Thursday, August 11, 2011

GMOs to blame

GMOs to blame for problems in plants, animals
By Jefferson Dodge
Boulder Weekly
August 11, 2011

One of the experts set to testify at Wednesday’s long-awaited meeting about the county’s policy for genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on open space says scientists are seeing new, alarming patterns in plants and animals due to increased use of the herbicide Roundup.

Michael McNeill is an agronomist who owns Ag Advisory Ltd. in Algona, Iowa. He received his Ph.D. in quantitative genetics and plant pathology from Iowa State University in 1969 and has been a crop consultant since 1983. He was among three experts invited by county officials to testify at the Aug. 10 meeting of the Cropland Policy Advisory Group (CPAG).

CPAG, which has been meeting since February, serves as a sounding board for the county’s parks and open space staff as they develop a new cropland policy on matters like what may be grown on county land. The group has only touched briefly on the hot-button GMO issue in its past meetings; the Aug. 10 meeting was devoted entirely to the subject.

McNeill told Boulder Weekly before the meeting that he and his colleagues in the industry are seeing serious, negative effects produced by the use of glyphosate, which is the primary ingredient in Roundup weed killer. (Monsanto, the company that makes Roundup, has generated controversy by genetically altering crops to make them resistant to the herbicide.)

McNeill says that in the Midwest and other areas of the country, such as Louisiana and Mississippi, weeds like water hemp, giant ragweed, lamb’s quarter and velvet weed have become Roundup resistant through natural selection, due to a particular genetic mutation that survived the poison and therefore reproduced successfully and wildly.

The problem is, farmers’ natural reaction has been to simply apply more Roundup to their crops, which is having deleterious impacts, McNeill says.

[Read More…]

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Feeding the world

The cost-effective way to feed the world
Bellingham Herald
By Margaret Mellon & Doug Gurian-Sherman
June 20, 2011

By 2050, the world will have to feed 9 billion people, adapt to climate change, reduce agricultural pollution, and protect fresh water supplies - all at the same time. Given that formidable challenge, what are the quickest, most cost-effective ways to develop more productive, drought-, flood- and pest-resistant crops?

Some will claim that genetically engineered (GE) crops are the solution. But when compared side-by-side, classical plant breeding bests genetic engineering. Coupled with ecologically based management methods that reduce the environmental harm of crop production, classical breeding could go a long way toward producing the food we will need by mid-century.

Producing better crops faster certainly would help the world feed itself, but genetic engineering has no advantage on that score. Not only can classical breeding programs introduce new varieties about as fast as genetic engineering, technical improvements are making classical practices even faster.

[Read More…]

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Evidence being silenced

Why Is Damning New Evidence About Monsanto’s Most Widely Used Herbicide Being Silenced?
By Jill Richardson
AlterNet
April 27, 2011

Dr. Don Huber did not seek fame when he quietly penned a confidential letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in January of this year, warning Vilsack of preliminary evidence of a microscopic organism that appears in high concentrations in genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans and “appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals and probably human beings.” Huber, a retired Purdue University professor of plant pathology and U.S. Army colonel, requested the USDA’s help in researching the matter and suggested Vilsack wait until the research was concluded before deregulating Roundup Ready alfalfa. But about a month after it was sent, the letter was leaked, soon becoming an internet phenomenon.

Huber was unavailable to respond to media inquiries in the weeks following the leak, and thus unable to defend himself when several colleagues from Purdue publicly claiming to refute his accusations about Monsanto’s widely used herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) and Roundup Ready crops. When his letter was finally acknowledged by the mainstream media, it was with titles like “Scientists Question Claims in Biotech Letter,” noting that the letter’s popularity on the internet “has raised concern among scientists that the public will believe his unsupported claim is true.”

Now, Huber has finally spoken out, both in a second letter, sent to “a wide number of individuals worldwide” to explain and back up his claims from his first letter, and in interviews. While his first letter described research that was not yet complete or published, his second letter cited much more evidence about glyphosate and genetically engineered crops based on studies that have already been published in peer-reviewed journals.

[Read More…]

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

New pathogen found

Emergency! Pathogen New to Science Found in Roundup Ready GM Crops?
By Dr. Mae-Wan Ho
ISIS Report
February 21, 2011

USDA senior scientist sends “emergency” warning to US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on a new plant pathogen in Roundup Ready GM soybean and corn that may be responsible for high rates of infertility and spontaneous abortions in livestock

Please distribute widely and forward to your elected representatives

An open letter appeared on the Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance founded and run by Judith McGeary to save family farms in the US. The letter, written by Don Huber, professor emeritus at Purdue University, to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, warns of a pathogen “new to science” discovered by “a team of senior plant and animal scientists”. Huber says it should be treated as an “emergency’’, as it could result in “a collapse of US soy and corn export markets and significant disruption of domestic food and feed supplies.”

The letter appeared to have been written before Vilsack announced his decision to authorize unrestricted commercial planting of GM alfalfa on 1 February, in the hope of convincing the Secretary of Agriculture to impose a moratorium instead on deregulation of Roundup Ready (RR) crops.

The new pathogen appears associated with serious pervasive diseases in plants - sudden death syndrome in soybean and Goss’ wilt in corn – but its suspected effects on livestock is alarming. Huber refers to “recent reports of infertility rates in dairy heifers of over 20%, and spontaneous abortions in cattle as high as 45%.”

This could be the worst nightmare of genetic engineering that some scientists including me have been warning for years (see Genetic Engineering Dream or Nightmare, ISIS publication): the unintended creation of new pathogens through assisted horizontal gene transfer and recombination.

Huber writes in closing: “I have studied plant pathogens for more than 50 years. We are now seeing an unprecedented trend of increasing plant and animal diseases and disorders. This pathogen may be instrumental to understanding and solving this problem. It deserves immediate attention with significant resources to avoid a general collapse of our critical agricultural infrastructure.”

The complete letter is reproduced below:

[Read More…]

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Labeling claims wrong

‘Genetic labeling’ claims wrong
Prof. Chris Viljoen, GMO Testing Laboratory, University of the Free State
Business Day
February 03, 2011

It was with interest that I read recent press articles about calls to label modified foods. I was most interested in the comments on the perceived link between the threshold for labeling and the cost of labeling.

First , whether the threshold is 5% or 1%, there is no cost difference in laboratory testing — I should know as I run the GMO Testing Facility that performs routine genetic modification detection in SA.

Further, the regulations make provision for companies to assume an ingredient contains genetically modified matter if it was derived from a crop for which there is a genetically modified equivalent being produced in SA, such as maize or soybean. In such a case, no laboratory testing would be required, with no additional cost to the company. Compared to this, companies that want to indicate an ingredient has not been genetically modified would be required to verify this using laboratory tests — but this is no different to what is being practised.

Second, the proposition that genetic modification labeling will increase food costs 10% to 20% is unfounded and based on misinformation. In a comprehensive study in the European Union (EU) it was estimated that the added cost to food of genetic modification labeling ranged from 0.01% to 0.17%, depending on the stringency required. The EU system for genetic modification labeling is considerably more stringent than in SA and from this it is reasonable to suggest that the labeling cost to food would be much lower in SA.

There has never been a documented report that genetic modification labeling has led to a cost increase in food anywhere. What is being implemented in SA can be considered a minimum level compared to genetic modification labeling in other countries, including Australia, Brazil, China, New Zealand and the EU.

Third , the comment that some food products “cannot be accurately analysed or labeled because they do not contain detectable protein” is misleading. It is true that processing destroys protein, making it undetectable, but the world standard for performing genetic modification analysis on food is not based on detecting protein but rather DNA (the molecule responsible for making the protein).

DNA is considerably more stable than protein and genetic modification detection laboratories around the world routinely analyse highly processed food ingredients, including starches and oils.

It is true, however, that extremely processed products cannot be tested accurately for genetically modified content as even the DNA may be destroyed. In such cases the ingredients used to make the extremely processed product can be tested .

Finally, genetic modification labeling is no different to labeling foods for the presence of additives or colorants — common practice in SA. There is no report that this practice has resulted in any food cost increase either. If consumer rights are truly autonomous, genetic modification labeling should be no exception.

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