Category Archives: Genetic Engineering

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.”

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

GM Eucalyptus: Brazil considers authorizing GM Trees in contravention of COP9 Decision

The Campaign to STOP GE Trees (Coordinated by GJEP) is actively campaigning to prevent the commercialization of genetically engineered eucalyptus trees in Brazil.  A similar proposal is under consideration in the US.  Please sign our petition to the USDA demanding a ban on GE trees here: http://globaljusticeecology.org/petition/

–The GJEP Team

By Jay Burney, June 2014. Source: CBD Alliance

stopge

 

In Brazil, Futuragene, a UK-registered company wholly owned by Brazilian timber giant Suzano, has submitted a request to CTNBio to commercially release genetically modified eucalyptus trees in Brazil.

CTNBio is the governmental institution charged with authorizing commercial release of GMOs in Brazil. Hundreds of social and ecological justice organizations representing millions of people joined forest protection groups from around the world to reject the commercial release of GM trees due to their potentially serious negative effects on biodiversity and human rights, as well as the complete lack of independent assessments of their social, ecological and economic risks. Continue reading

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Genetic Engineering

Paper claiming GM link with tumours republished

Note: GMOs and their unintended consequences.  Why would we want to take this risk with our native forests by releasing the nightmare of genetically engineered “frankentrees”?  Sign our petition calling on the USDA to ban GE trees.

–GJEP Team

By Barbara Casassus, June 24, 2014. Source: Nature

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A controversial paper linking genetically modified maize to the development of tumours and other severe disease in rats, which was published in 2012 and retracted in 2013, has now been published again, by a different journal.

Four other journals offered to publish the paper, lead author Gilles-Eric Séralini says. He and his team chose the journal Environmental Sciences Europe, he says, because it is open access so would make the study’s findings available to the whole scientific community.

The paper that went online today1 was slightly amended from the original, notably in the way the data were analysed. Four of the authors, including Séralini, also wrote an accompanying commentary2 in which they say that they were the victims of censorship and that that their critics had “serious yet undisclosed conflicts of interests”. Continue reading

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Filed under Climate Change, Genetic Engineering

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

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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

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Filed under Biodiversity, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy

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

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Filed under Biodiversity, Genetic Engineering

Ecover pioneers ‘synthetic biology’ in consumer products

By Jim Thomas, June 16, 2014. Source: The Ecologist

Photo by Lex McKee via Flickr

Photo by Lex McKee via Flickr

Green soap-maker Ecover is the first company to openly admit that that it’s using ingredients derived from synthetically modified organisms – the next wave of GMOs, writes Jim Thomas. So why are they risking their ‘natural’ brand for this experimental biotechnology?

How odd that Ecover thinks the green-minded eco-homemakers that buy its soaps will line up in support of synthetic biology.

Disappointment, surprise, disbelief.

I think I felt a bit of all of these when I discovered that ‘natural’ soap-maker Ecover had become the first company in the world to reveal its use of synthetic biology in the manufacture of consumer products.

The Belgian multinational revealed in April that it has decided to use an algal oil. What it didn’t explain was that the algae oil was produced by biotech company Solazyme using an experimental set of techniques called synthetic biology.

Like many green-minded folks of my generation, I had been using Ecover products as a trusted ‘natural’ brand for over 20 years. Using synthetic organisms to make oil just didn’t jibe with their ‘eco’ image.

Was this a lapse in judgement that Ecover would rapidly rectify once they realised their mistake? I decided to call up Dirk Develter, Ecover’s head of research, to point out the error. Continue reading

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Filed under Corporate Globalization, Genetic Engineering, Greenwashing

Pigweed: a growing problem

June 11, 2014. Source: Nature

Photo from Wikipedia

Photo from Wikipedia

Palmer pigweed (Amaranthus palmeri) is not a weed to trifle with. It can reach more than 2.5 metres tall, grow more than 6 centi­metres a day, produce 600,000 seeds and has a tough, woody stem that can wreck farm equipment that tries to uproot it.

It is also becoming more and more resistant to the popular herbicide glyphosate.

The first such resistant population was confirmed in 2005 in a cotton field in Georgia, and the plant now plagues farmers in at least 23 US states. It is just one of many resistant weeds marching through the world.

The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is trying to learn from the pigweed experience, and wants to limit the damage caused by the latest wave of weed control. It deserves credit and support.

There is broad agreement that the spread of these resistant plants has its roots in the widespread adoption of crops engineered to be resistant to glyphosate. By the time these genetically engineered crops were released in the mid-1990s, farmers had been battling herbicide-resistant weeds for decades. But glyphosate was thought to be a particularly challenging herbicide for weeds to overcome. Few cases of resistance had been seen. Continue reading

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Food manufacturers waste no time in suing state over GMO labeling

John Herrick, Jun. 12 2014. Source: VT Diggers

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A multibillion dollar trade group representing food, beverage and pesticide companies Thursday filed suit against Vermont over its GMO labeling law.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association is challenging Vermont’s law requiring manufacturers to put a one-line label on products containing genetically modified ingredients starting in 2016.

“The State is compelling manufacturers to convey messages they do not want to convey, and prohibiting manufacturers from describing their products in terms of their choosing, without anything close to a sufficient justification,” the group said in their filing.

Vermont Attorney General William Sorrell was not available for comment Thursday evening. But he has said the Attorney General’s Office is prepared to defend the law.

“I can make no predictions or promises about how the courts will ultimately rule but I can promise that my office will mount a vigorous and zealous defense of the law that has so much support from Vermont consumers,” Sorrell said in a statement last month.

Sorrell estimates defending the law could cost $1 million to win and $5 million or more to lose. The state is stockpiling $1.5 million through state appropriations and settlement surpluses to defend the law. The state also announced last week at a bill signing that it is taking private donations through a newly created defense-fund website, Foodfightfundvt.org.

The case will be heard in the U.S. District Court in Vermont.

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Filed under Genetic Engineering

‘Natural’ vanilla in your ice cream may soon be coming from a biotech lab

By Maureen Nandini Mitra, June 12, 2014. Source: Earth Island Journal

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The first time I ever tasted real vanilla was in a scoop of French vanilla ice cream back in 2000 when I was visiting the United States. The ice cream’s smooth, rich flavor was far superior to the artificial, overly-sweet, “vanilla essence” usually used in ice creams and baked desserts in my home country. I’ve been an ardent fan of real vanilla bean products (extract, paste, and the bean itself) ever since. So last month, when a colleague mentioned that a lab-created, synthetic vanilla product might be hitting the US markets as early as this summer and that it would most likely be passed off as “natural,” I simply had to find out more. Here’s what I learned.

A Swiss biotech company called Evolva has developed a way to make vanillin — the chemical compound from which the vanilla bean derives much of its flavor — in a lab using a genetically rejiggered strain of baker’s yeast. The technology used to create the yeast is a more advanced form of genetic engineering called synthetic biology, or synbio, which involves splicing computer-generated DNA into living cells to construct new forms of life (mostly yeasts or algae) from scratch. Continue reading

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Filed under Genetic Engineering