A brief summary of some recent GMO related news – the failure of Bt crops, Neil Young v. GMO corn, merger madness, GE salmon and more
The failure of Bt crops (which is not limited to India)
GMWatch reports that “80% of the crop lost due to pink bollworm in Raichur district”
“Karnataka, India farmers suffer huge losses from failed Bt cotton,” by GMWatch; May 27, 2016
Excerpt: “Manjunath Holalu, who was also part of the study, observed that most of the crops in Raichur district failed as it was attacked by pink bollworm disease much against the claims of companies which sold BT Cotton seeds. ‘The companies had claimed the seeds being resistant to all the four bollworm diseases that normally affect BT Cotton including the pink bollworm. The same has been published on the packets of the seeds sold to the farmers,’ he said.”
(There is much more on Bt crops in the section ‘From the Archives’ section below)
Now for something light:
“Neil Young Dukes it Out with Explosive Ear of Corn,” by Jon Wiederhorn, Radio.com; May 27, 2016 [Embedded video 3:18]
Excerpt: Last night, Neil Young exchanged fighting words with a man dressed as an ear of corn. The skirmish was part of a sketch on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. In the setup, Colbert asked Young, who was there to promote his upcoming album Earth, why he is opposed to GMOs (genetically modified organisms made into food). “What’s wrong with them?” asked Colbert, making it look like a straight interview about a serious subject.
… “A study just came out saying there’s absolutely no nutritional difference between people in Europe, who generally don’t eat GMOs, and Americans, who do eat GMOs,” Colbert continued.
Replied Young: “That must be a Monsanto study that didn’t notice the terrible diseases and all of the things that are happening – why these things have been banned throughout Europe and throughout the world – why 38 countries around the world banned GMOs. They didn’t just label them.”
The video is also available on YouTube here: “Neil Young Has No Sympathy For GMO Corn” – YouTube (3:13) published by The Late Show with Stephen Colbert on May 27, 2016
Merger talks are still hot in the news:
“Bayer ‘Confident’ It Can Still Strike Deal with Monsanto, Merger Could Spell Disaster for Farmers and Global Food Supply,” by Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch; May 26, 2016
“Monsanto and Bayer May Merge, Creating a Company That Would Control Nearly a Third of the World’s Seeds,” by Martha Rosenberg & Ronnie Cummins (Organic Consumers Association), Alternet; May 26, 2016
Excerpt: “If Monsanto, the most hated GMO company in the world, joins hands with Bayer, one of the most hated Big Pharma corporations on Earth (whose evil deeds date back to World War I and the Nazi era), the newly formed seed-pesticide-drug behemoth would have combined annual sales of $67 billion. That’s a staggering figure. But here’s another, even more alarming: The new mega-chemical/seed company would control 29 percent of the world’s seed market and 24 percent of the pesticide market.”
My Comment: At the end of this article, the authors elude to the “Monsanto Tribunal,” to be held on October 14-16, 2016. This is a citizens’ tribunal that will take place in The Hague, Netherlands and it is symbolic, mostly because there are no international laws to enforce charges of ecocide. My concern is if this goes forward without mainstream mass media coverage (especially in the US), it really won’t amount to much at all, except as a “feel good” moment. My hope is that the grassroots organizations and members who organized this will take this into account and seriously address the mainstream mass media blackout, disinformation, and suppression that have been consistent in the history of covering GMO subjects. Right now my sense is that if they do not address this major problem in a creative way, the tribunal really won’t have any impact on any policy changes anywhere.
[Natural News is not considered a credible source by some and typically I might refrain from posting a link (it was linked to in the article above). However, the title of this next article is just so juicy good, I couldn’t resist]:
“Nazi-founded Bayer chemical company wants to buy Satan-inspired Monsanto for $42 billion… it’s a perfect match made in chemical Hell,” by Mike Adams, Natural News; May 20, 2016
GMWatch has a little history about Bayer worth sharing: “Bayer: a history,” by GMWatch
Bans and Labels
The DARK Act that was passed in July 2015 by the House of Representatives failed to pass through a vote in the Senate; if it had become law, then the right to have county-wide GMO bans like the one mentioned in this article would have been gone:
“Sonoma County Voters to Decide On Banning GMOs,” by CBS San Francisco and Bay City News Service; May 26, 2016
Speaking of the DARK Act – a brief article about GMO labels showed up in today’s news:
“Senate Ag Committee works on GMO labeling,” by Jack Taylor, KFGO – The Mighty 790 AM Fargo ND, Moorhead MN; May 26, 2016
What the hell is wrong with these people? Deliberate? Just say NO.
“FDA Deliberating Release of GE Mosquitoes in Florida Keys,” by Beyond Pesticides May 27, 2016
Something pleasant for a change:
“Revolution: Food Movie,” by Carol Grieve’, Food Integrity Now; May 25, 2016 [Embedded audio file 26:42]
This article and interview also has a link to the trailer on VIMEO, which is here: Trailer to Revolution Food
The trailer is also available on YouTube here: REVOLUTION FOOD Trailer – YouTube (3:34) published by Revolution Food Movie on October 14, 2015
GMWatch reported that there is a new GMO website in Europe: “New website on GMOs – The Greens” (European Parliament)
Gee, perhaps glyphosate is not such a good thing after all …
“Researchers: Diversity in Soil Imperative for Supporting Ecosystems,” by Christina Sarich, Natural Society; May 17, 2016
Speaking of glyphosate:
“Taiwan Recalls Quaker Oats Products Imported From U.S. After Detecting Glyphosate,” by Lorraine Chow, EcoWatch; May 27, 2016
My Comment: So – how did glyphosate get in those products? Did they contain GMOs? Was it pesticide drift (least likely)? Or was it from desiccation – the use of products like Roundup as a ‘drying out’ agent or pre-harvest treatment? This is the most likely cause of the presence of glyphosate in foods that are not genetically modified.
See: “Why Is Glyphosate Sprayed on Crops Right before Harvest?” by Ken Roseboro (The Organic & Non-GMO Report), EcoWatch; March 5, 2016
Oh – but don’t worry – Monsanto says that glyphosate is not cancerous – and what possible motivation would they have to lie?
In related news, earlier this month, VICE published this: “No One Knows Exactly How Much Herbicide Is in Your Breakfast,” by Kristin Wartman Lawless, VICE; May 11, 2016
From one poison to the next:
“Coalition petitions EPA to review dicamba, Monsanto responds,” by Farm Futures; May 26, 2016
And the next:
“St. Louis jury orders Monsanto to pay $46.5 million in latest PCB lawsuit,” by Joel Currier, St. Louis Post-Dispatch; May 26, 2016
In Africa, women farmers protested against GMOs:
“Ghana: Women farmers march against GMOs,” by Mahama Latif, Citifmonline; May 24, 2016
And the march also happened in the US:
“GMOs and the March Against Monsanto,” by Harold Stark, Huffington Post; May 26, 2016
Also earlier this month, in case you missed it:
“Get Smart on GMOs, And Why You Should Care,” by Carey Gillam, Ingredient1; May 18, 2016
Why do GMOs matter?
Genetically modified crops now make up the bulk of corn and soybeans grown in the United States and both crops are key ingredients in food for people and animals. The poultry, beef and pork we consume largely have been raised on a diet of genetically engineered grains, and of course corn and soy products are key ingredients in thousands of products on grocery shelves, everything from ketchups and salad dressings to cookies and chips. As well, production of GMO crops has been found to raised levels of the use of the herbicide known as glyphosate, which the World Health Organization’s cancer research experts classify as a probable human carcinogen.
What is the biggest misconception regarding GMOs?
There are many, but one that persists is that GMOs are necessary to “feed the world.” This is a favorite talking point for the companies that develop, license and sell genetically engineered seeds. They say that the crops yield more than non GMO crops and that without wide use of GMO crops the globe’s growing population will run out of food. The data on yields for corn, soybeans and cotton – the three key genetically engineered crops in America – shows there is no yield gain that can be linked to genetic engineering. Those crops, also called GE crops, and others, are seeing better yields now than they were in the past, but research shows that is due to conventional breeding, improved germplasm, not genetic engineering.
[Skipping to the last question]
Are there any use cases where GMO crops are better for human consumption, and the environment?
Well the companies that make them will tell you that all the GMOS on the market now are better for the environment, and they say they are equivalent nutritionally to non-GMO crops. There is a body of research that indicates the reverse is true. A new study published in the British Journal of Nutrition in February found evidence that organic production can boost key nutrients in foods. Another large meta-analysis published in 2014, also in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that organic crops have higher concentrations of antioxidants and other potentially beneficial compounds. Part of the problem in this area of research is that there is conflicting research, and research is often funded by parties that have skin in the game. It’s very hard for consumers – for all of us – to find the truth about our food.
My Comment: the study published by the British Journal of Nutrition in February 2016 is here:
“Higher PUFA and n-3 PUFA, conjugated linoleic acid, α-tocopherol and iron, but lower iodine and selenium concentrations in organic milk: a systematic literature review and meta- and redundancy analyses,” by Dominika Średnicka-Tober et al, British Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 115, Issue 6; March 28, 2016
To read more about this study see: “Is Organic More Nutritious? New Study adds to the Evidence,” by Allison Aubrey, The Salt, NPR; February 18, 2016
The 2014 meta-analysis study is here:
“Higher Antioxidant and Lower Cadmium Concentrations and Lower Incidence of Pesticide Residues in Organically Grown Crops: A Systematic Literature Review and Meta-Analyses,” by Marcin Baranski, et al, British Journal of Nutrition, Vol. 112, Issue 5; September 14, 2014 (18 pages)
Health Canada approved the GMO salmon:
“Health Canada Approves First GM Fish Amidst Environmental and Transparency Concerns (Press Release),” by CBAN (Canadian Biotechnology Action Network); May 19, 2016
Excerpt: “Canadians could now be faced with the world’s first GM food animal, approved with no public consultation and no labelling,” said Lucy Sharratt of CBAN.
Hey America, sound familiar?
“Health Canada’s approval of GMO salmon denounced,” – By Kate Colwell, Friends of the Earth; May 19, 2016
“On heels of Canada’s approval, more retailers say no to GMO salmon (News Release),” by Kate Colwell, Friends of the Earth; May 25, 2016
You can find out more about the Mighty Fish here: “Genetically engineered fish: An unnecessary risk to the environment, public health and fishing communities,” by Friends of the Earth; May 2016 (5 pages)
See: “Shocking News – FDA Approves GMO Salmon,” by Dr. Mercola, December 1, 2015
My comment: So the fish are substantially equivalent so they don’t need to be labeled, according to the FDA. And, according to the FDA, the fish is a drug – but according to the FDA, all drugs must be labeled. Not only that, but according to the FDA, new drugs have to undergo voluntary human trials to determine if there are any potential adverse health events – but the FDA does not require this for the new drug called GMO salmon.
Is it any wonder why someone might be compelled to sue the FDA for any reason related to this damn fish? Funny you should ask:
Read the lawsuit by the Center for Food Safety over the FDA’s Approval of the GM fish:
Center for Food Safety Lawsuit re: FDA approval of GE Salmon – Complaint for Declaratory & Injunctive Relief; March 30, 2016 (64 pages)
Excerpt: FDA’s decision to approve AquaBounty’s GE salmon application should be vacated and set aside because FDA lacks the statutory authority to regulate GE animals as a “new animal drug” under the FFDCA. The FFDCA does not explicitly grant FDA authority to regulate GE animals. Indeed, Congress never intended or provided a means for FDA to regulate twenty-first century GE animals using its 1938 authority over veterinary animal drugs. To the contrary, GE animals present enormously different risks and impacts than drugs, requiring different expertise, analyses, and regulation than were contemplated when Congress enacted the FFDCA. Nevertheless, FDA issued Guidance for Industry 187, The Regulation of Genetically Engineered Animals Containing Heritable Recombinant DNA Constructs (GE Animal Guidance or the Guidance), interpreting the definition of “new animal drug” under the FFDCA to include GE animals, asserting exclusive authority over GE animals under the new animal drug provisions of the FFDCA, and purportedly outlining the steps that FDA will follow when considering applications for GE animals. FDA’s approval of AquaBounty’s application and the issuance of its GE Animal Guidance represent an unlawful effort to extend FDA’s regulatory reach far beyond the statutory mandates of the FFDCA. FDA’s assertion of jurisdiction under the GE Animal Guidance and its approval of the AquaBounty application are thus ultra vires and contrary to law in violation of the APA and the FFDCA.
Finally, even if FDA had the authority to issue the GE Animal Guidance, the guidance itself fails to explain how FDA will substantively incorporate important environmental considerations into its assessment of safety and effectiveness as a part of the review and approval of GE animals. As a practical result of the inadequacies of the GE Animal Guidance, FDA failed to adequately consider environmental risks as part of its statutory “safety” evaluation when reviewing and approving AquaBounty’s GE salmon application in this case.
My comment: We’ll see what happens – but history shows that courts tend to defer to the decisions made by federal agencies (such as the FDA) when legislation (ahem, Congress) is absent or insufficient to address certain issues. And bear in mind, should this get to the Supreme Court, Monsanto’s man (Justice Clarence Thomas, former Monsanto attorney) just loves all things genetically modified – so much so that he has never recused himself from any relevant GMO case. This is an obvious conflict of interest and speaks volumes about his lack of ethical standards.
From the Archives
“GM is Dangerous and Futile,” by Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, Institute of Science in Society; October 6, 2008
Excerpt: All patents on genes based on the old concept are no longer valid; ultimately because the patent is awarded on a supposed function attached to a DNA sequence. But as genes exist in bits interweaving with other genes, so are functions. Multiple DNA sequences may serve the same function, and conversely the same DNA sequence can have different functions … Despite the bewildering complexities of how the genome works, individual processes are precisely orchestrated and finely tuned by the organism as a whole, in a highly coordinated molecular ‘dance of life’ that’s necessary for survival.
In contrast, genetic engineering in the laboratory is crude, imprecise and invasive. The rogue genes inserted into a genome to make a GMO could land anywhere; typically in a rearranged or defective form, scrambling and mutating the host genome, and tend to move or rearrange further once inserted. Transgene instability is a big problem, and has been so right from the beginning. There is fresh evidence that GM crops grown commercially for years have rearranged … Transgene instability means that the original transgenic line has turned into something else, and even if it had been assessed as ‘safe’, this is no longer the case. The genetically modified genes are a big hazard because they do not know the intricate dance of life that has been perfected in billions of years of evolution. That’s ultimately why genetic modification is both dangerous and futile.
GM crops are one big failed experiment based on an obsolete scientific theory, and this failure has been evident since 2004 if not before. Apart from yielding less and requiring more pesticides, anecdotal evidence since 2005 from farmers around the world indicates that GM crops also require more water. Industrial Green Revolution agriculture is now generally acknowledged to be a major driver of climate change as well as being vulnerable to climate change because of its heavy dependence on fossil energies and water, and its susceptibility to pests, diseases and climate extremes. Industrial Green Revolution agriculture is now generally acknowledged to be a major driver of climate change as well as being vulnerable to climate change because of its heavy dependence on fossil energies and water, and its susceptibility to pests, diseases and climate extremes. GM crops have all the worst features of industrial Green Revolution varieties exaggerated, and not least, there are outstanding safety concerns as I mentioned. Growing GM crops for biofuels does not make them safe, as they will contaminate our food crops all the same.
Any further indulgence in GMOs will surely damage our chances of surviving global warming. We must get on with the urgent business of building organic, sustainable food and energy systems right now. [Citations omitted, emphasis added]
My Comment: You may hear the shill cry of GMO advocates claiming that genetic engineering is precise, which only means they are either misinformed or lying. You may hear the shill wail of GMO proponents claiming that with the new techniques, precision is a sure thing! (HELLO – all the genetically modified foods that are currently in the market and which have been consumed for over two decades were not made with these new techniques …) These new plant breeding techniques (NPBTs) are now being hyped as absolutely the best thing ever. And boy – talk about precise!
They even refer to a new phrase about the NPBT called CRISPR – gene editing. Yeah, they can just drag one old little snippet of DNA right out if they want to – why it’s so accurate that … wait a minute … haven’t we been hearing this for over twenty years? What does a REAL independent scientist have to say about this? Let’s find out:
From: “God’s Red Pencil? CRISPR and the Three Myths of Precise Genome Editing,” by Jonathan Latham, PhD, Independent Science News; April 25, 2016).
Excerpt: “So far, it is technically not possible to make a single (and only a single) genetic change to a genome using CRISPR and be sure one has done so … There is, furthermore, no guarantee that more precise versions of CRISPR are even biologically possible. Technically therefore, precision is a myth: no form of genome editing can do what is currently being claimed. The second key error of CRISPR boosters is to assume that, even if we had complete precision, this would allow control over the consequences for the resulting organism … The third error of CRISPR advocates is to imply that changes to gene functions can be presumed to be discrete and constrained.”
Summing up, Jonathan adds: “Will future safety regulations of GMOs be based on a schoolboy version of genetics and an interpretation of genome editing crafted in a corporate public relations department? If history is any guide it will.” [Emphasis added, citations omitted]
A very brief open letter in a UK online newspaper is still relevant today:
“Being against GM is Not Anti-Science,” by Mae-Wan Ho, The Guardian; June 7, 2000
Excerpt: …I believe in promoting critical public understanding of science and to draw attention to well-known and relevant scientific knowledge that is being ignored.
Almost by definition, genetic engineering organisms involves designing GM constructs which invade genomes and overcome natural processes that break down foreign genetic material. Due to their highly mixed origins, however, GM constructs are more unstable than natural genetic material as well as more invasive; and may therefore be more likely to spread to unrelated species.
Those points were not challenged by Prakash because these basic principles and observations of genetic engineering are covered in text books and are also areas of active research. I answered Lichtenstein’s questions in full and referred him to our website ( http://www.i-sis.org.uk/index.php ), where the relevant scientific papers are cited and where more than 300 scientists from 39 countries, including many molecular geneticists who share my concerns, are demanding a moratorium on releases of GM organisms. There is genuine scientific dissent among scientists and the public are not served by those who continue to misrepresent the GM debate as science versus anti-science.
The very talented writer Colin Todhunter strikes again:
“Glyphosate in the EU: Product Promoters Masquerading as Regulators in a ‘cesspool of corruption’?” By Colin Todhunter, RINF; March 15, 2016
“Pesticides, GMOs and Corporate Control: The Poster Child is Monsanto but Neil Young is the Main Act,” by Colin Todhunter, Counterpunch; May 13, 2016
Bt: another failed promise of GMOs (a brief look)
Source: “Bt crops: Resistance development in pest insects,” by Testbiotech; July 2014
GMO crops that are genetically engineered with Cry proteins from the Bt toxin are referred to as insect resistant (IR) and contain a single gene or any combination of genes from a common soil bacteria Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). This Bt toxin is a naturally occurring insecticide, and in its complete form, it is acceptable for use on USDA certified organic crops. GMO proponents site this as evidence that extracted Cry proteins from the Bt toxin inserted into the DNA of a different species are therefore as safe. This is utter nonsense and such claims are based on attempts to mislead people with disinformation.
Dr. Mae-Wan Ho describes the Bt toxins as “a family of similar Cry proteins identified by numbers and letters. Each Cry protein differs somewhat in amino acid sequence and targets specific pests.” (See: Dr. Mae-Wan Ho, “Scientists Confirm Failures of Bt-Crops,” Institute of Science in Society; September 26, 2009).
The proteins that are extracted from the Bt toxin are referred to as Cry proteins (such as Cry3Bb1 and Cry1Ab), and are typically inserted into the DNA of various GMO brands, such as corn. Cry proteins derived from the Bt toxin work by killing the insect that feeds on the crop (when a worm eats GMO corn its stomach “explodes”).
However, Mother Nature has this thing called evolution, and it includes adaptation; consequently, the various target species (those worms) have the ability to become resistant to the toxin and survive and produce offspring that are even more resistant to the Cry proteins. Some examples of insects evolving and adapting resistance to these genetic modifications include the western corn rootworm which has grown resistant to the Cry3Bb1 protein; the pink bollworm has developed a resistance to Cry1Ac in cotton crops in India; the Spodoptera worms have developed resistance to the Cry1F protein and the European corn borer and African maize [corn] stem borer have grown resistant to the Bt toxin Cry1Ab. The next few articles are about such insects and the problems that ensue as a result of this:
“Brazil: Pest resistance to Bt maize 1507 in third year of cultivation,” by Testbiotech; July 23, 2014
“GMO crops don’t live up to the hype with regards to pest control, research shows,” by GMWatch; January 22, 2015
“Pest resistance to Bt crops in Brazil and India,” by GMWatch; February 6, 2015
It makes you wonder – is this the kind of sustainable agriculture Monsanto is always talking about?
“Is This Sustainable Agriculture? Resistance to Engineered Bt Corn on the Rise,” by Doug Gurian-Sherman, The Equation (Blog), Union of Concerned Scientists; December 5, 2011
No – it’s not sustainable!
“No sustainable GMO solution to Bt-resistant pests,” by Clair Robinson, GMWatch; January 14, 2016
The growth of secondary pests due to GMOs with various Bt traits was another omission and DENIAL by the recent NAS report which found no cause and effect relationship between GMOs and negative impacts on the environment:
“Agro-Biotechnology: New Plant Pest Caused by Genetically Engineered Corn – The Spread of the Western Bean Cutworm Causes Massive Damage in the US,” by Christoph Then, Testbiotech prepared for Greenpeace Germany; March 2010 (22 pages).
Excerpt: “Since around the year 2000 it has become apparent that genetically engineered corn expressing the Bt toxin classified as Cry1Ab is being infested by western bean cutworm. The western bean cutworm was historically only found in some regions and caused few problems. At present, it is spreading into more and more US states and causing significant economic damage … western bean cutworm damage has been documented for almost all states in the American Corn Belt. States affected include Iowa, Missouri, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and Ohio [as of 2010] … Historically damage caused by the western bean cutworm was mainly confined to Nebraska with very low incidences in some other regions.” [Citations omitted]
Also see: “Black clouds over BT cotton as whitefly runs amok,” by Ikhhlaq Aujla, The Times of India; September 9, 2015)
“Pests, Pesticides and Propaganda: the story of Bt Cotton,” by Dr. Vandana Shiva (Blog); October 10, 2015
Some myths about Bt are mentioned in these links:
“GMO Myths and Truths – Myth: GM Bt crops only affect target pests and their relatives; Truth: GM Bt crops are not specific to pests but affect a range of organisms,” by John Fagan PhD, Michael Antoniou PhD, and Claire Robinson MPhil, Earth Open Source; 2014 [Excerpt from “GMO Myths and Truths 2nd Edition, 2014]
“GMO Myths and Truths – Myth: GM Bt insecticidal crops are harmless; Truth: GM Bt insecticidal crops pose hazards to people and animals that eat them,” by John Fagan PhD, Michael Antoniou PhD, and Claire Robinson MPhil, Earth Open Source; 2014 [Excerpt from “GMO Myths and Truths 2nd Edition, 2014]
“GMO Myths and Truths – Myth: GM Bt crops reduce insecticide use; Truth: GM Bt crops change the way in which insecticides are used,” by John Fagan PhD, Michael Antoniou PhD, and Claire Robinson MPhil, Earth Open Source; 2014 [Excerpt from “GMO Myths and Truths 2nd Edition, 2014]
That’s it for today. Do extensive research on GMOs and take whatever action you can: future generations will be grateful. We need to Ban GMOs Now.
सत्यमेव जयते – Satyameva Jayate
(Truth Ultimately Triumphs)
Re-posting is encouraged, provided the URL of the original is posted with attribution to the original author and all links are preserved to the referenced articles, reports, etc. on their respective websites.
Copyright © Jeff Kirkpatrick 2016 Ban GMOs Now All rights reserved.