Category Archives: Genetic Engineering

If science solves the lime crisis, will we accept genetically engineered gin and tonics?

Note: If global industrial agriculture must be abolished in order to maintain a livable planet, will we accept life without cheap limes?

And let’s be honest — The industry-backed narrative about a “broad scientific consensus” on GMO safety is just plain incorrect – see this statement here: No scientific consensus on GMO safety.

-The GJEP Team

By Drake Bennett, April 11, 2014. Source: Bloomberg

Limes imported from Columbia on March 26 in Miami after imports from Mexico stopped.  Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Limes imported from Columbia on March 26 in Miami after imports from Mexico stopped. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If you are not a regular consumer of Mexican cuisine or gin and tonics, you may not have noticed that limes have become a luxury product. The price of the fruit has quadrupled over the past couple months, to $100 a carton. Mexican restaurants and bars have begun rationing limes, and some airlines have stopped serving the fruit all together.

Ninety-five percent of the limes consumed in the U.S. come from Mexico, and Mexico’s lime harvest is being held hostage—sometimes literally—by weather, criminal entrepreneurship, and disease. Severe rains last fall knocked the blossoms off of most of Mexico’s lime trees, decimating the current yield. Armed gangs linked to drug cartels have seized on the shortage, and the resulting price spike, to start grabbing lime shipments and stealing fruit out of the fields. Growers have had to hire armed guards, and all this has only driven prices higher.

Harvests are likely to rebound somewhat in the next few months from the effects of last fall’s storms. But another, longer-term threat to Mexico’s limes is a bacterial disease called huanglongbing, also known as citrus greening, that’s killing many of Mexico’s lime trees. Last summer the New York Times ran an in-depth story about the efforts of a U.S. Sugar (USGR) company, Southern Gardens Citrus in Clewiston, Fla., to develop a genetically modified orange tree that could resist the disease, which growers in Florida fear could wipe out much of the state’s orange trees. Continue reading

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April 17: International day of peasant struggles

April 8, 2014. Source: La Via Campesina

Image: La Via Campesina

Image: La Via Campesina

This year we dedicate the 17th of April, international day of peasant struggles, to the defense of seeds. Seeds are an essential basis for achieving food sovereignty because almost everything in agriculture depends on them: What we can plant and how it is grown; the quality and nutrition of our food, our ability to account for different tastes and cultural preferences; and also the wellbeing of our communities, our ecosystems and the planet. In this article we explain why this implies not so much the defense of seeds as such but especially the defense of peasant seeds—that is, seeds that remain in the hands of the peasant and family farmers of the world. We also give some examples of how we are carrying out this defense among the organizations in the 73 countries that make up La Vía Campesina.

The seeds used in agriculture are different from those that exist in non-cultivated nature. Until several thousand years ago the enormous diversity of peasant varieties of rice, potatoes, cabbages or barley did not exist as such. The richness of our nutrition today is based on the knowledge, practices, visions and needs of the peasant communities around the world that created them in the first place. Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Africa, Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Climate Justice, Commodification of Life, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Industrial agriculture, Land Grabs, The Greed Economy and the Future of Forests

Brazil warned world’s first commercial release of GM mosquitoes requires full public consultation

April 10, 2014. Source: GeneWatch UK


Environmental and civil society groups today warned the Brazilian regulator of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), CTNBio, not to approve commercial releases of GM mosquitoes in Brazil without full public consultation, access to conclusive field trials data and a post release monitoring plan. The groups cautioned that the consequences for human health and the environment are poorly understood and need to be further studied.

The GM Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are produced by UK company Oxitec and the decision follows extensive lobbying by the UK Government to try to create an export market for its products (1). The company, which has close links to the multinational agribusiness Syngenta, also has GM agricultural pests, such as GM fruit flies, at an experimental stage and approval for field trials are pending in Brazil.

“There are no data showing that this GM mosquito actually reduces dengue incidence. In the case it is approved for commercial use, the decision will have been based much more on propaganda than on concrete data from field studies”, said Gabriel Fernandes, advisor with the Brazilian organization AS-PTA.

“Oxitec’s ineffective and risky GM insects are a poor showcase for British exports to Brazil. A desperate desire to prop up British biotech and reward venture capital investors should not blind the UK and Brazilian governments to the risks of this technology”, said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK.
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Filed under Biodiversity, Genetic Engineering, Latin America-Caribbean, Synthetic Biology

BREAKING: Industry hype and misdirected science undercuts real energy and climate solutions

Note: In response to a recent media frenzy about poplars genetically engineered to create biofuels and “greener” paper, Global Justice Ecology Project, Biofuelwatch, Center for Food Safety and Canadian Biotechnology Action Network issued the following statement today.

To sign GJEP’s petition calling for a global ban on GE trees, click here.

-The GJEP Team

April 9, 2014. 


Scientists and environmentalists today condemned a recent press release by researchers at the University of British Columbia announcing they have created genetically engineered (GE) poplar trees for paper and biofuel production, opening the prospect of growing these GE trees like an agricultural crop in the future.

The poplars were genetically engineered for altered lignin composition to supposedly make them easier to process into paper and biofuels. Groups, however, warn that manipulation of lignin, and the potential contamination of wild poplars with that trait, could be extremely dangerous.

Lignin is a key structural component of plant cell walls and a major component of soils.  It is also the product of millions of years of natural selection favoring sturdy, healthy and resilient plants. GE poplars with altered lignin could have devastating effects on forests, ecosystems, human communities and biodiversity.

Poplars include at least 30 species, are widespread throughout the Northern Hemisphere and have a high potential for genetic dispersal.

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Filed under Biodiversity, Bioenergy / Agrofuels, BREAKING NEWS, Climate Change, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering

Vermont set to pass GMO labeling law

By Hilary Niles, April 3, 2014. Source: VT Digger

Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Dick Sears (right), D-Bennington, and Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, discuss a bill on GMO labeling Thursday at the Statehouse. Photo: Hilary Niles/VTDigger

Senate Judiciary Chairman Sen. Dick Sears (right), D-Bennington, and Sen. Tim Ashe, D/P-Chittenden, discuss a bill on GMO labeling Thursday at the Statehouse. Photo: Hilary Niles/VTDigger

Vermont lawmakers are poised to “boldly go where no other state has gone before,” Sen. Joe Benning, R-Caledonia, said Thursday before casting his vote for an unprecedented food-labeling law.

The Senate Judiciary Committee gave H.112 unanimous approval Thursday. The bill would require the labeling of food made with genetically modified ingredients sold in Vermont.

Vermont will not wait for more states to adopt similar laws before it moves ahead with GMO labeling.

Connecticut and Maine have passed laws that included a trigger based on other states’ adoption of labeling provisions. Vermont lawmakers emulated Connecticut’s and Maine’s legislation, but did not include a trigger in H.112.
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GMO tree plan grows controversy in Espanola, New Mexico

By Mark Oswald, Friday, March 28, 2014. Source: Albuquerque Journal


A genetically engineered version of the white poplar tree would be used to produce a rose oil product in Espanola under a proposal by Ealasid Inc.

Who knew that rose oil, or at least a major component of rose oil, could be the next big agricultural product in the Espanola Valley?

A scientist from Washington State University wants to plant genetically engineered poplar trees along the Rio Grande on the north side of Española that will produce 2-phenylethanol, which provides the sweet scent of roses.
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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, GE Trees, Biodiversity, Genetic Engineering, Food Sovereignty, Industrial agriculture, Forests

Europe’s Science Chief seeks to eliminate scientific discourse

By Brian John, March 19, 2014. Source: Spinwatch

Anne Glover, EU Chief Scientific Adviser. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Anne Glover, EU Chief Scientific Adviser. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Anne Glover, the EU’s chief scientist, is playing politics with science warns Brian John of GM-Free Cymru. Her role in promoting GMOs as safe and attempting to get rid of the precautionary principle, he argues in this guest post, is all part of a carefully crafted attempt to redesign science and to impose a scientific orthodoxy worked out with the “learned” academies. Dismissing some GMO discoveries by claiming they are “contested” ignores how scientific debate really works.  

Since taking office in 2012, EU Science Chief Anne Glover seems to have taken it upon herself to redefine the meaning of the term “scientific evidence” and to shake up the manner in which scientists work and communicate with each other.

In two staged “interviews” published in Euractiv 1 it has become apparent that she sees her role as providing science in support of the predetermined political positions of her boss, EC President Barroso. She will deny this, of course, but if we look at one field – the contentious area of GMOs – we see immediately that she is intent upon the “scientific validation” of the line pushed relentlessly by the Commission – ie that GMOs are safe and that they should be allowed without any great hindrance into the food supply, even if there is no public taste for them and no demand from retailers. This pressure towards market liberalisation and the insidious dismantling of GMO regulations is now being increased by the US Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) negotiators.

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Activists occupy EU Food Security offices, clash with police

March 21, 2014. Source: GMO Free Europe

gmo_free_europeOn March the 20th about 100 activists from the social centers of Emilia-Romagna, Marche and North-East of Italy entered in the EFSA’s headquarters in Parma, and occupied it for half an hour, also blocking the ongoing proclamation of the new executive director.

EFSA, the European Food Security Agency, is not a “private” place. It is a public one, instead.

Firstly for its status of European institution. But above all because it is in charge of our collective and individual safety and the ecological security, as for what is related to food and crops.

As we detail below, there are many criticisms that can be raised about the way EFSA evaluates the risk of the GMOs. Those criticisms have been raised and discussed in the past by many scientists and environmental associations.

However, no answers came from EFSA, nor its guidelines have been modified in any respect.
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Group seeks court order on USDA over genetically modified alfalfa

Note: Global Justice Ecology Project has worked with the Center for Food Safety in the past, suing the USDA over their approval of GE eucalyptus field trials throughout the southeast.  Read their report, Genetically Engineered Trees: The New Frontier of Biotechnology.

-The GJEP Team

By Carey Gillam, March 13, 2014. Source: Reuters



A public interest group is asking a court to force the U.S. Department of Agriculture to turn over documents explaining its approval of a genetically altered alfalfa even as the department acknowledged the crop’s potential to do environmental damage.

The Center for Food Safety said on Thursday that it believes the USDA may have succumbed to outside pressure, possibly from Monsanto Co., the developer of the genetic trait in the biotech alfalfa.

CFS filed a lawsuit late on Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington D.C., seeking a court order for the USDA to turn over nearly 1,200 documents related to the decision about the crop called Roundup Ready alfalfa.

Neither the USDA nor Monsanto responded to requests for comment on Thursday.
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Kior falls after biofuel maker warns of default, bankruptcy

Note: One of the largest attempts yet at manufacturing liquid biofuels from trees seems to be failing.  This is great news for campaigners and communities organizing to stop genetically engineered (GE) trees and biofuels in the southeastern US.  GE tree company ArborGen – which is currently seeking USDA approval to begin selling their cold-tolerant, GE eucalyptus trees – has repeatedly mentioned the cellulosic biofuel industry as an important market for their GE tree seedlings.  Maybe now ArborGen won’t have such an easy time turning the southeast into the plantation-riddled gas tank of the US they’ve been promoting to investors for so long.

-The GJEP Team

By Christopher Martin, March 18, 2014.  Source: Bloomberg 

061512 Kior 14Kior Inc. (KIOR:US), the Vinod Khosla-backed operator of the first U.S. commercial-scale cellulosic biofuel plant, fell the most on record after management told regulators they have serious doubts about staying in business.

Kior declined 39 percent to 65 cents at the close in New York, the most since its June 2011 initial public offering at $15.

The company needs additional capital by April 1 and its only potential source of near-term financing is a March 16 commitment letter from billionaire investor Khosla, according to a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday.

The commitment for as much as $25 million is contingent upon meeting certain milestones. The company shut down its Columbus, Mississippi, biofuel plant in January to upgrade the manufacturing process, and “until we restart the Columbus facility, we expect to have no production or revenue from that facility,” according to the filing.

If the company doesn’t receive additional financing, it will “likely” default on its debts and may file for bankruptcy. “We have substantial doubts about our ability to continue as a going concern,” the Pasadena, Texas-based company said in the filing.

Kior in October received $100 million from Khosla Ventures LLC and Gates Ventures LLC to expand production at the Columbus plant. The company makes transportation fuels from wood waste and non-food crops.

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Filed under Bioenergy / Agrofuels, Ending the Era of Extreme Energy, False Solutions to Climate Change, Forests and Climate Change, GE Trees, Genetic Engineering