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Taxpayers unwittingly fund GM trials as the prospect of leaving wiser European counsellors looms

29 Mar

Will agri-business ultimately be allowed to charge ahead, imposing genetically modified food on an unwilling public?

Yesterday Farming Today, whose sylvan banners (one example above) indicate a preference for traditional farming whilst the actual programmes often court the worst establishment proposals, reported that a new GM wheat trial has been planted at the Rothamstead research centre in Hertfordshire.

It was advocated – yet again – as needed to feed the world’s poor. Hunger is due to the poor lacking land to produce food or money to buy it. Will Monsanto etc be giving food free of charge?

Last November, Clive Cookson, FT Science Editor, had reported on this plan to grow a crop of wheat that has been genetically modified in the spring of 2017 at Rothamsted, alongside non-GM wheat of the same Cadenza variety, as a control.

The work is publicly funded through a £696,000 grant from the government’s UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and $294,000 from the US Department of Agriculture. Other partners include the universities of Lancaster and Illinois.

This is Rothamsted research centre, one of the country’s largest agricultural research stations.

Cookson adds that when the crop is harvested at the end of the summer, the researchers will discover whether genetic modification raises the yield in the field by as much as it did in trials carried out so far under glass. Rothamsted hopes this will work better than its last GM field trial of wheat genetically modified to repel aphids by giving off an alarming scent which worked well in the greenhouse but in a field trial it failed to show any crop protection benefits over conventional wheat. Malcolm Hawkesford, head of plant biology and crop science at Rothamsted, said the negative outcome showed how important it is to carry out field trials to confirm laboratory studies.

Earlier in March, news was received that the Organic Research Centre joined 32 other organisations in a letter to DEFRA which asked that the application from the Sainsbury Laboratory to release genetically modified (GM) and possibly blight-resistant potatoes be refused.

The tubers produced by the transgenic plants released will not be used for animal feed and will be destroyed following harvest, according to a government website.

Potato blight can be combated through conventional breeding and cultural methods

The letter, co-ordinated by GM Freeze, sets out the reasons why they believe that this trial should not go ahead, including the charge that the applicant has neglected to consider a number of serious and complex hazards, that the trial represents a significant risk and will not benefit society, that genetic modification is not necessary for blight resistance and that there is no market for GM potatoes.

 

 

 

 

An ‘epidemic’ of childhood tooth decay in the fluoridated Republic of Ireland

28 Feb

Background information: Ireland, the only country in the European Union with a nationwide mandate for water fluoridation -via the Health (Fluoridation of Water Supplies) Act 1960, which mandated compulsory fluoridation by local authorities. 3,250,000 Irish people receive artificially-fluoridated water.

Geren Island Water Treatment FacilityThe agent used is hydrofluorosilicic acid. Corrosive to most metals it eats through concrete and Hazmat suits (impermeable whole-body garments must be worn to handle it as a gas may be released which damages the lungs. This and other adverse health effects are listed by NIOSH (US government agency).

private member’s bill to end fluoridation was defeated in the Dáil on 12 November 2013. It was supported by Sinn Féin and some of the technical group and opposed by the Fine Gael-Labour government and Fianna Fáil.

Early in 2014, Cork County Council and Laois County Council passed motions for the cessation of water fluoridation. In Autumn 2014, Cork City Council, Dublin City Council and Kerry County Council passed similar motions.

irsih-jda-coverToday, Aaron Rogan in The Times reports that a study by University College Cork published in this month’s Journal of the Irish Dental Association found that 60% of the 347 Irish children who required dental treatment under general anaesthetic before they turned five needed teeth extracted.

Michaela Dalton, president of the HSE dental surgeons group describes it as an ‘epidemic of tooth decay’. “Juices and yoghurts are rotting babies’ teeth but are being sold as replacements for fruit. Sugary cereal bars are sold as healthy snacks. They’re labelled as no-added sugar and all-natural but they have concentrated fruit sugars, which are really acidic and rotting teeth” Dr Dalton said.

Another significant finding was that despite a long-established link between economic disadvantage and dental problems, there was no significant class difference for preschool children requiring treatment under general anaesthetic.

“Disadvantaged children have a higher risk of requiring a dental general anaesthesia in their lifetime; however, this is not occurring in isolation, with their equivalents in the higher social group also placing a strain on the system,” the study said.

The programme for government explicitly mentioned that preschool oral health intervention would save the taxpayer money – but the expensive water fluoridation programme already compulsory in Ireland is universally ‘sold’ as an oral health intervention. 

 

 

 

MSM downplays EU ban/delay on use of glyphosate, a probable carcinogen, for 18 months

9 Feb

TRAUDT AERIAL SERVICE

On February 8th, Agranet reported that the European Citizens Initiative (ECI) was launched in several European cities. It calls on the commission to propose a “ban on glyphosate, to reform the pesticide approval procedure, and to set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use”.

Its main objectives: Ban glyphosate-based herbicides, exposure to which has been linked to cancer in humans, and has led to ecosystems degradation; ensure that the scientific evaluation of pesticides for EU regulatory approval is based only on published studies, which are commissioned by competent public authorities instead of the pesticide industry; set EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use, with a view to achieving a pesticide-free future.

In January this year, the Farmers Weekly recorded the European Commission’s registration of petition calling for a ban on the use of glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s top-selling weedkiller. The initiative was formally registered on 25 January, starting a one-year process for the collection of signatures in support of the proposal. If the proposal receives the support of a million people from at least seven member states, the Commission will be obliged to consider a legislative response and provide justification for its decision.

The FW article adds that the European Chemicals Agency is undertaking a review into glyphosate and will consider whether it should be classified as a carcinogen by the EU. The review is due to be published this summer. It comes after a study, led by Michael Antoniou, at King’s College, London, linked glyphosate to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in rats. Monsanto maintains glyphosate, when used according to label directions, “does not present an unreasonable risk of adverse effects to humans, wildlife or the environment”.

On 2nd February William Bowles blogged The EU has refused to give Monsanto’s glyphosate the green light. It’s delayed the decision for 18 months while glyphosate is re-evaluated” adding ruefully:

“(Banned) but not, it seems in Lambeth in London where the stuff is sprayed regularly on the pavements in my neighbourhood”.

 

 

Causes of diseases are already well-known –  but nothing is done to remove those causes

28 Nov

Richard Bruce recently sent an email reflecting on the Queen’s opening of the £700 million Francis Crick Institute (below), which will have some £130 million in annual funding. Its aim is to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, infections and neurodegenerative conditions like motor neurone disease. It is the biggest research building under one roof in the entire European Union employing some 1500 scientists and staff.

francis-crick-institute_19_cwellcome-images-copy 

He asks: “Do they need all that money to re-discover what they already know?”

The Medical Research Council (MRC), Cancer Research UK, Wellcome, University College London, Imperial College London and King’s College London are involved.  Richard comments: “Some interesting names there with staff who must know what is really going on” and summarises his post examining what the MRC actually knew and what it has reported over the decades.

The Francis Crick Institute in London is said to be “a world-leading centre of biomedical research and innovation, it has scale, vision and expertise to tackle the most challenging scientific questions underpinning health and disease.

The aim is to find new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, infections and neurodegenerative conditions like motor neurone disease.”

Richard’s post states that the cause of these illnesses is already well-known and has been known for a very long time but nothing is done to remove those causes. He says that protecting the poisons industry seems to be the real aim: “Poisoned people earn the industry £millions in drug sales and research”.

He asks, “Why is the Medical Research Council now implying that it does not understand the ever present danger not only to the occupationally exposed but to everyone, adult, child and unborn, exposed as we are in our food, clothes, furniture, fuels, paints, oils and our environment?”

And comments: “Shocking really”.

Richard Bruce who has an extensive knowledge on the effects of organophosphates which are used far more widely in agriculture than just sheep dip. He personally was badly affected by Actellic used in grain stores documented at: Trouble in Store 

 

 

 

Crunch time: will fears of legal action by Monsanto sway the final vote on licensing glyphosate – a ‘probable’ carcinogen?

7 Jun

The FT reports that leading EU member states on Monday refused to extend a licence for glyphosate, the world’s most common herbicide. If there is no decision by the end of the month, glyphosate will lose its licence, raising the prospect of legal action by the industry.

EU-PARLIAMENT

The commission had intended to try to relicense glyphosate for 15 years, but the latest proposal was for a licence of only 12 to 18 months, while more research is conducted. This option has been rejected as Germany, France, Italy, Greece, Austria and Portugal and Luxembourg all abstained, meaning the necessary qualified majority could not be reached. Malta voted against.

Bart Staes, a Belgian MEP from the Green Party, warned the commission not to approve glyphosate unilaterally through a so-called “appeals committee”: “Such a move would raise major democratic concerns about the EU’s decision-making process”. More handsomely, the Guardian adds more from Staes:

“We applaud those EU governments who are sticking to their guns and refusing to authorise this controversial toxic herbicide. There are clear concerns about the health risks with glyphosate, both as regards it being a carcinogen and an endocrine disruptor. Moreover, glyphosate’s devastating impact on biodiversity should have already led to its ban”.

Glyphosate is the basis for Monsanto’s topselling weedkiller RoundUp, described in its annual report as “a sustainable source” of cash and profit. Last year more than 80% of Monsanto’s sales were in the Americas and under 13% in Europe.

Last month a report from the WHO and the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organisation concluded that the chemical was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk” through diet, but the WHO’s cancer agency last year had concluded that the product was “probably carcinogenic to humans”.

Prime movers in opposing the use of glyphosate are Sweden, the Netherlands and France – and over 1.5 million EU citizens who petitioned the parliament to ban it.

The German Social democrat environment minister Barbara Hendricks welcomed the decision in Brussels, saying: “Many member states would like the question of cancer risks to be clarified before glyphosate can again be spread on our fields.” But Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative CDU/CSU bloc, which wants the chemical to remain in use, is frustrated. Peter Liese, a CDU member of the European Parliament, said Berlin must battle for the continued use of glyphosate, albeit under “strict conditions”.

The glyphosate task force, a consortium of companies including Monsanto, complained: “It is clear that certain member states are no longer basing their positions on scientific evidence, which is meant to be the guiding principle of the process”.

US officials said that they are “extremely concerned” about the EU’s action and accuse Brussels of failing to rely on “sound science”. EU officials respond that their “precautionary principle” of regulation in cases of doubt offers greater public protection.

 

 

 

Rebrand Monsanto? Will the 99% be fooled?

29 May

bayer logoThe FT reports that Bayer, which has made a bid to take over Monsanto, has a relatively squeaky-clean brand, with ‘lots of positive connotations’. This, despite the company being rocked by scandal in 2001 when its cholesterol drug Lipobay was found to have serious side-effects and its production of a neonicotinoid insecticide which may have contributed to the decline in the bee population.

“Its oldest brand is aspirin, after all,” says Torben Bo Hansen, head of Philipp und Keuntje, a German advertising agency, adding “But for large parts of the population Monsanto is evil personified.”

In another FT article, Dirk Zimmermann explains: “Bayer is by no means an exemplary company. After all, their business model is the same as Monsanto’s — they also sell genetically modified seeds that are resistant to the herbicides they produce. None of this is compatible with the idea of sustainable agriculture, or at least our understanding of it.”

Monsanto is opposed because of its leadership in producing and promoting genetically modified organisms – Germany is one ‘no-go’ area where 1m hectares of land are farmed organically. Countries producing GM crops are shown below (in dark blue):

countries growing gm crops 15

Monsanto is also widely associated with the production and promotion of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, which the World Health Organisation said last year was probably carcinogenic. The EU is currently debating whether to relicence glyphosate, with many European governments opposed.

countries ban label gm crops 14Countries banning or labelling GMOs (compiled by Canadian campaigner)

“One option for Bayer would be to drop the Monsanto name if the transaction went through”. Is rebranding the answer?

The Brand Failures blogspot recalls that when massive amounts of radioactive material were released from the UK’s Windscale atomic works in 1957, following a serious fire, the local community in Cumbria were understandably terrified about the health implications of uncontained radiation. Rather than close the plant down, the government believed the best way to put distance between the disaster and the nuclear plant as a whole was to change the name, from Windscale to Sellafield.

“The potential is definitely there for Bayer’s brand to suffer in a takeover,” adds Hansen. “One option for Bayer would be to drop the Monsanto name if the transaction went through, to prevent that “negative sentiment carrying over to the new company” said Jeffrey Stafford, analyst at Morningstar (investment management).

99%-3

But as Brand Failures records, in many cases, including Windscale/Sellafield and the Post Office/Consignia, the 99% are no longer so easy to fool.

 

 

 

 

An EU licence for glyphosate? Not without a ‘qualified majority’

27 May

Glyphosate is the world’s most widely used herbicide. Scientific opinion is divided, but the World Health Organisation confirmed last year that the substance is “probably carcinogenic” to humans.

Farming UK reports that before the European Parliament vote to oppose the EU Commission’s proposal to relicense the controversial toxic substance until 2031, a group of 48 MEPs took part in a test which confirmed the presence of weedkiller glyphosate in their urine, with the average concentration being 1.73ng/ml. The test was inspired by a recent study in Germany which found that 99.6% of people tested had glyphosate residues in their urine.

Exercising the precautionary principle requires a qualified majority

Glyphosate’s current European licence was set to expire in June and though the vote to renew it was passed by 374 votes in favour to 225 votes against, Farming Today reports that the decision was deferred and the journal Science confirms that the commission has made it clear that it would not proceed without a “solid qualified majority of Member States,” (A qualified majority is now achieved only if a decision is supported by 55% of Member States, including at least fifteen of them representing at the same time at least 65% of the Union’s population.)

Science adds that Monsanto, which manufactures glyphosate under the commercial name Roundup, has ‘slammed’ the delays as ‘not scientifically warranted’. 

The commission said that no products will be licensed unless a decision is taken before June 30th. In that case, glyphosate will be no longer authorized in the EU and Member States will have to withdraw authorizations for all glyphosate-based products.

Ireland’s Agriland portal reports that glyphosate will be banned in France – whether or not the EU decides this week to renew the authorisation of the chemical. Speaking to France Info Radio, the French Minister for Health, Marisol Touraine, said that the French President Francois Hollande announced – during the last environmental conference – that glyphosate would not be authorised in France: “Regardless of debates around whether it causes cancer or not, the studies we have show it’s an endocrine disruptor”.

Agriland adds that earlier this year a poll by the international market research firm YouGov found that two-thirds of Europeans want the chemical banned. According to the survey of more than 7,000 people across the EU’s five biggest states, the banning of glyphosate was supported by 75% of Italians, 70% of Germans, 60% of French and 56% of Britons.