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Summary of this week's digest...
Digest No #52, Friday 12 September 2008
*Prawns, GM canola and allergies? - MADGE report
*The Dark Art of Corporate Spin coming from a media outlet near you?
*Rats testicles and the WA election
*FSANZ and the food industry vs kids health
*Link between GM insulin and Crohn's disease?
*Tell Rudd Agriculture policy is Australia's best defence
*"Save water and the Vegie Patch" forum 1st Oct
*Plant Nerds Sun 14th Sept at Ceres
1. Prawns, GM canola and allergies? - MADGE report
MADGE has been doing groundbreaking research into GM. Read Madeleine's fantastic expose of how GM food may be causing allergies.
Just a few items she and fellow researcher Rachel have unearthed are:
One study predicts that Monsanto's Roundup Ready canola (GM) could prove allergic to people with sensitivities to red shellfish (prawns, shrimp and lobster).
Our food regulator FSANZ does no monitoring of the health effects of GM foods once they are on supermarket shelves. Instead FSANZ expects the companies that developed the GM foods to monitor for adverse effects and inform government regulatory authorities of any issues.
Public protest meant UK supermarkets removed most GM food from sale in 1999. The rapid increase in anaphylaxis (severe allergy) in children aged 0-4 stabilised.
Norway has very restrictive policies on GM. The Australian rate of severe reactions to food in 0-4 year olds may be nine times that of Norway
Read the full report here.
2. The Dark Art of Corporate Spin coming from a media outlet near you?
David Miller author of Thinker, Faker, Spinner, Spy says the PR industry is the "cutting edge of corporate power in its campaign to stifle democracy". It began life as "propaganda" in 1919 to protect the powerful against the expanded democracy that came with the extension of the right to vote. According to Miller its aim is to manage elite political opinion.
The current cutting of investigative journalists leaves a gap that is cheaply filled by media releases. Examples of this dark art seem to be appearing in our media.
This story from The Weekly Times has Monsanto's Tony May visiting GM canola crops and gives them glowing praise. Interestingly this story has no by-line. Could it be a Monsanto media release? This Age article has Andrew Weidemann's saying his GM canola germinates earlier, is more vigorous, uses a more benign herbicide and, in trials, yields 20% more. This is amazing as on Monsanto's website the best yield from their GM canola is 17% less than Australia's national average.
In this flurry of admiration for GM canola it would have been easy to miss Evan Ryan saying that his GM canola crop is close to failure and he may have to cut it for hay. This news was in a very brief radio interview.* Evan Ryan is profiled in happier times on the GRDC website where he said "”¦ I am confident the technology will come through and that we can manage it responsibly".
3. Rats testicles and the WA election
Scott Kinnear took out a graphic advert in WA showing the damage to rats testicles and rat pups when fed GM.
Predictably the study shown in the advert has been criticised in this article. There was also an exchange of letters in the West Australian between Scott Kinnear and Ian Edwards of AusBiotech.
Pro-biotech critics of the experiment say that it has been discredited by an article in Nature Biotechnology. The article in Nature Biotechnology has been criticised as deceptive. Four pro-biotech scientists with no expertise in animal feeding studies critiqued Ermakova's work giving her no right of reply. No other article in a scientific journal has ever been formatted in this way.
Click here to read a summary of the experiment
or Ermakova's longer version of her study.
Why do biotechnology supporters attack Ermakova personally but do not call for her experiment to be repeated?
4. FSANZ and the food industry vs kids health
Activist and health groups have to battle to protect children from predatory behaviour by food companies.
Additives - In Australia the "Kids First" campaign is asking for our regulator FSANZ to ban six food additives that cause hyperactivity in kids. These food additives are for food colouring and will be removed from all foods in Europe by the end of 2009. The Australian Food and Grocery Council says this call is based on "Flawed research"
Junk food advertising - The Australian Media and Communications Authority (ACMA) review of Children’s TV standards has proposed no intervention in junk food advertising to kids. The Parents Jury and the Australian Medical Association are asking for a reversal of this decision. The public can make a submission on the ACMA decision until October 17th.
The US Institute for Responsible Technology is calling for a junk food ban in school canteens. They say not only does it remove most of the GM food from a diet it leads to better behaviour by the students.
Australian cattle farmers are setting up brands to ensure their meat is not fed GM, hormones or antibiotics. This is in contrast to the rapidly developing feedlot industry in Australia.
It is interesting that usually people concerned about the health of food have to face the combined might of food regulators and the food industry. Surely there is something wrong here.
5. Link between GM insulin and Crohn's disease?
Once again the letters page in the South Gippsland press is the major source of informed and intelligent public discussion on GM crops in Victoria.
The most interesting letter was from an unnamed diabetic. This diabetic found their blood sugar was not well controlled on GM insulin. They also developed Crohn's disease shortly after starting on the GM insulin. This went into remission, without medication, once they switched to natural animal insulin.
People taking GM medicines can change their medicine if they have a negative reaction. What choice do we have when GM is in the food chain unlabelled?
6. Tell Rudd - Agriculture policy is Australia's best defence
Maybe Mr Rudd should pay more attention to agriculture instead of spending billions on the armed forces. "Sixty per cent of all conflicts in the past 18 years have been driven, at their core, by disputes stemming from a scarcity of food, land or water. These are major drivers of refugeeism and war." "Australia has not yet understood that agriculture policy is defence policy. It is refugee policy, immigration policy and environmental policy, as well as health, food and economic policy”¦. We have not grasped its significance as the central issue of human destiny in the 21st century." Full report here
Unfortunately our Agriculture minister, Tony Burke, wrongly thinks that GM crops will save the day. Perhaps he should listen to the Indian scientist Dr P M Bhargava,: “It is a pity that alternatives to GM crops such as integrated pest management and the use of bio-pesticides, which are cheaper and better, and organic agriculture, are being ignored by our government in spite of the enormous evidence in their favour."
7. "Save water and the Vegie Patch" forum 1st Oct
Come to a Public Forum on "Save Water and the Vegie Patch" on Wednesday 1st October, 7-9pm at Brunswick Town Hall. Speakers include Jane Edmanson, David Holmgren and Helen Tuton. More details from the Food Gardeners Alliance
8. Plant Nerds Sun 14th Sept at Ceres
Become a Plant Nerd and Seed Saver at Ceres Seed saving workshop followed by a seed swap this Sunday 14th Sept at 2-4pm, Ceres, Cnr Roberts and Stewart Streets, Brunswick East.
NOTE: This is a plain text version of the weekly news bulletin of the Australian group MADGE – Mothers are Demystifying Genetic Engineering.