Patenting the future

June 2011

groups warn of gmo expansion in the phils (4)
Photo from Flickr
In December 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) made a landmark decision that the process of conventional plant breeding could not be patented.

Concerns were voiced at the time that the move was window dressing, and that all the products of conventional breeding would still be patentable.

Sure enough, almost immediately, a patent was granted on a conventionally bred tomato with a reduced core. Five months on, melons too became a Monsanto 'invention', complete with patent.

In a blatant case of biopiracy, non-sweet virus-resistant melons from India have been bred with sweet melons from elsewhere to produce disease-resistant strains.

Roundup and birth defects - a new report

June 2011

7 months and counting
Photo from Flickr
'Roundup' herbicide is toxic, and not only to plants. In animals, it causes “endocrine disruption, damage to DNA, reproductive and developmental toxicity, neuro-toxicity, and cancer, as well as birth defects.”

The science has been summarised in a new report, “Roundup and Birth defects”, co-authored by a group of international scientists and researchers.

The Report details the published, peer-reviewed, freely accessible and mounting evidence of harmful effects. Some of the findings are recent, but some go back a far as the 1980s. All of them have been ignored.

Roundup and Birth Defects” also asks “Is the public being kept in the dark?” The question is answered in a blow-by-blow account of how EU regulators have manipulated the information presented to them to promote and preserve the Roundup in your food chain and to protect the interests of the biotech industry.

A true scientist's look at the evidence

June 2011

Fran Murrell, co-founder of Australia's Mothers Are Demystifying Genetic Engineering (MADGE), describes how she became an anti-GM campaigner: 
“I was curious about genetic modification of plants – it struck me as a promising idea – so I went to talks given by various GM proponents. It worried me that they were just talking in generalities, saying it was 'highly unlikely' there was any health risk from GM. That struck me as unscientific; it was like they were presenting the truth from on high to the lesser mortals.”
Like many other campaigners, Murrell noticed that as soon as she scratched the surface of the pro-GM hype, there were plenty of unsupported assumptions underneath, but little scientific substance.

Roundup Ready beet legal saga

June 2011

beet topper
Harvesting sugar beet
Photo from Flickr
The tortuous issue of GM sugar beet, transformed to resist Roundup herbicide, has come to its final conclusion.

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has been ordered to prepare a full rigorous review of the environmental impacts of the GM beet before re-considering its future commercial use.

All planting of Monsanto's patented beet must stop and all GM beet planted since the initial ruling (now upheld) must be destroyed. As a regulated plant, GM beet is now illegal to grow commercially.

Irresponsible soya by any other name

June 2011

Field of GM soya
Photo © Greenpeace / Alexandra Buxbaum
In 2005, the World Wildlife Fund proposed the creation of the “Roundtable on Responsible Soy” (RTRS).

No doubt formed with the best of intentions, the RTRS is a multi-stakeholder forum which labels soya products 'sustainable' if they fulfill its defined criteria on the protection of wild-life, responsible pesticide use, and workers' rights.

The prime motivation of the supporters of the RTRS is to promote the use of soya food products and soya-based biofuels. Its members include many multinational corporations such as Monsanto, Syngenta, Cargill (grain suppliers), Shell and BP, all of which have an alarming history of human rights and environmental violations. They also have a history of developing and promoting GM crops, and have managed to persuade the world that GM soya is 'responsible'.

Mashing GM potatoes

June 2011

Activists blockade BASF warehouse
© Greenpeace / Christian ├ůslund
In the north of Sweden, biotech giant, BASF, is trying to plant Amflora, GM potatoes (for background see EU TO CULTIVATE HOT POTATO, GMFS News Archive, May 2010). The Swedes are not known for hot-blooded activism, but nevertheless, have been riled enough to block the entrance to BASF's potato warehouse. (Find out more here.)

They are particularly incensed that their government has has been openly critical of the weaknesses in the current EU GMO regulations and has asked for them to be strengthened, but at the same time has not taken any action to prevent Amflora from being cultivated in Sweden.

The activists are concerned that Amflora has been approved without sufficient independent studies, without an environmental risk assessment, without toxicity studies for animals or humans, and that the presence of an antibiotic resistance marker gene was simply ignored.

Botox apples

June 2011

Apple fruit
Photo from Flickr
The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) has received its first request for approval of a GM apple.

Currently, sliced apples to be sold fresh are rinsed in acids to prevent browning of the flesh and “maintain freshness” (you can do much the same at home with a little fruit juice).

Gene-silencing technology developed in Australia to prevent potatoes browning when cut has been licensed by a Canadian biotech company and applied to apples, for sale in America. The aim of the ever-white apple is to reduce processing costs and make apples more amenable to producers of ready-meals and children's lunch-boxes.

Awakening the American lion

June 2011

A confluence of protests at the White House
GMO protest. Photo from Flickr
Guerrilla theatre, aimed at educating shoppers about the GM nature of what's being sold to them, is in progress in major cities across the USA. Activists, covered head-to-toe in white HAZMAT suits, have been dramatically busy: they buy well-known health-food brand items with GM-suspect ingredients, put a GM-warning label on them, and ceremoniously dump them in a biohazard bin where people can see them.

The 'GMO Food Dump' campaign has started by targeting one of the main sources of consumer confusion: the large whole-food retailers. Its aim is to stop the shops from misleading their customers by selling GM foods without any label.