Experts,” by the Biosafety Information Center; November 22, 2016

 

Monsanto’s lobbying practices: an attack on us, our planet and democracy,” by Nina Holland and Benjamin Sourice, Corporate Europe Observatory; October 2016 (20 pages)

monsanto-attack-on-planet-democracy

A summary article is here: “Media release: Monsanto’s lobbying practices: an attack on us, our planet and democracy,” by Corporate Europe Observatory; October 13 2016

Excerpt: The WHO’s cancer agency IARC found in 2015 that glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup) “probably causes cancer in humans”. Monsanto was up in arms – and asked for the IARC report’s retraction, saying it was “junk science”. IARC on the contrary only used published scientific literature, and worked with a panel of independent cancer specialists.

The battle to keep glyphosate on the market in the EU was coordinated by the Glyphosate Task Force (GTF), a Monsanto-led lobby platform that is run from the offices of PR firm Hume Brophy in the EU quarter. Monsanto lobbyist Richard Garnett is its spokesperson. Based on unpublished industry-funded studies presented by the GTF, EFSA concluded that glyphosate was “probably not” carcinogenic. The IARC and a hundred scientists urged the European Commission in an open letter “to disregard the flawed EFSA finding.”

At the same time, another international panel on pesticides concluded that glyphosate residues in food were “unlikely” to cause cancer in humans. Monsanto’s Robert Fraley was cheering on twitter. The panel was chaired by chaired by ILSI Europe’s vice-president Alan Boobis. He is also a former EFSA expert who had to leave the agency because of his ILSI role.

 

Feeding the World – Think U.S. Agriculture Will End World Hunger? Think Again,” by Anne Weir Schechinger and Craig Cox, Environmental Working Group (EWG); October 2016 (14 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.feeding-world-think-again-small

A summary article is here: “Feeding the World,” by Anne Weir Schechinger, and Craig Cox, EWG; October 5, 2016

This publication is cited in this related article: “No, Giant Farms Are Not Feeding the World. They’re Feeding Canada.“ by Tom Philpott, Mother Jones; October 5, 2016

Excerpt: Less than 1% of America’s agricultural exports go to the 19 countries with the highest levels of undernourishment. Even though we provide almost half of all food aid to those countries, U.S. exports and food aid together constitute only 2.3% of their food supplies.

However, food supplies and access to food are not the only causes of undernourishment. A number of other factors – including the poverty rate, level of education, knowledge of nutrition, and the occurrence of war and conflict – are also important in determining how best to alleviate hunger in the 19 undernourished countries. Increasing food supplies alone will not ease undernourishment as long as too many people remain poor and have low levels of education.

 

the-impact-of-glyphosate-on-soil-health

 

The impact of glyphosate on soil health: The evidence to date,” by Soil Association; March 2016 (9 pages)

 

 

 

 

 

Toxic Concoctions – How the EPA Ignores the Dangers of Pesticide Cocktails,” by Nathan Donley, PhD, Center for Biological Diversity; July 2016 (16 pages)

toxic-connections-smallExcerpt: More than 1 billion pounds of pesticides are used in the United States each year, applied to agricultural fields and orchards, residential lawns, playgrounds and parks. Pesticides are often mixed with other pesticides and chemicals before application or after, and the individual ingredients in these mixtures can interact in such a way as to enhance their toxic effects. This is referred to as “synergy,” and it can turn what would normally be considered a safe level of exposure to people, wildlife and the environment into one that causes considerable harm.

Although pesticide mixtures in the environment have been extensively documented, the Environmental Protection Agency generally only assesses the toxicity of pesticides individually, in isolation from potential real-life scenarios where these pesticides may interact with other chemicals. The EPA, which is tasked with ensuring that pesticides do not result in unreasonable harm to human health and the environment, often rationalizes this approach by stating that studies measuring mixture toxicity are often not available for analysis.

Our analysis, however, contradicts that claim by utilizing a publicly available information source (data from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office) that provides a disturbing snapshot of pesticide synergy and the potential for widespread danger to people, waterways and wildlife – risks the EPA has repeatedly failed to identify and consider during its approval process.

For this report we conducted an intensive search of patent applications that were germane to all pesticide products containing two or more active ingredients approved by the EPA in the past six years from four major agrochemical companies (Bayer, Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta).

Among our key findings:

69 percent of these products (96 out of 140) had at least one patent application that claimed or demonstrated synergy between the active ingredients in the product;

72 percent of the patent applications that claimed or demonstrated synergy involved some of the most highly used pesticides in the United States, including glyphosate, atrazine, 2,4-D, dicamba and the controversial neonicotinoids thiamethoxam, imidacloprid and clothianidin, among others, indicating that potential impacts could be widespread.

This suggests that synergistic action between pesticide active ingredients is much better documented and more common than current EPA pesticide assessments would indicate. Further, it appears that pesticide companies are in fact collecting information about the synergistic effects of their products that they are not sharing with the EPA. Recognizing that pesticide synergy data are widely available and that the synergistic relationships between pesticides can have serious implications for human and environmental health, the EPA must now take action to properly consider the potential consequences of pesticide synergy.

 

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State of Organic Seed, 2016,” by Kristina Hubbard and Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance (OSA); June 2016 (114 pages)

This publication can also be downloaded from HERE.

Also see: “Key Findings – State of Organic Seed,” by Kristina Hubbard and Jared Zystro, Organic Seed Alliance (OSA); June 2016

A summary article is here: “Just Released! State of Organic Seed, 2016,” by Kristina Hubbard, Seed Broadcast Blog; June 22, 2016

 

Farming for the Future: Organic and Agroecological Solutions to Feed the World,” by Christopher D. Cook, Kari Hamerschlag & Kendra Klein, PhD., Friends of the Earth, June 2016 (23 pages)farming-for-the-future

Summary Briefing: “Farming for the Future: Organic and Agroecological Solutions to Feed the World,” by Christopher D. Cook, Kari Hamerschlag & Kendra Klein, PhD., Friends of the Earth; October 21, 2016 (6 pages)

This summary publication can also be found HERE.

A related summary article is here: “Dirt, Democracy, and Organic Farming: A Recipe to Feed the World,” by Lani Furbank, Food Tank; June 21, 2016

 

From Uniformity to Diversity – A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems,” by IPES-Food; June 2016 (96 pages) [International Panel of Experts on Sustainable Food Systems]
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This publication can also be found HERE.

Also see: “Executive Summary: From Uniformity to Diversity – A paradigm shift from industrial agriculture to diversified agroecological systems,” by IPES-Food; June 2016 (16 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

 

 

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Soil Fertility: Agro-Ecology and not the Green Revolution for Africa,” by the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB); July 2016 (23 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

 

 

 

buzzkill-report

 

Buzz Kill: How the Pesticide Industry is Clipping the Wings of Bee Protection Efforts across the U.S.,” by Tiffany Finck-Haynes & Christopher D. Cook, Friends of the Earth; June 2016 (29 pages)

 

 

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Vermont’s GMO Legacy: Pesticides, Polluted Water & Climate Destruction,” by Will Allen, Regeneration Vermont, June, 2016 (24 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

A related summary article is here: “Report: Herbicide, chemical fertilizer use doubled on Vermont dairy farms in a decade,” by Anne Galloway, VTDigger; June 27, 2016

 

Corporate Agribusiness and the Fouling of America’s Waterways – The Role of Large Agribusiness Companies in Polluting our Rivers, Lakes and Coastal Waters,” by John Rumpler, Environment America Research & Policy Center; June 2016 (50 pages)


 

christoph-then-andreas-bauer-panskus-risks-and-side-effects-for-humans-and-animals

Although this next report focuses on the risk assessment of GMOs by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), it should be noted that information in the report is certainly relevant to the U.S. and other countries as well. risk

Risks and side effects for humans and animals: What really goes wrong in the regulation of genetically engineered plants – Risk assessment of genetically engineered plants used for food and feed and flaws in the work of the European Food Safety Authority EFSA,” by Christoph Then & Andreas Bauer-Panskus, Testbiotech; June, 2016 (33 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

Excerpt: Genetically engineered plants for use in food and feed are a considerable challenge for risk assessment … One has to assume that these challenges cannot easily be met by science, companies, authorities or political decision makers. Indeed, faced with this huge challenge, companies and risk assessment authorities have reacted with an overly simplistic approach: For example, the newly produced compounds produced in the plants are taken out of context and assessed in isolated form. Experimental field trials are only conducted over a short period of time and only on very few field sites. If this very limited testing does not provide evidence for potential hazards, no further detailed investigations are required.

Moreover, there is a substantial discrepancy between the range of risks and the technical means available to perform risk assessment. It would be a mistake to believe that our current knowledge and scientific methods are adequate to identify the real risks or for efficient control.

In fact, it seems to be more or less impossible to assess the multiplex risks of genetically engineered plants used in food and feed in a way that safety can be guaranteed. Safety cannot be concluded from a retrospective assessment. As yet, there is no sufficiently reliable system for monitoring the negative impacts of genetically engineered plants that are granted market authorization.

In conclusion, the real risks from the cultivation of genetically engineered plants and their use in food and feed are much more complex than the technical means available to predict and control those risks, or to protect health and the environment in the long-term. [Bold emphasis added]


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What is Synthetic Biology? Engineering Life and Livelihood,” by the ETC Group; May 2016 (12 pages)

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Under the Influence: The National Research Council and GMOs,” by Food & Water Watch; May 2016 (12 pages)

A summary article is here: “Under the Influence: The National Research Council and GMOs,” by Tim Schwab, Food & Water Watch; May 16, 2016

In May 2016, Tim Schwab confronted members of the National Academies of Sciences prior to the publication their report on GMOs (“Genetically Engineered Crops Experiences and Prospects”) which many have criticized as flawed and biased. Fred Gould, head of the committee that published the report responded but didn’t really address the findings of Food & Water Watch. This meeting was videotaped and it seems that Dr. Gould is somewhat evasive and perhaps a bit patronizing and somewhat dismissive of the findings of the two-year long investigation by Food & Water Watch. Interestingly, the New York Times confirmed the findings in an article published in December 2016. This video is an excerpt from a much longer video of that meeting:

Tim Schwab (Food & Water Watch) confronts NAS members about Conflicts of Interest,” YouTube (6:15) published by Ban GMOs Now on January 8, 2017

Also see the following related publications:

New York Times confirms GMO industry ties at National Academies of Sciences,” by Tim Schwab, Food & Water Watch; December 28, 2016

Excerpt: Drawing on more than two years of Food & Water Watch research, The New York Times has published a damning account of the conflicts-of-interest culture that pervades the National Academies of Sciences’ (NAS) work on GMOs. The Times notes the deeply one-sided panels of scientists that the Academies convenes to author its GMO reports, many of whom have undisclosed financial conflicts of interest. It also describes a troubling revolving door of staff between the NAS and the biotechnology industry. This story validates years of Food & Water Watch and other advocates’ efforts to expose NAS’s far-reaching conflicts of interest, which introduce bias into science and also policy making – because the federal government uses taxpayer-funded NAS research to develop ‘science-based’ rules and regulations.

Industry Influence Clouds New GMO Report,” by Tim Schwab, Food & Water Watch; June 1, 2016

National Biotechnology Panel Faces New Conflict of Interest Questions,” by Stephanie Strom, New York Times; December 27, 2016


 

The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture,” by Alice Martin-Prével with Frédéric Mousseau, Oakland Institute, May 2016 (28 pages)

Summary: “The Unholy Alliance, Five Western Donors Shape a Pro-Corporate Agenda for African Agriculture,” exposes how a coalition of four donor countries and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is shaping a pro-business environment in the agricultural sector of developing countries, especially in Africa. unholy-alliance

These five donors are rapidly expanding bilateral and multilateral ‘aid’ programs to support corporate agriculture. Through aid-funded grants, loans, or insurance mechanisms, taxpayers’ money is increasingly subsidizing agribusinesses’ activities. Promotion of hybrid and GMO seeds, pesticides, and synthetic fertilizers by such aid programs is turning Africa into a new market for agrichemical corporations.

 

 

Subsidizing Waste – How Inefficient US Farm Policy Costs Taxpayers, Businesses, and Farmers Billions,” by Kranti Mulik, Union of Concerned Scientists, August 2016 (15 pages)

 

organic-farming-agro-ecological-approaches

 

 

Organic Farming & Agro-ecological Approaches: Ready-to-replicate Best Practices from around India,” by Kavitha Kuruganti and Indhubala Kesavan, Knowledge In Civil Society (KICS); March 2016 (42 pages)

 

 

 

Synthetic Gene Technologies Applied in Plants & Animals used for Food Production: Overview on Patent Applications on New Techniques for Genetic Engineering & Risks Associated with these Methods,” by Christoph Then, Testbiotech; March 2016 (26 pages)synthetic-gene-technologies-applied-in-plants-animals-used-for-food-production

This publication can also be found HERE.

A summary article is here: “Seed Giants active around new methods of genetic engineering,” by Testbiotech; March 2, 2016

 

 

 

 

Biotech lobby’s push for new GMOs to escape regulation – ‘New Breeding Techniques’ the next step in corporate control over our food?” by Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory; February 2016 (32 pages)

biotech-lobbys-push-for-new-gmos-to-escape-regulation

 

Another version in HTML format can be found here: “Biotech lobby’s push for new GMOs to escape regulation – ‘New Breeding Techniques’ the next step in corporate control over our food?” by Nina Holland, Corporate Europe Observatory; February 2, 2016

 

 

gef

 

Genetically Engineered Food: An Overview, 2016 Edition,” by Food & Water Watch; January, 2016 (36 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

A summary article is here: “GMO Food: An Overview,” by Food & Water Watch; June 23, 2016 (This an updated version of an earlier report from January 2014).

 

 

Gated Development – is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?” by Mark Curtis, Global Justice Now; January 2016 (56 pages)

gated-development

Excerpt: One of the greatest controversies of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s funding is its support for research into genetic modification (GM). But alongside funding research, the foundation is also funding public relations activities and changes to national regulations to promote the widespread adoption of GM. There are several concerns and dangers related to GM. Evidence from the roll-out of GM crops in countries where this is occurring shows that these crops often push farmers into debt, cause irreversible environmental damage and encourage land concentration, among other problems. Genetic engineering has failed to increase the yield of food crops but has vastly increased the use of chemicals and the growth of “superweeds”, according to a recent report by 20 Indian, South-East Asian, African and Latin American food and conservation groups. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is probably the world’s leading funder of GM research in the global south. [Citations omitted]

 


The topic of GMOs is complex and any discussion about GMOs that is limited only to the science behind genetically modification is inadequate. This over-emphasis is why the number one tactic used by pro-GMO advocates is to use the absurd and false claim that anti-GMO activists are “anti-science.”  What may invariably happen is that this focus leads to the debate on whether or not GMOs are safe and whether or not they are harmful to the environment. GMOs are not proven safe on a case-by-case basis, so generalized claims that GMOs are safe are simply unfounded (or as Dr. Belinda Martineau says: “Absurd”).  Invariably, the safety debate is connected to the “Right to Know” issue – and about adequately labeling GMO foods (which the GMO labeling bill, S.764 – signed by Obama in 2016 – failed to accomplish).

Additionally, GM crops depend on and promote industrial monocultures and overuse of certain pesticides (which include herbicides and insecticides, such as neonicotinoids). Monocultures, no matter whether the crops are GM, conventional or organic, are an intrinsic threat to food security. Former University of Vermont Professor Fred Magdoff said it succinctly: “Large-scale, highly mechanized agriculture is probably the greatest threat to the existence of billions of people.” At best, one can only say that there is a lack of information to assess the full environmental damage caused by GM agriculture (which is not same thing as saying “We don’t see evidence of harm to the environment” like the NAS report stated). There is no question based on the limited information available, that environmental harm is caused by GM crops.

But these issues only represent a small portion of the many other valid concerns about GMOs. What is often under-emphasized in the United States is how GMOs and their intrinsic patent issues threaten food sovereignty. This fact is clear and absolute in a number of other countries as GMOs have been spread across the globe by a handful of corporations and by corrupt government officials who are more than willing to do the bidding of these mega-corporations. In the U.S., this fundamental threat to food security on a global scale has not been the central focus of anti-GMO activism.

It is true that such a threat is much less obvious here than in other parts of the world, but it is just as real. A number of different but legitimate concerns about the food system are sometimes overlooked in the U.S. For example, some people may not consider that in the United States, food insecurity is a reality for over 45 million Americans. Additionally a subset of that population is defined as “very insecure” and many still live in food deserts where access to nutritional food is absent or scarce. Similarly, because of the abundance of food in the United States, it’s difficult to recognize that we are actually vulnerable to a potential disaster that could strike our entire food system. In fact, GMOs are symptomatic of a much greater problem that demands a revolutionary change in the paradigm of the entire global food system. We must acknowledge that if food security is threatened in India, Africa and Mexico, then it is also at risk in the United States for similar reasons, even if it that risk is less obvious.

Generally, major media outlets in the U.S. never mention a number of issues connected to GMOs; for example, there is little, if any, discussion about 300,000 farmer suicides in India. Yet, farmers in America are also committing suicide at increasingly higher rates than ever before (see: “Farmers, Foresters, and Fishermen Have the Highest Suicide Rate of Any Profession,” by Dan Nosowitz, Modern Farmer published on July 7, 2016). All of this and more is connected to the corporate control of the world’s food system by a handful of biotech corporations which derive their power from patenting life and seeds. Very few publications address this powerful issue and the related topic of biopiracy – how these corporate thieves are stealing indigenous resources from other countries (most notably in the Global South).

Vandana Shiva has been one of the most outspoken personalities on biopiracy and the connection to GMOs and corporate control. In 2014, the Third World Network published “Patent Claims on Genetic Resources of Secret Origin,” by Edward Hammond which highlighted this issue. In 2016, author Edward Hammond published an updated version of his 2014 report. The truth is that if we are to be successful in creating change in policies about GMOs and the corporate control of the world’s food system, activists must clearly move beyond the central focus of the GMO safety and right to know debates. Fundamentally, GMOs are a complete and total failure except in their ability to create wealth in hands of the few, and in so doing, threaten food security on a global scale. In this context, I hope this publication helps readers expand their worldview about GMOs and also helps to increase their awareness of the underlying threat that GMOs present to people everywhere:

More Patent Claims on Genetic Resources of Secret Origin – An Update on Disclosure of Origin in Patent Applications under the Budapest Treaty,” by Edward Hammond, Third World Network (TWN); 2016 (26 pages)

Edward Hammond, ‘More Patent Claims on Genetic Resources of Secret Origin’ TWN 2016

[Also see the earlier publication from 2014, “Patent Claims on Genetic Resources of Secret Origin,” by Edward Hammond, Third World Network (TWN); 2014 (30 pages)].

Excerpt: This update to Third World Network’s February 2014 study finds that recently published patent applications with associated Budapest Treaty deposits have an even lower rate of disclosure of origin than a similar sample of applications published be-tween 2010 and mid-2013. Whereas a quarter of patent applicants made disclosure in the earlier sample, only 15% did so in applications published between July 2013 and November 2015.

Disclosure was generally poor, with corporate secrecy a large contributing factor. In the present sample, government and nonprofit institutions disclosed the origin of genetic resources almost 1/3 of the time, making them seven times more likely to disclose than private companies, who did so in less than 5% of patent applications.

In both samples, patent applicants more frequently disclosed the origin of genetic resources that were from the applicant’s same country than from another country. The lack of disclosure itself makes empirical determination of the reasons for this discrepancy difficult, but the species and genus, or other characteristics of many deposits – as well as information sources out-side of the patent applications – suggest that many undisclosed genetic resources originate in other countries. In other words, patent applicants appear averse to disclosing the origin of foreign genetic resources, presumably due to access and benefit-sharing implications.

While patent applicants have long been able to voluntarily disclose the origin of genetic resources – and doing so frequently would clearly enhance the scientific quality and reproducibility of the patent disclosure – this and the previous study demonstrate that they do not.

These results underscore the importance of establishing a mandatory requirement to disclose the origin of genetic resources claimed in patent applications in order to prevent misappropriation (biopiracy). To be effective, we emphasize that disclosure needs to be mandatory and to follow a standard prescribed format. The results of this study reinforce the position of developing countries in the WIPO IGC process and should assist in the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol as well. [Emphasis added]


 

Articles and other publications:

 

GMWatch linked to this New York Times article “Scientists loved and loathed by an agrochemical giant,” by Danny Hakim, New York Times, December 31, 2016. GMWatch made the following observation:

The following article tells the stories of three scientists’ relationships (or lack of relationships) with industry. One of the three scientists is Angelika Hilbeck.

Some GMWatch readers may be aware that she has authored studies showing toxic effects of GM Bt crop toxins on non-target insects.

What the article below unfortunately omits is that Hilbeck was able to prove that her methodologies were far more scientifically rigorous than those employed by the industry-linked scientist who carried out counter-studies aimed at debunking her experimental research.

In other words, Hilbeck’s methodologies ensured that the non-target insects actually ingested the Bt toxins under test. On the other hand, the methodologies employed in the counter-studies made it doubtful that the insects actually ingested the Bt toxins.

The New York Times article is still worth a read in spite of that omission. Here is an excerpt:

Some scientists labor outside the industry. It can be a difficult path.

Angelika Hilbeck worked for Agroscope, a Swiss agricultural research center, in the 1990s, when she began to examine genetically modified corn. The corn was designed to kill insect larvae that fed on it, but Dr. Hilbeck found it was also toxic to an insect called the lacewing, a useful bug that eats other pests.

Ciba-Geigy, a predecessor of Syngenta, had a confidentiality agreement with Agroscope, and insisted she keep the research secret, she said. Confidentiality agreements are not unusual for Agroscope. In one such agreement obtained by The Times, the agency agreed to return or destroy corporate documents it received as part of a research project.

Dr. Hilbeck said she refused to back down and eventually published her work. Her contract at Agroscope was not renewed. An Agroscope spokeswoman said the episode took place too long ago to comment on.

Dr. Hilbeck continued as a university researcher and was succeeded at Agroscope by Jörg Romeis, a scientist who had worked at Bayer and has since co-authored research with employees from Syngenta, DuPont and other companies. He has spent much of his career attempting to debunk Dr. Hilbeck’s work. He followed her lacewing studies by co-authoring his own, finding that genetically modified crops were not harmful to the lacewing.

Next, after Dr. Hilbeck co-authored a paper outlining a model for assessing the unintended risks of such crops, Dr. Romeis was lead author of an alternative approach with a Syngenta scientist among his co-authors.

Then, in 2009, Dr. Hilbeck co-authored a paper looking at risks to ladybug larvae from modified crops. Dr. Romeis followed by co-authoring a study that found “no adverse effects” to ladybird larvae. In subsequent publications, he referred to work by Dr. Hilbeck and others as “bad science” and a “myth.”

“They were my little stalkers,” Dr. Hilbeck said. “Whatever I did, they did.”

In an interview, Dr. Romeis, who now leads Agroscope’s biosafety research group, said, “Her work does not affect our mission in any way,” adding that the idea of researching the effects of genetically modified crops was “not patented by her.”

Refereeing a scientific dispute is difficult. But Dr. Romeis and his collaborators do seem preoccupied with Dr. Hilbeck’s work, judging from a review of email traffic between Agroscope and the U.S.D.A. obtained by The Times following a Freedom of Information Act request.

In 2014, as Dr. Romeis was developing a paper assailing Dr. Hilbeck’s work, one U.S.D.A. scientist, Steven E. Naranjo, joked in a message to Dr. Romeis: “Joerg, its generous of you to see that Hilbeck gets published once in a while :)”

Dr. Hilbeck is used to looking over her shoulder. “We shouldn’t be running into all kinds of obstacles and face all this comprehensive mobbing just doing what we’re supposed to do,” she said. “It’s totally corrupted this field.”

I want to emphasize what GMWatch said: “Hilbeck’s methodologies ensured that the non-target insects actually ingested the Bt toxins under test. On the other hand, the methodologies employed in the counter-studies made it doubtful that the insects actually ingested the Bt toxins.” I’d say that the biotech studies therefore qualify as pseudoscience.

 


 

This next article is another nail in the coffin of GMO Bt crops: they are unsustainable. There are so many studies already published that support this fact. GMO Free USA has a list of studies about the failures of Bt, but there are many more. (See: “Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) Studies,” by GMO Free USA).

Growing pest resistance shows GM Bt crop technology not sustainable,” by GMWatch; December 31, 2016

Excerpt: The corn earworm pest is showing increasing resistance to the insecticidal toxins engineered into GM Bt corn, according to a new study published in PLOS One.

The authors state that “Many sweet corn farmers in Maryland either have stopped growing” GM Bt corn or “are applying more insecticide sprays to compensate for the reduced control efficacy”.

They also note that the resistance is likely to increase and spread in future due to a number of factors, including:

  • decreased farmer compliance with refuge recommendations, where an area is planted with non-Bt crops to try to delay Bt resistance building up in pests
  • the high adoption rate of Bt crops, which exposes large numbers of pests to the Bt toxin continuously, thus increasing selection pressure for resistant pests;
  • low expression of the Bt toxin in these crops, meaning that pests are not killed by the toxin but live to evolve resistance to it; and
  • cross-resistance, where exposure to one type of Bt toxin leads to resistance to other types of Bt toxin, meaning that GMO industry attempts to defeat pests by stacking different types of Bt toxin in one crop are doomed to fail.

The authors conclude, “Based on field efficacy comparisons and lab bioassays, we demonstrate that corn earworm has evolved resistance to multiple Cry [Bt insecticidal] proteins expressed in genetically engineered corn.”

This paper adds to the large and growing body of evidence showing that the GMO built-in-insecticide model of pest resistance is ineffective and unsustainable. It is time to stop wasting valuable time and resources on this failed technology and rapidly move to proven effective agroecological pest management strategies involving diverse cropping systems, rotations, and biological controls.

GMWatch includes the text of a summary by the authors about the findings of their study. From that summary this excerpt is of particular interest:

Broadly, the use of Bt crops has helped reduce insecticide usage in the U.S. However, many sweet corn farmers in Maryland either have stopped growing the Bt sweet corn hybrids described in our study or are applying more insecticide sprays to compensate for the reduced control efficacy. The Cry proteins expressed by genetically engineered sweet corn, to which corn earworm is now resistant in Maryland, are the same used in field corn for controlling lepidopteran pests (moths). Increasing damages by corn earworm to Bt field corn are reported already in North Carolina and Georgia, and corn earworm could become a major pest. We predict that corn earworm resistance to the Cry toxins is likely to increase, and spread. Therefore, the risk of damage to corn production across a large portion of U.S. is high. Our results, thereby have important implications for sustainable corn production, biotechnology regulatory policies, and sustainability of the Bt biotechnology. [Emphasis added]

The study is here: “Field-Evolved Resistance in Corn Earworm to Cry Proteins Expressed by Transgenic Sweet Corn,” by Galen P Dively, Dilip Venugopal and Chad Finkenbinder, PLoS One, Vol. 11, No. 12; December 30, 2016 (22 pages).

This publication can also be found HERE.

This publication is also HERE in HTML format.

Additionally, this publication is cited in this related article from January 2017: “New Research Shows Failings of GMO Insect Resistance, Corn Crop in Jeopardy,” by Carey Gillam, Huffington Post; January 6, 2017


 

GMO maize NK603 is not substantially equivalent to its non-GMO counterpart,” by Claire Robinson; GMWatch; December 19, 2016

In this article, Claire Robinson highlights the findings of the following study: “An integrated multi-omics analysis of the NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize reveals metabolism disturbances caused by the transformation process,” by Robin Mesnage, Michael Antoniou et al, Scientific Reports, Vol. 6, Article 37855; December 19, 2016 (14 pages).

Excerpt from the article: A new analysis using cutting-edge molecular profiling methods shows the genetic engineering process caused large increases in two potentially toxic compounds in a Monsanto Roundup-tolerant maize.

A GMO maize variety that has been in the food and feed supply for years is not substantially equivalent to its non-GMO counterpart, the results of a new peer-reviewed study show.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, also shows that the changes in the GMO maize resulted from the genetic engineering process and could have implications for the health of people and animals that eat the maize.

Yet these changes were not taken into account in the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA’s) risk assessment – suggesting that a new evaluation must be performed on the basis of up-to-date science.

 EFSA’s conclusion on NK603 is false

The basis of GMO approvals worldwide is the concept of substantial equivalence, meaning that the GMO maize is compositionally the same as the non-GMO counterpart (nearest relative).

In 2009 the EFSA GMO Panel concluded that “maize NK603 is compositionally equivalent to conventional maize”, except for the intended change – the presence of extra proteins that make the maize tolerant to glyphosate herbicides such as Roundup.

However, the new study, by a team of researchers led by Dr. Michael Antoniou at King’s College London, shows that EFSA’s conclusion is false and that the genetic engineering process has had far-reaching unintended effects on the composition of NK603 maize.

Major differences caused by the GM process

The researchers’ in-depth analysis of the types of proteins (“proteomics”) and small biochemical molecules (“metabolomics”) revealed major differences between NK603 maize and its non-GMO counterpart.

A total of 117 proteins and 91 small molecule biochemicals (metabolites) were found to be significantly altered in NK603 corn by the GM transformation process. The GMO and non-GMO maize were grown in the same location and under the same conditions, ruling out the possibility that environmental factors such as the spraying of Roundup or different growing soils caused the differences.

The results of the analysis showed disturbances in energy utilization and oxidative stress (damage to cells and tissues by reactive oxygen) in the GMO maize. There were also, in Dr. Antoniou’s words, “worryingly large increases” in substances called polyamines…

…. As Dr. Antoniou concluded, “Our study clearly shows that the GM transformation process results in profound compositional differences in NK603, demonstrating that this GMO maize is not substantially equivalent to its non-GMO counterpart. Our results call for a more thorough evaluation of the safety of NK603 maize consumption on a long-term basis.” [Citations omitted]

This is the study: “An integrated multi-omics analysis of the NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize reveals metabolism disturbances caused by the transformation process,” by Robin Mesnage, Sarah Z. Agapito-Tenfen, Vinicius Vilperte, George Renney, Malcolm Ward, Gilles-Eric Séralini, Rubens O. Nodari & Michael N. Antoniou, Scientific Reports, Vol. 6, Article 37855; December 2016 (14 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE and HERE. This publication is also HERE and HERE in HTML format.

This related article summarizes criticisms of the study and responses to those criticisms from the authors: “Science Media Centre ‘experts’ misrepresent study findings, get facts wrong,” by GMWatch; December 21, 2016

 


 

In the U.S., a great deal of emphasis against GMOs includes the right to know (and labeling issues) and potential health risks. But a much more serious threat is sometimes overlooked: food sovereignty. We don’t see this threat in the United States, but it is a growing problem and much more significant in other countries. When a handful of corporations control the world’s food system, then it is a threat to everyone. One of the major manifestations of this threat comes in the form of criminalizing seed saving. Consider that farmers have saved and shared seeds for over ten thousand years. Now it is increasingly become a crime to do so. Imagine spending 12 years in prison for sharing seeds. That’s what Tanzania farmers are facing:

Tanzanian farmers are facing heavy prison sentences if they continue their traditional seed exchange,” by Ebe Daems, MO; December 7, 2016

Excerpt: In order to receive development assistance, Tanzania has to give Western agribusiness full freedom and give enclosed protection for patented seeds. “Eighty percent of the seeds are being shared and sold in an informal system between neighbors, friends, and family. The new law criminalizes the practice in Tanzania,” says Michael Farrelly of TOAM, an organic farming movement in Tanzania.tanzania2

In order to get developmental assistance, Tanzania amended its legislation, which should give commercial investors faster and better access to agricultural land as well as a very strong protection of intellectual property rights.

“If you buy seeds from Syngenta or Monsanto under the new legislation, they will retain the intellectual property rights. If you save seeds from your first harvest, you can use them only on your own piece of land for non-commercial purposes. You’re not allowed to share them with your neighbors or with your sister-in-law in a different village, and you cannot sell them for sure. But that’s the entire foundation of the seed system in Africa,” says Michael Farrelly.

Under the new law, Tanzanian farmers risk a prison sentence of at least 12 years or a fine of over €205,300, or both, if they sell seeds that are not certified. [That’s about $216,067]

“That’s an amount that a Tanzanian farmer cannot even start to imagine. The average wage is still less than 2 US dollars a day”, says Janet Maro, head of Sustainable Agriculture Tanzania (SAT).

 

For more information see: “Farmers’ Seed Sovereignty is under threat – The Example of Tanzania: No Reliable Access For The Farmer-managed Agricultural Sector to Quality Seed,” by Abdallah Ramadhani Mkindi, POLICY PAPER, Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung; March 2015 (4 pages). This publication can also be found HERE. Although these publications are not from 2016, they are still important and relevant to the above article.
seeds-laws-that-criminlize-farmers

 

ALSO SEE: “Seed Laws that Criminalise Farmers – Resistance and Fightback,” by GRAIN and La Vía Campesina; March 2015 (48 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

 

 


 

When I saw the following study review, it reminded me of an earlier publication from 2013: “GM Crops and Water – A Recipe for Disaster,” by Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji, Institute of Science in Society; May 6, 2013. It is truly disturbing that there is an overwhelming information/safety gap of adequate studies about the full effects of GMOs on water supplies. It is astounding that the EPA, USDA and the FDA, have all consistently failed to incorporate in any of their regulatory assessments the cumulative effects of GMOs on the water supply – from Bt toxins to glyphosate based herbicides and more, the U.S. regulatory system has failed to sufficiently consider, incorporate and monitor this important issue. They have failed in their jobs to protect the environment, and by extension, the people who must live with this extreme level of incompetence and corruption. In fact, failure to consider the cumulative effects of GMO crops is a violation of federal laws 40 C.F.R § 1508.7 and 40 C.F.R. §§ 1508.8(b). (See: US Government Publishing Office (GPO) 40 CFR 1508.6 – 1508.3).

In this context, it is good to see this study: “Interactions between Bt crops and aquatic ecosystems: A review,” by Hermoine J. Venter & Thomas Bøhn, Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, Vol. 35, Issue 12; December 2016 (12 pages)

A related summary article is here: “More Research needed on the Effects of Bt Crops on Aquatic Ecosystems,” by Biosafety Information Center; October 20, 2016. From this article,

‘Bt crops’ is the collective term for crops which have been genetically modified to include a gene (or genes) sourced from Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacteria, which code for insecticidal Cry proteins. Bt toxin-producing crops have been used for controlling pests of Lepidoptera, Coleoptera, Diptera and Hymenoptera, as well as nematodes.

Despite growing recognition that aquatic ecosystems near agricultural fields receive significant amounts of run-off and crop residues that contain Bt toxins, environmental risk assessments of transgenic crops tend to neglect aquatic ecosystems as a relevant context for testing.

A recent paper reviews literature related to exposure, spread, break-down rates and effects of various types of Bt crop material on non-target organisms and aquatic communities. It finds that there are significant knowledge gaps on the fate of Bt crops and their potential effects on aquatic systems and identifies several important issues for further research:

  • The effect of other Bt genes/toxins and crops on aquatic organisms besides just single gene events (mostly Cry1Ab) in maize or rice.
  • The possible effects of stacked events.
  • The patterns and concentration levels of both endogenous proteins and Bt toxins in Bt crops, especially stacked events.
  • The combinatorial effects of Bt and herbicide co-technology.
  • Determining which aquatic species are relevant to test.
  • Acute dose-response toxicity testing of Bt on relevant aquatic species.
  • Conducting pulsed, chronic exposure studies rather than single exposure studies.
  • Conducting field studies is necessary.

 


 

Risks of GM crops engineered to utilise RNA interference,” by Eva Sirinathsinghji, Biosafety Briefing, Third World Network; November 2016 (10 pages)

Excerpt: Of relevance to RNAi GM crops is potential functional activity of transgenic dsRNA in non-target organisms. There are numerous examples of cross-kingdom communication, including between hosts and eukaryotic pathogens, pests, parasites or symbiotic microorganisms.

Potential for cross-kingdom regulation between plants and higher organisms is evidenced by detection of exogenous RNAs in human circulation. Plant-derived (including from rice, corn, barley, tomato, soybean, wheat, cabbage, grapes and carrot), fungal as well as bacteria-derived dsRNAs have been detected in humans. The functionality of such exogenous RNAs in mediating gene expression has been controversial, but there is an emerging consensus that such RNAs have functional capacity. The pioneering work of Zhang et al. not only showed the detection of rice miRNAs in circulation in animal blood, but also showed that they mediate gene expression following consumption. Looking at six mammalian species, including humans, they detected selective uptake of 30 miRNAs from rice. One in particular, mi168a, went on to mediate expression of a liver gene (LDLRAP1) related to cholesterol, leading the authors to speculate whether dsRNAs are indeed a nutrient.

These findings were rapidly followed by the publication of industry-sponsored studies that failed to replicate Zhang’s work. Monsanto, in its petition to the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) for deregulation of MON87411, cited two such studies including one by Witwer, which failed to detect plant miRNA. This study used two animals only, compared with that of Zhang’s team which included six animals of five additional mammalian species including humans (10 women, 11 men and a pooled serum from 10 extra individuals). The Witwer study only looked at seven plant miRNAs, whereas Zhang’s team looked at global RNA levels using high-throughput sequencing analysis. Monsanto cited a second study that again failed to detect plant RNA in mammals after assessing only a few target miRNAs. Further, in a communication published in Nature Biotechnology, Monsanto claims to have conducted its own experiments and failed to detect exogenous rice miRNA in mice.

However, failure to detect anything is not proof that the exogenous RNA is not present in the mouse, especially when methodologies are narrow. As pointed out by Zhang in response to the Monsanto publication, their positive control, which was rice miRNAs, was below the expected levels and hence minimized the chance of detecting anything in the mice.

Evidence has since accumulated on the presence and functionality of plant-derived dsRNAs, but this has been dismissed or even ignored in the latest publications by Monsanto claiming safety of MON87411. Zhang et al. have since published work showing that a dsRNA from honeysuckle, a traditional Chinese medicine, was taken up by mice and was able to target influenza strains including H1N1 and reduce severity of infection. A 2014 study showed the presence of brassica vegetable miRNAs in serum, feces, stomach and intestines, liver and kidneys of mice. In a first-of-a-kind study published this year, broccoli miRNA not only was detected in mice, but was able to mediate gene expression to the extent that it reduced disease burden, in this case breast cancer, consistent with broccoli’s reported anti-tumorigenic properties. dsRNAs in bovine breast milk were also sufficient to mediate expression in human and murine cells in vitro, at nutritionally relevant doses. [Citations omitted]

 


 

Biosafety aspects of genome-editing techniques,” by Sarah Z. Agapito-Tenfen, Biosafety Briefing, Third World Network; November 2016 (10 pages)

Excerpt: Recent scientific and technical developments in modern biotechnology have intensified the debate about the regulation of organisms resulting from new techniques. More specifically, the debate is addressing whether or not organisms resulting from new techniques fall within the scope of legislation regulating genetically modified organisms (GMOs). This debate is taking place at national (e.g., Brazil, Germany, Sweden, USA, etc.), regional (e.g., European Union) and international (i.e., Convention on Biological Diversity and its Protocols) levels.

In general terms, GMO regulations set mandatory approval and risk assessment requirements, sometimes also taking into account socioeconomic and ethical considerations. They were originally established in response to the modern biotechnological techniques emerging in the 1970s and have evolved over time and jurisdiction to better capture the scope of coverage. The question now is whether variations of certain techniques are creating potential products for release into the environment that might not be subject to current GMO regulations and/or if these regulations require revision and adaptation (Heinemann 2015).

New biotechnological techniques can be described as a range of techniques that create organisms with novel traits or alter the expression of an already existing trait. Up until now, these techniques have mainly been used on yeast and bacteria, but most environmentally released products will be plants. Although the terms used to define these new techniques vary among regulators and scientists, the New Techniques Working Group established by the European Commission in 2007 has identified several new techniques that have obtained consensus in the discussions (EC 2012).

Among the new techniques, genome-editing … specifically CRISPR (clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats), is gaining special attention due to its various possibilities and relatively easy manipulation. The CRISPR technique has rapidly emerged as a leading tool for investigating gene function and for creating genetic variation using site-directed genomic alterations (Travis 2015).


 

Bully Monsanto attacks scientists who link Glyphosate and cancer,” by Carey Gillam, The Hill; October 31, 2016

 

GM crops: rebuttal of claims on safety and benefits,” by Claire Robinson, October 30, 2016 (31 pages)

This lengthy publication addresses many of the false claims made by GMO advocates. Using a certain blog post by one such proponent, Claire Robinson performs an extensive dissection on each point that is made which supports GMOs. She examines them and reveals each claim to be without any factual basis and contrary to scientific evidence. This was originally published by Corporate Europe Observatory on June 13, 2016; I re-published this version as a pdf file and updated several broken links that were in the original publication. The original publication is here: “GM crops: rebuttal of claims on safety and benefits,” by Claire Robinson, Corporate Europe Observatory; June 13, 2016


 

The New York Times published an article in late October. They found that GMOs do not produce higher yields; that Roundup resistant GM crops are directly linked to the growth of superweeds; that more insects are growing resistant to GMO Bt crops and that prices for seeds are exceedingly higher than non-GMO seeds and getting more expensive over time. Yes, they are a total failure. What took the New York Times so long to figure that out?

Doubts about the Promised Bounty of Genetically Modified Crops,” by Danny Hakim, New York Times; October 29, 2016

Excerpt: [A]n extensive examination by The New York Times indicates that the debate has missed a more basic problem — genetic modification in the United States and Canada has not accelerated increases in crop yields or led to an overall reduction in the use of chemical pesticides. The promise of genetic modification was twofold: By making crops immune to the effects of weedkillers and inherently resistant to many pests, they would grow so robustly that they would become indispensable to feeding the world’s growing population, while also requiring fewer applications of sprayed pesticides.

Andrew Kimbrell commented on the N.Y. Times publication with this great article: “The Big Lie: Monsanto and the New York Times,” by Andrew Kimbrell, Huffington Post; December 15, 2016; the article was also re-published here: “The Big Lie: Monsanto and the New York Times,” by Andrew Kimbrell – Center for Food Safety; December 15, 2016

Excerpt: [F]or more than two decades the promotion of genetically engineered (GE) crops in the United States and worldwide has been based in the Big Lie. Led by Monsanto’s aggressive international marketing campaign the mantra has been, and still is, that GE crops “reduce pesticide use, increase yield and are key to feeding the world.” I have been working on this issue for decades and during that time have seen that virtually every major media story on GE crops began with this “Big Lie” claim, and using almost identical language … But as Martin Luther King, Jr. liked to say, “No lie can live forever.” And in the waning weeks of the recent contentious and dispiriting election campaign a surprising ray of light illuminated the longstanding GE crops debate. Remarkably, the source was the New York Times, which for so many years had ignored the science about genetic engineering and bought the Big Lie. But in a front page story the Times became among the first mainstream media sources to debunk the Big Lie about GMOs. The newspaper story was based on research comparing pesticide use and yield between the United States, where genetic engineering has dominated major crops, and Western Europe, which did not embrace the technology. They found that overall the use of herbicides such as Monsanto’s Roundup had increased by more than 20% in the United States since the introduction of GE crops, while during the same time period herbicide use in France, Europe’s biggest crop producer, had not only not increased but actually decreased by 36 percent. Moreover, the analysis by the Times, which utilized United Nations data, showed that the United States and Canada “have gained no discernible advantage in yields—food per acre—when measured against Western Europe.” So the truth was out in the Times for all to see. GE crops significantly increase the use of toxic herbicides while not increasing yield, so they help poison the world’s food supply but do not increase it. So much for Monsanto’s claim of feeding the world.


 

Why the Food Movement is Unstoppable,” by Jonathan Latham, Independent Science News; September 20, 2016

This article was also published HERE.

This article was discussed in this radio interview: “The Future and The Food Movement,” Your Own Health and Fitness [Radio Show],” November 22, 2016 (Radio Interview with Jonathan Latham 57:59)

Excerpt: Could the food movement be the missing vehicle for transformative social change?

The question is timely. Not long ago, the New York Times asserted that the centre aisles of US supermarkets are being called “the morgue” because sales of junk food are crashing; meanwhile, an international consultant told Bloomberg magazine that “there’s complete paranoia”, at major food companies where the food movement is being taken very seriously.

The context of that paranoia is that food movements are rapidly growing social and political phenomena almost all over the world. In the US alone, there have been surges of interest in heirloom seeds, in craft beers, in traditional bread and baking, in the demand for city garden plots, in organic food, and in opposition to GMOs. Simultaneously, there has been a massive growth of interest in food on social media and the initiation or renewal of institutions such as SlowFood USA and the Grange movement, to name just a few.

Even at the normally much quieter farming end of the food value chain, agribusiness has had to resort to buying up “independent” academics and social media supporters to boost the case for GMOs and pesticides.

So whereas not so very long ago food, and even more so agriculture, were painfully unfashionable subjects, all of a sudden, individuals all over the globe have developed an often passionate interest in the products and processes of the food system.

If food regime change is in the air, the questions are: Why? Why now? And the big one: How far will it go?

The direction of the food movement

The answer to these questions comes into focus if we analyse the food movement from the perspective of five different “puzzle pieces”. If we do that we can see that there are profound reasons why the food movement is succeeding and growing.

This analysis suggests that the food movement, compared to other great social movements of the 20th Century (such as the labour, environment, civil rights, climate and feminist movements), has many of their strengths but not their weaknesses.

Further, the food movement is unexpectedly radical on account of having a distinct philosophy. This philosophy is fundamentally unique in human history and is the underlying explanation for the explosion of the food movement.

Like any significant novel philosophy, that of the food movement challenges the dominant thought patterns of its day and threatens the political and economic structures built on them. Specifically, the food movement’s philosophy exposes longstanding weaknesses in the ideas underpinning Western political establishments. In the simplest terms possible, the opposite of neoliberal ideology is not communism or socialism, it is the food movement.

The reason is that, unlike other systems of thought, food movement philosophy is based on a biological understanding of the world. While neoliberalism and socialism are ideologies, the food movement is concerned with erasing (at least so far as is possible) all ideologies because all ideologies are, at bottom, impediments to an accurate understanding of the world and the universe.

By replacing them with an understanding based on pure biology, the food movement is therefore in a position to supply what our society lacks: mechanisms to align human needs with the needs of ecosystems and habitats.

The philosophy of the food movement even goes further, by recognising that our planetary problems and our social problems are really the same problem. The food movement therefore represents the beginnings of a historic ecological and social shift that will transform our relationships with each other and with the natural world. [Read the full article HERE or HERE].


 

New techniques of genetic engineering,” by Greenpeace et al; March 2016 (6 pages)

The Crusade in Favour of GMO: Falsehoods and Vilification will not fool the Public,” by Colin Todhunter, East by Northwest; March 21, 2016

Gene-edited CRISPR mushroom escapes US Regulation,” by Emily Waltz, Nature; April 14, 2016 (1 page)


This article stands out as possibly one of the most important articles of 2016; it certainly is one of the best articles about CRISPR to date:

God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and the Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing,” by Jonathan Latham, PhD, Independent Science News; April 25, 2016

Excerpt: Why is this discussion of precision important? Because for the last seventy years all chemical and biological technologies, from genetic engineering to pesticides, have been built on a myth of precision and specificity. They have all been adopted under the pretense that they would function without side effects or unexpected complications. Yet the extraordinary disasters and repercussions of DDT, leaded paint, agent orange, atrazine, C8, asbestos, chlordane, PCBs, and so on, when all is said and done, have been stories of the steady unraveling of a founding myth of precision and specificity.

Nevertheless, with the help of industry propagandists, their friends in the media, even the United Nations, we are once again being preached the gospel of precision. But no matter how you look at it, precision is a fable and should be treated as such.

The issues of CRISPR and other related new “genome editing” biotechnologies are the subject of intense activity behind the scenes. The US Department of Agriculture has just explained that it will not be regulating organisms whose genomes have been edited since it doesn’t consider them to be GMOs at all. The EU was about to call them GMOs but the US has caused them to blink, meanwhile the US is in the process of revisiting its GMO regulatory environment entirely. Will future safety regulations of GMOs be based on a schoolboy version of genetics and an interpretation of genome editing crafted in a corporate public relations department? If history is any guide it will.


GMOs are not needed to feed the world…

Frugal Farming: Old-fashioned breeding techniques are bearing more fruit than genetic engineering in developing hyper-efficient plants,” by Natasha Gilbert, Nature, Vol. 533; May 19, 2016 (4 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

 

Roundup toxic to soil fungus at doses well below agricultural dilution,” by Claire Robinson, GMWatch; May 3, 2016

Excerpt: Roundup is toxic to a soil fungus at doses well below recommended agricultural dilutions, according to a new scientific study published in the journal Environmental Science and Pollution Research.

The study was conducted on a soil filamentous fungus, Aspergillus nidulans*, which the researchers used as a marker of the health of agricultural soils.

The commercial formulation of Roundup proved to be much more toxic than glyphosate alone, highlighting once again that the additives are not inert and must be taken into account in the evaluation process.

At the LD50 and lower doses, the effects of Roundup were multiple and included impaired growth and cell disturbances, especially at the level of energy and respiratory metabolism. The new analysis highlighted a new mode of action of Roundup on energy metabolism, different from that observed previously in animal cells…

Energy metabolism and respiratory disturbances were detected at a dose for which there is no effect visible with the naked eye (NOAEL = No Observed Adverse Effect Level). This implies that pesticide residues may cause effects at exposure levels for which there is no visible toxic effect, such as residues in GM herbicide-tolerant crops.

“Such metabolic disturbances could affect the composition and thus jeopardize the safety of food from these plants,” says Christian Vélot.

These data are likely to call into question the principle of substantial equivalence, on which the evaluation of all agricultural GMOs in the world is based, and which is used to declare that foods derived from a GM plant are as safe and nutritious as those from the corresponding conventional plant.

Since this principle relates to food (that is to say, the end of the chain), it should also take into consideration the conditions experienced by the plant. But a plant tolerant to [an] herbicide has not experienced the same conditions as its conventional counterpart, since the former is sprayed with herbicide that can accumulate in its cells.

“Surprisingly, in the case of GM Roundup-tolerant plants (80% of agricultural GMOs), substantial equivalence does not take into account any effects due to the presence of the herbicide and its residues. Our studies show, however, the point at which it would be appropriate to take these aspects into consideration – the interaction of the chemical herbicides with respiratory and energy functions that can cause severe malfunctions of the general metabolism.”

François Veillerette, project leader for societal participation in the PICRI project and spokesman for Future Generations, said, “These results reinforce the concerns expressed by civil society on the weaknesses and deficiencies of GMO and pesticide approvals. At a time when the Commission seems to want to sweep under the carpet the health data on glyphosate, which is classified as carcinogenic by the IARC, we strongly urge the French Government to continue to show a proactive stance on this issue by committing clearly to voting no on 18 and 19 May to the re-approval in Europe of the active substance in Roundup [glyphosate], and to work for adjuvants to be properly taken into consideration in the evaluation of pesticides. This is a public health issue.” [Emphasis added]

The study can be accessed here: “Multiple effects of a commercial Roundup® formulation on the soil filamentous fungus Aspergillus nidulans at low doses: evidence of an unexpected impact on energetic metabolism,” by Valérie Nicolas, Nathalie Oestreicher & Christian Vélot, Environmental Science and Pollution Research, Vol. 23, Issue 14; July 2016 (12 pages)


 

GMOs, ‘Biggest Fraud in the History of Science’,” by Colin Todhunter, CounterPunch; June 17, 2016

Excerpt: In the world that we exist in, however, commercial and geopolitical interests trump any notion of what is in the public interest, what is good for the environment and strategies that could result in localised food production systems to ensure food security, thriving communities, nutritious food, replenished soils and climate-friendly practices.

These interests have succeeded in rolling out a system of economic plunder and bad food and poor health across the planet. If the ordinary person were to engage in biopiracy, ecocide, the devastation of livelihoods and to knowingly poison the environment and food, as these corporations have, they would face years of incarceration.

Instead, we find these corporations securing privileged access to or control over institutions and co-opting politicians, policy makers, scientists and regulators, who sit on powerful bodies masquerading as ‘public servants’ or mouth platitudes about serving humanity, while effectively serving the interests of their real constituents: the global agritech/agribusiness cartel.

 

GM(Woes) – Ghostbusters, GMOs, & the Feigned Expertise of Nobel Laureates,” by Devon G. Peña, Environmental and Food Justice, July 2, 2016

Excerpt: “The disembeddedness of GMO crops is the heart of this problem and the Nobel laureates have failed to understand how culture intersects with agriculture in ways most physicists and neoliberal economists cannot fully comprehend unless they open their minds to other ways of knowing and being in the world. Anyone with the intelligence to become a Nobel laureate surely has a moral obligation to understand this cultural context before participating in an act of epistemic violence designed to justify continued corporate domination of our food systems and dismiss our scientific counter-claims and evidence as ideological puffery.”

 

Biodiversity, GMOs, Gene Drives and the Militarized Mind,” by Vandana Shiva, Common Dreams; July 10, 2016

This was also published here:  “Biodiversity, GMOs, & Gene Drives of the Militarized Mind,” by Vandana Shiva, Medium; July 7, 2016

Excerpt: Industrial agriculture – promoted by United States Foreign Policy – treated amaranth greens as “weeds”, and tried to exterminate with herbicides. Then came Monsanto, with Roundup Ready crops, genetically engineered to resist the spraying of Roundup so that the GMO crop would survive the otherwise lethal chemical, while everything else that was green perished. As was stated by a Monsanto spokesman during the negotiations of the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), Herbicide resistant GMOs “prevent the weeds from stealing the sunshine”…. When the sun shines on the earth and plants grow, Monsanto would like to define it as a plants “stealing” the sunshine, while Monsanto Co. privateers our biodiversity.

This is exactly how seed famine and food famine are engineered through a world view which transforms the richness of diversity into monocultures, abundance into scarcity. The paradigm of Genetic Engineering is based on Genetic Determinism and Genetic Reductionism. It is based on a denial of the self-organized, evolutionary potential of living organisms. It treats living organisms as a Lego set. But life is not Lego, Meccano, or Stratego. It is life – complex, self-organized, dynamic evolution – auto poetic.

The right to food and nutrition of the people outside the US, and the right of the amaranth to continue to grow and evolve and nourish people, can be extinguished by powerful men in the US because they messed up their agriculture with Roundup Ready crops, and now want to mess up the planet, its biodiversity, and food and agriculture systems of the world with the tool of gene drives to push species to extinction.

As in the case of GMOs, the rush for Gene Drives, and CRISPR-based Gene Editing are linked to patents. Bill Gates is financing the research that is leading to patents. And he with other billionaires has invested $130 million in a company – EDITAS – to promote these technologies. Bayer, the new face on Monsanto & Co, has invested $35 million in the new GMO Technologies, and committed $300 million over the next 5 years.


I am shocked! Monsanto – how could you?

Emails reveal role of Monsanto in Séralini study retraction,” by Claire Robinson, GMWatch; July 20, 2016


 

This next article is powerful and provocative. The author examines the DARK Act after it was passed and suggests that Vermont disobey the law in an act of civil disobedience. He makes a very compelling case why it would be the only response that would create change in the absurd law. Paul Cienfuegos goes further and illustrates why, in his view, responses to the DARK Act by certain individuals and organizations were inadequate and ineffective. It can be seen as a biting commentary, a difficult perception to accept. However, given the historical context of how the U.S. government has bent over backwards to give the biotech industry whatever it wants despite the best efforts by activists and organizations, such criticism may indeed be constructive if his views are at least partly incorporated in future decisions.

The People of Vermont vs Monsanto and the Feds,” by Paul Cienfuegos, CounterPunch; August 18, 2016

Excerpt: One of the more tragic current examples of how American social movements continue to fall into this trap of civil obedience is how our anti-GMO organizations have responded to Monsanto Corporation’s proposed DARK Act, which bans states from requiring the labeling of GMO foods, and which our Congress, Senate, and President Obama all passed into law over these last few weeks, even though it was opposed by 90% of Americans.

For years now, the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, Food Democracy Now, and other national and state organizations, have been leading the American people down a path of civil obedience, consistently claiming that if they can just get more signatures on their online petitions, if they can just get another wave of donations from their millions of supporters, that they will continue to win against Monsanto Corporation and its allies. If that were actually true, the DARK Act would not have been passed by an overwhelming majority of both Democrats and Republicans, Obama would have vetoed it, and numerous states would have already successfully banned, not labeled, GMO foods. So clearly, something is terribly wrong with the strategy that these anti-GMO groups are asking us to follow. Is there a better alternative? Of course there is! …

Abolitionist Frederick Douglass once said, “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.” Regarding GMO’s in our food, where’s our demand? Online petitions? Public education campaigns? Ineffective consumer boycotts? C’mon now! The Community Rights movement has taught us that if we want to build real political power, we don’t beg and plead with our so-called leaders. We exercise our inherent authority to govern ourselves….

Which brings me back to the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, and Food Democracy Now – which are all treating the new federal law as an outrage, but as legitimate, rather than as a fundamental violation of our inherent right of self-government. Yes, they plan to sue the federal government to challenge the DARK Act, but this will take years and a ton of money, while the public once again gets demobilized, and confused about where ultimate power resides.

Last week, Ronnie Cummins, executive director of Organic Consumers Association, wrote an essay about this issue titled “Corporate Money Defeats GMO Labeling—What Would Gandhi Do?”. Given that title, I was hoping that he was finally ready to contemplate a new bolder strategy – one that would have made Gandhi proud. But sadly, I was wrong. Cummins is still stuck in what has come to be known as “the colonized mind”. He continues to be convinced that our real power is as consumers. He’s dead wrong. Consumer power is a diversion. In fact, consumer power is a concept that was invented by the public relations industry, as a way to confuse Americans as to where their real power resides, which is as We the People, as citizens, exercising our self-governing authority.

If you care deeply about states having the right to pass laws to protect the health and welfare of their citizens, I urge you to contact Vermont’s governor, state legislators and attorney general, and urge them to enforce their existing GMO labeling law, regardless of what our federal government says … And while you’re at it, how about also contacting the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, and Food Democracy Now, and urging them to shift gears towards a more civilly disobedient set of tactics and strategies, taking their lead from the Community Rights movement. We the People have an inherent right of self-government. Let’s make Gandhi proud. [Emphasis added]

 


The Root of the Rootworm Problem: What a Tiny Beetle Can Tell Us about Our Broken Agricultural System,” by Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman, Civil Eats; August 25, 2016

Also published here: “The Root of the Rootworm Problem: What a Tiny Beetle Can Tell Us about Our Broken Agricultural System,” by Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman, Center for Food Safety; August 25, 2016

Excerpt: At the core of this broken cycle of pests and pesticides is a broken agriculture system, supported by companies that lobby heavily for farm policies against the interest of the public and the environment. Until we confront these issues—and begin to see them as our collective problem and not just a problem for farmers—and work to change the policies and other structures that prop it up, we may never get at the root of the rootworm problem or others like it.

In recent months, the rootworm has caused damage in fields planted with Bt corn, which is engineered to kill the pest, and, as the Progressive Farmer article points out, has “long been a stronghold against rootworm damage for Corn Belt farmers.” These Bt seeds are just the latest in a long list of engineered seeds that have failed to stand up against the rootworm, “which has now officially shown some level of resistance to every rootworm Bt protein on the market.”…

Why did Monsanto drag its feet in the identification of resistance, delaying action, when it might have helped the company preserve the efficacy of its products? Certainly it didn’t want to see the gratuitous loss of these traits, which were costly to develop.

On the other hand, the company likely understood that it would soon lose market share, as other companies would develop similar products. And acknowledging resistance would likely have involved reduced use (read: sales) in affected regions. So Monsanto prioritized its desire to increase short-term sales to maximize profit before competition or regulatory restrictions encroached—at the expense of sustainability.

In another example, in 2003, a majority of expert scientists convened by EPA, advised the agency to require that 50 percent of corn be set aside as a “refuge” without the GE rootworm Bt, to help prevent or delay resistance. A minority of scientists and the seeds industry argued that only a 20 percent refuge was needed (the larger refuge would have reduced short-term sales for Monsanto). Against the more protective majority recommendation, EPA sided with the industry. The result has very likely been a more rapid development of rootworm resistance against Monsanto’s product, and the other Bts that are now falling like dominoes.

To illustrate that this is not an isolated phenomenon, we can look at crops engineered to be resistant to the herbicide glyphosate (i.e., roundup). Monsanto argued vigorously that unlike with other herbicides, resistance to glyphosate was unlikely, and—contrary to good practice—encouraged farmers to spray it to their hearts’ content. The company even placed advertisements in the farm press to this effect. All this was severely criticized and opposed by academic weed scientists, who, needless to say, were spot on in their criticism.

As a result, we are now facing an epidemic of glyphosate resistant weeds that have led to increased herbicide use and a new generation of crops engineered to be immune to older herbicides like dicamba. Use of dicamba on these new GE crops is extensively damaging nearby crops that are not engineered to be resistant to it. It will also lead to increased industry sales of seed, drastically more herbicide use, and will foster more resistant weeds.

All of this is reminiscent of the long-recognized “pesticide treadmill” wherein farmers have to keep adopting new insecticides often, just to keep pace with the evolving pests. When scientist and author Robert Van den Bosch, the author of The Pesticide Conspiracy, wrote about this phenomenon in 1978, he was mercilessly hounded by the pesticide industry, much as was Rachel Carson before him.

And while the industry touts a reduction in insecticide use in the U.S. and elsewhere, the numbers don’t include some of the most widely used insecticides in the world—seeds coated with neonicotinoids. All this is despite the fact that there is strong and mounting evidence that neonicotinoids kill the pollinators needed to produce a third of our food. And while the volume of insecticides may be lower, the area treated with insecticides has gone up. Whereas about 30 percent of the corn grown was treated with insecticides before genetic engineering, that number now stands at about 90 percent.

Genetic engineering was supposed to solve these problems. So what has gone wrong?

The Inconvenient Truths of Industrial Agriculture

The larger context here is the role of industrial agriculture in exacerbating dependence on insecticides and fostering higher levels of resistant insects. Growing large acreage of the same or just a few crops—as is often the case with corn, soybeans, and wheat—is widely understood to encourage high rates of pest infestations. Pests that are well-adapted to a crop will often multiply if that crop is grown year after year without a break. This actually results in lower yields than would occur otherwise when crops are rotated (alternated each year).

The rarely-discussed truth of the corn rootworm problem is that, in most places, simply growing other crops in rotation with corn largely eliminates the need for either chemical insecticides or Bt, and provides higher yields (except in places where industrial corn-soy crop rotations have led to rootworms resistant to crop rotation itself).

Instead, the main GE crops have been associated with increasing industrial monoculture agriculture, where single crops are grown repeatedly. This system also supports larger farms that are more dependent on monocultures. And it results in higher dependency on pesticides, locking farmers into buying these and other harmful products.

At the core of this broken cycle of pests and pesticides is a broken agriculture system, supported by companies that lobby heavily for farm policies against the interest of the public and the environment. Until we confront these issues—and begin to see them as our collective problem and not just a problem for farmers—and work to change the policies and other structures that prop it up, we may never get at the root of the rootworm problem or others like it. [Read the rest of the article HERE].


 

Small Farms Are Feeding the World,” by Colin Todhunter, Huffington Post; August 24, 2016

Excerpt: “In the US, for example, industrialized farming benefits from taxpayer subsidies, which has resulted in the squeezing out of so many family farms.”

 

Yes, Organic Farming Can Create Food Security on A Global Scale,” by Colin Todhunter, Huffington Post; August 16, 2016

 

Media Silence and the Agrochemicals Industry: The Slow Poisoning of Health and the Environment,” by Colin Todhunter, RINF; August 11, 2016

Excerpt: It’s an all too common tale of dirty deeds, shady deals and propaganda. Rosemary Mason’s recent open letter to journalists at The Guardian outlines how the media is failing the public by not properly reporting on the regulatory delinquency relating to GM food and the harmful chemicals being applied to crops. Much of the media is even (unwittingly) acting as a propaganda arm for big agritech companies … While there is undoubtedly good work being carried out by individual journalists in this area, Mason feels the media should be doing more to hold officials to account and should report more accurately on the consequences of the genetic modification of food as well as the effects of agrochemicals … A combination of propaganda disseminated by industry front groups and conflicts of interest effectively allow dangerous chemicals and GMOs into the food chain and serve to keep the public in the dark about what is taking place and the impacts on their health … Mason also documents how scientific fraud and corruption have also helped to fuel pro-GMO propaganda and get big agritech companies off the hook for their dangerous products. These companies have effectively coopted key academics and officials to do their bidding.

 

It Is Time India Declared Independence from Monsanto and Big GMO,” by Colin Todhunter, Huffington Post; August 10, 2016

Excerpt: GMOs are wedded to U.S. interests. Facilitated by the World Bank and IMF, these interests have since 1945 restructured indigenous agriculture in other countries and shaped trade rules/agreements to create debt, dependency and demand for the dollar. GM is being used to secure the ultimate stranglehold of U.S. corporate interests over global food. The political backing for GM by the U.S. State Department, the strategic position of the GMO biotech sector in international trade agreements and the push to get GMOs into India are apparent.

 

Free People from ‘Dictatorship’ of the 0.01%,” by Vandana Shiva, Common Dreams; August 10, 2016

Excerpt: The TPP requires all its signatories to join UPOV 91. It allows patents on ‘inventions derived from plants’ which would open the floodgates of bio-piracy, as in the case of neem, basmati and wheat. The TPP has sections on ‘biologicals’ which covers biological processes and products, thus undoing the exclusions in the WTO TRIPS agreement. Given how there is a rush to patent and impose untested and hazardous vaccines, and new GMO technologies like gene editing and gene drives, it is clear that the TPP is the instrument for the next stage of bio-imperialism.”

For more on UPOV 91 see this 2015 publication: “UPOV 91 and other seed laws – a basic primer on how companies intend to control and monopolise seeds,” by GRAIN, October 2015 (20 pages). Although the TPP is considered dead as of this writing, it is likely that other trade agreements will emerge before long. For further discussion on this topic, see “Don’t praise Trump for the defeat of TPP,” by Nick Dearden, New Internationalist; February 1, 2017.

 

Monsanto in India: Meet the New Boss – Same as the Old Boss?” by Colin Todhunter, Counterpunch; August 4, 2016

Excerpt: Vandana Shiva has described how on a global level the company has succeeded in imposing the false idea of ‘manufacturing’ and ‘inventing’ seeds in order to slap patents on them (in India’s case, ‘royalties’). Monsanto’s collection of royalties as ‘trait value’ or as a ‘fee for technology traits’ is an intellectual property rights category that does not exist in any legal framework. It was concocted by Monsanto lawyers to work outside of the laws of the land and is thus illegal. Shiva also notes that the introduction of GMOs without approvals, and thus Monsanto’s original entry into India, was a violation and subversion of India’s biosafety regulations.”

 

GMO Labeling Bill: What a Shame. What a Sham.“ by Rick North, BlueOregon; August 3, 2016

Excerpt: “Please understand. This is a labeling law that doesn’t require labeling. It allows toll-free numbers and QR codes requiring smart phones to read. Any corporation trying to hide its use of GMO’s (i.e. most of them) will employ the QR codes. Other major problems: the USDA has another two years to draw up rules, whereas Vermont’s law had taken effect July 1 . . . there’s no penalty if a corporation chooses to ignore this law . . . unclear definitions mean that the most widely used GMO’s may not even have to be labeled . . . and it’s all under the authority of the USDA, the same agency that wanted the Organic label to allow GMO’s until a groundswell of consumer outrage forced it to back down. This isn’t half a loaf. It’s barely a crumb.”

 

Pro-GMO Crusaders’ Efforts to Silence Critics Won’t Solve Hunger,” by Colin Todhunter, Huffington Post; August 2, 2016

Excerpt: We hear much about the wonders of GM, but the reality is that GM crops have been fraudulently placed on the commercial market, have contributed nothing to alleviating food poverty or food insecurity (have actually undermined it) and have caused a great deal of damage to health and the environment and livelihoods, too. The path to feeding the world lies in helping smallholder farmers to develop their (non-GMO) methods in the Global South, where the majority of hungry people live. These farmers are the backbone of global food production. It also depends on challenging rigged trade, neo-liberal economics, structural inequalities and food commodity speculation, among other issues…

If the pro-GMO lobby really does care about the plight of the poor and hungry — as it claims to — why does it not challenge these power structures instead of attacking those who campaign against them? It cynically attempts to hide what amounts to an iron fist of neoliberal ideology in a velvet glove of fake humanitarianism. The solution to hunger and food insecurity does not lie with some bogus techno quick-fix. It lies in nations prioritizing food self-sufficiency and extricating themselves from a system of international trade and markets that have been devised to benefit the interests of the U.S. and its agribusiness companies … The pro-GMO lobby likes to cite big lists of studies that supposedly make the case for GMO. Sift through these studies and it becomes clear the case for GM is being misrepresented via a mix of industry-supported sources and studies that in reality do not claim there is safety regarding GM and which are often not independent of the bio-tech industry.

 


Before going into detail about the next article, a little background information might be relevant. In 1980, Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Patent and Trademark Laws Amendment (more often referred to as the Bayh-Dole Act). What evolved from that and similar bills was a change in how University research funding goals were accomplished. Before this time, the public funded this research, but that began to change in a significant way. A 2010 Human Rights Council report stated:

“In 1980, the Bayh-Dole Act allowed universities for the first time, to patent inventions that result from publicly funded research projects on the theory that the law would increase innovation. With passage, industry funding of public research surged and public funding dropped dramatically. The result has been the privatization of public research, leading to restrictions on the free exchange of basic research, less public analysis of new varieties, and diminished innovation, which correlates to few choices.” See: “Human rights situation in the United States of America, 9th Session,” by the Franciscans International (FI); April 2010 (16 pages) [Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR)]

In 1999, Sheldon Krimsky wrote:

“By the mid-1980s, hundreds of new venture capital companies had colonized faculty from the leading universities.  Following that trend … by 1983 every large chemical and pharmaceutical company had made a multi-million dollar investment in biotechnology and established major funding partnerships with universities … The Stevenson-Wydler Technology Transfer Act of 1980 encouraged interaction and cooperation among government laboratories, universities, big industries and small businesses. In the same year, Congress passed the Bayh-Dole Patent and Trademark Laws Amendment, which gave intellectual property rights to research findings to institutions that had received federal grants. Discoveries and inventions from public funds could be patented and licensed, initially to small businesses, with exclusive rights of royalties given to the grantee … In 1983, by executive order, President Reagan extended the Bayh-Dole Act to all industry … Governmental standards for keeping an arm’s length from industry were being turned on their head.” [Citations and internal quotes omitted]  See: “The Profit of Scientific Discovery and Its Normative Implications,” by Sheldon Krimsky, Chicago-Kent Law, Vol. 75, Issue 1; 1999 (27 pages)

In 2012, Food & Water Watch published a full report on this subject, “Public Research, Private Gain – Corporate Influence over University Agricultural Research,” April 2012 (23 pages). The report stated:

“Public universities provided breakthrough research in agricultural biotechnology that fueled the development of Monsanto’s signature products, recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) and Roundup Ready crops. Cornell University scientists invented the first genetic engineering process, but sold it to DuPont in 1990 – essentially privatizing a very valuable asset. The biotech industry’s use of university research to develop highly profitable products – often of dubious benefits to farmers and consumers – is at odds with the mission of land-grant universities … One Cornell professor was a paid Monsanto consultant while also publishing journal articles promoting the benefits of rBGH for dairy farms.”

Claire Robinson (GMWatch) described the long-term consequences of these policy changes over the decades in an article published in 2015, “Is Monsanto on the Side of Science?” New Internationalist, April, 2015. She noted the following:

“Universities have become businesses and scientists have become entrepreneurs and salespeople. Sponsorship of public institutions enables companies to steer research resources into areas that profit them. The companies develop patented GM crops in partnership with the institution and the institution generates research that, with its stamp of academic objectivity, can convince regulators of the safety or efficacy of GM crops. An added bonus for companies is a supply of scientists who are prepared to act as GMO advocates. They are often described only by their public affiliations, even though they and their institutions depend on GMO industry money.”

For more background and further research on this topic, see: “From Asilomar to Industrial Biotechnology: Risks, Reductionism and Regulation,” by Sheldon Krimsky, Science as Culture Vol. 14, No. 4; December 2005 (16 pages)

Also see: “March-In Rights under the Bayh-Dole Act,” by John R. Thomas, Congressional Research Service; August 22, 2016 (17 pages)

Consider the next article that was one of the most significant publications of 2016 with this historical context in mind. A young man named Robert Schooler entered as a student at Cornell University with an interest in studying mathematics. After a while, he decided to take a break from his studies and ended up learning about agroecology and other agricultural issues through some direct experience. With an interest in learning more, he once again returned to his studies at Cornell and decided to sit in on a class called the “GMO Debate.” Robert found that GMOs were being presented in an overwhelmingly positive light and immediately understood that Cornell wasn’t offering a debate, but instead, the University was really just promoting what amounted to pro-GMO propaganda. He was not only disappointed by the tactics used by Cornell to “educate” students about GMOs, but also the manner in which anti-GMO activists, or those who opposed GMOs for whatever reasons, were being portrayed.

Many anti-GMO activists know that Bill Gates, who is a pro-GMO advocate (because, hey, there’s money to be made), donated $5.6 million in 2014 to Cornell’s sister organization, Cornell Alliance for Science (For more on Bill Gates, see: “Gated Development – is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?” by Mark Curtis, Global Justice Now; January 2016). Consequently, Robert’s experience did not come as a surprise to many people. Through various means, including financial donations, the influence that the biotech industry has, through companies like Monsanto, as well as organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, is quite obvious – and very troubling. Over the years, it seems that at least in some cases, higher education has been and is being substituted for corporate propaganda because of funding from certain entities and industries. They clearly have a have a vested interest in the way their products and/or services are researched and conveyed to the public, but they also have the financial power to make changes to the educational system itself to suit their own profit-based goals. In these cases, science is no longer just science, but corporate science. As Ralph Nader described it in the forward of the book, “The GMO Deception”:

“‘Science is science,’ declared my college biology professor, alluding to its own rigorous standards, openness, and integrity. Today, my response would be ‘not quite.’ For in the autocratic, commercially driven hands of multinational corporations, ‘science’ becomes the instrument of an overall business plan that results in serious corruptions of scientific attitude, method, and peer-reviewed accountability. This confidential, proprietary ‘corporate science’ closes off Alfred North Whitehead’s definition of science as ‘keeping options open for revision.’ It becomes … the central chattel in a comprehensive business strategy to corporatize global agriculture. This is accomplished through a remarkable matrix of controls and public subsidies that takes monopolizing corporate behavior and its wildcat offshoots to historically unforeseen depths of danger to people and planet.” (Sheldon Krimsky & Jeremy Gruber, editors, The GMO Deception – What you Need to Know about the Food, Corporations, and Government Agencies Putting Our Families and Our Environment at Risk, Skyhorse Publishing (2014)).

When Robert published his article on August 1, 2016, “The GMO Debate: One Student’s Experience at Cornell,” it immediately became very popular. It was initially published by Independent Science News, followed by GMWatch, and then more places. Suddenly, Robert Schooler was getting quite a bit of attention: within two weeks his article had over a million likes and shares. He started receiving email from around the world – from activists to scientists – and nearly all of them were supportive. When he published his article he also included his website to provide more information, GMO WTF. He also has a YouTube channel HERE where he has uploaded some very good videos which include appearances by Jonathan Latham (Independent Science News), Michael Hansen (Consumers Union), Frances Moore Lappé (co-author of World Hunger: 10 Myths, Grove Press (October 2015)), and Steven Druker (author of “Altered Genes, Twisted Truth – How the Venture to Genetically Engineer Our Food Has Subverted Science, Corrupted Government, and Systematically Deceived the Public,” Clear River Press, (2015)).

The following is an excerpt from the article: “The GMO Debate: One Student’s Experience at Cornell,” by Robert Schooler, Independent Science News; August 1, 2016

My name is Robert, and I am a Cornell University undergraduate student. However, I’m not sure if I want to be one any more. Allow me to explain.

Cornell, as an institution, appears to be complicit in a shocking amount of ecologically destructive, academically unethical, and scientifically deceitful behavior. Perhaps the most potent example is Cornell’s deep ties to industrial GMO agriculture, and the affiliated corporations such as Monsanto. I’d like to share how I became aware of this troubling state of affairs.

Throughout my secondary education, I’ve always had a passion for science. In particular, physics and mathematics captured my fascination. My sophomore AP physics teacher, Mr. Jones, became my main source of motivation to succeed. He convinced us students that our generation was crucial to repairing humanity’s relationship to science, and how we would play key roles in solving immense global issues, such as climate change. Thank you Mr. Jones! Without your vision, I would have never had the chance to attend such an amazing university.

I came to Cornell as a freshman, deeply unaware of our current GMO agriculture paradigm, and my university’s connection to it. After two years of school, however, I was reluctant to continue traditional study. I never felt quite at ease, jumping through hoops, taking classes and tests that didn’t inspire me, in exchange for a piece of paper (degree) that somehow magically granted me a superior life. I know many undergraduates fit right in with the university education model, and that’s fantastic. I certainly didn’t, and my mental and physical health began to suffer as a result. I was left with no choice but to take a leave of absence, and pursue another path.

Instead, I began to self-study nutrition out of pure necessity. Luckily, I found Cornell Professor Emeritus T. Colin Campbell’s legendary epidemiological research on nutrition and human disease. His evidence was so clear that I quickly transitioned to a plant-based diet. This personal dietary shift had profound benefits, dispelled my depression, and led me to a deep fascination with the precursor to nutrition: agriculture. I became particularly interested in agroecology. I was astonished to learn that there existed alternatives to chemical-intensive, corporate-controlled models of agriculture, and that they were far safer, more effective, and more sustainable. During my time away from Cornell, I participated in three unique seasons of agroecological crop production, with incredible results. I am immensely grateful for these experiences.

It’s impossible to study and practice agroecology without becoming deeply aware of the other end of the spectrum: the genetic modification of our food supply, ruled by giant agribusiness corporations.

Currently, the vast majority of US commodity crops (corn, soy, alfalfa, sugar beet) are genetically engineered to either withstand Roundup herbicide or produce Bt toxin pesticide. These “technologies” are ecologically damaging and unsafe. The majority of these crops go to feed animals in factory farms. The remainder generally gets converted into corn syrup, white sugar, vegetable oil, or biofuels – you know, good stuff! This combined approach of growing GMO commodity monoculture crops, and feeding them to factory-farmed livestock, is one of the most ecologically destructive forces our planet has ever seen. It’s also a leading contributor to climate change. In fact, some experts believe it to be the leading cause….

I came back to Cornell a changed person, with a drastically different perspective. I was in for quite a shock, however: I sat in on a course entitled “The GMO Debate”. I was expecting members of an intellectual community coming together, with proponents and critics of GMO food each giving the best verified evidence they had to support their cause. Given all that I had learned about GMO agriculture, I was excited to participate for the “GMO skeptic” side.

The GMO Debate course, which ran in the fall of 2015, was a blatant display of unscientific propaganda in an academic setting. There were a total of 4 active professors in the course, and several guest speakers. They took turns each session defending industrial agriculture and biotechnology with exactly zero critical examination of GMOs. In spite of the course’s name, there was a complete lack of actual “debate”. Here are some of the more memorable claims I heard that fall semester:

  • GMO food is necessary to feed the world
  • there is no instance of harm from agricultural GMOs
  • glyphosate, the main ingredient in Roundup, is safer than coffee and table salt
  • if you believe in science, you must believe in GMO technology
  •  the science of genetic engineering is well understood
  • “what off-target effects?” … when asked about the proven biochemical risks of GE technology
  • Vitamin A rice is curing children of Vitamin A deficiency (even though the IRRI, the research institute responsible for rolling it out, says it won’t be ready for some years: http://goo.gl/mHcsoJ)
  • Current pesticides and herbicides don’t pose an ecological or human health risk
  • Bt is an organic pesticide, therefore Bt GMO crops are safe and pose no additional risk
  • Bt crops work just fine – but we are now engineering insects as a complementary technology – to make the Bt work better
  • “Are you scared of GMO insects? Because you shouldn’t be.”
  • GMO crops are the most rigorously tested crops in the history of food
  • “If [renowned environmentalist] Rachel Carson were alive today, she would be pro-GMO”

It gets better. During the semester, emails were released following a Freedom of Information Act request, showing that all four of the professors in the class, as well as several guest speakers, the head of Cornell’s pro-GMO group “Alliance for Science”, and the Dean of the College of Arts and Life Sciences were all copied in on emails with Monsanto. This was part of a much larger circle of academics promoting GMO crops on behalf of the biotech industry. Jonathan Latham PhD, virologist and editor of independentsciencenews.org, documented this in an article titled The Puppetmasters of Academia. I highly recommend giving it a read, for further context.

Perhaps saddest of all was the inclusion of several visiting African agriculture-academics in the course. They were brought here by the “Cornell Alliance for Science”. This organization was completely funded by a $5.6 million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and appears to espouse only pro-GMO rhetoric. For those of you who are unaware, Bill Gates is a proponent of using agricultural biotechnology in Africa, India, and other developing regions. So in essence, a group of African representatives got indoctrinated into the industrial and GMO agriculture framework, and were sent home to disseminate this information … after all, who could question the expertise of an Ivy League powerhouse such as Cornell?

Read the full article HERE.

In addition, you can listen to a radio interview with Robert here: “Robert Schooler – GMO WTF! Standing up to Corporate Influence on Education at Cornell,” by Ryan Clover, Eco-Defense Radio; September 28, 2016

There were also two related articles about Cornell and GMO propaganda published in 2016 which are worth reading: “Why is Cornell University hosting a GMO propaganda campaign?” by Stacy Malkan (US Right to Know), The Ecologist; January 22, 2016

This publication was also published here:  “Why Is Cornell University Hosting a GMO Propaganda Campaign?” By Stacy Malkan (US Right to Know), Truthout; February 8, 2016

Bill Gates: can we have an honest conversation about GMOs?” by Stacy Malkan (US Right to Know), The Ecologist; March 8, 2016

This publication was also published here with a different title: “What Bill Gates isn’t telling you about GMOs” by Stacy Malkan (US Right to Know), Truthout; March 25, 2016

 


 

In 2014, two authors published a very popular article in Independent Science News: “How ‘Extreme Levels’ of Roundup in Food Became the Industry Norm,” by Thomas Bøhn and Marek Cuhra, Independent Science News; March 24, 2014. In 2016, a third author joined in and they published a more extensive version of their earlier article:

Glyphosate: Too Much of a Good Thing?” by Marek Cuhra, Thomas Bøhn and Petr Cuhra, Frontiers in Environmental Science, Vol. 4, Article 28; April 2016 (14 pages)

This publication is also HERE in HTML format.

 

There was a lot of attention on the Zika virus and by extension, GM mosquitoes. The desire of Oxitec to promote its products in Florida to fight Zika raised many objections. Notably, the entire necessity of GM mosquitoes to fight Zika seemed nothing more than a sophisticated promotional plan for another type of GMO that is not needed and unwanted to solve a problem that can be solved without GMOs. Sound familiar? This particular 82 page publication addresses many of the issues associated with GM mosquitoes in the context of the FDA’s desire to be Oxitec’s wish-fulfilling genie:

Center for Food Safety: “Comments on the Food and Drug Administration’s Draft Environmental Assessment and Preliminary Finding of No Significant Impact for the Release of Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes as an Investigational New Animal Drug,” by Center for Food Safety (Docket No. FDA-2014-N-2235); May 13, 2016 (82 pages)

 

Essential Features of Responsible Governance of Agricultural Biotechnology,” by Sarah Hartley, Frøydis Gillund, Lilian van Hove & Fern Wickson, PLoS Biology, vol. 14, No. 5; May 4, 2016 (7 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE, HERE and HERE.

This publication is also HERE and HERE in HTML format.

Excerpt: The lack of candor in current risk regulatory frameworks is a foundation for public concern. Public stakeholders are not necessarily risk averse in the face of uncertainty. However, experience of past technological safety failures has sensitized people to the limits of scientific knowledge and made them skeptical of those advocating complete knowledge and an ability to predict and control technological risks in complex socioecological systems. A lack of truthfulness concerning the limits of scientific knowledge, motivations, expected benefits, and the basis of conflict can lead to significant misunderstandings and mistrust between scientists, policy makers, and the public. Certainty and predictability are typically considered to be a measurement of competence; however, candidly recognizing and truthfully representing scientific uncertainties and the full range of concerns at stake does not reflect a lack of competence. Rather, such candor allows debate to move beyond the unhelpful illusion of technological control and open up for a broader and more inclusive discussion about the role of technology in addressing socioecological challenges. [Emphasis added, citations omitted]

 

Seed Laws, Certification and Standardization: Outlawing Informal Seed Systems in the Global South,” by Tamara Wattnem, The Journal of Peasant Studies, Vol. 43, Issue 4; March 16, 2016 (19 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

This publication is also HERE in HTML format.

A summary article is here: “Seed laws, certification and standardization,” by Tamara Wattnem, Food First; March 17, 2016

Excerpt: A series of relatively new seed laws are becoming novel mechanisms of accumulation by dispossession in agriculture. Many researchers have argued that intellectual property rights (IPR) laws that apply to living materials dispossess people of seeds by privatizing germplasm. What these authors have not addressed is the role that non-IPR-related seed laws play in the seed enclosure. I argue that we should pay more attention to the implications of seed laws and regulations that do not deal directly with IPR issues, because they are also being used to outlaw practices that are necessary for the functioning of informal seed systems. As a result, they are setting the stage for the further erosion of seed sovereignty and are becoming an additional threat to an already waning agro-biodiversity, with direct consequences for farmers’ livelihoods. These seed laws establish certification requirements and quality standards for the marketing and/or exchange of seeds. I use the example of contemporary Colombian seed politics to illustrate how and why certification requirements and quality standards are currently being introduced throughout the Global South. I draw on insights from the standards literature in order to explain the power, limitations and consequences of these laws.

 

Poisoned, Marginalised, Bankrupt and Dead: The Role of Agroecology in Resisting the Corporate Stranglehold on Food and Agriculture,” by Colin Todhunter, Countercurrents; March 4, 2016

This publication can also be found HERE.

This publication can also be found here with a different title: “Resisting the corporate stranglehold on food and farming – is agroecology enough?” by Colin Todhunter, The Ecologist; March 4, 2016

Excerpt: In collusion with the Gates Foundation, these corporate interests are now seeking to secure full spectrum dominance throughout much of Africa as well. Western seed, fertilizer and pesticide manufacturers and dealers and food processing companies are in the process of securing changes to legislation and are building up logistics and infrastructure to allow them to recast food and farming in their own images.

 

In the following article, Colin Todhunter reviews the book “GMO Myths and Truths: A Citizen’s Guide to the Evidence on the Safety and Efficacy of Genetically Modified Crops and Foods, 3rd Edition,” by Claire Robinson Mphil, Michael Antoniou PhD and John Fagan PhD:

An Essential Citizen’s Guide to the Truth about GM Crops and Food,” by Colin Todhunter, RINF; March 1, 2016

Excerpt: There is a good deal of misinformation surrounding GMOs, and the enormous wealth of the pro-GMO lobby oils a massive PR machine that clouds the issues and presents GM in a wholly positive light. This wealth is moreover translated into political clout whereby governments and the GM biotech sector conspire to mislead the public and promote this technology. The industry and its supporters say the technology is safe, increases yields, is better for farmers and the environment, uses less chemical inputs and is necessary to feed the world. They also say critics are ideologically driven, deal in pseudoscience and are Luddites who are stealing food from the bellies of the poor by campaigning against GMO. Such attacks have no basis in reality. But spin and smears are what the industry and its supporters have increasingly come to rely on. It reflects their failure to force GM onto the public and into the fields across most of the world.

 

Co-Formulants in Glyphosate-Based Herbicides Disrupt Aromatase Activity in Human Cells below Toxic Levels,” by Nicolas Defarge, Eszter Takács, Verónica Laura Lozano, Robin Mesnage, Joël Spiroux de Vendômois, Gilles-Eric Séralini and András Székács, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health , Vol. 13, No. 3; February 26, 2016 (17 pages)

This publication is also HERE in HTML format.

Excerpt: (pages 12-13) – Most co-formulants belong to chemical families of detergents with different chain lengths. Indeed, their CAS numbers refer to classes with common chemical structures rather than single components. They are considered as inert and are often kept confidential by manufacturers.

In this study we measured the differential toxicity of the declared active ingredient and the co-formulants of various GBHs [glyphosate-based herbicides], the major herbicides in the world. Experiments were performed after 24 [hour] exposure on JEG3 human placental cells. Briefly, all co-formulants inhibited aromatase and disrupted mitochondrial respiration (and membranes) at higher concentrations. APG [alkyl polyglucoside] and POEA [polyethoxylated tallow amine pure] were 15–18 times and 1200–2000 times more cytotoxic than G [glyphosate], respectively.

These above cited studies were challenged by industry-linked scientists in a review that was itself challenged. The main claim was the non-suitability of in vitro models. In fact, cell cultures replace, whenever possible, animal experimentation. Furthermore, our model may underestimate real toxicity, since cell lines are less sensitive than primary cells, and because a 24 [hour] exposure does not anticipate possible bioaccumulation, and it is a necessary primary approach to understand mechanistic effects ….

Most of the adverse (toxic and endocrine-disrupting) effects measured here with formulations of GBHs could be attributed to the co-formulants they contain, and none of the co-formulants tested here were found to be inert in human cells. Our results and others compiled in Mesnage et al. (2015) show that the distinction between “active ingredient” and “inert compound” is a regulatory assertion with no toxicological ground. Indeed, the toxicity of co-formulants in pesticides is increasingly well documented. High volumes of co-formulants (also called surfactants) are used; thus, they (or their breakdown products) can be found in the environment and food. All the honey, pollen, and wax samples monitored in a recent study were contaminated with high levels (up to 10 ppm) of nonylphenol polyethoxylates (NPEOs), a major class of surfactants in pesticides. Their absorption by living beings and placental transfer into serum and brain were evidenced. A regulatory assessment claiming to investigate the safety of a formulation should take into account the toxicity of the co-formulants, which currently is poorly studied, with only their acute ocular and dermal properties being investigated. This confusion between G and GBH underestimates the real toxicity and endocrine-disrupting properties of pesticides as sold, sprayed, and found in the environment, water and food. This has important regulatory consequences because the Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) value is defined according to the threshold of toxicity calculated with the dAI [declared active ingredients] alone. The ADI value does not take into account the co-formulants present in the formulations.

Conclusions

Up to now, endocrine-disrupting effects of pesticides have been studied mostly based on tests on their declared active ingredient. Here we report for the first time that, below their toxicity thresholds, the co-formulants, generally classified as inerts and kept confidential, act as endocrine-disrupting chemicals at levels up to several hundred times below the level at which the declared active ingredient demonstrates the same activity. Glyphosate is never used alone, but always with its co-formulants. Thus the physiological effects of co-formulants should be more thoroughly tested and declared. We also recommend that the calculation of the ADI for pesticides should be based on toxicity tests of the commercial formulations rather than solely the declared active ingredient. [Citations omitted, emphasis added]

 

Concerns over use of Glyphosate-Based Herbicides and Risks Associated with Exposures: A Consensus Statement,” by John Peterson Myers et al., Environmental Health, Vol. 15, Issue 19; February 17, 2016 (13 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE. This publication is also HERE in HTML format.

Full list of authors: John Peterson Myers, Michael N. Antoniou, Bruce Blumberg, Lynn Carroll, Theo Colborn, Lorne G. Everett, Michael Hansen, Philip J. Landrigan, Bruce P. Lanphear, Robin Mesnage, Laura N. Vandenberg, Frederick S. vom Saal, Wade V. Welshons and Charles M. Benbrook

 

Trends in Glyphosate Herbicide Use in the United States and Globally,” by Charles M. Benbrook, Environmental Sciences Europe, Vol. 28 Issue 3; February 2, 2016 (15 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE, HERE and HERE. This publication is also HERE in HTML format. “Trends in Glyphosate Herbicide Use in the United States and Globally,” by Charles M. Benbrook, Environmental Sciences Europe, Vol. 28 Issue 3; February 2, 2016

 

Transgenic Transboundary Pollution: Liability when Genetically Modified Pollen Crosses National Borders,” by Teal O. Miller, The University of the Pacific Law Review, Vol. 47, Issue 2; January 2016 (23 pages)

Excerpt: Despite rising concerns about the environmental impact transgenic plants could have, the EPA has not changed its approach to regulating the production of such plants. The EPA continues to focus on the risks of any pesticides genetically modified plants produce, not on the plants or genes themselves. The EPA should have a more significant role in evaluating the impacts to the genetic diversity of food crops and the environment at large. Without genetic diversity, ecosystems and farm crops become much more susceptible to diseases and pests. In order for the United States to limit liability for damage caused by its transgenes in other countries, it must have a clear policy and procedure for introducing new GM plants into the environment and controlling the inevitable natural dissemination of transgenes into plant genomes. The EPA should focus its regulations not only on the effects of the pesticides produced by GMOs, but also on the plants themselves and the holistic effect they have on the greater environment. This more holistic view would increase the ability to control the dispersal of modified genes …

The spread of genetically modified plants is a global environmental issue. Keeping transgenes within a nation’s borders is impossible; they spread not only through trade of foodstuffs, but also through natural means like the dispersal of pollen by wind and insects. Because of this, nations leading GM crop development must be thorough in their assessments of the environmental impacts of those crops. Moreover, these nations need to ensure that their policies and use of GM crops do not harm their neighbors environmentally, culturally, politically, or economically. Transboundary pollution law principles are applicable to the spread of transgenes and it follows that each nation must ensure that no activities involving GM crops occurring within its borders negatively affect its neighbors.

As the leader in the development of new biotechnologies and transgenic crops, the United States holds the unique position of being the first to study and determine the risks of allowing a new transgenic crop to be planted. As of now, the United States has some of the world’s lowest standards for allowing new GM crops into the market. Because of international trade regulations, other countries that are more wary of transgenic crops have been required to lower their own standards and accept the import of GM products. This allows the United States to set the bar on how in-depth a new GM crop and its effects on the environment must be examined before being commercialized.

However, if such a new product does have a deleterious effect on the environment of the United States or a neighbor, such as Mexico, then the principles put forth in Trail Smelter and its progeny provide a basis for liability. [Citations omitted, emphasis added]

 

Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered Roundup Ready Alfalfa Has Gone Wild,” by Bill Freese, (Center for Food Safety), EcoWatch; January 21, 2016

Also see: “New Study Finds GM Alfalfa Has Gone Wild, Exposing Failure of ‘Coexistence’ Policy,” by Bill Freese, the Center for Food Safety; January 13, 2016

Excerpt: A recent study by U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) scientists shows that genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa has gone wild, in a big way, in alfalfa-growing parts of the West. This feral GE alfalfa may help explain a number of transgenic contamination episodes over the past few years that have cost American alfalfa growers and exporters millions of dollars in lost revenue. And it also exposes the failure of USDA’s “coexistence” policy for GE and traditional crops…

What makes the high (27 percent) GE contamination rate found in this study so remarkable is how little GE alfalfa produced it. The USDA first approved Roundup Ready alfalfa in 2005 and it occupied just 1 percent of national alfalfa acreage in 2006. A federal court prohibited new plantings starting in 2007, but allowed what had already been planted to remain in the ground (an alfalfa stand is typically grown for about five years). Because this study was conducted just a few months after the re-approval of GE alfalfa in 2011, all of the feral GE alfalfa the researchers detected arose from the comparatively few fields planted in 2005 and 2006. There is much more GE alfalfa being grown now (Monsanto says 30 percent of alfalfa seed sold is GE). So there is likely much more feral GE alfalfa today than is suggested by this study.

It’s important to note that the study’s major finding—that feral GE alfalfa is present and poses a contamination risk—has been known for at least six years. Oregon alfalfa seed grower Phillip Geertson presented the USDA with documented evidence of feral GE alfalfa in Idaho and Oregon in 2009, but was ignored. More broadly, the USDA exhaustively discussed this and other modes of transgenic contamination in its voluminous 2010 Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on Roundup Ready alfalfa. In fact, buried in that EIS is data showing still earlier episodes of transgenic contamination of alfalfa dating back to the crop’s first commercial introduction in 2005.

The 2015 study that is cited in this article is here: “Occurrence of Transgenic Feral Alfalfa (Medicago sativa subsp. sativa L.) in Alfalfa Seed Production Areas in the United States,” by Stephanie L. Greene, Sandya R. Kesoju, Ruth C. Martin and Matthew Kramer, PLoS One, Vol. 10, No. 12; December 23, 2015 (17 pages)

 


GM 2.0? ‘Gene-editing’ produces GMOs that must be regulated as GMOs,” by Janet Cotter & Ricarda Steinbrecher, The Ecologist; January 13, 2016


 

This may have been Mae-Wan Ho’s last publication: “CRISPR Too Fast for Comfort,” by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Institute of Science in Society; January 12, 2016.

This publication can also be found HERE.

Excerpt: The new gene-editing technique CRISPR has taken the world by storm. It enables geneticists to disable or change the sequence of specific genes in the genome of practically all animals including humans faster, more efficiently than ever before, promising to improve our understanding of how genes work, delete genes that cause diseases, even modify human embryos to rid them of diseases or to ‘enhance ‘ them. The applications are moving ahead so fast that many scientists are calling for caution as major safety and ethical concerns need to be addressed.

The issue came to a head when a team of Chinese researchers created the first genetically modified human embryos using the technology…

Just before an International summit in December 2015 co-sponsored by the US National Academy of Sciences, the US National Academy of Medicine, the UK Royal Society and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to consider the scientific and social implications of genome editing, Jennifer Doudna, a researcher at University of California Berkeley who helped invent CRISPR/Cas9, and a signatory on the editorial in Science, wrote in a commentary in Nature stating that “we do not yet know enough about the capabilities and limits of the new technologies, especially when it comes to creating heritable mutations.” Hence, “human-germline editing for the purposes of creating genome-modified humans should not proceed at this time, partly because of the unknown social consequences, but also because the technology and our knowledge of the human genome are simply not ready to do so safely.” She also stated that future discussions should address other potentially harmful applications of genome editing in non-human system, such as “the alteration of insect DNA to ‘drive’ certain genes into a population”…

Finally, the ecological risks of gene drives are enormous, so warns conservation scientists from Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation. They stated: “The question is no longer whether we can control invasive species using gene drive, but whether we should.” As the gene drive can in principle lead to the extinction of a species, this could involve the species in its native habitat as well as where it is considered invasive. As distinct from conventional biological control, which can be applied locally, there is no way to control gene flow. They point out that because the CRISPR/Cas gene drive remains fully functional in the mutated strain after it is created, the chance of off-target mutations also remain and the likelihood increases with every generation. “If there is any risk of gene flow between the target species and other species, then there is also a risk that the modified sequence could be transferred and the adverse trait manifested in nontarget organisms.” (This commentary has not even begun to consider horizontal gene flow, which would multiply the risks many-fold.)

There is also increasing awareness that many invasive species will have considerable niche overlap, such that removal of one species will enable another to rapidly take its place.

They call for a thorough ecological risk assessment before any application of CRISPR/Cas gene drive is contemplated in the control of alien species, to prevent a ‘silver bullet’ becoming a ‘conservation threat’.


 

Monsanto’s MON863 maize is withdrawn from the European market,” by GMWatch; January 16, 2016

 

Pathology reports on the first cows fed with Bt176 maize (1997–2002),” by Gottfried Glöckner and Gilles-Éric Séralini, Scholarly Journal of Agricultural Science Vol. 6, No. 1; January 2016 (8 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

Excerpt: An antibiotic resistance marker gene was used in the genetic transformation, and the plant produced a new modified insecticide like all Bt plants. Yet only one nutritional test was conducted by Novartis on four cows for two weeks; one cow died after a week without scientific explanation. As it turned out, this was and still remains the longest detailed feeding observation with a GMO. Glöckner’s farm, a recognized model of good practice, was supervised by qualified veterinarians. There had been no cases of serious disease on the farm since Glöckner took it over in 1986. When partial paralysis (paresis) accompanied by great fatigue, and problems in the kidneys and mucosal membranes arose in the animals, followed by death in 10% of cases, microbial causes were sought … New scientific data on Bt toxins and a thorough study of the records show that this GMO Bt maize is most probably toxic over the long term.


 

Mergers

 

Monsanto Shareholders Approve Bayer Merger to Form World’s Largest Seed and Chemical Company,” by Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch; December 14, 2016

Monsanto, Bayer execs make their case to soybean farmers,” by GMWatch; December 8, 2016

Excerpt: Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley stood before about 200 soybean farmers, a Bayer executive by his side, and asked for their support for the two companies’ proposed merger…..

The move would create the world’s biggest seller of seed and crop-protection products. The combined company would own nearly 37% of the market for corn seed and nearly 30% of the market for soybean seed, according to Farm Journal research. It would also own 70% of the cottonseed market, according to USDA figures. The companies estimate combined sales will reach 23.1 billion euro ($25.92 billion), based on 2015 sales….

Fraley also commented on President-elect Donald Trump’s nomination of Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad as ambassador to China. Monsanto still awaits Chinese regulatory approval for its Vistive Gold high-oleic soybeans. He said Branstad’s past work on behalf of biotech acceptance and advocacy for U.S. agriculture makes him an excellent choice for the role. [Emphasis added]

 

Farming mega-mergers threaten food security, say campaigners,” by John Vidal, The Guardian; September 26, 2016

Excerpt: Until recently, six or seven global agri-food businesses competed with each other for a share of the world market for seeds and chemicals. But if EU and US regulators allow a series of mega-mergers to take place, within months just three companies will be left in control of nearly 60% of the world’s seeds, nearly 70% of the chemicals and pesticides needed to grow food and nearly all of the world’s GM crop genetic traits….

Include the mergers of several of the world’s biggest fertiliser companies, and moves by the world’s largest farm equipment companies to invest in big data, robotics and farm surveillance technologies, and the consolidations are seen as taking global agriculture into a new era.

Alarmed EU, US and Latin American consumer, environment and anti-trust groups this week claimed that the three mega deals have the potential to concentrate political and financial power dangerously and could force more countries to adopt a single model of farming that excludes or impoverishes small farmers.

With seeds, chemicals, research and lobbying power in the hands of a tiny group of immensely powerful companies, they say, the small farmer will inevitably be blown away, competition could be stifled, and food and farm input prices will rise…..

The mergers have created alarm throughout Latin America and raised concerns about increased prices, more privatisation of research and political pressure, says Silvia Ribeiro, director of ETC’s Latin American office in Mexico.

“[There is] huge pressure from these giant companies to make laws and regulations in our countries that allow them to dominate markets, crush farmers’ rights and make peasant seeds illegal,” he says.

“Together, these mergers are set to re-shape world farming, potentially raising prices for growers and consumers around the world,” says Adrian Bebb, senior food, agriculture and biodiversity campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, who has described the Bayer-Monsanto takeover as a “marriage made in hell”.

 

Bayer Tightens Control over the World’s Food Supply,” by Carin Smaller, International Investment Law and Sustainable Development (IISD), September 23, 2016

Excerpt: Last week, Bayer, succeeded in a US$ 66 billion takeover bid of Monsanto—the biggest deal this year. According to reports, it is an unsolicited takeover, in the face of falling profits. Monsanto is the world’s largest seed company, controlling 23 percent of the global seed market.

This is the latest in a series of mergers and acquisitions of the major chemical, seed and fertilizer companies that are transforming the world’s food supply. Earlier this year, ChemChina, one of China’s largest state-run chemical companies acquired the Swiss agribusiness, Syngenta, for US$43 billion. DuPont and the Dow Chemical Company agreed to a merger at the end of 2015. And this month, two major Canadian fertilizer companies, Potash and Agrium, agreed to a merger.

These deals are significant for four reasons. First, they raise serious questions about anti-competitive and anti-trust practices. Fewer companies controlling an ever-growing share of the agricultural inputs market undermines competition and can thwart innovation. For example, the Bayer takeover of Monsanto merges a chemical giant with a seed giant and leaves the control of the world’s food supply in too few hands. The merger also links two key parts of agricultural production, reducing competition in the food chain. Bayer is now expected to control 29 per cent of the global seed market and 24 per cent of the global pesticide market. The Canadian fertilizer merger will allow the new company to control two-thirds of North America’s potash capacity and a third of phosphate and nitrogen capacity. The deals are currently being scrutinized by anti-trust boards and regulatory authorities in Europe and North America, which may reject the deals.

Second, there are serious concerns about increased farmer dependency on a smaller number of suppliers, and higher prices due to weak competition. Jim Benham, the president of the Indiana Farmers Union told the New York Times the “merger is going to hurt the farmer. The more consolidation we have on our inputs, the worse it gets.” And Professor Neil Harl, retired professor of the University of Iowa told ABC [Australian Broadcasting Corporation], “if a supplier of seeds wants to up the price all they need to do is just raise the price and if there’s no other reasonable substitutes then they’ll probably succeed.”

Third, the deal increases the power of an even smaller group of companies over the intellectual property, and patents that already lock up much of the world’s commercially produced food supply. The patents weaken farmers’ ability to use and reuse their own seeds. Shrinking seed diversity also threatens biodiversity, which is important to enable plants and crops to withstand diseases, pests and other threats, such as climate change.

Finally, there are ongoing food health and safety concerns related to the seeds and chemicals produced by these companies. Increasing their market share increases their power over the market and over the producers and consumers that use their products. In 2015, the World Health Organization declared glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto’s herbicide, Roundup, as “probably carcinogenic in humans,” and its use is currently being assessed in the EU. A Bayer chemical, neonicotinoid, that is used in pesticides, has been linked to the harm to bee populations in Europe, and has recently been banned. And, while the evidence of harm to human health caused by GMOs is inconclusive, their use remains highly controversial in Europe, where a number of bans are in place. The issues will likely become inflamed now that a European company owns the largest GMO seed producer.

Is there anything to gain from the recent wave of mergers other than the potential of increased profits? The public wants competitive prices, innovation and choice. These mergers block all three. It’s time for a global discussion on how to protect the positive dimensions of competition while disciplining anti-competitive behavior. This includes providing open and universal access to information, working against collusion among companies, and providing economically disempowered groups (including farm workers and smallholder producers) with the tools and information they need to redress unequal market power.

 

Why Seed Company Mergers Matter in a Warming World,” by Doug Gurian-Sherman, Civil Eats; January 21, 2016

Excerpt: These mergers would have big economic ramifications. For example, as I’ve noted, the growing economic power of seed companies, and the gene and crop patents they own, often keep farmers from being able to save seeds. This allows the companies to jack up prices, which results in a higher percentage of farmer profits going to seed purchases than before and lowers profit margins per acre for farmers. This trend puts upward pressure on farm size, which often contributes to simplified farming practices that lead to environmental harm.

But lost in the legitimate concerns about economics, have been the implications of mega seed companies when it comes to the impact of climate change on farming…..

How we grow and breed our crops can either make them more climate resilient or more vulnerable. And one key element of resilience against climate change is crop genetic diversity. Sadly, when large industrial agriculture companies exert their influence, diversity is generally reduced. That means fewer types of crops and less genetic diversity within each crop.

And a seed company landscape made up of fewer, larger companies will likely make this problem worse. …

By contrast, small farms, and especially indigenous farmers who are under pressure from companies and governments around the world, are the keepers of the types of genetic diversity that we will all need to continue to adapt to a changing climate. They have developed, nurtured, conserved, and traded these diverse local crop varieties for millennia. In fact, they should be celebrated and supported for doing the original crowdsourcing, or “seed-sourcing.”

But all is not lost. As researchers Maywa Montenegro and Dianne Rocheleau pointed out in their recent papers, the loss of small and peasant farms has slowed in recent years in some areas, sometimes through active resistance. In fact, many of these farmers continue to plant diverse crops and varieties.

However, we cannot be complacent about the vitality of the stewards of our genetic inheritance. Big seed companies and the high-profit crop varieties that they favor, will continue to displace or absorb small and peasant farms into a system that sees them primarily as potential customers.

We need to actively support small farms and their communities through public policies, and public participatory breeding without patents, such as the work of the Open Source Seed Initiative, while opposing further seed company mergers and patents that prevent seed saving. Our future ability to produce the food we need in the face of climate change depends upon it.

 



Overlooked from 2015: What should have been included in “The Best and Worst of 2015”

 

GMO Myths and Truths: The most overlooked publication from 2015 was a book version of the popular report by Earth Open Source, GMO Myths and Truths. The report was originally published in 2012, and subsequent minor revisions were released right away. The informative report was – surprise – surprise – criticized by GMO proponents (there are no truthful, accurate and critical publications about GMOs that aren’t immediately criticized and attacked by the great biotech spin machine). The authors re-published the report in 2014 that not only addressed those critics, but added a great deal more information. The first report was over 120 pages, the second edition was well over 325 pages. GMO Myths and Truths 295x444

Then in December 2015, a third edition was published as a paperback, rather than as a pdf report available for free on the website. The intent of the third edition was to provide a portable, condensed version of the report that also included new and updated important information. Co-author Claire Robinson said: “Many people find it difficult to read a long and detailed pdf document on their computer, and many people and organizations would prefer to present to policymakers and industry leaders a more concise, professionally produced book. We have been asked time and again for a ‘real’ book – and here it is!”

This book is one of the best and most important books about GMOs that was published in 2015, and should have been included on the last year’s post – but it was overlooked because of the late date of the publication. Claire Robinson MPhil, Michael Antoniou PhD and John Fagan PhD, GMO Myths and Truths: A Citizen’s Guide to the Evidence on the Safety and Efficacy of Genetically Modified Crops and Foods, 3rd Edition, Earth Open Source (2015)

Author Colin Todhunter wrote a review about this book which is worth reading: “GMO Myths and Truths updated, condensed, and available as a book,” by Colin Todhunter, GMWatch; March 2, 2016; this was also published here: Colin originally published this here: “An Essential Citizen’s Guide to the Truth about GM Crops and Food,” by Colin Todhunter, CounterPunch; March 2, 2016


 

world-hunger-10-myths-2015

World Hunger: 10 Myths: This book is not about GMOs exclusively, but one of the main lies that GMO advocates have successfully sold to the world for decades is that GMOs are needed to feed the world. Underlying that self-serving advertising campaign are myths about world hunger in general, which this book addresses.

Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins, World Hunger: 10 Myths, Grove Press (October 2015)

From the description on Amazon:
From best-selling authors Frances Moore Lappé and Joseph Collins comes the 21st century’s definitive book on world hunger. Driven by the question, “Why hunger despite an abundance of food?” Lappé and Collins refute the myths that prevent us from addressing the root causes of hunger across the globe. World Hunger: Ten Myths draws on extensive new research to offer fresh, often startling, insights about tough questions—from climate change and population growth to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and the role of U.S. foreign aid, and more.

Brimming with little-known but life-changing examples of solutions to hunger worldwide, this myth-busting book argues that sustainable agriculture can feed the world, that we can end nutritional deprivation affecting one-quarter of the world’s people, and that most in the Global North have more in common with hungry people than they thought. For novices and scholars alike, World Hunger: Ten Myths will inspire a whole new generation of hunger-fighters.

Editorial reviews on Amazon:

One of Food Tank’s favorite books of the year

World Hunger addresses problems of enormous human significance with valuable and often surprising information, much insight, sound common sense, and fundamental decency. It should become not only a book for study, but a guide to action.”—Noam Chomsky

“Like its predecessors, this brilliant book distills the truth about the state of global hunger so accessibly and urgently, that you’re left not just wiser, but armed and ready for the fight to make the world better.”—Raj Patel, author Stuffed and Starved; fellow at Food First; research professor, Lyndon B Johnson School of Public Affairs, University of Texas at Austin

“A must-read from the world’s most trustworthy guides to how we can end hunger. With great clarity, Lappé and Collins not only discredit widespread misconceptions but provide persuasive evidence of what’s needed to meet the challenge.”—Hilal Elver, United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food

“Chapter by chapter, Frances Moore Lappé and [Joseph Collins] demolish the myths that have long prevented us from addressing hunger, and examine the policies that keep people from feeding themselves . . . Ultimately, the book’s strength is in the clarity of its message. World Hunger is concise, straightforward, hard-hitting . . . Lappé and her co-authors don’t just bust long-standing myths and preempt counter-arguments with an armory of research, they build enough nuance into their narrative to provoke you into questioning your own personal beliefs about hunger. And then they tell you what you can do about it. When it comes down to it, that is where its power lies: World Hunger is a manifesto for change, and its call to action has never been more urgent.”—Policy Innovations

“The definitive solutions-based book for all those questioning why hunger still exists when there is such an abundance of food. The book takes on difficult issues such as climate change and world population growth, drawing on years of extensive research to create attainable solutions.”—Huffington Post, “Food Tank’s 2015 Recommended Fall Reading List”


 

Overlooked Articles & other Publications from 2015

 

GMO Propaganda and the Sociology of Science,” by Kristine Mattis, Counterpunch; October 5, 2015

Excerpt: Since last year, the pro-GMO rhetoric has increased tremendously in news media articles on genetically modified organisms. Recent disclosed documents have also exposed numerous scientific experts enlisted in Monsanto’s messaging. But what is most pernicious is that a whole new rhetorical talking point has come to the forefront, which threatens anyone – particularly scientists – who speak out against their “tent pole” technology: ‘If you are anti-GMOs you are anti-science.’

The new talking point represents a brilliant strategy to promote genetic engineering. Most people do not want to be characterized as anti-science, not journalists, not public officials, not celebrities, and least of all, not trained and educated scientists. Furthermore, the propaganda plays to pro-science liberals who have accused conservatives of being anti-science due to their denial of climate change.

Unlike anthropogenic climate change, though, there is absolutely no scientific consensus on the safety of GMOs. In fact, each and every new GMO needs to be fully tested individually for its safety, because each genetic modification confers a not only a novel gene into the genome, but also a possible genetic interaction within the genome. The notion that one gene always only controls one trait is known to be far too simplistic. Often, many genes function in concert to produce traits, and sections of DNA can also turn traits on or off. Therefore, inserting novel genes into DNA sequences may affect untargeted traits in unpredictable ways….

As of now, GMOs do nothing for society but enlarge the coffers of the billion-dollar agrichemical giants who produce them. They have not alleviated hunger, they have not increased environmental sustainability; their much-hyped public benefits have not yet materialized. To question their scientific and societal value – and risk – is decidedly scientific at its core.

Read the full article HERE.


 

This next article from 2015 is one of the most important articles that every food activist should read.  It should be read more than once – it should be studied. Jonathan Latham, PhD proposes an approach that should be used to defeat the dominance of Monsanto and the biotech/Big Ag giants and to transform the world’s food system.

How the Great Food War Will Be Won,” by Jonathan Latham, PhD, Independent Science News; January 12, 2015

Excerpt: The strategic centrepiece of Monsanto’s PR, and also that of just about every major commercial participant in the industrialised food system, is to focus on the promotion of one single overarching idea. The big idea that industrial producers in the food system want you to believe is that only they can produce enough for the future population (Peekhaus 2010). Thus non-industrial systems of farming, such as all those which use agroecological methods, or SRI [System of Rice Intensification], or are localised and family-oriented, or which use organic methods, or non-GMO seeds, cannot feed the world.

To be sure, agribusiness has other PR strategies. Agribusiness is “pro-science”, its opponents are “anti-science”, and so on. But the main plank has for decades been to create a cast-iron moral framing around the need to produce more food (Stone and Glover 2011).

Therefore, if you go to the websites of Monsanto and Cargill and Syngenta and Bayer, and their bedfellows: the US Farm Bureau, the UK National Farmers Union, and the American Soybean Association, and CropLife International, or The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, USAID, or the international research system (CGIAR), and now even NASA, they very early (if not instantaneously) raise the “urgent problem” of who will feed the expected global population of 9 or 10 billion in 2050.

Likewise, whenever these same organisations compose speeches or press releases, or videos, or make any pronouncement designed for policymakers or the populace, they devote precious space to the same urgent problem. It is even in their job advertisements. It is their Golden Fact and their universal calling card. And as far as neutrals are concerned it wins the food system debate hands down, because it says, if any other farming system cannot feed the world, it is irrelevant. Only agribusiness can do that.

The real food crisis is of overproduction

Yet this strategy has a disastrous foundational weakness. There is no global or regional shortage of food. There never has been and nor is there ever likely to be. India has a superabundance of food. South America is swamped in food. The US, Australia, New Zealand and Europe are swamped in food (e.g. Billen et al 2011). In Britain, like in many wealthy countries, nearly half of all row crop food production now goes to biofuels, which at bottom are an attempt to dispose of surplus agricultural products. China isn’t quite swamped but it still exports food; and it grows 30% of the world’s cotton. No foodpocalypse there either….

Anyone who wants a sustainable, pesticide-free, or non-GMO food future, or who wants to swim in a healthy river or lake again, or wants to avoid climate chaos, needs to know all this. Anyone who would like to rebuild the rural economy or who appreciates cultural, biological, or agricultural diversity of any meaningful kind should take every possible opportunity to point out the evidence that refutes it. Granaries are bulging, crops are being burned as biofuels or dumped, prices are low, farmers are abandoning farming for slums and cities, all because of massive oversupply. Anyone could also point out that probably the least important criterion for growing food, is how much it yields. Even just to acknowledge crop yield, as an issue for anyone other than the individual farmer, is to reinforce the framing of the industry they oppose.

The project to fully industrialise global food production is far from complete, yet already it is responsible for most deforestation, most marine pollution, most coral reef destruction, much of greenhouse gas emissions, most habitat loss, most of the degradation of streams and rivers, most food insecurity, most immigration, most water depletion, massive human health problems, and so on (Foley et al 2005Foley et al 2011). Therefore, it is not an exaggeration to say that if the industrialisation of food is not reversed our planet will be made unlivable for multi-cellular organisms. Our planet is becoming literally uninhabitable solely as a result of the social and ecological consequences of industrialising agriculture. All these problems are without even mentioning the trillions of dollars in annual externalised costs and subsidies (Pretty et al. 2000).

So, if one were to devise a strategy for the food movement, it would be this. The public already knows (mostly) that pesticides are dangerous. They also know that organic food is higher quality, and is far more environmentally friendly. It knows that GMOs should be labeled, are largely untested, and may be harmful. That is why the leaders of most major countries, including China, dine on organic food. The immense scale of the problems created by industrial agriculture should, of course, be understood better, but the main facts are hardly in dispute.

But what industry understands, and the food movement does not, is that what prevents total rejection of bland, industrialised, pesticide-laden, GMO food is the standard acceptance, especially in Western countries, of the overarching agribusiness argument that such food is necessary. It is necessary to feed the world.

But, if the food movement could show that famine is an empty threat then it would also have shown, by clear implication, that the chemical health risks and the ecological devastation that these technologies represent are what is unnecessary. The movement would have shown that pesticides and GMOs exist solely to extract profit from the food chain. They have no other purpose. Therefore, every project of the food movement should aim to spread the truth of oversupply, until mention of the Golden Fact invites ridicule and embarrassment rather than fear. [Some links omitted or updated]

Read the full article HERE.


 

Dr. Robert Kremer: GMOs, Glyphosate and Soil Biology,” by Carol Grieve’, Food Integrity Now; April 15, 2015 [Embedded audio file at the BOTTOM of the article 46:49]

Excerpt: Dr. Robert Kremer is a Professor of Soil Microbiology at the University of Missouri and is recently retired after a 32-year career as a microbiologist with the U.S.D.A.  He spoke with Food Integrity Now about the problems he has studied over the past 18 years with transgenic crops (GMOs) and Glyphosate. Glyphosate the active ingredient in RoundUp is the most widely used herbicide in the world. Eighty percent of all GMO crops are engineered to tolerate Glyphosate.

Dr. Kremer first became concerned with GMOs and Glyphosate in 1997 when he and his colleagues observed that plants became overly infested with soil fungi during the dying process from the effects of Glyphosate. Knowing that some of the soil fungi were natural biological control agents for some of these pests, including soybean cist nemotode (parasitic roundworm), they looked at these transgenic crops (GMOs) which were receiving Glyphosate and looked at the root system and found an increase in soil fungi. They noticed that every time that they checked this GMO crop that the roots were loaded up with the fungus, Fusarium. Fusarium is a fungus that can be potentially pathogenic. He said his concern was that here we have this new release of crops that are tolerant to Glyphosate yet their root system are piled up with this fungi. He has evaluated several GMO crops over the past 17 years and continues to see increased fungi on their roots.

 

Weed Whackers: Monsanto, glyphosate, and the war on invasive species,” by Andrew Cockburn, Harper’s Magazine; September 2015

This publication is cited in this related article: “New revelation about glyphosate-cancer link genotoxic,” by Claire Robinson, GMWatch; August 13, 2015

 

(Full) Reasoning of the Jury for the 2015 Whistleblower Award to Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini,” by the Whistleblower Award Jury; September 2015 (14 pages)

This publication is cited in this related blog post: “Why Glyphosate should be Banned,” by Jeff Kirkpatrick, Ban GMOs Now (A working post)

 

Glyphosate Nontoxicity -The Genesis of a Scientific Fact,” by Marek Cuhra (GenØk – Centre for Biosafety), Journal of Biological Physics and Chemistry, September 2015 (8 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

This publication is cited in this related blog post: “Why Glyphosate should be Banned,” by Jeff Kirkpatrick, Ban GMOs Now (A working post)

A related summary article is here: “More Monsanto scientific fraud in early glyphosate ‘safety studies,’” by Dr. Brian John, GM-Free Cymru; November 9, 2015

Excerpt: Yet another peer-reviewed journal article has demonstrated the scientifically fraudulent techniques used in Monsanto-sponsored glyphosate “safety” studies in the period when the company was seeking US approval for the controversial herbicide.

Dr Marek Cuhra has conducted a careful study (1) of all of the assessments made of the toxicity of glyphosate to aquatic organisms — and in particular the water-flea Daphnia magna. He discovered that the industry sponsored study conducted by McAllister and Forbis in 1978 for ABC laboratories (which was never published) purported to show that glyphosate was about 300 times less toxic than was revealed in later studies. And yet that deeply flawed study was used for the assessment of glyphosate toxicity by the American EPA and by other regulators worldwide, on the assumption that it was completely reliable. The study purported to show that glyphosate was effectively harmless, and that was accepted as a scientific “fact”.

The author’s analysis of the ABC study refers over and again to scientific fraud — involving the falsification of data, unsound scientific practice, scientific misconduct and blatant cheating.

Read the full article HERE.


 

The Séralini affair: degeneration of Science to Re-Science?” by John Fagan, Terje Traavik and Thomas Bøhn, Environmental Sciences Europe, Vol. 27, Issue 1; August 2015 (9 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE, HERE and HERE.

This publication is also HERE in HTML format.

Excerpt: A paper reporting findings relevant to safety of the genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 and the herbicide Roundup … was retracted against the wishes of the authors, and subsequently republished in another peer-reviewed journal …These events exemplify a trend in which disputes, between interest groups vying for retraction and republication of papers that report controversial results, overshadow the normal scientific process in which peer-reviewed publication stimulates new research, generating new empirical evidence that drives the evolution of scientific understanding. This paper reviews the current status of research on safety of NK603 maize and Roundup herbicide for human and livestock health, and attempts to glean from recent developments insights relevant to risk assessment policy for GM crops and pesticides, as well as relevant to the scientific process in general. Our analysis of currently published evidence confirms NK603 and Roundup are kidney and liver toxicants at levels below current regulatory thresholds. Consequently, the regulatory status of NK603, glyphosate and Roundup requires reevaluation. Additionally, preliminary evidence indicates Roundup and NK603, individually and in combination, may increase tumor incidence and mortality. Follow-up long-term carcinogenicity studies, using test animal strains and numbers of animals that assure robust conclusions, are required to confirm/refute this preliminary evidence. The inherent tension between the scientific process and commercial interests of product developers necessitates implementation of safeguards that protect the scientific process and prevent degeneration of Science to Re-Science (typified by retraction and republication disputes)……

This was the first study to investigate effects of a Roundup formulation. All earlier studies investigated glyphosate, the herbicidal ingredient of Roundup, in isolation. The genetically modified maize NK603, Roundup and the two in combination were also reported to increase mortality and tumor incidence. The study was designed as a toxicological study, not as a carcinogenesis study. Therefore, the tumor incidence and mortality results were reported, according to OECD guidelines for chronic toxicity studies, as secondary observations requiring follow-up using a study design intended to systematically assess carcinogenesis…..

The efforts to suppress the research findings of Séralini et al. are not an isolated incident, but are exemplifying a trend that has emerged in recent years. In some cases, earlier efforts have lead to retraction; in others, pressure to retract has not achieved this result. Several examples are summarized by Waltz. The most recent apparent occurrence took place at the same journal, FCT, which retracted Séralini et al. Mezzomo et al. was retracted by the editors without explanation, but was quickly republished in another peer-reviewed journal…..

In contributing to the advancement of human welfare, science has been the goose that has laid many golden eggs of great benefit to the business sector. Yet when research results are not in line with short-term business priorities, there seems to be no hesitation to attempt to interfere with and manipulate the scientific process.

It is typical and justified for extraordinary research findings to be viewed with skepticism and subjected to more stringent scrutiny. As Stanley Prusiner, Nobel Prize Laureate, said, “While it is quite reasonable for scientists to be skeptical of new ideas that do not fit within the accepted realm of scientific knowledge ….the best science often emerges from situations where results carefully obtained do not fit within the accepted paradigms”. But industry’s often well-funded and persistent lobbying is quite another matter. It introduces obstacles that can significantly slow or sidetrack the scientific process. [Citations omitted, emphasis added]


 

We Must End Monsanto’s Colonization, Its Enslavement of Farmers,” by Vandana Shiva, EcoWatch; July 25, 2015

 

IARC Monographs: 40 Years of Evaluating Carcinogenic Hazards to Humans,” by Neil Pearce et al, Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 123, Issue 6; June 2015 (16 pages)

This publication is also HERE in HTML format. This publication is available in a condensed format that may be harder to read: “IARC Monographs: 40 Years of Evaluating Carcinogenic Hazards to Humans,” by Neil Pearce et al, Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 123, Issue 6; June 2015 (8 pages)

This publication is also available here, but without citations: “IARC Monographs: 40 Years of Evaluating Carcinogenic Hazards to Humans,” by Neil Pearce et al, Journal of Environmental Health Perspectives, Vol. 123, Issue 6; June 2015 (39 pages)

 

A challenge to scientific integrity: a critique of the critics of the GMO rat study conducted by Gilles-Eric Séralini et al. (2012),” by Ulrich E. Loening, Environmental Sciences Europe, Vol. 27, No. 1; June  2015 (9 pages)

This publication is also HERE and HERE in HTML format.

 

Monsanto Knew of Glyphosate Cancer Risk 35 Years Ago,” by Dr. Brian John GM-Free Cymru; April 8, 2015

Excerpt: Research scientist Dr. Anthony Samsel says: “…Both Monsanto and the EPA knew of the deleterious effects of this chemical in 1980 at the conclusion of their multiple long-term assessments, but the EPA hid the results of their findings as ‘trade secrets.’ Monsanto has been lying and covering up the truth about glyphosate’s harmful effects on public health and the environment for decades. The increases in multiple chronic diseases, seen since its introduction into the food supply, continue to rise in step with its use. Monsanto’s Roundup glyphosate based herbicides have a ubiquitous presence as residues in the food supply directly associated with its crop use. Nations must stand together against Monsanto and other chemical companies who continue to destroy the biosphere. We are all part of that biosphere and we are all connected. What affects one affects us all.” [Emphasis added].

 

Is Monsanto on the Side of Science?” by Claire Robinson, New Internationalist; April, 2015

 

Large-Scale Deployment of Seed Treatments Has Driven Rapid Increase in Use of Neonicotinoid Insecticides and Preemptive Pest Management in U.S. Field Crops,” by Margaret R. Douglas and John F. Tooker, Environmental Science & Technology, Vol. 49, Issue 8; April 2015 (10 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE. This publication can also be viewed and downloaded from HERE.

A summary article is here: “Claims of reduced pesticide use with GM crops are baseless, new study shows,” by Claire Robinson, GMWatch; April 4 2015

 

Who controls our food?” by Nick Dearden, New Internationalist, March 4, 2015

Excerpt: Sympathy with organic food production is at an all-time high. Perhaps ‘It’s a nice idea, when you can afford it’ sums up the approach of many people. But extending these principles of production to the whole food system? It just doesn’t seem practical. There are an awful lot of people to feed in the world and, if you’re hungry, you don’t care much about the niceties of how the food was produced.

A new report from Global Justice Now, From The Roots Up, shows that not only can small-scale organically produced food feed the world, but it can do so better than intensive, corporate-controlled agriculture. As a matter of fact, it already is feeding millions of people….

But what we’re talking about isn’t a set of farming techniques. We’re talking about who controls our food supply and how that power is used.

How we produce food is a deeply political issue that affects the lives and livelihoods of billions of people. For in our global economy, it is not the amount of food produced which dictates whether people eat or starve. If it was, we would not see the inhumane but common spectacle of people malnourished while surrounded by food. Rather, it is the increasing grip which big business exerts over our food system, in accordance with a near religious faith in the power of the market.

So agroecology does not simply say ‘we can grow more’. It says, we can give people control over their food. It goes beyond a simple notion of ‘food security’ because, as writer Raj Patel points out, ‘it’s possible to be food secure in prison’. By shifting the way food systems are controlled, agroecology can play a part in challenging the patriarchal forms of organization that exist in farming.

 



Golden Propaganda

gmwoes-ghostbusters-gmos-quote-2

In 2016, the Golden Rice myth was once again used as a major propaganda tool for the biotech industry. It’s gotten to the point where it’s quite obvious that the only real value Golden Rice has at all is to vilify anti-GMO activists and promote GMOs under false pretenses. In terms of providing a legitimate solution to a complex problem, it is still, and always has been, a complete and utter failure that is not needed and unwanted. As Christoph Then pointed out in 2014,

“All in all, the communication strategies used by many proponents of the Golden Rice project are ethically questionable, propagandistic and alarmist. They clearly contradict the humanitarian goals of the project and impede factual debate. This nearly hysterical rhetoric was continuously exaggerated within the last years. Its most recent peak of absurdity was reached by a campaign ‘Golden Rice Now.’”

See: “Golden Lies: No Credibility for Golden Rice Campaign,” by Christoph Then, Testbiotech; January 15, 2014 (18 Pages)

A pro-GMO advocate group of shills for the biotech industry managed to convince over 100 Nobel Laureates to sign a petition about Golden Rice, science, and of course, the so-called “crusade against science.”  This was absurd on so many levels, and the rebuttals came in droves. But what prompted the timing of this exploitation of somewhat (otherwise) well-respected scientists? None of them (except one) had any knowledge about agriculture. None had any background or conducted any research into GMOs or Golden Rice and the complex nature of agricultural biotechnology – especially in the context of it application on indigenous cultures. Consequently they had absolutely no meaningful understanding of the objections that have been raised against all of these related issues.

Just as this story was published and then shared by misinformed media outlets, the DARK Act extreme (S. 764) was being fought in the scum-filled swamp in the political halls of Washington. In May, the National Academy of Sciences published an obviously biased preliminary report, “Genetically Engineered Crops, Experiences and Prospects.” (The final publication was not made available until December 2016). The report was clearly intended to promote GMOs under the pretense of “independent science.” The timing of the Golden Rice exploitation scheme as well as the publication of this report was no mistake; it was a well-planned orchestration that was so obvious in its intention that it was ludicrous.

Some Congressional members, true biotech puppets to the core, used the Golden Propaganda in their floor speeches in the Senate and House of Representatives as they simultaneously vilified those bad anti-GMO activists and uplifted the fake GMO labeling bill. At the same time, the NAS report on GMOs was cited as “proof” by “independent scientists” that GMOs were safe.

GMOs are not proven safe on a case-by-case basis, but that hasn’t stopped anyone from claiming that they are safe. And the term “independent scientists” doesn’t apply to the NAS members – so this is wrong on both counts. The National Academy of Sciences receives funding from the U.S. government (which, as we know, promotes GMOs globally), but they also receive funding from private sources too. The biotech industry has donated money to the NAS, but there were also conflicts of interests among certain people connected to the report. For example, the title page states that publication was by the “Committee on Genetically Engineered Crops, Board on Agriculture and Natural Resources; Division on Earth and Life Studies; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.” Sitting on that board of Agriculture was a Monsanto employee.

Tim Schwab and Food & Water Watch reported on these conflicts of interest with “Under the Influence: The National Research Council and GMOs,” which was published in May 2016. At the end of 2016, the New York Times confirmed the findings of Food & Water Watch’s two year investigation about those conflicts (see: “New York Times confirms GMO industry ties at National Academies of Sciences,” by Tim Schwab, Food & Water Watch published on December 28, 2016).

As for Golden Rice, just before the brains of the elderly scientists were hijacked by GMO shills resulting in the letter signed by over 100 Noble Laureates, Glenn Davis Stone and Dominic Glover published “Disembedding grain: Golden Rice, the Green Revolution, and heirloom seeds in the Philippine,” which appeared in the Journal of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society, Vol. 33 in April 2016. While many did may not have had a chance to read that publication at that time, many did read the related summary article, “Genetically modified Golden Rice falls short on lifesaving promises,” by Gerry Everding, The Source, Washington University in St. Louis which was published on June 2, 2016. Everding’s article stated,

“GMO proponents often claim that environmental groups such as Greenpeace should be blamed for slowing the introduction of Golden Rice and thus, prolonging the misery of poor people who suffer from Vitamin A deficiencies. In a recent article in the journal Agriculture & Human Values, Stone and co-author Dominic Glover, a rice researcher at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, find little evidence that anti-GMO activists are to blame for Golden Rice’s unfulfilled promises. ‘The rice simply has not been successful in test plots of the rice breeding institutes in the Philippines, where the leading research is being done,’ Stone said. ‘It has not even been submitted for approval to the regulatory agency, the Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).’”

Stone and Glover pointed out that “as of this writing, over 14 years after IRRI [International Rice Research Institute] began trying to adapt Golden Rice to the Philippines, the best varieties still exhibit a ‘yield drag’ compared to isogenic seeds (i.e., lower productivity than seeds that are identical except for the Golden Rice trait). Contrary to claims that millions of children are dying worldwide because of Greenpeace’s opposition to Golden Rice, the new strains simply are not ready and are not expected to be ready for at least several years. They are proving very difficult to embed.”

They also pointed out that “Undernourished children in underserved corners of the Philippines are also likely to suffer from intestinal infections and parasites that can impede absorption of beta-carotene and conversion to vitamin A. They are virtually certain to have poor diets lacking in fats, which the body needs to absorb vitamin A, but human feeding trials have only been conducted with well-nourished individuals. In the heavily cited (and since retracted)18 study by Tang et al., children were fed balanced meals with 20 % energy from fat, demonstrating only that Golden Rice worked in children who did not need it.” [Citations omitted]

In other words, all that Golden Propaganda over the years was really nothing more than bullshit. This publication set the biotech spin machine on full overload, and before the month was over, on June 30, 2016, the Washington Post published an article about the Golden Rice propaganda and exploitation letter: “107 Nobel laureates sign letter blasting Greenpeace over GMOs,” by Joel Achenback. But the Post article was lacking in a number of important things – we call them “facts.”

One of the first responses came from GMWatch and a number of others soon followed. This campaign by the biotech industry and its supporters still manages to convince some people about the wonders of the life-saving miracles of Golden Rice, because in the end, science has little to do with propaganda. One Facebook commentator, for example, shared a post that claimed Golden Rice was already responsible for saving millions of lives. This is quite remarkable considering it isn’t even being grown anywhere yet, except in limited experimental fields.

It’s important to note the tone of the Washington Post propaganda piece; they characterize this as a “debate between mainstream scientists and environmental activists.” Wow. Because, you know, if you have any objections to GMOs at all, then you must be some kind of … environmental activist … certainly not a “mainstream” scientist!

The same day the Post published that garbage, Claire Robinson (GMWatch) responded. Listed below are some of the publications which are related to this Golden Propaganda crusade. This is an overview of some of the main publications from this sordid event, as well as other publications about Golden Rice that were published in 2016 that are also worth reading.


 

 

Disembedding grain: Golden Rice, the Green Revolution, and heirloom seeds in the Philippine,” by Glenn Davis Stone & Dominic Glover, Journal of the Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society, Vol. 33; April 2016 (16 pages)

This publication can also be found HERE.

Excerpt: Rhetoric on Golden Rice has featured an interesting reversal of the pattern of self-interested scientists creating false doubt about a scientific consensus, most famously regarding the health effects of tobacco. In Golden Rice pronouncements, scientists and others insist with great certainty the plausible – but really quite uncertain – prediction that this rice could have a major health impact. The rhetoric often takes vitriolic turns, including charges that opponents who have delayed Golden Rice are guilty of mass murder. For example Patrick Moore, who claims to have founded Greenpeace, tirelessly blames that organization for delaying the arrival of Golden Rice. Ironically, the biotechnology industry and individual biotechnologists have simultaneously claimed that Golden Rice is already in use: “It’s helped save many, many lives and improved the quality of life of those who eat it,” explained biotechnology leader Roger Beachy. These claims have caused considerable discomfort to the IRRI and PhilRice scientists who are actually doing the Golden Rice breeding.

Most important for our analysis is that during its 15 years of work as a public relations vehicle, Golden Rice has consistently been constructed as medicine for a generic patient. Its targets are only children located geographically only in “poor countries”, “developing countries”, or occasionally “Asia”….

Undernourished children in underserved corners of the Philippines are also likely to suffer from intestinal infections and parasites that can impede absorption of beta-carotene and conversion to vitamin A. They are virtually certain to have poor diets lacking in fats, which the body needs to absorb vitamin A, but human feeding trials have only been conducted with well-nourished individuals. In the heavily cited (and since retracted) study by Tang et al., children were fed balanced meals with 20 % energy from fat, demonstrating only that Golden Rice worked in children who did not need it. [Citations omitted, emphasis added]

A related summary article is here: “Genetically modified Golden Rice falls short on lifesaving promises,” by Gerry Everding, The Source, Washington University in St. Louis; June 2, 2016

Excerpt: GMO proponents often claim that environmental groups such as Greenpeace should be blamed for slowing the introduction of Golden Rice and thus, prolonging the misery of poor people who suffer from Vitamin A deficiencies.

In a recent article in the journal Agriculture & Human Values, Stone and co-author Dominic Glover, a rice researcher at the Institute for Development Studies at the University of Sussex, find little evidence that anti-GMO activists are to blame for Golden Rice’s unfulfilled promises.

“The rice simply has not been successful in test plots of the rice breeding institutes in the Philippines, where the leading research is being done,” Stone said. “It has not even been submitted for approval to the regulatory agency, the Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).”

 

False Promises, Smears and Golden Rice: Is This the Solution for Disease, Poverty and Malnutrition?“ by Colin Todhunter, Counterpunch; June 9, 2016

The publication propaganda by the Washington Post mentioned above: “107 Nobel laureates sign letter blasting Greenpeace over GMOs,” by Joel Achenback, Washington Post; June 30, 2016

 

Pro-GMO campaign exploits Nobel laureates to attack Greenpeace and fool the people,” by Claire Robinson, GMWatch; July 30, 2016

Excerpt: A new pro-GMO propaganda campaign has been launched in which, in the words of a Washington Post article, “more than 100 Nobel laureates have signed a letter urging Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The letter asks Greenpeace to cease its efforts to block introduction of a genetically engineered strain of rice that supporters say could reduce Vitamin-A deficiencies causing blindness and death in children in the developing world.”

In highly emotive language, the letter, published by a shadowy website called supportprecisionagriculture.org, claims, “Greenpeace has spearheaded opposition to Golden Rice, which has the potential to reduce or eliminate much of the death and disease caused by a vitamin A deficiency (VAD), which has the greatest impact on the poorest people in Africa and Southeast Asia.”

The letter calls upon Greenpeace “to cease and desist in its campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general, and upon governments “to reject Greenpeace’s campaign against Golden Rice specifically, and crops and foods improved through biotechnology in general; and to do everything in their power to oppose Greenpeace’s actions and accelerate the access of farmers to all the tools of modern biology, especially seeds improved through biotechnology. Opposition based on emotion and dogma contradicted by data must be stopped.”

The letter ends with an impassioned rhetorical question: “How many poor people in the world must die before we consider this a ‘crime against humanity’?”

The problem with this picture is that the “emotion and dogma” in this case do not belong to Greenpeace but to those who claim or imply that GM golden rice is ready to deploy and that only anti-GMO activists are holding it back.

That’s because in reality, as Prof Glenn Davis Stone pointed out in a peer-reviewed study co-authored with development expert Dominic Glover, GM golden rice still isn’t ready and there’s no evidence that activists are to blame for the delay.

In 2014 the body responsible for the rollout of golden rice, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), announced that the rice had given disappointing yields in field trials and needed further R&D to produce a crop that farmers would be willing to grow. Stone commented, “The rice simply has not been successful in test plots of the rice breeding institutes in the Philippines, where the leading research is being done.” Stone’s study showed that that the rice is still years away from being ready.

And far from the rice being held up by over-stringent regulations fostered by over-zealous anti-GMO activists, as some pro-GMO campaigners have claimed, Stone pointed out that GM golden rice “has not even been submitted for approval to the regulatory agency, the Philippine Bureau of Plant Industry (BPI).”

Indeed, how could it have been submitted to regulators, given that IRRI says it’s not ready for release and that it hasn’t been tested for toxicity, let alone efficacy in combating vitamin A deficiency in the target malnourished populations?

As Greenpeace stated in its response to the campaign:

“Accusations that anyone is blocking genetically engineered ‘golden’ rice are false. ‘Golden’ rice has failed as a solution and isn’t currently available for sale, even after more than 20 years of research. As admitted by the International Rice Research Institute, it has not been proven to actually address Vitamin A Deficiency. So to be clear, we are talking about something that doesn’t even exist.”

Authority over expertise

The laureates’ letter relies for its impact entirely on the supposed authority of the signatories. Unfortunately, however, none appear to have relevant expertise, as some commentators were quick to point out. Philip Stark, associate dean, division of mathematical and physical sciences and professor of statistics at the University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, revealed on Twitter his own analysis of the expertise of the signatories: “1 peace prize, 8 economists, 24 physicists, 33 chemists, 41 doctors”. He added that science is “about evidence not authority. What do they know of agriculture? Done relevant research? Science is supposed to be ‘show me’, not ‘trust me’… Nobel prize or not.”

Devon G. Peña, PhD, an anthropologist at the University of Washington Seattle and an expert in indigenous agriculture, posted a comment to the new campaign’s website in which he called the laureates’ letter “shameful”. He noted that the signatories were “mostly white men of privilege with little background in risk science, few with a background in toxicology studies, and certainly none with knowledge of the indigenous agroecological alternatives. All of you should be stripped of your Nobels.”

The lack of expertise among the letter signatories contrasts markedly with that of the man whose work the new propaganda campaign seems to be attempting to discredit. Glenn Davis Stone – who has never opposed GM golden rice – is an expert on crop use and technology change among poor farmers, including rice farmers in the Philippines, the country targeted for the golden rice rollout – if it ever happens. He has been following the evidence on the progress of golden rice for years and has published extensively on the topic.

In other words, unlike the laureates, he knows what he’s talking about. [Read the full article with some very important updates HERE].


 

‘Golden Rice’ GM Vitamin-A Rice,” by Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN); Updated July 2016 (8 pages)

This publication can also be downloaded from HERE.

107 Nobel Laureate Attack on Greenpeace Traced Back to Biotech PR Operators,” by Jonathan Latham, Independent Science News; July 1, 2016

GM(Woes) – Ghostbusters, GMOs, & the Feigned Expertise of Nobel Laureates,” by Devon G. Peña, Environmental and Food Justice, July 2, 2016

Excerpt: “The disembeddedness of GMO crops is the heart of this problem and the Nobel laureates have failed to understand how culture intersects with agriculture in ways most physicists and neoliberal economists cannot fully comprehend unless they open their minds to other ways of knowing and being in the world. Anyone with the intelligence to become a Nobel laureate surely has a moral obligation to understand this cultural context before participating in an act of epistemic violence designed to justify continued corporate domination of our food systems and dismiss our scientific counter-claims and evidence as ideological puffery.”

 

Food security can’t wait for GE’s empty promises,” by Herman van Bekkem and Wilhelmina Pelegrina, Greenpeace International; June 30, 2016

Excerpt: Across vast tracts of the Philippines, farmers are adapting their farming methods to withstand climate change. They’re producing food in times of drought and typhoons through resilient forms of ecological agriculture. Meanwhile some scientists are saying ‘wait, we’ll feed you eventually with a form of rice that has not yet been grown outside of a highly controlled research environment’.

It’s known as GE ‘Golden’ rice, but it’s far from golden as the name tries to suggest. It has failed as a solution and isn’t currently available for sale, even after more than 20 years of research. Even its developer, the International Rice Research Institute, has admitted there is no proof that it will address Vitamin A Deficiency responsible for widespread malnutrition.

So in the absence of a promised ‘solution’ from the advocates of genetic engineering, farmers in the Philippines – where ‘Golden’ rice is being researched – are getting their hands dirty producing food that actually feeds families and will equip them to withstand the effects of climate change.

So when we are accused of blocking the development of ‘Golden’ rice by a group of scientists, we can only point to the facts: there is no ‘Golden’ rice. It is a likely dead end. A failed, expensive experiment. Instead, what the Philippines needs, and millions of farmers across the world, is support they can use. This is not just our opinion, but the view of scientists with considerable experience of the issue and who have published their findings in the peer reviewed scientific literature.

It is no coincidence that in the run-up to an important decision on GE food labelling in the US state of Vermont, that the issue of ‘Golden’ rice has been raised again. ‘Golden’ rice has been the poster child of the GE lobby groups keen to pave the way for global approval of other more profitable genetically engineered crops.

 

How the #Nobels4GMOs campaign is rife with biotech industry ties,” by Vincent Harmsen, One World; July 11, 2016

Don’t Eat the Yellow Rice: The Danger of Deploying Vitamin A Golden Rice,” by Ted Greiner, PhD, Independent Science News; July 11, 2016

 

Golden Rice and Scientific Consensus,” by Carmelo Ruiz, Food First; July 15, 2016

Excerpt: “The GMO debate is over! The alarmist activists have lost and science has won!”

Well – that’s the impression one gets when reading journalist Joel Achenbach’s Washington Post article detailing the open letter that 107 Nobel laureates signed on to, which attacks the environmental group Greenpeace for its opposition to GMO crops.

The letter specifically defends GMO vitamin A-enhanced ‘golden rice’, which according to biotech supporters, is needed to alleviate the suffering of millions of Asians who suffer from vitamin A deficiency. Ultimately, the text suggests that Greenpeace is the one obstacle preventing the wonder rice from addressing the needs of the world’s poor and hungry.

“We’re scientists. We understand the logic of science. It’s easy to see what Greenpeace is doing is damaging and is anti-science,” said scientist Richard Roberts, winner of the 1993 Nobel in medicine and the open letter’s main author. Roberts told the Washington Post that “Greenpeace initially, and then some of their allies, deliberately went out of their way to scare people. It was a way for them to raise money for their cause.”

Achenbach writes that the consensus among scientists is that genetically modified organisms (GMOs) do not present new or novel risks, and refers to a US National Academy of Sciences report on the subject published in May. The Post article acknowledges that Greenpeace is not alone in its critical position on GMOs, but it does not mention who else is in the opposition, and defines the debate as one between “mainstream scientists and activists.”

However, not all scientists and experts are impressed with the letter. Far from it….

Food First board member Devon G. Peña, anthropology professor at Washington University in Seattle and expert in indigenous agricultural systems, considers the open letter “shameful”. According to Peña, the signatory Nobel laureates are “mostly white men of privilege with little background in risk science, few with a background in toxicology studies, and certainly none with knowledge of the indigenous agroecological alternatives”.

By declaring as if it were an uncontested fact that there is a scientific consensus in favor of GMOs, the Post ignores another declaration of scientists on the subject issued in 2014. The document, produced by the European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), categorically states, citing ample scientific references, that there is NO scientific consensus on the safety of GMO organisms, crops and foods:

“As scientists, physicians, academics, and experts from disciplines relevant to the scientific, legal, social, and safety assessment aspects of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), we strongly reject claims by GM seed developers and some scientists, commentators, and journalists that there is a ‘scientific consensus’ on GMO safety and that the debate on this topic is ‘over.’

We feel compelled to issue this statement because the claimed consensus on GMO safety does not exist. The claim that it does exist is misleading and misrepresents the currently available scientific evidence and the broad diversity of opinion among scientists on this issue. Moreover, the claim encourages a climate of complacency that could lead to a lack of regulatory and scientific rigor and appropriate caution, potentially endangering the health of humans, animals, and the environment.”…….

In response to the Nobel laureates’ letter, Greenpeace declared:

“The only guaranteed solution to fix malnutrition is a diverse healthy diet. Providing people with real food based on ecological agriculture not only addresses malnutrition, but is also a scaleable solution to adapt to climate change.

We’ve documented communities across the Philippines that continue to express concerns about using GE ‘Golden’ rice as a solution. It is irresponsible to impose GE ‘Golden’ rice as a quick remedy to people on the frontlines and who do not welcome it, particularly when there are safe and effective options already available.

Greenpeace Philippines is already working with NGO partners and farmers in the Philippines to boost climate resiliency. There’s a real chance here for governments and the philanthropic community to support these endeavours by investing in climate-resilient ecological agriculture and empowering farmers to access a balanced and nutritious diet, rather than pouring money down the drain for ‘Golden’ rice.” 

Biotech advocates proclaim with some regularity, citing some study or declaration of experts, that the debate over GMO safety has ended and that their side has won.

Expect them to declare victory over and over again in the future.


 

Avoid ‘miracle’ rice, just eat a carrot!” by Dr. Vandana Shiva, Asian Age; July 15, 2016

This was also published here: “Avoid ‘Miracle’ Rice, Just Eat A Carrot!” by Vandana Shiva, Countercurrents; July 17, 2016

Excerpt: It is now more than 20 years since the “miracle” golden rice began to be promoted as the excuse to allow patents on life. The last time golden rice was resurrected when Patrick Moore of Allow Golden Rice Now was sent to Asia to push the failed promise. Women of the world organized and responded to Moore — Diverse Women for Diversity issued a declaration on International Women’s Day in 2015 titled Women and Biodiversity Feed the World, not Corporations and GMOs.

Golden rice is genetically engineered rice with two genes from a daffodil and one gene from a bacterium. The resulting GMO rice is said to have a yellow colouring, which is supposed to increase beta-carotene – a precursor of Vitamin A. It has been offered as a potential miracle cure for Vitamin A deficiency for 20 years.

But golden rice is a false miracle. It is a disease of nutritionally empty monocultures offered as a cure for nutritional deficiency. In fact, golden rice, if successful, will be 400 per cent less efficient in providing Vitamin A than the biodiversity alternatives that women have to offer. To get your daily requirement of Vitamin A, all you need to eat is one of the following:

Two tablespoons of spinach or cholai (amaranth) leaves or radish leaves; Four tablespoons of mustard or bathua leaves; One tablespoon of coriander chutney One-and-a-half tablespoon of mint chutney; One carrot; One mango.

So, if you want to be four times more efficient than 107 Nobel laureates, just eat a carrot! …

The Giddings-Entine-Byrne Nobel PR stunt was timed to coincide with the US Senate vote on the Dark Act — the denial to Americans of the right to know what they eat. With two decades of the GMO experiment failing to control pests and weeds, creating super pests and super weeds instead, there is now an attempt to push through the “next generation” of GMOs — such as “gene drives” for exterminating nutrient-rich species like the amaranth. Amaranth, a weed to the 107 Nobel laureates, is a richer source of Vitamin A than golden rice has promised it will be, when it grows up. The laureates would have us round up all the Vitamin A we already have in abundance, create deficiencies by exterminating it with Roundup, and provide golden rice to alleviate the absence of Vitamin A…

The corporate-controlled World Food Prize for 2016 has been announced for “Biofortification”. Scientists funded by Mr. Gates have been given the prize for inventing an orange sweet potato. But the Maori in New Zealand had developed kumara, orange (beauregard) sweet potato, centuries ago.

Mr. Gates is also funding the biopiracy research of James Dale of Queensland, who took the Vitamin A-rich indigenous bananas of Micronesia and declared them to be his invention.

The biopiracy of people’s biodiversity and indigenous knowledge is what Mr. Gates is funding. The Gates fortification or Nobel fortification, will not nourish people. Fraud is not food.


 

The real golden rice story,” by GM-free Scotland; August 2016

Golden Rice & GM’s false promises,” by Carys Barry, Soil Association; July 25, 2016

 

Pro-GMO Spin Diverts Attention from Root Causes of Hunger,” by Colin Todhunter, Huffington Post; August 4, 2016

Excerpt: While certain molecular biologists argue that adopting GM would offer plentiful and affordable food, it seems they fail to recognize the line between science and propaganda. It must be understood that these people are not economists, anthropologists, environmental scientists, health professionals, political scientists or trade policy analysts … When it comes down to it, it’s not really a case of being pro- or anti-GMO. It’s a case of being anti-corruption and pro-democratic. When hugely powerful corporations flex their political and financial muscle, they can and do effectively slant science, politics and regulation to suit their own self-interest. People naturally become suspicious and demand transparency, genuine independent testing and genuine independent evaluations of the impacts of GM.

Golden rice isn’t ready yet,” by Aniket Aga, The Hindu; August 7, 2016

Would Nobel Laureate Richard Feynman Have Signed that GMO Letter?” by Belinda Martineau, Biotech Salon; August 9, 2016

Excerpt: From what I have read about him, I am pretty sure that Richard Feynman would not have signed the recent letter in which a large percentage of our living Nobel laureates urged Greenpeace to end its opposition to genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

Feynman was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1965 for his basic research in quantum electrodynamics …

In his book The Meaning of It All: Thoughts of a Citizen-ScientistFeynman described the role he believed scientists should play when science moves out of the lab and into real world applications such as–in the case of genetically engineered (GE) foods–onto people’s dinner plates. Feynman said that scientists should explain the science behind the technology to the public, and in doing so they should not “only tell what’s true but…make clear all the information that is required for somebody else who is intelligent to make up their mind” about the technology. He was very adamant that scientists should be abjectly honest when carrying out this duty for the public, i.e. they should not just tell the truth, but the whole truth and nothing but the truth when explaining their science.

He also said that technology “carries with it no instructions on how to use it… [and that how to control technology] is something not so scientific and is not something that the scientist knows so much about.”

So, based on these thoughts of Citizen-Scientist Feynman, I don’t think he would have signed that GMO-promoting “Laureate Letter” for at least two reasons.

1) The letter is not an attempt to explain the science of genetic engineering to the public, but rather a collection of general statements that does not convey the whole truth about (among other things): the technology’s possible risks, who is currently responsible for declaring them “safe” and the results of animal-feeding studies. (For a more thorough review of these issues please see “Statement: No scientific consensus on GMO safety,” signed by another group of scientists.)

2) The letter delves instead into the realm of control/regulation of the technology, the realm Feynman described as one “not so scientific” and “not something that the scientist knows so much about.” ……

But I wonder if they know that over the decades that we have been debating how to control/regulate this technology, most of the scientists who are experts in crop genetic engineering have not been telling the public the whole truth about it. The consequent dearth of abject honesty about the science behind the technology of genetic engineering has, in my opinion, confounded people who are intelligent in making up their minds about GMOs.

Take the title, “Laureates Letter Supporting Precision Agriculture (GMOs),” as exhibit A. The letter organizers are obviously equating GMOs with “Precision Agriculture,” consistent with the fact that most proponents of GE crops over the last 25 years have touted the “precision” of crop genetic engineering.

But the whole truth includes the fact that there are many imprecise aspects of this technology as well; it’s just that most GMO proponents never mention them, at least not in public. [Read Belinda’s full blog post HERE].


 

Millions Spent and No Vitamin A Deficiency Relieved,” by Angelika Hilbeck and Hans Herren, Independent Science News; August 10, 2016

Excerpt: Leaving aside its scientific aspects, the very concept of golden rice – and all other similar conceptual approaches as solutions to malnourishment – remain doomed from the start as similar approaches have failed repeatedly. The problem lies in the underlying reductionist (disembedded) approach. Combating hunger and malnutrition one vitamin and mineral at a time is a failed ideology, no matter which vitamin or mineral one starts with and which kind of delivery system one chooses. Malnourished people do not suffer from single-vitamin-deficiencies added up. They suffer from hunger, as in ‘lack of food’. This is compounded by poverty and a myriad of contributing factors working simultaneously together. That means they lack regular access to real foods containing the necessary variety of ALL essential nutrients, which, in conjunction, make up a healthy diet…

This reductionistic approach to hunger is matched by similar reductionism in the genetic engineering world where organisms are viewed as the sum of their genes and proteins. Genes are added one at a time as blueprint construction instructions for Lego-like products and many more projects of this kind are underway, e.g. vitamin A banana and cassava, or iron-fortified cassava, or whatever lies within their technical reach. [Read the full article HERE].

 


 

Nobel Prize laureates unknowingly caught up in sales campaign for a biotech company?” by Testbiotech; November 7, 2016

Excerpt:  In June 2016, more than 100 Nobel Prize laureates signed an appeal in favor of the cultivation of so-called Golden Rice. Initiated by Sir Richard Roberts, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Medicine in 1993, it targets and criticizes anyone against the release of genetically engineered plants. For many years now, Roberts has been the chief scientific officer of New England Biolabs. Big corporates such as Monsanto, Syngenta and Dow AgroSciences are all clients of New England Biolabs. They purchase products generated at New England Biolabs for use in the genetic engineering of plants. In consequence, New England Biolabs makes a substantial profit from genetic engineering.

It is likely that most laureates who signed the appeal were not aware of the financial interests of New England Biolabs. Indeed, they will have assumed that they were signing up to a petition with solely humanitarian aims. The affiliations between New England Biolabs and the producers of genetically engineered plants have only recently come to the attention of Testbiotech. It came to light during Testbiotech patent research being carried out after questions posed by journalists. It appears that the big corporates are really good clients of New England Biolabs: Their products are listed in dozens of patent applications as the technical means for the production of genetically engineered plants.

So-called Golden Rice is genetically engineered to produce carotene, which gives a yellow coloring to the kernels. The rice is supposedly meant to combat Vitamin A deficiency, which is a severe problem in some developing countries. In actual fact, there is still a basic lack of data needed to make a judgement on the nutritional quality of the rice. There is also a lack of data on risk assessment. The laureates signed the appeal at a time when the most critical data was simply not available, as remains the case even now.

Testbiotech criticized the abovementioned campaign shortly after it was started because of its lack of credibility: The Nobel Prize laureates were more or less using the same arguments as those previously used by the radical proponents of the Golden Rice. Clearly, the laureates failed to double check the arguments used in the campaign. Even by 2014, Testbiotech had exposed the lack of credibility of the arguments used by extreme proponents involved in the Golden Rice Campaign.


 

How 121 Nobel laureates were misled into promoting GM foods,” by David Schubert, PhD & Steven M. Druker, J.D., GMWatch; November 16, 2016

Excerpt:  Over the last four months, 121 Nobel laureates have signed a letter extolling the safety and benefits of genetically modified (GM) crops and alleging that organizations and individuals that don’t support their unfettered introduction are committing a “crime against humanity”. The campaign to obtain the signatures was organized by Richard Roberts, chief scientific officer of New England Biolabs, who, with assistance from Monsanto’s former head of corporate communications, staged a press conference in Washington, D.C. to publicize the letter.

Not surprisingly, this letter has had a major impact. However, although it purports to be science-based, most of its chief assertions are demonstrably false.

Among them is the claim that scientific and regulatory agencies have “consistently” found that GM crops are “as safe or safer” than conventional ones. This is clearly untrue, and multiple scientific panels have concluded otherwise. For instance, an expert panel of the Royal Society of Canada asserted that the “default prediction” for every GM food should be that it contains unintended and potentially harmful side effects. Other respected institutions, such as the British Medical Association and the Public Health Association of Australia have also expressed concerns, with the Australian association calling for an “indefinite freeze” on GM crops until their safety has been demonstrated. Most recently, Vladimir Putin, on the advice of Russian scientists, signed a ban on GM crops into law…..

Bogus claims about GMO golden rice

The letter’s claims about the only GM product it specifically mentions, Golden Rice, are also bogus. That product, which is designed to overproduce beta-carotene, the precursor to vitamin A, was developed in hopes of solving the widespread vitamin A deficiency in parts of Asia, which can lead to blindness and even death. Astonishingly, the letter insinuates not only that the rice will solve the problem, but that those who question its safety have unconscionably caused millions of deaths by blocking its use. Yet, in reality, it’s not in circulation because it hasn’t performed well and is nowhere near readiness; and the International Rice Research Institute has stated it’s still unclear whether the rice is capable of curing the deficiency.

Furthermore, even if this GM rice were fully efficacious and ready, from the perspective of a scientist who has studied beta-carotene in the context of brain development (a perspective one of us possesses), it should be delayed because it poses a major health risk.[*]

[*Although his paper is not cited in the article, the publication is a must read: “The Problem with Nutritionally Enhanced Plants,” by David Schubert, Journal of Medicinal Food, Vol. 11, No. 4; July 2008. Nutritionally enhanced plants include products such as Golden Rice]

First, as recognized by the recent National Academy of Science (NAS) report on GM crops, the type of modification required to make golden rice is prone to generate unwanted byproducts. Second, some of the rice’s abundant byproducts will likely be related to retinoic acid, a compound that causes birth defects even at ultra-low levels. Perhaps more worrisome, proponents apparently want to feed this experimental rice to multitudes of children without first performing rigorous testing to make sure that it won’t harm mice!

The letter’s other main claims are contrary to fact as well. For example, it boasts that GM crops are “less damaging to the environment” and are necessary to “feed the world”. But in reality, GM mono-cropping and the high levels of herbicides it requires have decimated the population of monarch butterflies, induced the development of herbicide-resistant superweeds, and contaminated the bodies of the human population in the developed world with glyphosate: a toxin, endocrine disrupter, and potential carcinogen. Moreover, an extensive study sponsored by the World Bank and four United Nations agencies determined that GM crops are not needed to feed the world and that sustainable agroecological techniques should instead be utilized.

So why would more than a hundred Nobel laureates sign a grossly inaccurate letter that was apparently intended to suppress serious discussion about the risks of GM foods? ……

While GM technology may have valuable applications in fields such as medicine, its current use in food production entails substantial risks that are routinely misrepresented. The letter signed by the laureates does not reflect reality, and they should confirm this fact for themselves and then denounce it as an affront to science and the public trust.


 

Which leads to this quote: “A lack of truthfulness concerning the limits of scientific knowledge, motivations, expected benefits, and the basis of conflict can lead to significant misunderstandings and mistrust between scientists, policy makers, and the public.”  This came from another important publication from 2016: “Essential Features of Responsible Governance of Agricultural Biotechnology,” by Sarah Hartley, Frøydis Gillund, Lilian van Hove & Fern Wickson, PLoS Biology, vol. 14, No. 5; May 4, 2016 (7 pages)


 

Final thoughts

It is pretty clear that we are in a type of information war. We are involved a war of information, facts, and evidence against a sea of disinformation and spin, junk science and “alternative facts.” As history demonstrates, it’s not enough to have the right information to make the kinds of changes we want. It’s not enough to be right, especially in the context of the power of the biotech spin machine. In the end, those who promote GMOs, those politicians that spread lies and myths about GMOs, those shills and trolls we encounter all the time, don’t give a shit about truth. They could care less about facts. They have a disdain for honest, unbiased evidence. They may pretend to claim their support for GMOs saves lives and is therefore a morally upright stance; but these claims are void of sincerity because they are false. There are no ethical considerations when the full impact of GMOs is examined: from corporate control to farmer suicides, from the patenting of seeds coupled with intellectual property enforcement, to the threat to food sovereignty – ethics and evidence play no role whatsoever in those who promote GMOs. In fact, to such people and politicians, this isn’t a war about information or science or evidence, and it has nothing at all do with ethics.

For them, it is about power and greed. Control of the food system is paramount, and truth is brushed aside like a gnat by giants like Monsanto and Bayer as they manipulate agencies like the EPA, FDA and USDA; and in Europe, the EFSA and so on. They bend reality to meet their desired goals. These are con artists and liars and they don’t play by “the rules.” They peddle alternative facts and junk science and attack anyone who presents factual evidence. It is, ultimately, a type of fascism. It is not political fascism per se, but the power and influence they have results in a type of tyranny. “Decisions by a few on behalf of many, without consideration for the preferences of those affected, are a form of tyranny,” wrote Molly J. Walker Wilson in “Cultural Understandings of Risk and the Tyranny of the Experts,” Oregon Law Review, Vol. 90; 2011 (78 pages).

To combat this force, we must first acknowledge this force for what it truly is. We must understand that this is a global issue, and recognize that if we fight this fight alone, without considering the absolute threat to food sovereignty that is being fought in other countries, we may win tiny battles, but we will all lose unless we unite. We must accept the reality that what happens in Ghana happens to all of us. We must realize that a threat to food sovereignty anywhere, is a threat to food justice everywhere. We must not only truly understand who our enemies are, but we must also redefine what it is we are fighting for. GMOs are just a part of a system that is beyond broken; they are an important and critical part of that food system that needs to undergo a paradigm shift; we need a food revolution. So this is not just a fight against GMOs, but against tyranny and at the same time, it is ultimately a fight for food justice – for everyone.

 



Updated June 30, 2017


सत्यमेव जयते – Satyameva Jayate

(Truth Ultimately Triumphs)

Re-posting is encouraged, provided the URL of the original is posted with attribution to the original author(s) and all links are preserved. 

Copyright © Jeff Kirkpatrick 2017 Ban GMOs Now All rights reserved.

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