Chatham House report misleads about GMO risks and promises, writes Claire Robinson
A report from the British foreign policy think tank Chatham House on agricultural biotechnology in Africa claims that GM “offers advantages over conventional plant-breeding approaches”.
The report notes, “Accordingly there are a various projects under way to develop new GM varieties for African farmers, ranging from drought-resistant maize to varieties of cassava, banana, sorghum, cowpea and sweet potato with resistance to pests and disease.”
Mercifully the report’s release has been low-key in the UK, where the long-suffering public must be tired of hearing rich white Brits telling Africans that they should grow and eat experimental GM crops on the basis of no evidence that they will be beneficial.
It is, however, being publicised in Africa.
Category Archives: Biodiversity
Oh brother. Where to start with this mess. First off, genetically engineering perennial grasses is a disaster waiting to happen. As with genetically engineering trees, there is no way to stop GE perennial grasses from genetically contaminating other grasses once they are released into the environment. In fact, contamination has been caused simply by conducting outdoor field trials of GE grasses. GE perennials are an even worse idea than GE annual crop plants because they cannot be contained.
Then there is the problem of trying to create fuel from plant material of any kind, which is leading to massive land grabs around the world, destroying biodiversity and displacing food crops, since there is simply not enough land on Planet Earth to come close to replacing the fossil fuels currently being devoured on a daily basis.
How about instead of these fake techno-fixes, we try reducing the amount of fuel we consume–especially in the U.S.–by, oh, around 90% or so. Now there’s a real solution.
USDA Funds Genetic Engineering Research for Switchgrass Biofuels
- July 24, 2014, Farmers’ Advance
Michigan State University (MSU) plant biologist C. Robin Buell has been awarded $1 million from a joint U.S. Department of Energy and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) program to accelerate genetic breeding programs to improve plant feedstock for the production of biofuels, bio-power and bio-based products.
Specifically, the MSU College of Natural Science researcher will work to identify the genetic factors that regulate cold hardiness in switchgrass, a plant native to North America that holds high potential as a biofuel source.
“This project will explore the genetic basis for cold tolerance that will permit the breeding of improved switchgrass cultivars that can yield higher biomass in northern climates,” said Buell, also an MSU AgBioResearch scientist. “It’s part of an ongoing collaboration with scientists in the USDA Agricultural Research Service to explore diversity in native switchgrass as a way to improve its yield and quality as a biofuel feedstock.”
Dr. Rachel Smolker, Co-director of Biofuelwatch, member of the Steering Committee of The Campaign to STOP GE Trees, and long time friend of Global Justice Ecology Project, published her newest blog at HuffingtonPost “Vermont Protest, People’s Climate March and Robin Williams”
A few days ago, I had the good fortune to be able to participate in a protest march in Vermont’s capitol city of Montpelier. The action was partly an expression of exasperation over the fact that the state is cramming a GazMetro fracked gas pipeline down our throats in spite of ongoing rigorous opposition. It was also the culmination of a weekend long northeast regional “climate convergence” convened by Rising Tide Vermont, 350 Vermont and the Vermont Workers Center. The aim was to build solidarity and facilitate some planning for the People’s Climate March, scheduled for September 21 in New York, and billed as the “biggest march for climate yet”.
I have my concerns about the march — especially because it is not clear what demands are being made other than acknowledging that we are “concerned” about the climate problem and want something done about it. Some are making an unqualified demand for “100 percent renewables” (which in my opinion is like asking for fairies to forever after clean my house and cook for me.) Yet others are asking for “green jobs” (which, in my opinion is like asking for a pair of clean underwear to put on as we march in shackled slavery towards our demise in the machinery of capitalism.
Not approaching the stage with some clear demands is dangerous because of the plethora of false solutions — things that will not help but rather make things worse – disguised as “solutions” and profitable to the corporate one percent.
Dow, Monsanto, Dupont. Who ever thought it would be a good idea to put huge chemical companies in charge of our food supply? Oh yeah, the US Department of Agriculture. Time to end this industrial agriculture nightmare of poisoned air, water, land and food and get back to organics–better for the climate, for our health, for pollinators and for the planet. For more on why industry now needs more toxic pesticides, see yesterday’s blog post: The Predicted Impacts of Monsanto’s Chemical Warfare.
‘Outrage’ Follows USDA’s Advancement Of New Genetically Engineered Crops
By Andrea Germanos | August 8, 2014 Source: Mintpressnews.com
‘We need to get off the pesticide treadmill,’ said George Naylor, farmer and Center for Food Safety Board Member
Watchdog groups are denouncing the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s recommendation on Wednesday to approve new varieties of genetically engineered corn and soybeans as a path towards more toxic pesticides that threaten the environment and public health.
“We are outraged,” stated Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network, adding that the “USDA has turned its back on America’s farmers and rural communities.”
The new crops are Dow AgroScience’s 2,4-D- and glyphosate-tolerant corn and soybeans. They are made to be used with Dow’s Enlist Duo herbicide, which contains 2,4-D and glyphosate and is also under review by the USDA.
The decision to advance the crops towards full deregulation flies in face of warnings by food and environmental groups, doctors, scientists, 50 members of Congress, as well as thousands of public comments to the USDA.
Here we see what many non-GMO activists predicted years ago. Creating herbicide resistant GMO crops will create herbicide resistant weeds–and the “need” for increasingly toxic chemicals. Thanks Monsanto. Job well done.
Invader Batters Rural America, Shrugging Off Herbicides
WHEATFIELD, Ind. — The Terminator — that relentless, seemingly indestructible villain of the 1980s action movie — is back. And he is living amid the soybeans at Harper Brothers Farms.
About 100 miles northwest of Indianapolis, amid 8,000 lush acres farmed by Dave Harper, his brother Mike and their sons, the Arnold Schwarzenegger of weeds refuses to die. Three growing seasons after surfacing in a single field, it is a daily presence in a quarter of the Harper spread and has a foothold in a third more. Its oval leaves and spindly seed heads blanket roadsides and jut above orderly soybean rows like skyscrapers poking through cloud banks. It shrugs off extreme drought and heat. At up to six inches in diameter, its stalk is thick enough to damage farm equipment.
“You swear that you killed it,” said Scott Harper, Dave Harper’s son and the farm’s 28-year-old resident weed expert. “And then it gets a little green on it, and it comes right back.”
Poland Spring Water, a Nestlé subsidiary, continues its efforts to control the water supply of Freyburg, Maine (and probably your town), but residents are fighting back. When the water began to dry up in Freyburg a small town along the New Hampshire- Maine border, residents suspected that Poland Spring, was the culprit. The company had tapped into the communities pristine aquifer and was sucking the water dry. Residents first noticed that their streams were going dry, and ponds and lakes were shrinking. Residents spoke out and Poland Spring launched a legal assault trying to shut down the conversation. An article in Natural Society News and republished by Nation of Change takes it from there:
It turns out, in its continued efforts to privatize water, the company was pumping the aquifer, and then selling the water back to town residents in bottles. The corporation sued the town, almost bankrupting several water advocacy activists, and worked with the city board members to ensure their ongoing access to the town’s water. Nestlé took the case all the way to the Supreme Court when Freyburg wouldn’t just lay down and take it. Peter Brabeck-Letmathe, the Chairman and CEO of Nestlé, has stated publicly that he doesn’t think that drinking water is a human right. Furthermore, Nestlé also set up a Poland Spring shop for outreach, and established the Fryeburg Business Association staffed by a Nestlé employee.
More from the article:
What this corrupt company is trying to do is get people to accept this as the norm: water they have to pay a corporation for, even though it was abundant and free prior to Nestlé’s interference. Activists have taken up a new plan to try to defeat Nestlé, launching an education campaign to try to get residents to reclaim their water rides and pride of ownership in what was already theirs before a corporate monopoly moved to town. They are passing out re-usable water bottles to Fryeburg residents stamped with the message, “we don’t want your bottled water!” Activists have also set up a website, called StopNestleWaters.org, to help oust this greedy behemoth from their town. Freyburg has won suits brought against them five times (and appealed) by Nestlé. Nestlé’s lost all four (one is still pending), and in one instance, the company’s lawyers argued in front of the Maine Supreme Court that their right to grow market share superceded the town’s right of control.
Watch Nestle CEO Peter Brabeck discusses access to clean water and declare it is not a human right and that privatization of water is the solution.
U.S. President Barack Obama hosted the US/Africa (Business) Summit earlier this week which included “Signature Events” such as “Civil Society Forum,” and Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate.
The Summit was co-hosted by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Touted as the first-ever U.S.-Africa Business Summit, focus areas included Finance and Capital, Infrastructure, Power and Energy, Agriculture, Consumer Goods, and Information Communication Technology.
In an op-ed in Forbes Magazine on August 5 by Michael Bloomberg and Penny Pritzker, U.S. Secretary of Commerce, two of the keynote speakers at the Forum declared that “Africa is open for business.” The article said that the forum will catalyze $14 billion in business deals.
According to the article:
For decades, the U.S.-Africa economic relationship has too often taken a back seat to other pressing issues and priorities. Yet right now, our commercial partnership—between governments, among businesses, in markets on both sides of the Atlantic—is as important as ever. Strengthening and deepening that pillar of our alliance will prove a net gain for workers, entrepreneurs, and communities in the United States and across Africa. The continent’s economic potential is enormous. Africa is home to six of the world’s ten fastest-growing economies. Its GDP is expected to rise six percent annually over the next decade. Real income has increased more than 30% over the last 10 years, and many African governments are making investments in infrastructure, education, and health care that are improving millions of lives. Yet investment by U.S. companies in Africa remains too low.
In a Bloomberg News article with the headline “GE Doubling Jobs in Africa as Ford Plans Eventual Surge,” Jim Benintende, Ford’s head of operations in the Middle East and Africa who was interviewed during the forum, said:
Everything is pointing toward a surge in the African economy. We’re really focused on this region like never before.
It was also announced at the forum that there will be a doubling of private investment for the New Alliance for Good Security and Nutrition.
Responding to the forum’s announcement to double private sector funding for food security, ActionAid International Africa issued the following comments:
President Obama has missed the mark when it comes to agriculture in Africa. The ‘New Alliance’ is fundamentally flawed. Handing over the future of farming in Africa to big agribusinesses will only hurt people living with poverty and hunger. Poor farmers need investment from US and African governments to help their farms flourish. Companies should be part of Africa’s agricultural future but profit must not be prioritised over people’s rights.”
Western companies are already taking land that’s being used to produce food from African farmers, pushing them further into poverty. Under the New Alliance, this will only get worse. The US and African governments must invest in the farmers producing food for the continent, not big businesses growing crops for export. The New Alliance will put more money into the pockets of a few wealthy businessmen who are clearly not concerned with the food security of Africa’s most vulnerable people.
The administration’s current agricultural vision for Africa is misguided. It will only benefit the American agricultural industry with no real benefit to the poorest in Africa, who will be left without land to grow food.
Land is already being grabbed at an alarming rate in many African countries to meet the world’s demand for food and biofuels. Policies like the US biofuels targets are already increasing demand for land. Obama’s vision for Africa will only put more money into the pockets of a few wealthy businessmen. Programs like the ‘New Alliance’ are driving a system that robs the poor to pay the rich and will only result in more land being grabbed.
Climate Connections thinks that the commodification of African markets, land, and people is a false solution for climate change and human rights. We want to know what you think. Please comment!
Our good old friends at the US Department of Agriculture show once more whose side they are really on. Not to worry, though, 2,4-D only composed 50% of Agent Orange…
On August 6th, the USDA announced final plans to give Dow the greenlight to begin marketing its controversial 2,4-D-resistant seeds. After 30 days, the USDA decision will become official. At the same time, the agency announced its preliminary decision to also approve Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant seeds.
Marcia Ishii-Eiteman, PhD, senior scientist with Pesticide Action Network, released the following statement:
We are outraged. Today USDA has turned its back on America’s farmers and rural communities. For over two years, farmers from Iowa to California have been urging USDA to reject Dow’s 2,4-D seeds. Because the seed is designed to be used with 2,4-D, a highly toxic and drift-prone herbicide, farmers risk losing their crops, their farm businesses and livelihoods, as well as their families’ health. The surge in 2,4-D use that even USDA acknowledges will accompany commercialization of Dow’s seed is also expected to intensify the spread of ‘superweeds’ resistant to the chemical.
Yet USDA’s final EIS on Dow’s 2,4-D-resistant crops states its unchanged intention to deregulate these crops, demonstrating the Agency’s stunning indifference to farmers’ concerns. More than half a million farmers, scientists, health professionals and concerned individuals have voiced their concerns regarding the risks that accompany Dow’s pesticide-seed technology, but to no avail.
Despite this public outcry, today’s announcements show that USDA is much more interested in working with Dow and Monsanto and getting their products to market than in protecting the well-being of our farmers and rural communities.