Tag Archives: biotechnology

India sues Monsanto for “Biopiracy”

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Foodfacts.com brings to you the latest in genetic engineering. Just recently, India has decided to fight against major agribusiness, Monsanto, after the company allegedly genetically modified an eggplant crop without consent. India is considering this as “biopiracy”, and not backing down from this fight. Check it out below!

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Add a new word to your lexicon: Biopiracy.

That’s what U.S.-based agribusiness giant Monsanto has been accused of in India, where the government is planning to charge the company with violating the country’s biodiversity laws over a genetically modified version of eggplant.eggplant

In doing so, India has placed itself at the focal point of the movement to challenge genetically modified crops, which opponents say are destroying traditional crops and threatening farmers’ livelihoods.

“This can send a … message to the big companies [that] they are violating the laws of the nation,” K.S. Sugara of the Karnataka Biodiversity Board told France 24 (see video below). “It is not acceptable … that the farmers in our communities are robbed of the advantage they should get from the indigenous varieties.”

India announced last month it is pursuing charges against Monsanto for “stealing” an indigenous crop — eggplant — and using it to create a modified version without permission, a violation of India’s decade-old Biological Diversity Act. It’s the first prosecution of a company for the act of “biopiracy” in the country, and possibly the world.

At the heart of the issue is the phenomenon of the commercialization of indigenous knowledge. Indian farmers argue that they developed the strains of eggplant grown in India over generations, and Monsanto has no right to come in and build a product out of their own indigenous species.

Monsanto took locally-grown eggplant “without any conformance with the biological diversity act, and therefore it is biopiracy,” said Leo Saldanha, director of the Environmental Support Group, an Indian NGO. Saldanha filed the initial complaint that prompted India to pursue charges.

It is not actually illegal to develop GM foods from indigenous crops in India, but the the government placed a moratorium on eggplant development last year after an outcry from farmers. It’s this moratorium that Monsanto is accused of breaking.

However, in the month since the government announced it intends to file charges, no actual charges have been laid. France24 correspondent Vikram Singh said India may be coming under pressure from Monsanto and other multinationals not to pursue the case.

But Singh said government officials insist they are simply taking their time to build a water-tight case.

Farmers’ opposition to Monsanto and genetically modified crops in India goes back to before the eggplant controversy, and traces its roots at least partly to an earlier controversy about genetically modified cotton.

After successfully introducing GM cotton to India, Monsanto was besieged by bad publicity when a failed crop allegedly caused farmers to commit suicide. Crop failures are common in India, but when the GM cotton crop failed, the farmers growing it were saddled with enormous debt.

By some counts, the suicide toll related to GM crop failure is in the hundreds of thousands, though some observers have challenged that notion.

The company has also been accused of using child labor in its cotton seed production operations.

Monsanto has largely refused to comment to the media about the eggplant controversy, but France24 reported that the company is blaming its Indian sub-contractor for the unauthorized use of eggplant species.

France 24’s Singh said the case “will have ramifications beyond this incident. … It’s hugely important because how they handle this will set precedent for cases in the future.”

The stakes for Monsanto are huge. Besides cotton and eggplant, the company sees an enormous potential market for genetically modified corn in India. The St. Louis-based firm’s sales in India have been growing rapidly in recent years and now stand at around $7 billion per year.

Chuck Norris Roundhouse Kicks GMOs!

chuck norris

Foodfacts.com recently came across an article featured on NaturalNews.com which discusses famous actor Chuck Norris and his views against genetically modified foods. Check it out below!

Chuck Norris is a famous martial artist, actor, and superhuman-like legend. He deserves recognition for a lot more than simply his fearless strength and unrivaled manliness. The former star of the television show Walker, Texas Ranger is also well-versed in natural health issues, and has taken an open stand against genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), Codex Alimentarius, and the government assault against health freedom.

Natural health allies in the mainstream are few and far between, and Norris is one of a few that truly grasp the health freedom issues that we write about here at NaturalNews all the time. In a recent column at WorldNetDaily, Norris explains to readers why we must all band together and fight as one to protect our health freedoms, which are quickly disappearing right before our eyes.

Citing the near-total dominance in the US of GMO staple crops like corn, soy, and canola, Norris paints a grim picture of the sizable beast we currently face. Nearly three-quarters of all the processed food consumed by Americans contains GMOs, but the vast majority of people are completely unaware of this because there are no GMO labeling laws — and all efforts to enact GMO labeling laws thus far have failed.

Then, there is the issue of Codex Alimentarius, the world food code that threatens to control what we eat, and eliminate our freedom to purchase vitamins and supplements. Though Codex provisions have not yet been fully implemented in the US — or fully ironed out by the United Nations (UN) and the World Health Organization (WHO), for that matter — our health freedom is diminishing little by little almost every single day. And very soon, if we do nothing, Codex will become a reality.

In the US, the escalating government assault against health freedom can be clearly observed in events like the recent Rawesome Foods raid (http://www.naturalnews.com/033220_R…), the numerous raids against raw milk producers (http://www.naturalnews.com/raw_milk…), and the Wyldewood Cellars raid (http://www.naturalnews.com/032631_e…), just to name a few.

There have been so many government raids against health food producers, in fact, that we have assembled an extensive timeline of many of these events that date back as far as 1985 (http://www.naturalnews.com/033280_F…).

The big issue, though, at least according to Norris, involves the honest labeling of food. If we allow GMOs to remain unlabeled and fail to push hard for labeling legislation to be passed, then conditions on the health freedom front will only continue to worsen.

Now is the time to bombard local, state, and federal officials with demands to pass GMO labeling legislation as soon as possible. As an individual, you can also help bring about change by choosing to buy only local, non-GMO, and organic foods.

(NaturalNews.com)

Some consumers willing to pay more for GMO foods

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According to a recent study done by researcher Wallace Huffman at Iowa State University, research shows that some consumers will pay up to 25% more for genetically modified foods. For the few of you that may not know, genetic modification is basically carrying genes from one organism into another to create a new hybrid product. This became popular within the last 2 decades, and we’re still not quite sure if there are any long-term health implications involved. However, it’s still being done by major biotechnology companies, and apparently some people are willing to pay extra bucks for it.

Why are some willing to pay more money? There has been a lot of hype surrounding antioxidants, and some vitamins and minerals. We too recognize that these nutrients can provide an abundance of health benefits, and we suggest getting them from natural sources. However, some fruits and vegetables now undergo intragenic modification (modified within own species, rather than from other species) to take antioxidant properties from other plants, and insert them into new ones. This means that some produce that once lacked a certain vitamin or antioxidant, now has the ability to carry different nutrients.

Some farmers and home-gardeners try accomplishing this through cross-breeding, however this can be very difficult to do with many plants. This is when genetic modification came into play, eliminating the difficulties with cross-breeding.
However, many are still skeptic about purchasing any genetically modified product. Again, we’re not exactly sure of any long-term effects or health implications that this process may cause, because it is still fairly new.

Few studies using animals as subjects have suggested genetic modification to cause renal damage, progressive tumor growth, certain types of cancers, and cardiovascular issues. However, these studies have been for the most part small in sample size and brushed off by government agencies.

“The basic idea is that when consumers saw that the intragenic produce had elevated healthful attributes, they were willing to pay more for them,” said Huffman.

What do you think? Would you be more at comfort knowing a genetically modified product was modified with a plant within its own species rather than a plant outside of its species? Or is genetic modification still lacking evidence for you to trust it at all?

Will we be eating genetically modified Salmon soon?

GM Salmon
Foodfacts.com tries to stay updated with recent news pertaining to genetically modified organisms. Due to the continuing rise of GM crops, fish, and poultry, we believe it’s necessary to alert consumers of these issues because we’re not quite sure yet what the health implications are from consuming such products. Read the article below to learn more about GM salmon!

WASHINGTON — Members of Congress are pushing to stop the Food and Drug Administration from approving genetically engineered salmon, saying not enough is known about a fish they say could harm fishery businesses in coastal states.

It appeared last year that the FDA might approve the engineered salmon quickly. But the congressional pushback and a lack of action by the FDA could mean the fish won’t be on the nation’s dinner tables any time soon.

The fish, which grows twice as fast as the conventional variety, is engineered by AquaBounty, a Massachusetts-based company, but not yet allowed on the market. The company’s application has been pending for more than 15 years. If the agency approves it, it would be the first time the government allows such modified animals to be marketed for people to eat.

Congressional opposition to the engineered fish is led by members of the Alaska delegation. They see the modified salmon as a threat to the state’s wild salmon industry.

In June, the House adopted an amendment by Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, to an agriculture spending bill that would prevent the FDA from spending any money on approving the fish. His amendment was approved by voice vote with no objections.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, said last week she will attempt to add the same amendment to the Senate version of the bill.

“It kind of gives me the heebie jeebies that we are messing with what Mother Nature did a pretty good job with in terms of a king salmon,” Murkowski said.

While Murkowski’s opposition is rooted in concern for her state’s fishing industry, other senators have expressed worries about potential food safety or environmental risks. More than a dozen senators have written the FDA with concern about the approval process and food safety and environmental risks. Bills to stop the salmon have been introduced in both chambers.

Ron Stotish, the chief executive of AquaBounty, said he was optimistic when the FDA decided to hold hearings on the company’s application. But a year later, he said, he is frustrated by the delay and has lost investors in his business.

“If you had asked me a year ago if we would be having this conversation, I would have said no,” he said.

The FDA is still in the process of completing their review, spokesman Doug Karas said, “although we cannot predict when that will be.”

Karas said the FDA is planning on releasing a review of potential environmental impacts of growing the salmon – and soliciting public comments on that review – before reaching a decision. That means a decision could be months or even years away.

In the hearings last year, FDA officials said the fish is as safe to eat as the traditional variety. But critics call the modified salmon a “frankenfish.” They say they are concerned it could cause human allergies and the eventual decimation of the wild salmon population if the engineered animals escape.

AquaBounty has maintained that the fish is safe and that there are several safeguards against environmental problems. The fish would be bred female and sterile, though a very small percentage might still be able to breed. The company said potential for escape is low. The FDA backed these assertions in documents released before these hearings last year.

Genetically engineered – or GE – animals are not clones, which the FDA has already said are safe to eat. Clones are copies of an animal. In GE animals, the DNA has been altered to produce a desirable characteristic. The process is common in plant foods like corn and soybeans.

In the case of the salmon, AquaBounty has added a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon that allows the fish to produce growth hormone all year long. The engineers were able to keep the hormone active by using another gene from an eel-like fish called an ocean pout that acts like an on switch for the hormone. Typical salmon produce the growth hormone only some of the time.

Stotish acknowledged that approval of AquaBounty’s product is likely more difficult because they are the first. Approval of the company’s application would open the door for a variety of other genetically engineered animals, including an “Enviropig” being developed in Canada that has less-polluting manure or cattle that are resistant to mad cow disease. Each would have to be individually approved by the FDA.

“Blocking us is the best way to block anything that would come behind us,” Stotish said.

(Huffington Post)

Are we Inhaling Monsanto’s “Roundup”?

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(Reuters) – Significant levels of the world’s most-used herbicide have been detected in air and water samples from two U.S. farm states, government scientists said on Wednesday, in groundbreaking research on the active ingredient in Monsanto Co’s Roundup.

“It is out there in significant levels. It is out there consistently,” said Paul Capel, environmental chemist and head of the agricultural chemicals team at the U.S. Geological Survey Office, part of the U.S. Department of Interior.

Capel said more tests were needed to determine how harmful the chemical, glyphosate, might be to people and animals.

The study comes on the heels of several others released recently that raise concerns about the rise of resistant “super weeds,” and other unintended consequences of Roundup on soil and animals.

Capel said glyphosate, the key ingredient in “Roundup” herbicide, was found in every stream sample examined in Mississippi in a two-year period and in most air samples taken. Tests were also done in Iowa.

“So people are exposed to it through inhalation,” said Capel.

The research did not look at the impact of the glyphosate in the air and water; the purpose was purely to determine exposure.

More research is needed, Capel said, to analyze the implications.

It is difficult and costly to test for the presence of glyphosate, a popular herbicide used around the world to control weeds on farm fields, golf courses and in residential yards. As a result, little research has been done on the implications for waterways and the air, according to Capel.

“This study is one of the first to document the consistent occurrence of this chemical in streams, rain and air throughout the growing season,” said Capel. “It is used so heavily and studied so little.”

Capel said researchers looked at samples from Mississippi, a key agricultural area for corn, soybeans, cotton and rice. Many farmers of those crops use large quantities of glyphosate when growing to combat weeds. Researchers also took samples from areas in Iowa.

Monsanto Co. introduced glyphosate to the world in 1974 branded as Roundup, and has made billions of dollars over the years from Roundup herbicides as well as from the “Roundup Ready” corn, soybeans and cotton the company has genetically engineered to survive dousings of glyphosate.

Most of the corn, soybeans and cotton grown in the United States are part of the Roundup Ready system.

The USGS said more than 88,0000 tons of glyphosate were used in the United States in 2007, up from 11,000 tons in 1992. The big increase in usage has spurred concerns on many fronts, most recently from farmers and environmentalists noting the rise of “super weeds” that are resistant to Roundup.

Fast-growing, glyphosate-resistant weeds are choking out crops in some areas, and some scientists say research shows harmful effects of glyphosate products on soil organisms, on plants, and on certain animals.

The Environmental Protection Agency is reviewing the registration for glyphosate and the data gathered by the U.S. Geological Survey has been submitted to the EPA, said Capel.

The EPA has set a deadline of 2015 for determining if glyphosate should continue to be sold or in some way limited. The EPA is working closely with regulators in Canada as they also assess the ongoing safety and effectiveness of the herbicide.

Monsanto spokeswoman Kelli Powers said the company was reviewing the study. The EPA had no immediate comment on the study.

(Reporting by Carey Gillam; Editing by David Gregorio)

A new genetically modified soybean

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Foodfacts.com recently came across an article which we found interesting pertaining to soybeans. Soybean oil has received some negative attention for including trans fats, which as we all know, has been linked to cardiovascular disease. The soybean industry took a hard hit with the limited amount of soybean oil sales and came up with a new solution, genetic modification. Check out the article below to learn more!

The soybean industry is seeking government approval of a genetically modified soybean it says will produce oil lower in saturated fat, offer consumers a healthier alternative to foods containing trans fats and increase demand for growers’ crops.

Demand for soybean oil has dropped sharply since 2005, when the U.S. Food and Drug Administration began requiring labels to list levels of trans fats, which have been linked to coronary heart disease. Vegetable oil does not naturally contain trans fats, but when hydrogen is added to make it suitable for use in the food industry, trans fats are created.

Agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. says oil from its new soybean will meet manufacturers’ requirements for baking and shelf life without hydrogenation, resulting in food that’s free of trans fats as well as lower in saturated fat.

The FDA approved the new bean, called Vistive Gold, earlier this year, and Monsanto and several state and national soybean groups are now seeking approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA’s Animal Plant Health Inspection Service said in an email to The Associated Press that it has no timeline for making a decision.

U.S. farmers harvested more than 3.3 billion bushels of soybeans valued at nearly $39 billion in 2010. But the Iowa Soybean Association said in a letter to APHIS the industry’s share of the food oil market dropped from 83 percent to 68 percent after the FDA enacted the labeling requirements. Iowa grows more soybeans than any other state.

“We believe because of the trans-fat labeling, 4.6 billion pounds of edible soybean oil was not used for food over a three-year period,” said Bob Callanan, a spokesman for the American Soybean Association. The oil was turned into biodiesel instead, and farmers got less money for their soybeans, he said.

Industry officials believe Vistive Gold could command as much as 60 cents more per bushel than other soybeans, raising a farmer’s income by thousands of dollars.

Jim Andrew, who grows 625 acres of conventional soybeans near Jefferson, Iowa, said he hopes Vistive Gold soybeans also will reduce consumers’ fears about biotech crops by providing a direct health benefit. Most genetically modified crops so far have been engineered to fight pests and increase harvests, benefiting farmers.

“I think it’s a case where we’re trying to modify crops to address specific needs to make other industries more efficient and healthier,” Andrew said.

St. Louis-based Monsanto introduced a first generation of the bean, called Vistive, in 2005 to reduce or eliminate trans fats in response to the labeling requirements. Vistive Gold retains those qualities and offers lower levels of saturated fat and higher levels of healthier monounsaturated fats.

Joe Cornelius, a Monsanto project manager who has worked on the Vistive soybeans for 15 years, said Vistive Gold could make a real difference in efforts to produce healthier foods. As an example, he said it could produce French fries with more than 60 percent less saturated fat.

“I don’t think we can say fried food will ever be a health food, but you can improve the nutritional profile of that food,” Cornelius said.

But Bill Freese, a science policy analyst with the Center for Food Safety, said Vistive Gold and other engineered crops don’t face rigorous enough testing. No animal feeding trials were conducted on the new soybean to see what would happen when it was consumed, he said.

And, the FDA approved it based on the agency’s review of a similar soybean produced by another company, not an actual review of Vistive Gold, he said, adding, “That struck me as very odd.”

Without proper scrutiny, genetically modified crops have a “high potential for harmful and unintended consequences,” such as increased toxicity that could make someone sick or decreased nutritional content, he said.

“Not every genetically modified crop is going to be dangerous,” Freese said. “The bottom line is we need to have a really stringent regulatory system, which we currently don’t have.”

Monsanto said it tested Vistive Gold extensively and found it to be safe. A notice posted on the APHIS website in June said its assessment of Vistive Gold indicated the bean wasn’t a risk to other plants.

Walter Fehr, an Iowa State University agronomist involved in soybean breeding research, said he thinks the federal government has a stringent and effective procedure for reviewing genetically modified crops and he saw no reason to question the soybean’s safety.

“People use different methodologies for different things, and scientists are very aware of potential negative side effects,” Fehr said.

(The Sacramento Bee)

Monsanto corn finds competition in rootworms

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Widely grown corn plants that Monsanto Co. genetically modified to thwart a voracious bug are falling prey to that very pest in a few Iowa fields, the first time a major Midwest scourge has developed resistance to a genetically modified crop.

The discovery raises concerns that the way some farmers are using biotech crops could spawn superbugs.

Iowa State University entomologist Aaron Gassmann’s discovery that western corn rootworms in four northeast Iowa fields have evolved to resist the natural pesticide made by Monsanto’s corn plant could encourage some farmers to switch to insect-proof seeds sold by competitors of the St. Louis crop biotechnology giant, and to return to spraying harsher synthetic insecticides on their fields.

“These are isolated cases, and it isn’t clear how widespread the problem will become,” said Dr. Gassmann in an interview. “But it is an early warning that management practices need to change.”

The finding adds fuel to the race among crop biotechnology rivals to locate the next generation of genes that can protect plants from insects. Scientists at Monsanto and Syngenta AG of Basel, Switzerland, are already researching how to use a medical breakthrough called RNA interference to, among other things, make crops deadly for insects to eat. If this works, a bug munching on such a plant could ingest genetic code that turns off one of its essential genes.

Monsanto said its rootworm-resistant corn seed lines are working as it expected “on more than 99% of the acres planted with this technology” and that it is too early to know what the Iowa State University study means for farmers.

The discovery comes amid a debate about whether the genetically modified crops that now saturate the Farm Belt are changing how some farmers operate in undesirable ways.

These insect-proof and herbicide-resistant crops make farming so much easier that many growers rely heavily on the technology, violating a basic tenet of pest management, which warns that using one method year after year gives more opportunity for pests to adapt.

Monsanto is already at the center of this issue because of its success since the 1990s marketing seeds that grow into crops that can survive exposure to its Roundup herbicide, a glyphosate-based chemical known for its ability to kill almost anything green.

These seeds made it so convenient for farmers to spray Roundup that many farmers stopped using other weedkillers. As a result, say many scientists, superweeds immune to Roundup have spread to millions of acres in more than 20 states in the South and Midwest.

Monsanto became the first company to sell rootworm-resistant biotech corn to farmers in 2003. The seed contains a gene from a common soil microorganism called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt, from which crop biotechnology has been used to mine several genes for making insecticidal proteins.

One of the genes Monsanto developed makes a crystalline protein called Cry3Bb1. It rips apart the gut of the rootworm but is harmless to mammals, birds and most beneficial insects. Competitors, which use other Bt genes to attack the rootworm, estimate that roughly one-third of the corn grown in the U.S. carries Monsanto’s Cry3Bb1 gene.

Monsanto said it generated world-wide sales of $4.26 billion from corn seed and biotechnology traits, about 40% of its overall sales, in its last full year.

Until insecticide-producing corn plants arrived, Midwest farmers typically tried to keep pests like the corn borer and the rootworm in check by changing what they grew in a field each year, often rotating between corn and soybeans. That way, the offspring of corn-loving insects would starve the next year.

Some farmers began to plant corn in the same field year after year. The financial incentive to grow corn has increased in recent years in part because the ethanol-fuel industry’s exploding appetite for corn has helped to lift prices to very profitable levels for growers.

According to Dr. Gassmann, the Iowa fields in which he found rootworms resistant to the Cry3Bb1 toxin had been producing Monsanto’s Bt-expressing corn continuously for at least three years. Dr. Gassmann collected rootworm beetles from four Iowa cornfields with plant damage in 2009. Their larvae were then fed corn containing Monsanto’s Cry3Bb1 toxin. They had a survival rate three times that of control larvae that ate the same corn.

Dr. Gassmann found that Monsanto’s Bt toxin still had some lethal impact on the larvae from the problem Iowa fields, and that the bugs were still highly susceptible to a rootworm-resistant corn plant from a competitor that uses a different Bt toxin, called Cry34/35Ab1.

Scientists in other Farm Belt states are also looking for signs that Monsanto’s Bt corn might be losing its effectiveness. Mike Gray, a University of Illinois entomologist, said he is studying rootworm beetles he collected in northwest Illinois earlier this month from fields where Monsanto’s Bt-expressing corn had suffered extensive rootworm damage.

The government requires that farmers who plant the genetically modified corn take certain steps aimed at preventing insects from developing resistance. Farmers are told to create a refuge for the bugs by planting non-modified corn in part of their fields. The refuge, which can be as much as 20% of a farmer’s field, is supposed to reduce the chances that two toxin-resistant bugs mate and pass along that trait to their offspring.

Dr. Gray said the confirmation of toxin-resistant rootworms in Iowa could force the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to revisit its policy of allowing the size of these insect refuges to shrink to as little as 5% of a cornfield as crop biotechnology companies begin to sell seed for corn plants that can make two different rootworm-killing toxins.

Part of what has attracted some farmers to Monsanto’s new SmartStax corn line is that it allows them to plant a smaller refuge. But one of the two anti-rootworm toxins in that variety is the Cry3Bb1 protein at the center of Dr. Gassmann’s study.

The EPA said it is too early to comment on any implications arising from Dr. Gassmann’s paper.

(Wall Street Journal)