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: Industrial agriculture
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.”
In this update from her previous piece about the march, Petermann points out that many climate action contexts promote strategies and actions on climate change that “include many ‘solutions’ debunked as false by the global climate justice movement, including carbon capture and storage, and other technologies that allow business as usual to bounce happily along while the planet slowly burns.”
If you agree with Anne, support her by adding a comment to the extensive discussion developing on Daily Kos!
Climate Action vs. Climate Justice: the Need for Clear Demands at the Peoples’ Climate March in New York City
by Anne Peterman/Daily Kos
In New York City on September 21st, a major climate march is planned. It will take place two days before UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s UN Climate Summit–a one-day closed door session where the world’s “leaders” will discuss “ambitions” for the upcoming climate conference (COP20) in Lima Peru.
350.org and Avaaz originally called for the march, but environmental and climate justice organizations and alliances based in the New York/New Jersey region and across the US demanded (and won) a seat at the organizing table to attempt to ensure that the voices of front line and impacted communities are heard.
So, what are the demands of the march? There are none. That’s right. The march will simply bring together an estimated 200,000 people to march through the streets of New York and then…
There will be no rally, no speakers, and no strong political demands. Just people showing up with the overarching message that the world’s leaders should take action on climate change. Why no solid demands? I’ve been informed by organizers that the reason this march is being held with no actual demands is because we need a big tent.
But this tent is so big that it even includes organizations that support fracking and the tar sands gigaproject. Yup, they’re in the tent, too. Call me crazy, but I think that tent is too damn big.
According to some of the organizers, as long as everyone agrees that climate action is needed, then it’s all good. But are all climate actions created equal? No.
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.”
Just in case anyone missed these great stories that developed over this week.
First, Gawker spent the week covering leaked emails from Conde Nast trying to round up reputable speakers for a food documentary series sponsored by Monsanto. Gawker also posted the plan for the program sent with the invitation to speak. Here’s a snippet (italics for emphasis):
Guests from all walks of life (two guests and one Monsanto expert per episode will be encouraged to engage in a spirited conversation while, of course, respecting each other’s individual perspectives. Each episode will be stylishly arranged in a controlled environment, to create an authoritative and journalistic forum.
The big Gawker hook was the host named for it: Mo Rocca (?).
In a response to Gawker, Mo Rocca claims that he was asked, but didn’t have time to respond before his name was attached to it as a lure to get others involved. It’s not clear what he would’ve said, but he’s not doing it now.
Mother Jones then published this story about the planned Monsanto food series, including interviews with some of the people approached, including Marion Nestle, who declined after she asked where the large amount of money offered to her was coming from.
Next, Suzanne Goldenberg has been covering the growing stance by PR firms to no longer engage in campaigns to deny climate change since such campaigns are lies. The firms were pushed to take a stance by surveys done by The Guardian and the Climate Investigations Centre, a watchdog group on climate disinformation. While many PR firms refused to respond or take a stance, Goldenberg and the CIC has helped develop a list of better and worse firms, allowing for public pressure.
According to Goldenberg and Nishad Karim:
Public relations firms have played a critical role over the years in framing the debate on climate change and its solutions – as well as the extensive disinformation campaigns launched to block those initiatives.
Now a number of the top 25 global PR firms have told the Guardian they will not represent clients who deny man-made climate change, or take campaigns seeking to block regulations limiting carbon pollution. Companies include WPP, Waggener Edstrom (WE) Worldwide, Weber Shandwick, Text100, and Finn Partners.
Based on her coverage, the PR firm Edelman was pressed to make a decision about its work on climate change denial campaigns. Of course, the only answer can be the following: PR standards technically do not allow for outright misleading information (disinformation) + climate change denial is disinformation = PR firms can’t do it.
While we can’t put too much faith in PR industry standards, this is a great example of pushing an institution by using its own rhetoric.
Maybe the PR firms saw and were finally embarrassed by the John Oliver take down of climate change denying PR campaigns that pretend there’s a debate on the issue.
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.
Mexican indigenous groups won a lawsuit revoking Monsanto’s permit to plant GMO soy in the Yucatán and six other states. The campesinos argued that “the license endangered the traditional production of organic honey in a region including the Yucatán communities of Ticul, Santa Elena, Oxkutzcab, Tzucacab, Tekax, Peto and Tizimin,” according to an article in the World War 4 Report. The ruling is one of several recent court cases moving toward restoring Indigenous Peoples authority in proposed uses for their territories and lands.
This was the third defeat for GM soy in eastern Mexico this year. In March and April a court in Campeche ruled in favor of two suits brought by Maya beekeepers from the Hopelchén and Pac-Chen communities in Campeche’s Cancabchen municipality. The decisions on GM soy follow a ruling in October 2013 by a federal judge that restrained Sagarpa and the Environment Secretariat (Semarnat) from granting further licenses for planting GM corn in Mexico. But Ximena Ramos, an adviser for the Litiga OLE legal assistance group, said the July ruling in Yucatán was especially important because the judge ordered a public consultation with the affected indigenous communities before any resolution could be made about the sowing of GM soy. This enforces “the multicultural principle in the Constitution, along with the human rights implied in the right to prior consultation with the Maya,” she said. (Terra Mexico, July 22; El Ciudadano, Chile, July 30.