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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…

After Reading This Article About The Danger Of GMOs, You Will Probably Never Want To Eat Genetically-Modified Food Again

After Reading This Article About The Danger Of GMOs, You Will Probably Never Want To Eat Genetically-Modified Food Again

Every single day, most Americans eagerly gobble down foods that contain ingredients that have been genetically-modified without ever considering the consequences.  Most of us simply assume that the federal government would never allow us to eat GMOs if they were not safe.  Unfortunately, it appears that the federal government has completely failed us.  The material that I am about to share with you is deeply disturbing, and after reading this article there is a very good chance that you will never want to eat genetically-modified food ever again.  But at this point it is almost impossible to completely avoid GMOs, because they are in almost everything.  Unless they are specifically designated “organic”, most corn, soy, canola and sugar beets grown in America today have been genetically modified, and almost all packaged foods contain ingredients derived from at least one of those sources.

We’ll get into some of the potential health effects of eating foods derived from GMO crops in a moment, but first I want to discuss a new trend that is potentially even more dangerous.

In recent years, researchers have been pushing the boundaries of biology in order to come up with new “plant-based” alternatives to existing food products.  Essentially, “synthetic biology” is being used “to create life forms from scratch”

Impossible’s “bleeding” veggie burger, shrimp made of algae, and vegan cheeses that melt are all making their way into restaurants and on to supermarket shelves, offering consumers a new generation of plant-based proteins that look, act, and taste far more like the real thing than ever before.

What consumers may not realize, however, is that many of these new foods are made using synthetic biology, an emerging science that applies principles of genetic engineering to create life forms from scratch.

 …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…

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 Science of a Vanishing Planet


Dorothea Lange Gravestone St. George, Utah 1953
There are numerous ways to define the Precautionary Principle. It’s something we can all intuitively understand, but which many parties seek ways to confuse since it has the potential to stand in the way of profits. Still, in the end it should all be about proof, not profits. That is exactly what the Principle addresses. Because if you first need to deliver scientific proof that some action or product can be harmful to mankind and/or the natural world, you run the risk of inflicting irreversible damage before that proof can be delivered.

In one of many definitions, the 1998 Wingspread Statement on the Precautionary Principle says: “When an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment, precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause and effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”

Needless to say, that doesn’t easily fly in our age of science and money. Cigarette makers, car manufacturers and oil companies, just to name a few among a huge number of industries, are all literally making a killing while the Precautionary Principle is being ignored. Even as it is being cited in many international treaties. Lip service “R” us. Are these industries to blame when they sell us our products, or are we for buying them? That’s where governments must come in to educate us about risks. Which they obviously do not.

Nassim Nicholas Taleb -of Black Swan and Antifragile fame- has made the case, in his usual strong fashion, for applying the Precautionary Principle when it comes to GMOs. His argument is that allowing genetically modified organisms in our eco- and foodsystems carries unknown risks that we have no way of overseeing, and that these risks may cause irreversible damage to the very systems mankind relies on for survival.

Taleb is not popular among GMO producers. Who all insist there is no evidence that their products cause harm. But that is not the point. The Precautionary Principle, if it is to be applied, must turn the burden of proof on its head. The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. Monsanto et al must prove that their products do no harm. They can not. Which is why they have, and need, huge lobbying, PR and legal departments.

…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.

GMOs, Global Agribusiness and the Destruction of Choice 

GMOs, Global Agribusiness and the Destruction of Choice 

One of the myths perpetuated by the pro-GMO (genetically modified organisms) lobby is that critics of GMOs in agriculture are denying choice to farmers and have an ideological agenda. The narrative is that farmers should have access to a range of tools and technologies, including GM crops.

Before addressing this issue, we should remind ourselves that GMOs have been illegitimately placed on the commercial market due to the bypassing of regulations. Steven Druker’s book Altered Genes,Twisted Truths (2015) indicates that the commercialisation of GM food in the US was based on a massive fraud. The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) files revealed that GM foods first achieved commercialisation in 1992 but only because the FDA covered up the extensive warnings of its own scientists about their dangers, lied about the facts and then violated federal food safety law by permitting GM food to be marketed without having been proven safe through standard testing.

If the FDA had heeded its own experts’ advice and publicly acknowledged their warnings that GM foods entailed higher risks than their conventional counterparts, Druker says that the GM food venture would have imploded and never gained traction anywhere.

It is highly convenient for the pro-GMO lobby to talk about choice while ignoring such a massive subversion of democratic procedures and processes which could (and arguably is) changing the genetic core of the world’s food.

The denial of choice is a very important accusation. But just what is it that critics are said to be denying farmers? The pro-GMO lobby say that GM crops can increase yields, reduce the use of agrochemicals and are required if we are to feed the world. To date, however, the track record of GMOs is unimpressive.

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

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…

Monsanto and Bayer: Why Food and Agriculture Just Took a Turn For The Worse

Monsanto and Bayer: Why Food and Agriculture Just Took a Turn For The Worse

News broke this week that Monsanto accepted a $66 billion takeover bid from Bayer. The new company would control more than 25 per cent of the global supply of commercial seeds and pesticides. Bayer’s crop chemicals business is the world’s second largest after Syngenta, and Monsanto is the leading commercial seeds business.

Monsanto held a 26 per cent market share of all seeds sold in 2011. Bayer (mainly a pharmaceuticals company) sells 17 per cent of the world’s total agrochemicals and also has a comparatively small seeds sector. If competition authorities pass the deal, the combined company would be the globe’s largest seller of both seeds and agrochemicals.

The deal marks a trend towards consolidation in the industry with Dow and DuPont having agreed to merge and Swiss seed/pesticide giant Syngenta merging with ChemChina, a Chinese government concern.

The mergers would mean that three companies would dominate the commercial agricultural seeds and chemicals sector, down from six – Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont. Prior to the mergers, these six firms controlled 60 per cent of commercial seed and more than 75 per cent of agrochemical markets.

Alarm bells are ringing with the European Commission putting its approval of the Dow-DuPont deal temporarily on hold, and the US Senate Judiciary Committee is about to hold hearings on the deal due to concerns about consolidation in the industry, which has resulted in increased seed and pesticide prices.

In response to the Monsanto-Bayer merger, US National Farmers Union President Roger Johnson issued the following statement:

“Consolidation of this magnitude cannot be the standard for agriculture, nor should we allow it to determine the landscape for our future. The merger between Bayer and Monsanto marks the fifth major deal in agriculture in the last year…

…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…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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