REVIEW number 319
from Claire Robinson, REVIEW editor
Industry lobby group ISAAA has been caught cooking the books again to make out that GM farming is a runaway success (LOBBYWATCH). And the Union of Concerned Scientists has produced an excellent guide to the ways Monsanto undermines sustainable agriculture (GM FAILURES).
www.gmwatch.org / www.lobbywatch.org
+ GM INDUSTRY LOBBY GROUP ISAAA COOKS THE BOOKS AGAIN
Industry lobby group ISAAA has been accused by NGOs of inflating figures which suggested a rise internationally of 8% in the acreage of GM crops in 2011, a 16th straight rise since they were first sold in 1996. ISAAA, funded by GM companies including Monsanto and Bayer, claimed in its annual report that biotech crops grew by 12m hectares, to 160 million hectares, in 2011.
Wenonah Hauter, director of the NGO Food and Water Europe, accused the ISAAA of inflating the statistics by including "trait acres", a figure derived by multiplying the surface area grown by the number of genetic traits engineered in GM crops. Using this system, said Hauter, ISAAA could argue that a field of GM crops that had three GM traits became three "trait fields", thereby tripling the acreage.
"Our analysis ... reveals they derive their figures from reliance on biased data sources, overstating the benefits of GM for farmers and ignoring figures that don't support their pro-GM position. They have a vested interest in the success of GM technology, and their figures simply can't be trusted," said Hauter.
"Contrary to claims in the report, GM crops remain a global failure with only about 1% of global farmers cultivating GM crops," said Greenpeace campaigner Eric Darrier. Greenpeace said that in Europe, only around 0.06% of agricultural land was used in 2011 to grow GM food.
+ GM TOXIC SOY PROTEST
Multinational food retailer Ahold has received a petition with the signatures of 26,000 people across Europe demanding an end to greenwash projects like the Round Table for Responsible Soy (RTRS), which certifies GM soy sprayed with glyphosate as "responsible". Protesters report that Hugo Byrnes of Ahold agreed that the RTRS has a long way to go and the current certification scheme cannot be called sustainable.
Video of the 'GM toxic soy is not responsible' protest here: http://t.co/X33VU2EA
+ WAY BEYOND GREENWASHING: WWF AND THE RTRS
WWF has partnered with global agribusiness to greenwash industrial commodity agriculture through schemes such as the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS), says an analysis for Independent Science News. The article concludes, "The schemes, however, have none of the qualities of meaningful certification. They have low and ambiguous standards, questionable verification, no enforcement, and dubious traceability. What they will do is mislead the public, undermine organic and fairtrade agriculture, deflect attention from the real perpetrators of deforestation and destructive agriculture, and perhaps destroy the food movement, without delivering any social or ecological benefits."
+ WHAT GATES DOESN'T KNOW ABOUT GMOs
If you assume that Bill Gates is well informed about his philanthropic targets, you would be in good company, but you might be terribly wrong, says an article by Dr Heather Pilatic, co-director of Pesticide Action Network North America (PANNA), that's well worth reading in full. Organisations well versed in the agricultural issues facing developing nations are saying Gates's annual letter is mistaken when it asserts that a lack of support for GM crop development is responsible, in part, for allowing world hunger to endure. In particular, writes Pilatic, the hype generated by Gates and his allies over the Green Revolution, the chemical agriculture push that predated the GM push, has little basis in historical fact.
+ EVEN MONSANTO STAFF DON'T EAT GM FOOD
There's a story doing the rounds again about how Monsanto banned GM food from its own corporate canteens. We shouldn't forget also that the families of the pro-GM political leaders of China, the UK and the USA all take care to eat organic.
+ BAYER ORDERED TO COMPENSATE FARMERS FOR BT COTTON FAILURE
The Maharashtra government has ordered the Indian unit of Bayer Crop Science, the world's largest agrochemicals company, to pay compensation to 164 farmers as one of its Bt cotton hybrids did not deliver the promised yield, the first instance of a seed company being asked to make good farmers' losses.
An order passed by Maharashtra's agriculture commissioner, Umakant Dangat, said the farmers had been "cheated" because the pest resistance capacity of one of its Bt cotton varieties failed to meet minimum standards. "The company had claimed on its label that its seed was less susceptible to pest and disease. But we found that to be not true," Dangat said.
+ MONSANTO CAUGHT ILLEGALLY PLANTING GM MAIZE
Monsanto has been caught illegally planting its herbicide-tolerant GM maize in a trial before official permission was granted. This is just the latest in a series of violations of biosafety rules by Monsanto dating back to 2005. Following the latest revelation, the Coalition for a GM-Free India demanded that Monsanto be blacklisted immediately.
+ GM HAS EXACERBATED PESTICIDE TREADMILL IN INDIA
Interesting discussion about how GM Bt cotton has exacerbated the pesticide treadmill and contributed to the de-skilling of farmers in India:
+ UPDATE ON GMOs IN CHINA
China is stuffed full of unregistered and uncontrolled GM crops, which have been promoted by corrupt scientists who stand to profit from the crops, reports Chinese journalist Yinghui Zhang-Carraro. The situation is made worse by the Chinese government's control over the media, which puts out pro-GM stories.
+ CHINA SAYS "NO" TO GM RICE
It took seven years, teams of young campaigners and hordes of devoted supporters, but September 2011 the Chinese government finally said it was suspending the commercialisation of GM rice. Greenpeace reports that in China, GM scientists are such a close knit gang that the people sitting on approval boards for research money, biosafety boards that approve product safety, the scientists at public research institutes, and those at biotech companies who plan to produce and profit from GM rice are either one and the same, or closely connected.
+ EIGHT WAYS MONSANTO FAILS AT SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE NEW PRIMER
The Union of Concerned Scientists has produced a brilliant new primer explaining how Monsanto is failing sustainable agriculture – something that its latest advertising campaigns claim it's promoting! Just follow the links to detailed information.
+ GM HERBICIDE-RESISTANT CROPS CREATE CHEMICAL TREADMILL – EXPERTS
Over-reliance on glyphosate herbicides for weed control on US farms has created a dramatic increase in the number of herbicide-resistant weeds, according to a team of agricultural researchers, who say the solution lies in integrated weed management. "I'm deeply concerned when I see figures that herbicide use could double in the next decade," said David Mortensen, professor of weed ecology at Penn State University.
The researchers report their findings in BioScience, noting that 21 different weed species have evolved resistance to glyphosate, despite company-sponsored research claiming that the resistance would not occur.
In response to the increasing number of weeds resistant to current applications, companies are developing new generations of seeds genetically modified to resist multiple herbicides. This continual insertion of more genes into crops is not a sustainable solution to herbicide resistance, according to the researchers. They add that companies are creating a genetic modification treadmill similar to the pesticide treadmill experienced in the mid-20th century, when companies produced increasingly more toxic substances to manage pests resistant to pesticides.
+ NYC PROTESTERS COME OUT AGAINST MONSANTO
In Manhattan, Occupy Wall Street, Occupy Big Food, and Food Democracy Now protesters joined forces to support family farmers as the first phase of their federal court case against Monsanto. The crowd of around 200 people included farmers as well as food activists and chefs. The case against Monsanto (Organic Seed Growers Trade Association et al. v. Monsanto) aims to protect farmers against aggressive lawsuit and crop contamination from Monsanto's GM seeds. The farmers say that they are unable to keep GM contamination out of their fields.
According to Monsanto, since 1997, it has filed 145 lawsuits against farmers and settled 700 other disputes out of court.
More on the lawsuit against Monsanto:
+ GM AGROFUELS FIRM SHARES NOSEDIVE
Shares of Amyris, the agrofuel firm, started by a UC Berkeley bioengineer with cash from Bill Gates, have taken yet another disastrous hit, hitting an all-time low of $6.85 a share.
+ EU FOOD WATCHDOG GIVES IN TO MONSANTO REQUEST TO HIKE GLYPHOSATE RESIDUE LIMIT IN LENTILS
Monsanto has applied to increase the EU's permitted Maximum Residue Level (MRL) for glyphosate (the main ingredient of Roundup herbicide) in lentils. Proposals before the EU, to which food safety agency EFSA has given the green light, would mean increasing the current legal residue level by 100-150 times. Rather than being based on safety grounds, the proposed new MRL appears to be partly based on levels already likely to be found in lentils as a result of the weedkiller being used close to harvest.
The proposed level is some six times higher than the safe limit indicated by independent studies, which EFSA ignored in its advice:
http://www.earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/Roundup-and-birth-defects/RoundupandBirthDefectsv5.pdf (section 3.5)
+ MONSANTO FOUND GUILTY OF CHEMICAL POISONING WITH WEEDKILLER
A French court has declared Monsanto guilty of chemical poisoning of a French farmer, a judgment that could lend weight to other health claims against pesticides. In the first such case heard in court in France, a grain farmer said he suffered neurological problems including memory loss, headaches and stammering after inhaling Monsanto's Lasso weedkiller in 2004.
+ SLAVERY IN MONSANTO CORNFIELDS
Poor workers are being recruited under false pretences, then confined and forced to work long hours for little pay in Monsanto cornfields, says an article for 'eats shoots n leaves'.
+ CONTROVERSIAL RELEASE OF GM INSECTS
British biotech firm Oxitec's release of GM mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands was an experiment largely conducted in secret, with the local population being kept in the dark, says an article in German newspaper Der Spiegel. What's more, the experiment is likely to serve as a model for future similar exercises, says an expert who's quoted in the article.
+ GATES AND THE MILLIONS FUNDING GEOENGINEERING
As scientists search for a plan to deal with climate change, some have pushed for a controversial approach known as geoengineering, a technological fix for climate change that involves efforts such as reflecting solar energy back into space or fertilizing the oceans. The billionaire Bill Gates is backing a group of climate scientists lobbying for geoengineering experiments.
At first glance this may appear to have nothing to do with GM but in fact it provides another good example of Bill Gates' ideological commitment to top-down high tech "solutions". Rather than promoting technological solutions which tackle the fundamentals of climate change, Gates promotes high tech approaches which claim to smash aside the problem while allowing "business as usual".
+ NON-GMO SHOPPERS SAY: JUST LABEL IT!
Update from the US campaign to label GMOs: