2018-01-10 |

Glyphosate: A victory for corporate lobbying, not science

In November 2017, EU member States narrowly voted for a five-year reauthorisation of glyphosate, the world’s most widely used weedkiller. While this is far from the fifteen-year license the agrochemical industry was pushing for, the result was a major disappointment to PAN and other organisations campaigning to protect the environment and human health from the harmful impacts of pesticides. It was also a slap in the face to the millions of European citizens who signed petitions calling for glyphosate to be banned.

Straight after the vote, the pro-glyphosate PR machine went into overdrive declaring the decision ‘a major victory for science and common sense’ over supposedly dishonest and uninformed environmentalists. The petrifying thing about this false narrative – fostered successfully for decades by the agrochemical industry – is that it is winning.

2018-01-08 |

GMOs, Global Agribusiness And The Destruction of Choice

One of the myths perpetuated by the pro-GMO (genetically modified organisms) lobby is that critics of GMOs in agriculture are denying choice to farmers and have an ideological agenda. The narrative is that farmers should have access to a range of tools and technologies, including GM crops.
It is convenient to paint critics of GMOs as being authoritarian and possessing an ideological agenda. Whether it is Bayer, Monsanto or one of the other major agritech/agribusiness concerns, the real agenda is clear: elite commercial interests and the maximisation of profit for shareholders are the driving forces behind GM agriculture.

Critics of GMOs and transnational corporations did not have a leading role in drafting the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights to create seed monopolies. Monsanto did. Critics did not write the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. The global food processing industry had a leading role in that (see this). Whether it involves Codex, the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture aimed at restructuring Indian agriculture or the proposed US-EU trade deal (TTIP), the powerful agribusiness/food lobby has secured privileged access to policy makers.

From the World Bank’s ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ to the Gates Foundation’s role in opening up African agriculture to the global food and agribusiness oligopolies, democratic procedures at sovereign state levels have been bypassed to impose seed monopolies and proprietary inputs on farmers and to incorporate them into a global supply chain dominated by powerful corporations.

From the destruction of indigenous agriculture in Ethiopia to the ongoing dismantling of Indian agriculture at the behest of transnational agribusiness, where is the ‘choice’?

2018-01-04 |

Whitewash by Carey Gillam

The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science

It’s the herbicide on our dinner plates, a chemical so pervasive it’s in the air we breathe, our water, our soil, and even found increasingly in our own bodies. Known as Monsanto’s Roundup by consumers, and as glyphosate by scientists, the world’s most popular weed killer is used everywhere from backyard gardens to golf courses to millions of acres of farmland. For decades it’s been touted as safe enough to drink, but a growing body of evidence indicates just the opposite, with research tying the chemical to cancers and a host of other health threats.

In Whitewash, veteran journalist Carey Gillam uncovers one of the most controversial stories in the history of food and agriculture, exposing new evidence of corporate influence. Gillam introduces readers to farm families devastated by cancers which they believe are caused by the chemical, and to scientists whose reputations have been smeared for publishing research that contradicted business interests. Readers learn about the arm-twisting of regulators who signed off on the chemical, echoing company assurances of safety even as they permitted higher residues of the herbicide in food and skipped compliance tests. And, in startling detail, Gillam reveals secret industry communications that pull back the curtain on corporate efforts to manipulate public perception.

2017-12-28 |

Combinatorial Effects of Stacked GM Plants Deserve Proper Assessment

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has a leading role to give scientific advice to the EU Commission, the European Parliament and to the EU member-states. EFSA advice is aimed at protecting consumers and the food chain.

Recent GM plants tend to include both insect resistance and herbicide tolerance traits. Some of these ’stacked’ GM plants have multiple Cry-toxinsexpressed as well as tolerance to several herbicides. This means that non-target organisms in the environment (biodiversity) will be co-exposed to multiple stressors simultaneously, raising concerns over combinatorial or interactive effects. Industry data has showed that stacked Bt expressing plants may express higher levels of distinct Cry-toxins compared with the mother lines. A similar co-exposure may happen to consumers through chemical residues in the food chain.

EFSAhas expressed scientific interest in and requested for research on such combinatorial effects. A recent journal article discusses EFSA's response to one such study submitted by Bohn et al. in 2016.

2017-12-26 |

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.

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