News regarding the dangers of GMOs and biotech, and the advantages of organic sustainable agriculture.
A jury awarded $265 million in punitive damages against Bayer and BASF to a southeastern Missouri peach farmer who argued that weedkiller dicamba that had drifted onto his orchards from other farms had severely damaged his trees. The punitive damages awarded to farmer Bill Bader came a day after the jury awarded him $15 million in actual damages, agreeing with his argument that dicamba had drifted over from other farms and severely damaged Bader Farms, which is one of the largest peach farms in Missouri. Bader's attorneys argued that his trees likely wouldn't survive the dicamba exposure. The owners of Bader Farms alleged the companies conspired to create an “ecological disaster” that would induce farmers to buy dicamba-tolerant seeds.
Significant bioaccumulation of glyphosate has been documented in the kidney, an organ with known susceptibility to glyphosate. Glyphosate-induced kidney toxicity has been associated with disturbances in the expression of genes associated with fibrosis, necrosis and mitochondrial membrane dysfunction. Further, as noted by the Environmental Pollution study researchers, “Previous studies have associated glyphosate exposure with changes in renal function, kidney injury, and chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology. There is growing evidence linking glyphosate exposure with the epidemic of chronic kidney disease of unknown origin in farmworkers in Central America, Sri Lanka and central India.” Dr. Sarath Gunatilake, professor of health science at the University of California and Channa Jayasumana, Ph.D., a faculty member of Medicine and Allied Sciences at the Rajarata University of Sri Lanka, have published papers linking glyphosate exposure to chronic kidney disease of unknown etiology (CKDu) in Sri Lankan farmers.
Last year (2019), a report published by The Environmental Working Group (EWG) showed that virtually all of America’s breakfast cereals, consumed primarily by children, are contaminated with the toxic herbicide, glyphosate. Glyphosate is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp, and has been linked to cancer. Juries in recent court cases have awarded billions of dollars in damages to cancer victims who were exposed to glyphosate. This week, EWG is reporting that Kellogg is pledging to stop using glyphosate in the harvesting of grains by 2025. Kellogg's pledged to work with its wheat and oat suppliers to end the use of the herbicide, sold under the name Roundup, as a pre-harvest drying agent in all of its major crop markets, including the U.S., by 2025, according to a statement published on the company’s website and reported on by the Washington Post. While this is encouraging news that Kellogg will eventually phase out its usage of glyphosate, it is impossible for any company producing products from American grains to remove glyphosate from their products today. Even getting the other cereal producers like General Mills and Quaker to stop their grain farmers from using glyphosate to desiccate will not solve the problem. The reason for this is because even USDA certified organic grains in the U.S. today are contaminated with glyphosate, as are conventional crops that do not spray their crops with glyphosate at harvest. So how do you find food that is not contaminated with glyphosate?
As we have reported many times since 2014, America has a major problem with its wheat supply. Virtually all of the wheat grown in the northern climates is contaminated. There is currently no GMO wheat grown in the U.S., even though from time to time a farmer will find wheat growing that does not die when sprayed with glyphosate herbicides. These are no doubt rogue varieties of wheat left over from GMO test plots years ago, but there is currently no commercially grown GMO wheat. And yet, most of the nation's wheat is contaminated with glyphosate. This is because of the practice of "desiccation," where farmers will apply the herbicide RoundUp with glyphosate to kill the wheat so it can be harvested at a convenient time, like before the first snow fall. Glyphosate is now linked to cancer as well as many other diseases. Some scientists believe that the gluten intolerance epidemic we face in the U.S. has less to do with wheat and gluten than it does with the contamination of the wheat supply with glyphosate. A new study just published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, may have identified another problem with America's wheat supply that is desiccated at harvest with glyphosate. The title of the study is PRE-HARVEST GLYPHOSATE APPLICATION DURING WHEAT CULTIVATION: EFFECTS ON WHEAT STARCH PHYSICOCHEMICAL PROPERTIES. The study looks at the maturity of the wheat when it is desiccated with glyphosate and the digestibility of the starch in wheat. When glyphosate is applied before the wheat is mature, it affects the physicochemical properties of the starch.
Earlier this month (December 2019) the International Rice Research Institute in the Philippines announced that they had approved the genetically modified "Golden Rice" for "direct use as food and feed, or for processing." Health Impact News has been covering GM "Golden Rice" for over 8 years now, and the controversy surrounding it. The scientific evidence that GM Golden Rice could improve nutrition and deficiencies in Vitamin A has been very weak, and the product was considered "dead" until the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation intervened in 2011 with $20 million to continue developing the product. After years of field trials in the Philippines with very negative outcomes, farmers in the Philippines have protested against its approval. Dr. Chito Medina, National Coordinator of the farmer-scientist group MASIPAG stated in 2014: “Our opposition to Golden Rice and other GM crops are founded on solid arguments and actual experiences of Filipino farmers on GM crops. Filipino farmers who have been planting GM crops suffered negative income, health problems and poisoned environment.” He cited the study made by MASIPAG in which farmers who adopted GM corn suffered further indebtedness, health problems and a poisoned environment.
The Mexican government says it won’t allow a 1,000-ton shipment of the pesticide glyphosate into the country, citing health and environmental concerns. Mexico became the latest in a string of countries to announce bans on glyphosate, the active ingredient in weed killer Roundup. Mexico’s environment department said Monday it denied a permit to import glyphosate, presumably for agricultural use. The department said “glyphosate represents a high environmental risk, given the credible presumption that its use can cause serious environmental damage and irreversible health damage.”
The international food conglomerate Cargill is ramping up commercial-scale production of its genetically engineered sweetener, EverSweet, in a new $50 million production facility that began operating this week in Blair, Nebraska. The plant will “be producing enough EverSweet to sweeten many millions of bottles/cans of soft drinks or servings of yogurt each month,” according to a Cargill spokesman. Cargill is marketing its new stevia substitute as “non-artificial.” What does that mean? Consumers who click on the link provided in the press release will not get a straight answer. The web page twists itself in knots trying to describe the new process, which involves genetically engineering yeast to convert sugar molecules into a substance that mimics the taste of stevia, as a “centuries old technique” — without once mentioning genetic engineering or the genetic modified organisms (GMOs) used to make the product. Cargill told the Star Tribune it does not market EverSweet as “natural” – so “non-artificial” it is. The subterfuge doesn’t end there.
There are currently more than 42,000 people suing Monsanto in the United States, alleging that Monsanto’s herbicides cause non-Hodgkin lymphoma. The lawsuits additionally allege that the company was well aware of the dangers but did nothing to warn consumers, working instead to manipulate the scientific record. Many lawyers are involved in more than one of the cases, and all have overlapping expert witnesses, setting up organizational and resource challenges for both sides. Multiple trials that had been set for this fall were delayed until next year. In the meantime, both sides of the litigation are keeping an eye on the California Appellate Court, where lawyers for plaintiff Dewayne “Lee” Johnson and lawyers for Monsanto are awaiting a date for oral arguments in their cross appeals. Monsanto is seeking to overturn the unanimous jury decision handed down against the company in August 2018. The trial judge in that case lowered the jury award from $289 million to $78 million and Johnson is appealing for the reinstatement of the full $289 million. Johnson was the first to go to trial against Monsanto and his victory sent share prices in Bayer plummeting just two months after Bayer closed the purchase of Monsanto in June 2018. Johnson was granted “trial preference” due to predictions by his doctors that he did not have long to live. Johnson has outlived those predictions, though his health continues to decline. As the litigation drags on, several plaintiffs have died or are nearing death, or have suffered such extreme health problems that their ability to undergo the rigors of depositions and trials has become limited. In some cases, family members are being substituted as plaintiffs for deceased loved ones. In legal parlance, the notices to the courts are titled “Suggestion of Death.”
Monsanto is making the news these days for losing. They have lost three court cases in which Roundup has been linked to cancer. In India, they are losing, too. After years of pushing a strain of Bt Cotton, Indian farmers have had enough and are switching back to native seeds for the cotton industry. It’s been a hard road for cotton farmers in India dealing with Monsanto. To begin with, Monsanto illegally began open field trials of its GMO Bt cotton in 1997 and announced it would begin selling seeds the following year. In turn, the Indian Supreme Court would not allow the biotech giant to sell seeds until 2002. Since then, over 300,000 Indian farmers have committed suicide. It is believed that many of these suicides were linked to major debts incurred by the systematic control of Monsanto and Bt cotton. Expensive seeds and the pesticides needed can only be bought from Monsanto. The agricultural ministry of India stated, “Cotton farmers are in a deep crisis since shifting to Bt cotton. The spate of farmer suicides in 2011-12 has been particularly severe among Bt cotton farmers.” Monsanto’s Bt cotton seeds have been dubbed “Seeds of Suicide” by residents in India. And now, India is waking up and ready to fight back. The Indian government has begun to promote the use of native varieties of cotton, seeds more specific to each area. In the time that farmers have begun switching back to indigenous seeds, Monsanto has seen a loss of $75 million.
Last month the Food & Drug Administration published its latest annual analysis of the levels of pesticide residues that contaminate the fruits and veggies and other foods we Americans routinely put on our dinner plates. The fresh data adds to growing consumer concern and scientific debate over how pesticide residues in food may contribute – or not – to illness, disease and reproductive problems. Over 55 pages of data, charts and graphs, the FDA’s “Pesticide Residue Monitoring Program” report also provides a rather unappetizing example of the degree to which U.S. farmers have come to rely on synthetic insecticides, fungicides and herbicides in growing our food. We learn, for instance, in reading the latest report, that traces of pesticides were found in 84 percent of domestic samples of fruits, and 53 percent of vegetables, as well as 42 percent of grains and 73 percent of food samples simply listed as “other.” Roughly 94 percent of grapes, grape juice and raisins tested positive for pesticide residues as did 99 percent of strawberries, 88 percent of apples and apple juice, and 33 percent of rice products, according to the FDA data.