GMO free Russia

August 2016
Russian market. Photo Creative Commons
Over the past two years, Russia has chosen its path forward.
While America is pouring its agri-energy into feeding the global market, especially with GMOs, and trying to get everyone else to do the same, Russia has set itself some very different goals.
By 2020, it aims to fully meet the Russian demand for locally produced Russian food. 

Bt is self-limiting

August 2016
Warnings about the potential for 'Bt' insecticidal GM crops to trigger rapid pest resistance have been voiced since these novel plants first arrived on the market.

Unlike a chemical spray designed to wipe out all the pests in the treated area, but short-lived, Bt-toxin generated inside a GM plant is there all the time but not necessarily in sufficient quantities to kill: these are perfect conditions for the evolution of resistance.

Moreover, assumptions that Bt-resistance would come with a self-limiting fitness cost to the pest, or that Bt resistance would require a pair of genetic mutations which happened to come together rather than one single dominant mutation, or that all farmers would go to the trouble of planting a non-Bt plot to harbour a supply of normal, susceptible pests, have all proved limited in practice.

The biotech industry answer to pest resistance is, of course, more Bt.

GM-free fed Lidl

August 2016
Photo Creative Commons
If you follow the business news, you'll be aware that the Big Four UK grocers have seen their sales figures go into reverse in the past few months. Tesco, Sainsbury's, Morrisons and Asda are just discovering that, in uncertain times, customers are less interested in choice and brand names than they are in value-for-money.

German 'discounter' Lidl, which offers select bulk-bought staple products at a minimum price, is one of the up-and-coming grocers into which the Big Four's customers are diverting.

Glyphosate links to rheumatoid arthritis

August 2016
Photo Creative Commons
Looking for adverse effects of exposure to glyphosate herbicide in the general population is well-nigh impossible. Glyphosate-based formulations (sold as 'Roundup') have been widely used for decades to control weeds in both rural and urban settings. Since the deployment of glyphosate-accumulating GM crops in the 1990s, the herbicide has been an increasing presence in our food chain, in water, and in the wind [1]. No one knows how much glyphosate they've been exposed to, nor when, nor how long, and there's no unexposed 'control' group for comparison.

And then, you have to figure out what disease(s) or symptom(s) you're looking for in relation to a chemical which has never been clinically tested and may be interacting with a host of other environmental pollutants.

However, an attempt to investigate links between adverse effects on the population and a range of agri-chemicals, including glyphosate, was published recently.

The real golden rice story

August 2016
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Like a bad penny, Golden Rice just keeps on turning up in the media [1].

GM zealots continue to blame environmentalists for the failure of the vitamin-A enhanced GM rice to reach the fields and for the loss of "hundreds of thousands of lives a year" due to vitamin-A deficiency (VAD).

Glyphosate harms the womb

August 2016
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The two words which agrichemical manufacturers least want to hear are "endocrine disruptor". These conjure up the spectres of fertility damage, cancer, no safe level of exposure, and commercial disaster.

Glyphosate-based herbicides, such as 'Roundup' formula, are used for urban and rural seed-clearance, for pre-harvest withering of seed and tubour crops, and are heavily applied to, and accumulated by, most GM crops. Residues of glyphosate-based herbicides are now ubiquitous in our air, water, soil, livestock and bodies [2]. This is not a presence you want to find associated with long-term harm, yet evidence has been mounting for some time that Roundup and its cousins are endocrine disruptors [1].

Due to widespread growing of Roundup Ready soya in Argentina and concerns about the health of the people near Roundup-sprayed areas [3], Argentinian scientists have been particularly busy checking the herbicide out.

The science and politics of GMO labelling

August 2016
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The 2016 Report of the US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NAS) titled "Genetically Engineered Crops: Experience and Prospects" dropped the hot potato of GM food labelling by pronouncing it a political issue not a scientific one. But, as agricultural economist Chuck Benbrook* said "It is obviously both".