+ WHAT IS NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY GOOD FOR?
A superb commentary from the Bioscience Resource Project points out that the criticisms aimed at Dr Ermakova’s paper apply equally to the papers that are trumpeted by the critics as showing no ill effects from GM soy. The commentators conclude, ‘Nature Publishing Group no doubt finds that publishing a magazine [Nature Biotechnology] that does double duty as a science journal and as a trade journal is a highly profitable combination, but equally it is never going to be one that encourages disinterested science.’
+ INDIA: GOVT ADVISES AGAINST GROWING BT COTTON
The government of the Indian state of Maharashtra has recommended that farmers in its cotton belt of Vidarbha stop growing Bt cotton and switch to an alternative crop. This is because Bt cotton cultivation has proven unviable due to its high costs and unsatisfactory output. The take up of Bt cotton has been greater in Maharashtra than in any other part of India, and the state government previously played a big role in hyping it to poor farmers. As a result, farmer suicides have gone through the roof.
+ JUST 10 CORPORATIONS CONTROL NEARLY HALF THE WORLD SEED MARKET
Monsanto recently became the world’s biggest seed company, trailed closely by DuPont. In the mid 1970’s there were around 7,000 seed companies and not one of them had even 0.5% of the world market. Nowadays just 10 corporations control 49% of the world seed market.
+ ONTARIO GROWER ORDERED TO PAY MONSANTO $160 PER ACRE
Monsanto continues to aggressively pursue farmers for infringing its patents. The latest victim is Paul Beneteau of Ontario in Canada. The Court ordered Beneteau to pay damages of $160 per acre.
+ SUBSIDIES FOR MONSANTO’S CORN IN THE U.S. …
The US Department of Agriculture has struck an unusual arrangement with Monsanto that gives farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota a break on federal crop insurance premiums if they plant Monsanto-brand seed corn this spring.
+ … AND IN THE PHILIPPINES
Organic farmers in Mindanao, Philippines have protested the department of agriculture’s policy of providing financial support to those who will plant varieties of GM corn.
+ GM SOY IN BRAZIL: KILLING THE AMAZON AND BOOSTING GLOBAL WARMING
Large-scale soy monocultures in Brazil have caused deforestation, soil degradation, and contamination, says an important article in Brazzil magazine.
+ RESPONSES TO NATURE BIOTECHNOLOGY AFTER ATTACK ON SCIENTIST
The online version of the December 2007 edition of the journal Nature Biotechnology contains correspondence highly critical of the journal and its editor, Andrew Marshall. At issue is the ‘Feature’ published in its September edition that effectively gave a free hand to four notorious biotech apologists to make a premeditated attack on a Russian researcher whose study showed the damaging effects of GM soy on rats. For links to all the correspondence:
+ ‘EDITOR ADMITS TO SERIOUS ERRORS OF JUDGEMENT’
Commentary from GM Free Cymru, which played a leading role in exposing the Nature Biotechnology Scandal.
+ SCIENTIFIC MISREPRESENTATION - TAKE ACTION
If you’re in the UK, please urge your Member of Parliament to sign an Early Day Motion against scientific misrepresentation concerning GM crops, as in the Nature Biotechnology and Shane Morris affairs.
+ BRAZIL: WARNING LABELS FOR GMOS EVEN UNDER 1%
+ QATAR TO LABEL GM PRODUCTS
RESISTANCE/BANS/RESTRICTIONS ON GM
+ MEXICANS CAMPAIGN TO PROTECT NATIVE VARIETIES OF CORN
Mexican farmer and social organizations have kicked off a campaign to protect native corn (maize) which includes collecting one million signatures demanding a ban on GM corn.
+ NO NEW APPROVALS FOR GMOs IN BRAZIL THIS YEAR
The year 2007 has come to an end without any new approvals for GMOs in Brazil. The Federal Government has tried hard to push through approvals, even reducing the quorum for voting at the National Technical Biosafety Commission (CTNBio). But the authorizations issued so far by CTNBio have all been suspended. Irregular procedures have led to lawsuits, while the absence of sound scientific risk assessment has prompted objections from federal environmental and health authorities and from civil society organizations.
+ WAR IN THE RICE FIELDS
One of the great campaigns of 2007 was the ‘Save our Rice Campaign’ of Pesticide Action Network Asia and the Pacific (PAN AP). Their RICE NEWSLETTER is at
+ SHOWDOWN FOR EUROPE
Last month, the European Commission’s environment commissioner Stavros Dimas said that he plans to reject applications from Syngenta and Pioneer Hi-Bred International for approval to grow two strains of GM maize, on the grounds that the crops could adversely affect the environment. But other commissioners are trying to overturn Dimas’s decision.
TAKE ACTION! Help keep the heat on the European Commission. Write a comment on the blog of key commissioners who will decide about the authorisation of GM maize:
+ FRANCE BANS USE OF GM SEEDS
France has formally suspended the commercial use of GM seeds in the country until early February and ordered a biotech safety study.
+ FRENCH UNION URGES FARMERS NOT TO BUY GM SEEDS
Before the ban came in, France’s largest farm union, FNSEA, urged farmers to refrain from buying GM seeds ahead of the new biotech law requiring farmers to declare their GM plantings and making them financially liable for any contamination.
+ BOVE ESCAPES JAIL, PLANS HUNGER STRIKE
French farmer-activist Jose Bove said he had been spared four months in prison on charges of ripping up GM crops, after a judge converted his sentence to a fine. Bove plans a hunger strike beginning 3 January to win a one-year ban on GM crops.
+ NO GM YEAST FOR SOUTH AFRICAN WINERIES
The department of agriculture’s GMO Executive Council has denied an application for the release of GM yeast for use in commercial wine. The application was widely opposed within the wine industry.
+ MORE ON BIOWATCH COURT RULING
+ U.S.: NATIONAL RESTAURANT CHAIN BANS rBGH
From the end of 2007, Chipotle Mexican Grill will no longer serve any cheese made with milk from cows treated with the GM hormone rBGH.
+ OHIO CONSIDERS BANNING rBGH-FREE MILK LABELS
Regulators in the state of Ohio are considering banning ‘rBGH-free’ labeling on dairy products produced without the GM hormone rBGH. US subscribers are encouraged to TAKE ACTION on this even if they live outside Ohio:
+ ‘CONSUMER’ ADVOCATE LINKED TO GM HORMONE INDUSTRY
A woman representing consumers on an Ohio state committee developing new rules for labels that appear on dairy products formerly worked for Monsanto, the corporation which markets the GM hormones at the centre of the labeling debate.
+ ETHICS IS REAL ISSUE BEHIND rBGH CONTOVERSY
Incisive commentary - well worth reading in full.
+ CANADA: SUPREME COURT WON’T HEAR MONSANTO CASE
A six-year battle by a group of Saskatchewan organic farmers to sue Monsanto Canada and Bayer Crop Science has been snuffed out by the Supreme Court of Canada. The farmers were seeking compensation for losing canola as a crop due to genetic contamination. But the country’s top court has announced it will not hear the case.
+ NEW ZEALAND: GM CORN APPROVED IN DEFIANCE OF INTERNATIONAL SAFETY GUIDELINES
The credibility of New Zealand’s food safety regulation has taken a significant hit with the approval of GM lysine corn as a human food, said the Sustainability Council of NZ. The product was designed as an animal feed and not intended for human consumption but was nonetheless assessed by the regulators on the basis of safety standards lower than international guidelines provide for.
+ GM SUGAR ON THE WAY IN THE U.S.
American growers will plant GM Roundup Ready beets next year.
TAKE ACTION ON GM SUGAR BEETS
+ GM MAIZE TRIALS IN MEXICO NEXT YEAR
Mexico’s first trials of GM maize will take place next year, a government official has announced.
+ THAILAND: TESTS IN RESEARCH STATIONS MAKE MOCKERY OF GM BAN
The Thai agriculture and cooperatives ministry’s push for the lifting of the ban on field trials of GM crops has been turned down by the cabinet which decided to leave the decision to the next administration. However, the cabinet’s resolution on Christmas Day to ‘amend’ the 2001 ban on all field trials of GM crops seems to be playing with the definition of the key phrase in the legislation: ‘field trials’. The government has now decided that the term ‘field trials’ does not apply to experiments conducted in state-run compounds. In other words, GM papaya, cotton, maize, and so on will be able to germinate in the soil at research stations belonging to the department of agriculture or in universities.
2 AUSTRALIAN STATES LIFT GM BANS
+ AUSTRALIAN FARMERS LOSE ‘BIG ADVANTAGE’
Terry Boehm, vice-president of Canada’s National Farmers Union, says he is puzzled by the decision by the Victorian and NSW governments to lift their bans on the commercial production of GM canola. ‘To lose GM-free canola status is to lose a very big advantage,’ he said. Boehm said GM canola varieties had not produced significantly increased yields and cases of contamination had led to lengthy court battles. The country’s canola growers had also lost customers in the key export markets of China, Europe and Japan.
+ CANADIAN FARMERS HAVE LOST MARKETS DUE TO GM
Percy Schmeiser, the Canadian farmer sued by Monsanto for having its patented genes on his land, says Canadian farmers who grow GM canola have lost their traditional markets and none of the promised benefits of GM materialized. Most of the GM canola grown in Canada now goes to make biofuels.
+ GM WILL TAINT NATURAL CANOLA CROP
GM canola is certain to contaminate Australia’s canola crops, according to a new report which examines the experience of farmers in Canada, where segregation of GM and non-GM canola crops failed after a few years, causing damage to both industries.
+ WESTERN AUSTRALIA WON’T RELAX GM BAN
+ MOST AUSTRALIANS STILL DON’T WANT TO EAT GM FOODS
+ VICTORIA AND NSW LOSE CANOLA TRADE TO WESTERN AUSTRALIA
Western Australian farmers are already reaping financial benefits and trade advantages by maintaining the state’s moratorium on growing GM crops, says WA agriculture minister Kim Chance.
+ GM CANOLA CAN PRODUCE LOWER YIELDS
According to figures from Monsanto, some Australian trials of GM canola produced yields 16 per cent below the national GM-free average.
+ HEAD OF GM PANEL IN CONFLICT CLAIMS
Sir Gustav Nossal, chosen to head the Victorian government’s panel that recommended lifting bans on GM crops, is the founder of a business designed to reap commercial gain from biotech.
+ AUSTRALIA’S GENE TECHNOLOGY REGULATOR
Gus Nossal’s report relied for its review of GM safety issues on the Office of the Gene Technology Regulator (OGTR), which is headed by Dr Sue Meek. But Meek’s whole background has involved encouraging the development of the biotechnology industry and the commercialisation of its products.
+ NON-GM FARMERS CALL FOR STRICT LIABILITY ON GM CROPS
The Network of Concerned Farmers is calling for strict liability legislation to be introduced to protect non-GM farmers from the inevitable economic losses that will occur if GM canola is introduced in New South Wales.
+ FARMERS WILL BE LIABLE FOR GM CONTAMINATION - WARNING
+ PUBLIC OUTRAGE AT THE END OF THE MORATORIA
+ MORE ARTICLES ON THE LIFTING OF THE BANS
VIRUS-RESISTANT GM PLANTS
+ SAFETY OF VIRUS-RESISTANT GM PLANTS QUESTIONED
The safety of virus-resistant GM plants has been questioned in a paper published in Molecular Plant Pathology. The paper, by Jonathan Latham and Allison Wilson, proposes that, in addition to conferring resistance to the target virus, inserting viral genes into GM plants is likely to increase overall genetic vulnerability to viral infections.
+ THAILAND: GM MAIZE FOUND AT DESERTED FARM
GM maize has been found at a farm near one owned by Monsanto in Phitsanulok province. This is the third time experimental GM crops have caused contamination of non-GM crops in Thailand.
+ RICE ON CANADIAN STORE SHELVES CONTAMINATED
Rice purchased at two supermarkets in Vancouver and Montreal had been contaminated with a variety of GM rice not approved for human consumption in Canada.
+ KENYA: WAMBUGU MYTH-MAKING EXPOSED AGAIN
The practice of small-scale farming does not suit tissue culture bananas, says Dr Benjamin Chege, an expert at Kenya Agricultural Research Institute. The project is another over-hyped failure of the pro-GM scientist Dr Florence Wambugu. Although tissue culture is an uncontroversial biotechnological technique that does not involve GM, Wambugu has been keen to claim successes from it in order to boost the reputation of ‘biotechnology’ in general - which to most people means GM.
+ ANOTHER RANT FROM DAVID KING
The UK government’s retiring chief scientific adviser Sir David King has engaged in another GM promotional, claiming Britain’s failure to adopt GM crops has cost the economy up to GBP4bn! King produces no evidence to support his ludicrous claim.
Quote from Richard Horton, editor of the Lancet: ‘King takes his faith in science into the realms of totalitarian paranoia. If he lost the debate on GM, it was because his arguments failed to convince people… King seems biased and even anti-democratic. It seems he would prefer the media not to exist at all. That is a troubling position for the government’s chief scientist to adopt.’
More on King: http://www.gmwatch.org/archive2.asp?arcid=8618
+ SCIENTIST WHO CLAIMED GM CROPS COULD SOLVE HUNGER ADMITS HE GOT IT WRONG
From the Daily Mail, UK: A claim that GM technology is helping deliver higher crop yields in Africa was wrong, the Government’s chief scientist has been forced to admit. Professor Sir David King recently caused uproar with his assertion that GM crops could help feed the hungry of the Third World. … The chief scientist had used the example of crop trials around Lake Victoria in Kenya to boast how useful GM farming could be in feeding the Third World. … He told Radio Four’s Today programme: ‘You interplant the grass with the grain and it turns out the crop yield goes up 40-50 per cent. A very big advantage.’ The only problem is Sir David failed to accurately describe the research in Africa, which did not involve the use of any GM technology at all!
+ SUPPORT EU-WIDE LEGAL ACTION AGAINST EFSA
The Institute for Nature Protection and Nature Protection Law in Germany is preparing a legal opinion for the international pressure group Aktion Genklage (Legal Action Against GM), as a basis to initiate a Europe-wide coordinated court action against the EU Commission and EFSA challenging their approvals of GMOs.
+ MONSANTO BUSTED FOR CONTEMPT OF ADVERTISING STANDARDS IN SOUTH AFRICA
Monsanto has fallen foul of the South African Advertising Authority for a second time over its dishonest promotion of GM crops.
+ MOVE TO BAR CORPORATE INDEMNIFICATION OF MONSANTO DIRECTORS
Harrington Investments, Inc., (HII) a socially responsible investment advisory firm, has announced the introduction of a binding amendment to Monsanto Corporation’s corporate bylaws that could bar corporate indemnification of directors who fail to adequately oversee corporate activities that cause ‘harm to the natural environment, public health, or human rights.’
+ DIOXIN LAWSUITS STILL POSSIBLE AGAINST MONSANTO
Residents who lived near more than 40 US chemical plants where Monsanto produced dioxins can still sue the company for personal and property damages. In December 2003, Solutia, a successor to Monsanto’s chemical plants and assets, filed for bankruptcy to reorganize its debts, including potential claims alleging dioxin and chemical poisoning. After hearings held by a US Bankruptcy Judge, the parties reached an agreement which permits lawsuits to be pursued and makes ‘new Monsanto’, a company created in 2002, responsible for potential costs.
+ GMOs IN AFRICA
Purchasing details and extracts from the African Centre for Biosafety’s important new book, ‘GMOs in Africa: Food and Agriculture Status Report 2007′, are at
+ SOCIO-ECONOMIC EFFECTS OF GMOs
The recently published book by Third World Network entitled ‘Potential Socio-Economic, Cultural and Ethical Impacts of GMOs: Prospects for Socio-Economic Impact Assessment’ by Elenita C Dano is now available online at
+ U.S.: FDA APPROVAL OF MILK AND MEAT FROM CLONED ANIMALS STALLED
+ SYNTHETIC DNA ON BRINK OF YIELDING NEW LIFE FORMS
Researchers are poised to create new life forms driven by completely artificial DNA. ETC Group is one of dozens of advocacy groups that want a ban on releasing synthetic organisms pending wider societal debate and regulation. One of the group’s recent reports commented, ‘Ultimately synthetic biology means cheaper and widely accessible tools to build bioweapons, virulent pathogens and artificial organisms that could pose grave threats to people and the planet…. The danger is not just bio-terror but bio-error.’
+ SYNTHIA GETS A SHOTGUN…
Recently uncovered patent applications lodged by the former human genome project head J. Craig Venter and colleagues reveal not only an attempt to grab ownership over much of synthetic biology but also a business plan for producing millions of new synthetic organisms per day.
Center for Genetics and Society
+ MANY GENE TESTS A WASTE OF MONEY: EXPERTS
Genetic tests to assess disease risk are proliferating but many are a waste of money and tell people little more than they would know from studying family history, medical experts said.
+ SCIENTISTS CURE MICE OF SICKLE CELL USING STEM CELL TECHNIQUE
The Washington Post reports that using a recently developed technique for turning skin cells into stem cells, scientists have cured mice of sickle cell anemia - the first direct proof that the easily obtained cells can reverse an inherited, potentially fatal disease.
+ BIOTECH STEM CELL SPIN
Like politicians, pundits, and advocates, biotech entrepreneurs are also contemplating how to react to the recent advances in deriving stem cells from ordinary skin cells - particularly if the developments make their products less appealing.
+ SCIENTIFIC RACISM RETURNS
Scientific racism - the idea that racial disparities in social outcomes can be explained by biological or genetic traits - made a striking comeback this year.
+ 2007 IN REVIEW - GENETIC CROSSROADS