Organic Consumers Association

Campaigning for health, justice, sustainability, peace, and democracy
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GM Watch Monthly Review #71, July 2009

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SCANDAL OF THE MONTH: STACKING UP THE RISKS
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+ MONSANTO, DOW STACK UP THE RISKS
Stephen Leahy reports for the Inter Press Service on how the most complex
genetically engineered corn (maize) yet has been approved for use next year
in Canada and the United States without its potential health and
environmental risks even being investigated. Neither US nor Canadian health
officials have assessed the human health safety of Monsanto's and Dow
AgroSciences' new "SmartStax" genetically engineered corn with eight novel
genes inserted into corn DNA.

"Health Canada did not conduct or require any testing for this new
eight-trait GE corn and did not even officially authorize it for release
into the food system," said Lucy Sharratt, CBAN's coordinator. Health Canada
is the federal department responsible for "helping Canadians maintain and
improve their health", according to its web site.

"People will be eating corn with eight novel traits without any assessment
of the potential health risks. Questions about risks are being ignored,"
Sharratt told Inter Press Service. According to Sharratt, Canadian
regulators did not do health or environmental risk assessments simply
because the novel traits had been approved on an individual basis
previously. Even though this is the first time a corn variety combines all
of these, it gets a free pass by regulators.

"It's a fundamental misunderstanding of basic biology and the complexity of
biotechnology," she said. It also points to a fundamental flaw in the
Canadian regulatory system.

SmartStax combines or "stacks" previously approved GE traits of herbicide
tolerance [Roundup and glufosinate herbicides] and insect resistance into
one seed variety for the first time, providing the most comprehensive insect
and weed control, according to a Monsanto press release.

"Combining many GE traits together can give rise to unintended effects which
could adversely affect health, such as creating new allergies or toxins, or
exacerbating existing allergies," said Michael Hansen of the Consumers
Union, a US-based NGO and leading global expert on the potential health
risks of GE. This GE crop should have gone through a new safety assessment,
as recommended by Codex," Hansen said in an interview.

However, US regulations do not require any health and safety assessments
because GE crops are considered the same as regular crops, even when novel
traits are combined, he said. "The Food and Drug Administration didn't even
take the slightest look at SmartStax," Hansen said.

Any studies on safety and nutrition done by Monsanto and Dow do not have to
be made public or shown to regulators, who are entitled only to a summary.
Moreover, no independent studies can be done without the companies'
permission. "It is illegal for a farmer to give researchers seeds to test
without the companies' permission," he said.

There have been studies on various GE foods. In May, the American Academy of
Environmental Medicine (AAEM), a US-based international association of
physicians, called for an immediate moratorium on genetically modified
foods, saying they pose a "serious health risk".

"Multiple animal studies have shown that GM foods cause damage to various
organ systems in the body. With this mounting evidence, it is imperative to
have a moratorium on GM foods for the safety of our patients' and the
public's health," said Dr Amy Dean, a board member of AAEM.

Moreover, under international trade rules, the lack of a new safety
assessment for this GE corn means that other countries could reject
SmartStax without running afoul of World Trade Organization rules, Hansen
told IPS.

Nor does there appear to have been an environmental risk assessment done by
Canadian regulators. "This seems to confirm that the corn bypassed existing
scientific assessment processes that have already been judged insufficient
by the 2001 Royal Society of Canada Panel," said Sharratt.

The Royal Society of Canada formed an independent panel of scientists to
evaluate the regulation and safety of these new GE food products in the
country's first-ever independent assessment.

Five years after GE crops and foods were widely available in Canada, the
2001 report from the panel slammed government regulators at Health Canada
and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) who allowed GE crops to be
grown.

Little has changed since then and the CFIA has failed to explain its
decision not to require environmental risk assessments for SmartStax, said
Sharratt.

"This scandal exposes the deepest and most dangerous nonchalance of Health
Canada towards the risks of GE foods and the safety of Canadians, said
Sharratt.
http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Global_Economy/KG31Dj04.html

+ SMARTSTAX APPROVAL IGNORED RISKS
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11322:sm
artstax-approval-ignored-risks

http://tiny.cc/GDomS

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LOBBYWATCH
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+ U.S.: NEW ST LOUIS FRONT GROUP PUSHES GMOs
A press report states: "Three internationally known organizations based in
St. Louis – the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, the Washington
University School of Medicine and St. Louis Children's Hospital – have
formed the Global Harvest Alliance. The partnership's aim is to create
inexpensive, nutritionally complete food to help the world's hungry and
undernourished."

There's hardly a mention of the Monsanto connections of these institutions
in the gene giant's home town. And what speaks volumes is that the selling
point for the heavily Monsanto-backed Danforth Center is its GM cassava
project, which despite being hugely hyped has actually been remarkably
unsuccessful.
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11338:ne
w-st-louis-front-group-pushing-gmos

http://tiny.cc/k6Jm9

+ ISAAA GETS IT WRONG – AGAIN
The industry-sponsored International Service for the Acquisition of
Agri-biotech Applications - ISAAA - is notorious for its annual reports on
GM crops around the world. These reports aim to show GM crops in a positive
light but they have repeatedly been shown to use inflated and massaged
figures to try and make a struggling industry look unstoppable.

In the executive summary of ISAAA's most recent report, it claimed the
"Number of countries planting biotech crops soars to 25 – a historical
milestone."
In reality, there were only two new countries that grew GM crops in 2008
compared to 2007, making this "historical milestone" overstated.

One of the new countries (both in Africa) was Egypt. Egypt's
commercialisation of GM Bt maize was repeatedly highlighted in the ISAAA
report. ISAAA also claimed it was of immense strategic importance, as Egypt
is one of very few African countries to plant GM crops and the only one to
do so in North Africa, opening the door, ISAAA claimed, for other African
countries to follow.

One problem with all this is that, according to a recent USDA report, Egypt
never actually commercialised Bt maize! The USDA report highlights the
"stalled progress on commercial planting approval" for the Bt maize in
question, Monsanto's Mon 810, blaming multiple factors including "the
Parliament's involvement, in addition to some political issues."
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11334:is
aaa-gets-it-wrong-again



+ YOU'RE APPOINTING WHO? SAY IT'S NOT SO, OBAMA!
Jeffrey Smith looks at the shameful record of new US food safety tsar and
former Monsanto man Michael Taylor, and the back story of Dennis Wolff, the
pro-GM bovine growth hormone lobbyist, who is reportedly being considered
for a food safety role at the USDA:
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11325:yo
ure-appointing-who-please-obama-say-its-not-so-


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GM YIELDS
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+ RESPONSES TO "FAILURE TO YIELD" REPORT
Dr Doug Gurian-Sherman demolishes criticisms voiced by Wayne Parrott, Ronald
Bailey and other GM promoters that his report on GM crops' disappointing
yield performance, "Failure to Yield", did not discuss the full range of GM
crops' potential benefits:
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11340:re
sponses-to-qfailure-to-yieldq-critics


More about this important report:
http://www.gmwatch.org/component/content/article/10910-failure-to-yield-freq
uently-asked-questions


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GM APPROVALS / EXPANSION
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+ RISK REGISTER FOR GERMANY AND FRANCE
A "risk register" for GM crops in Germany is now online providing exact
locations of test sites via google maps, plus some analysis and additional
info: www.risikoregister.de For France see: www.xzcute.com

+ SECRET GM CROP TRIAL IN UK
GM potatoes are being grown in Britain for the first time in a year after
controversial trials of the plants were "secretly" restarted.

Cultivation of a field of potatoes designed to be resistant to pests was
abandoned over a year ago when environmental protesters ripped up the crop
near Tadcaster in North Yorkshire. But, without alerting the public as is
usual when such trials begin, the project has been restarted, prompting
environmental groups to warn that local farms and nearby residents could be
put at risk.

The Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs maintains that the
original permission for the trial to begin - granted for three years -
remains valid and the crops can be replanted without giving further notice.

Campaigners accused ministers of trying to "slip it under the radar" and
warned the trial could affect human health.
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11326:qs
ecretq-gm-crop-trial-in-britain


+ CALL FOR OPENNESS OVER GM POTATO SITE
GM Freeze has written to Hilary Benn, Defra Secretary of State, condemning
his Department's failure to update the GMO public register to include the
one test site being grown in the UK this year as being "technically
'legal'", but not following "the spirit of the law and the intentions of
those who drafted [the law]", as well as being an attempt "to keep
neighbouring farmers, landowners and local elected representatives in the
dark".
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11343:ca
ll-for-openness-over-gm-sites--risk-registers


+ EUROPE'S FOOD AGENCY ACCUSED OF JUNK SCIENCE
An opinion by Europe's food safety agency, EFSA, advocating the safety of
the only GM crop grown in Europe is flawed, according to a Greenpeace and
Friends of the Earth Europe report. The ten-year licence for MON810 maize
has expired and the EU is considering whether to re-authorise it. The EFSA
issued an opinion at the end of June claiming that MON810 is safe.

However, a scientific analysis commissioned by Greenpeace and Friends of the
Earth Europe reveals that EFSA:
***ignores or plays down research that shows that the insecticide produced
by the GM maize could have negative knock-on impacts on Europe's butterflies
and other insects. Instead they recommend unspecified "management measures"
for areas known to host butterflies and moths;
***fails to admit that there care conflicting reports over the maize's
impact on the environment or health;
***ignores peer-reviewed scientific studies that highlight safety concerns;
***quotes research carried out on a completely different GM crop as a basis
for claiming that MON810 is safe;
***fails to investigate the safety of new unknown proteins generated in the
maize by the GM process.

The Greenpeace/FoE report says, "The food safety agency either suffers from
a serious lack of scientific expertise or is playing a highly risky
political game with our health and environment. There is clearly enough
evidence to show that this insecticide-producing crop could be hazardous and
should be banned from Europe's fields."
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11337:eu
ropes-food-agency-accused-of-junk-science

http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11339:ef
sa-blasted-over-gm-maize


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CORPORATE CRIMES
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+ AGENT ORANGE LINKED TO HEART DISEASE, PARKINSON’S
Agent Orange, principally manufactured by Monsanto and Dow and used by US
forces to strip Vietnamese and Cambodian jungles during the Vietnam War, may
raise the risk of heart disease and Parkinson's disease, US health advisers
said. The preliminary findings add to a growing list of conditions that
could be linked to the defoliants, including leukemia, prostate cancer, type
II diabetes and birth defects in the children of the veterans exposed.
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11324:ag
ent-orange-linked-to-heart-disease-parkinsons


QUOTES ON AGENT ORANGE: "I find it ironic that on one hand you put Saddam
Hussein on trial for using biological warfare, but in another country where
you sprayed chemicals for warfare, you neglect your responsibility. The
United States must admit its responsibility and compensate the Agent Orange
victims in Vietnam. It is your moral obligation. Sooner or later, it has to
be done." - Nguyen Duc to an American journalist. Duc and his late brother
Viet, both victims of Agent Orange, who were born conjoined in 1981
http://www.petitiononline.com/Monsanto/

"If no change is made, no condemnation of the use of Agent Orange, no call
for immediate compensation to the victims and their families, no call for
the chemical companies such as Monsanto and Dow to be charged with war
crimes, then the hearings will have solved nothing." - Len Aldis, Britain
Vietnam Friendship Society
http://www.gmwatch.org/latest-listing/1-news-items/11103-monsanto-and-dow-sh
ould-be-charged-with-war-crimes


+ TAKE ACTION: DEMAND JUSTICE FOR THE VICTIMS OF AGENT ORANGE
http://www.petitiononline.com/Monsanto/

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CORPORATE CAPTURE
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+ MONSANTO A NEW EAST INDIA COMPANY
Monsanto is a second British East India Company in its seizure of control of
India's agricultural research, says an excellent article in Dissident Voice.
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11323:mo
nsanto-a-contemporary-east-india-company


+ TOTAL DEPENDENCE ON BT COTTON IN INDIA'S SUICIDE BELT
Nowhere in India has Bt cotton been more hyped than in the Indian state of
Maharashtra's cotton belt of Vidarbha, and nowhere have the consequences of
its rapid adoption been more terrible in terms of farmer suicides, with
farmers in Vidarbha at one point killing themselves at an average of one
every six hours. The region is now reported to be totally dependent on Bt
cotton.

Monsanto and its supporters, of course, continue to trumpet the rate of Bt
cotton adoption as proof of its desirability, but the same yardstick could
be applied to chemical pesticide adoption by poor Indian farmers, which has
proved a disaster in environmental, human health and endebtedness terms. And
Glenn Stone's multi-year study of Bt cotton uptake among farmers in Andhra
Pradesh showed rapid adoption was actually driven by seed fads whipped up by
suspect marketing on the part of the seed industry and its supporters.
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11342:to
tal-dependence-on-bt-cotton-in-suicide-belt-


+ INDIA AND THE FOOD CRISIS
The US is pushing India into its own failed system of intensive agriculture
in order to capture huge markets for its seeds and food processing
corporations, says Kavitha Kuruganti in an article for DNA India.
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11330:in
dia-and-the-food-crisis


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ORGANICS
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+ ORGANIC AGRICULTURE IS THE FUTURE
Though not yet widely adopted, modern organic and other low-external-input
farming systems are already proving capable of producing large crop yields
while also conserving energy and minimizing pollution, writes Dr Doug
Gurian-Sherman in a well-referenced piece for the Union of Concerned
Scientists.

Among other important points, Gurian-Sherman writes that research
demonstrates that the green and animal manures employed in organic
agriculture can produce enough fixed nitrogen to support high crop yields.
Where additional synthetic inputs are needed, other low-external-input
methods are producing high yields with much reduced environmental impact.
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11344:or
ganic-agriculture-is-the-future


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GM INSECTS
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+ BRITISH COMPANY PLANS GM MOSQUITOES FOR INDIA
Experiments with GM mosquitoes planned in India by a British company in a
move to find a way to control dengue fever have taken sections of the
scientific community by surprise. "I am trying to get full details about
what is going on," V.M. Katoch, secretary in the Department of Health
Research and chief of the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR), said.

Oxford Insect Technology (Oxitec) Ltd of UK is breeding the GM mosquitoes in
a facility provided by its local partner near Chennai. This species spreads
dengue fever in India. The company claims its patented genetic technology
allows generation of only sterile males and releasing millions of these in
the open could reduce the wild population through infertile matings, thereby
offering a novel way of controlling dengue fever.

Pushpa Bhargava, renowned biologist and the Supreme Court's nominee in the
Genetic Engineering Approval Committee - the apex regulatory body - says he
is worried about experiments with alien strains of GM mosquitoes in a
private facility in the absence of government biosafety guidelines for GM
insects.
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11331:gm
-mosquito-trials-for-india


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INDUSTRY NEWS
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+ CHEMICAL FIRMS SEEK SALVATION IN AGRICULTURE
The only green shoots the chemical industry has seen lately are coming from
the one-time diminutive agricultural side of the business, a shift that has
spurred both new partnerships and legal battles to stake out new territory
and protect profits, says an article in the Chicago Tribune. Chemical makers
have been hard hit by the global economic downturn but food is one area
where consumers can't cut back that much, a saving grace for an industry
that relies increasingly on the sale of high-tech seeds, fertilizer and
herbicides.
http://tiny.cc/KTEAC

+ NEW RESOURCES ON CHEMICALS/GM FIRMS

MONSANTO: A HISTORY
How one of the top 10 US chemical companies used the world's biggest selling
pesticide to turn itself into a GM giant in order to try and escape its
past.
http://www.gmwatch.org/gm-firms

BAYER: A HISTORY
How a chemical and pharmaceutical giant with an appalling record of
corporate crimes became a key player in the development, commercialization
and sale of GM crops.
http://www.gmwatch.org/gm-firms

LINKS TO BACKGROUND MATERIAL AND RESOURCES ON MONSANTO & BAYER
http://www.gmwatch.org/gm-firms

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NANOTECHNOLOGY
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+ NANOTECHNOLOGY: ARE WE RISKING TOO MUCH?
Good article on the lack of government regulation and risk assessment of
nanotechnology, which is already being used in everyday products:
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=11332:na
notechnology-are-we-risking-too-much


-----------------------------------------------------------
REST OF THE MONTH'S NEWS IN BRIEF
-----------------------------------------------------------

Here are some of the stories from the last month. You can find all July's
news and more in our archive.
http://www.gmwatch.org/index.php?option=com_dategroup

+ EUROPEAN COMMISSION AGREES TO EXPLORE OPT-OUT PROPOSAL
The European Commission has agreed to draw up a list of options for further
discussion after 11 countries urged that individual nations be allowed to
opt out of growing GM crops.
http://tiny.cc/VwA25

+ FRANCE REJECTS REPORT BY EU FOOD AGENCY
France has rejected a report by the European Union's food safety watchdog
that said Monsanto's MON810 maize was safe. France and five other EU members
- Austria, Germany, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg - have suspended sowing
of MON810, invoking safeguard clauses on the grounds of potential
environmental hazard.
http://tiny.cc/VwA25

+ TWO FORMER MONSANTO DIRECTORS SENTENCED
The French Supreme Court of Appeal has rejected the appeal by two former
Directors of Asgrow France, a subsidiary of Monsanto, confirming their fines
of 5,000 and 10,000 Euros for "placing GMOs on the market without
authorization".
http://tiny.cc/VwA25

+ WALES: GM-FREE ZONES TO PROTECT FARMERS
Welsh farm leaders have welcomed tough new proposals to tighten controls on
GM crops.
http://tiny.cc/mpppQ

+ ROUNDUP DISRUPTS SEXUAL HORMONES
Roundup has been found in a new study to disrupt the action of androgens,
the masculinizing hormones. The action and formation of the female hormone
estrogen is also disrupted. This has been found to occur at very low levels,
800 times less than Roundup residues authorized in some GMOs for feed in
United States.
http://tiny.cc/LOtwL
Roundup: Is it safe? GM Freeze summary of the research: http://tiny.cc/sjuFS

+ STUDY CRITICIZES TESTING ON GMOs
A study conducted by eight international researchers calls into question the
reliability of tests of the European Food Safety (EFSA) and the US FDA to
assess the health risks of GMOs and pesticides.
http://tiny.cc/aW8zg

+ PAKISTAN AND INDIA: THIRSTY BT COTTON DEVASTATED BY WATER SHORTAGE, MEALY BUGS
Due to shortage of water in the Southern Punjab's cotton belt, about 30
percent cottonseed pods of Bt cotton have been damaged and the cotton crop
is suffering great losses. In a new development, mealybugs have become a
problem on cotton in India.
http://tiny.cc/K3ked

+ UK TO SPEND GBP100 MILLION ON GM CROPS FOR THIRD WORLD
Britain, via the Dept for International Development (DFID), is planning to
quietly spend up to GBP100m on support for GM crops for the world's poor.
http://tiny.cc/hOJNQ

DFID heading down blind alley:
http://tiny.cc/nNIRp

New Zealand Green Party leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says precious science
dollars should not be "poured down the black hole of GM crops, as it has
been in this country now for well over a decade".
http://tiny.cc/QcZT0

+ BASF HALTS GM POTATO RESEARCH IN UK
BASF has pulled out of trialling its GM potatoes in the UK. This was the
only GM crop trialled in the UK last year.
http://tiny.cc/mmm2T

+ CANADA ABANDONS FIGHT WITH EUROPE OVER GM FOODS
Canada has agreed to end its World Trade Organization (WTO) dispute with
Europe over GM foods in return for bi-annual meetings with the European
Commission to discuss GM issues.
http://tiny.cc/8F1KD

+ VICTIMS OF PESTICIDES FIGHT FOR JUSTICE
News from victims of pesticide poisoning in Paraguay, France, and the UK:
http://tiny.cc/wq0X6

+ INDIAN GOVT PLANS GM VEGGIES WITHIN 3 YEARS
The Indian government has announced that it plans to introduce GM tomatoes,
brinjal and cauliflower in the country within the next three years.
http://tiny.cc/y7gyf


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