Toxic regulation

September 2015
Water pollution in United States. Photo Creative Commons
In a US radio show this year, former President Jimmy Carter described the US presidential elections as degenerated into nothing more than an "oligarchy, with unlimited political bribery".

Cynical financial control of US regulators and regulations is nowhere more obvious than in GM matters.

Since 2013, food and biotech companies and their trade bodies have spent £143 million in lobbying against GM labelling laws: they spent £51.6 million in the first half of 2015 alone.

The 275 members of Congress who voted for an Act designed to pre-empt implementation of GM labelling laws at State level*, accepted $29.9 million from Big Ag and Big Food in 2014.

*This Act has been dubbed the 'DARK' (Deny Americans the Right to Know) Act.

Bees with dementia

September 2015

Photo Creative Commons
The possibility that neurotoxic effects of glyphosate herbicide (used on most GM crops) could be one of many contributing factors to bee die-off was suggested earlier this year [1].

The following month, a paper was published describing effects of glyphosate on honeybees' ability to navigate back to their hive.

Oops, no worms!

September 2015

Photo Creative Commons
Earlier this year, we reported an Argentinean experiment in which a commonly-tested earthworm species was annihilated by a single spray of glyphosate herbicide [1]. Now an Austrian team have added data on two other earthworm species which fully support the self-same disaster-scenario.

Earthworms are vital to sustainable soil fertility. Up to 1000 individuals in each square meter of land act as ecosystem engineers: they shred plant litter and process it in their gut making nutrients available to plants; their burrowing aerates the soil and enhances water- and root-penetration.

Chemicals which harm the worms in soil are bad news.

Although it's heavily used on GM crops because most have been transformed to tolerate it, the very idea that glyphosate herbicide (active ingredient of 'Roundup') could be detrimental to earthworms has barely been entertained. After all, this chemical interferes with a biochemical pathway found only in plants, and the plant litter generated by the dying weeds will provide extra food for the worms. Glyphosate is obviously safe for animals, and obviously has benefits for nature.

Or does it?

Science says otherwise.

Systems biology predicts formaldeyhde in GM

September 2015

The latest approach to studying life-processes is 'systems biology'. This provides a means to create a holistic model by integrating all the existing data describing individual parts of biochemical pathways.

Systems biology involves using a computer-generated simulation of biochemical networks. Because it can be used to predict the harmful effects which might arise from perturbations, it can be used to give an indication of future experimental requirements. Such a guide is especially useful when the substance in question is difficult to measure.

Ombudsman rules universities biased

September 2015

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NGOs, MEPs, and journalists who do their homework have been raising concerns for some years that 'independent' advisers to government are failing to use independent sources to inform themselves.

For example, when Germany reviewed glyphosate herbicide for re-authorisation in the EU, it based its recommendation on a report prepared by the 'Glyphosate Task Force'; this is an organisation set up by agrichemical companies specifically to promote the re-registration of glyphosate, a chemical central to their GM crops and profits.

In the latter case there was a blatant conflict of interest, but it isn't always so obvious.

GM crops compromise science

September 2015

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The recent analysis of rodent chow used by laboratories and breeders which found multiple toxic contamination in all samples tested from all over the world has cast doubt on an awful lot of science [1].

If both test and control (comparator) animals in an experiment are consuming a back-ground level of toxins, any additional effect arising from the test-substance (a GM food or a pesticide, for example) will have to be massive to stand out above the noise.

The upshot is that regulators can wrongly conclude a substance under test is safe because the 'science' shows there's no significant difference between the exposed animals and the unexposed controls ... because they're both sick.