Tag Archives: Syngenta

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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FT: Syngenta and Bayer funded a $3m field study – but dismissed its conclusions

9 Jul

The un-named author of a recent FT View opens by reminding readers of many factors often cited by scientists that may be behind the decline in bee populations across Europe and the US: habitat loss, disease and nutritional stress.

There are an estimated 3tn honey bees across the world. With their wild relatives they have been providing an essential service to mankind for millions of years.

The role that certain pesticides play in their decline has been fiercely disputed by environmentalists, farmers and industry lobbyists. In an earlier FT article Chloe Cornish recalls that previous studies indicated that neonicotinoids do harm bees, but were criticised because they were laboratory-based and did not replicate complex real world conditions.

. It was conducted over a year at 33 sites across the UK, Hungary and Germany, over an area spanning 2,000 hectares. It concludes that neonicotinoids — a widely used group of pesticides applied to seeds before planting — can indeed damage the ability of bees to establish new populations.

The $3m field study was joint funded by the chemical companies Syngenta and Bayer companies which produce most of these pesticides, and The Centre for Ecology and Hydrology’s contributed £400,000.

The findings add to an accumulating body of scientific research suggesting that “neonics” are a big contributor to the problem. They have played a part both in the phenomenon known as colony collapse disorder, in which commercial bees suddenly and mysteriously die off, and also in the tragic decline of wild bee populations in Europe and the US.

Facing denial in the face of this growing evidence lead authors Richard Pywell (right) and Richard Shore (left) told reporters in London that they were braced for hostility, acknowledging that this was a contentious area. Bayer and Syngenta have dismissed the report’s conclusions as simplistic and inconsistent— reminding the writer of the tactics once used by tobacco companies to fend off health-related regulation.

The implications are grim. Bees and other pollinators play a role in the production of about a third of the food eaten. Without them, basics such as coffee, chocolate and almost every fruit and vegetable would become scarce at best.

Neonicotinoids may not be solely responsible for the bee crisis. But of the many stresses contributing to declining populations, pesticide use is the easiest to control. A hungry and sick bee is more likely to die if it is also poisoned. The scientific findings point to the need for action.

EU regulators decided the link was worrying enough to place restrictions on the use of clothianidin, thiamethoxam and another neonicotinoid, imidacloprid, in 2013. This moratorium comes up for debate again later this year – meanwhile regulators are re-evaluating the three and will present their findings in November. FT View ends:

“On the latest evidence, the partial ban should be extended. The danger, of course, is that farmers will resort to using something with equally nefarious effects — the western world’s record for regulating pesticides is terrible.

”It is time that changed. It is time to look after bees as well as they look after us”.

 

 

 

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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”.

 

 

 

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/

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.

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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:

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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 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”.

GM technology viewed as “biological weapons of mass destruction” in Pakistan

8 Jan

In July last year, Monsanto, Pioneer and Syngenta, multinational companies and a number of national firms approached Pakistan’s Ministry of Food Security seeking licences to raise genetically-modified (GM) food products in Pakistan.

Imran Ali Teepu reported for Dawn that a senior federal government official, who did not wish to be named, told Dawn that “a request in this regard has been received by the Ministry of Food Security a few weeks back and is being reviewed”.

The director general of the Pakistan Environment Protection Agency, Asif Shuja, said: “Research is still continuing internationally into whether the genetically-modified products have an impact on human health. Many of the local companies want to import genetically-modified food products from China and we have not given any approval in this regard”.

Meanwhile, Dr Jawad Chishtie, a public health and environment management specialist, said: “Genetically-modified products have been rejected in Europe, and most recently in France, for damaging crops and endangering human health.” He warned that effects of the genetically-engineered organisms were not yet known but “they are suspected of causing dangerous allergies and even cancer.”

He asked the government to promote organic farming in Pakistan for which the country had a far better environment.

In May this year Jamal Shahid reported that Lahore High Court ordered the government to stop issuing licences for genetically-modified (GM) varieties of cotton or corn until a legal framework is put into place to assess new types of genetically modified organisms.

Shahid continues: “The Farmers Association of Pakistan had been complaining about the sale of poor quality Bt cotton seeds in the open market for quite some time. He quotes Chaudhry Gohar, a progressive cotton farmer from Multan, who told Dawn that the use of uncertified varieties of GM seeds increase input costs for farmers. The low levels of pest resistance in these seeds have increased insects’ immunity, necessitating the use of nearly double the normal amount of pesticides. Pakistan Agriculture Research (NBC) also relaxed germination levels for crops from 75% under Seed Act, 1976 to less than 50%.

EPA DG Muhammad Khurshid observed that the authority treats GMOs ‘very seriously’: “The Foreign Office has also conveyed its concern to the Climate Change Division that the subject of GMO seeds is a matter of grave concerns for national security and trade. The Foreign Office treats GMOs as potential “biological weapons of mass destruction”, which could be used to destroy Pakistan’s major crops such as potato, wheat, rice, corn, cotton and vegetables through modified viruses, bacteria and other parasites.

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Russian lawmakers also want to address GMO-related activities that may harm human health and impose criminal liability on producers, sellers and transporters of genetically modified organisms, according to Izvestia.

Itar-Tass reports that a bill to this effect was submitted to the Russian State Duma – lower parliament house; under its terms criminal responsibility would apply only to companies and government officials, but there is a move to expand liability for GMO-inflicted harm to include state and local self-government officials.