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British MSM fails to report escalating GM problems: ‘superworms’ & ‘superweeds’

10 Dec

Earlier this year America’s St Louis Dispatch reported on a growing sense of unease “spreading across the Great Plains about the cornstalk-sized superweeds infesting more than 100 million acres”.

Nathan Donley recalls: “For years Monsanto officials had assured farmers that weeds would never develop resistance to the company’s flagship herbicide, glyphosate, so farmers were urged to apply it liberally year after year because “dead weeds don’t produce seeds.” And apply it they did, with annual U.S. glyphosate use soaring to over 300 million pounds — an escalation that quickly accelerated the evolution of glyphosate-resistant superweeds that can grow an inch a day to heights of 10 feet and break farm equipment”.

Now major herbicide producers are offering a familiar-sounding “solution”: ‘use more’.

Four years after its release in 2002 with much fanfare, Bt cotton became susceptible to the bollworm. Today Devinder Sharma reports that India’s failing genetically modified Bt cotton crop, designed to guard against the bollworm pest, has increasingly been unable to resist it. Farmers have been forced to use deadly cocktails of pesticides to curb the insect menace. 

A reader wonders how soon the bollworm will become a ‘superworm’ resistant to pesticide ‘cocktails’.

Sharma adds: “News has come in of 50 farm workers succumbing to suspected pesticides poisoning; at least 25 lost their eyesight and another 800 admitted to various hospitals in Maharashtra. Another 6 deaths and hospitalisation of a few hundred more have been reported from Tamil Nadu’s cotton belt – Perambalur, Ariyalur and Salem.

Pink bollworm resurgence has been so severe that there are reports of farmers unable to harvest even a kilo of cotton and being forced to uproot or burn the standing crop in several parts of the country. In Maharashtra alone:

  • more than 80,000 farmers, up to Nov 30, have applied for crop compensation.
  • The bollworm has destroyed nearly 50% of the standing crop in Maharashtra, the country’s biggest cotton grower
  • and another 20% in Madhya Pradesh.
  • It has caused extensive damage in Telengana, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Gujarat.
  • Only about 100 of the 150 cotton ginning mills in Maharashtra are in operation and they are working at 50% capacity.
  • Reuters reports that cotton exports this year will be one-fifth less, coming down to 6 million bales against the earlier estimate of 7.5 million bales. 

A senior agricultural scientist once told Sharma: “In the early 1960s, only six to seven major pests were worrying the cotton farmer. The farmer today is battling against some 70 major pests on cotton.” The greater the attack of insect pests, the more is the use and abuse of potent chemicals. His advice: 

  • instead of introducing a third generation of Bollgard-III varieties, and compounding the existing crisis, the focus of agricultural research should shift to alternative methods.
  • Agricultural universities should be directed to stop any further research on GM cotton
  • and the focus shifted to use of bio-control and integrated pest management techniques that use pesticides sparingly – and as a last resort.

Sharma adds persuasively that already Burkina Faso has shown a remarkable jump of 20% in cotton productivity after phasing out Bt cotton. Turkey also has shown excellent results with IPM techniques; rejecting GM cotton, and restricting the use of chemical pesticides, Turkey has doubled its cotton yields.  

More information:

Published here: बीटी कॉटन के चक्रव्यूह से बाहर आना होगा Dainik Bhaskar. Dec 9, 2017 https://www.bhaskar.com/news/ABH-LCL-bt-cotton-has-to-come-out-of-the-maze-5765023-PHO.html – and in English by the author at Ground Reality: http://devinder-sharma.blogspot.co.uk/2017/12/when-dreaded-pink-boll-worm-strikes-back.html 

Integrated Pest Management for Sustainable Intensification of Agriculture in Asia and Africa

Integrated pest management of protected vegetable cultivation in Turkey

 

 

 

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Will Delhi University’s Dr Deepak Pental eventually agree with his British-based counterpart that GM crops are not ‘the answer’?

31 Oct

In July, India’s Genetic Engineering Appraisal Committee (GEAC) – the government’s regulator for transgenic products – recommended GM mustard for “consideration for environmental release and cultivation”.

GM food has long been actively opposed by activists and politicians in India because of fears that it could compromise food safety and biodiversity. Some experts have also questioned claims that GM crops are more productive than normal varieties. Bt cotton production has declined and pests are proliferating.

There is also political opposition: the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS – national volunteer organization) and the Swadeshi Jagran Manch, both of whom share the ruling party’s ideology also oppose GM food and want to promote local varieties instead.

First Post reports that Dr Mira Shiva, widely respected for her medical work with children, wrote a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi endorsed by 34 doctors and medical experts from across the country.

She asked him to reject the “environmental release” application for the genetically modified (GM) mustard crop. Dr Shiva said the nation should not be forced to face the risks and dangers associated with GM mustard and gave a detailed and scientific explanation of its probable impacts on health. One point:

“There is ample scientific evidence available that GM foods (often in combination with herbicides that are used on GM crops which are mostly herbicide tolerant given that 81% of the GM crop extent world over is planted to herbicide tolerant GM crops) result in numerous adverse health impacts starting from allergies, to impaired immunity, organ damage, affected growth and development of an organism, reproductive health problems, and even carcinogenic effects.”

Similar objections are voiced at length on the website of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, an international association of physicians and other professionals interested in the clinical aspects of humans and their environment, which provides research and education in the recognition, treatment and prevention of illnesses induced by exposures to biological and chemical agents encountered in air, food and water.

The Hindustan Times now reports that GEAC has deferred approval of the commercial release of the genetically modified mustard developed by the Delhi University-based Centre for Genetic Manipulation of Crop Plants – or ‘frozen’ it, according to Reuters.

 

 

 

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Rising antibiotic resistance in E.coli on UK supermarket meat

9 Sep

tracy-and-pigLast December this site reported that Tracy Worcester is drawing attention to the subject of antibiotic resistance, which is growing – developing not in humans, but in bacteria that can then infect humans. Surgical and cancer chemotherapy patients rely on antibiotics to protect them from potentially life-threatening illnesses and declining efficacy could turn routine procedures into life-threatening ones.

The Organic Research Centre now reports that a new study carried out by scientists at Cambridge University, looked at 189 UK-origin pig and poultry meat samples from the seven largest supermarkets in the UK (ASDA, Aldi, Coop, Morrisons, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose). It tested for the presence of E. coli which are resistant to the key antibiotics for treating E. coli urinary-tract and blood-poisoning infections in people. The highly resistant ESBL E. coli was found on meat from all of the supermarkets.

orc-header

The research found rising levels of resistance in chicken meat, with 24% of samples testing positive for ESBL E. coli, a type of E. coli resistant to the ‘critically important’ modern cephalosporin antibiotics. This is four times higher than was found during a similar study in 2015, in which just 6% of chicken tested positive for ESBL E. coli. Modern cephalosporins are widely used for treating life-threatening E.coli blood poisoning in humans.

51% of the E. coli from pork and poultry samples were resistant to the antibiotic trimethoprim, which is used to treat over half of lower urinary-tract infections. In addition, 19% of the E. coli were resistant to gentamicin, a very important human antibiotic used to treat more serious upper urinary-tract infections.

The findings provide further evidence that the overuse of antibiotics used to mass medicate livestock on British farms is likely to be undermining the treatment of E. coli urinary-tract and blood-poisoning infections in humans. Some of the antibiotics tested are used in far greater quantities in livestock farming than in human medicine.

Dr Mark Holmes, from Cambridge University, who led the study said: “I’m concerned that insufficient resources are being put into the surveillance of antibiotic resistance in farm animals and retail meat. We don’t know if these levels are rising or falling in the absence of an effective monitoring system. These results highlight the need for improvements in antibiotic stewardship in veterinary medicine. While some progress has been made we must not be complacent as it may take many years before we see significant reductions in the numbers of antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in farms.”

E-coli is by far the most common cause of urinary-tract infections and of dangerous blood poisoning, and can also cause meningitis. These infections must be treated with antibiotics. Dr Ron Daniels BEM, CEO of the UK Sepsis Trust said: “This study highlights a worrying trend towards rising resistance in E.coli on UK retail meat. E.coli in people is the greatest cause of deaths from sepsis, and poor antimicrobial stewardship in intensive farming is undoubtedly contributing to this trend. It’s of paramount importance that we act decisively to reduce this immediate threat to human life.”

Two recommendations:

 Other proposals:

Tracy points out that we have the choice to buy meat with the high welfare labels RSPCA Assured, Outdoor Bred, Free Range or Organic – eat less meat as Anna advocates – or go meat-free. See the World Health Organisation on the health issues here.

Buy organic/local?

Organic farming is perceived as providing a better quality of life for farmed animals and an earlier article reports that a new financial report on organic farming in England and Wales for 2014/15, undertaken by the Organic Research Centre for the Welsh Government, shows organic farm profits increasing, with organic dairy farming outperforming conventional dairy farming in England and Wales. In particular, the organic dairy industry is now generating higher profits than conventional farms despite producing lower yields.

Animal welfare has been a key motivator to consumers who are increasingly choosing organic products with quality assurance standards, because they want to know the origins of their food, and are willing to pay more for products which are ‘friendly’ to wildlife and the environment.

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Professor Nic Lampkin from the Organic Research Centre in Newbury, was one of the co-authors of the report and the Cambridge study was commissioned by the Alliance to Save our Antibiotics, of which the Organic Research Centre is a member.

 

 

 

BT cotton’s whitefly problems in Punjab & Haryana: why is the M-word avoided?

10 Sep

With thanks to Eva Novotny for the lead to this news in GM Watch and to Devinder Sharma for some cheering news on the subject.

To date not one newspaper report has mentioned Monsanto, the manufacturer of this technology. An online search reveals that only a Global Research headline (article first published in July 2015), relating to farmer suicides, has done so, presumably braving litigation.

Ikhhlaq Aujla in the Times of India reports that genetically modified BT cotton varieties which offered resistance to American bollworm are under attack from whitefly in both Punjab and Haryana this season – areas which account for about 11-12% of country’s total cotton output. (Below left: whitefly on cotton in America)

The Tribune adds that the pest has come early this year: “The early onset of the infestation and its severity has left the farmers in distress,” said Gurjeet Singh Mann, a farmer in Kirpal Patti village of Sirsa and has crossed economic twhitefly cotton 2USAhreshold levels (ETL). Principal scientist at the Central Institute of Cotton Research, Dr Dalip Monga explains: “If the number of insects is eight to 10 per leaf, the attack is said to have crossed ETL. But in Sirsa, we have observed 15 to 20 insects per leaf at most places and even up to 30 to 40 insects per leaf on some other plants.”

Another Tribune report records that this blow comes after earlier losses in rice and wheat crops. Asked about the third consecutive shock suffered by farmers, Agriculture Commissioner Balwinder Singh Sidhu said, “It is an unfortunate situation. Obviously, the damage to the cotton crop will aggravate the crisis in the farm sector and hurt the farmers badly.”

Returning to the TOI report we read that farmers in many parts of Punjab and Haryana have uprooted cotton for other crops in recent days. Baljinder Singh Sidhu from Kotbhara village in Bathinda said, “Build-up to the pest was so sudden that it caught us unawares. Many farmers in my village have uprooted cotton since the damage to the crop was massive.”

An official from the Punjab agriculture department said, “We are organizing camps in villages and telling farmers to use recommended pesticides . . .” but in 2002, cotton farmers used so much pesticide against the whitefly that the chemical is believed to have affected the soil and groundwater. TOI reports that many believe this is the reason behind a large number of cancer cases detected among people in the cotton belt. (Below, unprotected spraying)

cotton spraying

Prof Ashok Dhawan, former head of the entomology, Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana, said, “The whitefly attack can lead to 30%-40% drop in average yield in the affected areas. Spraying pesticides is not the best solution. Farmers need to follow a composite plan. We need varieties that are resistant,” said Prof Dhawan.

TOI later reported that farmers have marched to the deputy commissioner’s office and submitted a memorandum demanding special survey for their crop destroyed by whitefly., ‘Sirsa deputy director of agriculture Babu Lal admitted the problem of pest attack and said about 25% of the cotton crop got affected by whitefly. He said, “Though arrival of cotton has not started in Sirsa, we will come to know about yield loss after the produces reaches the mandis.”

The Indian Express adds that agriculture experts at Muktsar, Bathinda and Fazilka believe the improper use of insecticides was the primary reason for the whitefly attack in the state, noting that all the farmers who had used an excess of urea had their crops affected. However when asked, experts said there is no scientific reason which can connect urea usage with white fly attack.

Stop press: received this morning from Delhi’s Devinder Sharma:

devinder sharma 3Farmers in Nidana and Lalit Khera, two tiny and nondescript villages in Jind district of Haryana, are oblivious of any threat to their cotton crop. In fact, while Haryana farmers are a worried lot, whitefly attack is non-existent in a cluster of 18 villages in the same district. They do not spray any chemical pesticides for several years now and have instead been using benign insects to control harmful pests. This year too, they allowed the natural predators of whitefly to proliferate, which in turn killed the whitefly. In other words, these farmers have learnt the art of maintaining insect equilibrium in such a manner that the benign insects take care of the pests by not allowing insect population to cross the threshold level. “We don’t have any problem from whitefly,” Ranvir Singh, a farmer, informed me.

Il Papa: counterweight to the Owen Paterson-fronted GM onslaught

17 Jun

monsanto logo (3)As Monsanto (renamed in Windscale damage limitation mode) plans a British HQ for its new company – if it can acquire Syngenta – former Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson [below right] once again trots out tired myths about the virtues of genetic modification of crops.

owen paterson on return from chinaHe is said to be assisted by his brother-in-law, Viscount Matt Ridley, a genetic scientist who is a visiting professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York which has received funding from Monsanto and Novartis. His long-term support for the technology, first highlighted in a ‘civilian’ September 2012 speech at the Rothamsted Research facility, inviting GMO innovators to take root in the UK, was followed by his DEFRA appointment.

Minister Paterson, in partnership with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, financed by GM companies Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience, frequently lobbied the EU on the desirability of GM crops. Last April he refused a Freedom of Information Act request to supply details about meetings between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the GM industry trade body. He had to leave DEFRA, having extolled Britain’s shale gas reserves, ‘an unexpected and potentially huge windfall’, and mishandled the summer floods and badger culls.

uk2020

He then set up a think tank UK2020. Millionaire-founded, it steers clear of direct funding from GM industries but vigorously promotes the technology at events such as last year’s South African agricultural biotechnology media conference, hosted by ISAAA which receives donations from both Monsanto and Bayer CropScience.

Murdoch’s Fox News: “the most anticipated and feared papal document in recent times”

Reports are coming in about the leaked papal encyclical on dangers to the environment but many failed to mention the references to genetically modified crops. It adds to the call for dialogue on this and other environmental issues voiced by the Vatican in 2013.

Farming Weekly Online does report the thoughts of Pope Francis on GMOs and pesticides, voiced in the draft of this major environmental document. He has called for a “scientific and social debate” on genetically modified foods that considers all the information available: “[I]t is necessary to ensure scientific and social debate that is responsible and large, able to consider all the information and to call things by their names. GMOs is an issue which is complex; it must be approached with a sympathetic look at all its aspects and this requires at least one effort to finance several lines of independent and interdisciplinary research.”

FW reports that he highlighted “significant problems” with the technology that should not be minimised, such as the “development of oligopolies in the production of seeds” and a “concentration of productive land in the hands of the few” that leads to the “disappearance of small producers”. Did it refer to GM herbicide resistant weeds and GM insecticide resistant insects?

The pontiff said the spread of GM crops “destroys the complex web of ecosystems, decreases diversity in production and affects the present and future of regional economies”. On the use of pesticides in agriculture – and GM cultivation – he warned that many birds and insects useful to agriculture are dying out as a result of pesticides created by technology.

We end with comments from a Nebraskan:

 iowa-farm-road-2

I see the landscape in farming country in Iowa & Nebraska – not a tree or bush in sight. Not one weed. The pesticides & weed killers spayed on the crops have killed off everything except the GMO crops! There go the butterflies, the bees & all other beneficial insects that pollinate our crops. It’s a sickening thing to see & it spells total disaster. I applaud the Pope for taking a world view of our problems. No other Pope has ever bothered with anything other than spiritual problems.

And from Brian John – on our mailing list:

Good for Pope Francis! The religious leaders — of all faiths — have been very slow to enter this debate, partly because they have been put under intense diplomatic pressure by the GMO/agrichemical industries and by the US and other governments. But the Christian understanding of the word “stewardship” is a very important part of the faith, and it’s great that Pope Francis is now prepared to explain it in terms of a global responsibility to look after the poor, to look after the environment and to maintain the purity of food and water. The GMO industry, and its acolytes, bang on all the time, quite cynically, about GMOs being needed to “feed the world” in a future full of uncertainties. It’s nonsense. of course, and the Pope’s intervention at this stage is of vast significance.

You can find the full draft encyclical here (in Italian): speciali.espresso.repubblica.it/pdf/laudato_si.pdf and comments on a translation.

Will the destructive profit motive triumph in Europe, even as America – beset by high rates of cancer, heart disease and obesity – imports GM free foods?

9 Jun

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. In an increasingly urgent quest to restore profit, the BBC reports that the Beijing News and the Beijing Times, urge Chinese shoppers to “discard their prejudice” against GM foods as part of a government campaign. An online search will show many reports that imports of GM food have been rejected or ‘approval suspended by China, Japan, South Korea and Russia.

So the industry turns yet again to Europe. On the sadly emasculated Farming Today radio programme, a spokesman with a clear vested interest (see endnote) says that it’s now ‘morally wrong’ not to allow farmers to use GM technology to feed a growing population.

Are Monsanto’s insecticides and herbicides beyond reproach?

One argument on the blurb is that farming that relies on pesticides is no longer acceptable. It fails to mention insect resistance to use of Monsanto’s insecticides and the fact that Monsanto’s seeds rely on the use of its herbicide Roundup (toxic glyphosate) which a report published recently in the journal Lancet Oncology, by researchers for WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, said was probably carcinogenic to humans, farmers, forestry workers and domestic gardeners – a damaging conclusion which Monsanto has called on WHO to retract.

In addition to this health concern there is the environmental and agricultural problem recorded earlier on this site, which carried recent news of Monsanto’s reduced profits due to increasing weed resistance to Roundup; USDA records that 14 glyphosate resistant weed species have been documented in the US.

Lying by implication – the writer has been driven to capitalise for emphasis

Representations made on the BBC website by Stephen Tindale:

  • scientists should be able to develop GM technology – whereas there are BATTALIONS of highly paid scientists doing just that;
  • those who oppose it presented as weak-minded idiots. Campaigners are reported as saying – on the blurb – that not enough is yet known about its potential harm to the environment and the public – whereas there are MASSES of evidence of potential harm; for one example see links to WHO and USDA evidence of weed resistance.

How often must all these tired allegations be refuted? Will campaigners eventually cease though sheer boredom (the writer is wilting) – and will the destructive profit motive triumph?

climate answers logo

In 2005 after leaving Greenpeace, Stephen Tindale announced his support for nuclear power and GM crop technology. He co-founded ‘currently unfunded’ Climate Answers, has been a consultant for RWE, one of Europe’s five leading companies, generating electricity from gas, coal, nuclear and renewables, and is an Associate Fellow at the Centre for European Reform in which corporate donor, Bayer, represents GM interests.

Will Monsanto manage to restore its profits, flagging because of weed resistance to Roundup?

3 Jun

A Lancashire farmer sent news, later reported by the FT’s Emiko Terazono, that the agricultural seeds and chemicals group, Monsanto, hopes to buy a rival Swiss agrochemical company, Syngenta.

monsanto logo (4)For years, a large proportion of Monsanto’ profits came from genetically modified glyphosate-tolerant Roundup Ready seeds. The chemical glyphosate, which was put on the market in the 1970s under the trade name Roundup, had become one of the most widely used herbicides in growing soyabean and corn.

However, increasing weed resistance to Roundup has been threatening the US agrigroup’s revenues, and herbicide sales data shows farmers are already reducing their glyphosate use for other herbicides, even if they are more expensive. The Economics of Glyphosate Resistance Management in Corn and Soybean Production, on the US Department of Agriculture’s website, recorded in April that 14 glyphosate resistant weed species have been documented in the US.

As the advice given is to rotate different herbicides, Monsanto would be enabled to do this after acquiring Syngenta, by adding the wide range of herbicides listed in Syngenta’s product guide, to its increasingly problematic Roundup herbicide.

Earlier this year the World Health Organisation said that glyphosate was “classified as probably carcinogenic to humans” – a claim Monsanto rejects. See the Press release: IARC Monographs Volume 112: evaluation of five organophosphate insecticides and herbicides” (PDF). International Agency for Research on Cancer, World Health Organization. March 20, 2015.

syngenta 2logoAnalysts estimate that acquiring Syngenta, the world’s largest crop chemical producer would give Monsanto control of almost a third of that sector – a similar ratio to its share of the global seeds business.

Bloomberg comments that slower growth and lower commodity prices are putting pressure on the agricultural-chemical industry to consolidate. It predicts that this deal would set the stage for even more mergers and acquisitions.

NGO SumOfUs works to limit the power of massive agribusiness corporations and has set up a petition opposing the proposed purchase, saying:

sumofus petition

“No single corporation should be allowed to wield the sort of power that comes from a near-monopoly on our global food system”.