Wednesday, December 14, 2011

EFSA admits Bt threat

EFSA admits Bt maize threat to butterflies, gives green light regardless
Press Release
GM Freeze
December 13, 2011

The European Food Safety Authority GMO Panel’s new opinion on Pioneer Hybrid/Mycogen Seed’s insect resistance GM maize (known as 1507) acknowledges the crop puts non-target species at risk, including iconic butterflies, but disregards both these risks and big gaps in the applicant’s data in recommending the crop for EU cultivation. [1]

In contrast to a 2005 opinion giving 1507 the all clear, the EFSA GMO Panel now says, “Highly sensitive non-target Lepidoptera populations might be at risk,” if they ingest pollen from the GM maize that falls on plants used by their larvae for food.

Many common and iconic butterflies could be harmed because their food plants are frequently found in and around arable fields, so their larva may consume 1507 pollen on these plants. The “at risk” list includes the Painted Lady, Peacock, Small Tortoiseshell, Common Blue and Orange Tip.

However the Panel nevertheless supports the approval of 1507 maize, saying the potential harmful effects can be mitigated.

[Read More…]

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

USDA ‘hands were tied’

USDA claims ‘hands were tied’ in biotech approval
By Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press
December 13, 2011

The USDA’s authority over genetically engineered crops was a top subject during recent oral arguments in a lawsuit over biotech alfalfa.

Attorneys for the agency repeatedly argued that its authority was limited, claiming “its hands were tied” in deciding to re-commercialize the crop, which can withstand glyphosate herbicides.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, had to base its decision on whether transgenic Roundup Ready alfalfa posed a plant pest risk, similarly to a virus or bacteria, attorneys said.

“In other words, APHIS is not the policy decision-maker in Congress’ stead to decide whether, as a matter of market preference, organic crops, conventional crops or indeed genetically engineered crops should dominate,” said Eric Womack, an attorney for the agency.

The USDA fully deregulated biotech alfalfa in early 2011 after completing a court-ordered environmental review of the crop. In 2007, a federal judge had overturned the agency’s previous approval of the crop.

The Center for Food Safety, a non-profit critical of transgenic crops, filed a lawsuit against the USDA, claiming that Roundup Ready alfalfa was deregulated in violation of administrative and environmental laws.

The group fears biotech alfalfa will cross-pollinate with organic and conventional crops, among other issues.

[Read More…]

Monday, December 12, 2011

USDA speeds approval

Under Industry Pressure, USDA Works to Speed Approval of Monsanto’s Genetically Engineered Crops
By Mike Ludwig
Truthout
December 12, 2011

For years, biotech agriculture opponents have accused regulators of working too closely with big biotech firms when deregulating genetically engineered (GE) crops. Now, their worst fears could be coming true: under a new two-year pilot program at the USDA, regulators are training the world’s biggest biotech firms, including Monsanto, BASF and Syngenta, to conduct environmental reviews of their own transgenic seed products as part of the government’s deregulation process.

This would eliminate a critical level of oversight for the production of GE crops. Regulators are also testing new cost-sharing agreements that allow biotech firms to help pay private contractors to prepare mandatory environmental statements on GE plants the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) is considering deregulating.

The USDA launched the pilot project in April and, in November, the USDA announced vague plans [3] to “streamline” the deregulation petition process for GE organisms. A USDA spokesperson said the streamlining effort is not part of the pilot project, but both efforts appear to address a backlog of pending GE crop deregulation petitions that has angered big biotech firms seeking to rollout new products.

Documents obtained by Truthout under a Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) request reveal that biotech companies, lawmakers and industry groups have put mounting pressure on the USDA in recent years to speed up the petition process, limit environmental impact assessments and approve more GE crops. One group went as far as sending USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack a timeline of GE soybean development that reads like a deregulation wish list. [Click here [4] and here [5] to download and read some of the documents released to Truthout.]

[Read More…]

Friday, December 9, 2011

Court affirms verdict

Arkansas court affirms $50M verdict for rice farmers
By Jeannie Nuss
Associated Press
December 08, 2011

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed a nearly $50 million verdict for farmers who say they lost money because a company’s genetically altered rice seeds contaminated the food supply and drove down crop prices.

Bayer, the German conglomerate whose Bayer CropScience subsidiary produced the seeds, had argued that Arkansas tort laws set a limit on punitive damages and that courts should set aside jury awards that “shock the conscience.” In the April 2010 verdict, a Lonoke County jury awarded $42 million in punitive damages and $5.9 million in actual damages.

The company said a lower court erred last year in ruling that a cap on punitive damages is unconstitutional.

But in its 24-page opinion released Thursday, the state Supreme Court agreed with the lower court that the cap on punitive damages was unconstitutional. Associate Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson wrote that the cap “limits the amount of recovery outside the employment relationship,” while the Arkansas constitution only allows limits on compensation paid by employers to employees.

The latest decision comes years after Bayer developed an experimental strain of rice called LibertyLink to withstand its Liberty herbicide. Federal regulators had not yet approved it for human consumption when trace amounts were found mixed with conventional rice seed in storage bins in Arkansas and Missouri.

[Read More…]

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Kucinich labeling Bills

Dennis Kucinich: Allow Consumers to Make Informed Choices
The State Column
December 05, 2011

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today issued the following statement upon announcing legislation that would require the labeling of all foods that contain or are produced with genetically engineered (GE) material.

“Genetic engineers have dramatically altered the food we consume, disrupting entire ecosystems and contaminating crops with potentially devastating effects on our long-term health. Despite mounting evidence of the irreversible changes caused by genetic modification, the agribusiness and pharmaceutical industries ask us to believe that experimenting with Mother Nature causes no harm. Already there is ample evidence that this kind of manipulation does have an impact on our bodies and on the ecosystem we all depend on. We cannot rely on the Food and Drug Administration or the U.S. Department of Agriculture to protect us from the threat of GE organisms when those same agencies allowed genetically engineered organisms into our food and pharmaceutical supplies without first requiring objective studies to show they were safe.

“Since GE crops were first approved, the concerns about their very real threat to farmers have become widespread and the questions about the safety of eating GE organisms have steadily grown. Meanwhile the industry has resisted objective study of the issue. To this day, biotechnology companies are largely allowed to self-regulate. Enough is enough. The American people are demanding a right to know. My legislation puts the onus on Congress to be responsive to the will of the people. It gives the power to consumers to make an informed choice about the products they consume.

“Big agribusiness fought efforts to inform consumers about the basic truths of their products. GE crops now cover 10% of global farmland. Now, biotechnology companies heralding a false solution to world hunger want to slip onto supermarket shelves a genetically modified salmon engineered to grow to twice the size of a normal salmon. My common sense legislation will finally allow informed consumers to make their own decisions and to vote with their wallets. People have a right to know how their food is made and whether or not it has been genetically modified,” Kucinich said.

H.R. 3553, The Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, would for the first time, require genetically modified food to be clearly labeled. It would also require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to periodically test products to ensure compliance.

Kucinich introduced The GE Food Right to Know Act as part comprehensive regulatory framework for all Genetically Engineered (GE) plants, animals, bacteria, and other organisms, including fish.

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