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Archive for the ‘Genetic Engineering’ Category

On May 25, activists around the world will unite to March Against Monsanto.

Why do we march?

  • Research studies have shown that Monsanto’s genetically-modified foods can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumors, infertility and birth defects.
  • In the United States, the FDA, the agency tasked with ensuring food safety for the population, is steered by ex-Monsanto executives, and we feel that’s a questionable conflict of interests and explains the lack of government-lead research on the long-term effects of GMO products.
  • Recently, the U.S. Congress and president collectively passed the nicknamed “Monsanto Protection Act” that, among other things, bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically-modified seeds.
  • For too long, Monsanto has been the benefactor of corporate subsidies and political favoritism. Organic and small farmers suffer losses while Monsanto continues to forge its monopoly over the world’s food supply, including exclusive patenting rights over seeds and genetic makeup.
  • Monsanto’s GMO seeds are harmful to the environment; for example, scientists have indicated they have caused colony collapse among the world’s bee population.

What are solutions we advocate?

  • Voting with your dollar by buying organic and boycotting Monsanto-owned companies that use GMOs in their products.
  • Labeling of GMOs so that consumers can make those informed decisions easier.
  • Repealing relevant provisions of the US’s “Monsanto Protection Act.”
  • Calling for further scientific research on the health effects of GMOs.
  • Holding Monsanto executives and Monsanto-supporting politicians accountable through direct communication, grassroots journalism, social media, etc.
  • Continuing to inform the public about Monsanto’s secrets.
  • Taking to the streets to show the world and Monsanto that we won’t take these injustices quietly.

We will not stand for cronyism. We will not stand for poison. That’s why we March Against Monsanto.

Join us! http://on.fb.me/ZUxe3o

Find cities already participating: http://bit.ly/ZTDsk8

Start your own: http://on.fb.me/16qw2r4

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There’s an article about Whole Foods that has surfaced the social media universe today “USDA Forces Whole Foods To Accept Monsanto“. And while the passive food activist posted this article and are commenting on each others Facebook walls, many did not look at the date of the article, February 4, 2012.
On Friday March 15th of this year, Whole Foods announced that they will be labeling GMOs in their stores. They will be working on this process over the next 5 years.

Here’s an article about it from The Examiner:

Whole Foods Market announces labeling of GMOs

Crookneck summer squash available in stores is often genetically modified.
Crookneck summer squash available in stores is often genetically modified.
On Friday, Whole Foods Market announced their intent to have all genetically-modified foods in their stores labeled as such by 2018. Whole Foods president A. C. Gallo told The New York Times that this decision was driven by the basic economic law of demand. “We’ve seen how our customers have responded to the products we do have labeled,” Gallo said. “Some of our manufacturers say they’ve seen a 15% increase in sales of products they have labeled.”There is a movement in the U. S. to require this labeling in all stores but it has yet to gain any legal traction. A proposition to require labeling was defeated in California in the November election. However, Hawaii, New Mexico, Missouri, Vermont, and Washington are currently deciding this issue in various legal forms, and a bill requiring labeling has been introduced in the U. S. Congress.

Despite the support of organizations like Consumers Union and the World Health Organization, the federal Food and Drug Administration has required no safety testing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Naturally, without assurances that GMOs are safe, there is concern among the public. A Huffington Post poll published earlier this month show that 82% of respondents favored labeling food made with GMOs.

Science will need to be a major player in the quest to feed the world’s growing population for coming generations, but the debate over GMOs has been tainted by corporate greed at Monsanto. The vast majority of the GMO crops are Round-up Ready soybeans and corn, which seed farmers buy from Monsanto. The farmers can’t save seed for their next year’s crop; Monsanto requires them to buy it again. Then, Monsanto sells the herbicide Round-up to the same farmers to control weeds. Round-up Ready crops are immune to the herbicide, but so are a growing number of weeds. Nature has a way of adapting to changing conditions, and this is, of course, just one example. Some farmers have been forced to revert to older, less safe herbicides.

There are currently commentary and petitions on the web thanking Whole Foods, but this appears to be a logical, profit driven, decision.

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A wonderful informative satire by Infomatic Films.

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What’s the Problem with Labeling GMO Foods?

Since genetically-modified (GM/GMO) crops came onto the market, there’s been a lot of debate about whether foods containing ingredients from GM crops should be labeled. Some people believe it’s a right-to-know issue, and all products containing ingredients from GM crops should be labeled as such. Others believe that since there’s no difference between GM and non-GM ingredients, labeling shouldn’t be required.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) oversees food labeling in the United States. The FDA has found there is no basis for concluding that bioengineered foods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way, or that, as a class, foods developed by biotechnology present any different or greater safety concern than foods developed by traditional plant breeding. As such, the FDA does not require food derived from biotech crops be labeled differently from other food products, unless the modification results in a meaningful difference, such as changing the compositional or nutritional profile of the food. In that case, the meaningful difference would need to be reflected in the description of the food.

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Posted by Dave on March 28, 2012
NEW YORK – March 28, 2012 – Today, in Federal District Court in Manhattan, family farmers filed their Notice of Appeal to Judge Naomi Buchwald’s February 24th ruling dismissing Organic Seed Growers and Trade Association et al v. Monsanto.  The United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will hear the farmers’ appeal, seeking to reinstate the case, which has received worldwide attention. The farmers are determined to move forward with their lawsuit challenging Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered seed technologies in order to continue their pursuit of Declaratory Judgment Act court protection from Monsanto’s claims of patent infringement should their crops become contaminated by Monsanto’s seed.

“Farmers have the right to protect themselves from being falsely accused of patent infringement by Monsanto before they are contaminated by Monsanto’s transgenic seed,” said Dan Ravicher, Executive Director of the Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), a not-for-profit legal services organization based at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law that represents the plaintiffs. “Judge Buchwald erred by denying plaintiffs that right and they have now initiated the process of having her decision reversed.”
The original complaint in OSGATA et al v. Monsanto was filed on March 29, 2011. In July, Monsanto filed a motion to dismiss.  Plaintiff lawyers at PUBPAT then filed arebuttal brief on August 11, 2011. Judge Buchwald called for oral argument on the motion to dismiss, which was held in Manhattan on January 31, 2012.  The judge’sdismissal ruling was issued February 24th and plaintiffs were given thirty days in which to file their Notice of Appeal.
“Farmers are under threat.  Our right to farm the way we choose, and to grow pure organic seed and healthy food on our farms for our families and for our customers is under assault,” said Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, President of lead Appellant OSGATA. “We are honor-bound to challenge an erroneous ruling which denies family farmers the protection the law says we deserve. We’re not asking for one penny from Monsanto. Ultimately, our fight is for justice and is waged to defend the right of the people to have access to good and safe food.”

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by DAN CHARLES
NPR
December 5,2011

Hidden in the soil of Illinois and Iowa, a new generation of insect larvae appears to be munching happily on the roots of genetically engineered corn, according to scientists. It’s bad news for corn farmers, who paid extra money for this line of corn, counting on the power of its inserted genes to kill those pests. It’s also bad news for the biotech company Monsanto, which inserted the larvae-killing gene in the first place.

In fact, the gene’s apparent failure, as reported in the journal PLoS One, may be the most serious threat to a genetically modified crop in the U.S. since farmers first started growing them 15 years ago. The economic impact could be “huge,” says the University of Arizona’s Bruce Tabashnik, one of the country’s top experts on the adaptation of insects to genetically engineered crops. Billions of dollars are at stake.

The story of how this happened is long and complicated, but the details are important, so let’s start at the beginning.

Almost the entire agricultural biotech industry has been built on just two genetic traits, and our story involves one of them.

The gene (actually a family of genes) in this story — the first pillar of the industry — was copied from an insect-killing bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt. In the 1980s, scientists managed to insert a Bt gene into plants, and voila, the plant cells started manufacturing the same worm-killing toxin as the bacteria. (The other big gene for the agricultural biotech industry allows a plant to survive doses of the popular herbicide glyphosate, widely known by Monsanto’s trade name, Roundup.)

So-called Bt corn went on sale in the late 1990s. It has been astonishingly effective against the European corn borer, a common pest.

But from the beginning, scientists worried that biotech companies were overusing Bt and increasing the chances that it would eventually stop working. Why? The key word is resistance.

The more widely you spray any insecticide, the more likely you are to uncover and promote the growth of a new strain of insects that’s resistant to your insect killer. It has happened with one insecticide after another over the decades. Eventually, scientists said, the same thing would happen to a crop that carries its own insecticide. Covering fields with Bt crops would lead to a strain of insects that the crops didn’t kill.

So university researchers and federal regulators came up with a strategy to preserve Bt’s effectiveness. First of all, they said Bt crops (mainly corn and cotton) should be extremely effective. Ideally, they would kill 99.99 percent of all the target insects that fed on them.

And for those rare insects that survived, regulators came up with a second line of defense, to prevent resistant insects from mating and producing lots of resistant offspring. Farmers who grew Bt corn (or cotton) were required to grow non-Bt crops on some of their farm, as a “refuge” for normal insects. That way, the rare, surviving, resistant insects would probably find non-resistant mates, instead of each other, and their offspring still would (likely) be killed by the Bt corn.

To the surprise of some environmentalists, the strategy has worked. There’s no evidence that the European corn borer has evolved resistance to the Bt toxin. The same goes for some insects that feed on cotton, such as the pink bollworm — at least in the United States.

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Tell the National Organic Standards Board to Reject Martek’s Petition for Life’sDHA and Life’sARA!
Organic Consumer’s Association
December 1, 2011

In 2009, a front page Washington Post article, “Integrity of Federal ‘Organic’ Label Questioned.” explained how Martek Biosciences’ synthetic DHA and ARA ended up in organic infant formula. In 2006, National Organic Program staff told Martek that its synthetic DHA and ARA couldn’t be used in organic because they were synthetic and not on the National List. But, Martek’s lawyer, J. Friedman, was able to get their decision reversed by NOP director Barbara Robinson, with just a call and an email. He told the Washington Post, “I called Robinson up, I wrote an e-mail. It was a simple matter.”

This might be how the 1% get things done in Washington, but it sure isn’t legal!

The National Organic Program is trying to remedy this situation by requiring Martek to formally ask permission to use its DHA and AHA in organic.

But Martek’s products should never have even been considered for use in organic in the first place. According to patents uncovered by the Cornucopia Institute, all of Martek’s DHA and ARA products are produced through genetic engineering and processed with solvents like hexane, two things that are expressly banned from USDA Organic.

The Cornucopia Institute also found documents submitted by Martek to the FDA, in which the company claimed their DHA was just like Monsanto’s. A Martek representative clarified that its DHA was not developed by Monsanto, but that Monsanto did briefly own the technology before it reverted back to Martek.

Martek’s patents for Life’sDHA states: “includes mutant organisms” and “recombinant organisms”, (a.k.a. GMOs!) The patents explain that the oil is “extracted readily with an effective amount of solvent … a preferred solvent is hexane.”

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