Science is Indeed For Sale- Story of a Monsanto Purchase

A few months ago, in preparation for a talk on GMO’s, I came across some information clarifying how the research and educational systems are literally up for sale. People (or corporations) can buy seats on research boards for an average of $20k. Likewise, they can sponsor professorships for a larger sum, usually in the few hundreds of thousands. So, University level science has become incredibly corrupt. The stories of scientists who have been blackballed by the controllers of research are striking, and actually quite sad. The article below covers an aspect of this issue. For those who still think that GMO’s are either needed or safe, they need to be intellectually honest and research the funding and control behind the studies that report that GMO’s -of any variety- are safe.

The source for the article is linked in the headline:

The Inside Story of How a University Professor Quietly Collaborated With Monsanto

Carey Gillam, AlterNet | Fe

Former University of Illinois food science professor Bruce Chassy is known for his academic gravitas. Now retired nearly four years, Chassy still writes and speaks often about food safety issues, identifying himself with the full weight of the decades of experience earned at the public university and as a researcher at the National Institutes of Health. Chassy tells audiences that before he retired in 2012, he worked “full time” doing research and teaching.

Many consumer and environmental groups want to see more restrictions and regulation on GMO crops. Photo credit: Stephen Melkisethian / Shutterstock
Many consumer and environmental groups want to see more restrictions and regulation on GMO crops. Photo credit: Stephen Melkisethian / Shutterstock

What Chassy doesn’t talk much about is the other work he did while at the University of Illinois—promoting the interests of Monsanto Co., which has been trying to overcome mounting public concerns about the genetically engineered (GMO) crops and chemicals the company sells. He also doesn’t talk much about the hundreds of thousands of dollars Monsanto donated to the university as Chassy was helping promote GMOs or Monsanto’s secretive role in helping Chassy set up a nonprofit group and website to criticize individuals and organizations who raise questions about GMOs.

But emails released through Freedom of Information Act requests show that Chassy was an active member of a group of U.S. academics who have been quietly collaborating with Monsanto on strategies aimed at not just promoting biotech crop products, but also rolling back regulation of these products and fending off industry critics. The emails show money flowing into the university from Monsanto as Chassy collaborated on multiple projects with Monsanto to counter public concerns about genetically modified crops (GMOs)—all while representing himself as an independent academic for a public institution.

A New York Times article by Eric Lipton published last September laid bare the campaign crafted by Monsanto and other industry players to use the credibility of prominent academics to push the industry’s political agenda. That New York Times article focused primarily on University of Florida academic Kevin Folta, chairman of the university’s Horticultural Sciences Department and Folta’s work on behalf of Monsanto. But an examination of recently released email exchanges between Monsanto and Chassy show new depths to the industry efforts.

The collaborations come at a critical juncture in the U.S. regarding GMO public policy. Mandatory GMO labeling is set to take effect in Vermont on July 1; Congress is wrestling over a federal labeling law for GMOs; and several other states are seeking their own answers to rising consumer demand for transparency about this topic.

Many consumer and environmental groups want to see more restrictions and regulation on GMO crops and the glyphosate herbicide many know as Roundup, which is used on GMOs. But the companies that market the crops and chemicals argue their products are safe and there should be less regulation, not more. Monsanto’s roughly $15 billion in annual revenue comes almost exclusively from GMO crop technology and related chemicals.

Amid the furor, the revelations about corporate collaboration with public university scientists to promote GMOs have sparked a new debate about a lack of transparency in the relationships between academics and industry.

Chassy has said he did nothing unethical or improper in his work supporting Monsanto and the biotech crop industry. “As a public-sector research scientist, it was expected … that I collaborate with and solicit the engagement of those working in my field of expertise,” Chassy said.

Still, what you find when reading through the email chains is an arrangement that allowed industry players to cloak pro-GMO messaging within a veil of independent expertise and little, if any, public disclosure of the behind-the-scenes connections.

Critical Collaborations 

  • In a November 2010 email, Monsanto chief of global scientific affairs Eric Sachs tells Chassy that Monsanto has just sent a “gift of $10,000” to the university “so the funds should be there.” He then tells Chassy he is working on a plan for Monsanto and others in the agribusiness industry to support an “academics review” website that Chassy can use to counter concerns and allegations raised by critics of GMOs. “From my perspective the problem is one of expert engagement and that could be solved by paying experts to provide responses,” Sachs wrote. “The key will be keeping Monsanto in the background so as not to harm the credibility of the information.”

  • In a separate 2010 exchange, Jay Byrne, president of the v-Fluence public relations firm and former head of corporate communications for Monsanto, tells Chassy he is trying to move the Academics Review project forward. He suggests “we work on the money (for all of us).” Byrne says that he has a list of GMO critics for Academics Review to target. He tells Chassy that the topic areas “mean money for a range of well-heeled corporations.”

  • In 2011, several emails show Chassy and Monsanto chief of global scientific affairs Eric Sachs, along with others, discussing ways to lobby the Environmental Protection Agency against expanded regulation of biotech crops.

  • In one email exchange from September 2011, Chassy suggests how the biotech crop industry might “spin” a government study that found significant levels of the chemical glyphosate, the key ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide, in air and water samples.

  • In emails from 2012, Chassy and Monsanto’s Sachs and Monsanto’s John Swarthout, who leads the company’s “scientific outreach and issues management,” discuss an upcoming presentation Chassy is preparing to make in China. They discuss Monsanto’s review of and changes to, the presentation. Monsanto’s Sachs instructs Swarthout to send slide decks to Chassy as material for his presentation.

  • In April 2012, Monsanto toxicologist Bruce Hammond asks in an email if short videos can be created about the “safety of GM crops.” Chassy says that he is applying for funding from the State Department and “also seeking other sources of support” and can use university equipment to make the videos. Chassy asks Monsanto’s Hammond for a list of videos that “you think would be helpful.” Chassy tells Hammond that Byrne’s group v-fluence has helped create and edit the video scenarios.

  • In separate emails, Monsanto’s Sachs tells Chassy that Monsanto is shooting its own videos,” but says, “Obviously, independent content from the University of Illinois and supported by U.S. government agencies is the preferred approach.” Sachs tells Chassy that Monsanto is happy to help “provide guidance or approaches for additional videos.”

 

Emails About Money 

The emails also discuss money.

  • In an October 2010 email, Chassy tells colleagues at the university that Monsanto has told him it is going to make a “substantial contribution” to his biotech account at the university.

  • In an October 2011 exchange, Chassy asked Sachs about a contribution for the university foundation biotech fund. The Monsanto executive responded that he would “make a gift to the foundation right away” if it had not already been made. Chassy instructs Monsanto to mail the check to the head of the university’s department of food science and to enclose a letter saying the check is “an unrestricted grant … in support of the biotechnology outreach and education activities of Professor Bruce M. Chassy.”

  • And in April and May of 2012 Chassy asks Monsanto directly about an expected “deposit.” In one, on May 31, 2012, as he was preparing to begin his retirement on June 30, Chassy wrote Monsanto’s Sachs again asking “is there any way to find out if a check was issued to University of Illinois for me? I don’t see it in my account yet …”

  • Also in May 2012, Monsanto made a $250,000 grant to the university to help set up an agricultural communications endowed chair. That donation was just a drop in the bucket of the donations from Monsanto—at least $1.9 million in the last five years, according to the university—for agriculture-related projects.

Continued Close Ties 

The close ties between Monsanto and Chassy continued past Chassy’s retirement in June 2012 from the university. Through 2013 and 2014 Chassy frequently appeared as an “independent expert” on the GMO Answers website, a pro-GMO site funded by Monsanto and other agribusiness giants. In that role, he answered questions and concerns about GMOs.

Chassy also has continued to operate Academics Review, publishing critical articles about individuals and organizations, including the World Health Organization’s cancer experts, that report information unfavorable for the GMO crop industry. (I was the subject of at least two such attacks in 2014. Chassy objected to my presentation of both sides of the GMO safety debate in one Reuters article and objected to a second Reuters article that detailed the findings of a USDA report that found both benefits but also concerns associated with GMOs.)

When asked about its interactions with Chassy, Monsanto has said that there is nothing improper with its “engagements” with “public sector experts” and that such collaborations help educate the public on important topics. The university also has said it sees nothing wrong with the relations. A university spokeswoman said Chassy has “strong scientific credibility.” She also said that Monsanto has given the university at least $1.9 million in the last five years.

But others familiar with the issues say the lack of transparency is a problem.

“These revelations regarding the connections are very important,” George Kimbrell, senior attorney with the Center for Food Safety, said. “The basic disclosure that some academics and other ‘neutral’ commentators in the public sphere are actually paid operatives/working directly with the chemical industry rightly alarms the public, as they are being misled.”

Revelations similar to these involving University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta’s connections to Monsanto did spark a public backlash after emails showed Folta received an unrestricted $25,000 grant and told Monsanto he would “write whatever you like.” Folta said in a Jan. 18 blog that he no longer works with Monsanto because of the heated backlash.

Both Chassy and Folta have repeatedly written or been quoted in news articles that failed to disclose their connections to Monsanto and the GMO industry. In a recent example, Chassy has co-authored a series of articles that argue GMO labeling is a “disaster in waiting,” again with no disclosure of his collaboration with GMO developer Monsanto. His co-author is Jon Entine, founder of the PR firm ESG MediaMetrics, whose clients have included Monsanto, a connection Entine does not include in the article.

The revelations in the emails about Chassy, Folta and other assorted academics leave many questions about who to trust and how to trust information critical to understanding our evolving food system. With food labeling issues at the forefront of debate, it’s time for more transparency.

GM Mosquitos to Fight Zika….What could go wrong?

Maybe I’m one of only a few people that think there is something inherently dangerous about modifying mosquitos and releasing them into the general population. I’m sure only conspiracy theorists would go…”Umm, wait a minute. Let’s really think this through.” Well, it looks like more fast tracking on this front. Article is linked in the title:

Scientist Plan to USE GM Mosquitos to Combat Zika Virus

Scientists plan to use genetically engineered mosquitoes to fight the spread of Zika virus

If you’ve been paying attention to the news for the past week, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the recent Zika virus outbreak by now. The virus, which is currently spreading across the Americas, has been linked to a rare birth defect known as microencephaly, a condition in which infants are born with abnormally small heads and brains. Since the outbreak, there’s been a sizable uptick in infants born with this condition. The World Health Organization estimates that as many as 4 million people could be infected with the virus — and to make matters worse, there’s currently no vaccine to help stop it from spreading.

But all is not lost. Biologists are taking a bold new approach to stop the virus from spreading any further. Rather than developing a new vaccine or keeping mosquito populations at bay with insecticides, biotech firm Oxitec plans to fight the spread of Zika by deploying swarms of genetically engineered mosquitoes that will prevent virus-carrying bugs from multiplying.

Related: Biologists have successfully bred genetically engineered mosquitoes that can’t carry malaria

The science behind it all is immensely complicated, but the overall idea is actually pretty easy to grasp. Basically, Oxitec has created a genetically modified breed of the Aedes aegypti mosquito — the species that is primarily responsible for spreading the Zika virus. This GM version (called OX513A), has been engineered to carry a gene that causes offspring to die before they reach reproductive age. When Oxitec releases these OX513A mosquitoes into the wild, they mate with females and produce offspring that never fully mature — eventually leading to a sizable reduction in the Aedes aegypti populaiton, and (hopefully) a noticeable decrease in the spread of the Zika virus.

It’s basically the biological equivalent fighting fire with fire. To stop the spread of a disease that causes birth defects, we’re essentially using genetic engineering to give mosquitoes birth defects. And it’s highly effective too — Oxitec has reportedly seen a 90 percent reduction in mosquito populations in a number of different trial locations across the globe.

Now here’s the awesome part. As it turns out, the Aedes aegypti mosquito also happens to be the same species that carries a number of other tropical diseases. Oxitec actually developed the OX513A mosquito in an effort to stop the spread of dengue fever, and has already trialed it (with a great deal of success) in various locations in Latin America and Asia. This means that the company’s solution is more or less ready to roll — it doesn’t need to be adjusted in any major way to help fight the spread of Zika.

Moving forward, Oxitec has plans to expand its existing operations in Brazil (which currently cover about 5,000 people) and eventually build a new mosquito factory that will allow the company to scale up and provide mosquito control for a population of over 300,000. The future of vector control is looking bright!

GMO Salmon-No Label Needed!

The other day, when my internet wouldn’t work dependably, the FDA approval of AquaBounty GMO salmon came through. As if that isn’t bad enough, now it doesn’t need to be labeled. Ick. So, as matters to a lot of people, what they have done is implant in the genes of  a Levitically clean fish, the genes of an  an eel fish (which isn’t clean) and now we get insanely fast growing genetically modified fish with no labeling. And of course, it will never get out and breed in the wild! Sheesh. Here’s an article on the lack of labeling:

Genetically Engineered Salmon Will Not Be Labeled

Consumers wanting to avoid genetically engineered salmon, if it eventually reaches grocery stores, might have a hard time being sure. That is because the Food and Drug Administration said on Thursday that the salmon would not have to be labeled as genetically engineered.

That is consistent with the F.D.A. stance on the widely eaten foods made from genetically modified corn, soybeans and other crops. The F.D.A. on Thursday rejected two petitions from groups asking for required labeling of genetically engineered foods.

Agency officials explained on Thursday that the law required labeling of “material” aspects of food, and that use of genetic engineering per se is not material. A significant change in the nutritional content of a food would be an example of a material change, and that altered nutritional profile would have to be on the label, but not the fact that it was produced by genetic engineering. (In the case of the salmon, the agency said there were no material differences between the genetically engineered salmon and a conventional counterpart.)

Still, the F.D.A. on Thursday issued draft guidance for voluntarily labeling salmon and final guidance for voluntarily labeling foods made from bioengineered crops.

Few or no companies want to voluntarily label their products as being genetically engineered since that might hurt sales, and many have lobbied heavily against mandatory labeling. But as consumer pressure for transparency about ingredients grows, an increasing number of companies are labeling their nonengineered products.

The labeling issue is heading for a showdown.

A Vermont law requiring labeling of genetically engineered foods will take effect in July unless food industry groups succeed in getting it blocked by a court. The House of Representatives has passed a bill that would pre-empt states from requiring such labeling.

US Study Shows Round Up Concerns

It seems like every week there is another heavily weighted study showing how negative Round Up is for life. Here’s yet another article on a US study that, of course, Monsatan is baling about:

* Study says chemical residues linked to disease

* Roundup developer Monsanto says glyphosate is safe

* Researchers say more study is needed

By Carey Gillam

April 25 (Reuters) – Heavy use of the world’s most popular herbicide, Roundup, could be linked to a range of health problems and diseases, including Parkinson’s, infertility and cancers, according to a new study.

The peer-reviewed report, published last week in the scientific journal Entropy, said evidence indicates that residues of “glyphosate,” the chief ingredient in Roundup weed killer, which is sprayed over millions of acres of crops, has been found in food.

Those residues enhance the damaging effects of other food-borne chemical residues and toxins in the environment to disrupt normal body functions and induce disease, according to the report, authored by Stephanie Seneff, a research scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Anthony Samsel, a retired science consultant from Arthur D. Little, Inc. Samsel is a former private environmental government contractor as well as a member of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“Negative impact on the body is insidious and manifests slowly over time as inflammation damages cellular systems throughout the body,” the study says.

We “have hit upon something very important that needs to be taken seriously and further investigated,” Seneff said.

Environmentalists, consumer groups and plant scientists from several countries have warned that heavy use of glyphosate is causing problems for plants, people and animals.

The EPA is conducting a standard registration review of glyphosate and has set a deadline of 2015 for determining if glyphosate use should be limited. The study is among many comments submitted to the agency.

Monsanto is the developer of both Roundup herbicide and a suite of crops that are genetically altered to withstand being sprayed with the Roundup weed killer.

These biotech crops, including corn, soybeans, canola and sugarbeets, are planted on millions of acres in the United States annually. Farmers like them because they can spray Roundup weed killer directly on the crops to kill weeds in the fields without harming the crops.

Roundup is also popularly used on lawns, gardens and golf courses.

Monsanto and other leading industry experts have said for years that glyphosate is proven safe, and has a less damaging impact on the environment than other commonly used chemicals.

Jerry Steiner, Monsanto’s executive vice president of sustainability, reiterated that in a recent interview when questioned about the study.

“We are very confident in the long track record that glyphosate has. It has been very, very extensively studied,” he said.

Of the more than two dozen top herbicides on the market, glyphosate is the most popular. In 2007, as much as 185 million pounds of glyphosate was used by U.S. farmers, double the amount used six years ago, according to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) data.

Read more at Reutershttp://www.reuters.com/article/2013/04/25/roundup-health-study-idUSL2N0DC22F20130425#We3PpH2hcL7tFrpy.99

Monsanto Slashing 11% of Employees!

News for Monsatan just keeps getting better all the time. If we can stop the Dark Act from going through the Senate….We may have a chance!

Monsanto Co, one of the world’s largest seed and agrichemical companies, said on Wednesday that it was slashing 2,600 jobs and restructuring operations to cut costs in a slumping commodity market.

The company, which said it expected low prices for agricultural products to squeeze results well into 2016, also reported a much wider quarterly loss and gave an outlook below many analysts’ expectations.

The layoffs would affect 11.6 percent of Monsanto’s regular workforce, according to the company.

The global restructuring will also include an exit from the sugar cane business and “streamlining and reprioritizing” some commercial and research and development work.

To try to shore up investor confidence, the company announced a $3 billion accelerated share repurchase program that Chairman Hugh Grant said would be completed in the next six months. Its shares, which fell as much as 4.3 percent early on Wednesday, were nearly unchanged in afternoon trading.

Monsanto said it expected to incur restructuring costs of $850 million to $900 million. When completed, the moves should help save as much as $400 million a year.

The restructuring, which caps a year when Monsanto’s sales fell more than 5 percent, comes during an agricultural slump and a currency collapse in the important Brazilian market.

Swiss rival Syngenta AG, which Monsanto had tried to acquire over the summer, has said it is trying to bolster its bottom line by selling a vegetable seed business and undertaking a $2 billion share repurchase. And DuPont, which operates agricultural seed seller DuPont Pioneer, has lowered its profit outlook.

Monsanto forecast earnings per share of $5.10 to $5.60 for its new fiscal year, which began on Sept. 1. That is well below many analysts’ expectations for more than $6.00.

The company said its losses widened to $1.06 a share in the fourth quarter ended on Aug. 31 from 31 cents a year earlier.

Sales of corn seeds and traits, Monsanto’s key products, fell 5 percent to $598 million in the quarter. And sales at the company’s agricultural productivity unit, which includes Roundup herbicide, dropped 12 percent to $1.1 billion.

Despite the bleak results, Grant said the company’s fundamentals were strong.

Monsanto will remain focused on achieving growth targets for its core seeds and traits business and be “disciplined” with its herbicide business, he said.

The company said it would still meet its target of more than doubling fiscal 2014 earnings per share, excluding special items, by 2019.

Strong demand for corn and soybeans remains a key fundamental for Monsanto, Grant said.

The company has particularly high hopes for new soybeans, corn and cotton that can be sprayed with a new combination of Monsanto’s glyphosate-based Roundup and dicamba herbicides. The combination is aimed at combating widespread weed resistance to glyphosate.

Monsanto still needs final regulatory approvals but said advance orders for “Roundup Ready Xtend Crop System” soybeans were on track to sell out by early December, company officials said. It expects pricing at a $5-to-$10-an-acre premium.

Monsanto also wants to expand sales of agricultural digital data products designed to help farmers boost crop yields. It will soon start field trials in Brazil, officials said.

While farmers have shown interest in the new software and hardware data products offered by Monsanto and several competitors, they have been reluctant to pay for them.

At Tuesday’s close, the stock had dropped roughly 30 percent from a high set last February, and the company’s growth strategy has under intense investor scrutiny after the failed Syngenta takeover attempt.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam in Kansas City, Mo.; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

Monsanto Getting Knocked Around….Yeah!

It looks like the most hated company I know of is finally getting a bit of a smack down. In the past couple of days, several inconveniences for the Monsanto Corp have been brought forward. They are being sued for their cancer causing chemicals, their stock is dropping, the EU is largely opting out of growing any of their garbage. It’s enough to make a real food advocate veritably giddy!

Here’s an article on the EU….Maybe, just maybe, we can get the US Senate to not pass the Dark Act! Not holding my breath, mind you, but recent news is providing a faint glimmer of hope:

Majority of EU nations seek opt-out from growing GM crops

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Nineteen EU member states have requested opt-outs for all or part of their territory from cultivation of a Monsanto genetically-modified crop, which is authorized to be grown in the European Union, the European Commission said on Sunday.

Under a law signed in March, individual countries can seek exclusion from any approval request for genetically modified cultivation across the 28-nation EU.

The law was introduced to end years of stalemate as genetically modified crops divide opinion in Europe.

Although widely grown in the Americas and Asia, public opposition is strong in Europe and environmentalists have raised concerns about the impact on biodiversity.

Commission spokesman Enrico Brivio on Sunday confirmed in an emailed statement the Commission had received 19 opt-out requests following the expiry of a deadline on Saturday.

The requests are for opt-outs from the approval of Monsanto’s GM maize MON 810, the only crop commercially cultivated in the European Union, or for pending applications, of which there are eight so far, the Commission said.

The requests have been or are being communicated to the companies, which have a month to react.

Under the new law, the European Commission is responsible for approvals, but requests to be excluded also have to be submitted to the company making the application.

In response to the first exclusion requests in August from Latvia and Greece, Monsanto said it was abiding by them, even though it regarded them as unscientific.

The new EU law has critics from both sides.

The industry has said it breaks rules on free movement, while environment campaigners say it is a weak compromise open to court challenges from biotech companies.

The Commission spokesman said the number of requests proved that the new law provides “a necessary legal framework to a complex issue”.

The 19 requests are from Austria, Belgium for the Wallonia region, Britain for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Denmark, France, Germany (except for research), Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Poland and Slovenia.

(Reporting by Barbara Lewis; editing by Susan Thomas)

Great Monsanto Infographic!

Today I received this excellent Monsanto History infographic. It is jam packed with the history of one of the most evil corporations on the face of the planet. I was asked to share it with my readers, and I am quite happy to do so! Here is the link for the full view. Thanks, Elly!

Monsanto Infographic

New England Journal of Medicine Calls for GMO Labeling!

I don’t think this could have come at a better time. The Senate is due to vote on the Dark Act soon, and with such a prestigious medical journal now publishing an article stating that we should be labeling GM crops, it is not going to be easy for the Senators to keep holding the Monsanto line of “It’s great! And all the studies that show it isn’t are wrong because we say so.”  Mind you, I am not going to hold my breath thinking the US Federal Government will do the right and decent thing, but this is still fantastic ammo. Here is an excerpt from an article. The link to the article is in the title below:

New England Journal of Medicine article calls for labeling of GM foods

In the August 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, two respected experts on pesticides and children’s environmental health call for the FDA to require mandatory labeling of GMO foods.

Currently, the FDA does not require labeling of genetically modified foods, even though 65 countries mandate the labeling of GM foods, and more than 90 percent of Americans support it. Last month, the DARK Act, which would block states and federal government from making mandatory labeling laws, passed in the House. Next, it goes to the Senate.

What the article says

In the article, titled “GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health,” Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, the Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and co-author Charles Benbrook, a crop and soil scientist, say the time has come for three important steps.

One of these is GMO labeling. They write: “We believe the time has come to revisit the United States’ reluctance to label GM foods.”

As they explain, two recent developments are dramatically changing the GMO landscape:

  1. The number of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops has increased sharply and is scheduled to increase even more in the next few years.
  2. This year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate, the herbicide used most widely on GM crops, as a “probable human carcinogen.” And the agency classified 2,4-D, another herbicide, as a “possible human carcinogen.”

The authors believe labeling will have multiple benefits. It will help track the emergence of new food allergies and better evaluate the effects of chemical herbicides applied to GM foods. And also, it will respect the wishes of the growing numbers of consumers who insist they have a right to know what is in the foods and beverages they are buying.

The article also calls for the National Toxicology Program to urgently assess the nature, effects, and possible poisons in pure glyphosate, formulated glyphosate, and mixtures of glyphosate and other herbicides.

Finally, the article calls for the EPA to delay its implementation of its decision to allow the use of Enlist Duo, a combination herbicide made with both glyphosate and 2,4-D that is designed for use on GMO crops…..(rest here)

Scotland to Ban GMO Production

Here’s some refreshing news:

Scotland to ban growing of genetically modified crops

LONDON (Reuters) – Scotland’s devolved government said on Sunday it intended to ban the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops on its territory to protect its “clean and green brand” and because there was little evidence that Scottish consumers wanted GM products.

Widely grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops have divided opinion in Europe, with some green groups saying they are worried about their environmental impact. They have also questioned whether they are healthy for humans. Producers say research shows the crops are safe.

Richard Lochhead, the Scottish government’s minister for the environment, food and rural affairs, said on Sunday he planned to take advantage of new European Union rules allowing countries to opt out of growing EU-authorized GM crops.

“Scotland is known around the world for our beautiful natural environment – and banning growing genetically modified crops will protect and further enhance our clean, green status,” Lochhead said in a statement.

“There is no evidence of significant demand for GM products by Scottish consumers and I am concerned that allowing GM crops to be grown in Scotland would damage our clean and green brand, thereby gambling with the future of our 14 billion-pound ($22 billion) food and drink sector.”

Lochhead, a member of the Scottish National Party, said he had informed the British government, from which Scotland enjoys a large degree of autonomy, of the policy decision.

(Reporting by Andrew Osborn; Editing by Digby Lidstone)

 


GMO Rice Reduces Methane Output

On it’s face, the following story about genetically engineered rice seems much more innocuous than the vast majority of genetic engineering schemes. But one still has to question the wisdom of splicing different species of genes together. Maybe methane is necessary in order for rice to be digestible? Perhaps we don’t know all that we think we know about the biological processes of life? I mean, if I actually knew half as much as I thought I knew when I was sixteen, it would be amazing. It seems as though in our efforts to run full steam ahead into a Brave New World, we probably getting ahead of ourselves. Anyway, here is the article about a different type of GMO rice:

Genetic engineering creates rice strain that makes less methane

Rice agriculture has become one of the most powerful anthropogenic sources of methane, due to continuously growing world population. “We would get more starch, more food, and less methane”, explains Dr Jansson, now director of plant sciences at the US Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“Until now, nobody actually achieved success in altering rice plants” the Dutch scientist said.

Already in 2002, scientists reported that the more grain carried by rice plants, the less methane they emitted. Chuanxin Sun of the Swedish university and senior author of the study added a single gene from barley to rice, then planted it in a field next to a conventional rice field in China. By reducing the size of the rice plants’ roots, the scientists hoped that they could curb the amount of methane produced in the fields. As a result, the world’s rice paddies emit between 25 million and 100 million metric tons of methane every year. Since the low-methane strain of rice isn’t bred to be herbicide or pesticide resistant, this most likely won’t be an issue with this particular strain – though the way that its root-system interacts with microbes in the soil is something to watch. With less carbon in the roots, there is less raw material for the microbes to work on, the researchers explain. Without more trials, Bodelier wrote, it’s hard to know how the genetic modification impacts the rice cultivar’s long-term chances for survival. Far fewer methane-producing bacteria hugged the roots of the new rice. Crops like Roundup-resistant soy or corn have led to a marked increase in the use of herbicides in the United States, though some studies have also shown that genetically modified crops have led to a decrease in the use of some pesticides.

The methane is a natural byproduct of the decomposition of organic matter in the rice paddies. The reduction in methane emissions was particularly effective during the summers, when they were down to 0.3 percent of total emissions from the plant’s decomposition, compared to 10 percent emissions in the conventional crop.

Unlike golden rice where a totally alien gene was introduced into the group, here the change is not major but still could have unintended consequences, Paul Bodelier, a microbial ecologist at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology in Wageningen told CSM. Therefore, a need for developing a new rice variety that reduces methane emissions was recognized. Genetically engineered rice isn’t commercially cultivated anywhere in the world, in part because of ethical and biological concerns about the spread of engineered rice pollen, experts said.

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