A constant supply of GMO contamination

June 2015
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Switzerland has never allowed the cultivation nor import of GM oilseed rape. Despite this, in 2011 and 2012, GM rape was found to be growing wild along railway lines near the freight station and in port areas in Basel.

The following year, further more detailed sampling was carried out to investigate how this has come about.

Answer to bee die-off?

June 2015
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Bee die-off is soaring alarmingly in America. US government figures show that honeybee mortality has risen to 42% in the past year. While hives will shrink over the winter, losses in excess of 15% are deemed unsustainable.

A whole range of factors has been blamed for the bee deaths, including virus-bearing mites, winter food insufficiency, trucking the hives around the country to rent-a-bee at sites where mass crop pollination is needed, and non-target effects of applied and systemic insecticides.

Hives which are already too small and weak at the start of the winter, simply won't survive.

Herbicides may promote superbugs

June 2015
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Evidence of another insidiously harmful effect of Roundup herbicide has been published. Scientists in New Zealand presented findings which extend to Roundup and two other common commercial herbicides (Dicamba and 2,4-D) which, like Roundup, are sprayed on crops genetically transformed to tolerate them and are used in parks, roadways and gardens.

It seems antibiotics and herbicides don't mix.

GM soya harms aquatic life

June 2015
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At the beginning of the year, a GM feeding-study was published which investigated important life-history parameters not previously recorded.

The experiment involved Daphnia, a tiny shrimp-like freshwater animal which has been extensively studied and is used as an eco-indicator for environmental problems because of its importance in many food webs.

The US race to become GM-free

June 2015
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Labelling of GM food in America came "one giant step closer" in April when a federal court affirmed that Vermont's new law requiring GM disclosure was constitutional.
 
The plaintiffs in this case were representatives of America's largest food manufacturers the Grocery Manufacturer's Association (GMA), Snack Food Association and others. These huge and powerful organisations have been pouring tens of millions of dollars into anti-labelling campaigns across the States. Just why the GMA is fighting so hard to prevent something its members' customers have said they want isn't clear, especially since the larger food manufacturers already sell labelled GM foods all over the world.
 
Ironically, Vermont is one of the smallest States in America and would seem to have the least resources to fight Big Food, and yet it has achieved a ruling on the rights of its citizens which will have repercussions throughout the land.

Genetic firewalls

June 2015
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Proteins are made up from chains of standard building blocks termed 'amino-acids'. Amino acids can react with each other to form a chain, and have a side-arm which can be any one of some 24 specific molecules each having its own particular properties. The important properties of the amino-acid side-arms include, for example, size, shape, reactivity, bonding capacity and electrical charges. It's the specific sequence of amino-acid side-chains which dictate the properties of the protein they make up, for example, how it folds into a 3-dimensional shape, what chemicals or chemical groups it can react with or bind to, how easily it can be digested, and its toxicity.
 
Chemical engineers can create an almost infinite variety of artificial amino-acids by attaching novel side-arms. Unnatural amino-acids aren't any use to natural living organisms, but biotech scientists have hit on them as a basis for terminator technology for their genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The principle is that an essential enzyme (see below) is cleverly redesigned to incorporate a novel amino-acid while still preserving its enzymic function. 

Four generations to snail Armageddon

June 2015

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A recent publication has just blown yet another hole in the 'Roundup is safe for animals' myth.

In Egypt, the equivalent product to Roundup is 'Herfosate'. Herfosate is made up of 48% glyphosate herbicide and 52% 'inert' ingredients needed to allow the glyphosate to penetrate plant cells. 

Such glyphosate-based herbicides are widely used to control weeds in fields of GM glyphosate-resistant crops as well as for pre-planting field-clearance, pre-harvest dry-down, waterway clearance, and weed-control in urban public areas and private gardens. A proportion of the spray ends up in surrounding areas, in the soil and in drainage water.