Bees do what?

August 2014

The positive risk assessments of GM grain crops  have been based on the premise that, because they are  adapted for wind pollination and largely self-pollinating, there is little concern about gene-flow from them into other crops.
Grain crop have a flower structure which aids wind-pollination, and their pollen is not well adapted for carriage by insects.  Tests have shown that the amounts of pollen carried by wind  decrease exponentially with distance from the crop, reaching zero within a few meters.  Also, pollen is short-lived.  The risk of gene pollution arising from GM grain crops has, therefore, been considered effectively zero.
However, a recently published study has challenged this view.

Protecting confused Americans?

August 2014
Nine ... Million ... Dollars ... In three months

That's how much US lobbyists spent in the first quarter of 2014 to keep Americans in the dark about the GMOs in their food (Organic Consumers' Association).

The excuse?
A Congressional Panel on Biotechology has backed industry efforts to avoid GM labelling by explaining it would “frighten” and “confuse” consumers.

Golden rice going bananas

August 2014
Photo of hands holding golden rice in fron ot plant stems.
Golden Rice. CC photo by IRRI photos on Flickr
Academics seem to be going bananas over the crimes against humanity perpetrated by all those green NGOs and individuals who keep voicing their concerns about GM food.

Last year, some eminent international scientists got together to write a letter to a top science magazine. Their aim was to broadcast the role of the green movement in delaying the development of 'golden rice'. They claim this wondrous, philanthropic rice has been genetically transformed to produce vitamin-A to save the poor in countries where many suffer from malnourishment.

This year, a group of academics at the University of California prepared a report for their university's bi-monthly publication. Their aim was to expose the presence of 'powerful forces that hide behind environmentalism' and which are blocking the development of golden rice.

The refrain has, of course, been eagerly picked up by others in the pro-GM lobby [1].

Roundup harms farm-worker fertility

August 2014

Gilles-Eric Séralini. CC photo by Alberto Novl on Flickr
French Professor, Gilles-Eric Séralini, has been been a major thorn in biotech industry flesh for some time.

He has pointed out that the 'proof' of safety of GM crops and their associated herbicide, 'Roundup' has been manipulated to skirt evidence of harm: key test materials have been excluded, exposure times have been curtailed, and the parameters measured have been limitated. When differences have been too obvious to ignore, they have been dismissed as “not biologically meaningful” (Séralini, republished). His suggestions that there were signs of endocrine disruption were met with an orchestrated attempt to discredit him [1,2].

However, Prof Séralini is a scientist, and has no time for PR stunts. His reaction to his critics has been to do the science, to set about carrying out the experiments which should have been done at the dawn of GM.

Unfortunately for the biotech industry, each experiment published is more damning than the one before.

Quiet GM exit

August 2014

Photo of maize plants in a field
Maize crop. CC photo by Manu on Flickr
While a major damage limitation exercise swung into motion in response to science which flagged up harmful effects from a GM 'Roundup Ready' maize and its associated herbicide, 'Roundup', [1,2,3], other meaningful action was going on behind the scenes.

During the year after the publication of the offending study, Monsanto and US biotech firm Pioneer quietly withdrew their EU applications for the cultivation of four GM crops. All of them were Roundup-tolerant: two of them were hybrids of maize 'NK603', the strain in which harmful effects were identified.

We are left with any amount of GM Roundup-contaminated animal feed imported from overseas in our food chain.

Also, there are still EU applications pending to import and cultivate two Syngenta glyphosate-tolerant maize crops and one Bayer glyphosate-tolerant cotton crop. Note that by-products of cotton production feature very heavily in our food chain in the form of animal feed and 'vegetable' oil.


Biotech companies may be taking the recent negative science about GM safety more seriously than they claim.

However, while the focus has been on the biggest US offender, it seems that Syngenta (Swiss) and Bayer (German) have been somewhat under the radar. See what you can do to make them as aware of the problems as everyone else seems to be. The media and your MEP are good places to start.

[1] GM MAIZE ISNOT SAFE TO EAT - October 2012
[2] TORCHING THE SCIENCE - December 2013
[3] FOLLOW-UP OR COVER-UP? - News, August 2014

  • Monsanto and Pioneer withdraw another four applications for the cultivation of genetically engineered crops in the EU,, 1.07.14

Follow up or cover up?

August 2014

French maize. CC photo by Craig McGinty on Flickr
The scientific, and rational, response to a feeding experiment which indicates toxic, tumour-promoting and endocrine effects from a novel food is to repeat it for confirmation.

When Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini's study on a GM maize and its associated herbicide, 'Roundup', flagged up just these problems [1], the European Union announced a two-year carcinogenicity study on the maize, and the French Government announced that it would allocate Є3.7 million (more than the original project) to follow up the findings.

After the decades-long history of failure to follow up on adverse findings relating to GM food, this was good news indeed.

However, hopes of a credible confirmation of Séralini's experiment have been dashed.

Problem GMO feeding study republished

August 2014

Photo of French scientist Giles-Eric Séralini
Giles-Eric Séralini.
CC photo by Alberto Novl on Flickr
Just seven months after a ground-breaking, but biotech-unfriendly, long-term GM feeding study was withdrawn by the editor of the journal which had published it, the paper has been re-published in another scientific journal [1,2] .

The study, carried out by a French team led by Professor Giles-Eric Séralini, recorded health-effects in rats fed 'Roundup' herbicide and the GM 'Roundup Ready' GM maize, NK603, which accumulates the herbicide. Its data showed adverse effects on kidney and liver function, hormone disruption, reduced life-span, and a promotion of tumour development. This proved deeply unpopular with the pro-biotech lobby which launched a 'vicious' attack against the science and the researchers. After a lengthy deliberation the journal editor was moved to withdraw the paper.

However, the re-published study presents exactly the same results as before, and reaches exactly the same conclusions as before.

Westminster's new Environment Secretary

August 2014

Owen Paterson. Photo Wiki Commons
The Westminster/Owen Paterson plot to kick-start GM crop development in the UK [1,2,3] seems to have reached the end of its first leg.

Courtesy of (former) Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, the EU Council was persuaded to break the deadlock on GM crops by allowing those pesky GM-resisting members to opt-out [4]. This appears to open the door wide for GM development in the UK.

However, Owen Paterson has been fired from his post.

The reason for Paterson's removal isn't clear. He seems to have been very active and effective on GM, and it seems unlikely the Prime Minister noticed anything amiss with his grasp of science.