Australian farmers rejecting GM - price plummets
Thursday, 16 May 2013 09:10
1.Half price GM canola
2.Slow take-up of GM canola
1.Half price GM canola [audio]
ABC, 16 May 2013
After years of fighting for the right to grow genetically modified crops, farmers are now rejecting GM varieties. Laura Poole reports.
2.Slow take-up of GM canola
ABC, 16 May 2013
An agribusiness in western Victoria is selling genetically modified canola seed for half price because demand is limited.
Across Australia, 8 per cent of canola plantings are GM varieties.
Elders agronomist Jamie Ball says farmers are reluctant to sow GM canola because they're concerned it will increase the number of herbicide resistant weeds on their farms.
"A chap I was talking to was umming and arghing and could have easily opted for a GM variety. He chose not to, simply because he didn't want the selection pressure, and didn't want all the hassles with hygiene and access to delivery points," he said.
"You definitely see a purposeful movement away from GM."
Plant breeder Monsanto says GM canola production is increasing year-on-year.
Probe nails scientists in GM crop scandal
Tuesday, 18 December 2012 13:36
1.Indian research council in GM crop scandal
2.Probe nails scientists in GM cotton scandal
1.Indian research council in GM crop scandal
Farming News (UK), 17 December 2012
A committee set up to investigate a scandal surrounding India's first public-sector GM crop (a genetically modified cotton plant), have indicted scientists involved for deliberately misleading regulators.
The crop in question is Bikaneri Narma-Bt cotton, known as BN-Bt cotton. The plant was designed to kill insect pests by releasing Bt toxins and released for sale in 2009. It was developed by a number of research organisations working with the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR). Developers claimed to have used a novel gene sequence created 'in-house,' however, the cotton seeds were withdrawn from sale in December 2011, after they were found to contain a gene patented in the United States by agribusiness Monsanto.
The committee investigating the scandal was set up by ICAR itself. In its report, published last week, the committee accused ICAR and two research institutions involved in producing the crop of "scientific, institutional and ethical failure". The committee euphemistically said scientists at the institutions in New Delhi, Nagpur and Dharwad had 'contaminated' the seeds with Monsanto's MON-531 gene and claimed to have created a new gene, BNLA106.
Although evidence of another gene in one of the early samples of BN-Bt was present, the panel of investigators said they could not prove that this was BNLA106 and requested further tests be carried out.
The panel also discovered evidence of a cover-up, suggesting the cotton's developers were aware of the 'contamination'. It also indicted two scientists for conflict of interest, as they had been involved in both developing the GM seed and later approving its commercial release.
The seeds had been released to compete against GM seeds sold by agribusinesses; the publicly-developed BN-Bt seeds were available at a fraction of the price and seed from the crops could be saved and reused, which major agribusinesses do not allow. However, seed company Mahyco, a partner of Monsanto in India, complained that the BN-Bt contained a gene developed by Monsanto.
However, the gene in question is used widely in GM crops sold in India as the 1985 patent on MON-531 has expired.
The scandal raises questions about the regulation of GM crops and biosecurity in one of the world's major agricultural producers, where the technology is still highly controversial.
Strong voices oppose GM crops in India and maintain that patent laws should not be applied to seeds. Delhi-based sustainable food expert Dr Vandana Shiva has said that current trends in industrial agriculture, including patenting seeds present a "serious risk to the future of the world's seed and food security," as they limit growers' access to seeds, either by copyrighting genetically modified seeds as new organisms or protecting a certain breeding method, which prevents the saving and exchange of seeds.
She maintains that, in addition to the food security implications, locally adapted and culturally important crop varieties are suffering as a result of the use of patent laws.
In the UK, sustainable farming advocates have reacted strongly to the unequivocal support for GM shown by Environment minister Owen Paterson during an interview last week. Several interest groups have warned of a potential industry-backed push to introduce GM crops into the UK; although EU regulations covering GM remain strict and the devolved governments of Wales and Scotland oppose the technology, the Westminster government is a supporter of GM within Europe.
Soil Association Scotland director Laura Stewart responded to Mr Paterson's assertions that the introduction of GM crops would benefit the UK, and that concerns over the technology are "humbug." She said, "Studies have demonstrated that GM crops do not offer a sustainable solution. Instead, they lock farmers into depending on costly inputs from a handful of powerful chemical companies and, undoubtedly, bring the production of food further under corporate control."
Summarising a number of reservations held over GM crops, Stewart added, "Instead of reducing pesticide use, data from the US suggests that more potent chemicals are used on these crops than on non-GM alternatives… Once GM crops are out in the environment, they cannot be contained, so they deny that choice. Meanwhile, regulators don't undertake good enough safety checks or even ask whether new technologies are in the public interest."
2.Probe nails scientists in GM cotton scandal
The Telegraph, December 17 2012
Nagpur, Dec. 16: An expert committee probing a scandal relating to India’s first public sector-developed genetically modified (GM) cotton has indicted the scientists involved for foul play.
The Indian Council of Agricultural Research, which oversaw the project, admitted last year that the Bikaneri Narma-Bt (BN-Bt) cotton contained not an “indigenously” created gene sequence as claimed but a gene patented by US firm Monsanto.
The committee has also indicted the ICAR for scientific, institutional and ethical failure.
Indirectly, the probe report raises doubts on the efficacy of India’s bio-safety regulatory mechanism, considering the ease with which it was fooled about the GM cotton’s genetic composition, although the bio-safety clearance itself is not under question.
The five-member probe panel was set up by the ICAR itself and was headed by Sudhir Sopory, JNU vice-chancellor and plant biologist. It handed in its 129-page report in August but the ICAR made it public only yesterday,
On February 6 this year, The Telegraph had reported how BN-Bt was released commercially in mid-2009 and planted extensively. The seeds were not only far cheaper than other available GM cotton seeds but, unlike the rest, didn’t need to be bought every year — they could be reused from the previous year’s plants.
But in December 2009, the ICAR suddenly withdrew the seeds. In December 2011, it acknowledged that the gene sequence in the BN-Bt had not been developed in-house. The gene used was Mon-531, available in 2,000-odd cotton seed varieties sold in the Indian market (because Monsanto’s 1985 patent on it has expired).
With private sector Bt cotton seeds flooding the market, BN-Bt was developed as a collaborative public sector effort by the National Research Centre on Plant Biotechnology (NRCPB), New Delhi; University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad; and the Central Institute for Cotton Research, Nagpur.
The results were published by the principal scientists in Current Science in 2007. According to this paper, the Dharwad university developed BN-Bt using an in-house gene sequence, BNLA106, developed from the cry1Ac gene-construct provided by the Delhi institute.
The Nagpur institute carried out the bio-safety and field trials and later sold the seeds to farmers after the regulator, the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC), approved their commercialisation.
That the seeds contained Mon-531 and not BNLA106 came to light after two scientists from the Dharwad institution filed an RTI query.
The Sopory panel has confirmed that the “contamination” — which appears to be a euphemism for foul play — by Mon-531 happened before the commercialisation but went undetected by the GEAC.
It said the only Bt gene found in the BN-Bt samples from the fields was Mon-531, but a “purified” sample provided by the Dharwad institute — when the scandal first broke — had a gene sequence other than Mon-531. The panel said it could not verify if this was BNLA106 and suggested third-party verification.
It cited another anomaly. The cry1Ac gene was developed by Illimar Altosaar of the University of Ottawa and obtained by R.P. Sharma, former director of the Delhi institute, by signing a material transfer agreement (MTA) that allows only educational use. In 2006, Sharma tried to negotiate a freedom-to-operate agreement — which would have allowed other uses — with Altosaar but failed for reasons that remain unclear.
But in 2006, the ICAR decided that Sharma had signed the MTA in his “personal capacity”, that a freedom-to-operate agreement was not necessary, and that the gene construct would be referred to as an “NRCPB construct”.
The committee said, “It was a violation of the MTA and, to say the least, unethical.”
US selling GMOs and selling out democracy
Tuesday, 14 May 2013 21:13
NOTE: The EU Version of the new report – Biotech Ambassadors: How the U.S. State Dept Promotes the Seed Industry’s Global Agenda – is available here:
Monsanto and other GM firms are winning in the US – and globally
The Guardian, 14 May 2013
*The US State Department has sadly joined the push to distribute GM crops around the world, whether people want them or not.
If you have a feeling that genetically modified (GM) foods are being forced upon the population by a handful of business interests and vociferously defended by the scientists that work in the agriculture industry or at the research institutions it funds, you might be onto something.
The zeal with which GM proponents evangelize transgenic seeds (and now, transgenic food animals) is so extreme that they are even pouring vast sums of money to defeat popular efforts to simply label GE foods – like the nearly $50m spent to defeat the popular 2012 ballot measure to label GE foods in California, Proposition 37. What's more, it's not just happening in the United States. I am the head of Food & Water Watch, and we have spent months looking at the extent to which the US State Department is working on behalf of the GM seed industry to make sure that biotech crops are served up abroad whether the world wants them or not.
Our report analyzes over 900 State Department diplomatic cables from 2005 to 2009 and reveals how far the US government will go to help serve the seed industry's agenda abroad, knowing that resistance to GMOs worldwide is high.
Here are some of the tidbits gleaned from our comprehensive look at the cables:
*Between 2007 and 2009, annual cables were distributed to "encourage the use of agricultural biotechnology", directing US embassies to "pursue an active biotech agenda".
*There was a comprehensive communications campaign aimed to "promote understanding and acceptance of the technology" and "develop support for US government trade and development policy positions on biotech" in light of the worldwide backlash against GM crops.
*Where backlash was high, some embassies downplayed efforts. In Uruguay, the embassy has been "extremely cautious to keep [its] fingerprints off conferences" promoting biotechnology. In Peru and Romania, the US government helped create new pro-biotech nongovernmental organizations.
*The State Department urged embassies to generate positive media coverage about GE crops. Diplomatic posts also bypassed the media and took the message directly to the public; for example, the Hong Kong consulate sent DVDs of a pro-biotech presentation to every high school.
*The State Department worked to diminish trade barriers to the benefit of seed companies, and encouraged the embassies to "publicize the benefits of agbiotech as a development tool".
Monsanto was a great beneficiary of the State Department's taxpayer-funded diplomacy, helping pave the way for the cultivation of its seeds abroad: the company appeared in 6.1% of the biotech cables analyzed between 2005 and 2009 from 21 countries. The embassy in South Africa even informed Monsanto and Pioneer about two recently vacated positions in the agency that provided biotech oversight, suggesting that the companies advance "qualified applicants" to fill the position. Some embassies even attempted to facilitate favorable outcomes for intellectual property law and patent issues that would benefit the company.
The cables also show extensive lobbying against in-country efforts to require labeling of GM foods. In 2008, the Hong Kong consulate "played a key role" in convincing regulators to abandon a proposed mandatory labeling requirement. One in eight cables from 42 nations between 2005 and 2009 addressed biotech-labeling requirements.
What's more, the US government is now quietly negotiating major trade deals with Europe and the countries of the Pacific Rim that would force countries to accept biotech imports, commercialize biotech crops and prevent the labeling of GM foods.
The vast influence that Monsanto and the biotech seed industry have on our foreign affairs is just one tentacle of a beast comprised by a handful of huge corporations who wield enormous power over most food policy in the United States.
It's no accident that we're here: a farm policy of "get big or get out" that has been going on for decades has only benefited big companies that are becoming more and more consolidated. They wield unprecedented power over the market, at times putting small and midsized farmers out of business and favoring factory farms and the cultivation of GM commodities that fuel them – GM corn and soy, which are also the cornerstone of junk foods produced and sold worldwide.
Thanks, Monsanto. And thanks, State Department. Not only are you selling seeds, you're selling out democracy.
A Silent Forest
Monday, 12 April 2010 10:00
The Growing Threat of Genetically Engineered Trees. This award winning documentary film explores the growing global threat of genetically engineered trees to our environment and to human health. The film features renowned geneticist and host of PBS' The Nature of Things David Suzuki, who explores the unknown and possibly disastrous consequences of improperly tested GE methods.(Total time 46:16)
Appeals Court backs whistleblower in GM virus case
Tuesday, 18 December 2012 13:33
NOTE: from SynBioWatch: Microbiologist Becky McClain, infected by a genetically engineered virus in a Pfizer lab, became the first whistleblower in the nation to try to shed light on the threats of biotechnology to workers and the public. Now, the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, has validated her claims that Pfizer "acted willfully, maliciously, or with reckless indifference" concerning allegations that her free-speech rights had been violated and she had faced retaliation for raising safety concerns.
Appeals court backs scientist in Pfizer retaliation case
The Day, December 17 2012
Pfizer Inc. whistleblower Becky McClain’s legal battle to draw public attention to worker-safety issues came to an end Friday as an appeals court refused to overturn a $2.3 million verdict in favor of the former Groton-based scientist.
Pfizer said it is “evaluating its options” on whether to appeal the verdict to the U.S. Supreme Court. But McClain’s attorneys said no constitutional claim was associated with the case.
“Justice prevailed,” said attorney Bruce E. Newman, who represented McClain along with attorney Stephen J. Fitzgerald.
“We disagree with the court’s conclusion but respect its decision,” Pfizer said in a statement.
McClain, according to a three-judge panel of the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, proved her claims that Pfizer “acted willfully, maliciously, or with reckless indifference” concerning allegations that her free-speech rights had been violated and she had faced retaliation for raising safety concerns.
One of McClain’s main concerns — that Pfizer had exposed her to an unsafe laboratory in Groton, leading to an illness from a novel virus that left her dangerously ill — never got a hearing in the courts. And McClain said she is unsure whether her message about needing to shore up regulations regarding the nation’s largely unregulated biotech labs is getting through, but she is glad to have the financial security to pursue better medical care.
“We’re happy,” McClain said in a phone interview. “But whistleblowers need swifter, quicker protections. Ten years is a long time to make it through something like this.”
McClain became ill in 2004, was fired by Pfizer in 2005 and filed her lawsuit the following year. In March 2010, an eight-person jury at U.S. District Court in Hartford decided that Pfizer should pay McClain $1.37 million, an amount that was increased by Judge Warren W. Eginton when he added in attorneys’ fees and punitive damages.
The New York-based court panel, which included retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, heard Pfizer’s appeal in October. McClain’s attorneys plan to file an additional claim against Pfizer to cover interest charges on the initial court award.
Pfizer claimed that the former Deep River resident, now living in Albuquerque, N.M., was fired after abandoning her job.
“Pfizer holds the health and safety of its colleagues and contractors among its highest priorities thereby reaffirming the earlier federal court decision that Ms. McClain’s allegations of work safety issues were completely without merit,” Pfizer said in its statement.
Pfizer referred to a judge’s decision to disallow a legal claim related to McClain’s concerns about being exposed to a dangerous virus. The judge who made the decision later disqualified herself from pursuing the case because of a conflict of interest.
McClain, a longtime molecular biologist at Pfizer’s Groton laboratories, claimed that Pfizer refused to hand over records showing the type of virus to which she was exposed. Pfizer said McClain was never exposed to a hazard, and therefore there were no records to hand over.
McClain filed a complaint with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which investigated the claim but could not substantiate the safety problems. McClain said OSHA didn’t have the staff expertise to determine hazards on a molecular level. McClain was subsequently fired after taking a leave from work to fight her illness, which caused periodic paralysis, she said.
McClain said she still doesn’t understand why Pfizer didn’t address her safety concerns instead of trying to sweep them under the rug. She said her actions could have saved Pfizer money in the long run, in addition to protecting the public health and safety.
“Why would you retaliate against someone like that?” she said.
McClain, who has become a spokesman for worker safety groups nationwide, said she feels businesses such as Pfizer are becoming too influential in the academic community. The result, she said, is that academics are feeling constrained in speaking out about matters that might put lucrative partnerships with industry at risk.
Newman, McClain’s attorney, added that the case highlighted the work that still needs to be done nationwide to ensure that workers and the public are protected from biological hazards at laboratories.
“That is still an area that needs to be addressed by OSHA,” he said.
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