Genetically Modified Organisms

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GMOs are not going to solve the nutrition problems or feed the world. GMOs are about corporate profit, and control over the food supply - which is about corporate profit.
Consolidation in the Food Industry - as in every other industry - is becoming ever more concentrated. A handful of corporations control nearly every aspect of how our food is produced. When a company has a virtual monopoly on a whole supermarket aisle, or a set of agricultural products, they make decisions based on what's best for their profits, not what's best for their customers or the planet.
There's profit to be made in selling a product that farmers need to buy - and there’s far more profit to be made from creating a system of products designed to work together. For example, linking seeds with specific chemicals, such as Monsanto soybeans are engineered to withstand Roundup. If a farmer plants those soybeans, they're also going to buy Roundup.

ToDo

  • Feb.15.2019: Here's The Real Reason Why GMOs Are Bad, And Why They May Save Humanity. AgriTech should be focusing on increasing crop resiliency, not fine-tuning production to maximise yield in a very narrow set of ecological conditions. The longer Roundup has been on the market, the worse its effects on soil health and long-term plant fecundity appear; Roundup Ready plants may not allow necessary micronutrients to be absorbed by those eating them; and play a part in the die-off of bees. Erik Kobayashi-Solomon, Forbes.

What is a GMO?

Genetically Modified Organisms are the result of a specific type of plant breeding, where the plant's DNA is changed to give it characteristics that cannot be achieved through traditional breeding methods.
Selective breeding: Plant breeders look for, select and cross-breed the best plants. Farmers have done this since farming began.
Advanced breeding: Plant breeders identify and tag desirable characteristics in a plant's DNA. This allows breeders to precisely pick which plants to cross-breed.
GM breeding: Scientists can turn off, move, or insert a gene from another organism. The outcome cannot be achieved by any other method.

Myths and Truths

Lobbying, PR and Spin

BASF SE, Bayer, DowDuPont and Syngenta formed the Council for Biotechnology Information to set up and run the website GMO Answers, specifically to gloss over and dismiss citizens' concerns. Their Glyphosate FAQ is a prime example of how to answer questions by side-tracking.

  • May.14.2018: #EmbracingNature? Biotech industry spin seeks to exempt new GMOs from regulation. The global biotech and seed industry lobby groups landed in Budapest for their annual congress in May. They launched a joint campaign with one key goal: to get govts worldwide to adopt a zero-regulation approach to new genetic modification techniques, often termed gene-editing techniques. The seed industry magazine SeedWorld stated that the timing of this international campaign is critical “as policymakers and govts around the world discuss plant breeding innovations, and if and how they should be regulated”. Consumer resistance to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is strong in Europe. A global seed lobby group the International Seed Federation (http://www.worldseed.org/) produced a toolkit giving seed companies detailed instructions and PR tricks for communication about new GM techniques. Their key message should be: new technologies are just a simple continuation of the classical plant breeding “that humankind has done for thousands of years”. The industry tries to convince regulators that products from gene-editing and other new GM techniques do not need safety checks if they are “similar or indistinguishable” from varieties that “could have been produced through earlier breeding methods”. Bayer has set up an “Ambassador Program” to coach scientists for public speaking events. DuPont's presentation shows that the “feeding the world” narrative is no longer credible to citizens. The industry is therefore looking for other angles to present the benefits of GM products. Consumers are told for instance that new GM products will contribute to their “health and well being” and will provide “longer lasting, fresh and nutritious” food, as well as fuel or fibre. Examples include “vegetables with a higher resilience to transport” or “optimized biofuels”. But (a) the industry's top priority is herbicide tolerance (ie ever more glyphosates), and (b) GM techniques are leading to a genetic erosion of very serious proportions caused by the very industrial model of agriculture the companies controlling the techniques aim to keep in place. The European Seed Association (ESA) launched a dedicated website (http://plantbreeding.eu). The European biotech and seed industry uses another internal lobby tool: a stakeholder and issue mapping report by Brussels-based lobby firm FTI Consulting (https://www.fticonsulting.com/). Their end-goal: no safety tests or labeling. FTI is targeting the idiots that comprise the UK govt. Of course ILSI is right in the thick of all this. Food and Agriculture, Corporate Europe Observatory.

People

An A-Z of the people and groups behind the push for GM. It includes links to the web portal GMWatch SpinProfiles - our in-depth guide to the networks of power, lobbying and deceptive PR around the GM issue. https://www.gmwatch.org/en/articles/gm-myth-makers

Animals

  • Jun.24.2018: Genetically modified animals. Last week, scientists announced they had deleted the section of DNA that leaves pigs vulnerable to porcine reproductive and respiratory syndrome (PRRS), which is estimated to cost European farmers £1.5bn a year in loss of livestock and decreased productivity. Genetically modified animals are banned from the EU food chain, but since this is a new and different technique it’s possible they’ll be appearing in bacon sandwiches in a few years. Similarly, the Roslin Institute (funded by the Biotechnology & Biological Sciences Research Council) is working on GM chickens that contain an extra gene that interrupts the transmission of avian flu. Unlike a vaccination, the modification still protects the bird if the virus mutates - but farmers argue it is better to enforce good farming practices than create disease-free animals. Ian Ticker, The Guardian. Pigs only get PRRS when they are kept in extremely over-crowded conditions, with poor ventilation.

Articles

  • Jun.06.2018: There's Something Fishy About Genetically Engineered Salmon. When it comes to genetic engineering, most of the attention in the UK has gone to crops and the global explosion of GE soy and maize cultivation. When it comes to genetic engineering, most of the attention in the UK has gone to crops and the global explosion of GE soy and maize cultivation. At least 35 species of fish are currently being genetically engineered around the world, including trout, catfish, tilapia, striped bass, flounder, and many species of salmon. These fish are being engineered for traits that allegedly will make them better suited for industrial fish farming, such as faster growth, disease resistance, larger muscles, and temperature tolerance. Produced by UK-based AquaBounty, the AquAdvantage salmon incorporates the anti-freeze genes of ocean pout and the fast growing genes of the Chinook salmon into an Atlantic salmon. The effect is that the foreign genes accelerate the fish’s growth: a tiny fry grows to a 13-pound adult in two years—twice as fast as an ordinary farm-raised fish. The environmental impacts would be considerable. While the salmon authorization is based on them being grown in a land-based system, if the genetically altered fish were to make its way into rivers and oceans, it could outcompete the smaller wild salmon for food and breeding grounds. The knock-on impacts on wild salmon and other wildlife could be devastating. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the salmon for sale in supermarkets in November 2015, while the Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency followed in May 2016. Despite its approval in the US, there is significant opposition to GE salmon. Certain retailers, including Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and Aldi, have said that they will not sell the genetically modified fish while Senator Murkowski of Alaska is challenging the validity of this “frankenfish” by introducing a new “The Genetically Engineered Salmon Labeling Act”, which requires any salmon that is genetically engineered to be labelled as such. Despite AquaBounty being a UK-company, GE fish is not approved for sale in the UK nor the EU. European consumers have consistently opposed GM technology in the food system. A 2014 YouGov poll found that 46% of adults had negative views about GM with only 6% of the public becoming “more positive” towards GM foods. It seems unlikely that GM salmon would find a sufficient market with the UK public. European law has consistently recognized the risks inherent in GM and has legislated accordingly. That said, as Britain prepares to leave the EU, new questions around GM technology are being raised. The Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has continued to emphasize a desire to embrace new technologies and innovation, which could include GM salmon. Similarly, future trade deals are being negotiated that threaten to open the UK market to AquBounty products and is one potential risk from a future transatlantic trade deal. It’s critical that the British public continues to raise their rejection of GM to Government. GM has no place in the future of food and farming and should not be allowed into UK agriculture. Honor Eldridge, Soil Association.
  • Mar.26.2018: GM crops could feed world, says former saboteur. Britain should embrace the opportunity to grow genetically modified crops after Brexit. Leaving the European Union and the strict regulations that prevent the UK from growing GM crops could be a chance for British farmers "to leave the anti-science fear-mongering in Brussels" and develop a "truly green" future for agriculture, Mark Lynas claims. Lucy Bannerman, The Times.
  • Jan.11.2018: Farming charity releases Top 10 food safety concerns posed by US-UK trade deal. In preparation for the 2nd reading of the Trade Bill in the House of Commons, the Soil Association (SA) has released a report on the potential food safety risks posed by a free trade deal with the US. Ministers, including Defra Secretary Michael Gove, have frequently insisted that the govt will seek to maintain farming standards in any negotiations. The SA's report also highlights a number of other areas where products imported from the US could be produced under significantly different standards to British standards. For example, the inclusion of food colourants that have been withdrawn from the UK, the use of the herbicide Atrazine that has previously been linked with human health risks, and the sale of chicken litter as animal feed which was banned by the EU in 2001. The Top 10: Chlorine washed chicken, Hormone-treated beef, Ractopamine in pork, Chicken litter as animal feed, Atrazine-treated crops, GE foods, Brominated vegetable oil (BVO), Potassium bromate, Azodicarbonamide, Food colourants. Farming UK.
  • Nov.17.2017: India: GM Bt cotton falls victim to pest it's supposed to resist. Reports have emerged from Maharashtra of a sudden surge in pink bollworm and other pest attacks on GM Bt cotton crops. Anxious farmers, who manually opened the bolls, were aghast to see pink bollworms in abundance. The situation is unprecedented and it looks like more than 50% of the standing crop has been lost to [boll]worms that should not have attacked the genetically modified crop at all. The pest attacks on GM Bt cotton have led to "indiscriminate spraying of pesticides and, consequently, possible poisoning deaths" of farmers. Tiwari said he had cautioned the government at the end of August about likelihood of pink bollworm attack as the pests had become resistant to the Bt crop. The pesticide poisoning tragedy highlights the culpability of GMO proponents like Mark Lynas, who earlier this year hyped GM Bt cotton on the basis of his claim that in India and China, "farmers have benefitted via reductions in pesticides". Dr Reddy, director of Pesticide Action Network (PAN) India and head of a team that looked into the tragedy, urged the Indian government to rethink its policy of adopting GM seeds. The PAN India team found that the victims sprayed the pesticides monocrotophos, diafenthiuron, profenofos and fipronil, with no or minimal protective gear. GM Watch.
  • Nov.14.2017: Failure in governance causes tragic deaths and poisonings of Bt cotton farmers in India. The death of 36 farmers and the hospitalization of at least 500 in a matter of 3 months in the Bt cotton fields of India is alarming. Pesticide Action Network (PAN) India looked into the tragedy in Yavatmal District and uncovered gaps in governance and regulation. The report called for a thorough review and amendment of the pesticide regulation in the country. Kishor Tiwari, the chief of the task force set up for the welfare of farmers, claimed that more than 40 farmers had died and at least 2,000 hospitalised from pesticide inhalation. Tiwari accused the Swiss agrochemicals company Syngenta, Germany’s Bayer and Bayer-owned Monsanto for distributing dangerous pesticides without sufficient safety information and violating guidelines and conditions by the Central Insecticides Board and Registration Committee (CIBRC), govt of India, and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Code of Conduct on Pesticide Management. Dr. Reddy urged the govt to rethink its policy of adopting genetically modified (GM) seeds, saying "This tragedy validates previous findings that GM seeds, like Bt cotton, will not reduce pesticide use but rather intensify it. Neither will GM seeds address poverty as the victims of poisonings could now attest". (more...) Pan Asia Pacific.

Associated Groups

Earth Open Source Institute is the research arm of Earth Open Source. The institute’s scientists are collaborating with respected researchers from leading international research organizations to investigate the potential harm to human health from GMOs and Pesticides.