Hillary Clinton’s biotech preference to the rescue?

27 Jun

monsanto logo (4)In April Bloomberg business news carried news of American consumers increasingly seeking milk and food products free of GM ingredients and of the surge in GM-free imports – 33% imported from sensible Romania where many communes and four cities have declared themselves GMO-free. 

However, Monsanto has given the Clinton foundation between $501,250 and $1 million. Dow Chemical Company, which is among the top GMO players, gave between $1 million and $5 million, according to financial disclosures by the Clinton Foundation.

hillary clinton jerry crawfordMoreover, S.A. Miller, who reports from Capitol Hill on politics, policy and political campaigns for The Washington Times, reports that Hillary Clinton will be assisted by a top campaign operative in Iowa – former Monsanto lobbyist Jerry Crawford, a veteran of Iowa politics and Clinton campaigns.

Mrs Clinton’s ‘history’ with the biotech industry dates back to her early days as an Arkansas lawyer with the Rose Law Firm, which represented Monsanto and other agribusiness leaders. Last year, she was paid to speak at a biotech industry conference in San Diego, where she championed GMOs and advised the executives and investors to give their products an image makeover. Monsanto’s plans to move to the UK to take advantage of George Osborne’s lower corporation tax rate, which would involve setting up a new company registered in the UK and – coinciding with Mrs Clinton’s advice – under a new name. More in another Washington Times article.

Bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public – really?

The journal Nature reports another setback for GM technology. Funded entirely by the government via its Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), which invests in bioscience research and training on behalf of the UK public, Rothamsted scientists had hoped to show that the modified wheat repels aphids such as greenfly and blackfly without the need for spraying the crop with environmentally-damaging pesticides, but the results of the field trial showed that this was not the case.

Professor Huw Jones, senior molecular biologist at Rothamsted Research with oversight for the genetic changes in the plants said: “As scientists we are trained to treat our experimental data objectively and dispassionately but I was definitely disappointed. We had hoped that this technique would offer a way to reduce the use of insecticides in pest control in arable farming. As so often happens, this experiment shows that the real world environment is much more complicated than the laboratory.”

The results of the GM wheat field trial held by Rothamsted Research are published in the journal Scientific Reports and reproduced here under the Creative Commons licence.

Last words from MP Zac Goldsmith, two years ago are well worth repeating:

  • Farmers who took on herbicide-tolerant GM crops are now struggling with the cost of combating herbicide-resistant “superweeds“.
  • Some 49% of US farms suffer from Roundup-resistant superweeds, a 50% increase on the year before.
  • As a result, since 1996 there has been a disproportionate increase in the use of weedkillers – in excess of 225m kg in the US.
  • Farmers who took on pest-resistant GM crops are struggling with the cost of secondary pests unaffected by the built-in toxins.
  • In China and India, initial savings from reduced insecticide use with Bt cotton have been eroded as secondary pests emerged.

Golden Rice, not yet ready for commercial planting, is hailed as a solution to a problem that could be solved far more cheaply and quickly with the supply of green vegetables and cheap supplements.

Nor has GM boosted yields as promised. Indeed, in Europe, where only small amounts of GM maize are grown, yield growth of traditionally bred varieties is much faster than that of the GM-dominated midwest of the US: average yields in western Europe are now higher.

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