REVIEW number 318
REVIEW number 318
from Claire Robinson, REVIEW editor
States in India and Pakistan have said no to GMO in the wake of a series of scandals and crop failures involving GM technology. Most recently, Monsanto has been found guilty in India of making false advertising claims about its Bt cotton (ASIA). Monsanto apparently sourced these claims from the industry lobby group ISAAA, which is often uncritically quoted by pro-GM governments worldwide. See, for example, the EU-funded pro-GM website GMO Compass.
There are renewed calls for a ban on neonicotinoid pesticides after a new study shows that bees near corn fields are exposed to high levels of these toxins. Doug Gurian-Sherman points out that virtually all GM Bt corn seed is now treated with the stuff, in order to control all the pests that Bt fails to kill. That's another nail in the coffin for the big lie that GM Bt crops reduce pesticide use (RESEARCH).
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+ MONSANTO IN TROUBLE OVER FALSE ADVERTISING IN INDIA
India's advertising regulator has found that claims made by Monsanto about the benefits of GM Bt cotton are baseless. The company, in a series of newspaper advertisements in August 2011, claimed that GM cotton technology had boosted the income of Indian cotton farmers by over Rs 31,500 crore, by reducing pesticide use and increasing yield. The monetary claim was apparently sourced from reports of GM industry lobby group ISAAA. But the Advertising Standards Council of India (ASCI) found that the monetary claim was unsubstantiated and asked Monsanto to drop it.
"This is a vindication of what we have been saying so far that claims on Bt cotton are hyped up and not based on facts. I urge all those who are being misled by such advertisements to re-look at all facts available and arrive at rational and scientific conclusions on products like Bt cotton", said Rachna Arora of Public Awareness on Genetically Modified Food. Arora is pursuing a challenge to Monsanto's other claims, involving pesticide use, inbuilt plant protection, and yield.
Monsanto was earlier fined 15000 Euros in France in 2007 after being found guilty of false advertising. In May 2010 the Advertising Standards Authority of South Africa found the claims made by Monsanto in a magazine to be unsubstantiated and asked for the advertisement to be withdrawn immediately.
Monsanto's shameful record of false advertising:
The corrupting influence of ISAAA
+ CAN WE HAVE THE PESTICIDE MENU, PLEASE?
Biting satire from India on chemical and GM pollution of our food chain:
+ PAKISTAN: PUNJAB DROPS MONSANTO BT COTTON PLAN
Punjab, the largest cotton producing province of Pakistan, has decided to drop Monsanto's proposal of a Bt cottonseed deal. Official sources said Bt cotton offers no solution to the biggest threat to cotton in Punjab, a mutated type of cotton leaf curl virus, or to the mealy bug pest. Moreover, they say, differences of opinion exist over the effectiveness of Bt cotton and there are reports of adverse impacts from GM technology. Seed Association of Pakistan (SAP) President Shahzad Ali Malik praised Punjab's decision, saying that a Monsanto proposed Bt cotton model in Pakistan would have created a monopoly and in turn would have endangered the existence of the national seed sector.
+ INDIA: KERALA GOVERNMENT SAYS "NO" TO GM
In India, the Kerala state government has told the central government it will not permit any GM crop trials or research in the state. The decision seems to be partly prompted by the central government's plan to push through the draconian BRAI bill. The bill is widely opposed as an attempt to bulldoze public and farmer opposition to GM and to brutally suppress critics.
+ INDIAN GOVT BRUSHES ASIDE BT COTTON FRAUD
Brushing aside an embarrassing scandal in government-funded Bt cotton research as a one-off case, the agriculture ministry has said it would continue to aggressively push public research in GM. The ministry is hyping a "super Bt cotton" resistant to multiple pests and diseases – that apparently does not yet exist – in a project worth Rs 8,200 crore. Two Bt cotton variants claimed by government scientists as "indigenous technology" were recently found to be based on Monsanto's Bt cotton gene, damaging the credibility of government-funded GM science.
+ LEADING SCIENTIST ADMITS ABUSE OF POWER
One of the scientists at the heart of India's public sector Bt cotton scandal is Prof B.M. Khadi. Khadi, in common with other scientists, claimed he had developed indigenous Bt cotton varieties which were later found to include a Monsanto Bt gene. According to an article in The Times Of India, Khadi seems to have manipulated things in his favour by being a member of India's GM regulator GEAC, which cleared the products in 2008. But now, "He admits that his presence in the regulatory body was wrong, as someone whose product is under examination cannot be a member of the regulatory committee."
+ COTTON FOR MY SHROUD – NEW FILM ON BT COTTON AND FARMER SUICIDES
A new award-winning documentary film showing the devastating impact of Bt cotton on farmers has been released in India. "Cotton for my shroud" calls the Bt cotton fiasco a "mass genocide" of farmers carried out by the Indian cotton-producing state of Vidarbha and Monsanto.
+ GM CORN COULD DAMAGE PAKISTAN'S FARMING – EXPERTS
Pioneer, Syngenta and Monsanto have submitted applications for commercialization of GM Bt maize in Pakistan. But this could mean disaster for farmers due to the high costs as well as genetic contamination of other maize varieties, say experts. According to sources, an official report on GM crops titled "TAC Sub-Committee Recommendations and Findings", supposedly written by the government regulator, the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC), was in fact prepared by Monsanto Pakistan, and certain members of the committee tried to adopt it, instead of evaluating the findings themselves.
+ NEW RESEARCH SHOULD NAIL COFFIN LID SHUT ON TOXIC BEE-KILLING PESTICIDE
The Sierra Club has called on the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to ban the insecticide clothianidin, based on new scientific evidence of extensive contamination in bees and soil. Clothianidin is a neonicotinoid, a class of pesticides that are highly toxic to bees. A new study has documented major adverse impacts from clothianidin, used as a seed treatment in corn, on honeybee health. The results showed clothianidin present in foraging areas long after treated seed had been planted.
+ BT CORN, INSECTICIDE USE, AND BEES
Those who tout the benefits of GM fail to mention that today virtually all corn seed is treated instead with neonicotinoid insecticides to ward off several corn insects not well controlled by Bt toxins, writes Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman, commenting on the new study (above). But prior to Bt crops, substantial amounts of corn went untreated with insecticides. For example, corn alternated (rotated) with soybeans from year to year usually needed little or no insecticide treatment, and only five to 10 percent of corn was sprayed for corn borers. Gurian-Sherman explains, "When neonicotinoid insecticides are used as seed treatments, they can migrate through the soil or through the air in dust to other plants near (or in) corn fields, like dandelions, which honey bees prefer as a pollen source. It was already known that this type of insecticide can travel through the plant as it grows, and this study also shows corn pollen contaminated with this insecticide and substantial corn pollen us e by honey bees."
+ ADVERSE IMPACTS OF GMOs ON SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
New report from Genok – Centre for Biosafety, Norway.
+ SUPERWEED SPREADS INTO CANADA
Monsanto has said the bushy plant Kochia is no longer being killed by the company's Roundup in parts of Canada, a sign that resistance to the world's best-selling herbicide is spreading. Kochia that resists glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, was confirmed in three fields in southern Alberta, Monsanto said. The weed, which can thrive in drought conditions and grow 7 feet tall (2.1 meters), previously was found to be glyphosate-resistant in three US states and is suspected of being resistant in several more. Although two other resistant weeds have previously been found in Canada, this is the first time resistant weeds have been confirmed in Canada's most important grain and canola growing region.
+ SAY "NO" TO DOW'S GM 2,4-D CORN
Dow is seeking USDA approval for a GM corn that is resistant to 2,4-D, a herbicide that was used in the formulation of the highly toxic defoliant Agent Orange. Agent Orange (half 2,4-D by composition) was used in Vietnam by the US military to destroy forests and crops. Dow's Christmas gift for America was formally announced by the USDA, in the 27 December 2011 edition of the Federal Register. If the federal government wants to bury something in the news and burn up part of the public's window to respond, they'll do it around the holidays. The public has 60 days to comment on Dow's petition for deregulation, and can do so online at:
+ OBAMA ADMINISTRATION ANGERS PUBLIC OVER GM
Over the holidays, the US Dept of Agriculture announced its approval of a novel strain of Monsanto GM corn, claimed to be "drought tolerant". Despite receiving nearly 45,000 public comments in opposition to the GM corn (and only 23 comments in favour), the Obama administration gave Monsanto the green light to release it into the environment and US food supply, without any governmental oversight or safety tracking. "President Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack just sent a clear message to the American public that they do not care about our concerns with genetically engineered food and their questionable safety, adverse environmental impacts, and detrimental effects on farmers, especially organic farmers," says Mark A. Kastel of The Cornucopia Institute. "It is clear that despite campaign promises of change from Obama, he has not had the courage to stand strong against the powerful agribusiness and biotechnology lobbies."
+ UK: BIG TWO POLITICAL PARTIES RENEW BACKING FOR GM CROPS, SAINSBURY'S BRAND DIRECTOR SEEMINGLY JOINS IN
UK ag minister and GM zealot Jim Paice has been hyping GM crops, claiming on the basis of zero evidence that a stream of crops is in the pipeline which will need less nitrogen fertiliser, pesticides and fresh water than non-GM crops. Paice said supermarkets must take the lead in pushing GM foods onto the public. Labour's shadow environment secretary joined in with the GM hype. Thus far, no surprises. The main UK political parties have persisted in backing the GM lobby against UK public opinion, which is strongly anti-GM.
But what was surprising was that the supermarket chain Sainsbury's brand director Judith Batchelar apparently backed Paice. She was quoted in Farmers Weekly as saying it was "sad" that the UK had "missed out" on GM. GMWatch subscribers wrote to Sainsbury CEO Justin King to protest. King replied, giving reassurances that Sainsbury's has not changed its GM policy (no GM ingredients in own-brand products but, like other UK supermarkets, lots of GM-fed animal products).
FEEDING THE WORLD
+ GM HAS PRODUCED NOTHING OF VALUE TO FEED PEOPLE WELL – EXPERT
One billion out of 7 billion are undernourished, half our fellow creatures are in danger of extinction, the Earth is falling apart before our eyes – and all this is due not to the fecklessness of humanity or the shortcomings of the Earth but to truly destructive strategies imposed from above, writes food and ag expert Dr Colin Tudge in an article for The Guardian.
Tudge says, "Present policy and all the science that goes with it are not designed to provide good food but to make as much money as possible in the shortest time so as to 'compete' in the global market." Tudge adds, "GM technology has produced nothing of unequivocal value in the past 30 years that could not have been provided in the same time, without danger and at far less cost. For the point of GM is not to increase food security but to make a few rich companies richer and give them even more control."
+ AGROECOLOGY THE ONLY WAY TO FEED THE WORLD – ANOTHER EXPERT
We already produce more food than needed and despite this we have 950 million people hungry, says sustainable development expert Dr Hans Herren: "In India food is rotting in warehouses, yet India has the highest childhood malnutrition rate in the world. The proof that this system does not work is confirmed by the fact that after 20 years of GMOs the global situation has not improved. Why continue and emphasize further a system that is failing to change food security?
"Food security is achieved when availability, access, stability, and utilization are assured equally for all. There is also a need for new and participatory research into sustainable agricultural practices, based on the principles of agroecology and organic farming, which would free farmers from dependence on external inputs such as chemical pesticides and fertilizers."
+ BEEKEEPERS OCCUPY MONSANTO FRANCE
A one hundred-strong force of beekeepers, anti-GM voluntary reapers and farmers invaded and peacefully occupied premises rented by or belonging to Monsanto France to try to stop the sowing of Mon 810 maize this spring.
+ FRANCE TO UPHOLD BAN ON GM MAIZE
The French government said on Friday it would uphold its ban on a strain of genetically modified maize developed by U.S. biotech firm Monsanto in 2012, even though France's highest court overturned the moratorium last year.
+ GM MAIZE THREATENS EU WATER
Spanish researchers have confirmed that the weedkiller glyphosate applied to GM crops can leach into groundwater. EU Member States are discussing approving two more controversial GM crops designed to use more of the chemical routinely. The meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) is scheduled to discuss authorising Syngenta's GA21 maize (genetically modified to permit the crop to withstand being sprayed with glyphosate-based herbicides) and Monsanto's 88017 maize (also tolerant to glyphosate, and containing a Bt toxin against the Western Corn Rootworm).
+ LATVIA ON BRINK OF COMPLETE GMO BAN
More than 100 of the 110 municipalities of Latvia have decided that their land will be GM-free by the end of 2012 and Latvia may completely ban cultivation of GMOs nationally before the end of 2012.
+ COMPANY HIDES EVIDENCE THAT ITS GM MOSQUITOES ARE NOT STERILE AS PLANNED
British biotech company Oxitec plans to release GM mosquitoes in the Florida Keys, and also to begin trials of GM diamond-back moths, which eat cabbages, in Britain. But GeneWatch has uncovered evidence from the company's own documents that the GM mosquitoes that Oxitec claimed were "sterile" are, in fact, not sterile and their offspring have a 15 per cent survival rate in the presence of the common antibiotic tetracycline. This antibiotic is widely used in agriculture and is present in sewage as well as in industrially-farmed chicken and other meat.
A redacted version of the document, released to GeneWatch UK under British Freedom of Information laws and to parliament in response to parliamentary questions, shows that the company tried to hide the evidence that its technology will fail to prevent reproduction in the presence of low levels of tetracycline contamination.
+ WHO WILL CONTROL THE GREEN ECONOMY?
Report from ETC on corporate concentration in new technologies: