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Hawaiian parents and environmentalists campaign against use of harmful sprays

7 Dec

In 2015 an American Academy of Pediatrics’ report, Pesticide Exposure in Children, found “an association between pesticides and adverse birth outcomes, including physical birth defects”. Local schools had been evacuated twice and children sent to hospital because of pesticide drift.


Years earlier, whilst in America, a friend of the writer, who was in good health at the time, developed emphysema and died prematurely after being exposed to spray drift.

Carla Nelson, a pediatrician, pointed out that doctors need prior disclosure of sprayings: “It’s hard to treat a child when you don’t know which chemical he’s been exposed to.” Read her Guardian coverage here.

In the state legislature in Honolulu, Senator Josh Green, who then chaired the health committee, made his fourth attempt to curb pesticide and herbicide spraying, but ruefully commented that most heads of the agriculture committee have had “a closer relationship with the agro-chemical companies than with the environmental groups”.

A year later, Time magazine reported that there was growing evidence of glyphosate’s potentially dangerous health effects. It was judged a “probable human carcinogen” by the World Health Organization last year but despite this, on the Hawaiian island of Maui and elsewhere, sprayers simply sprayed and moved on; no one monitored the observance of the safety directions of their own product.

spray-hackneyHawaii environmentalists have used a little-known law, FIFRA, short for the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act, which requires sprayers to follow the safety instructions on the product’s label down to the letter.

For products containing the herbicide glyphosate, that means keeping people away from the area where the product has been used for four hours after applications for agriculture, or until the product dries when sprayed for non-agricultural purposes. That can be difficult in places like long stretches of roads and highways where extended monitoring to keep people away from recently sprayed areas is virtually impossible.

Parents began to circulate photographs of government employees spraying Round Up, the primary commercial product containing glyphosate. Footage showed authorities spraying on highways, roads and near schools without any visible effort to keep people away.

Finally the uncertainty raised by activists over the labelling issue convinced Stephen Rodgers, who oversees pesticide application on Maui’s state highways to switch to organic pesticides. His department no longer purchases Roundup and will stop using the product entirely – but only when the existing supply has been used.

Significant exposure to glyphosate in farm workers has been linked to increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma, a type of cancer. Nature magazine, which is sceptical of the impact on human health, at least reports a study showing a link between glyphosate and cancer in mice. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), a branch of the World Health Organization (WHO), ruled last year that the pesticide is a “probable human carcinogen.”

Dr. Philip Landrigan, a Harvard-educated pediatrician and epidemiologist, Dean for Global Health at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York, says, “For a long time glyphosate was viewed as an innocuous herbicide. A lot of things have changed”.

His colleague, Chuck Benbrook, an adjunct professor at Washington State University’s crops and soil science department, said “There is growing evidence that glyphosate is geno-toxic and has adverse effects on cells in a number of different ways. It’s time to pull back … on uses of glyphosate that we know are leading to significant human exposures while the science gets sorted out.”

Part 2: studies which conclude that glyphosate does not cause harm.




Will ‘determined opposition from GM agribusiness interests’ over-rule the decisions of governments like Scotland, Wales and Germany?

15 Jan

alison mannAlison Mann in the Scottish Farmer writes about the new Directive on Genetically Modified Organisms approved in the European Parliament this week which will allow member states to block – or accept – cultivation of GM crops on their own territory.

She reports that legal services in the European Parliament and Council are raising concerns over whether member states could implement bans without facing determined opposition from agribusiness interests.

Elsewhere comes news of an assessment from the Bundestag’s Green Party indicating that the GMO ban would be threatened by free trade agreements the EU is planning with Canada (CETA) and the United States (TTIP).

testbiotech cover graphic

Free trade – gateway for agricultural genetic engineering ( in German) is a study conducted by Christoph Then, of the possible consequences of TTIP based on the CETA text. (Graphic from cover above).

SNP MEP Alyn Smith described the new rules as a “toxic guddle”

He is concerned that:

  • the new law would not prevent the free circulation of GM products into Scotland,
  • it does not provide for the adequate labelling of products containing GM materials,
  • there are no provisions on how the rules to prevent contamination would be tackled within a member state.

He explained that the SNP are unable to support the new law: “Although in theory this legislation would give the Scottish government the right to ban the cultivation of GM crops on our territory, we are unable to support it due to its wider flaws.”

Some reported flaws:

  • they produce lower yields,
  • now fetch lower prices,
  • overall use more pesticides
  • face problems with pests becoming resistant to some pesticides
  • face problems with weeds resistant to a wide range of weedkillers
  • currently no GM crops authorised for use in the EU can be grown in England.

DEFRA Minister Paterson: note ill-health & lower life expectancy in GM-consuming America

13 Nov

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration conducts no scientific tests on any GMOs, yet declares them safe

phil bereanoLast week, Philip Bereano, Professor Emeritus in the field of Technology and Public Policy at the University of Washington in Seattle, felt impelled to protest at misleading statements repeated in the Seattle Times. Its editorial had repeated a statement from the Scientific American that “the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has tested all the GMOs on the market” to determine safety.

Prof. Bereano described this statement as untrue, because the FDA only receives summary information from the company concerned, “consults” with the company if there is indication of a problem (which there never is — the industry only submits dossiers that appear clean) and then rubberstamps the “application.” The agency itself does no actual assessment. His letter to the editor may be read here.

A day earlier a contributor to the Scientific American, who saw no point in labelling GM foods, declared, “The scientific evidence suggests that genetically engineered foods (at least those currently on the market) are safe for consumption”.

Yes – but the evidence is given to the FDA by the company’s own employees.

Is it a coincidence that ill-health and obesity has increased in America, where the commercial sale of genetically modified foods began in 1994, almost 20 years ago?

US OECD life expectancyThe Economist reports new research by Dr Christopher Murray and his team from the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation (University of Washington). This was published in Journal of the American Medical Association and presented to government officials at a White House event hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. The research published data showing that both sexes have longer periods of illness in later life and a lower life expectancy than their peers in the OECD – parts of West Virginia and Mississippi faring worse than Bangladesh and Algeria. Alzheimer’s disease, liver cancer, Parkinson’s and kidney cancer were on the upswing, accounting for a significant increase in premature deaths in the U.S.

Has the drive for profits by the GM and junk food corporations contributed to this increase?

Scottish farmer: GMs will totally undermine the integrity of our livestock vegetable and cereal farming

7 Nov

Tom Douglas of Glendearg Farm, Galashiels, writes in the Scottish Farmer this week:

My GM opposition continues for reasons of monopolisation of our life essentials by organisations I would not trust and the weak government control over them.

It is apparent that the UK government and Owen Paterson value Monsanto more than the considerations of the electorate and that of our biggest trading partner the EU.

The golden rice development is an absolute example of this, tricking us into eating insect repellent or other poisons systematically integrated into the structure of our food.

Another problem is that GM labelling is not compulsory

We will not know the genetic make up of our life essentials and the food we are eating or the long term effects it will have on our metabolism or the ecology which surrounds us.

The non labelling allows Tesco and Asda to stock GMs unnoticed by the public . . .

Ultimately, what we will have to do is create a national marketing group for all agricultural produce to defend ourselves and our products in the market and negotiate a realistic sustainable price for a product before production starts and claw our way back to making a respectable income from our production.


World Food Prize ? No: “Monsanto should be tried for ecocide”

17 Oct

IANSToday, a reader from Nashik sent a link to this statement from IANS, an NGO offering India’s largest independent news service, New Delhi (Oct 16), published by Yahoo Finance:

Monsanto should be tried for “ecocide and genocide” as its genetically modified cotton seeds are responsible for the poor cotton crop yields, deterioration in soil quality and suicides by farmers in India, said NGO Navdanya slamming the World Food Prize conferred on the US multinational Wednesday.

Monsanto has attracted criticism from activists worldwide for being conferred the top food award.


Navdanya, an Indian-based non-governmental organization which promotes biodiversity conservation, biodiversity, organic farming and the rights of farmers, said: “Contrary to what Monsanto proclaims, GMOs (genetically modified organisms) have led to a decline in yields and an increase in pesticide use, soil deterioration and farmer indebtedness and suicides. In India, most of the 284,000 farmers’ suicides are in the cotton belt – Monsanto controls 95 percent of the cotton seeds.”

“In a just world, Monsanto should be tried for ecocide and genocide,” it said in a statement. Yet on Oct 16, with the full support of powers most responsible for the state of hunger in the world, Monsanto is giving itself the World Food Prize!

The GMO emperor has no clothes

“We condemn this self congratulatory accolade – the GMO emperor has no clothes… We will not allow our Seed and Food Democracies to be hijacked by the current outmoded, reductionistic mechanistic paradigm,” it said.

It said the award comes on Oct 16, World Food Day, “a day when people all over the world are reminded of the shameful fact that over one billion people in the world are hungry and another billion are malnourished – this despite the fact that government institutions and multinational seed and food conglomerates have repeatedly over the decades declared to have the solution – one based on industrial agriculture, chemicals, GMOs and monocultures”.

“FAO tells us that more than 70% of food comes from small farms and small farmers. Only 10% of the GMO corn and soya grown by Monsanto is eaten directly. (And this is because that 10% is not labelled and would be 0% if people had labelling and food freedom). The other 90% goes to feed cars and animals,” it said.

“Let us honour all the Real Food Heroes who bring us real food by defending our food freedom- small farmers and gardeners, mothers and chefs, honest and real scientists. Let us celebrate those who save and exchange seed, preserve biodiversity and enrich our soils, and who through their actions are building food security all over the world and in communities everywhere with vibrant alternatives based on seed reform and food freedom.

monsanto demo durban

The most comprehensive coverage of the marches against Monsanto (above, Durban) was found in local American newspapers (use Google search) and Russia Today:

‘Mandatory labels for GM foods are a bad idea’

30 Sep

As public pressure for labelling America’s GM foods increases, pro-industry propaganda is going full swing with considerable assistance from the Scientific American’s un-named editors: ‘Mandatory labels for genetically modified foods are a bad idea’.

ferris jabrJournalist Ferris Jabr cites this article, explaining that people who oppose GMOs in California, Maine, Connecticut and other states have demanded mandatory labels on foods containing ingredients from genetically engineered crops because, they say, they want to know what they are eating. He declares that such labels will not help people understand the advantages and risks of GMOs or help them make smarter dietary choices or even explain what a GMO is.

The point is that many want the labelling so as to avoid the products, not to learn from text on the labels.

The latest example favouring the GM industry comes from the pen of Ferris Jabr who is ‘focusing on neuroscience and psychology’.and has an MA in science, health and environmental reporting and a BSc in psychology and English literature.

He reviews Jeremy Seifert’s new documentary film “GMO OMG” which starts showing on September 13th, authoritatively endorsing the advantages of genetically modified crops despite having no relevant qualifications.

A ‘hatchet job’ on Seifert

  • a series of maudlin pastoral scenes
  • using his children like marionettes for ludicrous theatrics
  • his naivete is a charade – not a genuine search for knowledge by for affirmation of preconceived concerns.
  • he is content to parrot numerous misconceptions spread by people who fiercely oppose genetic modification.
  • he acts as though all of Big Ag is unwilling to interact with journalists because Monsanto denies his feeble and unprofessional requests for an interview and turns him away when he drops by unannounced.
  • His conclusion that the “science is still out” on genetically modified organisms is completely misleading.

Mitigating comments

 As the (un-named) editors wrote in the September issue of Scientific American: “The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has tested all the GMOs on the market to determine whether they are toxic or allergenic. They are not.”

He admits there are legitimate concerns about how GM crops inadvertently imbalance insect ecosystems and accelerate weeds’ resistance to herbicides.

Recent studies indicate that in a few rare cases they may inadvertently kill butterflies, ladybugs and other harmless or helpful insects, although so far there is no solid evidence that they poison bees.

Even more concerning, agricultural pests can, will and have become resistant to Bt crops, just as they inevitably develop immunity to any form of pest control.

If biotech companies prematurely release new Bt varieties without proper testing or farmers do not take adequate precautions when growing them, Bt crops ultimately fail and, ironically, encourage the use of chemical pesticides they were meant to replace.

Jabr’s conclusion

Honestly, if you really want to understand GMOs, I think it’s best to stay away from Seifert’s new documentary altogether. There are many books and articles on the subject much more deserving of your time and attention.

STOP PRESS: GM Education (produced by Lawrence Woodward and Megan Noble) tell us that recently Monsanto donated $4.6 million to the campaign for a ‘No’ vote, followed closely by DuPont Pioneer; which stumped up another $3.2 million

Sources – Jeremy Seifert