Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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26.12.2017 |

Banana growers oppose GM field-testing in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY — Major banana growers and exporters said they oppose a plan to conduct field-testing of genetically modified (GM) bananas in Mindanao, saying this will affect the marketability of the region’s produce.

Stephen A. Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, Inc. (PBGEA), said in an interview last week that such trials pose a danger to the country’s second-biggest agricultural export commodity as “it might send a wrong signal to the markets where we sell our bananas.”

Mr. Antig said those behind the plan to conduct the test should consult industry stakeholders.

“They must remember that any news will have a very huge impact on the industry,” he cautioned.

It was reported on a local television network in November that researchers from Australia are planning to carry out field trials for GM bananas that will address Fusarium wilt, also known as the Panama disease.

24.12.2017 |

Violating the Sacred: GMO Chestnuts for the Holidays?

VIOLATING THE SACRED: GMO CHESTNUTS FOR THE HOLIDAYS?

GENETIC ENGINEERING IS NO GIFT TO FUTURE GENERATIONS

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Deregulation of the GE American Chestnut

William Powell, lead American chestnut scientist at SUNY/ESF recently announced his team is almost ready to apply for Federal deregulation to allow them to distribute their GE trees, free of charge, in hopes they will be planted in great numbers. Some of these GE trees, modified with a wheat gene, will be planted near surviving disease resistant non-GMO American chestnut trees. The goal is for the GE tree to cross pollinate with the others and create the next generations of disease-resistant offspring.

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Powell and his team, along with researchers from North Carolina State University, have spent considerable time with stakeholders from the Oneida Nation in New York State. They, along with their brother nations of the Haudenasaunee, hold vast swaths of eastern woodland areas where a majority of the wheat-altered GE chestnuts could be planted. Support for this plan has been mixed. Traditional elders remind us that communication with these natural entities is a key element in medicinal efficacy. By changing its genetic makeup it is a totally different and foreign organism. Tom Goldtooth, an elder and executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network has said that GE trees have no soul. Others, however, are cautiously optimistic and are taking a wait and see approach.

20.12.2017 |

Glyphosate: A Toxic Legacy

Journalist and Author Carey Gillam Shares Decades of Research into Monsanto and its Ubiquitous Weed Killer

Carey Gillam is a Kansas-based journalist turned glyphosate geek. Her first book, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, fills a gaping hole in the literature and is getting excellent reviews. Erin Brockovich says Whitewash “reads like a mystery novel as Gillam skillfully uncovers Monsanto’s secretive strategies.” Publishers Weekly says, “Gillam expertly covers a contentious front” and paints “a damning picture.” And Booklist calls it “a must-read.” Gillam brings more than 25 years in the news industry covering corporate America to her project investigating Monsanto’s premier product and the malfeasance that surrounds it. During her 17 years employed by the global news service Reuters, she developed her specialty in the big business of food and agriculture.

20.12.2017 |

Synthetic Biology and Relevant International Law By Lim Li Ching

About the Book

SYNTHETIC biology has been operationally defined as “a further development and new dimension of modern biotechnology that combines science, technology and engineering to facilitate and accelerate the understanding, design, redesign, manufacture and/or modification of genetic materials, living organisms and biological systems”. The complexity and novelty of the technology present significant challenges in terms of its governance and regulation.

This booklet looks at the multilateral treaties that apply to various aspects of synthetic biology, including, most notably, the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Nevertheless, gaps still exist in the international legal framework when it comes to addressing all the potential negative impacts resulting from the application of synthetic biology techniques. In view of this, the author sets out several elements and principles that could underpin a more holistic regulatory approach towards this emerging new technology.

Lim Li Ching has a B.Sc. in Ecology and an M.Phil. in Development Studies. She is a Researcher with the Third World Network and coordinates its biosafety programme. She is currently a member of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Socio-economic Considerations, established by Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

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.

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