Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Florida’s GE mosquito threat

Floridians face genetically engineered mosquito threat
By Eric hoffman
Friends of the Earth
December 21, 2011 / Posted by:

A private firm is planning to release potentially harmful genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys as early as January, endangering human health and the environment in what would become the first-ever U.S. release of these engineered bugs.

The genetically engineered mosquitoes, Aedes aegypti, are produced by UK-based biotechnology company Oxitec so their offspring will die at a young age in an effort to lower mosquito populations and limit the spread of dengue fever. While attempts to limit the spread of disease are laudable, health, environmental and ethical challenges face what would be the first-ever release of genetically engineered mosquitoes in the U.S.

Genetically engineered mosquitoes have already been released by Oxitec in the Cayman Islands, Malaysia and Brazil. Despite claims that its mosquitoes are sterile and have eradicated dengue fever the mosquitoes are in fact fertile and Oxitec has never successfully eradicated dengue fever from any population. The company has only shown its technology can reduce mosquito populations in the immediate term in controlled settings. Oxitec has not proven such population reductions lead to disease eradication.

The United States could be the next testing ground for Oxitec. The company plans to release its genetically engineered mosquitoes in Key West as early as January 2012 – pending regulatory approval. Oxitec intends to release 5,000 to 10,000 genetically engineered mosquitoes over a two week period into an undisclosed 36-square-acre block – likely near the Key West Cemetery.

[Read More…]

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Coalition calls for halt

Coalition calls for FDA to halt approval of genetically engineered salmon
Press Release
Center for Food Safety
December 20, 2011

Discovery of undisclosed infection of salmon eggs calls into question company claims that GE salmon are safe for the environment

Yesterday afternoon a coalition of 11 food safety, environmental, consumer and fisheries organizations sent a letter to the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) calling for a halt to its approval of a genetically engineered (GE) salmon after learning that the company’s – AquaBounty Technologies, Inc. – research site was contaminated with a new strain of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA), the deadly fish flu that is devastating fish stocks around the world.

“This new information calls into question the reliability of AquaBounty’s data and the validity of its claims that their fish are safe for the environment” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “The FDA must respond appropriately and conduct their own environmental impact statement that looks at a broad range of environmental risks from these genetically engineered salmon, including the risk of spreading diseases such as ISA and antibiotic use for other diseases.”

AquaBounty has claimed that the company’s process for raising GE fish is safer than traditional aquaculture. However, documents that were revealed last week indicate that their production site was found by Canadian Authorities to have been contaminated in Nov. 2009. This information was hidden from the public and potentially FDA and other Federal agencies consulting on the GE salmon application. ISA is a deadly disease and is classified as a ‘Listed’ disease by the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) – alongside diseases such as Anthrax, Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), Foot and mouth disease, rabies, sheep pox, swine fever, avian influenza, West Nile fever, scrapie, fowl cholera, bovine tuberculosis and myxomatosis.

“Infectious Salmon Anaemia threatens wild fisheries around the world and the communities whose livelihood depend on those fish” said Erich Pica, President of Friends of the Earth US. “ISA infections in Chile cost the industry around two billion dollars. A similar infection in Canada and the U.S. could be the last blow to wild Atlantic salmon populations and bring a collapse in wild salmon fisheries.”

The December 19 letter urged FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg to release all health data on AquaBounty’s GE salmon and to suspend any approval actions until all the data is disclosed and the public has an opportunity to review the data. Additionally, the coalition asked the FDA to conduct a full environmental impact statement that includes review of the effect of fish diseases, like ISA, on wild fish populations that might come into contact with the AquaBounty fish. Currently, the FDA has only performed a less comprehensive environmental risk assessment.

This news comes on the heels of a Senate subcommittee hearing held last Thursday on the environmental risks of GE fish, the first hearing of its kind in Congress.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Eucalyptus trees court loss

Court loss won’t stop environmentalists’ battle against modified-eucalyptus trees
By Peter Downs
The Commercial Appeal
October 23, 2011

Environmentalists are vowing to continue their fight against genetically engineered “frankentrees” after losing a test case in Florida earlier this month.

“We’re not terribly discouraged,” said Anne Petermann, executive director of the Global Justice Ecology Project and the coordinator of the STOP GE Trees Campaign.

“We’ll wait until the next stage of the regulatory process and intervene there,” said Mike Stark, communications director for the Center for Biological Diversity, the lead plaintiff in a lawsuit that aimed to block field tests of genetically modified eucalyptus trees across the South.

The trees in question were developed by Arborgen, a joint venture of Memphis-based International Paper, MeadWestvaco Corp. and New Zealand-based Rubicon Ltd.

Industry expects the fight to continue.

[Read More…]

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Salmon firm ‘bail out’

Obama administration ‘bailed out’ GM salmon firm
By Suzanne Goldberg
The Guardian, UK
October 18, 2011

Campaigners say $500,000 grant was made to AquaBounty despite evidence that the firm could soon run out of cash

The Obama administration awarded a coveted research grant to a financially strapped company working to put genetically modified (GM) salmon on American dinner tables, overlooking disclosures that the firm could run out of cash in early 2012, it has emerged.

Campaigners say the $500,000 grant to AquaBounty amounts to a bail-out for the firm’s main investor, the business tycoon and former economics minister of Georgia, Kakha Bendukidze. They are also comparing it to the Solyndra controversy, which saw a solar company go bankrupt after receiving government loan guarantees.

“Certainly this does have shades of Solyndra. We have seen this company’s stock plummeting for months and months – years actually – and what does the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) do but give this company money?”, said Colin O’Neil, a policy analyst at the Centre for Food Safety, which opposes GM salmon.

“This is research that any public university or independent institution could be doing, so why is the USDA funding this interested company to do it?” he said.

The grant, awarded last month, comes at a critical juncture for AquaBounty.

[Read More…]

Monday, October 17, 2011

Critics barred from summit

Critics of Genetically Modified Animals Barred from Summit on the Future of Animal Agriculture
Press Release
Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN)
October 17, 2011

Ottawa - On Friday, the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) was informed that its registration to attend the “Feeding a Hungry World: Hunger Has No Boundaries – A Summit for Animal Agriculture”, which starts tonight with a keynote address from the President of the University of Guelph, was denied.

CBAN was told, via email and fax correspondence from Crystal Mackay, Executive Director of the Ontario Farm Animal Council & AGCare that, “The [Summit] Task Force has reviewed your group’s website and does not feel you meet the requirements for being an industry stakeholder who supports the Summit’s objectives.”

The first objective of the Summit is, “To provide a unique opportunity for leaders in the agri-food sector to collectively discuss the future for animal agriculture in Canada, within a global context.” The conference aims to start a process of building a “social contract” with Canadians, noting that the animal agriculture industry “needs to meaningfully address such issues as sustainability, animal welfare and food safety.” (See http://www.farmcarefoundation.ca/feeding-a-hungry-world-summit )

“The industry is deluded if they think they can manufacture a social contract by themselves, and without considering the issue of genetically modified animals. The industry would do far better if they engage Canadians first to find out what food system people really want,” said Lucy Sharratt, CBAN’s Coordinator, who was denied admission to the Summit.

“Despite some public funding and the participation of public institutions, we have been excluded,” said Sharratt “We can only conclude that the industry wants to shield its members from the depth of public anger over the prospect of genetically modified animals.”

[Read More…]

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