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.
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.
Thursday, October 6, 2011
Just label it
By Doug Gurian-Sherman
Union of Concerned Scientists
October 6, 2011
Genetically engineered (GE) foods have been in our groceries for years, and are found in most processed foods in the U.S. But there is nothing on a box of corn flakes that tells you whether there are GE ingredients in that food—and the GE industry wants it to stay that way.
This is contrary to what the large majority of consumers want. Consumer surveys show that overwhelming majorities (over 90 percent) consistently say that GE content should be disclosed—as documented by a new campaign to require the labeling of GE foods, called “Just Label It!”
The campaign wants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse its misguided policy that says food companies cannot be required to disclose the GE content in our foods.