Tag Archives: Monsanto

Encouraging lack of enthusiasm for GM technology at China’s national congress

21 Oct

Those who totally oppose all GM adoption in China because of concerns about the damage caused by the herbicides and pesticides used with the crops and a loose coalition of left-wingers, environmentalists and retired officials will be encouraged by the lack of enthusiasm for GM technology at this week’s national congress of China’s Communist Party.

Lucy Hornby in Beijing, writing in the FT, says that Mr Xi has ‘historically fudged’ his position on GM — urging advocates to be “bold in research, careful in promotion”.

Ms Hornby notes that the coalition had written letters to the top leadership last year opposing ChemChina’s purchase of Swiss seeds and agrochemicals group Syngenta. Reuters put the number of signatories at 400.

Currently – despite US Dow Chemicals’ persistent and energetic lobbying – only GM papaya is planted on a small scale in China, due to domestic fears that foreign GM technology poses a security threat. In addition, at present (June 17th report) GM cotton is grown in China and GM animal feed is imported. Very few genetically modified foods are allowed on the market in China and labelling GM foods is strictly enforced there.

The safety of GMOs is widely debated in China through traditional media and the emerging online social media, where the public expresses deep concerns about the safety of GMO foods.

In 2015, there was a report of a conference on “GMOs and National Security” in Beijing, where scholars warned that the issues relating to GMOs were not just about science or technology, but also about food security, ecological security, and even national security.

A study of a GM grain carried out in China in 2012 caused great concern to the public; a US researcher and her team were accused of feeding Chinese children a GM grain, golden rice, and measuring the effects without telling their parents.

Chinese researchers are vying to promote new plant strains they have developed, while not revealing whether they are genetically modified or developed using traditional breeding practices. Many are grown in demonstration fields but have not been commercialised.

Frank Ning is the head of ChemChina’s rival Sinochem, which markets some Monsanto products. He said that the future direction of Chinese agriculture is the gradual improvement of seed quality and more targeted application of fertiliser and pesticides, which are big sources of soil and water pollution in China:

“Sinochem has transformed. We used to be just a sales operation: selling seeds, selling fertiliser. Now we are a modern agricultural platform: service oriented, promoting better seeds and teaching people to use less fertiliser.”

So far, so good.

 

 

 

 

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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.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

David Cameron please note: the Indian government listens to its people who seek transparency, accountability and good governance

9 Feb

chemchina

Where does America stand on ChemChina’s bid – and who will take over the funding of Indian research into GM mustard seed?

In the news: ChemChina is bidding to acquire Syngenta AG, a global Swiss biotechnology agribusiness that produces agrochemicals and seeds and conducts genomic research. The company is said to be ‘positioning’ itself for “the day when GM corn can be grown domestically, boosting yields in a country that is home to more than 20% of the global population but has less than 10% of the earth’s arable land”.

Beijing does not currently allow cultivation of genetically-modified crops, but is reported to be considering a relaxation of the ban – though its citizens are opposed to use of this technology – see the recent news on this site about a ban on GM food in a section of the Chinese army.

Here, the US/Swiss Syngenta connection is spelt out:

Brian Babin, a Republican congressman whose district includes a Syngenta plant in Houston that produces ingredients and fungicides, foreshadowed potential obstacles ahead. “I believe it is critical that every purchase by China of any company that operates in the United States should be fully reviewed by Committee on Foreign Investment United States (CFIUS),” he said. “There should be absolutely no exceptions.”

A reader recently sent a link to news from New Delhi that government officials were to decide on Friday 5th February whether to allow what could be India’s first genetically modified (GM) food crop, mustard, spurred by food security concerns.

Indian-developed GM mustard yield is said to be 20-30% higher than normal varieties, which would help slash an annual bill for vegetable oil imports of more than $10 billion.

GM-MustardField trials have been held in Rajasthan, Punjab and at Indian Agriculture Research Institute (IARI), Delhi

Dr Vandana Shiva gave a clue to the provenance of this mustard: “Our mustard is once again under threat, this time from genetic engineering of mustard for sterility and herbicide tolerance by Dr Deepak Pental (left), Delhi University’s former vice-chancellor”.

But a further search found that recently Pental’s chief funder, National Dairy Development Board’s (NDDB), has withdrawn funding, recommending that the Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) should support the further research on the project.

Will others step in? Monsanto? Syngenta/Chem China?

Continued on a Indian sister site: https://chssachetan.wordpress.com/2016/02/07/where-does-america-stand-on-chemchinas-bid-and-who-will-take-over-the-funding-of-indian-research-into-gm-mustard-seed/

Monsanto asks the WHO, and California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, not to list glyphosate as a carcinogen

16 Jan

Glyphosate is the key ingredient in Monsanto’s branded Roundup line of herbicides, as well as hundreds of other products, but many scientific studies have raised questions about the health impacts of glyphosate and consumer and medical groups have expressed worries about glyphosate residues in food.

OEHA logoIn October, Carey Gillam reported for Reuters that California’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA), has been accepting public comments about its intention to list glyphosate as a cause of cancer.

Roughly 8,000 comments were filed regarding the state action, according to officials, including those from Monsanto. Several farming, public health and environmental groups sent a letter to OEHHA supporting the listing, and said that rising use of glyphosate presents a danger to people and animals.

The OEHHA gave notice in September that it intended to list glyphosate under proposition 65, a state initiative enacted in 1986 to inform residents about cancer-causing chemicals. State officials said the action is required after the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer research committee in March classified glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen.

As we reported in March, the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times reported Monsanto’s call for the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency to retract a report published in the journal Lancet Oncology by researchers for WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

The WHO’s research unit, however, said it had reviewed many scientific studies, including two out of Sweden, one out of Canada and at least three in the United States before making its classification.

Since the WHO classification, the New York-based mass-tort firm of Weitz & Luxenberg, and other firms representing U.S. farm workers, have filed lawsuits against Monsanto, accusing the company of knowing of the dangers of glyphosate for decades. Monsanto has said the claims are without merit

Monsanto has now urged California not to list herbicide glyphosate as carcinogenic.

glyphosate round upIt added, in its formal comment, that California’s actions could be considered illegal because they are not considering valid scientific evidence.

Wheat and other cereals – 2. glyphosate pesticides

29 Nov

In October plant biologist Dr. Jonathan Latham who began his doctoral research by creating GMO foods, published an article saying that commercial interests are beginning to ‘run ahead’ of scientific knowledge.

17 leading cancer experts on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) cancer research committee in March agreed to classify glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen. As we reported in March, the Wall Street Journal and Financial Times published Monsanto’s call for the World Health Organisation’s cancer agency to retract a report published in the journal Lancet Oncology by researchers for WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer.

An earlier study published in the journal Toxicology supports the findings of the WHO scientists that pesticides, such as Roundup, also contain additives (adjuvants), which increase the pest or weed-killing activity of the pesticide and do not have to be tested in medium and long-term tests.

This appears to have been known as far back as 1996, according to a Pesticides Action Network factsheet: It said that in pure chemical terms glyphosate is an organophosphate in that it contains carbon and phosphorous. However, it does not affect the nervous system in the same way as organophosphate insecticides, and is not a cholinesterase inhibitor:

“While glyphosate itself may be relatively harmless, some of the products with which it is formulated have a rather less benign reputation. Marketed formulations of glyphosate generally contain a surfactant. The purpose of this is to prevent the chemical from forming into droplets and rolling off leaves which are sprayed. Some of these surfactants are serious irritants, toxic to fish, and can themselves contain contaminants which are carcinogenic to humans”.

Alternet summarises: glyphosate by itself doesn’t cause cancer but it is likely that, in products which contain glyphosate and other additives and chemicals, the genotoxic effects observed in some glyphosate-based formulations are related to the other constituents or “co-formulants.

However, this year, scientists who compiled the European Food Safety Authority’s peer review report – with only one exception – found that the weed killer glyphosate, present in the widely used product ‘Round Up’, is not likely to be carcinogenic.

An Open Letter was sent to Commissioner Andriukaitis, European Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, on 29th October 2015. Campaigners called on him to ensure an open, scientifically robust process – and to immediately restrict the herbicide. In addition, an expert task force, which was set up to illuminate similar differences between two WHO bodies, the IARC and the Joint Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR), concluded that the Joint FAO/WHO Meeting on Pesticide Residues (JMPR) which assessed glyphosate as non-carcinogenic, had to redo its work, properly taking into account published peer-reviewed literature.

The WHO then created an “ad hoc expert task force“ to consider possible reasons for the different assessments of the data by IARC and the JMPR. It was scheduled to report back to in September 2015 for further discussion and action but no news of its findings has been found by the writer. This process is known as a scientific divergence procedure within the WHO.

Though the World Health Organisation’s lead scientist disputes EFSA’s findings, new, lower EU safe limits for exposure to glyphosate will be recommended for those using it and for residues in food.

COMMENT from Devon farmer

Yes, when we got the standard stuff for killing the weevils in our grain store, we were a bit shaken. I think it had a “warning – keep away from foodstuffs”. It then went on to tell you how to apply it to the grain! We only used it on the empty bin, and it is only barley for cattle feed. The cattle have never shown any ill effects.
When people say to me how much it is used in America – to prove it is harmless – my reply is “yes, and look at the Americans!”

 

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.