Friday, September 30, 2011
Ministry seeks to ease GM food safety fears
By Liu Linlin
Global Times, China
September 30, 2011
The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) on Thursday pledged to ensure safety of genetically modified (GM) crops amid scientists’ appeals for caution in commercializing such products.
“We will develop GM technologies in strict accordance with relevant regulations and ensure the safety of GM products,” Chen Xiaohua, a deputy MOA minister, told reporters on Thursday responding to questions on the import of GM corn from the US.
“China will continue its development of GM crops because this is an important strategic move for the whole nation,” Chen said, adding that the ministry is drawing up plans to expand corn production to meet increasing domestic demand.
According to caixin.cn, China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation imported 61,000 tons of GM corn in July 2010.
In November 2009, the MOA issued a production safety certificate to two varieties of GM rice and one of GM corn, the first such case in the country. The move sparked long-running debates about the safety of GM foods and their impact on the environment.
The three main issues surrounding GM foods according to the World Health Organization are their potential for provoking allergic reactions, transferring harmful genes to the human body and crossbreeding with other plants.
Yuan Longping, a famous agricultural scientist known as the “father of hybrid rice,” has repeatedly urged the government to proceed cautiously with any move to commercialize GM crops.
Thursday, September 29, 2011
Judge sides with grain company
By Mateusz Perkowski
September 29, 2011
A major biotech seed developer won’t be able to force a global grain elevator company to accept its genetically engineered crop.
A federal judge has refused to order the Bunge North America grain company to accept insect-resistant corn developed by Syngenta Seeds.
A conflict erupted between the two companies this summer when Bunge announced it wouldn’t accept Syngenta’s “Agrisure Viptera” corn at its elevators, since the variety hasn’t been approved for shipping to China.
Syngenta countered by filing a legal complaint against Bunge, alleging the firm had violated a 95-year-old warehousing law that prohibits elevators from unfairly discriminating among farmers who seek storage.
The company sought a preliminary injunction that would stop Bunge from exercising its policy of rejecting Agrisure Viptera corn from its facilities.
U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett in Iowa has rejected Syngenta’s arguments, ruling that the company has wrongly interpreted the 1916 United States Warehouse Act.
Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Superweeds pose growing threat to U.S. crops
By Carey Gillam
September 20, 2011
PAOLA, Kansas - Farmer Mark Nelson bends down and yanks a four-foot-tall weed from his northeast Kansas soybean field. The “waterhemp” towers above his beans, sucking up the soil moisture and nutrients his beans need to grow well and reducing the ultimate yield. As he crumples the flowering end of the weed in his hand, Nelson grimaces.
“We are at a disturbing juncture,” said Margaret Mellon, director of the food and environment program at the Union of Concerned Scientists. “The use of toxic chemicals in agriculture is skyrocketing. This is not the path to sustainability.”
“When we harvest this field, these waterhemp seeds will spread all over kingdom come,” he said.
Nelson’s struggle to control crop-choking weeds is being repeated all over America’s farmland. An estimated 11 million acres are infested with “super weeds,” some of which grow several inches in a day and defy even multiple dousings of the world’s top-selling herbicide, Roundup, whose active ingredient is glyphosate.
The problem’s gradual emergence has masked its growing menace. Now, however, it is becoming too big to ignore. The super weeds boost costs and cut crop yields for U.S. farmers starting their fall harvest this month. And their use of more herbicides to fight the weeds is sparking environmental concerns.
Monday, September 19, 2011
No Market for Genetically Modified Wheat, CWB Says
By Stefania Moretti
September 19, 2011
Canadians needn’t worry about genetically modified bread winding up on their kitchen table any time soon despite the global push to start experimenting with genetically altered wheat to feed the world’s growing population.
Canadian wheat farmers aren’t pushing for GM wheat because there simple is no market for it, the marketing group in charge of one Canada’s top exports said just days after the British government approved trials on GM wheat starting next year.
From a competitive standpoint, the Canadian Wheat Board isn’t too concerned about the U.K.’s decision to test pest-resistant wheat either, said Maureen Fitzhenry, a spokesperson for the CWB.
That’s because the competitive advantage comes from selling what buyers want, she said. And in today’s market, that’s non-genetically modified wheat.
Saturday, September 17, 2011
DuPont’s herbicide goes rogue
By Jim Hightower
September 17, 2011
In the corporate world’s tortured language, workers are no longer fired. They just experience an “employment adjustment.” But the most twisted euphemism I’ve heard in a long time comes from DuPont: “We are investigating the reports of these unfavorable tree symptoms,” the pesticide maker recently stated.
How unfavorable? Finito, flat-lined, the tree is dead. Not just one tree, but hundreds of thousands all across the country are suffering the final “symptom.”
The culprit turns out to be Imprelis, a DuPont weed-killer widely applied to lawns, golf courses, and — ironically — cemeteries.
Rather than just poisoning dandelions and other weeds, the herbicide also seems to be causing spruces, pines, willows, poplars, and other unintended victims to croak.
“It’s been devastating,” says a Michigan landscaper who applied Imprelis to about a thousand properties this spring and has already had more than a third of them suffer outbreaks of tree deaths. “It looks like someone took a flamethrower to them,” he says.
At first, DuPont tried to dodge responsibility, claiming that landscape workers might be applying the herbicide improperly. The corporation even urged customers to be patient and leave the tree corpses on their lawns to see if they’d come back to life in a few years.
However, faith-based landscaping was a hard sell. Disgruntled homeowners began filing lawsuits. Then DuPont had its own “aha!” moment when trees on the grounds of the DuPont Country Club also developed the “unfavorable symptoms” of Imprelis poisoning.
So, with DuPont’s cooperation, the EPA has finally banned sales of the tree-killing herbicide. But because of inadequate testing and a rush to profit, the poison will remain in the soil — and our water— for many moons. Trees will continue to die. Will we never learn?