Category Archives: Biodiversity

GM agriculture does not deliver higher yields than organic processes

bananas-925216“Failure to Yield,” a study produced by the U.S. Union of Concerned Scientists, shows that the bio-fortification of bananas in Uganda and genetic engineering of bovines in the “1000 bull genome project” does not actually combat hunger, malnutrition or result in higher yields. A recent article in the Inter Press Services by Julio Godoy explains how these two projects fall short when compared to traditional, organic methods.

Through his foundation, Bill Gates has dropped $10 million on engineering vitamin A fortified bananas in Uganda. However, the increase isn’t enough to match the nutritional content in other indigenous foods. The “1000 bull genome project” set out to genetically engineer cows to produce thousands more gallons of milk. While the cows do produce more milk, they also calve only twice in their lives and die young.

Godoy writes, “Failure to Yield also analyses the potential role in increasing food production over the next few decades, and concludes that ‘it makes little sense to support genetic engineering at the expense of (traditional, organic) technologies that have proven to substantially increase yields, especially in many developing countries.’” 

If the threat to ecology and biodiversity won’t get the corporations to listen, how about this – genetically engineering plants and animals is a waste of money. That’s more in line with their priorities, right?

Do Not GM My Food!
Julio Godoy, July 18, 2014, Inter Press Service

Attempts to genetically modify food staples, such as crops and cattle, to increase their nutritional value and overall performance have prompted world-wide criticism by environmental, nutritionists and agriculture experts, who say that protecting and fomenting biodiversity is a far better solution to hunger and malnutrition.

Two cases have received world-wide attention: one is a project to genetically modify bananas, the other is an international bull genome project.

In June, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation announced that it has allocated some 10 million dollars to finance an Australian research team at the Queensland University of Technology (QUT), working on vitamin A-enriched bananas in Uganda, by genetically modifying the fruit.

On the other hand,  according to its project team, the “1000 bull genomes project” aims “to provide, for the bovine research community, a large database for imputation of genetic variants for genomic prediction and genome wide association studies in all cattle breeds.”

Read More…

Leave a Comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

How ‘the New DDT’ Wreaks Havoc on the Bottom of the Food Chain

Note: This new report documents another instance of industrial agriculture wreaking havoc on ecosystems and harkening a new Silent Spring.  It is also one more reason why the model of industrial GMO crops must not be applied to trees, or we risk the threat of Silent Forests.

–The GJEP Team

By Stephen Leahy, June 24, 2014.  Source: MotherBoard

The same insecticide nerve poison that is contributing to the shocking declines in bees and other pollinators is also behind the sharp declines in many other insect species, along with insect-eating birds and bats. Even important creatures like earthworms, which keep our soils healthy, are being damaged by systemic insecticides called neonicotinoids (neonics) and fipronil, a new four-year international meta-analysis has found.

“It’s the new DDT but different,” said Ole Hendrickson, a former scientist at Environment Canada and member of the Task Force on Systemic Pesticides that complete the Worldwide Integrated Assessment (WIA) analysis. It’s the first examination of all the science on the topicmore than 800 studies. The task force is compromised of 50 independent scientists from all over the world who spent the last four years trying to figure out why so many bees, butterflies, and other insects are disappearing.

“Instead of wiping out the top of the food chain, killing hawks and eagles as DDT did, neonics are wiping out the bottom of the food chain,” Hendrickson told me. “Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson once said if we wipe out the world’s insects, we will soon follow them to extinction.”

Read more of Leahy’s article on Motherboard at VICE

 

Leave a Comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Industrial agriculture, Pollution

Syngenta seeks ‘emergency’ exemption to use banned insecticide on UK crops

Note: See the article above for a detailed explanation of the dangers of the insecticide mentioned below.

By Damian Carrington, June 25 2014. Source: The Guardian

Rapeseed As Crops In Central Europe Face Dryness Stress

A farmer uses a crop sprayer in a field of oilseed rape crops in Basildon, UK. Photo by Chris RatcliffeGetty Images

 

Almost one-third of all oilseed rape in the UK could be treated with a banned insecticide if the government grants an “emergency” exemption to the pesticide manufacturer Syngenta, it has emerged.

The agro-chemical company’s neonicotinoid pesticide was given a three-year ban by the European Union in 2013 due to research linking it to serious harm in bees.

The news of Syngenta’s application comes a day after an international scientific review concluded there was “clear evidence of [neonicotinoid] harm sufficient to trigger regulatory action”. Neonicotinoids are the world’s most widely used insecticide and the panel said contamination was so pervasive it threatened global food production.

Read more of Carrington’s article in The Guardian.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Biodiversity

The next generation of GM crops has arrived—and so has the controversy

By Brandon Keim, June 26, 2014. Source: Wired

Photo by Fishhawk/Flickr

Photo by Fishhawk/Flickr

The first of a new generation of genetically modified crops is poised to win government approval in the United States, igniting a controversy that may continue for years, and foreshadowing the future of genetically modified crops.

The agribusiness industry says the plants—soy and corn engineered to tolerate two herbicides, rather than one—are a safe, necessary tool to help farmers fight so-called superweeds. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Department of Agriculture appear to agree.

However, many health and environmental groups say the crops represent yet another step on what they call a pesticide treadmill: an approach to farming that relies on ever-larger amounts of chemical use, threatening to create even more superweeds and flood America’s landscapes with potentially harmful compounds. Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Genetic Engineering

‘Superweeds’ choke farms

By Donnelle Eller, June 23, 2014. Source: The Des Moines Register

Photo by Robert Hartzler/Iowa State University Department of Agronomy)

Photo by Robert Hartzler/Iowa State University Department of Agronomy)

 

Arkansas farmer Tommy Young says Southern growers have lived through nearly a decade of torment, fighting a destructive, fast-growing weed that can carry a million seeds, grow as tall as an NBA player and is unfazed by several herbicides.

Now that weed — Palmer amaranth — is in five Iowa counties on the state’s border, and agronomists are working to determine whether it is herbicide resistant.

It has the power to choke the state’s economy and environment — and increase prices for consumers.

Here’s how: Even a moderate infestation of Palmer amaranth can rob farmers of about two-thirds of their corn and soybean yields, experts say. Continue reading

1 Comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy

Unist’ot’en Clan Refuse All Pipeline Projects: A Video Message

 

Asserting Indigenous Law Over Unceded Lands

Source: Reclaim Turtle Island

-FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE- June 18th, 2014 [Unist’ot’en Territory - near Smithers, BC]   Amid threats of a raid and impending pipeline approvals, the Unist’ot’en Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation are prepared to continue to defend their territories against the incursion of government and industry. A soft blockade was erected in 2009, which remains today, to insure that pipeline projects which violate Wet’suwet’en Law would not trespass onto Wet’suwet’en territories to develop projects without their consent. Yesterday the Federal government approved the Northern Gateway Pipeline, but the Uni’stot’en Camp still remains in the path of the proposed pipe as well as several others. The Northern Gateway is intended to expand the Athabasca Tar Sands facilitating the export of bitumen to international markets via supertankers off the West Coast. The Uni’stot’en Clan is part of the hereditary chief system which has governed Wet’suwet’en lands since time immemorial and is not subject to the Indian Act or other impositions of colonial occupation. “Harper is illegal, Canada is illegal. The Provincial and Federal governments are illegal because they don’t have jurisdiction in our peoples territory. We have never signed any treaties, this land is unceded.” states Freda Huson, Unist’ot’en Clan member and spokesperson for the camp. Huson references a Supreme Court ruling in the Delgamuukw vs. British Columbia case that clearly states the ownership of unceded territories remains with the Indigenous peoples and that Band Council Chiefs and Indian Act Agents have no authority over these lands. In fact, consultation and consent must be given by the traditional and hereditary governance systems. Huson explains, “They’ve tried to get our consent and our Chiefs have said no to these projects and no means no. Wet’suwet’en law applies to these [projects]. Developers can go ahead and try and put their projects through here but they will be considered trespassers and we’ll enforce Wet’suwet’en law against trespassers… We’re not afraid of the Harper government, we’re not afraid of anyone who is going to try and forcefully put their project through our territory when we’ve already said no.” Indigenous peoples across Turtle Island have been standing up against resource extraction projects which infringe on our collective sovereignty and attack our territories, our peoples and our nations. Continued pushes for pipeline project approvals, tar sands expansion and fracking by the Federal government will only result in increased mobilization by Indigenous peoples. “Our numbers are quite high across Canada, Indigenous people probably out-number settler people and you can guarantee that if there is an uprising in one community – especially with a bigger project that impacts the whole world through global warming – you’re going to have a lot of upset people across Canada, this impacts every body.” Temporary highway, rail and port blockades have been used to show support with other Indigenous communities across Turtle Island and Huson asserts that any attack on the Unist’ot’en will result in widespread, global support. “We had people make vows that they will shut down major highways to impact the Canadian economy if the Harper government is going to ignore Indigenous people.” Dini Ze Toghestiy, a Hereditary Chief for the Likhs’amisyu Clan of the Wet’suwet’en Nation and member of the Unist’ot’en Camp asserts, “Supporters are repositioning themselves in surrounding towns to help build local support, and people in the cities are mobilized now. There’s individuals all over the world who have pledged to do what they can to help us.” Concerning the threat of a raid on the camp, there was no police presence on Unist’ot’en territory on June 15th – the date set for the anticipated raid. A tip from the BC Civil Liberties Association informed the Unist’ot’en Camp that there’s a rumour going around Victoria that the government, rather than file an injunction against the camp, file a charge for trespass using the Crown Lands Act. “But this is not Crown land” stated Toghestiy, “this land is unceded and we’re still here. We’re not going anywhere. People are showing up to the camp every day, our numbers are growing. This war is far from bring over and we’re going to win this one. We’re going to win it decisively.”

Media Contact: Freda Huson: 778-210-1100

Unistoten_Enbridge_Decision_mem1-1024x1022

Leave a Comment

Filed under Actions / Protest, Biodiversity, BREAKING NEWS, Climate Justice, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs, Political Repression

GMO companies are dousing Hawaiian island with toxic pesticides

By Paul Koberstein. Source: Grist.org

Photo from Grist.org

Photo from Grist.org

WAIMEA, HAWAII — The island of Kauai, Hawaii, has become Ground Zero in the intense domestic political battle over genetically modified crops. But the fight isn’t just about the merits or downsides of GMO technology. It’s also about regular old pesticides.

The four transnational corporations that are experimenting with genetically engineered crops on Kauai have transformed part of the island into one of most toxic chemical environments in all of American agriculture.

For the better part of two decades, BASF Plant Science, Dow AgroSciences, DuPont Pioneer, and Syngenta have been drenching their test crops near the small town of Waimea on the southwest coast of Kauai with some of the most dangerous synthetic pesticides in use in agriculture today, at an intensity that far surpasses the norm at most other American farms, an analysis of government pesticide databases shows.

Each of the seven highly toxic chemicals most commonly used on the test fields has been linked to a variety of serious health problems ranging from childhood cognitive disorders to cancer. And when applied together in a toxic cocktail, their joint action can make them even more dangerous to exposed people.

Last fall, the Kauai County Council enacted Ordinance 960, the first local law in the United States that specifically regulates the cultivation of existing GMO crops, despite an aggressive pushback from the industry, which contends that current federal regulations suffice. The law’s restrictions will go into effect in August. Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Genetic Engineering

Will Brazil turn the Amazon into a factory of genetically modified trees?

Source: ejolt (Environmental Justice Organizations, Liabilities and Trade)

By the World Rainforest Movement.

Will the Brazilian government give a permit to plant genetically modified eucalyptus trees on a commercial scale? That’s the breakthrough expected by Suzano, one of the biggest Brazilian pulp and paper companies, and its fully owned biotechnology firm Futuragene. To export pulp and to feed its paper mills in Brazil, the company has planted almost 400 thousand hectares of large-scale monoculture fast-growing eucalyptus plantations in seven Brazilian states.

Suzano´s argument that this is a safe enough technology can be countered by the risks and especially the huge uncertainties that exist around this new technology which should at least postpone any introduction at commercial scale for now. Even the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) that has seriously failed by allowing certification of millions of hectares of large-scale monoculture plantations in spite of the many negative social and environmental impacts, at least applies the rule that GE technology should not be used in certified plantations. At least for this reason then, FSC should decertify Suzano, an FSC-certified company.

But another argument deserves a strong and immediate reply: Suzano argues that their new genetically engineered eucalyptus tree will result in a 20% increase in productivity and by introducing such trees, Suzano affirms it will need less land and could therefore reduce the use of chemical inputs and make more land available for food production.

That looks convincing. However, the experience in Brazil itself shows a quite different story. According to EJOLT´s report “A Global Overview of Industrial Tree Plantations”, in the past decades the Brazilian eucalyptus trees that are used in industrial plantations succeeded to achieve a 60% increase in productivity per hectare (not using genetically engineered trees), increasing from 27 m3/ha/year in the 1980s to 44 m3/ha/year currently. More important however is that the area covered by these plantations in the country never decreased for that particular reason. They actually increased from about 4 million hectares at the end of the 1980s to more than 7.2 million hectares today, and the Brazilian plantation industry plans to duplicate this area by 2020. The Brazilian “success story” of being the country with the highest wood productivity per hectare worldwide has never been a reason to use less land, on the contrary. Higher productivity gave these companies such an advantage that they expanded their plantations and pulp mills more and more, increasing their profits.

Suzano´s move to GE eucalyptus trees to increase productivity even more also attends its aim to explore a new use of its wood: producing pellets to be exported for energy production, to co-fire with coal in the UK. For this reason, Suzano has expanded its plantation in the Northeastern state of Maranhão over the past years, causing new conflicts with traditional communities that have been experiencing that their communal territories used for cattle grazing, fruit collection and other activities, get invaded by eucalyptus plantations. This has led to several conflicts, which gave reason to include Suzano in the recently launched EJOLT´s Atlas on Environmental Conflicts.

To summarize, Brazilian experience has learned that rather more than less lands will be occupied when productivity increases, and rather more than less conflicts will arise. Suzano´s demand for commercial planting of genetically modified eucalyptus trees led WRM, together with groups in Brazil and Latin America, to launch a letter to the Brazilian authorities to express their deep concern and urge the Brazilian government not to authorize the commercial release of yield enhanced genetically modified eucalyptus by Suzano/FuturaGene or by any other company that also has, or will present in future, a request for such a release.

A statement from the international Stop GE Trees Campaign in support to this letter is available for sign-ons.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing, Industrial agriculture

Monarch butterfly decline linked to spread of GM crops

By Emily Chung, June 4, 2014. Source:  CBC News

Photo by Tyler Flockhart

Photo by Tyler Flockhart

The main cause of the monarch butterfly’s decline is the loss of milkweed — its food — in its U.S. breeding grounds, a new study has found. That all but confirms that the spread of genetically modified crops is indirectly killing the monarch.

This past winter, the number of monarch butterflies wintering in Mexico fell to its lowest since 1993, when records first started being kept, the World Wildlife Fund and Mexico’s Environment Department reported in January. That report blamed the loss of milkweed owing to genetically modified crops and urban sprawl in the U.S. and illegal logging in the butterflies’ Mexican wintering ground. Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Commodification of Life, Genetic Engineering

Hundreds of Maasai Families under threat of eviction as Geothermal companies invade their land in Kenya

By Ben Ole Koissaba, June 3, 2014. Source:  Intercontinental Cry

Photo from Southworld.net

Photo from Southworld.net

Reminiscent of what happened to the Maasai community in Narasha in 2013, Maasai pastoralists in Kedong, Akira and Suswa are glaring at massive evictions arising from a group of concessions awarded to several companies including Hyundai, Toshiba, Sinopec and African Geothermal International (AGIL) for the purposes of developing geothermal projects on the Maasai lands.

According to the local communities–who claim ancestry to the land and have filed cases in Kenyan courts– African Geothermal International (AGIL) and Marine Power along with Akira I and Akira II1 have disregarded court injunctions instituted by the Maasai, proceeding to deploy their heavy machinery to their proposed project sites without due diligence or consultations with the local communities. The concession areas, which cover hundreds of thousands of acres, are home to thousands of Maasai pastoralists. Continue reading

Leave a Comment

Filed under Biodiversity, Corporate Globalization, Indigenous Peoples, Land Grabs