Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Monday, 23 August 2010

GMO and pesticides, 08.2010

A log delayed post, but I think you'll appreciate it. I gathered quite a collection of articles about GMO crops. Even if I might have some problems with Google, still I preferred to paste them here, before they disappeared. I hope you find them just as enlightening as I do.
Naked Capitalism-India Defies Monsanto, Says No to GMO Crops - amazing post
Urgent: USDA to rule on mutant alfalfa - a petition against approving of GMO alfalfa
Common weedkiller turns male frogs into females - imagine what it does on humans
E.U. Clears Biotech Potato for Cultivation -
GM potato to be grown in Europe - comments

  1. Debate over GM eggplant consumes India
  2. Dairy producers lose productivity going organic, but can save on feed
  3. Monsanto Pulls GM Corn Amid Serious Food Safety Concerns
  4. Is Genetically Modified Corn Toxic?
  5. 'Genetically modified crops benefit farmers'
  6.  Research links pesticides with ADHD in children
  7. Evidence of First Virus That Infects Both Plants and Humans
  8. Scientists uncover transfer of genetic material between blood-sucking insect and mammals
  9. EU governments seen opposing GM crop proposals

 Debate over GM eggplant consumes India

MUMBAI (Reuters) - The purple eggplant that Indian shopper Tanuja Krishnan picks out at a Mumbai market stall every week is an unlikely protagonist in a raging debate about whether genetically modified foods should be introduced into India.

A genetically modified version of eggplant, a staple in fiery curries, was slated to be the first GM food introduced into India in a bid to stabilize food prices and mitigate some of the effects of climate change on Indian food crop yields.
Yet, Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh blocked the release of the vegetable until further notice following an outcry by environmentalists and some farmers. The opposition to GM foods was so heated that some protesters burned effigies.
Ramesh said there was not enough public trust to support the introduction of such crops into India's food supply until more research was done to remove all doubts that GM foods were safe for consumption.
But while those from the camp that opposed GM foods are celebrating, there are concerns that rising food prices will be a major problem for Indian policymakers in the future unless the country starts embracing genetically-modified food crops.
India's farm sector has changed very little since the advent of the Green Revolution with crop yields failing to keep up with soaring population growth and rising incomes.At the same time, damage to crops from pests and disease have worsened due to rising temperatures from climate change.
Known as Bt brinjal, the Indian word for aubergine, the GM vegetable is able to resist some pests responsible for devastating crops across India thanks to a gene from soil bacteria called 'bacillus thuringniensis' (Bt).
The moratorium against the release of the GM eggplant followed harsh criticism by environmentalists and farmers who demanded rigorous testing and labeling standards before Bt brinjal was cultivated.India's Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) opened the way for the commercial cultivation of Bt brinjal last October, seven years after approving Bt cotton, which is now grown on more than 80 percent of total cotton area.Thanks to genetically modified cotton, India has become the world's second largest cotton producer and exporter after China, with about 5 million farmers growing Bt cotton.
India is the world's second largest producer of eggplant after China and the vegetable is also used in traditional medicine to treat diabetes and hypertension.About 1.4 million farmers grow eggplant, which is very susceptible to pest attacks. Farmers tend to spray the crop with pesticides 30-50 times during a crop cycle.
Even though the GM seeds for the vegetable would likely cost three times the price and farmers would need to purchase seeds for every sowing rather than reusing crop seeds, proponents say the extra expenses would be compensated by lower pesticide costs and less devastating crop loses."You have a large population that's growing in affluence, but our resources -- land, water, cheap labor -- are all shrinking, so we have to increase output quickly and efficiently," said Gyanendra Shukla, director of Monsanto India Ltd.
"I don't see any other option but GM crops."
Since Monsanto launched the world's first GM crop in 1996, more than 25 countries have taken to biotech crops including soybean, corn, tomato, squash, papaya and sugarbeet.
Bt brinjal was developed by Maharashtra Hybrid Seeds Co (Mahyco) under license from Monsanto, and estimates show economic benefits from higher yields could top $400 million a year.
GEAC has also approved studies of GM okra, tomato and rice, but opponents say GM should be a last resort.
Aside from health and safety concerns, critics worry that the widespread use of GM crops will put India's food supply largely in the hands of a few giant corporations that make the seeds.There is also the possibility of genetic contamination if the Bt genes cross pollinate with other varieties.
A recent report by U.S. health and environment protection groups said that rather than reduce the use of pesticides, genetically engineered crops had actually prompted increased use of these chemicals, caused an epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds and resulted in more chemical residues in foods.
 sourceMy comment: ( More) Amazing article. Especially if you combine it with the recent articles about GM canola in USA which escaped in the wild and two different strands started to breed together and exchange genes. Also, it gives new perspective to the idea of Roundup resistant weeds - people started actually plowing their fields! So I find it hard to buy Monsanto's version about this eggplant. The yields fall not so much because of the lack of pesticides, but because of changing climate conditions and probably bad technology. Even if the GM version can handle the new conditions better, it's still very questionable if it will increase the net profit of farmers, because they'll have to buy seeds and special pesticides. Not  to mention the safety side (they are among the largest producer so if you compromise the safety of the plants, it can become very ugly!) and also the environment risk - the more GM plants around, the bigger chance of interbreeding and gene-exchanges leading to super-resistant weeds! And also the comparison with cotton has no place - people don't eat cotton as far as I know!

Dairy producers lose productivity going organic, but can save on feed

February 2, 2010 by Brian Wallheimer
( -- While dairy producers can expect less milk when switching from conventional to organic production, they may be able to cut some costs on expensive feed, according to Purdue University studies.
Using U.S. Department of Agriculture data that includes information specific to organic dairy producers, a team led by Joseph Balagtas, an assistant professor of agricultural economics, found that organic dairy producers produce about 13 percent less milk compared to peers using conventional production methods. He said that knowledge is critical for dairy producers who might be interested in going organic.
Dairy producers must meet stringent protocols to be certified organic. Cows cannot receive antibiotics or hormones, feed must be certified organic and herds must have access to certified organic pastures.
In another study published in the Journal of Agricultural & Food Industrial Organization, Balagtas' team found that those organic producers could cut as much as 22 percent of production costs if they grow their own feed, though the same isn't true for conventional producers.
Organic dairy producers cannot use feedstock that has been grown with pesticides and other chemicals, making it more expensive. And since there are fewer organic growers than conventional, sourcing organic feed typically means increased transportation costs for dairy producers.
"If you're located in a climate that permits it, you can reduce costs by growing your own organic feed," Balagtas said. "Establishing organic crop production is costly, but this research says that over time you would pay off that investment."
Balagtas said comparisons were based on producers of a similar size in the same region using similar technology and management practices. source
My comment: I find this article quite interesting mostly because it shows that going organic is not as dramatic as people suggest. And also, just not what kind of stuff are usually found in your milk - antibiotics, growth hormones and so on. Nasty, huh?

Monsanto Pulls GM Corn Amid Serious Food Safety Concerns

 by Dr. Brian John February 10, 2010

For the first time, a GM multinational has pulled two GM corn varieties from the regulatory and assessment process at the eleventh hour (1), after planning for a future income of several billion dollars per year from global sales (2).
Monsanto has abandoned its ambitious plans for a so-called “second generation GM crop” rather than accede to a request from European regulators for additional research and safety data (3).
Under conditions of great secrecy, Monsanto has informed EFSA that it no longer wishes to pursue its application for approval of GM maize LY038 and the stacked variety LY038 x MON810. Both of these varieties were designed to accelerate the growth rate of animals. Two letters were sent to EFSA from the Monsanto subsidiary company Renessen at the end of April this year confirming the withdrawal of its applications originally submitted in 2005 and 2006. The letters cite “decreased commercial value worldwide” and state that the high-lysene varieties “will no longer be a part of the Renessen business strategy in the near future.” (4) There has been no announcement of these decisions on the Monsanto web site, and there are no mentions on EFSA or European Commission web sites either. In other words, there is a conspiracy of silence involving both the applicants and the regulators.
The two letters sent to EFSA in April requested the return of all dossier material (varietal characterization, experimental protocols, and test results) which was submitted with the applications for cultivation, animal feed and human food (4). EFSA acceded to this request, making it impossible for any future independent researchers to analyse the Monsanto / Renessen data. That in itself is profoundly disturbing.
Scientists who have followed these two applications are quite convinced that the “decisions to withdraw” have nothing to do with commercial considerations and everything to do with food safety. In other words, the varieties are too dangerous to be allowed onto the open market — although they would certainly have been approved by EFSA and most other European regulatory authorities had it not been for the diligence of independent scientists in New Zealand who subjected the application dossiers to very close scrutiny (5). In the absence of such scrutiny in the United States, the varieties were approved in 2005 for cultivation, animal feed and human food use on the other side of the Atlantic (6). Consents for food and feed use were also given in Japan, Canada, the Philippines, and South Korea. In 2007 Food Standards Australia and New Zealand (FSANZ) approved LY038 for food and feed use in spite of strenuous objections from the Green Party and scientists at Canterbury University’s Centre for Integrated Research in Biosafety (INBI) who warned that the new corn was not safe for humans when cooked (7). They also expressed concerns about unpredictable health effects, increased levels of toxins in high-lysene corn, and possible allergies and links to cancer.
It does not appear that the varieties have been grown or “commercialized” anywhere in the world (8), although test plantings probably occurred in the United States.
While INBI’s detailed and devastating analysis of the applicant’s supporting dossiers was dismissed out of hand by FSANZ, EFSA was forced to take it seriously because of concerns from a large number of European countries including Finland and Malta. The scientific bases of those concerns were highlighted by Jeffrey Smith in his book “Genetic Roulette” and by Prof Jack Heinemann in his book “Hope not Hype” (9). The Monsanto dossiers included rigged research and false assumptions in the reported experiments; a failure to offer any test results based on cooked or processed corn; a failure to test the whole GM plant in feeding trials; confusing and contradictory characterizations of the GM varieties and proteins; a fraudulent mixing of GM strains during trials; a pooling of crop data so as to mask undesirable effects in experiments; feeding trials too short to reveal true physiological changes in animal tissues; and the choice of an irrelevant, unrelated corn variety as the control group for comparison with the GM lines, with the clear intention of hiding potentially serious differences in composition or side effects on animals(10). The Codex guidelines for the testing of GM crops were thus comprehensively broken by Monsanto’s subsidiary Renessen, and were not enforced by the regulators in the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (11). All in all, this amounted to blatant scientific fraud by the applicants, and a cynical failure to enforce the rules, and to protect the public, by the regulators.
During the assessments of these two varieties in Europe, many countries used the INBI peer review of the applicant’s dossiers to underpin their concerns, and these widely-expressed concerns forced EFSA to ask the applicants for additional studies and for a clarification of their experimental data (12). EFSA also asked — for the first time — for adherence to the Codex rules relating to GM and comparator studies. In the knowledge that their dossiers were now being subjected to an unprecedented level of scrutiny, Monsanto / Renessen simply decided that they would not cooperate in this process for fear of what might emerge. So they wrote to EFSA in April (4) to indicate that they were abandoning all plans for the cultivation and commercialization of the two GM crops.
Commenting for GM-Free Cymru, Dr Brian John said: ”This is the first time, to our knowledge, that EFSA has sought to enforce the Codex rules relating to the use of isolines in the testing of GM crops, and the first time that it has expressed profound dissatisfaction about the content of an applicant’s dossiers. It is also the first time that a GM multinational has withdrawn a GM product (or two products) at the eleventh hour. It was insane in the first place to seek to pass GM maize crops containing Bt toxins and “growth enhancers” straight into the human food chain (13). In addition, EFSA and the other regulators have been quite irresponsible in the past in assuming that “stacked” events, hybridized from two GM lines, are harmless if the applicant says so, and if the separate lines have been independently approved. That is simply bad science, since it fails to address the likelihood of synergistic effects and even accumulating toxins in the food chain (14).
“Nonetheless, we applaud the fact that EFSA has asked Monsanto some hard questions in this case, having in the past demonstrated, over and again, that its GMO Panel is simply unfit for purpose (15). This represents progress.
Dr Brian JohnGM-Free Cymru
Tel: 01239-820470
My comment: Reprinted here, just in case it manages to disappear from the original page. But simply stunning! What I want to know is why if there is a Codex regarding GM crops, EFSA never applied it?! That's more than suspicious. I do agree we're looking at conspiracy, the question is why this was not on the news, why nobody cared, there was no press release. And most of all, why EFSA agreed to return back all the documents, when most European institutions inform you in advance that your documents will be held after the submission for all sort of purposes. Obviously that doesn't apply to the big guys. I can only be happy that at least this two GM misunderstanding of a plants were spared to European consumer. But then how would we know if we eat them in imported food? Who knows.

Is Genetically Modified Corn Toxic?

A new analysis of data released by Monsanto pried from Monsanto's lawyers' cold dead hands by a tag-team of legal experts at Greenpeace and other groups suggests there may be something to the idea that we shouldn't be eating maize that's had its DNA messed with.

The study found that three strains of modded crops -- MON 810 and MON 863, which are resistant to pests, and NK 603, which is foritified to withstand weed killer -- significantly disrupted the blood chemistry of rats who ate them. According to an article in New Scientist:

With each of the three strains of maize, researchers say they found unusual concentrations of hormones and other compounds in the blood and urine of the tested rats, suggesting each strain impaired kidney and liver function. By the end of the trials, the female rats that were fed MON 863 had elevated blood-sugar levels and raised concentrations of fatty substances called triglycerides. Both are potential precursors of diabetes, according to [lead author Gilles-Eric Séralini of the University of Caen in France].

"What we've shown is clearly not proof of toxicity, but signs of toxicity," says Seralini. "I'm sure there's no acute toxicity, but who's to say there are no chronic effects?"

The researchers are suggesting that if the GM corn has the same affect in humans that is does in rats, we're unknowingly taxing our kidneys and livers, and probably raising the risk of damaging those organs.

But as is often the case in these type of reports, the conclusions aren't terribly convincing. For one, the effects are barely statistically significant, and the article goes on to say that independent toxicologists who saw the paper said Seralini was reading too much into the results. source
My comment: Ok, this is hardly news, this was the first thing I read in the very few scientific researches on GM toxicity. Which by the way is strange, scientists usually like to study new things in great details but on GM crops, this is not the case. There are really FEW official peer-reviewed articles on GMOs. At least this was what a person I know found when doing his little research. But if we leave this aside, what that study discovered was hormonal changes and increase immune response in the test mice. And that oddly enough, the study wasn't continued generations ahead to see what will happen. So, I really believe that GM crops do pose a health risk. Even if it's barely statistical, still, 0.1% in 1 000 000 (million) people are 100 people. Who has the right to destroy the health of those people? And I believe the percentage is higher. And also, we're speaking not of millions, but of billions and 0.1%*1billion makes 1 million!!! Again, no news on this in official media. Interesting, huh?

'Genetically modified crops benefit farmers'

WASHINGTON: Genetically engineered crops are profitable for farmers and may help protect people and the environment from an overload of pesticides, a panel of experts has reported.

But there is a risk that weeds are developing resistance to Roundup, a weedkiller that is used to treat fields planted with certain genetically modified crops, the researchers said on Tuesday. And genetic engineering is not being exploited enough, given its potential benefits, the National Research Council panel concluded.

"We do see good, hard evidence that weed resistance is growing to glyphosate. That needs serious attention," said David Ervin of Portland State University in Oregon, who chaired the panel.

Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto's widely used Roundup herbicide. The weedkiller is considered safer for people than other pesticides. That means farmers can use more Roundup without fear of damaging their crops. But the practice may have allowed weeds to develop their own natural resistance, the committee found.

Nine weed species in the United States have developed resistance to glyphosate since the introduction of genetically engineered crops, compared with seven in areas where genetically modified crops are not used, the report found. But in general the use of gene-engineered crops is beneficial, the experts found.

Using crops engineered to resist pesticides allows farmers to rely less on tilling the soil, a practice that can reduce soil quality and worsen erosion, the report found. source
My comment: Yeah, weeds develop resistance but in general GM crops are safe! Idiots!!!

Research links pesticides with ADHD in children

May 17, 2010 By CARLA K. JOHNSON , AP Medical Writer
(AP) -- A new analysis of U.S. health data links children's attention-deficit disorder with exposure to common pesticides used on fruits and vegetables.
While the study couldn't prove that pesticides used in agriculture contribute to childhood learning problems, experts said the research is persuasive.
Children may be especially prone to the health risks of pesticides because they're still growing and they may consume more pesticide residue than adults relative to their body weight.
In the body, pesticides break down into compounds that can be measured in urine. Almost universally, the study found detectable levels: The compounds turned up in the urine of 94 percent of the children.
The kids with higher levels had increased chances of having ADHD, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, a common problem that causes students to have trouble in school. The findings were published Monday in Pediatrics.
She said people can limit their exposure by eating organic produce. Frozen blueberries, strawberries and celery had more pesticide residue than other foods in one government report.source My comment: No comment really. I just see growing evidences for the effect of some common chemicals on human health, more specifically in producing serious diseases. Hopefully, the moral is clear for everyone.

Evidence of First Virus That Infects Both Plants and Humans

My comment: Why this is important? Because if a virus can infect both humans and plants, and we introduce new genes in plants by viruses, just imagine what could happen one day. 

Scientists uncover transfer of genetic material between blood-sucking insect and mammals

My comment: Just like in the previous article. Our planet and all the living creatures on it are connected. If we mess with one thing, we're likely to mess with everyone. And this is precisely why we want to be VERY careful about what we do in terms of genes. Otherwise, we may get some very unpleasant surprises.

And finally:
EU governments seen opposing GM crop proposals - European Union governments have signalled their strong opposition to proposals allowing member states to decide whether to grow or ban genetically modified (GM) crops, a Belgian EU Presidency source said on Thursday (29 July).
My comment: Why do you think they oppose it? Not because a country may decide they want to or not want to grow GMOs! They fear sanctions of WTO if they decide against it!!! They fear the integrity of the open market! I just want to throw up. Sometimes I'm amazed by people's stupidity. Because most countries actually posed bans on GMOs, so they are against current European regulations. And yet they don't want the new one, which legalize what they do anyway. It's absurd, but yet - true!