GMWATCH REVIEW number 315
from Claire Robinson, REVIEW editor
The big story this week is GM lobby group EuropaBio's hamfisted attempts to fake support for GM crops by recruiting high-profile "ambassadors" (LOBBYWATCH).
In the US, hundreds of people rallied at the White House to demand GM labelling (THE AMERICAS).
+ BIOTECH GROUP SEEKS TO RECRUIT HIGH-PROFILE GM "AMBASSADORS" TO FAKE
SUPPORT FOR GM
Europe's largest and most influential biotech industry group, whose members include Monsanto, Bayer and other GM companies, is recruiting high-profile "ambassadors" to lobby European leaders on GM policy. Leaked documents from a PR company working for Brussels-based EuropaBio claim to have "had interest" from Sir Bob Geldof; the chancellor of Oxford University and BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten; former Irish EU commissioner and attorney general David Byrne; and "potentially" the involvement of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and pro-GM science writer Mark Lynas.
The 10 or more ambassadors will not be paid directly, but the lobbyists have offered to write, research and place articles in their names, arrange interviews and speaking engagements with the Financial Times and other international media, and secure for them what could be lucrative speaking slots at major conferences.
In addition, EuropaBio says it will introduce them to the highest-level European bureaucrats and MEPs in order for them to make the case for GM within EU institutions. Several people named in the documents denied all knowledge of EuropaBio.
For more on EuropaBio, see
Greenpeace statement on the EuropaBio story:
More sad GM propaganda from EuropaBio – when scientific facts don't support you, you have to turn to science fiction (video): http://www.seedfeedfood.eu/video
+ WILD COTTON IN MEXICO CONTAMINATED WITH GM MATERIAL
Wild cotton in Mexico has been contaminated with GM material, posing a risk to biodiversity, experts say. This worrying conclusion was reached by six scientists at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) and the National Commission for Knowledge and Use of Biodiversity (CONABIO) in a research study published this month in Molecular Ecology. In their article, the experts showed that cotton genes and transgenes can be transferred between populations thousands of kilometres apart by seed dispersal. They also found that varieties of Mexican wild cotton that harbour transgenes (genes from one species introduced artificially into another) undergo rapid evolution, with unpredictable consequences.
+ GLYPHOSATE KILLING BEES IN MEXICO?
Glyphosate sprayed on GM soy is reportedly killing bees in Mexico, according to an article about the spread of GM material to wild cotton.
+ OBAMA BAILED OUT FAILING GM SALMON FIRM
The Obama administration awarded a coveted research grant to a financially strapped company working to put GM salmon on American dinner tables, overlooking disclosures that the firm could run out of cash in early 2012, it has emerged. Campaigners say the $500,000 grant to AquaBounty amounts to a bail-out for the firm's main investor, the business tycoon and former economics minister of Georgia, Kakha Bendukidze.
+ ON SUPERWEEDS, MONSANTO TELLS FARMERS THEY'RE ON THEIR OWN
Herbicide-resistant weeds are winning the pesticide "arms race" in US Roundup Ready crops, and Monsanto has no intention of shouldering responsibility for rising weed control costs, according to a new briefing by GM Freeze. In the 2010/11 season, two new weed species have become resistant to glyphosate (the active ingredient in Monsanto's herbicide Roundup used on RR soy, maize, and cotton), bringing the global total to 21. Infestations of superweeds now cover 4.5 million hectares in the US alone. The noxious weed Palmer Amaranth is spreading exponentially in RR cotton, and once it has reached a certain size it can only be controlled by hand pulling. GM Freeze reports that Monsanto's warranty on the weedkiller does not cover the failure of the product to control weeds that are now resistant to it.
+ HUNDREDS RALLY IN WASHINGTON TO DEMAND GM LABELLING
Hundreds of people from around the United States rallied in front of the White House on Sunday 16 October, urging the government to require compulsory labeling of GM food. "Most Americans agree they have a right to know what is in the food they put in their own and their children's bodies, but current federal policy favors the pesticide industry and hides the facts," said Katherine DiMatteo of the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements. "It's time to reset US policy on GMOs," added DiMatteo, who served as a coordinator of the event.
See http://www.right2knowmarch.org/ for photos and more.
See the anti-GM World Food Day events across the USA:
+ OBAMA PROMISED GM LABELLING
When running for president, Barack Obama made many promises, but one in particular – "We'll let folks know if their food has been genetically modified, because Americans should know what they're buying". Since he was elected, he has remained silent on the issue.
+ OCCUPY WALL STREET AND THE FOOD MOVEMENT
Upending corporate control of the food supply is a fundamental change that must occur if the "99 percent" are to be healthy participants in a true democracy, says food writer Kristin Wartman in an article for Civil Eats.
+ SAFETY OF WILD FISH STOCKS QUESTIONED BY REGULATOR IF GM SALMON
HATCHERY GETS GO-AHEAD
The Canadian regulator Environment Canada isn't sure it can fully protect wild fish stocks if it approves the commercialization of a hatchery of GM salmon eggs. The admission, outlined in leaked internal records, could defeat efforts by US company AquaBounty Technologies to sell the first GM animal that people can eat.
+ EU IMPORTS OF CANADIAN FLAX RESUMED – LEGALITY QUESTIONED
Contamination of Canadian flax seed with the untested GM flax CDC Triffid is still being detected, yet industrial flax is again being imported into the EU. The GM flax is not authorised for import anywhere in the world. In the UK, GM Freeze has written to Defra Secretary of State Caroline Spelman, seeking assurances that the UK is not receiving tainted supplies.
CDC Triffid was originally grown on a small scale in Canada in 2001 but subsequently banned, and stocks of seeds were supposed to have been destroyed. Yet two years on, testing of flax seed in Canada showed that 1 in 25 samples still contain traces of the herbicide tolerance gene CDC Triffid, compared to 10% in 2009 and 7% in 2010. The GM trait was first detected in flax food products in the EU in 2009, leading to a cessation in imports from Canada.
Biotechnologist Alan McHughen's bad seed:
+ GM PRESENTATIONS RAISE CONCERNS OVER HUMAN HEALTH
The message from speakers at a one-day conference staged by the Welsh branches of the Women's Food and Farming Union in Aberystwyth was that the risks of GM far outweigh any possible benefits. The speakers included a medical researcher with 27 years' experience of genetic engineering, a nutritionist working in the field of food security, a Euro MP, and a working farmer. Dr Michael Antoniou, from the London School of Medicine at Guy's Hospital, said, "GM breeding is very different to normal plant breeding, having an inherent destructive effect on the structure and functions of genes which can have knock-on effects in numerous areas, including human health. In fact, there is an increasing body of evidence from controlled laboratory studies showing adverse effects in the functioning of the kidney and liver from the consumption of GM crops. The worrying aspect is that some of the studies showing high levels of toxicity relate to commercialised varieties – findings which should ha ve been carried out before commercialisation."
+ ROUNDUP AND BIRTH DEFECTS RESEARCHER PRESENTS FINDINGS TO GERMAN GOVT
On 28 September 2011, the scientist at the centre of the global row over glyphosate/Roundup herbicide and birth defects met with representatives of the German government to present his scientific findings that Roundup herbicide and the chemical on which it is based, glyphosate, cause birth defects in laboratory animals.
Prof Andres Carrasco, MD, is head of the Molecular Embryology Laboratory at University of Buenos Aires (UBA) and chief scientist at the National Council for Science and Technology (CONICET), Argentina. Carrasco's findings gave scientific credibility to reports of people in Argentina who claimed escalating rates of birth defects and cancers after the introduction of GM soy, which is engineered to tolerate being sprayed with huge amounts of glyphosate. Accompanying Prof Carrasco at the meeting were representatives of the sustainability nonprofit Earth Open Source.
Germany has a special responsibility for glyphosate, as it was the rapporteur member state for the pesticide for its 2002 approval in the EU and will again act as rapporteur for the next review in 2015. The rapporteur state is responsible for liaising between industry, the other EU member states, and the Commission. Earth Open Source says that Germany played down findings of malformations in laboratory animals treated with glyphosate in industry's own studies submitted for the regulatory approval. Some of these industry studies date back as far as the 1980s.
+ GM COTTON GENES FOUND IN WILD SPECIES
GM cotton genes have been found in wild populations for the first time, making it the third plant species after Brassica and bentgrass in which transgenes have established in the wild. The discovery was made in Mexico by six Mexican researchers investigating the flow of genes to wild cotton populations. They found transgenes from cotton that had been modified to resist insects, herbicides or antibiotics in just under a quarter of the 270 wild cotton seeds assessed for that purpose. One of the contaminated seeds came from a wild plant located 755 kilometres away from the nearest GM cotton plantation.
+ SCIENTIST'S REBUT OF CRITIQUE OF "BT TOXIN IN HUMAN BLOOD" STUDY
A scientist has sent us a rebuttal of a critique by biologist Marcel Kuntz of a 2011 study which found Bt toxin circulating in the blood of pregnant women and in the blood supply to their foetuses. You can read the rebuttal of Kuntz's critique here:
The study: Aris A, Leblanc S. Maternal and fetal exposure to pesticides associated to genetically modified foods in Eastern Townships of Quebec, Canada. Reproductive Toxicology. 2011; 31(4).
+ TECHNO-UTOPIAN "SPACE CROPS" ASKING FOR TROUBLE
Chinese scientists claim to have created a range of super-crops by blasting seeds into space so their genes are mutated by cosmic radiation.
COMMENT from scientist: This is not a good idea and is only asking for trouble. Modern genetics tells us that wide-scale gene mutations by irradiation in space or otherwise risks introducing genome-wide gene structure/function disruptions with a high risk of pleiotropic effects giving rise to novel proteins and biochemistry leading to toxic effects. As these "space crop" varieties are highly unlikely to be tested for potential novel toxicity before marketing, any ill effects will only be seen after mass consumption.
GMW COMMENT: If China is serious about solving its "food problem" (see last paragraph of article), it should start with getting toxics out of its food system. China's government must honestly tackle such problems as melamine contaminated milk, the exploding melons that were loaded with growth promoters, and the unapproved varieties of GM insecticidal rice that have been grown in the country. In light of such scandals, "space crops" are a foolish, expensive, and potentially dangerous distraction.
PUNCTURING GM HYPE
+ NEW REPORT ON GM SHOWS FALSE PROMISES
Genetic engineering has failed to increase the yield of any food crop but has vastly increased the use of chemicals and the growth of "superweeds", according to a report by 20 Indian, south-east Asian, African and Latin American food and conservation groups representing millions of people. GM crops have been billed as potential solutions to food crises, climate change and soil erosion, but the assessment finds that they have not lived up to their promises.
The report claims that hunger has reached "epic proportions" since the technology was developed. Besides this, only two GM "traits" have been developed on any significant scale, despite investments of tens of billions of dollars, and benefits such as drought resistance and salt tolerance have yet to materialise on any scale.
Most worrisome, say the authors of the Global Citizens' Report on the State of GMOs, is the greatly increased use of synthetic chemicals, used to control pests despite biotech companies' justification that GM crops would reduce insecticide use.
"The GMO Emperor Has No Clothes", a global citizens' report, is available for download here:
Comment on the report from John Vidal of the Guardian, plus video:
+ GM A PASSING FAD
Fan of commercial science Sir Paul Callaghan dismisses biotech as a fashion that's had its day in an article for the New Zealand Herald:
+ RETURN FROM GM IN NEW ZEALAND HAS BEEN "ZERO"
"We have overinvested in biotechnology, but the overall return has been zero." – Michael Corballis, emeritus professor of psychology at the University of Auckland and a member of the council of the Royal Society of New Zealand.
+ SOUTH AFRICA TRIBUNAL REJECTS DUPONT DEAL
South Africa's Competition Tribunal has prohibited a seed merger between multinational seed company Pioneer Hi-Bred and South Africa's largest seed company, Pannar Seed. The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) has welcomed the decision, which came after the ACB was granted leave by the Tribunal to intervene in the merger proceedings on public interest grounds, particularly with regard to the effect the merger would have on small scale farmers. This was the first time the Tribunal had allowed NGOs to intervene in merger proceedings.
+ GM BANANAS IN SOUTH AFRICA
The University of Pretoria has applied for permission to conduct the first field trials of GM bananas in South Africa. The rationale for the genetic modification is to combat Fusarium wilt – a disease exacerbated by glyphosate/Roundup herbicide, according to research.
How GMO research is rigged using fraudulent science
Seeds of freedom – trailer
Don't experiment with your baby avoid GM foods before you conceive http://www.mnn.com/food/healthy-eating/stories/gmo-video-dont-experiment-with-your-baby