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Boris Johnson, GMOs and Glyphosate: Irresponsible, Negligent and Criminal?

Boris Johnson, GMOs and Glyphosate: Irresponsible, Negligent and Criminal?  

Photograph Source: Richard Humphrey – CC BY-SA 2.0

In his first speech to parliament as British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson said: “Let’s start now to liberate the UK’s extraordinary bioscience sector from anti-genetic modification rules and let’s develop the blight-resistant crops that will feed the world.”

Johnson reads from a well-rehearsed script. The ‘GM will feed the world mantra’ is pure industry spin. There is already enough food being produced to feed the global population yet around 830 million are classed as hungry. Feeding the world effectively, sustainably and equitably involves addressing the in-built injustices of the global food system.

The never-ending push to force GM on the public under the guise of saving humanity is a diversion that leaves intact the root causes of world hunger and undernutrition: neoliberal deregulation and privatisation policies, unfair WTO rules, poverty, land rights issues, World Bank/IMF geopolitical lending strategies and the transformation of food secure regions into food deficit ones, etc.

Even in regions where productivity in agriculture lags behind or concerns exist about climate change, numerous high-level reports have recommended that (non-GMO) agroecological practices should be encouraged to enhance biodiversity and deal with food and climate crises.

However, pro-Brexiteer Conservative politicians talk of the essential need for Britain and the world to adopt GM is little more than an attempt to justify a post-Brexit trade deal with Washington that will effectively incorporate the UK into the US’s regulatory food regime. The type of ‘liberation’ Johnson really means is the UK adopting unassessed GM crops and food and a gutting of food safety and environmental standards.

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

‘Modified’: A Film About GMOs and the Corruption of the Food Supply for Profit

‘Modified’: A Film About GMOs and the Corruption of the Food Supply for Profit

Parts of the documentary Modified are spent at the kitchen table. But it’s not really a tale about wonderful recipes or the preparation of food. Ultimately, it’s a story of capitalism, money and power and how our most basic rights are being eroded by unscrupulous commercial interests.

The film centres on its maker, Aube Giroux, who resides in Nova Scotia, Canada. Her interest in food and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) was inspired by her mother, Jali, who also appears throughout. Aube says that when her parents bought their first house her mother immediately got rid of the lawn and planted a huge garden where she grew all kinds of heirloom vegetables, berries, flowers, legumes and garlic.

“She wanted me and my sister to grow up knowing the story behind the food that we ate, so our backyard was basically our grocery store,” says Aube.

During the film, we are treated not only to various outdoor scenes of the Giroux’s food garden (their ‘grocery store’) but also to Aube and her mother’s passion for preparing homemade culinary delights. The ‘backyard’ is the grocery store and much of Giroux family life revolves around the kitchen and the joy of healthy, nutritious food.

When GMOs first began appearing in food, Aube says that what bothered her mother was that some of the world’s largest chemical companies were patenting these new genetically engineered seeds and controlling the seed market.

In the film, Aube explains, “Farmers who grow GMOs have to sign technology license agreements promising never to save or replant the patented seeds. My mom didn’t think it was a good idea to allow corporations to engineer and then patent the seeds that we rely on for food. She believed that seeds belong in the hands of people.”

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Post-Brexit Farming, Glyphosate and GMOs

Post-Brexit Farming, Glyphosate and GMOs

The following is an edited and abridged version of an open letter recently sent by Dr Rosemary Mason to Michael Gove, the British Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. The full version containing relevant citations and additional data and information may be accessed here

You can also find on the site linked to all of Rosemary Mason’s previous work outlining the devastating impact of glyphosate and modern farming practices which remain in place due to the well-documented subversion of science and the corruption of governments and regulatory bodies by industry interests.

It seems likely that a post-Brexit trade deal with the US could mean more of the same and lead to the introduction of GM crops in the UK alongside the lowering of standards for the use of biocides in agriculture. Sainsbury Laboratory already has plans for a new open air field trial of GM potatoes on farms in Suffolk and Cambridge.

Below, Dr Mason lays out her concerns to Mr Gove.

***

Dear Michael Gove,

I am surprised to learn that from the huge number of scientists employed by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and Rothamsted Research (research institute involved in developing and testing GM crops) that not one of them has read the new book by Caius Rommens, former team leader at Monsanto. He helped create GM potatoes and has retracted his research as he explains in the book ‘Pandora’s Potatoes: The Worst GMOs’.

Professor Jonathan Jones, group leader for the Sainsbury Laboratory has worked for Monsanto in the past, so he has massive conflicts of interest.

It all shows an ignorance beyond belief!

In an interview with Sustainable Pulse, Caius Rommens has revealed the hidden dangers of the GMO potatoes he created:

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Breakthrough Energy Ventures: Our Malevolent Benefactors and Their Master Plan for Humanity

Bill Gates | Davos

Breakthrough Energy Ventures: Our Malevolent Benefactors and Their Master Plan for Humanity

The men who pull all the media, political and business levers in much of the world now want to pretend to save us from ourselves by backing GMOs and other questionable technologies.

ABusiness Insider story by author Aria Bendix caught my eye this morning by framing Bill Gates and his compatriot billionaires as “planet saving” heroes. According to the story, the same men who have made trillions off super-capitalism, and created a cabal that controls many governments, they’re now investing in six agricultural startups through Breakthrough Energy Ventures. One look at the investors should send shivers down any reasonable person’s spine. Let me frame this for you, painted with sarcasm so I retain my sanity.

Gates Loves Us to DEATH

Everyone knows how much Bill Gates loves humanity, he’s sold trillions of dollars worth of software, tablets, crummy smartphones, and even Monsanto poisons to us over the past few decades. But who among us can even fathom the warm and fuzzy adoration His Royal Highness Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia feels for the world? Why look! Right alongside Gates, Al Talal, and Amazon’s Bezos, there’s Richard Branson, Alibaba’s Jack Ma, and Carlyle Group co-founder David Rubenstein, just to mention a few of our most loving philanthropists. Yes, my friends, we are doomed by their fuzzy malevolence for certain.

The “mission” of Breakthrough Energy Ventures is to “commercialize energy innovation at scale,” at least according to the group’s narrative. I guess this means the fund is not about philanthropy after all (sorry, I am growing to hate these people).

 …click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Center for Science in the Public Interest Greg Jaffe Cornell and GMOs

Center for Science in the Public Interest Greg Jaffe Cornell and GMOs

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is known in public interest circles as one of the premiere food safety public interest groups in Washington, D.C.

But that reputation has suffered over the years because of the group’s stance on genetically modified organisms (GMOs) – including its opposition to mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

That GMO stance aligns CSPI with pro-GMO organizations and against other consumer groups – including Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union and US Right to Know.

In 2015, CSPI refused to debate Consumers Union’s Michael Hansen on the question of mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

“Why is CSPI defending a technology that has health and environmental risks but nearly no consumer benefits?” asked Gary Ruskin of US Right to Know at the time. “CSPI has done a lot of good work over the years. But on the issue of GMOs, they have lost their way.”

Now, Greg Jaffe, the head CSPI’s Biotechnology Project, has publically aligned himself with one of the most pro-GMO groups in the country – the Cornell Alliance for Science.

Jaffe works part time as the Cornell Alliance for Science associate director of legal affairs.

“CSPI contracts with Cornell for part of his salary to have Greg provide expert technical assistance to the Alliance for Science,” said CSPI’s Jeff Cronin. “The Alliance for Science, like CSPI, takes no donations from corporations and discloses its donors on its website.”

Cronin would not say how much Cornell is paying Jaffe.

(The Cornell Alliance for Science primary donor is the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. But the Alliance does list as one of its funders a corporation – Blue Mountain Capital, a hedge fund with $21 billion under management.)

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Agrarian Crisis: Father of Green Revolution in India Rejects GM Crops as Farmers Demand Justice in Delhi

Agrarian Crisis: Father of Green Revolution in India Rejects GM Crops as Farmers Demand Justice in Delhi

Genetically modified (GM) cotton in India is a failure. India should reject GM mustard. And like the Green Revolution, GM agriculture poses risks and is unsustainable. Regulatory bodies are dogged by incompetency and conflicts of interest. GM crops should therefore be banned.

You may have heard much of this before. But what is different this time is that the claims come from distinguished scientist P.C. Kesaven and his colleague M.S. Swaminathan, renowned agricultural scientist and geneticist and widely regarded as the father of the Green Revolution in India.

Consider what campaigner and farmer Bhaskar Save wrote in his now famous open letter in 2006:

“You, M.S. Swaminathan, are considered the ‘father’ of India’s so-called ‘Green Revolution’ that flung open the floodgates of toxic ‘agro’ chemicals, ravaging the lands and lives of many millions of Indian farmers over the past 50 years. More than any other individual in our long history, it is you I hold responsible for the tragic condition of our soils and our debt-burdened farmers, driven to suicide in increasing numbers every year.”

Back in 2009, Swaminathan was saying that no scientific evidence had emerged to justify concerns about GM crops, often regarded as stage two of the Green Revolution. In light of mounting evidence, however, he now condemns GM crops as unsustainable and says they should be banned in India.

In a new peer-reviewed paper in the journal Current Science, Kesaven and Swaminathan state that Bt insecticidal cotton has been a failure in India and has not provided livelihood security for mainly resource-poor, small and marginal farmers. These findings agree with those of others, many of whom the authors cite, including Dr K.R. Kranthi, former Director of the Central Institute for Cotton Research in Nagpur and Professor Andrew Paul Gutierrez and his colleagues.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Bioweapon? Scientists Sound Alarm Over DARPA Plans To Spread Viruses Using Insects

A team of scientist sounds the alarm in a new Science Policy Forum report about a mysterious US government program that is developing genetically modified viruses that would be dispersed into the environment using insects. The virus-infected or ‘Frankenstein’ insects are being developed as countermeasures against potential natural and engineered threats to the US food supply. The program is operated by the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA) could be viewed as an attempt to develop an entirely new class of bioweapons that would prompt other nations to seek similar weapons, they cautioned.

The researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Biology and the University of Freiburg both in Germany, and the University of Montpellier in France suggest DARPA’s program could likely breach the Biological Weapons Convention, the first multilateral disarmament treaty banning the development, production, and stockpiling of biological and toxin weapons.

Dubbed the “Insect Allies” program, DARPA began modifying insects in 2017, with the plan to produce more resilient crops to help farmers deal with climate change, drought, frost, floods, salinity, and disease, said Gizmodo. The technology at the center of the program is an entirely new method of genetically modifying crops. Instead of modifying seeds in a lab, farmers would send swarms of insects into their crops, where the genetically modified bugs would infect plants with a virus that passes along the new resilience genes, a process known as horizontal genetic alteration. Hence the technology’s name—Horizontal Environmental Genetic Alteration Agents (HEGAA).

For HEGAA to work, Gizmodo explains that DARPA labs develop a virus that is inserted into the chromosome of a target organism. Scientists would use leafhoppers, whiteflies, and aphids genetically altered in the lab using CRISPR, or a variant of a gene-editing system, to carry the virus into crops.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

GMO Agriculture and the Narrative of Choice

GMO Agriculture and the Narrative of Choice

The pro-GMO lobby claim critics of the technology ‘deny farmers choice’. They say that farmers should have access to a range of tools and technologies. It is all about maximising choice and options. Taken at face value, who would want to deny choice?

At the same time, however, we do not want to end up offering a false choice (rolling out technologies that have little value and only serve to benefit those who control the technology), to unleash an innovation that has an adverse impact on those who do not use it or to manipulate a situation whereby only one option is available because other options have been deliberately made unavailable or less attractive. And we would certainly not wish to roll out a technology that traps farmers on a treadmill that they find difficult to get off.

When discussing choice, it is can be very convenient to focus on end processes (choices made available – or denied – to farmers at the farm level), while ignoring the procedures and decisions that were made in corporate boardrooms, by government agencies and by regulatory bodies which result in the shaping and roll-out of options.

Where GMOs are concerned, Steven Druker argues that the decision to commercialise GM seeds and food in the US was based on regulatory delinquency. Druker indicates that if the US Food and Drug Administration had heeded its own experts’ advice and publicly acknowledged their warnings about risk, the GM venture would have imploded and would have never gained traction.

It is fine to talk about choice while ignoring what amounts to a subversion of democratic processes, which could result in (and arguably is resulting in) changing the genetic core of the world’s food. Whose ‘choice’ was it to do this? Was the choice given to the US public, the consumers of GM food? Did ordinary people choose for GM food to appear on their supermarket shelves?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

GMO Golden Rice Offers No Nutritional Benefits Says FDA

GMO Golden Rice Offers No Nutritional Benefits Says FDA

Golden Rice grain compared to white rice grain in screenhouse of Golden Rice plants. Photo: International Rice Institute.

The biotech industry and its supporters have promoted GMO Golden Rice for decades as an urgently needed solution to vitamin A deficiency.

But, in a surprising twist, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has concluded its consultation process on Golden Rice by informing its current developers, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), that Golden Rice does not meet the nutritional requirements to make a health claim.

Golden Rice refers to GMO rice plants modified to produce beta-carotene (also called provitamin A) in their grain. This latest version of Golden Rice contains three added genes. Two specify enzymes in the β-carotene biosynthesis pathway, and are taken from bacteria and maize. The third specifies a (non-antibiotic) selectable marker protein used in the modification process (Paine et al. 2005).

First described in the scientific literature over 18 years ago by public sector researchers (Ye et al. 2000), various public and private sector iterations of Golden Rice have subsequently been produced (Bollenidi et al. 2014). These represent repeated efforts to increase beta-carotene levels, while still maintaining plant vigor and yield.

The Golden Rice version submitted to FDA by IRRI, called event GR2E, is the only Golden Rice to have ever been submitted for regulatory approval. In 2017, it was approved for import by regulators in Australia, New Zealand, and Canada. Originally developed by Syngenta, Golden Rice GR2E is now funded by the Gates Foundation.

The letter containing FDA’s statement on GR2E’s lack of nutritional benefit was posted on May 25th, 2018 (FDA 2018b).

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector

The Royal Society and the GMO-Agrochemical Sector

The Royal Society in the UK is a self-governing fellowship of distinguished scientists. Its purpose is reflected in its founding charters of the 1660s: to recognise, promote and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity. Its motto, nullius in verba, is taken to mean ‘take nobody’s word for it’. It is an expression of the determination to withstand the domination of authority and to verify all statements by an appeal to facts based on experiment.

In 2015, Steven Druker challenged the Royal Society to justify its outspoken and partisan support of genetically modified (GM) crops and to correct any errors of fact in his book ‘Altered Genes,Twisted Truth’. Not long after the book’s release, he wrote an open letter to the Society calling on it to acknowledge and correct the misleading and exaggerated statements that is has used to actively promote genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and in effect convey false impressions.

Druker cited specific instances where members of the Royal Society have at various times made false statements and the Society’s actions were not objective or based on scientific reasoning but biased and stridently pro-GMO. He argued that the Royal Society has misrepresented the case for GMOs and has effectively engaged in a campaign of disinformation.

Almost three years later, from what we can gather, the Royal Society has not responded to Druker.

In August 2017, Druker wrote:

“For more than 20 years, many eminent scientists and scientific institutions have routinely claimed that genetically modified foods are safe. And because of the perceived authority of their pronouncements, most government officials and members of the media have believed them. But when the arguments these scientists employ to support their claims are subjected to scrutiny, it becomes clear that important facts have invariably been misrepresented — either deliberately or through substantial negligence. And when these facts are fairly considered, the arguments collapse.”

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Monsanto, Bayer and Neoliberalism: A Case of Hobson’s Choice

Monsanto, Bayer and Neoliberalism: A Case of Hobson’s Choice

A Bayer marketing professional recently stated on Twitter that critics of GMOs deny choice to farmers. It’s a common accusation by the pro-GMO lobby. In a previous article, I noted the idea that GMOs offer increased choice is erroneous and that, by implication, corporations like Bayer or Monsanto restrict options. Much evidence suggests that GMOs provide a false choice.

However, to get drawn into endless debates about the whys and wherefores of GMOs tends to overlook the fact that GMOs belong to a particular model of agriculture which is increasingly being challenged. To quote Charles Eisenstein from a recent piece, what we should be talking about is the “choice between two very different systems of food production, two visions of society, and two fundamentally different ways to relate to plants, animals, and soil” (the table featured here provides concise insight into these visions).

The fact that someone chooses to market for a giant transnational company says much about a person’s allegiance to and belief in corporate power, let alone the prevailing economic system that company benefits from and the model of agriculture it promotes. Corporate-inspired visions of the world tend to define choice – and indeed how the world should be – within strict parameters.

Choice, development and the future of agriculture in India 

If current trends in India continue, it could mean dozens of mega-cities with up to 40 million inhabitants and just 15-20% of the population (as opposed to around the current 60% or more) left in an emptied-out countryside. It could also mean hundreds of millions of former rural dwellers without any work.

Neil Young Slams Obama, Bayer, Says Fuck Monsanto!

Neil Young Slams Obama, Bayer, Says Fuck Monsanto!

Photo © Brian Bruner / Brian Bruner Photography

In addition to providing a stunning performance during the 31st Farm Aid concert in Bristow, VA Neil Young stole the show at the press conference before the event began.

While Farm Aid has always been focused on saving family farmers who are in distress, decades of corporate control and monopolization of the American food supply has forced the organization to also move toward helping restart the tradition of family farming and facilitating the good food movement. Obviously, GMOs have become a major issue as a result. So when it came time for Young to speak at the press conference, the godfather of grunge didn’t hold back.

Speaking fresh on the heels of the Bayer/Monsanto merger, Young spoke about the growing concern over corporate control over the food supply and the fact that this merger is a frightening new development in the corporate war on American agriculture. He also took aim at Barack Obama who has supported, facilitated, and pushed corporate control since the day he took office.

Young stated:

We have just begun. This is a revolution. And we will look back on this one way or the other in ten or fifteen years and see what folks like this are doing. We recently have seen giant corporations that are selling for billions and billions of dollars that are joining together and we heard just a few minutes ago about how somebody was eating bad food and got sick and had to take a lot of drugs and now they are eating good food and are starting to not take so many drugs. And you have to notice that one of the biggest drug companies on the planet and one the largest pesticide providers on the planet, Monsanto and Bayer, have just joined together.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Why the fight for GMO labeling is (possibly) over

Why the fight for GMO labeling is (possibly) over

Ever since it became clear that Vermont’s law for mandatory labeling of foods containing genetically engineered ingredients would actually go into force this summer, the big question has been how many food companies would choose to label their products and how many would choose simply not to sell in Vermont.

There is a third choice which purveyor of canned fruits and vegetables, Del Monte Foods, announced recently. The company will eliminate all genetically engineered ingredients from its foods, obviating the need for special labeling. This won’t be too difficult since there are very few genetically engineered fruits and vegetables.

While the Vermont law is huge victory for the proponents of labels, the U.S. Congress could still pre-empt state labeling laws, something it failed to do earlier this year. But as more and more of the public demands to know which products have so-called genetically modified organisms or GMOs in them and as the number of products on grocery shelves with non-GMO verified labels increases, growers and processors may have no choice but to acquiesce. They may be forced by circumstances either to label their products (or automatically be suspected of trying to hide something for not doing so) or to eliminate GMO crops and ingredients for fear of losing customers regardless of what happens in Congress or in other states.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb, author of The Black Swan and other books on risk, explains why this is so in a draft chapter of an upcoming book called Skin in the Game. His investigation begins with why nearly every packaged drink in the United States is labeled certified kosher.

 

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Monsanto threatens to quit Indian GM-cotton market if govt cuts its royalties

Monsanto threatens to quit Indian GM-cotton market if govt cuts its royalties

Farmers plough and sow cotton seeds in a field in Shahpur village, India © Amit Dave
American agrochemical giant Monsanto has threatened to pull out of India and hold back new genetically modified cotton technologies if the government continues its “arbitrary and potentially destructive” interventions that seek to cut the company’s royalty fees.

Last year the Indian government issued an order to control cotton seed prices effective from the 2016-17 crop year. In a ruling, the antitrust regulator, Competition Commission of India, accused the GMO giant of potentially abusing its dominant position on the market. The Agriculture Ministry set up a special committee tasked with implementing brackets for seed price along with royalty fees, after the completion of an investigation into the matter.

Mahyco Monsanto Biotech (MMB), a joint venture with India’s Mahyco, licenses its products to a number of local seed companies in exchange for royalties. The company also sells seeds directly though the local licensees.

All in all the US subsidiary control some 90 percent of the market, as the agricultural biotechnology corporation serves over seven million cotton farmers in India.

However the new government commission is keen to reduce the price of the crop after local seeds companies filed complaints that MMB was charging high fees to sub-license BT cotton seed technology since 2002. The government is reportedly planning to reduce the royalties of its genetically modified cotton seeds by 70 percent.

Monsanto has challenged the government order in Delhi High Court which asked the American monopolist to pay compensation to farmers, threatening to leave the Indian market.

“If the committee recommends imposing a sharp, mandatory cut in the trait fees paid on BT-cotton seeds, MMBL will have no choice but to re-evaluate every aspect of our position in India,” Monsanto India Region CEO Shilpa Divekar said.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Brave New Food: GEs and Clones are Heading to the Dinner Table

Brave New Food: GEs and Clones are Heading to the Dinner Table

Consumers, safety activists, Big Food, biotech companies and many of the US’s importing and exporting partners have been closely watching to see if the FDA would approve the genetically engineered AquAdvantage Salmon, which it did last month. Of course unlabeled GE crops are eaten by millions and GE animals have been created to make human drugs largely under the public radar. Still the AquAdvantage Salmon is the first approved GE animal destined for the US dinner table.

The AquAdvantage Salmon is not the only GE food animal in the works. Scientists at the Roslin Institute at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland, where Dolly the cloned sheep was created, have spent years creating chickens that can be used as “biofactories” to make eggs with interferon and other disease-fighting substances.

“Once you’ve made the transgenic birds, then it’s very easy,” enthused scientist Helen Sang, PhD. “You can breed up hundreds of birds from one cockerel [young male]—because they can be bred with hundreds of hens and you can collect an egg a day and have hundreds of chicks in no time.

Other researchers are working on animals engineered to contain omega-3. Scientists at Harvard Medical School, the University of Missouri and the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center have concocted “white piglets with muscle tissue larded with omega-3 fatty acids,” say published reports. All they had to do was modify a round-worm enzyme that converts omega-6 to omega-3, inject the gene into mouse embryos to create mice that make their own omega-3, and transfer the genetic material into pigs–and voila!

“People can continue to eat their junk food,” said Harvard’s Alexander Leaf, MD about the brave new pigs. “You won’t have to change your diet, but you will be getting what you need.” Aren’t animals great?

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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