Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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18.12.2017 |

Cases of Pest Resistance to Bt Crops Increased Five-fold From 2005-2016

Transgenic or genetically modified Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) crops (mainly corn, cotton and soybean) cover more than 830 million hectares worldwide. In addition to the crystalline (Cry) proteins from Bt produced by transgenic crops for the past two decades, some recently introduced types of Bt corn and cotton produce a vegetative insecticidal protein (Vip) from Bt.

The efficacy of Bt crops has been threatened by the evolu­tion of pest resistance. A recent study analyzes relevant literature on this topic from the past two dec­ades to elucidate the current status of pest resistance to transgenic crops. Compared with previous reviews on this topic, the field-moni­toring data analyzed in this study represent a more diverse set of Bt toxins (one Vip and nine Cry toxins), crops (corn, cotton, and soy), pests (15 species from two insect orders), and countries (ten countries on six continents).

The study found that the number of cases of pest resistance to Cry proteins produced by transgenic crops increased from 3 in 2005 to 16 in 2016. For the 16 cases of practical resistance, the average time for evolution of resistance was only 5.2 years. In four situ­ations, practical resistance has reduced the number of Bt toxins that are available in commercialized transgenic crops and are still effective against some pest populations to two, one, or none.

14.12.2017 |

Glyphosate toxicity for animals

Pesticides and herbicides gained popularity due to a strong need to curb the starvation of billions of humans. Glyphosate is the most commonly used herbicide and was considered to be non-toxic. But its use in excess in agricultural lands has polluted soils and waters. Nowadays, glyphosate residues are found in soil, water and food. As a result glyphosate causes severe acute and chronic toxicological effects. We review toxicological effects of glyphosate and metabolites on organisms of the kingdom animalia, both unicellular and multicellular organisms. Adverse effects on unicellular organisms have been established in many experiments. For instance, glyphosate has reduced the rate of photosynthesis in Euglena, has decreased the radial growth of mycorrhizal fungal species and is also reducing the profusion of certain bacteria present in rhizospheric microbial communities. Glyphosate poses serious threat to multicellular organisms as well. Its toxicological effects have been traced from lower invertebrates to higher vertebrates. Effects have been observed in annelids (earthworms), arthropods (crustaceans and insects), mollusks, echinoderms, fish, reptiles, amphibians and birds. Toxicological effects like genotoxicity, cytotoxicity, nuclear aberration, hormonal disruption, chromosomal aberrations and DNA damage have also been observed in higher vertebrates like humans.

14.12.2017 |

Human exposure to glyphosate increased 500 percent since GM crop introduction in the US

Glyphosate is a key ingredient in the herbicide, Roundup. Use of this herbicide has increased approximately 15-fold since 1994 when GM Roundup Ready (RR) glyphosate-tolerant crops were introduced. Used mainly on RR soy and corn, glyphosate is also sprayed on a substantial portion of wheat and oats grown in the US. In July 2017, glyphosate was listed by California as a carcinogen, following the WHO cancer research agency’s classification as glyphosate as “probably carcinogenic” to humans.

A study by the University of California San Diego School of Medicine (report published in the journal JAMA) compared urine excretion levels of glyphosate and aminomethylphosphonic acid (AMPA) in 100 people living in a Southern California community who provided samples during five clinic visits that took place over a 23-year timespan between 1993 to 1996 and 2014 to 2016, starting just before the introduction of GM crops in the US.

The study found that prior to the introduction of GM foods, very few people had detectable levels of glyphosate, but as of 2016, 70% of the study cohort had detectable levels, an increase of approximately 500%. Among this 70%, the mean level of glyphosate increased from 0.203 μg/L in 1993-1996 to 0.449 μg/L in 2014-2016 while the mean level of AMPA went up from 0.168 μg/L in 1993-1996 to 0.401 μg/L in 2014-2016.

14.12.2017 |

Latest Monsanto GMO seeds raises worries of monopoly

Now some farmers say they are being forced to use the new GMO seeds to guard against dicamba.

Nathan Reed, a farmer in Marianna, Arkansas, whose crops were damaged by dicamba from fields more than two miles away, worries about his business.

"We use overwhelmingly non GMOs, not because we are anti-GMO but because we found some niche markets," Reed said at a public meeting last month. "We are in the business of making money, just like Monsanto is."

"It is going to put that ability at risk for us," he said.

Farming states Missouri, Minnesota and North Dakota have imposed restrictions on dicamba, though they permit farmers to use the herbicide one or two times at the start of the season.

14.12.2017 |

Playing God: are we prepared to use gene drive technology?

New biotech advancement allows scientists to reduce and even eradicate certain species, such as weeds or disease-causing insects, prompting a significant environmental debate.

It’s a technology with incredible potential.

It’s a technology with tremendous risks.

It might put an end to malaria.

It might eliminate the need for insecticides and possibly herbicides.

It could also have tragic consequences for bats and birds.

It could have unpredictable impacts on entire ecosystems.

The technology is called gene drive.

“It is arguably the genetic technology with more social, ethical and policy implications than any other to emerge in the last decade,” Sally Otto, a University of British Columbia zoologist, wrote on the Royal Society of Canada website.

12.12.2017 |

This Is How Badly Monsanto Wants Farmers to Spray Its Problematic Herbicide

Why is Monsanto offering such a sweet deal on its dicamba mix? It’s probably not what the company had in mind when it broke ground on a $975 million expansion of its dicamba plant in Luling, La., earlier this year.

The answer likely lies in the more than 3.6 million acres of non-dicamba-tolerant soybeans that the US Environmental Protection Agency reports were damaged by wayward dicamba applications during the 2017 growing season. In addition, the EPA notes, off-target dicamba hit a variety of fruit and vegetable crops, as well as residential gardens, trees, and shrubs.

12.12.2017 |

Native seeds are key to food security

For better agricultural performance, focus must be on inculcating better farming practices. Farmers must be encouraged to return to zero-budget farming, where they use their own desi seeds

In recent years, enlightened Indian farmers have begun to rethink the suitability of farming practices that involve injecting poison into the earth via fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides, and create problems of soil fertility, soil texture, soil preservation and erosion. There is a pervasive sentiment that unless the current system of intensive and uncontrolled use of chemical inputs is reversed, soil quality will worsen and our centuries-old agricultural biodiversity will be lost forever.

Chemical inputs have permeated our food-chain with deleterious impact on public health, which have not been adequately studied scientifically. But the cumulative loss due to growing expenditure on public health, insecticide resistance, crop-loss, bird-loss, pollution of ground water and pollinator decline runs into billions of dollars.

12.12.2017 |

Commission rejects demands of #StopGlyphosate citizens’ initiative

Press release - December 12, 2017

Brussels – The European Commission has issued its formal response to the #StopGlyphosate European Citizens Initiative (ECI).

It officially recognised the submission of more than one million signatures on 6 October. Today’s response is an answer to the ECI’s three demands for a ban of glyphosate, a reform of the EU pesticide approval process and mandatory EU targets to reduce pesticide use. The Commission proposed action that could fulfil one aspect of one of the three demands.

Reacting to the news, Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “The Commission is trying to dress up its rejection of the #StopGlyphosate initiative with vague transparency proposals. Providing access to the data on toxic pesticides won’t make them any less dangerous. As long as the Commission leaves the testing of chemicals in the hands of the manufacturers, it will continue to lose the trust of citizens. We will continue to fight for meaningful measures to reduce pesticide use across the EU and for truly independent pesticide assessments.”

10.12.2017 |

Farmers’ Group Set To Crash Maize Price By 50 Per

The fight to end the importation of food from genetically modified organisms, GMOs and the importation of maize continues to gain momentum as Nigerian farmers have resolved to flood the market with maize and crashed its price of maize iby as much as 50 per cent in a few months time from now.

Speaking with our correspondent, the National Coordinator of Nigerians Farmers Group and Cooperative Society (NFGCS) Comrade Retson Tedheke said the farmers’ group is putting measures in place to ensure increase productivity of maize if the government continues to provide the necessary farm inputs to support the production of commodity in the country.

Comrade Tedekhe further disclosed that apart from the over two thousand hectares of maize the group is currently harvesting from its on-going dry season maize farming, there is clear projection of hitting five thousand hectares of maize in the next farming season.

09.12.2017 |

Bt Cotton in Burkina Faso: When Theory Does Not Match Reality

About the Book

Genetically modified (GM) crop have been touted as a solution to improve agricultural productivity and lift the lot of farmers in developing countries. However, the reality on the grounds is that the performance and impacts of GM crops have been extremely uneven.

This is starkly illustrated by the experience of Burkina Faso in planting Bt cotton, a variety genetically engineered to be resistant to insect pests. Bt cotton was introduced commercially in the West African country in 2008, only to be phased out just seven years later after showing a marked decline in fibre quality compared with conventional Burkinabé cotton.

Drawing upon research carried out in one of the largest cotton-growing areas in Burkina Faso, this paper documents the country’s shortlived, less-than-successful experience with Bt cotton cultivation, and explores the possible reasons behind the debacle, including commercial interest in pushing the corporate-owned Bt technology. The paper also looks at similar problems faced by other countries growing Bt cotton, before concluding with a call to move away from promoting GM crops towards supporting indigenous varieties and agroecological practices.

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