The farce of GMO industry safety studies

In a GMO industry safety study designed to test the effects of feeding a GMO canola to rats, the test animals were fed GMOs and pesticides and control animals were also fed – er – GMOs and pesticides. Unsurprisingly, the study found no effect from feeding the GM food under test and concluded it was safe. In spite of its poor design, the study could be used to gain regulatory approval for the GM Roundup-tolerant canola under test. This latest farcical episode in GMO safety testing was uncovered by Prof Gilles-Eric Seralini's team and published as a letter to the editor of the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. The FCT editor forcibly retracted Seralini's study on GM maize NK603 maize and Roundup, which, in contrast with this useless industry study, carefully controlled for GMOs and pesticides in the control rats' diet – and did find toxic effects in the GMO-fed rats.

DuPonts GMO Canola safety study exposed

Glyphosate in malformed pigletsGlyphosate found in malformed piglets – study

Glyphosate has been found in malformed piglets. The research study was conducted by researchers from Germany and Egypt in collaboration with the Danish pig farmer Ib Pedersen, whose pigs were analysed for glyphosate content. The more glyphosate was in the feed, the higher the number of malformations were found.

Organic food richer in compounds linked to better health, lower in toxins

Organic food has more of the antioxidant compounds linked to better health than regular food, and lower levels of toxic metals and pesticides, according to the most comprehensive scientific analysis to date. "The crucially important thing about this research is that it shatters the myth that how we farm does not affect the quality of the food we eat," said Helen Browning, chief executive of the UK organic certification body, the Soil Association.

Sweet victory for Mexico beekeepers as Monsanto loses GM permit

A small group of beekeepers in Mexico has inflicted a blow on Monsanto, which has halted the company’s ambitions to plant thousands of hectares of GM Roundup Ready soybeans. A district judge in the state of Yucatán last month overturned a permit issued to Monsanto by Mexico’s agriculture ministry, Sagarpa, and environmental protection agency, Semarnat, in June 2012 that allowed commercial planting of the GM soybeans.

USDA signals approval of Dow's 2,4-D-resistant seeds

The US Dept of Agriculture has announced final plans to give Dow the green light to begin marketing its controversial 2,4-D-resistant seeds. The move came in spite of doctors, scientists and business leaders urging Congress to pressure the Obama administration to reject an application to market “Enlist Duo,” a new toxic herbicide mix of 2,4-D and glyphosate. The USDA also announced its preliminary decision to approve Monsanto's dicamba-resistant seeds. Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network, said, "We are outraged. Today USDA has turned its back on America’s farmers and rural communities."

US: Fish and Wildlife will phase out GM crops and ban bee-killing pesticides on national refuges

The US Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) will phase outthe use of GM crops to feed wildlife and ban neonicotinoid insecticides from all wildlife refuges nationwide by January 2016.

EPA denies Texas’ emergency request to use dangerous herbicide on GMO cotton fields

The US Environmental Protection Agency has denied an emergency use request to use the hazardous herbicide propazine to kill resistant superweeds infesting the state’s GMO herbicide-tolerant cotton.

GMO climate change myth bites the dust

The role of no-till agriculture in mitigating climate change is "widely overstated", according to a new review published in Nature. In no-till with GM herbicide-tolerant crop systems, weeds are controlled not through ploughing but through herbicide applications.

US Midwestern farmers fighting superweeds are being told to go back to deep tillage

Farmers fighting glyphosate-resistant superweeds are being advised to return to deep tillage in an effort to combat the weeds.

Black root rot suspected in Louisiana soybeans

A devastating disease called black root rot is spreading throughout the Louisiana GM soybean crop. Could it be a glyphosate-related problem?

Scientists challenge makeup of panel meant to evaluate GMO risks

In the US, 64 scientists and researchers submitted an open letter to the National Academy of Science’s National Research Council (NRC), strongly criticizing the council's proposal of a panel of experts tasked with completing a new NRC study on GMO risks. Dr Marcia Ishii-Eiteman of Pesticide Action Network North America, one of the signatories, explained, "We are deeply disturbed by NRC’s creation of a panel that appears predisposed to endorse GE crops, without undertaking a balanced and evidence-based assessment of the real-world impacts of the technology."

Condé Nast making propaganda for Monsanto

Condé Nast business representatives are trying to get big-name, respected charity groups to agree to be featured in a piece of celebrity-studded Monsanto propaganda in exchange for money. Condé Nast dangled cash before several high-profile food politics writers in an unsuccessful attempt to convince them to participate in their Monsanto-sponsored video series on "food, food chains, and sustainability". Marion Nestle, author of the book "Food Politics" and a professor at New York University, was offered $5,000 to participate for a single afternoon (she said no).

US: The GMO fight ripples down the food chain

Facing consumer pressure, more firms are jettisoning GMOs from their foods.

Battle over GMO food labelling heats up

The GMO lobby is strategizing to defeat mandatory labelling initiatives in the US and whitewash the image of GMOs in social and publishing media. An article for the farm press gives a fascinating rundown of the strategy, which includes seeking out negative tweets about GMOs and referring the authors to the GMO lobbying website

Big Food uses mommy bloggers to shape public opinion

Monsanto paid bloggers $150 each to attend “an intimate and interactive panel” with “two female farmers and a team from Monsanto” as part of a stealth marketing programme to promote Big Food.

Why Marc Gunther can't be trusted on GMOs

The Guardian's "sustainable business" editor misrepresented a scientist's arguments and scientific evidence to promote GMOs.

Are anti-GMO activists just like global warming-denying conservatives?

It's unjustifiable for defenders of science to lump together global warming-denying conservatives and anti-GMO activists as disturbingly anti-science, writes biologist Kamil Ahsan in an interesting article.

GMO field trials put on hold in India

GMO field trials have been put on hold by India's new government after the GMO regulator GEAC's hasty approval of several applications for GMO field trials met with heavy criticism from many quarters. A group of senior scientists wrote to the prime minister to voice their concern about GEAC's "shocking" move. Pushpa M. Bhargava, founder director of the Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology, Hyderabad, argued that India does not GM technology to feed its increasing population, adding that GM was about US control of the food supply.

The Coalition for a GM-Free India said the decision contradicted the recommendations of the Supreme Court's technical expert committee, that no GM field trials should be conducted until a competent regulatory regime is put in place. Another critic said GEAC seemed determined to ignore scientific evidence questioning the safety of GMO crops in its rush to blindly approve them. Yet another critic pointed out that GM crops won’t solve India’s food crisis. Vandana Shiva wrote that Monsanto and its lobbyists are today’s Church and independent scientists speaking the truth about GMOs and their impacts are today’s Galileos.

Bollworms develop resistance against Bt cotton in Pakistan

Farmers and agriculture scientists in Pakistan are alarmed by the destructive attack of bollworms this year that seem to have developed resistance against the GM Bt cotton crop.

GM canola failed to germinate in Australia

In 2013 Australian farmers found problems with a GM Roundup Ready canola, which failed to germinate properly, and asked for compensation.

Brazilian farmers want compensation for four failed GMO crops

Brazilian farmers want four major manufacturers of Bt corn seeds to reimburse them for the cost of spraying up to three applications of pesticides this year, after the corn failed to kill the target pests. An industry-sponsored study shows that pests became resistant to Bt maize 1507 by the third year of cultivation.

Alarm at new dengue emergency where GM mosquito trials conducted

Civil society groups expressed alarm at an increase in dengue incidence, leading to an emergency decree, in Jacobina, Brazil, where releases of GM mosquitoes are taking place. The GM mosquitoes were supposed to combat dengue. "It is extraordinary that experiments with Oxitec's GM mosquitoes continue and commercial releases have even been approved without any monitoring of the effect on dengue", said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK. "The declaration of a dengue emergency in Jacobina should be a wake-up call for the authorities."

GMO tobacco Ebola drug under the spotlight

An experimental drug made from GM tobacco has had promising initial results in treating Ebola virus infection in two American aid workers who contracted the disease in Africa. However, even if the aid workers recover, more study is needed to confirm whether the drug works in others, say experts. GMO pharma crop drugs have had very limited success. Also the new drug contains monoclonal antibodies, and drugs of this type have had terrible side effects in the past. Read more

Salvadoran farmers successfully oppose the use of Monsanto seeds

Farmers across El Salvador united to block a stipulation in a US aid package to their country that would have indirectly required the purchase of Monsanto GM seeds.

Pennsylvania Dept of Agriculture cracks down on seed library

The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has told a public library that its seed library violates the state's Seed Act and must cease operating. It's also said it intends to "crack down" on similar seed libraries.

Farmers, environmental groups defend moratorium of GMO crops on Hawaii’s Big Island

A coalition of local farmers and environmental groups have filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to defend a Hawaii County ordinance that imposes a moratorium on the expansion of GM crops on the Big Island.

GM golden rice paper to be retracted amid ethics scandal

The serious breaches of medical and scientific ethics of the GM golden rice trials on Chinese children appear to have been recognised by the journal that published the research paper reporting the experiments. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition is reportedly retracting the paper, though the lead researcher on the paper is also reported to be suing the journal over the retraction. The main concerns appear to be lack of informed consent on the part of the human subjects – neither the children nor their parents were told the rice was GM, nor were they informed of the possible risks.

Another unethical GMO human trial planned

In what appears to be a "new norm" for GM foods, researchers are going straight from genetically modifying a banana to trials on humans without doing the ethically necessary step of testing for toxicity on animals first.

Sense About Science misleads over chief scientific advisor role

The position of chief scientific advisor to the EU Commission President should be scrapped in the interests of scientific integrity and the public interest, a group of NGOs, including Greenpeace and GMWatch, has told the incoming President, Jean-Claude Juncker. Currently the post is held by Anne Glover, whose unscientific GMO promotionals have made her – and the position of chief science advisor – notorious. The pro-GMO lobby group Sense About Science (SAS) sprang to the post's defence, writing an open letter asking the EU President to keep the position, and many scientists and scientific organisations signed on. But SAS seriously misled the signatories, claiming in the letter that Glover had delivered "impartial and rigorous advice” to the Commission. In fact her advice has been kept secret, so no one knows whether Glover's advice has been "impartial and rigorous" or a large pile of prejudice and moonshine. SAS also misled the public, with the organisation's Sile Lane claiming on BBC radio that Glover was a model of transparency. In reality, not only has Glover's advice never been transparent, but Glover subsequently told the press that in future all advice from the chief scientific advisor should remain “not transparent” and immune from public scrutiny!

Opposition grows to EU-US trade deal

One hundred French celebrities have launched a campaign against the TTIP trade deal between the US and Europe. The protesters say the new treaty will lower economic standards and bring a large influx of GMO products from the US. A group of German physicians and scientists has called on Chancellor Angela Merkel to use her influence to halt TTIP in the interests of public health and the environment. And the European Ombudsman has called for documents related to the talks to be published.

EFSA plays down risks of Monsanto´s GM oilseed rape

Monsanto's application for the import into Europe of GM oilseed rape be refused because experience in other countries shows it could spread uncontrollably, says the research group Testbiotech.

Society must be protected from "genome editing": scientists

The GMO lobby is trying to win public acceptance and a regulatory light touch for new GM techniques, which they call "genome editing". But a section from the report GMO Myths and Truths explains why genome editing is still imprecise and must be regulated just like any other GM technique. Shortly after this lobbying effort, which showed the hand of the Science Media Centre, scientists went public with their concerns about the risks of one application of "genome editing", saying it could cause "ecological mayhem" and asking for more regulatory scrutiny.

Independent safety reviews will foster trust in GM technology

Industry tests claiming GMOs are safe should be independently repeated, writes Prof Jack Heinemann in an article for The Conversation.

UK government accused of "GM baby" cover-up

The British government stands accused by scientists of misleading the public by refusing to acknowledge that babies born through a new controversial IVF technique will be genetically modified. Read more


Quotes of the month

Ashwani Mahajan

"The so-called science, which is being promoted by big businesses is becoming a superstition; one should not follow it blindly. They say that the US has adopted GMO foods, but they are telling half-truth as consumers are not ready for GM food. People all around the world are unhappy." – Ashwani Mahajan, national convenor of the Swadeshi Jagaran Manch, the economic wing of the political group Sangh Parivar, India. Read more

Colin Tudge

"I keep coming across the same phenomenon: scholars of all kinds, but especially scientists and economists, no longer seeking dispassionately after truth as they are generally understood to do, but using their talents and their education to defend the status quo – the prevailing economy and mode of government and the ideas that lie behind them, moral and otherwise. They do this even though it is obvious to all thinking people that the status quo will not do." – Colin Tudge, science writer and founder, Campaign for Real Farming, UK. Read more

>GMO Myths and Truths

The second edition of GMO Myths and Truths, co-authored by genetic engineers Dr John Fagan and Dr Michael Antoniou and researcher Claire Robinson, has been released as a free online download.

10 reasons we don't need GM foods

"10 reasons we don't need GM foods", a new short report from the authors of "GMO Myths and Truths", has been published as a free download.

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