News regarding the dangers of GMOs and biotech, and the advantages of organic sustainable agriculture.
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.
A new review of the scientific literature has found that exposure to glyphosate, the active ingredient in glyphosate herbicides like Roundup, impairs the foraging behaviour of honeybee workers and has adverse effects at different levels within the colony. Key points from the review include: * In 2015, of the 179.9 million ha of global GMO crop area, about 84% contained crops that carried herbicide-resistant genes. Most GMO crops are engineered for tolerance to glyphosate herbicides. * Glyphosate herbicides are also used on many non-GMO crops and in non-farm environments. * Honeybees' ingestion of food containing high concentrations of glyphosate resulted in a higher proportion of disoriented foragers. Despite this, honeybees continued foraging from resources that contain glyphosate traces. These sublethal effects on their learning abilities could impact not only the foraging efficiency, but also the coordination of collective activities within the colony. * Honeybees' ability to establish an association between an odour and a sucrose reward was impaired by an acute exposure to glyphosate. * There is evidence that glyphosate diminishes short-term memory retention in honeybees. * Honeybee colonies that are permanently exposed to glyphosate are likely to show a deficit in information propagation and nectar distribution. * Glyphosate causes changes in gut microbiota and greater susceptibility to pathogens and malnutrition.
With the fall season in full swing and harvest season upon us, most states feature farmer's markets where it is possible to purchase fresh food directly from the farm, while cutting out the middlemen that are typically involved in getting food to the consumer. However, just being in a farmer's market does not guarantee that the vendor is selling healthy food. Large farms that supply the same commodity-based food that you find in grocery stores will often have stands in farmer's markets as well. Fraud and deception can be just as common in farmer's markets as it is in chain grocery stores, but often consumers let their guard down simply because the illusion is that food at farmer's markets is healthier. And with the erosion of national standards to obtain USDA organic certification, simply being certified organic is not enough to ensure you are buying clean food. In fact, the costs of maintaining USDA organic certification may be prohibitive for the smaller-scale farmers, where today the healthiest food might be from these smaller-scale farmers who do not have organic certification. Asking the right questions, and if possible visiting the actual farm, is the best way to find the healthiest foods at farmer's markets.
Oxitec is proposing to release its genetically modified (GM) OX5034 Aedes aegypti mosquitoes in the US states of Florida and Texas. The EPA has opened a public comment period. Oxitec's application says, "Female offspring of the OX5034 mosquitoes in the environment are expected to die before they mature into adults and therefore exposure to biting female mosquitoes is not anticipated." However, experience with another strain of Oxitec mosquito, OX513A, shows that Oxitec's claims that its GM mosquitoes are self-limiting are unreliable. The GM mosquitoes ended up breeding with native mosquitoes, transferring their genes into the natural population and forming hybrid mosquitoes that may be more vigorous and have a different disease-carrying potential. Please write to the EPA objecting to the release.