US Offering Its ‘Assistance’ To Push GMOs On Africa: Report

A woman processing millet in Senegal.  (Photo: Kevin Sharp/flickr/cc)

The U.S. government and multinational corporations have capitalized on African nations’ voids in regulatory frameworks to push genetically modified (GM) crops, standing to gain lucrative corporate profits while decimating food sovereignty, a new report states. Released Monday from the African Centre for Biosafety and commissioned by environmental network Friends of the Earth International, Who benefits from GM crops? The expansion of agribusiness interests in Africa through biosafety policy (pdf) looks at how U.S. interests have used the mantra of addressing food security to push these crops despite local opposition. “The U.S., the world’s top producer of GM crops, is seeking new markets for American GM crops in Africa,” stated report author Haidee Swanby. “The U.S. administration’s strategy consists of assisting African nations to produce biosafety laws that promote agribusiness interests instead of protecting Africans from the potential threats of GM crops.”

Only Agroecology Can Tackle The Global Food & Health Crisis

This colorful 'beetle bank' at Sandy Lane Organic Farm provides a haven for beneficial insects: pollinators and predators of pest species. Photo: Sandy Lane Farm, Oxfordshire, England.

The current global food crisis is simple and complex at the same time. Simple because all we need is sufficient, healthy food to eat and to share, for our medicine and to commune with nature, simple because it’s technically possible to have an abundance of healthy food. Yet we have made it a complex issue. We overeat, we don’t have enough to eat, we sell and buy cheap ‘food like substances’ whilst watching the rich and famous – who we aspire to – choosing not to eat these foods. We mechanise farms to reduce labour costs, we worry about the lack of rural jobs, and we go to gyms for exercise, fuelled by sugary ‘energy drinks’. We refine carbohydrates and become addicted to them yet we apply no regulation to manufacturing or accessing these ‘drugs’, we overeat again …

Over 360 Farmer Lawsuits Against Syngenta In China's GMO Case

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Farmers and farm businesses in 20 states have now filed more than 360 lawsuits against agricultural chemicals-maker Syngenta, and hundreds more may be coming as a federal judge organizes the complex case so they can move forward. The dispute centers around Syngenta’s sale of a corn seed called Agrisure Viptera, which was genetically altered to contain a protein that kills corn-eating bugs such as earworms and cutworms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved it in 2010, and Syngenta first sold it to farmers in 2011. China, a growing importer of U.S. corn that refuses to buy genetically modified crops it hasn’t tested, had not approved Viptera when Syngenta began selling it. In November 2013, China discovered the Viptera corn trait in several U.S. shipments.

USDA Approves ‘Untested, Inherently Risky’ GMO Apple

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On Friday, February 13, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approved the first genetically engineered apple, despite hundreds of thousands of petitions asking the USDA to reject it. In April 2013, we interviewed scientists about the genetic engineering technology used to create the Arctic Apple, whose only claim to fame is that it doesn’t turn brown when sliced. The benefit to consumers? Being able to eat apples without having any sense of how old they are? Here’s what we learned about the technology, called RNA interference, or double strand RNA (dsRNA), from Professor Jack Heinemann (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Sarah Agapito-Tenfen (from Santa Catarina University in Brazil) and Judy Carman (Flinders University in South Australia), all of whom said that dsRNA manipulation is untested, and therefore inherently risky. . .

Polish Farmers Block Motorways For Land Rights, No GMOs

A convoy of Polish tractors on the road as part of the biggest farmers' uprising the country has ever experienced. Photo: via Land Workers Alliance.

Poland’s biggest ever farmers’ protest is now entering its second week after closing down key motorways and main ‘A’ roads. Rallies and blockades have so far taken place in over 50 locations across the country involving thousands of small and family farmers. Over 150 tractors have been blockading the A2 motorway into Warsaw since the 3rd February and hundreds more have closed roads and are picketing governmental offices in other regions. The farmers are vowing to continue the struggle until the government agrees to enter talks with the union and address what the growing crisis in Polish agriculture, and roll back measures that unfairly discriminate against smaller family-run farms.

Reject Unregulated Genetically Engineered Loblolly Pines!

Protest at Tree Biotech Conference 2013. GE TRees

In an unprecedented and alarming move, the US Department of Agriculture has given GE tree company ArborGen permission to pursue commercial production of a genetically engineered (GE) loblolly pine with no regulatory oversight or environmental risk assessment. This decision was withheld from the US public for almost five months. This is the first genetically engineered forest tree to be approved for commercial production anywhere in the world (outside of China). The potential impacts to the public or to the environment will not be evaluated, and overwhelming public opposition to GE trees is being completely ignored. This decision sets a terrible and unacceptable precedent. If unchallenged, it will allow other GE trees, with even more dangerous traits, to be developed without any federal or public review.

Monsanto Earnings Fall 34% After Global Protests

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Monsanto said Wednesday its earnings fell 34% in its first fiscal quarter, as South American farmers cut back on planting corn, reducing demand for the company’s biotech-enhanced seeds. US farmers harvested record crops of soybeans and corn last year, sending prices on those food staples to their lowest levels in years. That has resulted in farmers in South America and elsewhere reducing the number of acres they dedicate to corn. Monsanto said its business was also affected by reduced cotton planting in Australia. The agriculture products company’s revenue fell more than 8% to $2.87bn in the period, on lower sales of corn seeds and herbicide. Analysts expected $2.96bn, according to Zacks. The St Louis-based company reported a profit of $243m, or 50 cents per share, down from $368m, or 69 cents per share in the same period last year.

What Big Food Is Hiding With Its Slick PR Campaign On GMOs

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U.S. Right to Know – a new nonprofit organization — released a new report today on Big Food’s PR campaign to defend GMOs: how it manipulated the media, public opinion and politics with sleazy tactics, bought science and PR spin. Since 2012, the agrichemical and food industries have mounted a complex, multifaceted public relations, advertising, lobbying and political campaign in the United States, costing more than $100 million, to defend genetically engineered food and crops and the pesticides that accompany them. The purpose of this campaign is to deceive the public, to deflect efforts to win the right to know what is in our food via labeling that is already required in 64 countries, and ultimately, to extend their profit stream for as long as possible.

Ukraine Agrees To Monsanto Land Grab For $17 Billion IMF Loan

Typical agricultural landscape of Ukraine, Kherson Oblast. Credit: Dobrych (Flickr)/CC-BY-SA-2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) is helping biotech run the latest war in Ukraine. Make no mistake that what is happening in the Ukraine now is deeply tied to the interests of Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, and other big players in the poison food game. Monsanto has an office in Ukraine. While this does not shout ‘culpability’ from every corner, it is no different than the US military’s habit to place bases in places that they want to gain political control. The opening of this office coincided with land grabs with loans from the IMF and World Bank to one of the world’s most hated corporations – all in support of their biotech takeover. Previously, there was a ban on private sector land ownership in the country – but it was lifted ‘just in time’ for Monsanto to have its way with the Ukraine.

New Double Bt Toxic Soy Just Approved By US Dept Of Agriculture

Bt GMOs were once promised to only harm pests, but these toxic proteins have affected human health. The USDA continues to approve these toxins and allows them to infiltrate into our food supply.

How about an EXTRA does of Bt toxins in your food? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has already given their rubber stamp toBacillus thuringiensis or Bt corn, cotton, potatoes, and soy that contain a soil dwelling bacterium used as a biological pesticide linked to negative immune system responses in a single dose, but now insect-resistant trait event DAS-81419-2, a double Bt toxin soy has now been de-regulated or ‘approved’ by our illustrious ‘protector of the food supply.’ he USDA’s deregulation of the two Bt protein trait to be allowed in soybeans through biotech engineering methods opens the door for other crops to be modified with additional Bt toxins as well. This ‘in-plant’ GM version of soy was created in order to protect against pests like fall army (Spodoptera frugiperda), soybean looper (Pseudoplusia includes), velvetbean caterpillar (Anticarsia gemmatalis), soybean podworm (Helicoverpa gelotopoeon) and tobacco budworm (Heliothis virescens) and Rachiplusia nu.

GMO-Free Food Sales Explode Amid Public Awareness

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Americans are speaking with their wallets like never before in order to voice our true collective opinion of how corporations and Big Food are working with our food. One critical example of how we are demanding change can be seen where the sale of non-GMO Project Verified foods have more than doubled since 2013. Verified GMO-free food sales were $3 billion in 2013 and were $8.5 billion in 2014! Not only that, organic food sales overall are projected to grow another 14% by 2018, and this is a modest estimate according to The United States Organic Food Market Forecast & Opportunities.

Despite Ban, Monsanto & Bayer GM Crops Contaminate Europe

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Europe banned the cultivation of GM rapeseed, but new studies prove that genetically modified Brassica napus L. is growing all over Switzerland. This is likely the first study of its kind to prove that cross-contamination (or possible illegal seed spreading by Biotech and Monsanto) is a bigger problem than anyone may have suspected. The study published in PLoS is titled, “Unexpected Diversity of Feral Genetically Modified Oilseed Rape (Brassica napus L.) Despite a Cultivation and Import Ban in Switzerland.” Of 105 plants sampled, 15 contained the banned GMO rapeseed variety. Though this was considered a ‘small’ contamination rate in the study, there obviously should be no GM plants present at all considering the ban. This is concerning, too, since once GM seeds are introduced into the wild, they can continue to cultivate, interbreeding with non-GM, local plants.

This Holiday Season Say NO To GMO Chestnuts

A nut rests in the spiny bur of a rare surviving American chestnut tree. A fungus wiped out almost all of the trees, which once numbered in the billions. (The American Chestnut Foundation/Via Associated Press)

ArborGen’s GE Eucalyptus trees will be an ecological disaster. They are non-native, invasive, water-greedy, suppress the growth of other vegetation, provide no habitat for wildlife, and are explosively flammable. And ArborGen wants to see them in huge plantations along the US Gulf Coast. So if the GE chestnut tree is truly “intended solely for the public good,” why is ArborGen involved? Why are they promoting them? For one reason. The GE American chestnut tree is being used to try to convince the public that GE trees can be beneficial. The hope is that they will help change the extremely powerful public opposition to GE trees and open up markets for new GE tree “products” that could mean big big profits for timber and biomass companies.

Dr. Bronner Reports: Front Lines Of Cannabis Reform & GMO Labeling

Dana Tims | dtims@oregonian.com By Dana Tims | dtims@oregonian.com  Email the author | Follow on Twitter  on September 22, 2014 at 8:30 AM, updated October 05, 2014 at 10:15 PM GMO NEWS Jackson County delays enforcement of GMO ban Oregon certifies defeat of Measure 92; GMO labeling loses by 837 votes Measure 92 recount results are in: GMO labeling loses by 837 votes Measure 92 recount: All but 2 Oregon counties have turned in new GMO results Measure 92: Judge says no to restraining order on GMO recount results All Stories | All Photos | All Videos In case you missed our story on Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps' big-time plunge into Oregon's pro-GMO labeling measure, here's your refresher course.  The most expensive food fight in Oregon history is just getting interesting, and David Bronner is smack in the middle of it.  Bronner is the CEO of Southern California's Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, a counter-culture-loving company known for minty, organically certified cleaning products and labels filled with more information than some magazines.  And he's now donating hundreds of thousands of dollars in company profits to help pass Measure 92, which if approved by voters in November would make Oregon one of the first states in the nation to require the labeling of genetically modified foods.  Connecticut and Maine have both passed GMO labeling laws, but they will only take effect if enough surrounding states approve similar measures. A labeling law in Vermont will take effect in 2016.  Bronner, 41, is a Harvard grad who prides himself on understanding the science underlying genetically modified foods and seeds. He's also as unconventional as he is passionate about this and other social causes, such as animal rights and legalizing industrial hemp.  He regularly holds "board meetings" in the Pacific Ocean – where employees join him for a little surfing near company headquarters – and has been arrested twice for protesting the federal hemp ban.  No on 92 Coalition Opponents of Oregon's proposed GMO-labeling measure are outraising proponents and have brought in a total of more than $1 million so far. The No on 92 Coalition reported taking in $690,000 between Aug. 18 and Aug. 22 alone, according to Oregon Secretary of State filings. Major opposition donors include PepsiCo ($250,000), Hershey Co. ($160,000), the Grocery Manufacturers Association ($150,000) and J.M. Smucker ($147,000). His company was the leading donor to a pro-GMO labeling effort that narrowly failed last year in Washington, giving more than $1.8 million. That came on top of the $622,000 Dr. Bronner's donated to a similar effort that went down in California in 2012.  In a telephone interview this week, Bronner talked about his company's unique background, his belief that much of American agriculture has been hijacked by companies interested only in peddling chemicals and why Oregon and the Yes on 92 campaign are now a critical battleground in the national GMO-labeling movement.  His answers have been edited for brevity and clarity.  Q. For those not familiar with Dr. Bronner's Magic Soaps, how did the company get started?  A. My grandfather, Emanuel Bronner, was a third-generation master soap-maker from a German soap-making family. He was an intense guy from Day One. He came here in 1929 and became a consultant for the U.S. soap industry. As the Nazi situation got worse in Germany, he tried to get his family out. His parents refused and ultimately were gassed in a Nazi concentration camp. He had a strong mystical streak and began making speeches around the country and used soap to sell his "all one faith" message. With the rise of the environmental movement in the 1960s, people were much more interested in our natural products than what he had to say. It all just took off from there.  Q. What got you personally involved in wanting to require GMO labeling?  A. I'm a biology major with a degree from Harvard, and I've spent a lot of time in the scientific world. I really do appreciate the scientific endeavor and ultimately talk the language. If this was about creating plants that are drought-resistant, I'd be all for it. But I realized quickly that's not what's in the ground in U.S. soil. What's in the ground are herbicide-resistant crops, and it's just going to get worse. That's what got me into this fight.  Q. Does your company stand to benefit economically if GMO labeling passes?  A. Obviously not. We're a soap company, and it's not like this is driving people toward soap. We contribute to causes we believe in, and that involves things such as organic agriculture, youth programs, the ban on industrial hemp. But will we make money off this? No.  Q. If enough states pass these laws, is it your hope the federal government would step in to require national labeling standards?  A. Absolutely. That's the game. Every single social issue is like this. You have to start the fight at the state level, with the federal step coming last. The opposition is spending tons to be sure their people are in place at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Food and Drug Administration. But fighting state by state gives us the best chance to achieve critical mass and shift the entire national focus.  Q. The opposition insists that genetically engineered seeds and foods can be beneficial in terms of the overall food supply. Do they have a point?  A. The food industry has been sold a bill of goods, and Big Food is now carrying water for Big Ag. This is not boosting yields, and it's not making food production cheaper. The facts on the ground are coming out and insecticide use is surging. This is not a sustainable method of agriculture.  Q. Your company is donating a lot of money to this effort ($550,000 and counting). Do you personally have any say in how it's spent?  A. Not me personally, but definitely a few others do. They've been through these fights and know how this works. We'd love for this to be entirely on a grass-roots basis, but Oregon is about to be carpet-bombed by one of the most sophisticated propaganda machines ever assembled. You need some sophistication to match that.  Q. How important is the Oregon ballot measure in the larger GMO-labeling effort?  A. Less than 1 percent of the agriculture acreage in Oregon is subject to labeling under this measure. At the same time, Oregon is absolutely a battleground for food culture right now, for maintaining the connection between food and farming. Agriculture in Oregon is all about an organic, small-family farm environment. A win here is critical in terms of where all of this goes next.  -- Dana Tims     Reddit Related Stories  Measure 92 supporters concede defeat on Oregon GMO labeling -- for now  David Bronner puts money where beliefs are in promoting GMO-labeling requirements   675 comments Sign in     Post comment as... Newest | Oldest Sam Stone Sam Stone Sep 27, 2014 The ZMapp drug is being developed by Mapp Biopharmaceutical Inc. to combat the Ebola virus is a product of Genetic Engineering. ZMapp is manufactured in the tobacco plant nicotiana in the bioproduction process known as "pharming" by Kentucky BioProcessing, a subsidiary of Reynolds American  FlagShareLikeReply Robert Wager Robert Wager Sep 25, 2014 Paul, Tom and WA are ramping it up bigtime. Wonder why?  FlagShareLikeReply windowartist windowartist Sep 26, 2014 @Robert Wager

Both cannabis policy reform and the movement to label genetically engineered foods in the United States made huge strides in 2014. Major battles were won, some narrowly lost, but ultimately victory is inevitable. Our company Dr. Bronner’s has devoted significant financial, staff and other organizational resources to both movements, and it is instructive to analyze them side by side. Our experience with the movement to end cannabis prohibition over the past 15 years shows how much faster and stronger the modern movement to label GMOs is growing in a much shorter time. People are waking up that we have to transform our agricultural policies and dietary choices and eat more sustainably if we want to feed future generations, which requires as a first step that citizens are properly informed and empowered to make wise choices.

Newsletter: Respect Our Human Rights Or We'll 'Shut It Down'

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This week we marked the 66th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was signed by the United States at its inception but has never been ratified. Perhaps because we live in a country that does not protect our human rights, many people in the United States lack an understanding that they exist. In the work for justice, important tasks are to learn about our rights, recognize that they are being violated and to stand up with the demand that these rights are honored. Throughout history it has been organized people-power that has won rights. We cannot expect to gain them any other way. We’ll highlight many areas where people are fighting for rights.