Tag Archives: GMOs

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

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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17 Groups call on Ecover and Method to drop extreme genetic engineering plans

June 2, 2014. Source: ETC Group
 

Photo from ETC group

Photo from ETC group

San Francisco, Calif.– In an open letter released today 17 national and international consumer, environmental, women’s health and farming groups called on leading “natural” cleaning and personal care products manufacturer Ecover and its U.S.-based subsidiary, Method Products Inc., to cancel plans to use oils and other ingredients derived from synthetic biology, a new and unregulated set of genetic engineering techniques. Earlier this month, Ecover announced it would switch to using oils produced by synthetic biology company Solazyme Inc. (SZYM) via synthetically engineered algae which feed on sugar.
The organizations, including Friends of the Earth, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Women’s Voices for the Earth, Clean Production Action, Organic Consumers Association, and ETC Group, as well as watchdog and farmer groups in Brazil concerned about the environmental impacts of increased demand for Brazilian sugarcane, say the use of synthetic biology ingredients contradicts Ecover and Method’s branding as “sustainable” and “ecologically sound.”
“Synthetic biology is a new area of extreme genetic engineering and there are no regulations yet in place to deal with the implications of these new synthetic organisms. Our ability to even assess the risks is lagging way behind,” said Jim Thomas of ETC Group. “A wider switch to synthetic biology ingredients is likely to cause serious harm to biodiversity and farmers, and it is disappointing that Ecover and Method are leading the charge.”
Synthetic biology is the practice of artificially constructing genetic material such as DNA in order to create new forms of life or attempt to ‘reprogram’ existing organisms, such as yeast and algae. Synthetic biology companies claim that they can now generate millions of new, untested organisms per day. If a fraction of these synthetic organisms were released, the potential effects on health, the environment and farmer’s livelihoods are wide-ranging – from relatively benign to ecological and economic disruption.

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Filed under Actions / Protest, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Geoengineering, Greenwashing

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

Biotech companies set to be given legal right in decisions to ban GM crops in EU

May 27, 2014. Source: Sustainable Pulse

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A new GM law being discussed in Brussels this week could grant biotech companies, like Monsanto and Syngenta, unprecedented power over decisions on whether to ban genetically modified (GM) crops in Europe, according to Friends of the Earth Europe.

The new law is being promoted as a way to give governments more sovereignty over decisions on whether to ban GM crops. However, the current proposals give biotech companies the legal right to decide whether a ban should be allowed. If companies refuse, governments are forced to fall back on vague, non-scientific legal grounds upon which to ban GM crops, opening the door to legal challenges.

Adrian Bebb, food campaign coordinator for Friends of the Earth Europe said: “It is an affront to democracy that companies like Monsanto will be given legal status in any decision to ban their products. Governments must be able to ban unwanted and risky GM crops without needing the permission of the companies who profit from them.”

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Filed under Corporate Globalization, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

Oregon non-GMO farmers v Monsanto/Syngenta winning at the polls

Note: The measure banning GMO crops from Rogue Valley has passed, winning broad support at the ballot box.

-The GJEP Team

By Jane Ayers, May 20, 2014. Source: Reader Supported News

Matt Suhr and Aluna Michelle, owners of HappyDirt Veggie Patch in Medford, Oregon, are dedicated to producing naturally grown, chemical-free food – a few miles from a farm owned by Swiss biotech company Syngenta that grows GMO seed. Photo: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone/Envision

Matt Suhr and Aluna Michelle, owners of HappyDirt Veggie Patch in Medford, Oregon, are dedicated to producing naturally grown, chemical-free food – a few miles from a farm owned by Swiss biotech company Syngenta that grows GMO seed. Photo: Kathryn Boyd-Batstone/Envision

Will there be peace in the valley? According to local Rogue Valley farmers in Southern Oregon, only if Monsanto and Syngenta farmers stop planting GMO crops that threaten their livelihoods. A Jackson County ballot measure, #15-119, is set for a vote on Tuesday, May 20th, in Southern Oregon. The measure would protect some of the nation’s purest non-GMO seed supply from ruin. Southern Oregon is considered in the top five of seed producing regions in the world, so much is riding on this county vote. The ballot measure bans “any person from propagating, cultivating, raising or growing genetically engineered [defined] plants in Jackson County” and would require any GMO plants to be harvested, destroyed, or removed within 12 months. Our Family Farms Coalition and GMO Free Jackson County have pushed for the rallying of Non-GMO: YES on Measure 15-119. However, Monsanto and Syngenta recently spent over $800,000 trying to defeat the Rogue Valley’s local farmers’ initiative.

In this ideal farming valley, the local support is extremely noticeable (except for the editorial board of the local newspaper, Mail Tribune, which was recently bought by a new company). A few days ago, even Jackson County itself claimed its support for the farmers’ non-GMO measure. Hundreds of local businesses, restaurants, and farmers are on-board to claim this valley as non-GMO. Even the area’s preachers, rabbis, and native elders have had events focusing on the morality of introducing genetically engineered organisms, thus messing with Creator’s “sacred seed.” Also of concern is the issue of protecting the area’s water from pesticides that are used with genetically engineered crops.

The Rogue Valley is also home of Harry and David’s, and also Amy’s Organics processing factory, which ranks high in worldwide sales of organic soups and frozen dinners. Amy’s Organics and even Whole Foods have expressed to local farmers the desire to purchase more organic vegetables from this valley, to ensure freshness, and to lower their trucking costs by buying more local produce. In addition, hundreds of local restaurants and food businesses have recently joined together in the Food Integrity Project, which is labeling their businesses as non-GMO dining, with different percentages of their menus using foods that are non-GMO.

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

Who benefits from GMO crops? New report from Friends of the Earth Europe

April 30, 2014. Source: Friends of the Earth Europe

industrial-ag

Global acceptance of genetically modified (GM) crops is in decline, with the number of countries
cultivating falling for the first time, according to a new report from Friends of the Earth International released today.

Poland and Egypt are the latest countries to suspend or phase-out GM crop production.

The report ‘Who Benefits from GM Crops?’ reveals that in Europe, production of Monsanto’s GM maize, the only GM crop permitted in Europe, dropped in Portugal, Czech Republic and Slovakia. Over 90% of the European Union’s GM crop production is based in just one country, Spain.

Globally GM crops are grown predominantly in USA, Brazil, Argentina and India.

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Filed under Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Industrial agriculture

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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Filed under Biodiversity, Climate Change, Corporate Globalization, Food Sovereignty, Genetic Engineering, Green Economy, Industrial agriculture