Mayans Win Huge Battle to Ban GMO Soy Crops

Natural Society
by Christina Sarich

Mayans of the Campeche Region have just won a two-year legal battle to get rid of Monsanto and their GMO soybeans (suicide beans). Following the ban of GM maize in Mexico, this ancient and agriculturally savvy culture has won a major battle against biotech monopolies around the globe.

The Second District Court ruled in favor of three Mayan communities from the Hopelchén township who dared to take on the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food ( Sagarpa) and the Secretariat of Environment and Natural Resources ( SEMARNAT).

This means that Saragapa now must make a concerted effort to be sure that no GM soybeans are planted throughout Pachen and Cancabchen communities in Hopelchén. Just two years ago, the same agency allowed Monsanto’s RoundUp Ready GMO soybeans to be planted in the region – infecting more than 253,000 hectares with suicide seeds that cause human infertility and poison the environment.

Seven states were under Monsanto’s reign – free then to plant their GM seeds wherever they liked within those borders, including the municipalities of: Campeche, Hopelchén , Tenabo , Calkiní , Escárcega, Carmen and Palisade.

In just a few of these places, the authorities were angry that the government had given Monsanto authorization, and they decided to fight the ruling. Campeche beekeepers were especially upset since this would affect bee-keeping negatively in the region. They called Monsanto’s influence, ‘pollution of production,’ resulting in loss of income and closing of markets for many bee keepers with international contracts.

After two years of litigation, and arguing that the planting of GM soybeans was in direct opposition of traditional beekeeping practices, AND that it was in violation of their right to a healthy environment – pointing out that increased use of herbicides and deforestation were both outcomes of GM planting – the Mayans won their case. These small indigenous communities have taken on the multi-billion-dollar biotech and Big Ag companies and won. They are an example to us all.

GMO Crop Sabotage on the Rise: French citizens destroy trial vineyard

Live Leak

Early Sunday morning, French police stood helpless as sixty people, locked inside an open-air field of genetically modified grapevines, uprooted all the plants. In Spain last month, dozens of people destroyed two GMO fields. On the millennial cusp, Indian farmers burned Bt cotton in their Cremate Monsanto campaign. Ignored by multinational corporations and corrupt public policy makers, citizens act to protect the food supply and the planet.

The French vineyard is the same field attacked last year when the plants were only cut. But the security features installed after that incident kept authorities at bay while the group accomplished its mission yesterday.

Speaking for the group, Olivier Florent told Le Figero that they condemned the use of public funds for open-field testing of GMOs “that we do not want.”

Pitching tents in the rain near France’s National Institute for Agronomic Research (INRA) site in Colmar the night before, the group waited until 5 AM before converging on the site and locking the gates behind them. They uprooted all 70 plants, then submitted to arrest.

This is the second attack on GMO crops to make international news this year. In July dozens of people destroyed two experimental corn crops in Spain. In an anonymous press release, they wrote, “This kind of direct action is the best way to respond to the fait accompli policy through which the Generalitat, the State and the biotech multinationals have been unilaterally imposing genetically modified organisms.”

In the late 1990s, Indian farmers burnt Bt cotton fields in their Cremate Monsanto campaign. Monsanto did not disclose to farmers that the GM seeds were experimental. “Despite the heavy use of chemical fertiliser, traces of which still can be observed in the field, the Bt plants grew miserably, less than half the size of the traditional cotton plants in the adjacent fields.”

After the Haiti earthquake this year, Monsanto offered 475 tons of hybrid corn and terminator vegetable seeds in partnership with USAID. In June, 10,000 Haitian farmers marched in protest of the “poison gift” which produces no viable seeds for future plantings and requires heavy chemical inputs. Haitian farm leader Chavannes Jean-Baptiste observed that the biotech plan makes farmers dependent on multinational corporations.

In the US, GMOs were secretly foisted on the public in the mid-1990s, and only now is the US Supreme Court addressing the scourge. In June, the high court upheld partial deregulation of GM alfalfa, which permits limited planting while the USDA prepares an Environmental Impact Statement. Natural and organic alfalfa supply is threatened by the very real potential of GM contamination. This would destroy the organic meat and dairy industry.

Last Friday, a federal court took a tougher position on GM sugar beets. Judge Jeffrey S. White revoked USDA approval of the GM beet, while allowing for its planting this year only.

Also this month, a British farmer exposed that milk and meat from cloned animals had secretly entered the food supply.

Public opposition to GM crops has grown in recent years as more evidence surfaces that DNA-altered crops:

Require massive chemical inputs which destroy local biodiversity and poison the water tables; cross-pollinate with natural and weedy crops; create superweeds; and have been shown to cause organ damage, sterility, and diabetes and obesity in mammals. Meanwhile, President Obama has stacked his Administration with biotech insiders going so far as to appoint Islam Siddiqui as Agriculture Trade Negotiator. Siddiqui is a former pesticide lobbyist and vice president of CropLife America, a biotech and pesticide trade group that lobbies to weaken environmental laws.

The US is pushing hard at the world to accept GM foods. Recently, the American Farm Bureau Federation called for stronger sanctions against the European Union for its GM crop ban.

But as governments and trade agreements circumvent the will of the people, some take matters into their own hands. The rise in GMO crop destruction is a clear indication that the world’s people reject chemical and genetic pollution of the food supply and the environment.

NEW ROW OVER GM FOOD

Express
by John Ingham

NEW fears were raised over genetically modified food yesterday after researchers claimed regulators had missed an “unsuspected viral gene” in widely used crops.

A study published last month found that the commonest modification in GM crops includes a “significant fragment of a viral gene” known as Gene VI.

The study by European Food Standards Agency experts published in the journal GM Crops and Food said the gene “might result in unintended phenotypic changes” which means it could have unintended genetic or environmental consequences.
The report comes with ministers backing GM foods and claiming the technology is needed to feed the world’s growing population.

Earlier this month Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the Government should not be afraid of making the case to the public about the “potential benefits of GM beyond the food chain, for example, reducing the use of pesticides and inputs such as diesel”.

But yesterday critics claimed the new discovery suggests that some GM crops could pose risks for consumers and the environment.

Dr Jonathan Latham of Independent Science News said: “This finding has serious ramifications for crop biotechnology and its regulation, but possibly even greater ones for consumers and farmers.

“This is because there are clear indications that this viral gene might not be safe for human consumption.

“It also may disturb the normal functioning of crops, including their natural pest resistance.”

Gene VI is found in some of the most widely grown FGM crops including weedkiller-resistant soya beans and maize.

Two thirds of GM crops approved in the US contain the hitherto unidentified viral gene.

GM crops have been given commercially attractive properties – such as weedkiller or pest resistance – by having new genes inserted.

These genes are usually taken from species with which the crop could not breed naturally.

Last night Pete Riley of the GM Freeze pressure group said: “This discovery of this previously unidentified gene in GM crops raises serious concern about the safety of GM food and feed.

“It totally undermines claims that GM technology is safe, precise and predictable.

“The very existence of Gene VI has been missed for many years, so we don’t know what implications it might have.

“It is impossible to say if this has already resulted in harm to human or animal health, and since there is still no GM labelling in places like the US where GM is more common in the diet, no epidemiological studies can be carried out.

“Possible harmful effects of GM Organisms could easily be lost in the general morass of ailments which vets and medics have to deal with on a daily basis, especially if these were as result of low level exposure over several years, and the link to GM could take many years to establish that way.

“This is a clear warning the GM is not sufficiently understood to be considered safe.

But the biotech industry insists that its products have undergone rigorous checks – and have been eaten safely by million worldwide.

Dr Julian Little, chairman of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, said: “The claims by Latham and Wilson were made in a blog posting, not a peer-reviewed publication. The original article by Podevin and du Jardin states that there are no elements present in the GM crops tested which are similar to known toxic and allergenic proteins.

“The GMO risk assessment carried out by EFSA is the central element of the strictest, science-based crop authorisation procedure in the world. This study is just a small part of what is a comprehensive and highly complex scrutiny process.
“Over the past 25 years, the European Commission has funded more than 130 research projects involving 500 independent research groups which have found no higher risks to the environment or food chain from GM crops than from conventional plants and organisms. “Furthermore, nearly three trillion meals containing GM ingredients have been eaten without a single substantiated case of ill-health. The combination of these two facts can give consumers a huge amount of confidence in the safety of GM crops.”

The Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs said the viral gene in the research occurs naturally and will be present in non-GM food.

A spokesman said: “The world’s population is growing which means people will need more food and there will be a greater demand for water, energy and land.

“GM is one of the tools in the box that could help us tackle these challenges. But our top priority is safeguarding human health and the environment so any decisions on GM would have to be based on rigorous scientific evidence.”

The European Food Safety Authority has highlighted that the data published in the paper do not represent a new discovery of a viral gene and nor do they indicate safety concerns surrounding previously evaluated GM crops.

Pesticide Use Increases as GMO Technology Backfires

Wake Up World
by Mary West

The GMO nightmare continues to unfurl, as the crop technology designed to reduce the need for pesticides has backfired. Farmers’ heavy adoption of these modified crops has sparked an increase in “superweeds” and hard-to-kill insects, creating the need to use more toxic herbicides.

Proponents of GMOs have alleged that these crops are a vital tool for weaning farmers off of toxic pesticides, but this claim has been resoundingly refuted by a recent study published in Environmental Science Europe. Chuck Benbrook, a researcher for Washington State University’s Center for Sustaining Agriculture and Natural Resources, found that GMO use has led to a “monsoon in herbicides.” Not only have these crops necessitated the need for higher applications of Roundup, Monsanto’s herbicide, but the problem has also forced farmers to use older herbicides that have more harmful effects, says Benbrook.

Statistics demolish Monsanto’s claim that GMOs reduce the need for herbicides.

The magnitude of the increase in pesticide use is illustrated by the statistics of the study. In the period between 1996, when the use of Roundup-ready crops began, and 2011, herbicide use increased by 527 million pounds, equating to 11 percent.

During the first few years of the use of Roudup-ready crops, these GMOs actually fulfilled Monsanto’s promise of reducing the need for herbicides: they reduced the use of these chemicals by 2 percent between 1996 and 1999. This advantage, however, was short-lived. After this period, weeds started developing resistance to Roundup, which led to farmers’ increasing their application of this herbicide by 21 percent, evidenced by a 19 million spike in its use, Benbrook tells The Guardian. The stepped up use of Roundup eliminated the weak weeds, which gave the resistant weeds, or “superweeds,” the opportunity to proliferate and take over.

Statistics revealing a 24 percent increase in pesticide use between 2009 through 2010 show the problem is only getting worse. Benbrook relates to The Guardian that by this time the problem of resistant weeds had fully kicked in, resulting in the use of greater volumes of Roundup as well as more toxic herbicides such as 2,4-D, a component of the infamous Agent Orange.

What about Bt seeds, the other main biotech product?

Resistance problems leading to pesticide increases are not limited to Roundup-ready crops but also include the other primary biotech product – Bt seeds. These seeds have been engineered to contain a gene present in Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) that is toxic to insects. This product’s purported benefit is that it will take care of the insect problem, but has it worked?

Although it initially reduced the need for insecticides, the resistance problem developed by Roundup-ready crops has now begun to manifest in these crops as well. Just as weeds acquired resistance to Roundup, so also rootworm, the biggest pest of corn, is showing signs of resistance to the Bt technology. In areas of the Midwest where these crops have been popular, agricultural experts are advising farmers to spray other insecticides because the Bt trait is failing.

Greater use of chemicals translates into more health hazards.
The harmful effects of pesticides, including Roundup, are not confined to weeds and inserts. Studies show they increase health risks in people and animals exposed to them through food and water. Experts say the use of more chemicals leads to more health hazards. Benbrook aptly characterizes the GMO problem as a “slowly unfolding train wreck.”

The “Monsanto Rider”: Are Biotech Companies About to Gain Immunity From Federal Law?

TruthOut
By Alexis Baden-Mayer, AlterNet

While many Americans were firing up barbecues and breaking out the sparklers to celebrate Independence Day, biotech industry executives were more likely chilling champagne to celebrate another kind of independence: immunity from federal law.

A so-called “Monsanto rider,” quietly slipped into the multi-billion dollar FY 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill, would require – not just allow, but require – the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary permit for the planting or cultivation of a genetically engineered crop, even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed. All the farmer or the biotech producer has to do is ask, and the questionable crops could be released into the environment where they could potentially contaminate conventional or organic crops and, ultimately, the nation’s food supply.

Unless the Senate or a citizen’s army of farmers and consumers can stop them, the House of Representatives is likely to ram this dangerous rider through any day now.

In a statement issued last month, the Center For Food Safety had this to say about the biotech industry’s latest attempt to circumvent legal and regulatory safeguards:

Ceding broad and unprecedented powers to industry, the rider poses a direct threat to the authority of U.S. courts, jettisons the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) established oversight powers on key agriculture issues and puts the nation’s farmers and food supply at risk.

In other words, if this single line in the 90-page Agricultural Appropriations bill slips through, it’s Independence Day for the biotech industry.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has sponsored an amendment to kill the rider, whose official name is “the farmers assurance” provision. But even if DeFazio’s amendment makes it through the House vote, it still has to survive the Senate. Meanwhile, organizations like the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, FoodDemocracyNow!, the Alliance for Natural Health USA and many others are gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures in protest of the rider, and in support of DeFazio’s amendment.

Will Congress do the right thing and keep what are arguably already-weak safeguards in place, to protect farmers and the environment? Or will industry win yet another fight in the battle to exert total control over our farms and food supply?

Biotech’s ‘Legislator of the Year’ behind the latest sneak attack

Whom do we have to thank for this sneak attack on USDA safeguards? The agricultural sub-committee chair Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) – who not coincidentally was voted “legislator of the year for 2011-2012” by none other than the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include Monsanto and DuPont. As reported by Mother Jones, the Biotechnology Industry Organization declared Kingston a “champion of America’s biotechnology industry” who has “helped to protect funding for programs essential to the survival of biotechnology companies across the United States.”
Kingston clearly isn’t interested in the survival of America’s farmers.

Aiding and abetting Kingston is John C. Greenwood, former US Congressman from Pennsylvania and now president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization. No stranger to the inner workings of Congress, Greenwood lobbied for the “farmers assurance provision” in a June 13 letter to Congress, according to Mother Jones and Bloomberg, claiming that “a stream of lawsuits” have slowed approvals and “created uncertainties” for companies developing GE crops.

Greenwood was no doubt referring to several past lawsuits, including one brought in 2007 by the Center for Food safety challenging the legality of the USDA’s approval of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa. In that case, a federal court ruled that the USDA’s approval of GMO alfalfa violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of Roundup. The USDA was forced to undertake a four-year study of GMO alfalfa’s impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). During the four-year study, farmers were banned from planting or selling the crop – creating that ‘uncertainty” that Greenwood is so worried about.

The USDA study slowed down the release of GMO alfalfa, but ultimately couldn’t stop it. As Mother Jones reports, in 2011, the USDA deregulated the crop, even though according to its own study, the USDA said that “gene flow” between GM and non-GM alfalfa is “probable,” and threatens organic dairy producers and other users of non-GMO alfalfa, and that there is strong potential for the creation of Roundup-resistant “superweeds” that require ever-higher doses of Roundup and application of ever-more toxic herbicides. The report noted that two million acres of US farmland already harbor Roundup-resistant weeds caused by other Roundup Ready crops.

In another case – which perhaps paved the way for this latest provision now before the House – the USDA in 2011 outright defied a federal judge’s order to halt the planting of Monsanto’s controversial Roundup-Ready GMO sugar beets until it completed an Environmental Impact Statement. The USDA allowed farmers to continue planting the crop even while it was being assessed for safety on the grounds that there were no longer enough non-GMO seeds available to plant.
Who loses if Monsanto wins this one?

Among the biggest losers if Congress ignores the DeFazio amendment and passes the “farmers assurance provision” are thousands of farmers of conventional and organic crops, including those who rely on the export market for their livelihoods. An increasing number of global markets are requiring GMO-free agricultural products or, at the very least, enforcing strict GMO labeling laws. If this provision passes, it will allow unrestricted planting of potentially dangerous crops, exposing other safe and non-GMO crops to risk of contamination.

As we’ve seen in the past, farmers who grow crops that have been inadequately tested and later found dangerous, or whose safe crops become contaminated by nearby unsafe crops, risk huge losses and potentially, lawsuits from their customers. Ultimately, the entire US agriculture market and US economy suffers.

We have only to look back to the StarLink corn and LibertyLink rice contamination episodes for evidence of how misguided this provision is. In October 2000, traces of an Aventis GM corn called StarLink showed up in taco shells in the U.S. even though the corn had not been approved for human consumption because leading allergists were concerned it would cause food allergies. The contamination led to a massive billion dollar recall of over 300 food brands. The ‘StarLink’ gene also turned up unexpectedly in a second company’s corn and in US corn exports, causing a costly disruption to the nation’s grain-handling system, and spurring lawsuits by farmers whose crops were damaged.

A similar disaster occurred for US rice farmers in 2006. In august of that year the USDA announced that mutant DNA of Liberty Link, a genetically modified variety of rice developed by Bayer CropScience, a then-German agri-business giant, were found in commercially-grown long-grain rice in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Missouri. LibertyLink rice, named for Bayer’s broad-spectrum herbicide glufosinate-ammonium, was never intended for human consumption. Following the announcement of contamination, Japan banned all long-grain rice imports from the U.S., and U.S. trade with the EU and other countries ground to a halt. Rice farmers and cooperatives were forced to engage in five long years of litigation against Bayer
CropScience in an attempt to recoup some of their losses.

All the other ways this provision is just plain bad

There’s a reason we have laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Plant Protection Act of 2000, which was specifically designed “to strengthen the safety net for agricultural producers by providing greater access to more affordable risk management tools and improved protection from production and income loss . . .”. The ‘farmers assurance provision” is a thinly disguised attempt by the biotech industry to undermine these protections. Worse yet, it’s an affront to everyone who believes the US judicial system exists to protect US citizens and public health.

Why should you be outraged about this provision? For all these reasons:

· The Monsanto Rider is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. Judicial review is an essential element of U.S. law, providing a critical and impartial check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods. Maintaining the clear-cut boundary of a Constitutionally-guaranteed separation of powers is essential to our government. This provision will blur that line.

· Judicial review is a gateway, not a roadblock. Congress should be fully supportive of our nation’s independent judiciary. The ability of courts to review, evaluate and judge an issue that impacts public and environmental health is a strength, not a weakness, of our system. The loss of this fundamental safeguard could leave public health, the environment and livelihoods at risk.

· It removes the “legal brakes” that prevent fraud and abuse. In recent years, federal courts have ruled that several USDA GE crop approvals violated the law and required further study of their health and environmental impact. These judgments indicated that continued planting would cause harm to the environment and/or farmers and ordered interim planting restrictions pending further USDA analysis and consideration. The Monsanto rider would prevent a federal court from putting in place court-ordered restrictions, even if the approval were fraudulent or involved bribery.

· It’s unnecessary and duplicative. Every court dealing with these issues is supposed to carefully weigh the interests of all affected farmers and consumers, as is already required by law. No farmer has ever had his or her crops destroyed as a result. USDA already has working mechanisms in place to allow partial approvals, and the Department has used them, making this provision completely unnecessary.

· It shuts out the USDA. The rider would not merely allow, it would compel the Secretary of Agriculture to immediately grant any requests for permits to allow continued planting and commercialization of an unlawfully approved GE crop. With this provision in place, USDA may not be able to prevent costly contamination episodes like Starlink or Liberty Link rice, which have already cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. The rider would also make a mockery of USDA’s legally mandated review, transforming it into a ‘rubber stamp’ approval process.

· It’s a back-door amendment of a statute. This rider, quietly tacked onto an appropriations bill, is in effect a substantial amendment to USDA’s governing statute for GE crops, the Plant Protection Act. If Congress feels the law needs to be changed, it should be done in a transparent manner by holding hearings, soliciting expert testimony and including full opportunity for public debate.

If we allow this “Monsanto Rider” to be slipped into the FY 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill, consumers and farmers will lose what little control we have now over what we plant and what we eat.

If you would like to join the hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens who have already written to Congress in support of the DeFazio amendment, please sign our petition here.