Tag Archives: Farming Today

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.

 

 

 

 

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Spotlight on Bayer-Monsanto neonicotinoid field trials

23 Sep

Farming Today (23.9.16) seems to be unaware of the content of the neonicotinoids research studies obtained by Greenpeace after a freedom of information request to the US Environmental Protection Agency. Bayer intends to make these public at the International Congress of Entomology next week.

This is not good news for Bayer, debt-laden since its takeover of Monsanto and reported to have seen its shares ‘drifting downwards’.

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Reports in the Guardian and EurActiv inform readers that the research studies, conducted by Syngenta and Bayer on their neonicotinoid insecticides, showed that Syngenta’s thiamethoxam and Bayer’s clothianidin seriously harmed colonies at high doses, but found no significant effects below concentrations of 50 parts per billion (ppb) and 40ppb respectively.

Bees and other insects vital for pollinating three-quarters of the world’s food crops, have been in significant decline, due – it is thought -to the loss of flower-rich habitats, disease and the use of pesticides.

Consider the cumulative effect of neonic residues ingested from planting dust, water and treated seeds

However researchers note that pollinators in real environments are continually exposed to cocktails of many pesticides, rather than single chemicals for relatively short periods. As Matt Shardlow, chief executive of conservation charity Buglife, said:

“These studies may not show an impact on honeybee health [at low levels], but then the studies are not realistic. The bees were not exposed to the neonics that we know are in planting dust, water drunk by bees and wildflowers, wherever neonics are used as seed treatments. This secret evidence highlights the profound weakness of regulatory tests.”

prof-goulsonProfessor Dave Goulson explained, on Farming Today, that there were 20,000 species of bees and that neonics are neurotoxins that harm bumble bees, wild solitary bees and all insects. He added that there are a huge number of studies indicating the damage done and only a few that find them safe.

He reminds us on his blog that a recent Swedish study, published in the most prestigious scientific journal in the world (Nature), showed huge impacts of neonics on bumblebees and solitary bees when the chemicals were used by farmers ‘as directed on the label’ and adds a warning:

“Remember that, 50 years ago, the agrochemical industry assured us the DDT was safe, until it turned out that it wasn’t. Later, they told us that organophosphates were fine, except they weren’t. Do you believe them this time? I don’t”.

 

 

 

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.

Radio 4 smoothing the way for GM crops? Skewed interviewing by Charlotte Smith

1 Mar

farming today header

A sad awakening to hear on Farming Today, by chance, the poorest exchange on GM technology it is possible to imagine – inaccurately billed as an ‘exploration’: 

farming today blurb

Fifteen years ago in the late ‘90s, Radio 4’s Farming Today ‘faced the chop’ because of its courageous, truthful coverage of BSE and FMD issues and is now bland and establishment-friendly, proud that its ‘the rural agenda’ – and that of Countryfile – has made countryside “relevant to people’s lives as both a playground and a source of affordable and safe food.”

Note the playground is given first priority, when food – the staff of life – is placed second – a long way behind tourism and the import-export merry-go-round promoted by government and probably all ‘mainstream’ political parties.

Charlotte’s leading questions and comments, emotional not rational, included:

  • Are we holding back progress?
  • Is regulatory process hampering the development of GM crops?
  • We need GM crops to feed the world (quoting Mark Walport) – a theory discredited by facts presented by many, including geneticist Dr Michael Antoniou.

This notion of progress was used  in the 60s to build defective concrete tower blocks and justify other dubious projects – and now the taxpayer levied HS2.

Charlotte asserted that the rest of the world is using the technology (mainly for animal feed) but look at the pro-biotech ISAAA’s table:

GMO using conutires

The Rothamsted advocate could not have been given an easier ride

One of Charlotte’s opening remarks was “We need progress”  –  but surely not progress towards resistant weeds, insect pests and damage to health. None of these problems were even mentioned by the opponent of GM crops from the Soil Association. Were guidelines been imposed beforehand as a condition of appearing?

Challenge

MH 2 & farmer from MissouriThe BBC is challenged to invite farmer Michael Hart to speak in such a debate.

No laboratory scientist, in his short documentary he investigated the reality of farming genetically modified crops in the USA ten years after their introduction. He travelled across the US interviewing farmers and other specialists about their experiences of growing GM.

During the making of the film he heard problems of the ever-increasing costs of seeds and chemicals to weeds becoming resistant to herbicides.

The BBC is also challenged to present the facts about the high levels of ill health in a generation of Americans ‘nourished’ on meat from cattle fed GM maize and soy.

revolving_doorOr would this present too many obstacles to acceptance of GM technology, end the hospitality to media and close the biotech industry’s revolving door to the public relations sector, scientists and politicians?

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