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There’s Nothing Parochial About the Issue of GMO Food Labeling

By Jonathan Latham, PhD | Independent Science News | January 24, 2017

The GMO labeling issue has quieted down some but there is still plenty to discuss. Just this week the USDA proposed its definition of a GMO for labeling purposes and it includes loopholes for gene editing. However, it is also possible for reasonable people to imagine that GMO labeling is a sideshow to the real business of the food movement. After all, most GMO foods and GMO crops are visually indistinguishable from non-GMOs, and tiny non-GMO labels can look pretty irrelevant on the side of a soda bottle containing whole cupfuls of sugar. Last week, Michael Pollan, Olivier de Schutter, Mark Bittman and Ricardo Salvador made that error, calling GMO labeling “parochial.” Granted, they wrote “important but parochial”, but qualifying the significance of GMO labeling in any way was a mistake.

The first issue is that GMOs are legally distinct from non-GMO crop varieties. They possess an enhanced legal status that has enabled GMOs to become a gushing profit centre for agribusiness. These rights not only allow their owners to steer farmers’ herbicide use, which also increases profits, they can also legally prevent independent research which would otherwise show up their advertising claims. The share price of Monsanto reached $142 in 2008, reflecting the enormous profitability of massively increasing seed prices on the back of GMO introductions.

Monsanto Prop 37

California Proposition 37

Those profits have in turn fuelled a set of key agribusiness activities. One was the acquisition of almost the entire independent global seed business, which now resides in very few hands. The second was a cluster of enhanced PR and lobbying activities that were necessary to defend GMOs. Rather than hide in the shadows agribusiness corporations needed to come out swinging in defence of the indefensible, which necessitated, among other things, a much higher degree of control than previously over teaching content and research at public universities.

Thus their special legal status enabled an unprecedented ability to control both the present and the future of agriculture.

GMOs are also conflated with science and thus progress. They have the intellectual role of presenting agribusiness as the innovative and dynamic frontier of agriculture, in contrast to those people who base their efforts on ecological diversity, local expertise, or deep knowledge. This cutting edge image is key to the agribusiness business model of reaping tax breaks and subsidies (Lima, 2015).

All around the world, taxpayer money supports and subsidises agribusiness without which benefits it would not exist (Capellesso et al., 2016). In the final analysis, however, the GMOs-as-progress argument is circular. Agribusiness is innovative because it uses GMOs and GMOs show how innovative they are. Smoke and mirrors, but politicians fall for it every day, delivering massive transfers of wealth every year from the public to the private sector (Lima, 2015).

The biological truth of GMOs is equally disturbing. At one end of the food chain are the crops in the field. Many people have noticed the virtual disappearance of Monarch butterflies. There are three leading explanations of this disappearance. The loss from farmland of their larval host plants, milkweeds, is one possibility; poisoning of their caterpillar larvae after consuming insecticide-filled pollen from Bt insect-resistant GMOs is a second; and toxicity from the neonicotinoid pesticides used to treat GMO seeds is the third. The first two both stem directly or indirectly from GMO use in agricultural fields since before GMOs, milkweeds could not be eradicated and now they can. Most likely is that all three causes are true and that along with milkweeds GMO agriculture also decimated, or eradicated entirely, many other species too.

Monarchs are lovely, but they are not otherwise special. Their significance is as sentinels. Planting milkweeds and pollinator way stations to specially preserve a sentinel species does not rescue an agricultural ecosystem, but it will mask the symptoms. Agribusiness is right now hoping that no one will notice the difference, and that by bringing back monarchs it can obscure the facts of their killing fields.

Internationally too, GMOs threaten to transform agriculture in places like India where millions of people who make a living by labouring in fields could be displaced by herbicide-tolerant crops such as mustard.

At the human consumption end of the food chain, if you live in the US, no one is protecting you from potential health hazards due to GMOs. Makers of GMO crop varieties don’t even have to notify the FDA of a new product. And if the maker deems the product is not a pesticide they don’t have to notify the EPA either. Trump won’t make it worse because it can’t be worse. It is non-partisan contempt for public health.

What are those potential health hazards? One important example is the famous (or infamous) rat study of NK603 corn by the French research group of professor Gilles-Eric Séralini . It is the only longterm study of the effects of GMOs on a mammal. If you ignore the tumours that most people focused on, the study found major kidney and liver dysfunction in the treated animals (Séralini et al., 2014). This dysfunction was evident from biochemical measurements and was also visually apparent under the microscope. These results are of no interest to US regulators, even in principle, since they fall between jurisdictions.

From this we can conclude that GMOs are often harmful, directly and indirectly, and further, that they are the leading edge of the business model of agribusiness.

The question, however, was labeling. Imagine that organic food was not allowed to be labeled. Would there be such an organised and powerful challenge to industrial food? What labeling does for the agriculture and food system is to allow the public to express its dismay and disagreement with the direction of corporate agriculture and assert their democratic rights to protect themselves. Labeling allows the public to engage with specific policies and products within the vast complexity of the food system and push back in a focused way against corruption and dishonesty, in real time. There aren’t too many chances to do that in America today.

References

Capellesso AJ, Ademir Antonio Cazella, Abdon Luiz Schmitt Filho, Joshua Farley, and Diego Albino Martins (2016) Economic and environmental impacts of production intensification in agriculture: comparing transgenic, conventional, and agroecological maize crops. AGROECOLOGY AND SUSTAINABLE FOOD SYSTEMS 40: 215–236. Lima T. (2015) Agricultural Subsidies for Non-farm Interests: An Analysis of the US Agro-industrial Complex. Agrarian South: Journal of Political Economy 4(1) 54–84o-industrial Complex
Séralini G-E, Emilie Clair, Robin Mesnage, Steeve Gress, Nicolas Defarge, Manuela Malatesta, Didier Hennequin and Joël Spiroux de Vendômois (2014) Republished study: long-term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerantgenetically modified maize. Environmental Sciences Europe 26:14 DOI: 10.1186/s12302-014-0014-5

January 24, 2017 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | | 1 Comment

Spearheading the Neo-liberal Plunder of African Agriculture

By Colin Todhunter | CounterPunch | January 22, 2016

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) is dangerously and unaccountably distorting the direction of international development, according to a new report by the campaign group Global Justice Now. With assets of $43.5 billion, the BMGF is the largest charitable foundation in the world. It actually distributes more aid for global health than any government. As a result, it has a major influence on issues of global health and agriculture.

Gated Development – Is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?’ argues that what BMGF is doing could end up exacerbating global inequality and entrenching corporate power globally. Global Justice Now’s analysis of the BMGF’s programmes shows that the foundation’s senior staff are overwhelmingly drawn from corporate America. As a result, the question is: whose interests are being promoted – those of corporate America or those of ordinary people who seek social and economic justice rather than charity?

According to the report, the foundation’s strategy is intended to deepen the role of multinational companies in global health and agriculture especially, even though these corporations are responsible for much of the poverty and injustice that already plagues the global south. The report concludes that the foundation’s programmes have a specific ideological strategy that promotes neo-liberal economic policies, corporate globalisation, the technology this brings (such as GMOs) and an outdated view of the centrality of aid in ‘helping’ the poor.

The report raises a series criticisms including:

1) The relationship between the foundation and Microsoft’s tax practices. A 2012 report from the US Senate found that Microsoft’s use of offshore subsidiaries enabled it to avoid taxes of $4.5 billion, a sum greater than the BMGF’s annual grant making ($3.6 billion in 2014).

2) The close relationship that BMGF has with many corporations whose role and policies contribute to ongoing poverty. Not only is BMGF profiting from numerous investments in a series of controversial companies which contribute to economic and social injustice, it is also actively supporting a series of those companies, including Monsanto, Dupont and Bayer through a variety of pro-corporate initiatives around the world.

3) The foundation’s promotion of industrial agriculture across Africa, pushing for the adoption of GM, patented seed systems and chemical fertilisers, all of which undermine existing sustainable, small-scale farming that is providing the vast majority of food security across the continent.

4) The foundation’s promotion of projects around the world pushing private healthcare and education. Numerous agencies have raised concerns that such projects exacerbate inequality and undermine the universal provision of such basic human necessities.

5) BMGF’s funding of a series of vaccine programmes that have reportedly lead to illnesses or even deaths with little official or media scrutiny.

Polly Jones the head of campaigns and policy at Global Justice Now says:

“The Gates Foundation has rapidly become the most influential actor in the world of global health and agricultural policies, but there’s no oversight or accountability in how that influence is managed. This concentration of power and influence is even more problematic when you consider that the philanthropic vision of the Gates Foundation seems to be largely based on the values of corporate America. The foundation is relentlessly promoting big business-based initiatives such as industrial agriculture, private health care and education. But these are all potentially exacerbating the problems of poverty and lack of access to basic resources that the foundation is supposed to be alleviating.”

The report states that that Bill Gates has regular access to world leaders and is in effect personally bankrolling hundreds of universities, international organisations, NGOs and media outlets. As the single most influential voice in international development, the foundation’s strategy is a major challenge to progressive development actors and activists around the world who want to see the influence of multinational corporations in global markets reduced or eliminated.

The foundation not only funds projects in which agricultural and pharmaceutical corporations are among the leading beneficiaries, but it often invests in the same companies as it is funding, meaning the foundation has an interest in the ongoing profitability of these corporations. According to the report, this is “a corporate merry-go-round where the BMGF consistently acts in the interests of corporations.”

Uprooting indigenous agriculture for the benefit of global agribusiness

The report notes that the BMGF’s close relationship with seed and chemical giant Monsanto is well known. It previously owned shares in the company and continues to promote several projects in which Monsanto is a beneficiary, not least the wholly inappropriate and fraudulent GMO project which promotes a technical quick-fix ahead of tackling the structural issues that create hunger, poverty and food insecurity   But, as the report notes, the BMGF partners with many other multinational agribusiness corporations.

Many examples where this is the case are highlighted by the report. For instance, the foundation is working with US trader Cargill in an $8 million project to “develop the soya value chain” in southern Africa. Cargill is the biggest global player in the production of and trade in soya with heavy investments in South America where GM soya mono-crops have displaced rural populations and caused great environmental damage. According to Global Justice Now, the BMGF-funded project will likely enable Cargill to capture a hitherto untapped African soya market and eventually introduce GM soya onto the continent. The end markets for this soya are companies with relationships with the fast food outlet, KFC, whose expansion in Africa is being aided by the project.

Specific examples are given which highlight how BMGF is also supporting projects involving other chemicals and seed corporations, including DuPont Pioneer, Syngenta and Bayer.

According to the report, the BMGF is promoting a model of industrial agriculture, the increasing use of chemical fertilisers and expensive, patented seeds, the privatisation of extension services and a very large focus on genetically modified seeds. The foundation bankrolls the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in pushing industrial agriculture.

A key area for AGRA is seed policy. The report notes that currently over 80 per cent of Africa’s seed supply comes from millions of small-scale farmers recycling and exchanging seed from year to year. But AGRA is promoting the commercial production of seed and is thus supporting the introduction of commercial seed systems, which risk enabling a few large companies to control seed research and development, production and distribution.

In order for commercial seed companies to invest in research and development, they first want to protect their ‘intellectual property’. According to the report, this requires a fundamental restructuring of seed laws to allow for certification systems that not only protect certified varieties and royalties derived from them, but which actually criminalise all non-certified seed.

The report notes that over the past two decades a long and slow process of national seed law reviews, sponsored by USAID and the G8 along with the BMGF and others, has opened the door to multinational corporations’ involvement in seed production, including the acquisition of every sizeable seed enterprise on the African continent.

At the same time, AGRA is working to promote costly inputs, notably fertiliser, despite evidence to suggest chemical fertilisers have significant health risks for farm workers, increase soil erosion and can trap small-scale farmers in unsustainable debt. The BMGF, through AGRA, is one of the world’s largest promoters of chemical fertiliser.

Some grants given by the BMGF to AGRA have been specifically intended to “help AGRA build the fertiliser supply chain” in Africa. The report describes how one of the largest of AGRA’s grants, worth $25 million, was used to help establish the African Fertiliser Agribusiness Partnership (AFAP) in 2012, whose very goal is to “at least double total fertiliser use” in Africa.  The AFAP project is being pursued in partnership with the International Fertiliser Development Centre, a body which represents the fertiliser industry.

Another of AGRA’s key programmes since its inception has been support to agro-dealer networks – small, private stockists of transnational companies’ chemicals and seeds who sell these to farmers in several African countries. This is increasing the reliance of farmers on chemical inputs and marginalising sustainable agriculture alternatives, thereby undermining any notion that farmers are exercising their ‘free choice’ (as the neo-liberal evangelists are keen to tell everyone) when it comes to adopting certain agricultural practices.

The report concludes that AGRA’s agenda is the biggest direct threat to the growing movement in support of food sovereignty and agroecological farming methods in Africa. This movement opposes reliance on chemicals, expensive seeds and GM and instead promotes an approach which allows communities control over the way food is produced, traded and consumed. It is seeking to create a food system that is designed to help people and the environment rather than make profits for multinational corporations. Priority is given to promoting healthy farming and healthy food by protecting soil, water and climate, and promoting biodiversity.

Recent evidence from Greenpeace and the Oakland Institute shows that in Africa agroecological farming can increase yields significantly (often greater than industrial agriculture), and that it is more profitable for small farmers. In 2011, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food (Olivier de Schutter) called on countries to reorient their agriculture policies to promote sustainable systems – not least agroecology – that realise the right to food. Moreover, the International Assessmentof Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) was the work of over 400 scientists and took four years to complete. It was twice peer reviewed and states we must look to smallholder, traditional farming to deliver food security in third world countries through agri-ecological systems which are sustainable.

In a January 2015 piece in The Guardian, Director of Global Justice Now said that ‘development’ was once regarded as a process of breaking with colonial exploitation and transferring power over resources from the ‘first’ to the ‘third world’, involving a revolutionary struggle over the world’s resources. However, the current paradigm is based on the assumption that developing countries need to adopt neo-liberal policies and that public money in the guise of aid should facilitate this.

If this new report shows anything, it is that the notion of ‘development’ has become hijacked by rich corporations and a super-rich ‘philanthrocapitalist’ (whose own corporate practices have been questionable to say the least, as highlighted by the report). In effect, the model of ‘development’ being facilitated is married to the ideology and structurally embedded power relations of an exploitative global capitalism.

The BMGF is spearheading the ambitions of corporate America and the scramble for Africa by global agribusiness.

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Study Linking GMOs and Tumors Vindicated Yet Again… MSM Stays Silent

corbettreport – December 6, 2015

SHOW NOTES: https://www.corbettreport.com/?p=17182

December 6, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Environmentalism, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | Leave a comment

Unmasking the GMO ‘Humanitarian’ Narrative

By Colin Todhunter | CounterPunch | November 13, 2015

Genetically modified (GM) crops are going to feed the world. Not only that, supporters of GM technology say it will produce better yields than non-GM crops, increase farmers’ incomes, lead to less chemical inputs, be better suited to climatic changes, is safe for human consumption and will save the lives of millions. Sections of the pro-GMO lobby are modern-day evangelists who denounce, often with a hefty dose of bigoted zeal, anyone who questions their claims and self-proclaimed humanitarian motives.

But their claims do not stack up. Even if some of their assertions about GMOs (GM organisms) appear to be credible, they are often based on generalisations, selective data or questionable research and thus convey a distorted picture. The claims made about GMOs resemble a house of cards that rest on some very fraudulent foundations indeed (see ‘Altered Genes and Twisted Truth’ by Steven Druker).

The fact that many of the pro-GMO lobby spend a good deal of their time attacking and smearing critics and flagging up the technology’s alleged virtues while ignoring certain important issues says much about their priorities.

If they care about farmers so much, indeed if they value food security, choice and democracy so much – as they frequently claim to – why do they not spend their time and energy highlighting and challenging the practices of some of the corporations that are behind the GM project and which have adversely impacted so many across the world?

For instance, consider the following.

1) There is a massive spike in cancer cases in Argentina which is strongly associated with glyphosate-based herbicides – a massive earner for agribusiness. Not only that but throughout South America smallholders and indigenous peoples are being driven from their lands as a result of a corporate takeover aimed at expanding this type of (GM) chemical-intensive agriculture. The outcome has been described as ecocide and genocide.

2) GM technology has not enhanced the world’s ability to feed itself and has arguably led to greater food insecurity (also see this).

3) Petrochemical, industrialised agriculture is less productively efficient than smallholder agriculture. However, the latter is being squeezed onto less and less land as a result of the expansion of corporate commodity crop farming and the taking over of fertile land by institutional investors and agribusiness concerns. As a result of this, the world is in danger of losing the ability to feed itself. Across the world, not least in Asia, peasant farming is being dismantled in favour of this type of corporate agriculture, which is unsustainable and associated with cancers, water contamination, soil degradation and falling water tables.

4) This is a model that from field to plate is causing obesity, diabetes and various other ailments and diseases. Facilitated and supported by trade agreements like NAFTA, people’s quality of food is being sacrificed and local farming devastated (see this to read about the situation in Mexico).

5) In India, 300,000 farmers have committed suicide over the past 20 years as farming has deliberately been made financially non-viable. The aim is to displace hundreds of millions who rely on agriculture to make a living and free up land for Western agribusiness to reshape farming. As NAFTA has done to Mexico, the agribusiness-backed Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture seems likely to do to India. The aim is to dismantle Indian agriculture for the benefit of corporate agribusiness.

We now witness grass-root responses to what is outlined above on a daily basis: farmer protests on the streets of Delhi and local movements from Ghana to Brazil resisting the corporatization of seeds, land, water, food processing, food retail and decision making/regulatory processes.

We also see the wrecking of traditional, productive rural economies and the attack on indigenous knowledge at the behest of global agribusiness, facilitated by compliant politicians. If corporate aims cannot be achieved via trade agreements or the machinations of international institutions like the WTO (whose rules agribusiness shape), they are sought on the back of war or through strings-attached loans as is the case in Ukraine. Objectives are sought by various means.

The world can feed itself without GMOs. It is current policies and the global system of food production that militate against achieving global food security and which contribute towards hunger and poverty. No amount of gene splicing can rectify this.

How convenient it is for sections of the pro-GMO lobby to ignore, side-line or dismiss all of the above and offer a techno-fix supposed panacea that comes courtesy of the same companies whose practices are helping to undermine food security and which are fuelling much of the devastation in the first place. It betrays an ideological adherence to a pro-corporate neoliberal agenda.

Instead of attempting to dismiss the issues set out here as being based on ‘romantic twaddle’, the ramblings of wicked ideologues or the fads and inventions of some notional ‘green blob’ red in tooth and claw that hates humanity, science and freedom of choice (all of which have been levelled at critics), it would be better to acknowledge the issues described here and work to address them and challenge the practices that fuel them.

The pro-GMO lobby is fond of trying to discredit its critics and engages in pious, emotive rhetoric. They often ask them: ‘What are you doing to save the lives of millions?’

The question for them is: What are you?

November 13, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | | Leave a comment

MIT grad challenges Monsanto over ‘nonexistent GMO safety standards’

RT | November 13, 2015

One of the world’s largest GMO producers has been challenged by an MIT graduate who claims there are absolutely no GMO safety assessment standards. He earlier alleged that GMO-engineered plants accumulate high levels of formaldehyde.

Livingston (New Jersey) High School Hall of Fame member, Dr. V A Shiva Ayyadurai threw down the gauntlet to the Monsanto Company, claiming it would be next to impossible for the agro-giant to disprove his claim that safety assessment standards for genetically-modified organisms (GMO) are nonexistent.

“If Monsanto can disprove the fact that there are no safety assessment standards for GMOs, the conclusion of our fourth paper, then I will give them my $10 million building,” Ayyadurai, also a Massachusetts Institute of Technology graduate, told Patch.

Ayyadurai’s argument is based on his alleged discovery that GMO plants accumulate high levels of formaldehyde, a finding Ayyadurai asserted in an article published back in July in an expert opinion for the Agricultural Sciences trade journal.

“This is not a pro- or anti-GMO question,” Ayyadurai wrote in his abstract. “But [rather], are we following the scientific method to ensure the safety of our food supply? Right now, the answer is no. But we need to, and we can if we engage in open, transparent and collaborative scientific discourse, based on a systems approach.”

“Formaldehyde is a known class-one carcinogen,” Dr. Ray Seidler, a former EPA senior scientist, said in a statement on Ayyadurai’s study. “Its elevated presence in soybeans caused by a common genetic engineering event is alarming and deserves immediate attention and action from the FDA and the Obama administration.”

An estimated 94 percent of US-grown soybeans are genetically engineered.

November 13, 2015 Posted by | Science and Pseudo-Science | , | Leave a comment

Russia Ends Production of Genetically Modified Food

Sputnik — 18.09.2015

Russia’s government has decided against producing genetically modified organisms (GMOs), the country’s Deputy Prime Minister Arkady Dvorkovich said Friday.

The deputy prime minister underscored the need to draw a “clear distinction” between this decision and science and research projects in fields such as medicine.

“As for genetically modified organisms, we have decided against the use of GMO in food production,” Dvorkovich said.

A law requiring manufacturers to label products whose GMO content is higher than 0.9 percent has been in effect since 2007.

September 18, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Environmentalism | , | Leave a comment

Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs

By Jonathan R. Latham, PhD | Independent Science News | August 31, 2015

By training, I am a plant biologist. In the early 1990s I was busy making genetically modified plants (often called GMOs for Genetically Modified Organisms) as part of the research that led to my PhD. Into these plants we were putting DNA from various foreign organisms, such as viruses and bacteria.

I was not, at the outset, concerned about the possible effects of GM plants on human health or the environment. One reason for this lack of concern was that I was still a very young scientist, feeling my way in the complex world of biology and of scientific research. Another reason was that we hardly imagined that GMOs like ours would be grown or eaten. So far as I was concerned, all GMOs were for research purposes only.

Gradually, however, it became clear that certain companies thought differently. Some of my older colleagues shared their skepticism with me that commercial interests were running far ahead of scientific knowledge. I listened carefully and I didn’t disagree. Today, over twenty years later, GMO crops, especially soybeans, corn, papaya, canola and cotton, are commercially grown in numerous parts of the world.

Depending on which country you live in, GMOs may be unlabeled and therefore unknowingly abundant in your diet. Processed foods (e.g. chips, breakfast cereals, sodas) are likely to contain ingredients from GMO crops, because they are often made from corn or soy. Most agricultural crops, however, are still non-GMO, including rice, wheat, barley, oats, tomatoes, grapes and beans.

For meat eaters the nature of GMO consumption is different. There are no GMO animals used in farming (although GM salmon has been pending FDA approval since 1993); however, animal feed, especially in factory farms or for fish farming, is likely to be GMO corn and GMO soybeans. In which case the labeling issue, and potential for impacts on your health, are complicated.

I now believe, as a much more experienced scientist, that GMO crops still run far ahead of our understanding of their risks. In broad outline, the reasons for this belief are quite simple. I have become much more appreciative of the complexity of biological organisms and their capacity for benefits and harms. As a scientist I have become much more humble about the capacity of science to do more than scratch the surface in its understanding of the deep complexity and diversity of the natural world. To paraphrase a cliché, I more and more appreciate that as scientists we understand less and less.

The Flawed Processes of GMO Risk Assessment

Some of my concerns with GMOs are “just” practical ones. I have read numerous GMO risk assessment applications. These are the documents that governments rely on to ‘prove’ their safety. Though these documents are quite long and quite complex, their length is misleading in that they primarily ask (and answer) trivial questions. Furthermore, the experiments described within them are often very inadequate and sloppily executed. Scientific controls are often missing, procedures and reagents are badly described, and the results are often ambiguous or uninterpretable. I do not believe that this ambiguity and apparent incompetence is accidental. It is common, for example, for multinational corporations, whose labs have the latest equipment, to use outdated methodologies. When the results show what the applicants want, nothing is said. But when the results are inconvenient, and raise red flags, they blame the limitations of the antiquated method. This bulletproof logic, in which applicants claim safety no matter what the data shows, or how badly the experiment was performed, is routine in formal GMO risk assessment.

To any honest observer, reading these applications is bound to raise profound and disturbing questions: about the trustworthiness of the applicants and equally of the regulators. They are impossible to reconcile with a functional regulatory system capable of protecting the public.

The Dangers of GMOs

Aside from grave doubts about the quality and integrity of risk assessments, I also have specific science-based concerns over GMOs. I emphasise the ones below because they are important but are not on the lists that GMO critics often make.

Many GMO plants are engineered to contain their own insecticides. These GMOs, which include maize, cotton and soybeans, are called Bt plants. Bt plants get their name because they incorporate a transgene that makes a protein-based toxin (usually called the Cry toxin) from the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis. Many Bt crops are “stacked,” meaning they contain a multiplicity of these Cry toxins. Their makers believe each of these Bt toxins is insect-specific and safe. However, there are multiple reasons to doubt both safety and specificity. One concern is that Bacillus thuringiensis is all but indistinguishable from the well known anthrax bacterium (Bacillus anthracis). Another reason is that Bt insecticides share structural similarities with ricin. Ricin is a famously dangerous plant toxin, a tiny amount of which was used to assassinate the Bulgarian writer and defector Georgi Markov in 1978. A third reason for concern is that the mode of action of Bt proteins is not understood (Vachon et al 2012); yet, it is axiomatic in science that effective risk assessment requires a clear understanding of the mechanism of action of any GMO transgene. This is so that appropriate experiments can be devised to affirm or refute safety. These red flags are doubly troubling because some Cry proteins are known to be toxic towards isolated human cells (Mizuki et al., 1999). Yet we put them in our food crops.

A second concern follows from GMOs being often resistant to herbicides. This resistance is an invitation to farmers to spray large quantities of herbicides, and many do. As research recently showed, commercial soybeans routinely contain quantities of the herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) that its maker, Monsanto, once described as “extreme” (Bøhn et al 2014).

Glyphosate has been in the news recently because the World Health Organisation no longer considers it a relatively harmless chemical, but there are other herbicides applied to GMOs which are easily of equal concern. The herbicide Glufosinate (phosphinothricin, made by Bayer) kills plants because it inhibits the important plant enzyme glutamine synthetase. This enzyme is ubiquitous, however, it is found also in fungi, bacteria and animals. Consequently, Glufosinate is toxic to most organisms. Glufosinate is also a neurotoxin of mammals that doesn’t easily break down in the environment (Lantz et al. 2014). Glufosinate is thus a “herbicide” in name only.

Thus, even in conventional agriculture, the use of glufosinate is hazardous; but With GMO plants the situation is worse yet. With GMOs, glufosinate is sprayed on to the crop but its degradation in the plant is blocked by the transgene, which chemically modifies it slightly. This is why the GMO plant is resistant to it; but the other consequence is that when you eat Bayers’ Glufosinate-resistant GMO maize or canola, even weeks or months later, glufosinate, though slightly modified, is probably still there (Droge et al., 1992). Nevertheless, though the health hazard of glufosinate is much greater with GMOs, the implications of this science have been ignored in GMO risk assessments of Glufosinate-tolerant GMO crops.

A yet further reason to be concerned about GMOs is that most of them contain a viral sequence called the cauliflower mosaic virus (CaMV) promoter (or they contain the similar figwort mosaic virus (FMV) promoter). Two years ago, the GMO safety agency of the European Union (EFSA) discovered that both the CaMV promoter and the FMV promoter had wrongly been assumed by them (for almost 20 years) not to encode any proteins. In fact, the two promoters encode a large part of a small multifunctional viral protein that misdirects all normal gene expression and that also turns off a key plant defence against pathogens. EFSA tried to bury their discovery. Unfortunately for them, we spotted their findings in an obscure scientific journal. This revelation forced EFSA and other regulators to explain why they had overlooked the probability that consumers were eating an untested viral protein.

This list of significant scientific concerns about GMOs is by no means exhaustive. For example, there are novel GMOs coming on the market, such as those using double stranded RNAs (dsRNAs), that have the potential for even greater risks (Latham and Wilson 2015).

The True Purpose of GMOs

Science is not the only grounds on which GMOs should be judged. The commercial purpose of GMOs is not to feed the world or improve farming. Rather, they exist to gain intellectual property (i.e. patent rights) over seeds and plant breeding and to drive agriculture in directions that benefit agribusiness. This drive is occurring at the expense of farmers, consumers and the natural world. US Farmers, for example, have seen seed costs nearly quadruple and seed choices greatly narrow since the introduction of GMOs. The fight over GMOs is not of narrow importance. It affects us all.

Nevertheless, specific scientific concerns are crucial to the debate. I left science in large part because it seemed impossible to do research while also providing the unvarnished public scepticism that I believed the public, as ultimate funder and risk-taker of that science, was entitled to.

Criticism of science and technology remains very difficult. Even though many academics benefit from tenure and a large salary, the sceptical process in much of science is largely lacking. This is why risk assessment of GMOs has been short-circuited and public concerns about them are growing. Until the damaged scientific ethos is rectified, both scientists and the public are correct to doubt that GMOs should ever have been let out of any lab.

References

Bøhn, T, Cuhra, M, Traavik, T, Sanden, M, Fagan, J and Primicerio, R (2014) Compositional differences in soybeans on the market: Glyphosate accumulates in Roundup Ready GM soybeans. Food Chemistry 153: 207-215.

Droge W, Broer I, and Puhler A. (1992) Transgenic plants containing the phosphinothricin-N-acetyltransferase gene metabolize the herbicide L-phosphinothricin (glufosinate) differently from untransformed plants. Planta 187: 142-151.

Lantz S et al., (2014) Glufosinate binds N-methyl-D-aspartate receptors and increases neuronal network activity in vitro. Neurotoxicology 45: 38-47.

Latham JR and Wilson AK (2015) Off -­ target Effects of Plant Transgenic RNAi: Three Mechanisms Lead to Distinct Toxicological and Environmental Hazards.

Mizuki, E, Et Al., (1999) Unique activity associated with non-insecticidal Bacillus thuringiensis parasporal inclusions: in vitro cell- killing action on human cancer cells. J. Appl. Microbiol. 86: 477–486.

Vachon V, Laprade R, Schwartz JL (2012) Current models of the mode of action of Bacillus thuringiensis insecticidal crystal proteins: a critical review. Journal of Invertebrate Pathology 111: 1–12.

September 2, 2015 Posted by | Economics, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | Leave a comment

Hawaii Sees 10 Fold Increase in Birth Defects After Becoming GM Corn Testing Grounds

By Jay Syrmopoulos | The Free Thought Project | August 24, 2015

Waimea, HI – Doctors are sounding the alarm after noticing a disturbing trend happening in Waimea, on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Over the past five years, the number of severe heart malformations has risen to more than ten times the national rate, according to an analysis by local physicians.

Pediatrician Carla Nelson, after seeing four of these defects in three years, is extremely concerned with the severe health anomalies manifesting in the local population.

Nelson, as well as a number of other local doctors, find themselves at the center of a growing controversy about whether the substantial increase in severe illness and birth defects in Waimea stem from the main cash crop on four of the six islands, genetically modified corn, which has been altered to resist pesticide.

Hawaii has historically been used as a testing ground for almost all GMO corn grown in the United States. Over 90% of GMO corn grown in the mainland U.S. was first developed in Hawaii, with the island of Kauai having the largest area used.

According to a report in The Guardian :

In Kauai, chemical companies Dow, BASF, Syngenta and DuPont spray 17 times more pesticide per acre (mostly herbicides, along with insecticides and fungicides) than on ordinary cornfields in the US mainland, according to the most detailed study of the sector, by the Center for Food Safety.

That’s because they are precisely testing the strain’s resistance to herbicides that kill other plants. About a fourth of the total are called Restricted Use Pesticides because of their harmfulness. Just in Kauai, 18 tons – mostly atrazine, paraquat (both banned in Europe) and chlorpyrifos – were applied in 2012. The World Health Organization this year announced that glyphosate, sold as Roundup, the most common of the non-restricted herbicides, is “probably carcinogenic in humans”.

Waimea is a small town that lies directly downhill from the 12,000 acres of GMO test fields leased mainly from the state. Spraying takes place often, sometimes every couple of days. Residents have complained that when the wind blows downhill from the fields, the chemicals have caused headaches, vomiting, and stinging eyes.

“Your eyes and lungs hurt, you feel dizzy and nauseous. It’s awful,” local middle school special education teacher Howard Hurst told the Guardian. “Here, 10% of the students get special-ed services, but the state average is 6.3%,” he says. “It’s hard to think the pesticides don’t play a role.”

To add insult to injury, Dow AgraSciences’ main lobbyist in Honolulu, until recently, actually ran the main hospital in town. Although only 1,700ft away from a Syngenta field, the hospital has never done any research into the effects of pesticides on its patients.

Hawaiians have attempted to reign in the industrial chemical/farming machine on four separate occasions over the past two years. On August 9 an estimated 10,000 people marched through Honolulu’s main tourist district to protest the collusion of big business and state putting profits over citizens’ health.

“The turnout and the number of groups marching showed how many people are very frustrated with the situation,” native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte said.

Hawaiians have also attempted to use a ballot initiative to force a moratorium on the planting of GMO crops, according to The Guardian:

In Maui County, which includes the islands of Maui and Molokai, both with large GMO corn fields, a group of residents calling themselves the Shaka Movement sidestepped the company-friendly council and launched a ballot initiative that called for a moratorium on all GMO farming until a full environmental impact statement is completed there.

The companies, primarily Monsanto, spent $7.2m on the campaign ($327.95 per “no” vote, reported to be the most expensive political campaign in Hawaii history) and still lost.

Again, they sued in federal court, and, a judge found that the Maui County initiative was preempted by federal law. Those rulings are also being appealed.

Even amidst strong public pressure, the chemical companies that grow the GMO corn have continued to refuse to disclose the chemicals they are using, as well as the specific amounts of each chemical being used. The industry and its political cronies have continually insisted that pesticides are safe.

“We have not seen any credible source of statistical health information to support the claims,” said Bennette Misalucha, executive director of Hawaii Crop Improvement Association in a written statement distributed by a publicist.

Nelson pointed out that American Academy of Pediatrics’ report, Pesticide Exposure in Children, found “an association between pesticides and adverse birth outcomes, including physical birth defects,” going on to note that local schools have twice been evacuated and kids sent to the hospital due to pesticide drift. “It’s hard to treat a child when you don’t know which chemical he’s been exposed to.”

Sidney Johnson, a pediatric surgeon at the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children who oversees all children born in Hawaii with major birth defects says he’s noticed that the number of babies born here with their abdominal organs outside. This is a rare condition known as gastroschisis and has grown from three a year in the 1980s to about a dozen now, according to The Guardian.

Johnson and a team of medical students have been studying hospital records to determine if any of the parents of the infants with gastroschisis were residing near fields that were undergoing spraying during conception and early pregnancy.

“We have cleanest water and air in the world,” Johnson said. “You kind of wonder why this wasn’t done before,” he says. “Data from other states show there might be a link, and Hawaii might be the best place to prove it.”

It was recently revealed that these chemical companies, unlike farmers, are allowed to operate under an antiquated decades-old Environmental Protection Agency permit. This permit was grandfathered in from the days of sugar plantations when the amounts and toxicities were significantly lower, and which allowed for toxic chemicals to be discharged into water. Tellingly the state of Hawaii has asked for a federal exemption to allow these companies to continue to not comply with modern standards.

The ominous reality of collusion between these mega-corporations and the political class in Hawaii has seemingly left the citizens of the state with virtually no ability to safeguard their children’s health. We tread dangerously close to corporate fascism when profits are put above the health of the people.

August 26, 2015 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Corruption, Science and Pseudo-Science | , , | Leave a comment

The Dangers of Human Gene Editing

By Ulson Gunnar – New Eastern Outlook – 05.06.2015

It is often said that if it can be imagined, it will inevitably be done. And such a sentiment could not be any truer in terms of applying genetic engineering and synthetic biology to the genomes of our planet’s organisms including humans themselves.

While the process of synthesizing and arranging genetic code has many processes, perhaps none has been as promising as the CRISPR-Cas system. From laboratory experiments to emerging software used to create code genetically almost as easily as code for a computer, gene editing has never been easier, opening the door to never-before-possible applications.

Perhaps no technology yet has been poised to change the world so profoundly. All life on Earth, every living organism, now stands the possibility of potentially being “edited” on the most basic genetic level, enhancing or degrading it, but forever changing it.

Gene editing or “gene therapy” performed on children or adults changes the genetic makeup of targeted cells after which and upon dividing, impart this new genetic material on each subsequent new cell. This is why treatments for diseases using gene therapy often are successful with only a single shot. The “treatment” self-replicates perpetually within the patient’s body. Everything from leukemia to congenial genetic defects have been overcome in clinical trials using this method.

As far as science knows, these changes cannot be passed onto the offspring of patients. However, changing the genetic makeup of a human at their earliest stages of development can be passed on, spreading genetic changes made in labs onto the greater population.

The Biggest Threats: The Jab and Slow Kill

Talk of gene editing usually revolves around its use to treat diseases and produce super-crops and livestock to “save the world.” But as history has shown us, any technology is but a double edged sword. Whatever good it is capable of, it is proportionally capable of just as much bad.

The first and foremost danger of human gene editing in particular is its use in weaponized vaccines. Such fears are founded upon what was revealed by the United Nations during the apartheid government in South Africa where a government program named “Project Coast” actually endeavored to produce vaccines that were race-specific in hopes of sterilizing or killing off its black population.

The United Nations in a report titled Project Coast: Apartheid’s Chemical and Biological Warfare Programme would admit:

One example of this interaction involved anti-fertility work. According to documents from RRL [Roodeplaat Research Laboratories], the facility had a number of registered projects aimed at developing an anti-fertility vaccine. This was a personal project of the first managing director of RRL, Dr Daniel Goosen. Goosen, who had done research into embryo transplants, told the TRC that he and Basson had discussed the possibility of developing an anti-fertility vaccine which could be selectively administered—without the knowledge of the recipient. The intention, he said, was to administer it to black South African women without their knowledge.

At the time, the technology to accomplish such a feat never materialized. Now it has.

Another danger is “slow kill.” This would be the process of using gene editing to affect individuals directly or through a genetically modified food supply subtly, infecting or killing off targeted demographic groups over a longer period of time. The advantage of this method would be the ambiguity surrounding what was causing upticks in “cancer” and other maladies brought on by degraded immune systems and overall health.

And while some might be tempted to claim the dangers of this technology being used against populations remains solely in the realm of “Nazi eugenicists” and racist South African regimes, the truth of the matter is even Washington has penned policy papers advocating weapons deployed amid the “world of microbes.”

Mentioned in the US Neo-Conservative Project for a New American Century’s (PNAC) 2000 report titled Rebuilding America’s Defenses it stated:

The proliferation of ballistic and cruise missiles and long-range unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) will make it much easier to project military power around the globe. Munitions themselves will become increasingly accurate, while new methods of attack – electronic, “non-lethal,” biological – will be more widely available. (p.71 of .pdf)

Although it may take several decade for the process of transformation to unfold, in time, the art of warfare on air, land, and sea will be vastly different than it is today, and “combat” likely will take place in new dimensions: in space, “cyber-space,” and perhaps the world of microbes. (p.72 of .pdf)

And advanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool. (p.72 of .pdf)

Biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes is precisely what is now possible in the advent of improved gene editing. While many may suspect profit alone drives large pharmaceutical corporations to push vaccines on the global population, in reality, what it may also represent is an attempt by these very conspirators to create a well established globalized medium through which to administer their targeted bioweapons, yet another reason why the matter of human healthcare and biotechnology (and specifically vaccines) is a matter of not just business, but of national security as well.

Overwriting the Planet’s Genetic Heritage

Recently, Chinese scientists have crossed what many Western commentators, scientists and others have claimed is an “ethical line” by applying gene editing to human embryos. Critics have condemned the move specifically because any human “edited” while at their embryonic stage would likely transfer those genetic changes to any offspring they had upon becoming an adult.

Yet many of these critics have been vocal advocates for precisely the same use of biotech, though not for humans, but rather for our food supply. Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), particularly modified crops transfer their artificially altered genetic code to its next generation. Cross pollination has repeatedly contaminated the fields of farmers not using GMOs, creating an expanding controversy and multiple lawsuits and legal reviews.

In reality, all genetic editing, especially when it alters the genetic material of subsequent generations, represents a potential threat to the genetic heritage of the entire planet with potential consequences we may still not fully understand. In a world where the “science is final” regarding humanity’s impact on the planet’s climate, demanding “urgent action” to stop or reverse it, the absence of a similar impetus behind stopping the contamination of our planet’s genetic heritage seems suspiciously hypocritical if not utterly reckless and even intentional.

Of course, gene editing will be done, with or without the approval of governments and the people they govern. However, measures should be developed and put in place to preserve the natural genetic heritage of the planet, and such measures should be decentralized as much as possible.

The James Bond-esque “Svalbard Global Seed Vault” in the frigid climate of Norway represents a sort of “backup” for many of the planet’s horticultural species, but is controlled by the very interests intentionally destroying the planet’s genomes. It represents essentially a criminal gang preparing to sink the ship, but only after securing for themselves the only lifeboat available.

More lifeboats must be made available and it will require the understanding of policymakers of this emerging technology and the threats it presents, along with national and local policies to hedge against these threats.

The West Trapped in its Own Hypocrisy 

Ironically, the West’s own hypocrisy has tied its hands in condemning China’s moves to recklessly alter the human genomes of embryos. Not only is the West’s attitude toward GMOs in general now hurting their case against China, the prevailing attitude in the West that embryos are not even “human” is also critically hypocritical, regardless of how irrational, unscientific and unqualified (however very politically convenient) such an attitude is.

To the West, unborn children are virtually “garbage” to be thrown away on a whim. So the Chinese might be forgiven for thinking it is perfectly ok to experiment recklessly upon them. In reality a human being’s unique genetic code and the metabolic cellular activity that constitutes the beginning of its life… both of which perpetuate themselves uninterrupted until birth and continues on until death, natural or otherwise … begins at conception. As such, experimenting on a human embryo may not superficially “feel” or “look” like human experimentation, but scientifically it is.

The West is quite right about condemning China for its experimentation on human embryos, however its confused self-serving hypocrisy has made this condemnation incoherent and unfortunately irrelevant.

Regardless, those nations still adhering to a sense of both objective science and humanity can and must set a precedent based on the above described realities. They must recognize the threats and abuses this technology poses equally with its benefits. They must educate their populations to understand the difference between the two, and the importance of developing a national biotechnology initiative as a matter of both national security and progress. But above all, they must understand that biotechnology represents the next big revolution, after information technology, and begin building the necessary infrastructure to support it.

Without doing so, nations will find themselves ill-prepared to either capitalize on its benefits or defend against its many and incredibly dangerous abuses.

Weaponization, accidents and even the prospect of globalized corporations finding, then making inaccessible the cures to diseases and conditions affecting millions such as cancer, diabetes and heart disease are all threats we now face, whether we would like to admit it or not. One point the West correctly made upon its hand wringing over China’s most recent and reckless leap forward, was that the matter of biotechnology’s profound impact on the human genome and the genetic heritage of the entire planet is no longer the subject of a “future” scenario. It is a matter of present concern.

August 22, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Timeless or most popular, War Crimes | | Leave a comment

Monsanto Wants to Know Why People Doubt Science

By Colin Todhunter | CounterPunch | February 27, 2015

On Twitter recently, someone asked the question “Why do people doubt science?” Accompanying the tweet was a link to an article in National Geographic that implied people who are suspicious of vaccines, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), climate change, fluoridated water and various other phenomena are confused, adhere to conspiracy theories, are motivated by ideology or are misinformed as a result of access to the ‘University of Google.’ The remedy, according to what is said in the article, is for us all to rely on scientific evidence pertaining to these issues and adopt a ‘scientific method’ of thought and analysis and put irrational thought processes to one side.

Who tweeted the question and posted the link? None other than Robert T Fraley, Monsanto’s Vice President and Chief Technology Officer.

Before addressing that question, it is worth mentioning that science is not the giver of ‘absolute truth’. That in itself should allow us to develop a healthy sceptism towards the discipline. The ‘truth’ is a tricky thing to pin down. Scientific knowledge is built on shaky stilts that rest on shifting foundations. Science historian Thomas Kuhn wrote about the revolutionary paradigm shifts in scientific thought, whereby established theoretical perspectives can play the role of secular theology and serve as a barrier to the advancement of knowledge, until the weight of evidence and pressure from proponents of a new theoretical paradigm is overwhelming. Then, at least according to Kuhn, the old faith gives way and a new ‘truth’ changes.

Philosopher Paul Feyerabend argued that science is not an ‘exact science’. The manufacture of scientific knowledge involves a process driven by various sociological, methodological and epistemological conflicts and compromises, both inside the laboratory and beyond. Writers in the field of the sociology of science have written much on this.

But the answer to the question “Why do people doubt science” is not because they have read Kuhn, Feyerabend or some sociology journal. Neither is it because a bunch of ‘irrational’ activists have scared them witless about GM crops or some other issue. It is because they can see how science is used, corrupted and manipulated by powerful corporations to serve their own ends. It is because they regard these large corporations as largely unaccountable and their activities and products not properly regulated by governments.

That’s why so many doubt science – or more precisely the science corporations fund and promote to support their interests.

US sociologist Robert Merton highlighted the underlying norms of science as involving research that is not warped by vested interests, adheres to the common ownership of scientific discoveries (intellectual property) to promote collective collaboration and subjects findings to organised, rigorous critical scrutiny within the scientific community. The concept of originality was added by later writers in order to fully encapsulate the ethos of science: scientific claims must contribute something new to existing discourse. Based on this brief analysis, secrecy, dogma and vested interest have no place.

This is of course a highly idealised version of what science is or should be because in reality careers, reputations, commercial interests and funding issues all serve to undermine these norms.

But if we really want to look at the role of secrecy, dogma and vested interest in full flow, we could take a look at the sector to which Robert T Fraley belongs.

Last year, US Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack called for “sound science” to underpin food trade between the US and the EU. However, he seems very selective in applying “sound science” to certain issues. Consumer rights groups in the US are pushing for the labelling of GMO foods, but Vilsack said that putting a label on a foodstuff containing a GM product “risks sending a wrong impression that this was a safety issue.”

Despite what Vilsack would have us believe, many scientific studies show that GMOs are indeed a big safety issue and what’s more are also having grave environmental, social and economic consequences (for example, see this and this).

By not wanting to respond to widespread consumer demands to know what they are eating and risk “sending a wrong impression,” Vislack is trying to prevent proper debate about issues that his corporate backers would find unpalatable: profits would collapse if consumers had the choice to reject the GMOs being fed to them. And ‘corporate backers’ must not be taken as a throwaway term here. Big agritech concerns have captured or at the very least seriously compromised key policy and regulatory bodies in the US (see this), Europe (see this), India (see this) and in fact on a global level (see here regarding control of the WTO).

If Robert T Fraley wants to understand why people doubt science, he should consider what Andy Stirling, Professor of Science and Technology Policy at Sussex University, says:

“The main reason some multinationals prefer GM technologies over the many alternatives is that GM offers more lucrative ways to control intellectual property and global supply chains. To sideline open discussion of these issues, related interests are now trying to deny the many uncertainties and suppress scientific diversity. This undermines democratic debate – and science itself.” (see here)

Coming from the GMO biotech industry, or its political mouthpieces, the term “sound science” rings extremely hollow. The industry carries out inadequate, short-term studies and conceals the data produced by its research under the guise of ‘commercial confidentiality’ (see this), while independent research highlights the very serious dangers of its products [see this and this). It has in the past also engaged in fakery in India (see this), bribery in Indonesia (see this ) and smears and intimidation against those who challenge its interests [see this), as well as the distortion and the censorship of science (see this  and this).

With its aim to modify organisms to create patents that will secure ever greater control over seeds, markets and the food supply, the widely held suspicion is that the GMO agritech sector is only concerned with a certain type of science: that which supports these aims. Because if science is held in such high regard by these corporations, why isn’t Monsanto proud of its products? Why not label foods in the US that contain GMOs and throw open [Monsanto’s] science to public scrutiny, instead of veiling it with secrecy, restricting independent research on its products or resorting to unsavoury tactics?

If science is held in such high regard by the GMO agritech sector, why in the US did policy makers release GM food onto the commercial market without proper long-term tests? The argument used to justify this is GM food is ‘substantially equivalent’ to ordinary food. But this is not based on scientific reason. Foreign genes are being inserted into organisms that studies show make them substantially non-equivalent (see this). Substantial equivalence is a trade strategy on behalf of the GM sector that neatly serves to remove its GMOs from the type of scrutiny usually applied to potentially toxic or harmful substances. The attempt to replace processed-based regulation of GMOs in Europe with product-based regulation would result in serving a similar purpose (see this).

The reason why no labelling or testing has taken place in the US is not due to ‘sound science’ having been applied but comes down to the power and political influence of the GMO biotech sector and because a sound scientific approach has not been applied.

The sector cannot win the scientific debate (although its PR likes to tell the world it has) so it resorts to co-opting key public bodies or individuals to propagate various falsehoods and deceptions (see this). Part of the deception is based on emotional blackmail: the world needs GMOs to feed the hungry, both now and in the future. This myth has been blown apart (see thisthis and this). In fact, in the second of those three links, the organisation GRAIN highlights that GM crops that have been planted thus far have actually contributed to food insecurity.

This is a harsh truth that the industry does not like to face.

People’s faith in science is being shaken on many levels, not least because big corporations have secured access to policy makers and governments and are increasingly funding research and setting research agendas.

“As Andrew Neighbour, former administrator at Washington University in St. Louis, who managed the university’s multiyear and multimillion dollar relationship with Monsanto, admits, “There’s no question that industry money comes with strings. It limits what you can do, when you can do it, who it has to be approved by”…  This raises the question: if Agribusiness giant Monsanto [in India] is funding the research, will Indian agricultural researchers pursue such lines of scientific inquiry as “How will this new rice or wheat variety impact the Indian farmer, or health of Indian public?” The reality is, Monsanto is funding the research not for the benefit of either Indian farmer or public, but for its profit. It is paying researchers to ask questions that it is most interested in having answered.” – ‘Monsanto, a Contemporary East India Company, and Corporate Knowledge in India‘.

Ultimately, it is not science itself that people have doubts about but science that is pressed into the service of immensely powerful private corporations and regulatory bodies that are effectively co-opted and adopt a ‘don’t look, don’t find approach’ to studies and products (see thisthis  and this).

Or in the case of releasing GMOs onto the commercial market in the US, bypassing proper scientific procedures and engaging in doublespeak about ‘substantial equivalence’ then hypocritically calling for ‘sound science’ to inform debates.

The same corporate interests are moreover undermining the peer-review process itself and the ability of certain scientists to get published in journals – the benchmark of scientific credibility. In effect, powerful interests increasingly hold sway over funding, career progression as a scientist, journals and peer review (see this and this, which question the reliability of peer review in the area of GMOs).

Going back to the start of the piece, the question that should have been tweeted is: “Why do people doubt corporate-controlled or influenced science?” After that question, it would have been more revealing to have posted a link to this article here about the unscrupulous history of a certain company from St Louis. That history provides very good reason why so many doubt and challenge powerful corporations and the type of science they fund and promote (or attempt to suppress) and the type of world they seek to create (see this).

“Corporations as the dominant institution shaped by capitalist patriarchy thrive on eco-apartheid. They thrive on the Cartesian legacy of dualism which puts nature against humans. It defines nature as female and passively subjugated. Corporatocentrism is thus also androcentric – a patriarchal construction. The false universalism of man as conqueror and owner of the Earth has led to the technological hubris of geo-engineering, genetic engineering, and nuclear energy. It has led to the ethical outrage of owning life forms through patents, water through privatization, the air through carbon trading. It is leading to appropriation of the biodiversity that serves the poor.” –Vandana Shiva

August 16, 2015 Posted by | Deception, Science and Pseudo-Science, Timeless or most popular | , | 3 Comments

No to GMO: Scotland to outlaw growing of GM crops

RT | August 9, 2015

Scotland says it will ban genetically modified crops on its soil. According to officials, the move will protect the environment. They are also taking advantage of new EU laws, allowing member states to decide whether they want to grow the crops or not.

Although the EU imports large quantities of GM crops from abroad, it is less sure about growing them on their own soil. Some environmental groups are worried about the impact they could have on the countryside, while there are also concerns over health issues for humans, despite producers of the crops insisting they are safe.

Only Monsanto’s maize MON810, which is cultivated in Spain and Portugal, is currently on sale for human consumption within the EU.

“Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment – and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status,” Richard Lochhead, the Scottish government’s minister for the environment, food and rural affairs, said in a statement.

The politician also added there was no public demand for introducing GM crops.

“There is no evidence of significant demand for GM products by Scottish consumers and I am concerned that allowing GM crops to be grown in Scotland would damage our clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our £14 billion ($22 billion) food and drink sector,” Lochhead added.
‘GM not the answer to food security’

The decision was taken by Scotland’s devolved parliament, with the UK’s legislative body in London having no say in the matter.

The move was welcomed by the Scottish Green MSP Alison Johnstone. In a statement on the party’s website, she said, “Opting out of growing genetically modified crops is the right move for Scotland. Cultivation of GM crops would harm our environment and our reputation for high quality food and drink.”

“GM is not the answer to food security, and would represent further capture of our food by big business. Scotland has huge potential with a diverse mix of smaller-scale producers and community food initiatives, and we need to see those grow further.”

However, the decision has not proved to be universally popular, with farmers saying they will lose out to competitors due to the ban being introduced.

“There is going to be one side of the border in England where they may adopt biotechnology, but just across the River Tweed farmers are not going to be allowed to. How are these farmers going to be capable of competing in the same market?” the National Farmers Union of Scotland vice-president Andrew McCornick told the Scotsman newspaper.

In April, the European Union gave the green light to start importing 10 new types of genetically modified crops for the first time since 2013. The crops, which include maize, soybeans, cotton and oilseed rape will be authorized for human food and animal feed for the next 10 years, the European Commission announced.

August 9, 2015 Posted by | Environmentalism | , , , | 1 Comment