CALIFORNIA LABELLING INITIATIVE
BIG AG FAILURE
CALIFORNIA LABELLING INITIATIVE
+ AMERICANS' RIGHT TO KNOW
In California, voters have a chance on 6 November to take a stand for their right to know when their food has been genetically modified, whether in plants or animals, by voting YES on Proposition 37, the Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act. GMO foods are currently found in 70% of packaged foods in US supermarkets, primarily due to ingredients made from GM soy, corn, canola and sugar beet. The health risks from these untested GMOs are potentially serious, including unexpected allergies, toxicity in foods, altered nutritional levels and other unpredictable side effects of the gene tinkering process. That's why voting to support Prop 37 is a vote to protect your family from GMOs.
+ LA CITY COUNCIL UNANIMOUSLY ENDORSES PROP 37
The Los Angeles City Council has unanimously passed a resolution supporting Prop 37. "It's not often that the LA City Council votes unanimously to support a measure, but Prop 37 was a no-brainer. We have the right to know what's in the food we're eating and feeding our families," said Council member Paul Koretz, the resolution's author. "I'm proud to be a part of this true grassroots campaign in our struggle against the biggest pesticide and junk food companies in the world."
+ SENATOR BARBARA BOXER SAYS VOTE YES ON PROP 37
+ PEOPLE HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW - PEDIATRICIAN
The health effects of GM foods are still unclear and people should be skeptical of claims they are safe, says Richard J. Jackson, a pediatrician and a former top official at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the US's national public health institute. For these reasons, Jackson supports Prop 37.
+ FORMER GENETIC ENGINEER SAYS YES ON PROP 37
Belinda Martineau, a molecular geneticist at UC Davis and a former genetic engineer, has written an article lending her wholehearted support to Prop 37 to label GMOs. Martineau was principal scientist at Calgene (a firm eventually acquired by Monsanto), where she helped develop the world's first commercially available GM food, the Flavr Savr tomato. She says, "Prop 37 is about people having the right to know what's in their food and how it was produced."
Martineau explains why there are good scientific reasons to be wary of Monsanto's GM sweetcorn - as sold at Walmart:
+ ANOTHER SCIENTIST FAMILIAR WITH GM WANTS LABELLING
Darya Pino, a scientist who worked for years with GM animals, supports Prop 37 because, she says, "The effects of a single gene deletion or insertion are often very surprising and can be quite subtle. Sometimes nothing happens, sometimes crazy things happen, and sometimes you can't tell what happened until you let the animal's life run its course and study it extensively." Pino adds that contrary to claims by the No on 37 campaign, Prop 37 is neither poorly written nor complex and labelling will cost consumers next to nothing.
+ MOTHER SOLVED SON'S HEALTH PROBLEMS BY SWITCHING HIM TO NON-GM DIET
An interesting aspect of Jeffrey Smith's new film Genetic Roulette is seeing health professionals tell how their patient's health problems improve or vanish when they switch to a non-GM diet. In an article in the Sacramento Bee, a mother and volunteer for the Prop 37 campaign recounts how her son's eczema and digestive problems improved after she stopped feeding him GMOs.
+ VOTE FOR THE DINNER PARTY - MICHAEL POLLAN
The industry is happy to boast about the supposed benefits of GM crops in the elite precincts of the op-ed and business pages but still would rather not mention it to the consumers who actually eat the stuff, says Michael Pollan in an article for the New York Times supporting Prop 37.
+ SUPPORT FOR PROP 37 DROPS FOLLOWING INDUSTRY-FUNDED AD BLITZ
Support for California's Prop 37 has dropped dramatically since the industry-funded opponents of the proposal unleashed a statewide deluge of TV ads and now Proposition 37 is behind in the polls for the first time. No on 37 raised over $45 million from processed food and agrichemical companies, including $21m from Monsanto, Dupont, Syngenta, Dow, BASF and Bayer, and used this massive war chest to launch the statewide TV ad campaign. At least two California newspapers have found No on 37 ads to be at best "half true" or "somewhat misleading," while proponents call the anti-37 ad blitz "a massive campaign of deception and lies."
+ THE LABELING CAMPAIGN RAISING AWARENESS ACROSS AMERICA
Even if California voters don't pass Prop 37 on Tuesday, the attention the debate has drawn to the issue is likely to trigger similar votes across the country. "To be honest, I already think it’s a win for the labeling movement," said Gary Hirshberg, chairman of Just Label It, a group that has fought for labeling nationwide for two years. "If we win in California, it's a gift to the national campaign. It would be a very decisive statement that this is relevant to a large number of citizens. But even if we lose, we've still won because I think it's just a drumbeat" of growing attention.
+ FEDS INVESTIGATING NO ON 37 CAMPAIGN?
An agent from the FBI Sacramento field office contacted Yes on Proposition 37 legal representative Joe Sandler to follow up on a formal complaint to the US Dept of Justice about the potentially criminal use of the FDA's name, official seal and authority by opponents of Prop 37. However, the US Attorney's office has denied that it has opened an official investigation.
+ DOCUMENTED DECEPTIONS OF THE NO ON 37 CAMPAIGN
The California Right to Know campaign has documented the lies of the No on 37 campaign - and there are many. They include:
*Claiming that respected scientific and medical organizations have concluded that GM foods are safe, including: National Academy of Sciences, American Council on Science and Health, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, World Health Organization. In fact, the only group on No on 37's list that has concluded that GM foods are safe is the American Council on Science and Health, a notorious front group for the pesticide industry and climate change deniers.
*Fabricating a quote from US Food and Drug Administration about Prop 37, attaching FDA's logo and mailing it to voters in possible violation of federal law. FDA has since confirmed that they "never made such statements with respect to Prop 37".
*Misrepresenting Stanford University in a TV ad - No on 37 was forced to pull their first TV ad because it identified spokesman Henry Miller as "MD, Stanford" when he is actually a researcher at the rightwing Hoover Institute.
*Continuing to misrepresent Stanford in mailers to voters with false title for Henry Miller.
*Fabricating a San Francisco Examiner endorsement.
*Misleading voters with deceptive mailers by front groups that claimed GM labels would be costly for consumers.
+ GMO LIES AND THE LYING LIARS WHO TELL THEM
Perhaps the biggest lie told by the No on 37 crowd is that GMO labels will result in increased food costs for needy families, writes Charles Margulis. To support this lie, the industry points to studies - funded by (surprise!) industry - that use absurd assumptions and seemingly complex formulas to come up with ridiculous "estimates" of cost increases. But they never talk about any of the dozens of countries that have adopted GMO food labelling. Why? Because there's not a single real-world case they can point to where GMO labels have resulted in increased food costs. As Consumers Union said, "Based on the experience of the European Union [countries] that have instituted mandatory labelling of genetically engineered food, we anticipate that the impact on consumer food prices will be negligible." The San Francisco Chronicle pointed out that No on 37's cost increase estimates have not been independently verified, and noted that the campaign lied about an increased state bureaucracy that would cost the state "millions" of dollars.
+ GERMAN FIRMS OPPOSE PROP 37
BASF and Bayer have each invested $2 million so far in the campaign to block GM labels in California. Only Monsanto and Dupont, the US chemical firm, spent more. BASF, the world's biggest chemical company, and Bayer, Germany's biggest pharmaceutical company, both have large business units focused on GM. BASF earlier this year even moved the headquarters of its GM business to the US citing a lack of support in Europe.
+ SERVING SCIENCE OR MONSANTO? - THE AAAS
The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) released a board members' statement opposing GMO labelling that sounds like it was drafted by Monsanto, says public health lawyer Michele Simon. The AAAS statement ends with the non-scientific but very quote-worthy conclusion that "mandating such a label can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers". The statement made several false claims, including calling the fact that many GMOs are untested a "false belief".
Michael Hansen, senior staff scientist with Consumers Union, notes that unlike in other countries, the US Food and Drug Administration does not require safety testing for GMOs. He says the AAAS statement "is filled with distortion and misleading statements. If mandatory labelLing of GM foods would 'mislead and alarm consumers', does the AAAS really believe that 60 other countries are misleading and alarming their consumers?"
The AAAS statement claimed that "respected scientific and medical organizations have concluded that biotech foods are safe, including: National Academy of Sciences, American Council on Science and Health, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, World Health Organization."
But Stacy Malkan of the Yes on 37 Campaign says that "none of these groups - except presumably ACSH, a notorious front group - has taken that position." A spokesperson for the National Academy of Sciences told the Sacramento Bee that it "has not evaluated whether it's safe to eat genetically engineered food."
Michele Simon points out that the Chair of the AAAS board is Nina Fedoroff who is closely aligned with the corporate funded No on 37 campaign. She has signed onto a No on 37 campaign statement and is quoted as being "passionately opposed to labeling." She served for five years on the scientific advisory board of biotech firm Evogene and on the board of Sigma-Aldrich, a multinational biotech firm. She has been called "the U.S. ambassador for GM"!
+ AAAS CAPTURED FROM THE TOP DOWN
In its statement opposing GM labelling, the AAAS forgot to mention that Monsanto has been a regular major sponsor of the group's annual gatherings. At AAAS's 2010 annual meeting Robert T. Fraley (Monsanto's chief technology officer and an AAAS fellow) delivered a half-hour keynote speech that was little more than a futuristic infomercial about how GMOs will soon feed the world and eliminate hunger.
No one was invited to rebut Fraley, not even a representative from the Union of Concerned Scientists, who was present in the audience but was shunted off to the side, where all he could do was hand out a few leaflets. We can see just what the AAAS means by "bridging science and society" - the theme of that 2010 gathering.
+ SCIENTISTS REJECT DECISION BY AAAS BOARD TO OPPOSE GM LABELLING
A group of 20 scientists and physicians have signed a statement rejecting the decision of the AAAS's board to oppose GM labelling. The statement says, "The paternalistic assertion that labelling of genetically modified foods "can only serve to mislead and falsely alarm consumers" is an Orwellian argument that violates the right of consumers to make informed decisions. Civilization rests on the confidence that an individual's basic human rights will be respected by the government, including the 'right to know'.
In response to the AAAS statement that "GM crops are the most extensively tested crops ever added to our food supply", the scientists comment, "The AAAS board failed to note that the FDA's testing program for GM foods is voluntary. Our experience with other well-studied consumer products (tobacco, asbestos, bisphenol A, phthalates) demonstrates that a large number of tests provide no guarantee of safety. Typically, evidence of harm has only emerged when testing has been conducted independently of those who benefit from the product or practice. Unfortunately, years of manufactured doubt by those with a vested interest have and continue to slow public health decisions that rightfully should be based solely on science."
+ SCIENTIFIC CRITIQUE OF THE AAAS's OPPOSITION TO GM LABELLING
Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman, a member of the AAAS, exposes the scientific inaccuracies of the AAAS's statement, including its claims that GM foods are safe and properly tested.
+ SUPREME COURT PANEL RECOMMENDS ALL GM TRIALS IN INDIA TO BE STOPPED
After the damning report on GM crops by India's parliamentary committee on agriculture, a technical expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court in the public interest lawsuit brought by Aruna Rodrigues and others has recommended a 10-year moratorium on field trials of all GM food and termination of all ongoing trials of GM crops. The panel also wants safety dossiers of all GM crops approved for trials and those in the pipeline to be reviewed by independent biosafety experts, in the light of "several cases of ignoring problematic aspects of safety data". The panel also recommended mandatory subchronic toxicity tests in animals before field trials are allowed.
However, before issuing a moratorium, the Supreme Court says it will seek the views of all stakeholders, including the agriculture ministry and the GM crop industry. Despite the petitioner's strong opposition, the court will allow the Association of Biotech-led Enterprises (ABLE), of which Monsanto is a member, to place its views on the expert panel's recommendations.
+ WHY IS INDIA'S AG MINISTER PROMOTING GM FIELD TRIALS?
Although the technical expert committee appointed by the Supreme Court of India following a writ petition has unanimously said that all field trials of GM crops should be stopped, the agriculture minister Sharad Pawar is writing to states asking them to allow field trials of such crops. Pawar has never visited any of the families brought into distress by Bt cotton crop failure, yet he was happy to promote GM crops at a conference organised by ILSI-India. ILSI claims to be a scientific organisation but is a food and big ag industry lobby group with funders including Monsanto, Syngenta, and Coca-Cola.
+ INDIA: MONSANTO FIELD TRIALS DESTROYED
Around 200 farmers affiliated to the Bhartiya Kisan Union (BKU) protested against field trials of GM corn at the Regional Research Station of Chaudhary Charan Singh Haryana Agricultural University (CCHAU) in Kurukshetra. The research station is conducting trials for Monsanto's Indian subsidiary, Monsanto India Limited. The next day, the crops were destroyed. "They asked for two days to burn the crop entirely, but on 19 October, we found that the Monsanto officials and university authorities were collecting samples and making records. We gathered about 50-60 farmers and made sure they destroyed it," says Gurnam Singh, Haryana president of the BKU. Sridhar Radhakrishnan, convener of the Coalition for a GM-Free India, says, "If the biotechnology industry is getting a bad name, it's because they push GM products when we have safer ways of increasing productivity."
+ PAKISTAN: PUNJAB REFUSES TO BUDGE IN DISPUTE WITH MONSANTO
Punjab and Monsanto have reached a dead end in their fight over intellectual property rights enforcement. Sources said that Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif had informed the federal government that Lahore had said no to Monsanto's plan for intellectual property rights protection, first proposed by the company in 2010.
+ NO ROOM ON OUR PLATES FOR GM GOLDEN RICE
Behind all the hype about the supposed benefits of "golden" rice, it is in fact no different from other GM rice varieties: it is an untested, unproven technology, poses significant risks to health, the environment and indeed the farming community, and most significantly, poses a very real threat to traditional rice varieties, writes Ditdit Pelegrina of Greenpeace
+ MONSANTO PUSHING RETURN OF GM CROPS TO UK
Details of a meeting held with British ministers in June show how the biotech industry is working with the United Kingdom government to bring genetically modified crops back into the UK and weaken European regulations. The papers show how the GM industry plans to use non-industry scientists to promote GM in the media and schools using taxpayers' money, so they can get GM crops back into Europe. There are also plans to promote GM crops in Africa.
The industry's strategy is to get the UK government to fund academic scientists to promote promises of future GM crops, which provide magical solutions to complex problems, as a distraction from the actual problems being experienced by farmers growing GM crops today. The scientists get more public research funding to work on GM crops that are never expected get to market, such as nitrogen-fixing GM wheat, but do public relations work that helps the companies to get existing GM crops approved in Europe. This close collaboration between the public and private sectors indicate that claims that current GM test sites in the UK of potatoes and wheat are for "public benefit" should be taken with a large pinch of salt.
+ HALT NEW UK PUSH FOR FARMING TECHNOFIXES
The near stranglehold on UK farming by agribusiness companies now extends to publicly-funded research. The BBSRC‚ which dispenses public money for biological research‚ has set up a clutch of what it calls "research and technology clubs". The declared aim is to work with business partners on collaborative research projects. But what the clubs will do is give the very corporations that have destroyed sustainable farming in Britain a major say in the way taxpayers' money is spent on research.
TAKE ACTION: Halt new UK push for farming technofixes - write to your MP:
+ EFSA COSIES UP TO BIOTECH INDUSTRY AGAIN
EFSA representatives have been taking part in a workshop on risk assessment requirements for GMOs organised by GM industry lobby groups Europabio and CropLife International. This news reflects everything that's wrong with EFSA. Previously it has taken part in workshops on how to assess risk for chemicals and contaminants organised by a third industry lobby coup, ILSI, which is funded by GM crop and chemical companies like Monsanto and Syngenta. This does matter: Testbiotech and other NGOs have exposed how ILSI has virtually designed the lax risk assessment process for GMOs.
+ GMO CHEERLEADERS WHO ALSO DENY CLIMATE CHANGE
Some of the GM industry's most high-profile defenders double as professional climate skeptics, writes Tom Philpott in Mother Jones. They include Henry Miller, who has taken a prominent role in the No on 37 campaign, opposing the Proposition 37 GM labelling initiative. Philpott notes the climate scepticism of the director of the Scientific Alliance, amongst other prominent GM supporters. The Scientific Alliance is known for its sceptical position on climate change and its opposition to policies aimed at carbon reduction. Current members of the Scientific Alliance Advisory Forum include such well known GM promoters as Prof Vivian Moses, Prof Anthony Trewavas, Mark Cantley and Dr Roger Turner.
+ HEALTH COMMISSIONER DALLI RESIGNS OVER TOBACCO LOBBYING SCANDAL
John Dalli, the pro-GM EU Commissioner for health and consumer affairs, has resigned following an investigation by the EU's anti-fraud office into a complaint that a Maltese entrepreneur had used his contacts with Dalli to try to influence a possible future legislative proposal on tobacco products.
+ FRENCH ACADEMIES' REPORT ON SERALINI UNREPRESENTATIVE
Six French scientific academies released a joint statement dismissing the Seralini study, which found increased tumours, mortality and organ damage in rats fed GM Roundup-tolerant maize NK603 and tiny amounts of Roundup over 2 year period, as a "scientific non-event". However, it immediately drew a rejoinder from the renowned French statistician Paul Deheuvels, himself a prominent member of the Academy of Sciences. Deheuvels pointed out that far from representing the six academies in their entirety, the joint statement came from just 12 academicians who were convened at short notice and selected in a totally untransparent way.
Deheuvels says he wasn't consulted about the Seralini study even though he is the only member of the Academy of Sciences representing the discipline of statistics, and so, in the normal way of things, would be consulted on a case like this. Although the statement was issued in the names of the national academies of agriculture, medicine, pharmacy, science, technology, and veterinary studies, it was unsigned.
+ WHAT'S BEHIND THE ACADEMIES ASSAULT ON SERALINI?
It has emerged that among the tiny group of Academicians involved in producing the unsigned statement attacking Seralini's paper was Georges Pelletier. Not only was Pelletier involved in the regulatory approval of Monsanto's NK603 maize - an approval Seralini's study directly challenged, but he is also a leading light of the AFBV - the French Association of Plant Biotechnology, which has waged war on Seralini for years.
In 2009, for instance, the AFBV wrote to various media organisations challenging their coverage of Seralini's research and denouncing him as a "merchant of fear" and a researcher who was "first and foremost an anti-GMO activist, purporting to be independent whereas his studies are financed by Greenpeace." It was attacks like these that lead Seralini to successfully sue the AFBV's President for defamation.
What makes Pelletier's role in shaping the science academies' statement even more scandalous is that whoever selected Pelletier to evaluate Seralini's recent paper could not fail to know that he would be bound to condemn it. This was because the AFBV had already publicly attacked the paper, and Pelletier had also personally signed onto a public statement that dismissed Seralini's study as principally "a publicity gambit."
What makes Pelletier's role still more dubious is the corporate connections of the AFBV. These first emerged in the evidence presented in court by Seralini's lawyer during the libel case. The AFBV has denied Seralini is independent on the basis that his institute has in the past accepted funding from Greenpeace, even though it only amounted to a tiny fraction - under 4% - of CRIIGEN's income. On the other hand, the AFBV declared itself to be strictly independent of industry when the evidence shows that many of the AFBV's leading lights are anything but. Their multiple corporate connections are detailed here.
On that long list is Georges Pelletier - the man now identified as having helped to shape the unsigned statement of the six science academies. This is because of Pelletier's role as Chairman of the Executive Committee of Genoplante, a public private plant genomics research partnership which has the aggressively pro-GM French seed giant Limagrain Group and Bayer as its principal corporate partners.
Georges Pelletier's current deputy at Genoplante is Georges Freyssinet, Limagrain's Scientific Affairs Manager. A Limagrain publication called "Embracing Our Vision" gives the views of different leading figures within the Limagrain Group. For Georges Freyssinet it says, "Limagrain's future goes hand in hand with the development of GMOs... Georges Freyssinet, Limagrain's Scientific Affairs Manager, is behind the Group's new research on this subject. He takes a look at how this technology has become so vital for the Group..."
Given that the French seed giant has bet its shirt on GM, it is easy to imagine the sense of corporate frustration - not to say desperation - triggered by the publication of Seralini's paper. Limagrain was planning to conduct GM field trials in France next spring but was forced to suspend those plans by the furore that followed the publication of Seralini's paper.
+ ACADEMIES' REPORT ON SERALINI STUDY "A BAD TRIAL" - ACADEMY STATISTICIAN
French statistician Paul Deheuvels, a member of the Academy of Sciences, has defended the quality of Seralini's study and denounced the six French academies' report on the study. Deheuvels said, "The study has suffered a bad trial, using bad arguments, carried out with a fury that is absolutely suspect, given the huge financial interests at stake. I want to say emphatically that the article by Professor Seralini is at a high level of quality among articles of this category. You cannot reproach its scientific value, which is undeniable."
+ NEED FOR LONG-TERM STUDIES ON GMOs ACKNOWLEDGED
Despite the rush to dismiss Seralini's GM maize study, there's a growing consensus about the need for long-term studies on GMOs. Several French organisations issued reports rejecting the study's findings and conclusions, but crucially, all asked for longer-term or more in-depth studies on the health effects of GMOs. These bodies include:
*The six French scientific academies (see above)
*ANSES, the French food safety agency
*The Haut Conseil des Biotechnologies (HCB)
ANSES and the HCB are both responsible for issuing scientific opinions on GMOs (including NK603 maize) that led to authorisations in France. Thus they are not disinterested parties, as they may be more concerned with defending their own authorisations than in scientific truth.
In Germany, the federal office of risk assessment BfR also issued a report rejecting Seralini's study - but acknowledged that no long-term toxicity studies had been done on the complete Roundup formulation as sold and used. Regulators only required such tests on the supposed active ingredient, glyphosate.
As with the French bodies, in criticising Seralini's study, BfR is not disinterested. As the "rapporteur" member state for glyphosate, Germany was responsible for the dubious report on the secret industry studies on glyphosate that led to its current EU approval dating from 2002. It is currently carrying out the review for the EU's probable re-authorisation in 2015.
+ CANCER SPECIALIST SUPPORTS SERALINI, CONDEMNS HIS CRITICS
French cancer specialist Prof Dominique Belpomme, who heads the European Cancer and Environment Research Institute, has expressed his confidence in the Seralini study. Commenting on the condemnation of Seralini's study by the six French science academies, Prof Belpomme refers to what happened in the case of asbestos. The French Academy of Medicine issued a report in 1996 supporting the safety of asbestos, even though asbestos had by then been classified as a human carcinogen by the International Agency for Research on Cancer for nearly a decade. A year later the French government moved to ban it permanently.
Prof Belpomme is not the only cancer specialist to speak out in support of Seralini's study. Mustafa Djamgoz, professor of cancer biology at Imperial College, London, has also said Seralini's findings are "significant. The experiments are, more or less, the best of their kind to date." He has called for them to be repeated with more animals by independent laboratories to confirm the outcome. "We are not scaremongering here. More research, including a repetition of this particular study are warranted."
+ PROOF THAT EFSA USED DOUBLE STANDARDS TO ATTACK SERALINI'S STUDY
An important new report from Testbiotech shows how the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) used double standards to attack Seralini's paper. We recommend reading the report in full - it's accessible to the non-specialist. It includes a useful table comparing the different aspects of Seralini's study with other studies that EFSA has accepted without problem to support the approval of GM foods.
The report says, "We believe that none of [the studies discussed in this briefing] describing chronic feeding studies with genetically engineered plants have met the standards being used by EFSA to criticize the research of Seralini et al., 2012. The comparison with the studies reviewed by Snell et al. (2011) shows that Seralini's research was conducted using comparatively higher scientific standards.
"In conclusion, EFSA does not apply OECD [Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development] standards to sub-chronic, 90-day feeding studies when these are prepared by industry and do not show health effects from consuming genetically engineered foods. In contrast, the OECD standards have been used by EFSA to attack the research of Seralini.
"The results should be taken seriously and used as a starting point for further investigations, as has been proposed by the French food safety and biotechnology authorities" (ANSES and HCB).
+ STANDOFF BETWEEN SERALINI AND EFSA OVER RAW DATA
Seralini has said that he is reluctant to hand over more information about his study on NK603 GM maize and Roundup unless the regulators release - ideally on a public website - all the health and environmental risk studies on GMOs and Roundup, including details of the blood analyses performed during mammalian tests, so the public can compare the details of Seralini's study with the studies that led to EFSA's market approvals of these products.
If EFSA would do this, Seralini has said he will reciprocate, although he has also said his work should be fairly assessed by an independent group of scientists who, unlike EFSA, are untainted by conflicts of interest and by past regulatory decisions that Seralini's research challenges.
Seralini's desire for full disclosure is not only about transparency, but also about making sure that like is compared with like, so that a double standard cannot be applied where EFSA can identify apparent weaknesses in Seralini's research that might equally apply to studies that EFSA has fully accepted.
Now EFSA says it has made the industry raw data that underlies the approval of NK603 maize available to Seralini's team, as requested. EFSA has asked Seralini's team to provide its raw data so that it can complete its review of the study. Thus far, Seralini's team has refused to release its raw data to EFSA, saying that the raw data EFSA provided to the researchers is unusable and fails to provide basic information, for example, on blood parameters. Seralini's co-researcher Dr Joel Spiroux called EFSA's move a "con trick".
Seralini commented on EFSA's double standards: "These agencies that criticize our study's statistical weakness have never demanded from industry a tenth of [the data] that they now instruct us to provide them with. They have even accepted, without blinking an eye, food safety tests of 90 days or less, carried out on groups of four or five rats, for example, for the placing on the market of the Amflora potato (EFSA, 2006)!
"They sometimes even gave their agreement without any tests on animals. They are asking us for encyclopedic details without which it would be 'impossible for them to conclude the validity of our results,' but they have never demanded from industry the simple public communication of blood analyses, which they nevertheless claimed revealed nothing. It is they who have kept the industry code of silence on the health data from its tests. 'Commercial confidentiality ties our hands,' they argue."
EFSA has delayed its final review of Seralini's study until mid-November.
+ THREE FORMER ENVIRONMENT MINISTERS WANT REVIEWS OF NK603 AND ROUNDUP
In France, three former Ministers of the Environment, Segolene Royal, Dominique Voynet and Corinne Lepage, are asking for a review of the studies that made possible the marketing approval for GM maize NK603 and Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. The three former ministers say they welcome "the willingness expressed by the government (...) [to] completely overhaul the systems for evaluating GMOs and pesticides" after the controversy arose from the study by Prof Seralini. "Until new studies are carried out to ensure the protection of human health, in the absence of the suspension of NK603 and Roundup, we ask that the studies that allowed the placing on the market of these products are reviewed, as permitted by the relevant Community and national laws," they write.
+ OF COURSE MONSANTO SAYS IT'S SAFE
Media reports have attempted to portray Seralini as having an anti-GM bias, for taking research money from a foundation that is anti-GM, and for not disclosing every piece of data to the public, writes Tim Schwab of Food and Water Watch. But they seldom, if ever, cover the opposite angle: that industry has funded much of the scientific literature we have about the safety of GM foods. Schwab writes, "These industry-funded studies aren‚Äôt science as much as they are public relations, always concluding that GM is safe and good. And in our broken regulatory system for these controversial new foods, these industry studies are also what regulators use to approve new genetically engineered crops for our food supply."
And three of the four peer-reviewed journals in which Monsanto published its safety studies on NK603 maize (the same maize that Seralini found was toxic) are sponsored by agribiz giants, including Pioneer, ADM, and indirectly by BASF and Monsanto (via the American Society of Animal Science).
+ MONSANTO SLEIGHT-OF-HAND IN ITS "SAFETY ASSURANCE" STUDY ON NK603 MAIZE
A former government research analyst explains how Monsanto disappeared statistically significant findings of harm in its 90-day "safety assurance" study on NK603 maize by introducing irrelevant extra "reference" control groups: "There were significant experimental differences between the test control and the treatments, but then enter the 6 Reference Controls, with all their added variation and noise, which were used to flush away the significance noted. The differences were not elaborated on in any details‚Ä¶ It looked like sleight of hand to me. It may be legitimate, but I want to see an argument for this practice before I can just accept it. EFSA just accepted it."
+ KAZAKHSTAN BANS IMPORT OF MONSANTO GM MAIZE
In the wake of Seralini's study, Kazakhstan has banned the import of GM corn NK603.
+ U.S FARMERS WARN EU: DON'T FOLLOW GM PATH TO AGRICULTURAL ARMAGEDDON
European agriculture will be irreparably damaged if the European Commission were to follow the US and authorise the cultivation of herbicide-tolerant GM (HTGE) crops, Greenpeace warned. The warning comes from the first ever forecast of how Europe would be impacted by the increased herbicide usage linked to HTGE crops, even as the European Commission considers authorising cultivation of 19 HTGE crops by early 2013.
Greenpeace commissioned agricultural economist Dr Charles Benbrook to produce the report "Glyphosate tolerant crops in the EU", which uses data based on the US' experience of HTGE crops. The report predicts up to 15-fold increases in the use of glyphosate over a period of 14 years (2012-2025) for HTGE corn, soy and sugar beet in the EU.
Said Benbrook: "Farmers in the US are already struggling, as they try to spray their way out of the corner they're backed into. The reliance on herbicide-tolerant crops in the US has triggered the emergence and rapid spread of nearly two dozen glyphosate-resistant weeds, driving up farm production costs, as well as the volume and ecotoxicity of herbicides needed to prevent major yield loss."
This sentiment is echoed in "Growing Doubt", a Greenpeace documentary filmed in Argentina and the US, where farming communities talk about how herbicide tolerant crop monocultures have affected their economy, environment and society. Wendel Lutz and Wes Shoemyer, two US farmers featured in the film, travelled to Europe to warn farmers against a fate similar to their own.
+ INDIA: TOP GM RESEARCHER FALSIFIED PATENT CLAIM TO GRAB AWARD
A top scientist engaged in research on GM food crops falsified claims about patents to grab a national award. The scientist, Dr Kailash C. Bansal, was given the prestigious Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Award for "outstanding research" in transgenic crops for the year 2007-2008 on the basis of claims that he had "filed three patents for novel gene discovery", including one on GM brinjal. In reality, no such patent application or patent existed when he was given the award.
Many prominent individuals and organisations across India, including big farmer federations and eminent citizens like Dr Pushpa Bhargava and Dr Vandana Shiva, have signed a letter to agriculture minister Sharad Pawar demanding the removal of Bansal from his position as director of India's National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources (NBPGR). The letter says, "This is outright scientific fraud and if a senior technocrat can make such a false claim, how is the invaluable germplasm collection of this country being entrusted into his hands and leadership in NBPGR? ...why is [an independent investigation] not being [under]taken in the case of these allegations... if not as a payback for his extra support to GM technology, and hobnobbing with MNCs [multinational corporations] and industry associations?"
BIG AG FAILURE
+ WHY IS AGRICULTURE STILL USING SO MUCH PESTICIDE?
There is new evidence that combining insecticides in a "pesticide cocktail" may increase harm, and GM crops have likely driven up pesticide use, writes Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman. Pesticide cocktails are the main item on agriculture's menu, with seeds treated with fungicides, as well as insecticide, and crops sprayed with various pesticides. Regulations do not take the effects of mixtures into account. At the root of the problem is the biological simplification of agriculture and the lack of diversity in the farm landscape.
+ FARMERS PROTEST RELEASE OF GM ALFALFA IN ONTARIO
Farmers and consumers protested industry plans to prepare for the release of GM alfalfa in Ontario. The protest, organized by the National Farmers Union (NFU), Grey Local 344, and NFU Region 3 (Ontario), was outside a Canadian Seed Trade Association (CSTA) workshop held in Kitchener-Waterloo to discuss a framework for 'coexistence' of GM and non-GM alfalfa varieties. "The CSTA's claim that it can prevent GM alfalfa from contaminating non-GM alfalfa crops is utterly absurd," stated Phil Woodhouse, president of NFU Grey County Local 344.
+ MONSANTO ROUNDUP READY ALFALFA SHOULD BE BLOCKED, COURT TOLD
Alfalfa genetically modified to withstand Roundup herbicide should be taken off the market because regulators didn't properly consider how it affects endangered plants and animals, environmental groups told a federal appeals court. Advocacy groups are seeking for the second time in six years to overturn the US Dept of Agriculture's decision to deregulate GM Roundup Ready alfalfa.
+ LAWSUIT ACCUSES MONSANTO OF EXPERIMENTING ON ST LOUIS PUBLIC HOUSING RESIDENTS
A class-action suit in circuit court in St Louis alleges that Monsanto used a housing project as a laboratory, conducting dangerous tests with toxic chemicals on the inhabitants without their consent.