REVIEW number 317
from Claire Robinson, REVIEW editor
GM technology continues to unravel, with pests evolving resistance to GM insecticidal crops and revelations that AquaBounty's GM salmon, which has swallowed shedloads of taxpayer dollars, somehow contracted an anemia virus (THE AMERICAS).
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+ VIRUS CONFIRMED IN GM SALMON
AquaBounty's GM salmon, currently under review by the US Food and Drug Administration for potential sale to American consumers, tested positive for the Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) virus in November 2009. The virus appears to be a new strain of ISA. AquaBounty's GM fish are in a closed, land-locked facility, so the virus is thought to have entered the facility through imported eggs or young fish.
How AquaBounty's sickly GM salmon swallowed hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars:
+ CONGRESS MUST INVESTIGATE GM SALMON
A US Senate Subcommittee held a hearing on the environmental impacts of GM salmon on 15 December. But Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch, said that Congress needs to investigate the human health impacts of GM salmon.
+ MONSANTO CORN FAILING IN 4 STATES – EPA
Monsanto Bt corn that's genetically engineered to kill insects is losing its effectiveness against rootworms in four states and may be failing in a further three, the US Environmental Protection Agency said. Rootworms in Iowa, Illinois, Minnesota and Nebraska are suspected of developing tolerance to the plants' insecticide, based on documented cases of severe crop damage and reports from entomologists, the EPA said, adding that Monsanto's program for monitoring suspected resistance is "inadequate".
EPA said that Monsanto's proposed solution of using Smartstax corn, which contains two types of Bt toxin, in fields where bugs have developed resistance could merely hasten resistance to Smartstax. EPA recommends”¦ using conventional insecticides to kill the bugs.
Monsanto (still) denies the 'superinsect' problem, despite evidence http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13540
EPA seeks information on pest resistance in GM insecticidal plants
+ USDA WORKS TO SPEED UP APPROVAL OF GM CROPS
Under a new two-year pilot program at the USDA, regulators are training the world's biggest biotech firms, including Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta, to conduct environmental reviews of their own GM seed products as part of the government's deregulation process. This would eliminate a critical level of oversight for the production of GE crops. Regulators are also testing new cost-sharing agreements that allow biotech firms to help pay private contractors to prepare mandatory environmental statements on GM plants that the US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) is considering deregulating.
+ KUCINICH SEEKS CONSUMER PROTECTION AND CHOICE
Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) has announced legislation that would prohibit open-air cultivation of GM pharmaceutical and industrial crops, preventing biological contamination of the food supply. The bill would also establish a tracking system to regulate and ensure the safety of GM pharmaceutical and industrial crops. "Under pressure from profit-minded industry, we have already allowed the spread of genetically modified crops into our agriculture at great cost to our economy and with unknown effects on our bodies," said Kucinich.
+ DUST FROM GM CROPS SPURS RESIDENTS' LAWSUIT
A group of Kauai (Hawaii) residents has sued a major seed company, saying its GM crops have led to pesticide-laden dust being blown onto homes for more than a decade. Attorneys for 150 residents filed the lawsuit against Pioneer Hi-Bred International Inc., a subsidiary of DuPont. In 2000, residents petitioned Pioneer to deal with the effects of the dust and chemicals, saying they were concerned about dust on "our homes, our cars, our streets and buildings, and most alarmingly, our children, who are forced to breathe dust-laden air as a part of living." The residents said Pioneer did not solve the problem.
+ MONSANTO'S CARIBBEAN EXPERIMENT
Monsanto is one of eight biotech companies using Puerto Rico's agricultural land for GM seed experiments. Most of these seed developers occupy more than the 500-acre limit that the Constitution of Puerto Rico allows, while receiving hefty government benefits, according to an article by the Center for Investigative Journalism.
+ "OCCUPY" PROTESTERS TARGET GM CHILLIS
"Occupy" protesters marched in New Mexico against the genetic modification of chilli peppers.
+ INDIAN GOVT FALSIFIES FARMER SUICIDE FIGURES
Although there are continuing reports of a very high suicide rate among Indian farmers, with many blaming failed GM Bt cotton crops as a significant factor, the Indian Government is claiming that farmer suicides are falling through the floor! A press release from VJAS, an NGO that closely monitors farmer suicides in the key cotton growing belt of Vidarbha in Maharashtra, exposes the gap between the Indian Government's claims and the reality.
+ GM IS SPEEDING UP THE PESTICIDE TREADMILL – EXPERT
India's farmers are on a faster technology-pesticides treadmill on account of GM technology, confirms US academic, Glenn Davis Stone. Stone says, "Farmers didn't really start adopting Bt cotton until around 2005, and within five years we have gone from one genetic construct to four. We have gone from terrible problems with American bollworm to greatly reduced problems with that pest but huge problems with aphids. Meanwhile, there are now hundreds of Bt hybrids available, and there is still a need for new pesticides." Stone also says that the Bt cotton farming model is draining farmers of traditional skills. Stone has previously said that adoption of new varieties is often a case of companies and state-run extension services creating "fads".
+ FORMER MONSANTO LOBBYISTS' DARK ARTS EXPOSED
One of Britain's largest lobbying companies has been secretly recorded boasting about its access to the heart of the Government and how it uses the "dark arts" to bury bad coverage and influence public opinion. Senior executives at Bell Pottinger claimed they could manipulate Google search results and Wikipedia pages to improve the image of their clients.
In 1999 The Observer revealed that Peter Luff, the Tory chairman of the Agriculture Select Committee, had been earning up to pounds 10,000 a year from Bell Pottinger. Bell Pottinger stated in a letter obtained by The Observer that it worked for "Monsanto and genetic engineering of food".
+ MONSANTO PR FIRM BIVINGS GOES BELLY-UP
The Bivings Group used to handle internet PR for businesses such as Monsanto. Now, a group of hackers called Anonymous are claiming they hit its website, forcing the firm to shut down operations. Bivings was identified in an investigation by GMWatch founder Jonathan Matthews and the investigative journalist Andy Rowell as key operatives in a major dirty tricks campaign targeting scientists and others critical of GM. The GMWatch investigation of Bivings helped prompt articles in The Guardian, New Scientist, and The Ecologist as well as programmes on BBC radio and TV.
+ OMBUDSMAN DEMANDS EFSA ADMIT FAILURE OVER REVOLVING DOOR CASE
The European Ombudsman has ruled in favour of a complaint filed by the NGO Testbiotech against the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and its approach to the "revolving door". The case concerns a former senior staff member at EFSA, Dr Suzy Renckens, who was head of the unit responsible for the risk assessment of GM plants. Renckens then moved to a job at GM firm Syngenta. The European Ombudsman agreed with Testbiotech's complaint and stated that "EFSA should acknowledge that it failed to observe the relevant procedural rules and to carry out a sufficiently thorough assessment of the potential conflict of interests arising from the move of a former member of its staff to a biotechnology company."
+ NEW EU CHIEF SCIENTIST A GM EVANGELIST
EU President Barroso's new "independent" chief scientific adviser is a genetic engineer and GMO evangelist, as media coverage of her role as Scotland's chief scientific adviser makes clear. Happily, her impact on Scotland, which introduced a moratorium on GM trials and commercial cultivation, appears to have been negligible, but she may find the European Union's big-business-friendly President more receptive.
+ KEY CANADIAN REGULATOR BECOMES INDUSTRY LOBBYIST
In yet another outrageous example of the regulatory revolving door, Stephen Yarrow, the Director of Plant Biotechnology at the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has left his post as a regulator to work for the biotech industry's main lobby group. He is now Vice President of Plant Biotech for CropLife Canada, whose members include: BASF Canada, Monsanto Canada Inc., Bayer Crop Science Inc. (Canada), Dow AgroSciences Canada Inc., duPont Canada Company, Syngenta Crop Protection Canada Inc. and Syngenta Seeds Canada, Inc.
+ ARE NON-GM SOY FEED SUPPLIES RUNNING OUT?
A recent meeting at the EU Commission on GM food and feed legislation repeated a fiction that has been current since 2000 but is no more true now than it was then that non-GMO feed supplies are running out. This time, the teller of the tale was AGRA CEAS, a consulting firm charged by the Commission with evaluating the EU's GMO food and feed legislation in anticipation of the Commission's "review" of the rules next year. The Commission seemed happy to swallow the message uncritically. There's just one thing wrong with this picture – both AGRA CEAS and the Commission are wrong. There's plenty of non-GM soy to go around, not just now but for years into the future, according to Cert ID, a company that certifies the stuff.
+ GLYPHOSATE CAUSES GENETIC DAMAGE IN AMPHIBIANS
Research carried out in Argentina shows that glyphosate, the herbicide used on GM soy crops, causes genetic damage in amphibians. One of the authors, Delia Aiassa, a biologist in the Genetics and Environmental Mutagenesis group at the University of Rio Cuarto, leads a research team studying the impact of glyphosate on human health. Aiassa said exposure to glyphosate can cause asthma, chronic bronchitis, skin and eye irritation, damage to the kidneys, liver and nervous system, cancer, developmental problems in children, and birth defects. She said pregnant women are at greater risk of miscarriage, and in men fertility problems are more frequent, if they are exposed to the chemical. Dr Damian Verzenassi of the School of Medical Sciences at the National University of Rosario warned of the health effects of GM soy production, saying, "One cannot keep thinking about human health as though it were unconnected with the health of ecosystems."
The study: Bosch, B., F. Mañas, et al. (2011). "Micronucleus test in post metamorphic Odontophrynus cordobae and Rhinella arenarum (Amphibia: Anura) for environmental monitoring." Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health Sciences 3(6): 155 163.
+ GLYPHOSATE CONTAMINATES GROUNDWATER – STUDY
Glyphosate (the chief chemical ingredient of Roundup) has been detected in 41% of groundwater samples taken in Spain, according to a new study published in Analytical and Bioanalytical Chemistry. The study exposes yet another lie about glyphosate pushed by manufacturers and regulators – that it is immobilised or rapidly and harmlessly degraded in soil.
Study abstract: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22101424
+ EFSA ADMITS BT MAIZE THREAT TO BUTTERFLIES
The European Food Safety Authority GMO Panel's new opinion on Pioneer Hybrid/Mycogen Seed's insect resistance GM maize 1507 acknowledges the crop puts non-target species at risk, including butterflies, but disregards both these risks and big gaps in the applicant's data in recommending the crop for EU cultivation. In contrast to a 2005 opinion giving 1507 the all-clear, EFSA's GMO Panel now says, "Highly sensitive non-target Lepidoptera populations might be at risk" if they ingest pollen from the GM maize that falls on plants used by their larvae for food. However, the Panel nevertheless supports the approval of 1507 maize, saying the potential harmful effects can be mitigated.
+ FRANCE MAINTAINS OPPOSITION TO GM CROPS
GM maize is unlikely to make it into French fields next year despite the lifting of a ban on a US strain. French president Nicolas Sarkozy said the government was preparing a "new safety clause" to forbid sowing of MON810 produced by Monsanto, after France's highest court overturned the country's ban on the only GM maize authorised for cultivation in the EU.
+ EU WORKING ON CLONE PRODUCT LABELLING
The European Commission is working on a proposed ban or strict labelling plan for the import of meat, dairy and other products from the descendants of cloned animals, say EU officials. A recent opinion poll revealed 58 per cent of Europeans are opposed to the idea of cloning. Critics state that the process of cloning and the associated high death and abnormality rate are cruel to animals.
+ UNLABELLED GM ANIMAL FEED IN BULGARIA
Unlabelled GM animal feed is being sold on the Bulgarian market.
+ GM PLANTS FOUND OUTSIDE SWISS LABS
Spot checks conducted in 2011 found "isolated examples" of GM plants near research laboratories and a station in different places in Switzerland. Although Switzerland has had a ban on the cultivation of GM plants since 2005, it's still not completely GM free due to experimental work on GM plants.
+ GM RISKS LOOM FOR WHEAT INDUSTRY
Australia is heading at breakneck speed towards the commercialisation of GM wheat. According to CSIRO, 2015 is a realistic date. This means within five years, consumers face the possibility of eating GM bread, whether they like it or not.
+ AUSTRALIA BAKERY CHAIN SHUNS GM WHEAT
Australian bakery chain Bakers Delight has ruled out using GM wheat after a social media campaign by Greenpeace.
+ BAYER TARGETS NON-GM WHEAT TRAITS
Bayer's CropScience plans to develop new heat- and drought-resistant wheat traits over the next decade without the use of GM. By using marker-assisted breeding techniques, which enable plant breeders to screen huge numbers of seeds for desired traits such as drought-resistance, the company said it will be able to develop new varieties much more quickly.
+ UK BIOTECH FIRM OXITEC MAY RELEASE GM MOSQUITOES IN U.S. ...
The US government is quietly considering letting British company Oxitec release GM mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. The mosquitoes are engineered with a lethal gene to make offspring die before reaching adulthood, breaking the pest's reproductive cycle.
+ ... AND GM MOTHS IN THE UK
Oxitec has also proposed releasing a GM strain of the diamondback moth to reduce populations of the vegetable-eating insects. Dr Helen Wallace, the director of GeneWatch UK, said: "Changing one part of an ecosystem can have knock-on effects on others in ways that are poorly understood. This could include an increase in different types of pest. Wildlife that feeds on insects could be harmed if there are changes to their food supply."
+ NON-GM PURPLE ANTI-CANCER TOMATOES
In 2008 headlines were generated around the world by the John Innes Centre's claims of having created the ultimate healthy superfood – a purple GM tomato that had significant levels of anthocyanins. "Purple tomato can beat cancer" was the front-page headline in one UK newspaper, which also told its readers that the purple tomato could keep you slim, ward off diabetes and safeguard your eyesight! This despite the fact that the exact role of antioxidants like anthocyanins in disease prevention is still a matter of debate and that high levels of anthocyanins occur naturally in a range of common fruits and vegetables! But if anyone really believes that only an anthocyanin-rich purple tomato can save them from cancer and other diseases, researchers in Brazil have produced a non-GM variety.