Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Bt Crops Failures & Hazards
Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji
December 14, 2011
The claim that genetically modified organisms are the most promising way of increasing crop yields is falsified by many independent scientific studies, as well as direct experience with GM crops in India, China, Argentina and the United States. Dr. Eva Sirinathsinghji reviews evidence on Bt crops
This report has been submitted to the EPA on behalf of the Institute of Science in Society. Please circulate widely and forward to your policy-makers
Rising insect resistance to genetically modified (GM) crops including Monsanto’s biggest selling crop, Bt corn, is threatening their utility and profitability. Insect resistance has prompted a new investigation by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to documents in the newly opened docket (Docket No: EPA-HQ-OPP-2011-0922) , “severe” damage to corn by rootworm has occurred in four states in the US. Further, the EPA describe Monsanto’s insect resistance monitoring program as “inadequate”. The EPA will collect public information to tackle the damage that could cause serious crop and economic damage. Amidst this investigation, Monsanto are seeing significant falls in their share prices . Comments and information regarding insect resistance can be submitted to the EPA on their website .
In 2010, GM crops engineered to produce insecticidal toxins from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) bacterium, were grown on more than 58 million hectares of land globally . First commercialised in the US in 1996, it is also the only commercialised GM crop grown in the EU, with Spain being the largest producer. Despite their widespread commercialisation, the evidence for their functionality is still elusive, while evidence of their harm to the environment, people’s health, economic security and self-determination is continually mounting.
GM proponents have repeatedly claimed that Bt crops can help combat world hunger by increasing crop yields while reducing pesticide use, thereby providing a more productive and environmentally safe option over traditional varieties. However, as highlighted by a recent report conducted by 20 Indian, Southeast Asian, African and Latin American food and conservation groups representing millions of people, these claims are false. Pesticide use has increased, while GM crop yields are lower than conventional varieties (see  Transgenic Cotton Offers No Advantage, SiS 38) and world hunger is at epic proportions .
Risk assessments of Bt toxins to date have been inadequate, not least due to inexplicable lack of reliable data on the concentrations of Bt toxin produced in plants, including the roots and pollen. The purported efficacy and safety of these products cannot be established when exposure levels have not be reliably determined. A new study reported a standardised method to test Bt toxin levels and still found significant variation in results, highlighting the variability in previous studies . In particular, reports of declining concentrations in the food chain and soils are unreliable and need to be re-evaluated and repeated. Despite these inadequacies in risk assessments so far, evidence of the Bt toxicity to environment and health is steadily accumulating.
The present review summarises all the evidence surrounding the efficacy and safety of Bt crops with regards to pest control, human health and environmental impact.
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Approving the GM potato: conflicts of interest, flawed science and fierce lobbying
Corporate Europe Observatory
How EFSA and BASF paved the way for controversial GM crops in the EU
In March 2010, the European Commission approved BASF’s genetically modified Amflora potato for cultivation in the European Union. CEO has investigated the background to this decision, including the controversial scientific advice provided by the European Food Safety Authority on the use of antibiotic resistant marker genes. CEO found that more than half of EFSA’s GMO panel had conflicts of interest, as defined by the OECD. Their advice, which contravened WHO guidelines, contributed to the approval of the GM potato - and is likely to lead to the approval of similar GM crops in the near future.
Monday, November 21, 2011
How much insecticide do Bt plants actually produce?
November 21, 2011
New publication shows inadequacies in risk assessment
A new publication by an international research consortium has revealed several inadequacies in current approaches to risk assessment of genetically engineered plants. The publication deals with methods used for measurement in so-called Bt-plants. These plants produce an insecticidal protein ( a so-called Bt toxin) that originates from soil bacteria (Bacillus thuringiensis). One example is maize MON810 which is cultivated in some countries in the EU, many others can be imported and used in food and feed. Now for the first time, joint research involving four laboratories has shown that the results produced by industry and other institutions so far are not reliably reproducible and comparable because they are not determined and validated by standardized methods.
The actual content of these Bt toxins is highly relevant for assessing risks for the environment, and also for preventing resistance in pest insects. Without reliable data, the safety of these genetically engineered plants cannot be properly assessed.
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.
Sunday, September 11, 2011
Pharm Crops Ignoring Health & Environment
By Prof. Joe Cummins
September 11, 2011
Pharmaceutical drug production has undergone major changes following the development and approval of drugs called ‘biologicals’ that are for the most part proteins produced by genetic engineering. Biologicals make up at least a quarter of new drug approved, though they are about twice as likely as chemical drugs to experience regulatory action following approval (see ‘Biologicals’, Wonder Drugs with Problems, SiS 42). The recombinant protein drugs are produced using viruses, bacteria, yeast, and cell cultures from insects, rodents, primates or humans. The use of genetically modified (GM) crop plants to produce biologics has been an attractive prospect because the crops are capable of producing vast quantities of recombinant proteins at low cost. There have been a large number of such transgenic ‘pharm crops’ created in the laboratory and field trialled, though none have been approved for commercial drug production. However, some have now progressed to clinical trials.