Archive for April, 2008

The newest spin on the “necessity” of Terminator technology

Auto Date Sunday, April 20th, 2008

I mention Terminator technology in my book, but this is a new twist. Not surprising that biotech now claims this “new” GMO technology is necessary to deal with the problems caused by their own GE crops; however they assume people will not see through the spin by “green washing” it and calling it a solution to the “environmental crisis.”

Aside from the issue of food sovereignty, what isn’t addressed here is the bigger picture: what will happen when Terminator seeds contaminate and mutate soil, grass, forests, or other crops? What will happen when nature adapts and takes on the Terminator gene?

Perhaps that’s the intention of the biotech industry…to contaminate as much of nature as possible with Terminator (and Zombie) technology so nothing will grow without their patented chemicals.

The following was edited from April 2008 Seedling, “Seeds of Passion” by Veronica Villa from GRAIN:

Years ago movements throughout the world had won the battle to ban Terminator seeds. But the biotechnology companies are back on the offensive, arguing that the urgent need to combat global warming and GMO contamination makes it imperative to use Terminator technology.

Terminator technology runs counter to the conception of peasant life, food sovereignty, and work by creating GM crops that have seeds that poison themselves and become sterile, so that farmers cannot save the seeds produced in the harvest and sow them again. They will be forced every year to buy new seeds from the companies and/or to buy another product from the companies to “activate” the seeds.

The biotech industry wants to present the environmental crisis and their own products and GMO contamination as an argument in favor of the new GMOs.

There is no doubt that contamination is a serious problem. Neither industry nor government authorities have been able to control or contain GMOs. Between 1996 and 2006 at least 146 cases of transgenic contamination were documented in 42 countries on six continents. Genetic contamination has massive legal and economic implications, not only for farmers, but also for agribusiness and the food processing industry.

A case of contamination (caused by Starlink corn in the United States in 2000) has to date cost the companies more than $600 million. In 2006 Bayer’s transgenic rice, Liberty Link, affected 40 per cent of United States exports of rice and represented a financial loss of $520 million for US farmers and food industry.

Along with the Terminator, one goal is to develop “reversible transgenic sterility.” It has been called “Zombie technology” because the idea is that the seeds will “return from the dead” with the application of an external stimulus, such as a chemical.

Biotech companies will offer new GM traits that are supposedly more productive, always affordable and are genetically sterile “to prevent accidents.” They will keep the price low, at least at first, to test their product. Once they have trapped farmers into adopting their technology, they can raise the price of restoring fertility as high as they want.

Farmers who depend on food aid risk devastating crop losses if they sow seeds provided as food aid and these contain Terminator genes. Of course, poor farmers will not knowingly plant Terminator seeds, but they might end up doing so if agencies introduce them in the technological packages they provide as aid.

Three-quarters of the world’s farmers exchange saved seeds with their neighbors. Community selection and improvement of crops are the basis of local food security. It seems clear that Terminator technology is an assault on local communities: it may well reduce the capacity of farmers to produce food and it threatens biodiversity.

What do they really want to control?

Seeds are the first link in the food chain. Biotech companies want to control them because this is how they can ensure their power along the whole chain. This is why manipulation of seeds has so many implications, and why the genetic diversity of crops threatens biotech company profits.

Biotech companies want to eliminate genetic diversity so that their GMOs are the only seeds available. The greater the presence of GMOs in a country, the easier it is to criminalize farmers’ varieties. Such laws increasingly make the latter illegal and hand over control to the big chemical, pharmaceutical, and seed companies.

A technology that reduces the capacity of farmers and peasants to produce food, and that puts an end to their age-old right to save the best seeds threatens food sovereignty, food security and biodiversity. It is a danger to crops and therefore to people. From an ethical and logical point of view, genetic sterility is not in any way “safe” or “acceptable.”

If governments do not react and ban Terminator, the technology will become available on the market. Brazil and India have already tried to take this step and a bill banning the Terminator was sent to the Canadian Parliament in June 2007.

To read the actual (PDF) article, “Seeds of Passion” by Veronica Villa, click here.

GRAIN is an international non-governmental organization which promotes the sustainable management and use of agricultural biodiversity based on peoples’ control over genetic resources and local knowledge.

A documentary that Americans won’t ever see

Auto Date Friday, April 18th, 2008

If you haven’t yet watched the video, “The World According to Monsanto: A Documentary that Americans Won’t Ever See,” it’s worth the time. 

The company that has forced PCBs, Agent Orange, biotech crops and rBGH on the world has more control over global politics, laws and the future of food and water than most people realize. Watch this investigative video that analyzes the inner workings, history and scandalous secrets of one of the world’s most powerful corporations–Monsanto. 

The documentary was aired on French television  (ARTE – French-German cultural tv channel) by French journalist and film maker Marie-Monique Robin; however, it’s in English.

Here’s the link:

Morgellon’s disease contains identical material to GE food

Auto Date Sunday, April 6th, 2008

Here’s a blog post from Dr. Rima Laibow with the Natural Solutions Foundation:

Just in case you thought it was fine to eat Genetically Modified foods (better identified as “FrankenFoods”), along comes a study which makes it clear that you are eating this make believe non-food at your own peril and, worse yet, you are feeding it to your kids at their peril as well…Now it appears that the increasingly prevalent nightmare of a disease called “Morgellon’s Disease” may be a result of GM crops and more.

Non-GMO breakthroughs

Auto Date Sunday, April 6th, 2008

We typically think of drought resistance, salt resistance, and biofortification related only to GE crops.  However, the real breakthroughs in agriculture in 2007 were in sustainable and organic farming, not genetic engineering.   

Some of the Non-GMO breakthroughs include: 

  • salt-tolerant wheat to bring life to “dead” farmland, 
  • improved corn harvests, 
  • drought-resistant corn, 
  • beta carotene-rich sweet potatoes, 
  • allergen-free peanuts, 
  • iron-fortified corn, 
  • solutions for fuel, and more.  

The non-GMO solutions also bring with them none of the uncertainties that surround GMOs. 

In addition to non-GMO breakthroughs, organics are emerging as superior for long-term solutions:

  • Organic farming can feed the world.  A University of Michigan study proved that organic farming can yield up to three times as much food in individual farms in developing countries. 
  • Organic farming beats no-till farming.  Organic farming can build up soil organic matter better than conventional no-till farming, according to a long-term study by US Agricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists.
  • Organic food is better. Important new research has shown up to 40% more beneficial compounds in organic vegetable crops and up to 90% more in organic milk. It has also found high levels of minerals such as iron and zinc in organic produce.  New Evidence Confirms the Nutritional Superiority of Plant-Based Organic Foods as well.
  • According to a study by the World Wildlife Foundation, a new method of rice cultivation (non-GMO) can increase yield by over 30% while using 40% less water.  Rice is a staple food for more than half of the world’s population and is is significant for food security in low-income and food-deficit countries.  The report More Rice with Less Water examines the contribution of the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) based on principles that differ from conventional rice cultivation.  WWF is working with farmers, scientists and national institutions to promote SRI, as it will reduce pressure on freshwater ecosystems and improve food production. 

Why have we been forced to support the biotech industry with our taxes, as well as serve as guinea pigs by being kept in the dark about genetically engineered food? The good news is that we don’t have to unknowingly eat GE food again.

California bill would require labeling of clones

Auto Date Sunday, April 6th, 2008

California State Senator Carol Migden introduced a bill requiring all food products from clones and their offspring be clearly labeled.

Rebecca Spector, west coast director of the Center for Food Safety, commented:

Consumers have the right to know that meat and milk they feed their children is safe.  Since FDA refuses to wait for science to show what’s really happening with cloned animals, it is now up to individual states to protect consumers and their families.  The Senator’s labeling bill will protect California through labeling, which restores consumer confidence and choice. 

A similar bill introduced by the entire California legislature was vetoed by Governor Schwarzenegger last year.

Your sugar is next

Auto Date Friday, April 4th, 2008

Thousands of acres of Roundup Ready genetically modified sugar beets are being planted, with sugar from the GE crop entering the food supply soon. Consumer and organic groups are suing to block production of GE sugar beets.

In January, farmers, food safety advocates, and conservation groups filed suit in federal court challenging the deregulation of GE sugar beets by the USDA. Attorneys from the Center for Food Safety and Earthjustice are representing plaintiffs Organic Seed Alliance, Sierra Club, High Mowing Organic Seeds, and the Center for Food Safety in the lawsuit, which seeks a thorough assessment of environmental, health, and associated economic impacts of the deregulation as required by federal law.

Sugar beet farmers in the western US have begun planting Roundup Ready sugar beets, which are genetically modified to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup.  GE sugar beets are wind pollinated, so there is a strong possibility that pollen from Roundup Ready sugar beets could contaminate non-GE sugar beets and other food crops such as chard, and red and yellow beets. Such biological contamination would also be devastating to organic farmers, who face market losses if their crops are contaminated by a GE variety.

Sugar beets account for more than half of US production of sugar, while the rest is produced using sugarcane. Americans consume about 10 million tons of refined sugar each year and about 12 tons of corn sweeteners such as high fructose corn syrup With the introduction of GE sugar beets, the two leading sweeteners consumed in the US will now be derived from GE corn and GE sugar beets.

Sugar produced by GE sugar beets may be included in products ranging from candy to breakfast cereal to bread. As with other GE products, none of the GE sugar products, as well as those containing corn syrup from GE corn, will require labeling to indicate that they have been genetically engineered.

According to Tom Stearns, president of High Mowing Organic Seeds,

The issue of releasing GMO crops without serious research or oversight risks the security of our food supply and the economic viability of our nation’s non-GMO and organic farmers. 

In addition to the risk of contamination, scientific studies have shown that applications of Roundup, a glyphosate-based herbicide, increase significantly when Roundup Ready crops are grown.  Increased use of this herbicide is instrumental in the creation of Roundup-resistant superweeds.

According to an independent analysis of USDA data by former Board of Agriculture Chair of the National Academy of Sciences, Dr. Charles Benbrook, GE crops increased herbicide use in the US by 122 million pounds, a 15- fold increase-between 1994 (when GE herbicide-tolerant crops were introduced) to 2004.

Greg Loarie of Earthjustice had this to say:

The law requires the government to take a hard look at the impact that deregulating Roundup Ready sugar beets will have on human health, agriculture and the environment.  The government cannot simply ignore the fact that deregulation will harm organic farmers and consumers, and exacerbate the growing epidemic of herbicide-resistant weeds.

SOURCE:  Ken Roseboro, The Organic & Non-GMO Report, March 2008

Japan urges Australia to remain non-GMO

Auto Date Friday, April 4th, 2008

Concerned about the health and safety issues of GE foods, Japanese consumers are urgently lobbying the Australian government to ban GE canola. 

The Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ) has 1250 organizations representing more than two million Japanese shoppers.  CUJ spokeswoman Michiyo Koketsu points out that although 18 countries grow GE-free canola, Australia is the sole exporter of GE-free canola on the world markets.  Koketsu said,

We are worried that our clean, green GM-free choice will be taken away.

Although Victoria and NSW have recently lifted their bans on GE crops, moratoriums remain in place in South Australia, Western Australia, and Tasmania. The CUJ wants Victoria and NSW to extend their bans “so the whole of Australia stays GM-free and their wholesome clean, green reputation is kept.” CUJ representatives met with more than 200 farmers in Horsham, in Victoria, to encourage them to keep growing GE-free canola. Koketsu said farmers told them privately they wanted to stay GE-free, but were afraid to speak out publicly. He said,

We share your farmers’ concerns about being overrun and contaminated by GM canola, and losing markets, especially in Japan.

SOURCE: The Organic & Non-GMO Report, April 2008

It’s interesting that such concern about GE food is going on worldwide, yet most American consumers still have no idea they are eating GE food — or American consumers mistakenly assume GE food is safe because it has been permitted to be in the food supply.

Monsanto’s Harvest of Fear

Auto Date Friday, April 4th, 2008

More and more, information about Monsanto and GE food are hitting headlines and people are learning the truth about GE food and the companies behind it.  Shedding Light on Genetically Engineered Food details how the biggest agbiotech companies have repeatedly done business at the expense of public health.

Donald L. Barlett and James B. Steele wrote this article about Monsanto for the May 2008 issue of Vanity Fair. 

Monsanto already dominates America’s food chain with its genetically modified seeds.  Now it has targeted milk production.  Just as frightening as the corporation’s tactics — ruthless legal battles agains small farmers — is its decades-long history of toxic contamination…read the Vanity Fair article here.

Biotech companies withdraw from international hunger project

Auto Date Friday, April 4th, 2008

According to the March 2008 The Organic & Non-GMO Report, Monsanto, Syngenta, and BASF withdrew from a major international project to plan the future of agriculture because the initiative failed to endorse GE crops as a means to reduce poverty and hunger.

The International Assessment of Agricultural Science and Technology for Development focuses on the problem of how to feed the world’s growing population.  However, the three biotech companies withdrew from the project after a report described the risks of GE crops and said they could pose problems for the developing world

The project is based on the work of 400 scientists and experts from around the world.

The biotech companies asserted that the report should instead say that GE crops could help reduce hunger by increasing yields and make plants more resistant to drought and extreme temperatures.