Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Bt Crops Failures

Bt Crops Failures & Hazards
Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji
ISIS Report
December 14, 2011

The claim that genetically modified organisms are the most promising way of increasing crop yields is falsified by many independent scientific studies, as well as direct experience with GM crops in India, China, Argentina and the United States. Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji reviews evidence on Bt crops

This report has been submitted to the EPA on behalf of the Institute of Science in Society. Please circulate widely and forward to your policy-makers

Rising insect resistance to genetically modified (GM) crops including Monsanto’s biggest selling crop, Bt corn, is threatening their utility and profitability. Insect resistance has prompted a new investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to documents in the newly opened docket (Docket No: EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0922) [1], “severe” damage to corn by rootworm has occurred in four states in the US. Further, the EPA describe Monsanto’s insect resistance monitoring program as “inadequate”. The EPA will collect public information to tackle the damage that could cause serious crop and economic damage. Amidst this investigation, Monsanto are seeing significant falls in their share prices [2]. Comments and information regarding insect resistance can be submitted to the EPA on their website [1].

In 2010, GM crops engineered to produce insecticidal toxins from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium, were grown on more than 58 million hectares of land globally [3]. First commercialised in the US in 1996, it is also the only commercialised GM crop grown in the EU, with Spain being the largest producer. Despite their widespread commercialisation, the evidence for their functionality is still elusive, while evidence of their harm to the environment, people’s health, economic security and self-determination is continually mounting.

GM proponents have repeatedly claimed that Bt crops can help combat world hunger by increasing crop yields while reducing pesticide use, thereby providing a more productive and environmentally safe option over traditional varieties. However, as highlighted by a recent report conducted by 20 Indian, Southeast Asian, African and Latin American food and conservation groups representing millions of people, these claims are false. Pesticide use has increased, while GM crop yields are lower than conventional varieties (see [4] Transgenic Cotton Offers No Advantage, SiS 38) and world hunger is at epic proportions [5].

Risk assessments of Bt toxins to date have been inadequate, not least due to inexplicable lack of reliable data on the concentrations of Bt toxin produced in plants, including the roots and pollen. The purported efficacy and safety of these products cannot be established when exposure levels have not be reliably determined. A new study reported a standardised method to test Bt toxin levels and still found significant variation in results, highlighting the variability in previous studies [6]. In particular, reports of declining concentrations in the food chain and soils are unreliable and need to be re-evaluated and repeated. Despite these inadequacies in risk assessments so far, evidence of the Bt toxicity to environment and health is steadily accumulating.

The present review summarises all the evidence surrounding the efficacy and safety of Bt crops with regards to pest control, human health and environmental impact.

[Read More…]

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…]

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…]

Friday, November 18, 2011

Contamination without representation

Genetically modified crops - contamination without representation
By April Scott
Salem-News.com
November 17, 2011

If Oregon allows GM sugar beets to be deregulated, we may not stand a chance against full federal deregulation of all GM crops

(SALEM, Ore.) - A public hearing is being held in Corvallis, Oregon this Thursday, November 17th to determine if Genetically Modified sugar beets will be deregulated in Oregon.

Meanwhile, the public comment period maybe just a local distraction giving way to full federal deregulation without any representation of organic and conventional crop farmers.

Let us not forget that the U.S House of Representatives, Committee on Agriculture held a formal hearing on Genetically Modified (GM) Alfalfa on Jan 20, 2011.

The hearing corresponded with an open 30-day comment period, designed to provide relevant testimony with regard to deregulation of Genetically Modified Alfalfa.

The democratic process neglected to include a single organic or conventional farming representative. Throughout the two hour hearing various legislators publicly humiliated the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsak for even suggesting any compromise through talks with the organic and conventional communities. They all but ordered him to stand down his conversations with anyone but pro-GM enthusiasts.

Representatives left no seed unturned in honor of their allegiance to biotech crops and complete penetration into all foreign and domestic markets. In fact, Minnesota’s Representative Collin Peterson referred to organic producers and consumers as “our opponents”.

[Read More…]

Biotech compensation plan

USDA weighs biotech compensation plan
By Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press
November 17, 2011

The USDA is floating the idea of creating a mechanism to compensate farmers harmed by cross-pollination from genetically engineered crops.

The agency has suggested the concept as a way to resolve conflicts between biotech, conventional and organic farmers, but experts say developing such a mechanism would be rife with challenges.

“They’re complex ideas and they’re going to take a while to thrash out,” said Barry Bushue, vice president of the American Farm Bureau Federation and president of the Oregon Farm Bureau.

Bushue is a member of the USDA’s Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture, which was assembled earlier this year to seek common ground on contentious biotech issues.

The committee will hold discussions in late November and early December about the possibility of developing a “compensation mechanism.”

The proposal is likely to come up against skepticism from biotech supporters and opponents alike.

[Read More…]

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