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RSM conference: Fera Science data finds toxic cocktails of pesticides – a public health hazard

26 Jan

Many readers will have noted that, in November, speaking at a Royal Society of Medicine conference on pesticides, scientists warned that consuming tiny amounts of many different chemicals on a regular basis could be harmful to human health.

The conference heard new scientific evidence from around the world showing that very low doses of pesticides, well below official ‘safety’ levels, pose a significant risk to public health from pesticides in the food supply.

More pesticides and herbicides are now used on crops because weeds and insects have become increasingly resistant to chemicals. See University of California document (insect resistance, frost paragraph).

Dr Michael Antoniou (left, head of the gene expression and therapy research group at King’s College London) said that all the evidence shows that people should minimise their exposure to pesticides.

Prof Anne Marie Vinggaard (division of diet, disease prevention and toxicology at the Danish National Food Institute) said “We are not just exposed to pesticides. We are exposed to a lot of chemicals acting together Consumption of “toxic cocktails” of low levels of pesticide cocktails are thought to be linked with degenerative diseases like strokes, heart attacks and cancers”.

Katie Morley, the Telegraph’s Consumer Affairs Editor, reports that figures released by the Soil Association, which certifies organic food, show that the number of toxic chemicals found in onions, leeks, wheat and potatoes has been steadily increasing since the 1960s, though industry data shows that the volume of pesticides found on supermarket vegetables has halved since the 1990s. Onions and leeks have seen the biggest rise in toxic chemicals. In 1974 less than two chemicals were applied to an average wheat crop.

The figures were compiled by data firm Fera Science, formerly the government’s Food and Environment Research Agency and now 75% owned by Capita and 25% by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs who hold UK Government data on pesticide use in farming. The research found that pesticide active ingredients applied to three British crops have increased between 6 and 18 times ranging from 480% to 1,700% over the last 40-odd years.

Dr Antoniou’s advice: “Minimally as a precaution you should minimise your exposure to pesticides. The only way to guarantee that, is by eating organically”

 

 

 

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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 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”.