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Big Sugar’s scandalous sweetheart deal with public health experts exposed

RT | February 12, 2015

British public health experts issuing guidance on obesity receive hundreds of thousands of pounds from the sugar industry, an investigation has found.

Funding from companies including Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and Nestlé has flowed into scientific research bodies such as the UK’s Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition (SACN) and the Medical Research Council (MRC) for over a decade.

Scientists whose work was at least partly funded and sometimes fully funded by the sugar industry include Professor Susan Jebb, the government’s obesity tsar.

Leading scientists blamed the government’s funding cuts for forcing researchers into the arms of Big Sugar, while one doctor told RT the findings were “disturbing.”

The report comes at a time when medical experts say daily guidelines on sugar intake are misleading, with the average Briton consuming two to three times the World Health Organization’s (WHO) recommended limit.

According to the BMJ’s investigation, one government-funded organization, the MRC’s Human Nutrition Research unit in Cambridge, received an average of £250,000 a year for the past decade from Big Sugar.

Other scientists received consultancy fees from Boots, Coca-Cola, Mars, Cereal Partners UK and Unilever. They have also sat on advisory boards for Coca-Cola, the Food and Drink Federation and the Institute of Grocery Distributors, the report claims.

Nutrition scientist Susan Jebb, who is the UK government’s adviser on obesity, received £1.37 million in industry funding between 2004 and 2015, according to the investigation.

This money came from food and retail companies including Cereal Partners UK, which operates under the Nestlé brand, Rank Hovis McDougal, Sainsbury’s, Coca-Cola’s Beverage Institute for Health and Wellbeing and Unilever.

In a statement published via the Science Media Centre, Jebb rejected the BMJ’s investigation.

“It refers to a series of studies in which I was involved which included funding from industry. None of these involve research into the effects of sugar on health,” she said.

“I have received no personal remuneration from any of these projects. All have been conducted according to all the MRC governance arrangements for working with industry and the industry involvement has been declared.”

Dr Aseem Malholtra, a cardiologist and Science Director at the medically led Action on Sugar, told RT the findings were “disturbing.”

“I think it’s quite disturbing. I think the public would be appalled that the people advising them on what they eat are receiving money from the food industry.”

“We know that biased funding for research is one of the root causes of problems within healthcare at the moment. Whether it’s food industry funding or pharmaceutical funding.”

Malholtra said the average UK citizen consumes 2-3 times the WHO’s recommended sugar intake.

“The labeling of sugar remains extremely misleading. The guidelines’ daily amount doesn’t distinguish between added sugars and what’s intrinsic to the product,” he said.

“The current sugar labeling suggests one could consume 22 teaspoons of sugar a day as part of your daily amount. The WHO advice is for 6 teaspoons per day.”

“My question is: what are the scientists doing turning a blind eye?”

Former SACN chair Alan Jackson blamed the government’s research funding cuts for pushing scientist towards industry money.

Universities are estimated to have lost over £460 million in government research funding between 2009-10 and 2012-13, a financial burden which has seen them turn to business for over £2 billion over the past decade.

Jackson said scientists were encouraged by the government to develop a “mixed portfolio of support” for their research which explicitly included help from industry.

“So most, if not all, researchers will have some form of industry support and funding and hence have potential conflicts of interest,” he told the BMJ.

“By the very nature of its complex roots and wide interdisciplinary engagement nutrition has particular vulnerabilities in this regard, but it is by no means unique to nutrition.”

READ MORE: Child obesity looms large, with 1/3 of European teenagers overweight

February 13, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Economics | , , , | Leave a comment

Monsanto gets approval for new GMO corn, soybeans designed for potent new biocide

RT | January 16, 2015

Monsanto has won final approval from the US for its new genetically-modified soybeans and cotton, designed to withstand a dominant biocide that fights weed resistance built up as a result of the company’s glyphosate-based Roundup herbicide already in use.

The US Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) announced Thursday that the powerful biotechnology corporation’s GMO cotton and soybean plants have been given “non-regulated” status.

Monsanto now awaits approval from the US Environmental Protection Agency for the new herbicide – a mix of the formidable chemical dicamba and glyphosate, which the company has developed for use on the newly-approved GMO crops.

The new GMO crops – coupled with the dicamba/glyphosate cocktail – make up what Monsanto has dubbed the ‘Roundup Ready Xtend crop system,’ designed to trump super weeds that have evolved along with the company’s glyphosate-based Roundup biocide.

Dicamba was first approved in 1967 and has been linked to high rates of cancer and birth defects in the families of food growers, according to government and other scientific studies.

Consumer, health, environmental, and farmer advocates have fiercely opposed the new Xtend system, as it portends an overall “10-fold increase in dicamba use in American agriculture, from under 4 million lbs. at present to more than 40 million lbs. per year,” according to Center for Food Safety.

“Monsanto’s genetically-engineered dicamba-resistant crops are yet another example of how pesticide firms are taking agriculture back to the dark days of heavy, indiscriminate use of hazardous pesticides, seriously endangering human health and the environment,” said Andrew Kimbrell, executive director of Center for Food Safety, in a statement.

“If EPA also reneges on its responsibility to protect human and environmental health, Center for Food Safety will pursue all available legal options to halt the introduction of these dangerous crops.”

The USDA and Monsanto have said that Xtend will increase dicamba use in cotton by 14 times current levels, according to Reuters, and, in soybeans, 500 times current levels, the Pesticide Action Network said in a statement.

“I am convinced that in all of my years serving the agriculture industry, the widespread use of dicamba herbicide [poses] the single most serious threat to the future of the specialty crop industry in the Midwest,” said Steve Smith, Director of Agriculture for Red Gold, a tomato-processing company.

Opposition — and even the USDA — says more dicamba will only mean additional weed resistance in the future, translating to more profits for the likes of Monsanto and Dow Chemical, which received US approval for its genetically-engineered 2,4-D-resistant corn and soybeans in September 2014.

“The pesticide treadmill spins on, and that’s great news for Monsanto,” said Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know, a consumer advocacy group, Reuters reported. “This is just the latest in a endless string of favors from our federal government to Monsanto.”

Crops most at risk from increased dicamba exposure include fruits, nuts, and vegetables, growers of which say they fear the chemical will drift onto and damage their fields.

Monsanto, according to Reuters, said it will educate food growers over the proper way to avoid dicamba drift. But biocide opponents are skeptical of these promises and say the burden will rest with the growers — not Monsanto.

“Monsanto’s response to farmers’ concerns about crop damage has been to develop exceedingly complex and demanding protocols for applying and disposing of the herbicide cocktail, including a ten-step triple rinse of sprayers that is likely to take more than an hour and then entails proper disposal of the contaminated rinse water,” said the Pesticide Action Network. “This ‘solution’ puts all responsibility on farmers, and sets up the company to escape liability for crop damage.”

Biocide drift will also adversely impact flowering plants and their pollinators and other species, which depend on them for nectar and habitat.

Meanwhile, Monsanto is awaiting approval from China to allow imports of its new soybeans. China has been reticent about approving more GMO crops, as exemplified in farmer lawsuits aimed at American agribusiness companies following the nation’s rejection of US genetically-engineered-corn imports.

Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robb Fraley said last week that Chinese approval is expected in time for Xtend’s commercial launch in 2016.

READ MORE:

EU to pick which GMO it grows after new bill passed overwhelmingly

Oregon GMO-labeling initiative defeated by Monsanto-sponsored groups

Monarch butterfly may be listed as endangered species after 90% population drop

January 16, 2015 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Environmentalism | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Guatemala defies ‘Monsanto Law’ pushed by US as part of trade agreement

RT | September 3, 2014

The highest court in Guatemala has suspended the controversial ‘Monsanto Law,’ a provision of a US-Central American trade agreement, that would insulate transnational seed corporations considered to have “discovered” new plant varieties.

The Constitutional Court suspended on Friday the law – passed in June and due to go into effect on Sept. 26 – after a writ of amparo was filed by the Guatemalan Union, Indigenous and Peasant Movement, which argued the law would harm the nation, LaVoz reported.

The Court’s decision came after several Guatemalan parliamentarians from both the governing Patriotic Party and the opposition party Renewed Democratic Freedom said they would consider repealing the law after outcry from a diverse cross-section of Guatemalans.

The decision also offers interested parties 15 days to present their arguments pertaining to the law in front of the Constitutional Court. Members of both political parties said they would present motions to resist the law.

The ‘Law for the Protection of New Plant Varieties,’ dubbed the ‘Monsanto Law’ by critics for its formidable seed-privatization provisions, is an obligation for all nations that signed the 2005 CAFTA-DR free trade agreement between Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic, and the United States. The agreement requires signatories to adhere to the International Convention for the Protection of New Plant Varieties.

The law offers producers of transgenic seeds, often corporate behemoths like Monsanto, strict property rights in the event of possession or exchange of original or harvested seeds of protected varieties without the breeder’s authorization. A breeder’s right extends to “varieties essentially derived from the protected variety,” thus, a hybrid of a protected and unprotected seed belongs to the protected seed’s producer.

The Rural Studies Collective (Cer-Ixim) warned that the law would monopolize agriculture processes, severely threaten food sovereignty – especially those of indigenous peoples – and would sacrifice national biodiversity “under the control of domestic and foreign companies.”

The National Alliance for Biodiversity Protection said in July that the law is unconstitutional “because it violates the rights of peoples. It will benefit transnational seed companies such as Monsanto, Duwest, Dupont, Syngenta, etc.”

“According to this law, the rights of plant breeders are superior to the rights of peoples to freely use seeds,” the Alliance said in a statement.

“It’s a direct attack on the traditional knowledge, biodiversity, life, culture, rural economy and worldview of Peoples, and food sovereignty,” the Alliance added.

Anyone who violates the law, wittingly or not, could face a prison term of one to four years, and fines of US$130 to $1,300.

It is unclear what options the Guatemalan government has given the obligations under CAFTA-DR. The US would likely put pressure on the nation to pass the law, part of a global effort using trade agreements to push further corporate control over trade sectors like agriculture in the name of modernization. Upon further refusal, the US could drop Guatemala from the trade agreement.

September 4, 2014 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments