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Monday, January 09, 2006

GMO issues

here are two items that have come my way the past two days about Genetically modified Crops. Both items are pretty scary and I hope you will learn a thing or two as to why GMO crops are a very very bad idea. one other thing, both articles imply that ALL crops have a GMO counterpart, not true. Most fruits and vegetables do not have a GMO counter part but with Monsanto's recent acquisition of Semenis seeds (formerly the 3rd largest seed comany in the world) this will likely change as the biggest manufacturer of GMO crops and seeds now has an addition 10,000 or so seed varieties to monkey around with.

January 7 / 8, 2006

The Global Spread of GMO Crops
Inherit the Wind

Felix Ballarin spent 15 years of his life developing a special
organically-grown variety of red corn. It would bring a high price
on the market because local chicken farmers said the red color lent
a rosy hue to the meat and eggs from their corn-fed chickens. But
when the corn emerged from the ground last year, yellow kernels were
mixed with the red. Government officials later confirmed with DNA
tests that Mr. Ballarin's crop had become contaminated with a
genetically modified (GMO) strain of corn.

Because Mr. Ballarin's crop was genetically contaminated, it no
longer qualified as "organically grown," so it no longer brought a
premium price. Mr. Ballarin's 15-year investment was destroyed
overnight by what is now commonly known as "genetic contamination."
This is a new phenomenon, less then 10 years old -- but destined to
be a permanent part of the brave new world that is being cobbled
together as we speak by a handful of corporations whose goal is
global domination of food.

Mr. Ballarin lives in Spain, but the story is the same all over the
world: genetically modified crops are invading fields close by (and
some that are not so close by), contaminating both the organic food
industry and the "conventional" (non-GMO and non-organic) food

As a result of genetically contamination of non-GMO crops in Europe,
the U.S., Mexico, Australia and South America, the biotech food
industry had an upbeat year in 2005 and things are definitely
looking good for the future. As genetically modified pollen from
their crops blows around, contaminating nearby fields, objections to
genetically modified crops diminish because non-GMO alternatives
become harder and harder to find. A few more years of this and there
may not be many (if any) truly non-GMO crops left anywhere. At that
point there won't be any debate about whether to allow GMO-crops to
be grown here or there -- no one will have any choice. All the crops
in the world will be genetically modified (except perhaps for a few
grown in greenhouses on a tiny scale). At that point, GMO will have
contaminated essentially the entire planet, and the companies that
own the patents on the GMO seeds will be sitting in the catbird seat.

It is now widely acknowledged that GMO crops are a "leaky
technology" -- that it to say, genetically modified pollen is spread
naturally on the wind, by insects, and by humans. No one except
perhaps some officials of the U.S. Department of Agriculture were
actually surprised to learn this. GMO proponents have insisted for a
decade that genetic contamination could never happen (wink, wink)
and U.S. Department of Agriculture officials want along with the
gag. And so of course GMO crops are now spreading everywhere by
natural means, just as you would expect.

It couldn't have turned out better for the GMO crop companies if
they had planned it this way.

Growers of organically-grown and conventional crops are naturally
concerned that genetic contamination is hurting acceptance of their
products. Three California counties have banned GM crops. Anheuser-
Busch Co., the beer giant, has demanded that its home state
(Missouri) keep GMO rice fields 120 miles away from rice it buys to
make beer. The European Union is now trying to establish buffer
zones meant to halt the unwanted spread of GM crops. However, the
Wall Street Journal reported November 8 that, "Such moves to
restrict the spread of GM crops often are ineffective. Last month in
Australia, government experts discovered biotech canola genes in two
non-GM varieties despite a ban covering half the
country. 'Regretfully, the GM companies appear unable to contain
their product," said Kim Chance, agriculture minister for the state
of Western Australia, on the agency's Web site.

For some, this seems to come as a shocking revelation -- genetically
modified pollen released into the natural environment spreads long
distances on the wind. Who would have thought? Actually, almost
anyone could have figured this out. Dust from wind storms in China
contaminates the air in the U.S. Smoke from fires in Indonesia can
be measured in the air half-way around the world. Pollen is
measurable in the deep ice of antarctica. No one should ever have
harbored any doubt that genetically modified pollen would spread
everywhere on the Earth sooner or later. (We are now exactly 10
years into the global experiment with GMO seeds. The first crops
were planted in open fields in the U.S. in 1995. From this meager
beginning, global genetic contamination is now well along.)

Who benefits from all this? Think of it this way: when all crops on
earth are genetically contaminated, then the seed companies that own
the patented seeds will be in a good position to begin enforcing
their patent rights. They have already taken a test case to court
and won. In 2004, Monsanto (the St. Louis, Mo. chemical giant) won a
seven-year court battle against a 73-year-old Saskatchewan farmer
whose fields had been contaminated by Monsanto's genetically
modified plants. The Supreme Court of Canada court ruled that the
farmer -- a fellow named Percy Schmeiser -- owed Monsanto damages
for having Monsanto's patented crops growing illegally in his field.

Armed with this legal precedent, after genetically modified crops
have drifted far and wide, Monsanto, Dow and the other GMO seed
producers will be in a position to muscle most of the world's
farmers. It is for cases exactly like this that the U.S. has spent
30 years creating the WTO (world trade organization) -- to settle
disputes over "intellectual property rights" (such as patents) in
secret tribunals held in Geneva, Switzerland behind closed doors
without any impartial observers allowed to attend. Even the results
of WTO tribunals are secret, unless the parties involved choose to
reveal them. Let me see -- a dirt farmer from India versus Monsanto
and Dow backed by the U.S. State Department and the U.S. Treasury.
I'm struggling to predict who might win such a politico- legal
dispute conducted by a secret tribunal in Geneva, Switzerland.

During 2005, it was discovered that GMO crops have not lived up to
their initial promise of huge profits for farmers and huge benefits
for consumers. It was also discovered that the U.S. Department of
Agriculture has not enforced its own strict regulations that were
intended to prevent experimental GMO seeds to accidentally
contaminating nearby fields. GMO crops were supposed to produce
important human health benefits - and the be developed under super-
strict government control - but all these promises have turned out
to be just so much eye wash.. GMOs were supposed to reduce reliance
on dangerous pesticides -- but in fact they have had the opposite
effect. Monsanto's first GMO crops were designed to withstand
drenching in Monsanto's most profitable product, the weed killer
Round-Up -- so farmers who buy Monsanto's patented "Round- up ready"
seeds apply more, not less, weed killer.

But so what? Who cares if GMO seeds don't provide any of the
benefits that were promised? Certainly not the seed companies.
Perhaps benefits to the people of the world were never the point.
Perhaps the point was to get those first GMO crops in the ground --
promise them the moon! -- and then allow nature to take its course
and contaminate the rest of the planet with patented pollen. The
intellectual property lawsuits will come along in good time.
Patience, dear reader, patience. Unlike people, corporations cannot
die, so our children or our grandchildren may find themselves held
in thrall by two or three corporations that have seized legal
control of much of the world's food supply by getting courts (backed
by the threat of force, as all courts ultimately are) to enforce
their intellectual property rights.

The Danish government has passed a law intended to slow the pace of
genetic contamination. The Danes will compensate farmers whose
fields have become contaminated, then the Danish government will
seek recompense from the farmer whose field originated the genetic
contamination, assuming the culprit can be pinpointed. This may slow
the spread of genetic contamination, but the law is clearly not
designed to end the problem.

Yes, it has been a good year for the GMO industry. None of the
stated benefits of their products have materialized -- and the U.S.
government regulatory system has been revealed as a sham -- but
enormous benefits to the few GMO corporations are right on track to
begin blossoming. For Monsanto, Dow and Novartis, a decent shot at
gaining control over much of the world's food supply is now blowing
on the wind and there's no turning back. As the Vice-President of
plant genetics for Dow Agrosciences said recently, "There will be
come continuing bumps in the road, but we are starting to see a
balance of very good news and growth. The genie is way out of the

Peter Montague is editor of the indispensable Rachel's Health and
Democracy, where this essay originally appeared. He can be reached

And here is another story about how GMO may well be poisonous to mammals (sweet!, yet another reason to find non contaminated sources of food. Boulder belt grows and sells such)

The Independent 8 Jan 2005
GM: New study shows unborn babies could be
harmed Mortality rate for new-born rats six times higher when mother was fed on a diet of modified soya
By Geoffrey Lean, Environment Editor
Published: 08 January 2006

Women who eat GM foods while pregnant risk endangering their unborn
babies, startling new research suggests.
The study - carried out by a leading scientist at the Russian Academy of Sciences - found that more than half of the offspring of rats fed on modified soya died in the first three weeks of life, six times as many as those born to mothers with normal diets. Six times as many were also severely underweight. The research - which is being prepared for publication - is just one of a clutch
of recent studies that are reviving fears that GM food damages human health.

Italian research has found that modified soya affected the liver and pancreas of mice. Australia had to abandon a decade-long attempt to develop modified peas when an official study found they caused lung damage. And last May this newspaper revealed a secret report by the biotech giant Monsanto, which showed that rats fed a diet rich in GM corn had smaller kidneys and higher blood cell counts, suggesting possible damage to their immune systems, than those that ate a similar conventional one.

The United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organisation held a workshop on the safety of genetically modified foods at its Rome headquarters late last year. The workshop was addressed by scientists whose research had raised concerns about health dangers. But the World Trade Organisation is expected next month to support a bid by the Bush administration to force European countries to accept GM foods. The Russian research threatens to have an explosive effect on already hostile public opinion. Carried out by Dr Irina Ermakova at the Institute of Higher Nervous Activity and Neurophysiology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, it is believed to be the first to look at the effects of GM food on the unborn. The scientist added flour from a GM soya bean - produced by Monsanto to be
resistant to its pesticide, Roundup - to the food of female rats, starting two weeks before they conceived, continuing through pregnancy, birth and nursing. Others were given non-GM soyaand a third group was given no soya at all.

She found that 36 per cent of the young of the rats fed the modified soya were severely underweight, compared to 6 per cent of the offspring of the other groups. More alarmingly, a staggering 55.6 per cent of those born to mothers on the GM diet perished within three weeks of birth, compared to 9 per cent of the offspring of those fed normal soya, and 6.8 per cent of the young of those
given no soya at all.


Anonymous said...


I'm afraid you've fallen victim to two rather clever hoaxes here regarding GM crops. The Russian rat study has been thoroughly discredited and the "red corn" problem was traced to failure of the farmer to understand corn breeding. You see, the redness of the kernel comes from the female side, so inblown pollen (male) would not have the effect noted. People who oppose genetic engineering see nothing wrong in misinforming the public and I'm sorry to see they've managed to deceive you, too.

Lucy said...

if you would tell me who you are i might actually believe you are for real and not a shill of the Biotech companies. but since you chose to stay anynomous you are not a good source.

not to mention i have been studying this subject for over 15 years and whenever some good science comes out that calls the safety of these crops into play there is always a shill cruising the internet ready to yell Hoax.

than a few years down the line it comes out that it was not a hoax at all but the truth.

is it a hoax that about 100% of the canola seed is contaminated with RuR genes? No it is bnot but the "experts" 10 years ago swore that the genertics would never contaminate other canola. They were wrong.

Anynomous I think you are a hoax and a shill
and I doubt you have cajones to come back and defend your claim of hoax.

Anonymous said...


The question of whether or not I'm a "shill" has nothing to do with whether I speak the truth. When you say you have "been studying this subject" for 15 years, that's a telling point. Cotton was the first GM crop and that went on the market only 10 years ago. Still, if you insist on spreading misinformation even after 15 years of study, you are obviously a shill for vested interests in the multinational organic foods industry. The trouble with the shills on your side of "the debate" is that they think they have a moral right to commit trespass and vandalism to "make their point." So no, I'm not going to identify myself, just like you want to point fingers instead of getting your facts straight.

Yes, it's a hoax that 100 percent of the canola seed has RuR genes. The purest RuR canola seed produced by Monsanto only runs about 98 percent RuR. Figures for non-RuR seed are well below one percent, unless you're Percy Schmeiser and spray Roundup on your canola in order to create your own private brand of RuR seed stock. That'll get you RuR seed in the low '90s.

Happy blogging!

Lucy said...

What are yyour credentials?

GMO's may have been planted widely for 10 years but there were about 35 years prior to that where the crops were in development and by 1988 there were fields being planted with RuR soya (I know a farmer who was in on the initial RuR soya planting to see if the stuff would survive in the real world, outside of a lab).

the first time I went to a lecture on GMO crops was in 1992-14 years ago, so you are correct I overesdtimated how long I have been following biotech crops by 1 year..

now, do you farm? Are you a biologist/geneticist? what is you reason for defending these novel crops which have never been tested in a controlled way on humans and therefore we cannot know how they are affecting humans who eat them?

Until we know who you are we can only assume you are a shill and will post anything in order to defend your position even if it is pure junk. And yes it does make a big difference if you are a shill or not. Shills are well known to spread misinformation .

Oh and on you comment on canola. 100% of the canola crop can be contaminated even if no more than 98% of the seed is RuR. The seed lot is considered contaminated if as much as 1% is in the lot and we can no longer find any lot of canola seed that is 100% free of GMO seed.

Anonymous said...


I admit it, I am a shill... everything I say is false and misleading. Sunrise will happen tomorrow as scheduled. Two plus two is four. I am sure you are now stricken with doubt, as you believe the messenger is more important than the message. Quite an interesting approach to what a "fact" is.

Your "racial purity" approach to crops is interesting as well. Never in the history of agriculture has anyone demanded crops that are "100% free" of a genetic heritage from another crop. Indeed, you can't even find 100 percent pure gold!

Wait... I'm a shill. You don't want facts from me because in your universe I can't say them. Oh, well.

Happy blogging!

Chandira said...

I'm going to have to side with Lucy on this one.. No logic, just a 'gut feeling' which has never really lead me that far wrong in 34 years.. Sorry Anon.
No GMOs for me if I can help it.

They banned canola in England, it's nasty. It's called 'rape seed' there. Why is everything in the US full of it? I thought it was originally grown as an industrial oil..

As for 'racial purity', it's hardly the same issue. I don't think Lucy is a Nazi! Just wanting a choice about what she eats! That's reasonable.

Anonymous said...


Let's call me "Schiller." I agree canola is nasty... it gives a fishy taste to cooking. If I'm cooking fish I can put up with it, but I'd rather use safflower oil for just about anything. But there's a story with canola. "Rape seed" used to be grown just for industrial oil uses. Then it was discovered that genetic tweaking could make oil from rapeseed suitable for cooking. It has to do with erucic acid content. The innovation happened in Candada, hence the name "Canola." It might taste and smell nasty, but it's healthier than alternatives. On the other hand, if you cook with oil from the original industrial rape, you will get quite ill.

They didn't ban canola in England, they just banned GM canola. Either way, it's nasty and I won't cook with it. The US is full of it because people have everyone convinced with advertising that it's the healthy stuff to cook with and eat. Well, I figure, life is either too long, or too short, to eat stuff that tastes nasty.

As for "racial purity," I don't care for it. I like racial diversity and coexistence, with crops, people, everything. But Lucy can't stand it. Some people stand up for "biodiversity" but it turns out to be *their* biodiversity against everyone else's. Which isn't biodiversity at all.

You seem like a nice person, Chandra, and willing to talk.

Happy blogging!


Lucy said...

Gee shiller you certainly have a lot of hot air.

And i really like it in you forsyt post when you cliamed a person who bred and saved corn seed for 30 years had no idea what they were doing. just another error in you logic.

Now i am not against biodiversity if it is from natural means but with GMO's we have crops with novel genes whiuch have new and unusual protiens, many of which mammals cannot process.

Now what say you to the lack of feeding studies with the 1st genmeration of GMO crops? I take it you don't care that this was not done and that we not have a huge uncontrolled feeding test on the population of the world. What happens if the independant studies are correct and the industry funded studies are wrong (and there has been ample evidence that most of the Monsanto funded studies were junk science and were done to porduce results Monsanto wanted (basically that there are zero problems with feeding GMO's to humans and other mammals.

As for canola, don't use it as there are far better fats to use in cooking that taste better and are healthier.

As for doubting all you say. i don't but if one is a shill for a biotech company than i must question everything the say about biotech products.

All that said I like the idea of biotech crops. they could one day really be valuable for feeding humans and other animals but they were commercialed about 50 years too early. hell when RuR hit the fields it was known that DNA controled the show. But by 2001 it was found that protiens, not DNA/RDNA controlled the show and thus we found out that GMO crops were engineered using the worng science.

So to say there are no problems with GMO crops nor will their ever be a problem is just being naive. And to say things about me that are not true (that i am a racist I don't like biodiversity) is just being a tool and using a lot of straw man arguement because so far bud you have yet to back up your argument that the two items i posted are either hoaxes or just wrong. i asked once that you prove what you claim and now i am asking again. Now, since i have already asked and the best you could do is make slanderous insults I am betting that once again you will not be able to prove anything you have said with even 1 link. Instead you will continue to attack me with your small mind.

Anonymous said...

"As for doubting all you say. i don't but if one is a shill for a biotech company than i must question everything the say about biotech products."

If one is a schill for the biotech industry, it can easily be assumed, such a schill, would pay hommage to the 'feed bag' As the entire motivation of the biotech industry in profit, above and beyond anything else.
The biotech industry USES 'feel good' concepts to promote their products , and IMO mislead the public.

Interestingly in discussing the canola/rapeseed oil, said 'schill'admits he/she doesn't use it becuase 'it doesn't taste good'
(I don't use it either because I think IMO it's toxic.)
BUT 'schill' doesn't like the taste?

Makes me wonder, if 'schill' being a biotech believer/employee, knows darn well, canola oil is toxic, of course does not want to concede that,bad for business,so uses the excuse 'it doesn't taste good'
Oh really??

Anonymous said...


I am a shill with a very small mind, it is hard for me to understand what you experts are saying and I am so misleading that I even confuse myself a lot. So I don't understand how someone who has been doing conventional breeding of corn for 30 years would fail to notice that genes directing concentration of anthocyanins in the kernel pericarp are upregulated by a single-nucleotide polymorphism on the female side of the corn genome. I guess a breeder would see that. Anyone who does anything for thirty years can never be mistaken. I will work hard to understand this.

So I can't understand how someone who has been studying GM crops for 15 years and complains about gene engineering can say that genes don't control the show. Gotta wonder how those proteins arise. Sheldrakian morphogenic fields, perhaps? And after all these years of study of GM crops she discovers that mammals can't process the proteins from GM crops. Does that mean incessant bouts of constipation? Or does it mean that these crops are safe because mammals can't process them?

And I will work hard to understand how food-grade canola (as opposed to industrial rapeseed) becomes toxic when an opinion makes it get that way. Maybe I could change my opinion about how canola has a fishy taste and the taste would go away. I will try that.

Gotta go now. My masters with the giant multinational corporations have called me to a secret meeting where they will give me bagsful of money in exchange for my faithful obedience to their cause of totally destroying everything.

(mumbles the corporate mantra to himself... the environment must be destroyed... consumers must sicken and die... farmers must be enslaved...)

Happy blogging!


Anonymous said...


I really should check the links within my 'unused desktop shortcuts Folder more often... here I sit drooling and clicking on linky-poos and wha? I land in the midsts of a donnybrook. Or is it a tiff? A mere difference of opinion, mayhaps.

Well, fine then.
My name is john and I live on Canada's westcoast. I used to farm micro-scale in Ontario but what with land costs out west, I seem to be lacking about 500 grand in order to be able to farm-farm, so I content myself with growing edibles. Just so that nobody can accuse me of hiding behind the 'anon' shield, see. Anyone can contact me, anytime,

Now, on the whole gmo thing...
just to foul the air in here with my own logic, see...

Are we talking 'issues'?

seedstock that has been scientifically altered to contain characteristics that set them apart from heirloom, saved or hybridized seed stock - has been created by corporations with a vested interest in their success.

This investment is protected by said corporations, naturally.

Should anyone choose to use such altered product, the inherent conditions are a legally binding contractual agreement, entered into willingly. If you cannot 'save' gmo seeds, then by opening the bag, you agree NOT to 'save' gmo seeds. If the agreement includes the fact that you must use certain herbicides such as glyphosates, then by your agreement, you should use roundup or roundoff or whatever.

In other words, once you're in, your skinny ass belongs to the vendor of said products and/or services.

There is nothing illegal about this.

Is the use of gmo seed 'moral'?
How the hell should I know....
morality and value judgments are an individual thing.

Long-term ramifications, side-effects etc. can only be a 'best estimate' (in view of the fact that several decades of gmo seed use have not been recorded) made by 'peer-reviewed' studies paid for by 'scientists' paid for by corporations. THAT is the way the world works.

Now true, if the soil is suffering because of application of certain herbicides, that soil will eventually become barren, any Grade 4 science curriculum teaches that much. By which time, our hapless farmer type declares bankrupcy and moves to town to roam the streets looking for work. Or he/she/it drinks a glass of RoundUp in a bar, as a side-show.

In other words, if a farmer/grower/whatever has reservations, then don't use it.
And if you DO use it, shaddup and deal with it. Nobody put a loaded gun to Farmer Brown's head.

Shills? Hell, there are shills to every cause and process and methodology.

You folks either reason your position with verifiable facts or you ought to sit back and read as much as you can before you get emotional about things. In my own opinion, the Monsantos out there are spiders, weaving their webs. That's what spiders do in order to feed.

I mean....

We are products of a society whereby 'new and improved' carry a 'desirable' label. Until we learn more, luckies are good for your throat and leaded paint peels off inside the cradle, etc.

Science and yes, even gmo's have been beneficial in some ways, notably in medical fields. Against that, we have too often embraced new approaches as Excellent, only to find out after the fact that the promise was based on faulty logic and presumptions.

The world distrusts gmo.
Fair or not, science-based or not, the great consumer mass distrusts gmo. And both sides are shilling their own versions of reality.

The marketplace will decide.
It inevitably does, after all.

Meanwhile, I would not buy/enter into restrictive covenants with sole source suppliers because doing so is just plain self-defeating. That's common sense.

Now IF you farmer types are gonna get to flinging manure at each other, let me ask youse this:
does it smell any better, afterwards?

john up in canada

Anonymous said...


It doesn't smell any better afterward, it's a matter of who it sticks to. Naturally, more of it sticks to the organickers. ;-)


Lucy said...

Shilkler i gotta question. How will GMO's feed the world when rthe oil gets too expensive for farmers to use (and this is already happening BTW). All of the current GMO crops and Pharm crops are utterly dependant on the use of petrloeum in order to be planted, be sprayed with a herbicide that has petroleum products in the recipe and than is harvested and shipped thousands of miles?

So what happens if say 80% of the world wide crop is GMO and than the system that allows them to be grown as they are fails? What does the world do for food than?

Anonymous said...


When oil gets too expensive for farmers to use, and there is no viable alternative energy source, there will be massive starvation. There are not enough horses to replace the work previously done by tractors, and not enough farmers to do weed control by hand. The modernization of agriculture that followed the Great Depression left many formerly agrarian workers in urban centers and in theory they could return to the countryside to form the labor pool necessary to replace mechanized tillage and weed control, but the infrastructure is lacking for such an outflux of migrants from the cities. However, "organic" food production along such lines will then be compulsory because the alternative is no food at all. And organic food producers would be in the same mess as other farmers because they, too, would be working without tractors.

The use of petroleum products for pest and weed control began before the advent of genetically engineered crops, and the lack of these pest and weed control products would greatly decrease food production from *both* engineered and conventional crops. *Both* types of crops need weed and pest control to the same extent.

Now it is not completely true to say that the lack of petroleum products would affect the productivity of both types of crops equally, and that is because of Bt crops. These crops produce their own insecticide and are therefore not dependent on petroleum-based products for insect control. So in that one instance, engineered crops would have an advantage over conventional crops in a non-petroleum world.

With that exception, engineered crops are no more dependent on petroleum than conventional crops. That is to say, the seeds will germinate and they will produce food in the absence of petroleum products, just as well as their conventional counterparts.

Almost all crops are, however, completely dependent on human intervention for their survival and without that intervention, the vast majority of cultivars in existence would quickly become extinct. Quite simply, breeding has domesticated them so thorougly that they cannot survive in the wild. They depend on humans, and whatever energy humans are able to use in order to care for them, for their survival.

Happy blogging,


Anonymous said...

Pondering this...

A fool question, certainly! But...

Since 'promoters' are busy flogging biofuel as part of the answer to keep Fat Debbie's SUV on the road, would it not make more sense to apply any biofuels to the actual growing of food?

For that matter, why is hemp not being grown for the sake of generating biofuels? Cannabis is far kinder to the soil (I am informed) than corn is.

So, in this scenario, a viable farm would have it's own biofuel distillation capacity, a closed loop.

Is this being done down among you flag-waving patriots? Just curious.

john in canuckistan

Lucy said...

I agree that major petroluem use predates GMO crops. And There is a problem with industrial agriculture and it's lack of sustainabilty and its' dependance on petroleum as a cheap fuel. Be it conventional or biotech. but biotech insteead of looking ahead a few decades is continuing with the oil dependancy. You'd think such an innovation could be used better and with far more vision than profit, not that there is anything wrong with profit and in capitalism it is the end all. Of course if in profitting you destroy a few million lives (farmers being forced off the land continuously, for example) perhaps the corporate entity should reevaluate its' priorities

Organic farmers would also have to work without tractors run on petroluem as well as forego using plastic mulches and greenhouse films. And there are many who already are using alternatives to gasoline, diesel and plastic and they are open source kinds of people so they tend to tell as many others as they can about what works for them.

i agree that a lot of crops would die out in the wild but not all. you would be surprised at all the successful weeds in the USA that once were domestic crops. dandilion, pigweed, lambquarter, black mustard, etc., are all domestic plants that have been wildly successful in the wild. To the point they have become noxious weeds

With GMO's we, so far, have no idea if the novel genetics will die out, survive unchanged or will they mutate into something unexpected. canola does have wild relatives it does interbreed with and that is where GMO's can well escape to the wild and what than?

Anonymous said...


With GMO's we, so far, have no idea if the novel genetics will die out, survive unchanged or will they mutate into something unexpected. canola does have wild relatives it does interbreed with and that is where GMO's can well escape to the wild and what than?


What's the problem?
the monsantos out there will simply 'engineer' a custom more potent herbicide and have a stranglehold on the market, flogging it as the 'solution'. How much? Who cares! You either pay or you had better get some goats to eat all them superweeds.

Up here, we've got mutated rapeseed happily spreading towards the north. It's a bitch but SOMEBODY has to make a profit, nay?

john northwest of youse

Anonymous said...


Your 'biofuels' and 'closed loops' remarks were interesting. In the United States, if the entire corn crop for one year were rendered into ethanol, and I mean every last bit, even what's used for breakfast corn flakes, that would be enough ethanol to power the vehicles currently in use for ten days of that year. So biofuels is an appealing notion, but we simply don't have enough "bio" to fuel ourselves. At least not with current technology.

There are some still living who recall when farms were indeed closed energy loops, at least to a great degree. Farms fed the humans on the farm, and fed the animals which provided motive power for tillage and transportation (horses mainly). Thus, a good portion of the farm had to be given over to the production of forage for animal power, rather than to crops for direct economic exchange (corn, wheat, etc.). So back then, biofuels was indeed the norm but there wasn't a distillery involved. (Unless a farmer did some "white lightning" on the side, but that's another story.)

Biotech may some day make it possible to grow a number of interesting things on the farm that are not possible today, but for the mean time, farming for biofuels isn't viable on a truly large scale until technology makes it vastly more efficient.


Anonymous said...

The crux is 'large scale' here.

It's a bit like the old bigger-bigger-biggest tractor argument. Eventually, we are up to our axels in debt to pay for 'biggest'. I used to live where my neighbour had a cd/air combine, the silly prick used it 4 weeks/year. The rest was a 'write-off'.

Look, anon. May I call you anon? Thanks! :)

I cannot help but twitch when I re-read Steinbeck and think about the present time.

And spiritual/political/whatever values aside, I cannot help but feel that we, as in North America at large, are stumbling into the same old quicksand.

Who(m) makes the money?
Not the hayseed, scratching around on a few acres, worrying about the bank dick and food to put on his fambly. He's the Blood On The Plough posterchild. The small time farmer is screwed, period. when held against humongeous acreage/yield production. No-win situation - unless they niche meaning organic and CSA and NOT growing gmo.

Nope. It's the corporations, be it Monsanto grabbing patents on life forms or any of their ilk.

THAT'S what's wrong with this picture. THAT'S what's wrong with corporate science. It serves a corporate structure but it is NOT sustainable, not if anyone hopes to feed the seventh generation.

Hell, 7 generations from now, who knows how many times corporations have been bought, sold, de-listed, re-listed, nasdaq'd or whatever.

gmo as in a science-based approach has merit, certainly. But we humans have this foolish tendency to 'go for the light' and damn the pesky little voices.

Are YOU willing to blindly trust uncontrollable variables?

What if.

Well, IF things go less-then-ideally-projected, we may well be in for some major environmental damage. Or worse, who knows?

As for me, call me a twerped canuckistani but I'd sooner err on the side of caution.

Science and technology are well and good but I for one would rather get Good Dollars for Premium Organic Produce. That's where it stands for now and it will take 20 years for that to change.

Does not mean that you are wrong or I am right.
Simply means that, somewhere along the line, I learned to trust NOBODY but myself when it comes to my own well-being. I sure as hell would not trust any proprietary science to feed me or pay my bills.

Interesting stuff, eh whot?

Anonymous said...

Over the years I have seen that when someone comes to a discussion such as this and has a counter viewpoint they are in the employee of the company being criticised. The problem with GMO foods is that there has been absolutely no research done to find out what affect this will have on the human population by the companies promoting this garbage. These companies have convinced the regulatory agencies, not difficult because the decision makers come from the companies being regulated, that GMO foods are substantially the same as foods grown conventionally. That the genes introduced would never get there naurally seems not to enter the equation. There is too much evidence that, in the relatively short time GMO's have been available for human consumption, there are major problems with them that need good, solid research paid for by the companies that wish to distribute thes food products.

Anonymous said...


I agree with everything you say but in a sense, you are not quite harsh enough. Criticisms leveled at Monsanto or "giant corporations" which blame them for the plight of the farmer apply to everyone in the food chain, from the consumer to the friendly local grocer to the butcher and baker, and all the way back. The drive for cheap food works its way back down the pipeline to the farmer, who gets the downward cost pressure from everyone involved. The only lower limit to farm-gate prices is the number of farmers forced out of business by low prices.

At the same time, the farmer is a consumer of farm inputs, and the drive there is to charge the farmer as much as the market will bear. So the farmer is stuck with being paid as little as possible while being charged as much as possible, and that's how the system works.

Now an hourly worker who finds the costs of working a job only barely justifies the income can say "screw this" and move to another job. The farmer, on the other hand, is stuck with growing food, and everyone in the economy (those who eat food, at least) intends to pay that farmer as little as possible. While getting as much money as possible back out of that farmer, of course.

This isn't a conspiracy, it's the structure of the system and it's no wonder farmers complain. Selling premium organic crops is an option, but it doesn't fix the system. If every farmer "went organic," organic would be a standard commodity and the relentless price pressures would push farm income down down to subsistence levels just as they are now for conventional crops.

So whining about giant corporations, or about "genetic pollution" from your neighbors, is just that--whining. I'd rather see the system fixed. Now *there's* a challenge for someone who wants to do something for agriculture.


Anonymous said...

Valid point on the cheap food bind, to the max.
The poor small-to-medium farmer is caught, always was and likely always will be. Input costs, commodity manipulation, dumping issues, climate, you would have to grow extra fingers just to count the variables that are in reality uncontrollable.

System fix? No such thing. No political will, no consumer will, everyone profits EXCEPT the farmer.
Too many vested interests and after all, IF the poor Okie goes tits up, take down the hedge-rows and trees and fences and mechanize to maximize. That's the thing about history, it goes in cycles.

There is no 'fix' or equitable utopian version of AG. Realists know this. Accordingly, mass food is industrially farmed, speciality food is organically farmed.

Bitching about it seems pointless, yet I stand on what I stated earlier: anyone would be a fool to depend on a sole source for seeds, inputs and for that matter markets.

And I can fully understand why genetic drift pollution would be an issue to those choosing NOT to go the mass factory approach.
The onus is on the corporations flogging that approach to limit and safeguard against drift and runaway propagation. They do not care overly - and that's a criminal shame.

Whining? That is justified on the basis of Right-To-Choice on one's own land. Hell, I would do a great deal more than merely whine if it was MY land.

Look, it's monday morning and raining and I have little use for polerization. Us vs Them, Earth Mothers vs Dark Lords does not alter the final outcome.

The final outcome may well force both to collaborate, at least to some extend, in their fight against near-impossible odds.
It may well be Soylent Green for everyone.

Anonymous said...


You got it right again--the farmer's right to choose. So I got no problem with organic agriculture, except they take the "right to choose" to the point where they want to choose what their neighbors grow, too. And even worse, they market their products by bashing other farmers and making other farmers look bad. That isn't very neighborly.

However, organic farmers *do* have ideas to offer when it comes to "fixing the system" for agriculture. The system can be fixed if the farmers aren't stuck with producing anonymous commodity crops. That is to say, the system can be fixed if the farmers have more choices.

Biotechnology can do this. Corn engineered to produce hog vaccine will be more valuable than plain yellow dent. It will be more labor-intensive, etc., but this will be more appropriate for the smaller farmer. The same goes for other biotech projects in the pipeline. When the farmer has a choice of growing high-tech, medium-tech or low-tech crops, the farmer can "opt out" of the commodity pipeline or, stated another way, jump off of the commodity-production treadmill.

Organic farmers have shown us the way out, but it remains to be seen if they and others will allow further expansion of farmers' choices.

When farmers' available choices become diverse enough, it will break the system's back. Suppose the farmer has a choice of growing, say, one of a dozen different kinds of special-application corn or commodity corn. The farmer will look at per-acre return and choose. And the choice may not be to grow commodities. In this way, the value of specialty crops will raise the value of commodity crops. When that happens in a substantial way, the farmers will truly become economic players instead of living almost completely at the mercy of the larger market.

This will render farming into something that doesn't look like farming looks today, but it would get us off the treadmill.


Lucy said...

Biotechnology can only change the system when it becomes open sourced. But it is not so even if we do engineer corn to express a hog vaccine or make a crop more nutritious. Why? because this technology will belong to a corporation and they will want money for its use and that keeps the farmer in the same condition. having to buy off farm inputs which is not sustainable and has no place in a well managed organic/sustainable farm

I don't see how a diversity of biotech products would break the backs of the multinationals nor do I see them allowing this to happen any time soon. A diversity of products has not broken the back of Procter and Gamble. instead their diversification has made the copmany larger and stronger.

And this farmers' choice does not address the marketing issue. If the farmer is not doing his own marketing and selling to a wholesaler than the farmer remains trapped in a system that tells him the price for his product. Not a system where the farmer can set his own price which is what has to happen for farming to survive. And this exact thing is happening with folks who breed and grow heirlooms. Look at the Seed Savers year book. You will find hundreds of corn varieties. each with its' own appeal and there are farmers growing this corn and getting top dollar for it already. But to get the top dollar they do their own marketing, a lot of it direct and local.

And this is where farmers must change is not what they grow or how they grow it but who the sell their crop to. It is the buyer who will dictate what is grown. if a farmer sells his proiduct direct to his customers than the customers can tell the farmer what they like and don't like and he can adjust accordingly. And what his customers tell him may well be a lot different than what ADM wants and thus he in catering directly to his customers wishes he will change the face of farming in a small way. but as more and more farmers get smart and find out that they too can break the corporate chains the system will weaken and falter.

Now GMO's may still have a place in this new local direct marketing ag system but only if there is customer demand for GMO products. And there may not be such a demand. I say this because this kind of system will demand that we cease to be mindless consumers and start to become aware customers and as people start learning about and reconnecting with their food system that they have been allowed to totally disconnct from in the past 50 years they may decide they no longer want the crap that the corporate food system is feeding us.

Anonymous said...

you know....

it seems to me that both proponents and opponents of 'engineered AG' share somewhat similar challenges. The consumer DOES decide and votes with dallahs however, a huge proportion of the happy munching consumer crowd is totally and completely clueless. Worse, you could not give them a clue if you tried to shove a clue up their obese bungholes, they demand the 'right' to cheap 'food'.
They would not be able to spell 'nutrition' unless you offer them free twinkies in the mall's parking lot.

If industrial farming includes the use of gmo and pesticides, the resulting 'food' is for mass-consumption or foreign aid if the receipients are clueless.

If indeed you are what you eat, let them! And if industrial scale ag wishes to feed them, good for them. Shine-in-the-dark fluorescent corn may even make da teevee dinner look better.

Equally, if the informed consumer chooses to buy food that was grown without gmo, pesticides or unsustainable methods, that is their right by virtue of their purchasing decision.

The issue is not so much us vs them here, the issue is lack of verifyable long term results, lack of control, lack of accountability as to drift and escape of what are in essence unproven organisms.

As for marketing/ shaking awake the consumer tactics as employed by both sides, well... that's how the system ended up. Nothing to do with 'neighbourly' but rather with having a grip on decency and consideration for others.

But hey, all this may well be moot.
It's hard to grow gmo if droughts and fires and floods keep showing up during the average crop year.

May I suggest an uneasy truce?

Anonymous said...

Canuck, Lucy and Friends:

An "uneasy truce" is no truce at all. History teaches that truce results when the foe is vanquished and begs for mercy--and when that mercy is granted, *that* is termed "truce." Truce will occur when farmers have so many choices beyond the classic neolithic format, like being stuck with real estate and nothing to do but grow cheap food, that the advocates of "antique farming" will be even further left in the dust.

The organickers are the "last gasp" of the vision of Farmer Brown as presented in children's books. It ain't like that any more. For the farmer, real estate is a business. What that real estate can grow, in monetary terms, is the measure of farming success. Otherwise, the land will be sold for unpaid taxes. (Real estate taxes means you don't own your land, you just rent it from the government, but that's another issue.)

Call me a 'shill,' say I got a 'small mind,' I don't care. The revolution is coming. Farms won't be just for cheap food any more. They'll be solar-powered factories for value-added agriculture, with supply-chain tracking that will make antique-agriculture organickers wince.

Forget the truce, but I have won the skirmish. Lucy has embarrassed herself by repeating false claims of organickers and her rants have been eclipsed by simple reason. Nobody in "corporate agriculture" wants to destroy the organickers... they will simply continue their path into the sunset.

My work here is done.

Happy blogging!


Anonymous said...

Your work here is done?


Well, whatever.
Met people wih your mindset before, will no doubt meet them again.

Enjoy your vision of a brave new world. Thanks for wasting my time...


Anonymous said...

Here are a few more lies, fabrications and hopelessly out-moded luddite types doing their best to stand in the way to AG nirvana:


An excellent article with this title for Inter Press Service News Agency says, "Long trumpeted as the solution to world hunger, some biotech supporters have scaled back their claims and now say the technology will make a substantial contribution to ending hunger. But just when or if that contribution will ever arrive is not clear."

The article criticizes industry body ISAAA's inflated figures for GM plantings:
"In the ISAAA's annual global status report issued on Jan. 12, it claimed that 90 million hectares of GE crops were planted in 21 countries in 2005. Although labeled an 'anti-poverty group' by some media, the ISAAA is in fact a biotech industry-supported lobby organisation.

"'No one has any idea where they are getting their numbers from,' said David MacDonald of the Polaris Institute, a Canadian NGO. Where there is solid independent government data, such as in the United States, the ISAAA numbers are inflated by five to 10 percent, he charged.

"MacDonald told IPS that the group's reports do not cite any sources or references, nor would most governments have this kind of information. 'We and other NGOs have been trying to get independent confirmation of this data for years, without success,' he said."

The article also casts a cool eye on the supposed benefits of biotech:
"Despite billions of dollars invested in research by governments and industry over more than 20 years, only three crops -- cotton, maize and soy -- account for 95 percent of GE acreage. These three crops are either herbicide-resistant or contain Bt insecticide.

"All that does is make life simpler for large farm operations to spray any amount of a particular herbicide without harming the crop, says MacDonald. Yields are not directly affected, nor are there additional nutritional benefits, improvements to the soil or environmental benefits."


Maine farmers cannot be sure that the non-GM canola seeds they purchase to grow on their farms do not contain GM traits, University of Maine agriculture research professor John Jemison said.

Tests conducted last fall on research crops in northern Maine and Vermont indicated that the conventional crops and seeds contained genetically engineered DNA - DNA altered to allow crops not to be affected by herbicide applications - even though separated from GE plots.

Jemison's findings mirror those released in a study in 2004 by the Union of Concerned Scientists that found GM DNA is contaminating traditional seeds in three major US crops - corn, soybeans and canola.

Speaking at the Maine Agricultural Trades Show in Augusta, Jemison said that after harvest, tests were conducted on 4,500 conventionally grown canola plants. "We found contamination, or genetic resistance to herbicides, in five out of the six [genetic] lines," Jemison said, a condition that could not have been caused by current-season drift from GM crops.

This means that conventional canola seeds already are contaminated with GM-resistance traits, he said, and farmers cannot be 100 percent sure they are getting purely organic seeds. Maine's organic industry represents more than $10 million annually and is the state's fastest-growing agriculture segment.

Biotech firm Phytodyne Inc., based in Ames, Iowa, has folded. The company had wanted to market what it claimed was a faster, more precise way to genetically engineer crops.

State and federal government and private investors poured millions of dollars into the biotech startup. State officials touted Phytodyne as a poster child for the burgeoning biotech economy. Early in 2004, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack announced a three-year, $5 million financial assistance package for Phytodyne, saying the company had the potential to revolutionize agriculture.

By late 2004, Phytodyne had been dissolved, its workers laid off, its laboratories disassembled and its investors left holding the bag. People who had championed Phytodyne's potential were crestfallen. Those who once had spoken with pride of Phytodyne's promise now pause and look down when asked about the company.

In an article that reported Phytodyne's demise, a state official is quoted saying biotech is booming. In fact, since its inception in 1976 the biotechnology industry has lost a combined $40 billion.

Large Scale Biology Corp. of Vacaville, one of the first biotech companies focused on genetically engineering plants to produce medicine, has filed for protection from its creditors under the bankruptcy code.

The company ceased operations in December, having lost $25.3 million in 2003 and $17.4 million in 2004. In the nine months ended Sept. 30 2005 the company lost $11.6 million, or 37 cents per share, on revenue of $2.2 million.

Robert Erwin, a founder and the chairman of Large Scale, has said the main problem for the company was the reluctance of drug companies to have their products developed in crops. He is quoted as saying, "There are very few corporate executives willing to bet on an unproven process."

He has also said GM pharma crop developers were wrong in assuming that lower production costs are an important consideration for drug companies. With high prices for their drugs, Erwin said, "cost is not really an issue for them." The claim of lower production costs has always been held out as the big selling point for pharma crops.

An article in The Scientist puts Large Scale Biology Corp's failure into a wider perspective.

EXCERPT: A decade ago more than 180 companies and organizations, including many of the big pharmas, were involved in pharming research. Since then, Pfizer, Eli Lilly, Novartis, and others have spun off or disposed of their agricultural-biotech drug divisions. Today, fewer than 75 companies worldwide - and only a handful in the US - are engaged in any form of plant-based therapeutics.

"Pharmaceutical and biotech companies have enough risk taking a new drug through the approval process. To add to that an as-yet unproven plant-based technology is not something they are willing to do," said Roger Wyse, managing director of Burrill and Co., a San Francisco-based life sciences venture capital firm. "That's adding risk on top of risk".

Sierra Club executive director Carl Pope has addressed a letter to USDA, APHIS (Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service), the FDA and others on the "pharm" issue. In the wake of the USDA Inspector General's recently released report, Pope calls not just for better implementation of the present ineffective system but for a better, more effective system.

As a way of pushing commercialization of GM crops, while sidestepping the issues of food safety and consumer rejection, the US government has joined forces with industry group BIO to promote GM soybeans as a biodiesel crop that will help solve the problem of global warming.

The Department of Energy said that its Joint Genome Institute in Walnut Creek, California will be the lead facility in sequencing the soy genome. To date, the Institute has sequenced and released a total of 150 microbial organisms.

"Biotechnology is creating a new industrial revolution based on biology instead of petroleum," said Brent Erickson, executive vice president of BIO's Industrial and Environmental Section.

He also made clear the industry's greenwashing pitch, "What could be anti-environmental about trying to figure out how to produce the energy that we all consume in a sustainable way that doesn't produce the greenhouse gas emissions that produce global warming? We're on the side of the angels on that one."

A national food controversy is simmering in Michigan, as the state Senate considers a bill that would bar towns and counties from enacting local legislation to regulate GM seed. Fourteen states already have passed these bills into law; Michigan's version, SB 777, is scheduled to get another committee hearing Thursday.

Native American Ojibwe wild rice growers are worried that GM rice could infect their crop. They cite work by the University of Minnesota on new strains of rice, including GM strains, that may benefit large commercial farmers, but could harm native wild rice crops.

The taro plant, used to make poi, is a sacred ancestor of the Hawaiian people that can't be owned, say protesters. Activists and farmers urged the University of Hawaii to give up three of its patents on varieties of taro genetically enhanced by crossbreeding. About 20 people rallied in a small field of taro growing on the university's Manoa campus.

"The taro is our ancestor. It's not a commodity," said longtime Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte. "The University of Hawaii cannot own our ancestors. They're setting the precedent for the rest of the world to come here and start patenting things." Traditional Hawaiian belief says that the first man was created from a taro plant.

"The idea that one generation of people could claim ownership of something that's much older than we are is ridiculous," said David Strauch, a taro farmer who grows traditional varieties on Oahu. "Taro is so central to Hawaiian culture."

Ritte has gone to battle with the university before over the genetic modification of taro. As a result, the university agreed in May to stop experiments on Hawaiian varieties of taro because of cultural concerns that it was tampering with native species.

The commendable French newspaper La Monde diplomatique reports that GM soya has been smuggled into the fertile state of Parana in southern Brazil, where itis still banned. The smuggling may suit the owners of agribusinesses that cover 70% of the land but it endangers the survival of the remaining small farmers, who provide most of the agricultural jobs and key national foodstuffs.

At the beginning of the 20th century, forest covered 16m of Parana's 19m hectares. Because of immigrant axes and chainsaws, it now accounts for barely 1.5m hectares, just 8% of the state's total area. Meanwhile Parana has the dubious honour of being Brazil's leading consumer of pesticides and chemical fertilisers. The state also has the country's highest rate of liver and pancreatic cancer. It is becoming clear that these two records are related. Unsurprisingly, more and more people, especially the MST [Landless Movement], are denouncing the green revolution dream as false.

... The model of the UDR [Democratic Ruralist Union, a body created in 1986 by the big landowners to resist land reform and the MST] has not proved effective. One recent study showed that conservative modernisation of farming drove costs up twice as fast as productivity, meaning that gross added value actually fell. There are other, hidden costs. Pollution of the water table has been confirmed as the cause of 6,000 poison cases, and is thought to have caused as many as 30,000. Another cost only now being recognised is the soil exhaustion that soya monoculture engenders. The drive to produce, produce, produce is not compatible with crop rotation or set-aside. Frei Sergio Gorgen, deputy for Lula's Workers' party (PT) in Rio Grande do Sul, joins the MST in arguing that agribusiness "only survives today thanks to subsidies and facilitation from the Brazilian state".


Monsanto CEO Hugh Grant is meeting India's president and prime minister next week. According to the Indian Express, high on his agenda should be the stink raised by the Andhra Pradesh government on the pricing of Bollgard cotton seeds for the Indian market - see below.

Andhra Pradesh's agriculture minister N. Raghuveera Reddy has written letters urging six states to take action against Mahyco Monsanto and other companies on the lines of Andhra Pradesh (the AP state government is taking Monsanto to court) over the high prices charged by these companies.

Reddy, who said the stand taken by the government was "in the interest of farmers", sought the support of the other states as it would go a long way to further strengthen "our resolve to get justice for the common farmer." Reddy also said Bt cotton farmers were at "high risk of disaster".


A group of activists who destroyed a crop of GM maize in France in 2003 have been acquitted by a Versailles court. The nine people -- all members of the Farmers' Confederation previously headed by anti-globalisation campaigner Jose Bove -- were the second lot of activists to have charges against them dismissed in France.

A court in the central French city of Orleans last month acquitted 49 people who had been charged with organised vandalism for uprooting GM maize planted in France by the US biotechnology group Monsanto.

The judge said in that December case that the activists were justified in their action because "the unbridled distribution of modified genes... constitutes a clear and present danger for the well-being of others, in the sense that it could be the source of contamination and unwanted pollution."

The European Commission has again ignored environmental and health concerns of member states and approved the import and use of three Monsanto GM maize.

Helen Holder of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The EU Commission is going against the wish of European citizens, and does not have the required majority support from Member States for GMO approvals."

Since August, three other GMOs have been authorized by the Commission. "In all six cases, Member States' concerns were ignored because of the undemocratic EU system allowing the Commission to take a decision despite there not being a qualified majority in favour of GMOs in food and animal feed", Holder said.

Feel confused about what's going on with GMOs in the EU? You are not alone!

Although no new GMOs have been approved for cultivation in the EU since 1998, there have of late been a series of approvals of GMOs for import for consumption - see above, even though these GMOs are very unlikely to end up being intentionally incorporated into food products in shops because of labelling and consumer opposition to GMOs.

The recent approvals of GMOs for import into the EU have not been made as a result of decisions by a clear majority of EU member states, but by the EU Commission, which is headed by non-elected bureaucrats who appear to want to free up biotech development.

So what is the Commission's real agenda? A commendably clear article on this by Helen Holder of Friends of the Earth Europe is at

Reuters reports that Europe may suffer a bruising next month when the World Trade Organization delivers its verdict on whether the EU's six-year blockade on GM crops and foods was tantamount to a protectionist trade barrier. While most observers say the WTO is unlikely to issue a clear-cut condemnation of EU policy, it may well criticize areas like the string of national bans on specific GMO products in several EU countries.


South Africa's faith communities are planning to petition major food retailers to label all genetically modified foods, according to Bishop Jeff Davies from the SA Council of Churches.

The labelling of GM, or genetically modified, food is not compulsory in the country.

"We believe it is essential to know what we are eating. We hope you, in parliament, will help us," he told members of parliament on Wednesday.

Davies was one of many representatives from religious and civil society organisations, including small-scale farmers, environmental groups and lobbyists, who participated in parliament's public hearings on its Genetically Modified Organisms Amendments Bill.

Davies told MPs, "Many scientists and biotechnologists are very naughty. They're not making a distinction between selective breeding, which human beings have been doing for millennia, and genetic engineering."

He said all faith communities - Christians, Hindus, Jews and Muslims - had the same concerns regarding genetically modified products.

"With genetic engineering, we are tampering with the structures of life that have taken millions of years to evolve and we have the arrogance to think that we can improve on them in 10 years... to transfer a gene from one species into another."

Referring to the impact of GMOs on religion Davies said: "You know we have kosher and halaal food. How, then, do we define a tomato with a fish gene?"

He said he knew that many people were concerned about genetic modification because humans were playing God without knowing what the consequences would be.

He also called for a moratorium on the use and importation of genetically modified food until SA itself had tested the products and not just accepted the word of Monsanto that it was safe.

According to Davies, it was important that "we should do things the African way and not try to emulate Big Brother in America".

Pick 'n Pay's deputy chairperson David Robins welcomed the call for labelling on Wednesday, saying the supermarket chain would support the campaign 100% so that customers would know what they were eating.

Earlier this week, chain store Woolworths said: "All Woolworths products that contain ingredients that could be derived from GM crops are labelled."

The group said it had undertaken to remove or replace ingredients derived from GM crops wherever possible.

"Does Africa need GMO foods?" asks an article in the Nigerian press.

The answer is No. What Africa needs is to improve on the way we practise agriculture. We have enough natural seeds to last us another lifetime. We don't need genetically modified seeds that would, rather than lead to a food boom, kick-start a revolution of dependence on a giant corporation to supply us seeds and chemicals. This is nothing but slavery... Africa cannot afford to surrender its food security to some faceless giant corporation.


Dr Arpad Pusztai has responded to a statement by the UK's Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (ACNFP) on the GM soy feeding study carried out by Dr Irina Ermakova from the Russian Academy of Sciences.

Here are ACNFPs closing remarks and a link to their full statement:

"In conclusion, there are a number of possible explanations for the results obtained in this preliminary study, apart from the GM and non-GM origin of the test materials. Without information on a range of important factors conclusions cannot be drawn from this work. The Committee Secretariat is contacting Dr Ermakova to obtain further information on this study and the Committee will consider any further information that can be obtained and review the position if a full report of the study is published in the peer-reviewed literature.

"The Committee also notes that Dr Ermakova's findings are not consistent with those described in a peer-reviewed paper published in 2004.1 In a well controlled study no adverse effects were found in mice fed on diets containing 21% GM herbicide-resistant soya beans and followed through up to 4 generations."
- Statement on the effect of GM soya on newborn rats. Advisory Committee on Novel Foods and Processes (5.12.05).

ACNFP follows the industry line in citing a paper by Brake and Evenson that found "no adverse effects" in mice fed GM soy. Dr Pusztai comments:

"I shall have to draw the attention of the ACNFP experts to the fact that Brake and Evenson actually studied testicular development in male mice and, that, unless these animals had a sex change, the results can have limited value and relevance to the pregnant female rats in Ermakova's study.

"The ACNFP's nutritional expertise comes as bit of a surprise to me. Although it is quite true that we know very little about the GM and the non-GM soybean samples Ermakova used in her study, at least she tried to keep the animals on a feeding regime that is better described than in the Brake and Evenson paper which is being held up as the "gold standard". I know that two poorly described experiments do not make a good one but the ACNFP's experts should not have referred to a paper that was not even as good as Ermakova's description of her experiment.

"... Unfortunately, the authors should have consulted someone with a firm grasp of nutritional principles and design because their flawed design of feeding (as described in the paper) from the start has made it impossible for them to draw any meaningful conclusions."

Dr Pusztai also points to the way in which the issue of lack of peer reviewed publication is being used by the ACNFP against Dr Ermakova, when in fact the head of the ACNFP and others, including a former head of the ACNFP (Derek Burke) and the Royal Society, have in the past sought to fudge the issue of peer review when they have found it useful as a means of contradicting research in the peer reviewed literature that raised questions about GM. In particular, they cited research that had been presented verbally at a conference as "peer reviewed", though when Dr Ermakova did the same, suddenly this means of presenting research did not count as peer review!

In an article for BioSpectrum, Dr Arpad Pusztai argues that artificial gene constructs may undergo mutation and evolution, thereby making the safety assessment of GM crops an exercise without a firm predictive scientific basis.

It is ... not unreasonable to suggest that the environmental and health risks or safety assessments of GE crops/foods should not be carried out only by biotechnology companies but it must also be verified by independent scientists through a transparent funding system ... In democracies it is the people's inalienable right that they should be able to decide whether society can afford to take on the very real risks and the possibly dangerous consequences of genetic engineering for the possibly vain hope of some future benefits for society.


Columnist Michael Fumento's failure to disclose payments to him in 1999 from the GM giant has now caused Scripps Howard to sever its ties to him, reports Business Week.

Scripps Howard News Service announced January 13 that it is severing its business relationship with Fumento, who's a senior fellow at the conservative Hudson Institute. The move comes after inquiries from BusinessWeek Online about payments Fumento received from Monsanto - a frequent subject of praise in Fumento's opinion columns and a book.

Scripps Howard News Service Editor Peter Copeland said Fumento "did not tell SHNS editors, and therefore we did not tell our readers, that in 1999 Hudson recieved a $60,000 grant from Monsanto." Copeland added: "Our policy is that he should have disclosed that information. We apologize to our readers." In the January 5 column, Fumento wrote that Monsanto has about 30 products in the pipeline that will aid farmers, "but also help us all by keeping prices down and allowing more crops to be grown on less land."

In his career at Hudson, Fumento has carved out a speciality debunking critics of the agribusiness and biotechnology industries. In 1999, he says, he solicited $60,000 from Monsanto to write a book on the business. The book, entitled BioEvolution was published in 2003. A spokesman for Monsanto confirmed the payments to the Hudson Institute.

Asked about the payments, Fumento says, "I'm just extremely pro-biotech." He says he solicited several agribusiness companies to finance his book. "I went after everybody, I've got to be honest," Fumento says of his fund-raising effort. "I told them that if I tell the truth in this book, the biotech industry is going to look really good, and you should contribute."

The Monsanto grant, he says, flowed from the company to the Hudson Institute to support his work. A portion went to overhead and "most of it" went into his salary. He says the money was simply folded into his salary for that year, and therefore represented no windfall to him personally.[!!!]

GM Watch comment: Fumento doesn't just connect to the Hudson Institute - the well-known home of Dennis and Alex Avery - but to the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which co-founded AgBioview.
Fumento's bio is at:

The news that the pro-biotech columnist Michael Fumento has had $60,000 worth of support out of Monsanto has raised questions about what other public commentators may enjoy similar backing.

A piece for on this topic draws extensively on the work of GM Watch editor Jonathan Matthews and is best read on the web page for the multiple links:

Lord Taverne, chairman of lobby group Sense About Science, has done a GM-promotional for Monsanto.

The video can be seen via:
Transcript of the interview here:

In the video Taverne claims that Bt cotton is "benefiting small farmers all over the world"! This in spite of countless reports of the crop's damaging agronomic and economic failure in countries like Indonesia, India and South Africa.

Although Taverne heads Sense About Science, he has no background in science. One well-known scientist told GM Watch, "This self-promoting joker has neither sense nor science, and for an opinion on GM we may as well consult our milkman. He may well be more sensible."

But now that Mr. S. has given up on us, posting this is prolly pointless, eh?

Lucy said...

Thanks shiller for pointing out just how emmbarassed I now feel. Sheesh without you I would be lost.

And just where are the facts to back up your claims and rhetoric you have written here on these blog comments? No where and that kind of puts you in an embarassing situation. That and the fact your work does not seem to be done here at all (opps... another embarassing situation on your part, you are on a roll brother.)

See you around campus spewer.