Thursday, December 29, 2011
Bt: The lesson not learned
By Janet Raloff
December 29th, 2011
Science News reported 60-plus years ago how indiscriminate use of DDT ruined that chemical’s value. Now history seems to be repeating itself with Bt
The more things change, the more they stay the same, as a Dec. 29 Associated Press report on genetically engineered corn notes. Like déjà vu, this news story on emerging resistance to Bt toxin — a fabulously effective and popular insecticide to protect corn — brings to mind articles I encountered over the weekend while flipping through historic issues of Science News.
More than a half-century ago, our magazine chronicled, real time, the emergence of resistance to DDT, the golden child of pest controllers worldwide. Now much the same thing is happening again with Bt, its contemporary agricultural counterpart. Will we never learn?
The new AP story cites rather vague references to the fact that corn genetically engineered to produce the insect-targeting Bt toxin no longer knocks out a major scourge — the Western corn rootworm — as it recently had. These beetle larvae are developing resistance to the toxin (named for its initial source, the bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis). And the worst part: Early evidence of resistance occurs in secret as the voracious larvae again chomp away at roots buried beneath a masking layer of soil.
Monday, December 19, 2011
Complaints against Bt cotton grow
By Suhail Yusuf
December 19, 2011
TOBA TEK SINGH - Farmers have complained that cottonseed cakes available in the market are harming their cattle as their animals are suffering from diseases, specially lack of appetite, and decline in milk production, premature deliveries and sudden deaths due to unknown cause.
A progressive farmer, Arshad Warraich, of Chak 328-JB said the taste of milk, yogurt, lassi, butter and desi ghee had also been affected as a result and the bitterness was found in them.
Agriculture department deputy district officer Khalid Mahmood said that nearly 90 per cent of the cotton sown in the district was of BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) type and cotton ginning factories supplied most of cottonseed cakes produced from its seed (banola).
He claimed that farmers had left old types of cotton varieties and turned to the most profit-earning crop.
Earlier, the per acre yield of cotton crop was 30 to 40 maund and with the use of BT cotton the per acre yield has increased between 50 and 60 maund.
Cottonseed cake sellers said that farmers lodged complaints with them that their animals were facing varied types of diseases due to cottonseed cakes.
Sunday, December 18, 2011
Feds’ GM food proposal compromises food safety, say groups
By Omid Ghoreishi
December 18, 2011
A federal government proposal that would allow low levels of contamination from genetically modified foods from other countries is raising concerns among activist groups.
The proposed policy on “low level presence” (LLP) relates to the unintended presence in low amounts of unapproved genetically modified (GM) material in imported food.
“We think that’s a huge concern from a health safety standpoint. There is no justification for this policy from a public health point of view,” says Lucy Sharrat, coordinator of Ottawa-based Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN), which is taking part in a government stakeholder consultation on the policy.
“The government is very clear that this is trade policy, and our position is that this is clearly trade policy that sacrifices food safety,” she says.
The proposal stems from an industry concern that the inevitable presence of traces of GM in imported food that has been approved in one country but not in the country of import could disrupt international trade.
Friday, December 16, 2011
Modified plants found outside laboratories
December 16, 2011
Spot checks conducted in 2011 found “isolated examples” of genetically modified plants near research laboratories and a station in different places in Switzerland.
The Federal Environment Office said on Friday that the plants had been dug up immediately, and there had been no contamination.
The plants found near laboratories belonging to the universities of Lausanne, Basel and Zurich were thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana), which is often used in studying plant biology, since any changes in it are easily observed.
The universities were informed and asked to discover how the plants got out.
Genetically modified rape was found at the station in Lugano. The canton was asked to discover where it came from.
A statement by the environment office said the discoveries were “no great surprise”.
“Laboratories and communications routes are possible ways in which genetically modified plants are spread,” it pointed out.
They were detected by a monitoring system set up by the office to discover any early release of such plants into the environment. The system is being introduced ahead of the planned lifting of a moratorium on growing genetically modified crops in November 2013.
Bayer: Threshold met for rice settlement
By Jeannie Nuss
December 16, 2011
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Rice growers met a threshold to move forward with a $750 million settlement over genetically modified rice, the company blamed for the problem said Thursday.
Bayer CropScience had agreed to the settlement this summer, five years after the company inadvertently introduced a strain of genetically altered long-grain rice into the U.S. market. As part of the settlement, Bayer set a threshold of 85 percent of rice acreage involved and could have opted out of the deal if not enough farmers signed up.
“Although Bayer CropScience believes it acted responsibly in the handling of its biotech rice, the company considered it important to resolve the litigation so that it can move forward focused on its fundamental mission of providing innovative solutions to modern agriculture,” spokesman Greg Coffey said in a statement.
Farmers in Arkansas — where about half of the nation’s rice is grown — as well as Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri and Texas sued Bayer after the German conglomerate developed an experimental strain of rice called LibertyLink to withstand its Liberty herbicide. U.S. regulators had not yet approved it for human consumption when trace amounts were found with conventional rice seed in storage.
No human health problems have been associated with the contamination, but that wasn’t known at the time.
The fear that the rice was unsafe, along with the notion that genetically altered rice was somehow impure, quashed sales in major markets. The mistake also left growers with huge losses as prices fell.