Friday, 30 April 2010

gm crops in court trouble / russian health warning


US Supreme Court eyes bar on Monsanto GM alfalfa

Tue Apr 27

WASHINGTON (AFP) – Supreme Court justices sounded skeptical Tuesday of a federal court decision blocking US biotech giant Monsanto's sale of genetically modified alfalfa because some farmers fear their crops will be contaminated.

A federal judge in California in May 2007 ruled in a finding upheld on appeal in 2009 to block the sale of Monsanto's GM alfalfa seeds.

The ruling also asked the USDA to carry out an environmental impact study which it had not done before giving a green light back in 2004 to the sale of these seeds.

Plaintiffs, who are organic farmers supported by organizations such as the Center for Biological Diversity, worry that genetically modified seeds will contaminate their crops.

Monsanto took the fight all the way to the highest court in the land, arguing that the federal court did not have authority to block the alfalfa seed sales.

In a hearing, justices had questions about whether the environmental impact could be addressed before the USDA had done an impact study.

Judge Antonin Scalia minimized potential risks saying, "This is not the contamination of the New York city water supply. This isn't the end of the world. It really isn't."

GM Crops Go to US High Court, Environmental Laws on the Line

Matthew Berger

WASHINGTON, 26 Apr (IPS) - The U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments Tuesday in its first-ever case involving genetically modified crops. The decision in this case may have a significant impact on both the future of genetically modified foods and government oversight of that and other environmental issues.

The case, Monsanto Co. v. Geertson Seed Farms, revolves around an herbicide-resistant alfalfa, the planting of which has been banned in the U.S. since a federal court prohibited the multinational Monsanto from selling the seeds in 2007.

That decision found that the U.S. Department of Agriculture did not do a thorough enough study of the impacts the GM alfalfa would have on human health and the environment and ordered the agency to do another environmental impact statement (EIS) review.

Though a draft was released in December, "there is no anticipated date" for the final EIS, Suzanne Bond, a spokeswoman with the USDA division charged with regulating GM organisms - the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) - told IPS.

The law under which organic farmers were allowed to challenge USDA's oversight of the GM alfalfa, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), is what may suffer the most from the court's eventual decision, which is expected in June at the earliest. The law "requires federal agencies to integrate environmental values into their decision-making processes by considering the environmental impacts of their proposed actions and reasonable alternatives to those actions", said Bond.

It is also a key legal tool for environmental groups seeking to challenge those agencies' decisions. The vulnerability of NEPA is a key reason so many such groups have joined the plaintiffs by filing amicus briefs against Monsanto in this case.

The Centre for Biological Diversity, one of those groups, does not normally get involved in GM issues, said the Centre's Noah Greenwald, but this case "has broad implications for how governments do environmental analysis and when they need to prepare impact statements".

"The broader implications are why we got in this," he told IPS.

Doug Gurian-Sherman, who wrote several expert opinions for the earlier cases in lower courts and is a senior scientist at the food and environment programme of the Union of Concerned Scientists, which has also filed an amicus brief, pointed to the need for the type of citizen oversight of the government's own oversight that is granted by statutes like NEPA.

"The big issue here is how much deference should be given to a regulatory agency and its expertise in doing its job versus how much access or deference should be given to the public in having the ability to challenge the agency in court," he said.

"The issue here then becomes how amenable is the Supreme Court going to be in terms of allowing citizens to bring suit against an agency that is not doing its job, and that I think is the gist of what this decision may be," he added.

But the legal implications are only half the story. Also implicated, at least potentially, is the future of GM crops in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In the original court case, organic farmers argued that the genes of the GM alfalfa would be carried to neighbouring - potentially miles away - non-GM alfalfa by the bees that pollinate the crop and that genetic contamination would hurt their ability to market their alfalfa under the label "organic". This would also preclude them from exporting to countries that prohibit GM crops.

"Consumers may not accept products cross-contaminated with genetically-engineered components and you can test for those and testing is done pretty routinely and therefore the market could reject the contaminated organic crops," explained Gurian-Sherman.

In addition to this economic impact, they have argued that the planting of the Roundup Ready alfalfa that is at issue here, used in conjunction with the Monsanto-made herbicide Roundup, may also lead to increased herbicide-resistance in weeds.

APHIS largely dismissed this as an issue in its original analysis, says Gurian-Sherman, "even though over the last couple years the incidence of resistant weeds and the economic impacts they're having largely contradicts APHIS's analysis."

Though questions over the environmental and economic impacts of growing GM crops have existed for decades, the issue remains extremely complicated from an ethical and health perspective. Depending on how broad the Supreme Court's decision ends up being, it could go a long way to deciding the fate of other GM crops.

A case on GM sugar beets is currently ongoing. The court has allowed plantings this year, but has reserved the right to prohibit them in the future. The USDA is in the midst of preparing a draft impact statement for both these sugar beets and a GM creeping bentgrass.

Gurian-Sherman has serious concerns about the agency's actions on GM crops generally. "There's been several indications beside this case that USDA has not been really doing an adequate job regulating genetically-engineered seed&As a scientist, having reviewed a number of environmental assessments that the agency has done, in my opinion they've often done a very lax, scientifically often unsupportable job in their analyses. It's not like they've been completely negligent, but in my opinion they've made a number of errors in either scientific reasoning or in their data or data analysis."

Since 1992, USDA's APHIS division has granted non-regulated status to GM plants in response to 80 petitions, according to Bond, including multiple varieties of corn, soybeans, cotton, rapeseed, potato, tomato, squash, papaya, plum, rice, sugar beet, tobacco, alfalfa, flax, and chicory.

Tuesday's decision may have a significant influence on how that list changes in the future.

Biotech crops go before Supreme Court this week


April 25, 2010

Washington, D.C. - The U.S. Supreme Court is considering genetically engineered crops for the first time, in a case that has divided conventional and organic farmers.

The justices will hear oral arguments Tuesday on a lower court's ruling that halted the sale of biotech alfalfa seeds that were developed by Monsanto Co. and briefly sold to farmers after getting government approval.

The biotech industry, including Monsanto and Johnston-based Pioneer Hi-Bred, and organizations representing conventional farmers argue that the case could stifle the development of biotech crop varieties, unless the justices make it harder to block the sale of the seeds.

Farmers would be hesitant to start using some new biotech products if they're worried a court could stop the crop varieties after they've gone on the market, said Danielle Quist, an attorney for the American Farm Bureau Federation. "For farmers who want to use any sort of biotechnology trait, if they can't rely on a decision made by USDA to regulate a product that is put out there, then they may not want to use it," she said.

The impact on individual crops and companies could vary. Pioneer's biotech work focuses on corn and soybeans. Company officials say they are concerned about delays they are already seeing in getting new biotech crop varieties approved. But they also say they have improved the data they give the USDA and don't expect the court case itself to have a major impact.

Organic food companies, growers and environmental organizations say the federal government hasn't regulated the crops tightly enough. They say regulators are allowing biotech seeds to go on the market before enough is known about their impact on the environment or on farmers who have to keep their crops uncontaminated by gene-altered varieties.

Organic milk, one of the strongest products in the organic sector, is especially vulnerable, because farmers feed their cows alfalfa hay. A loss of organic hay would "irreparably cripple organic dairy producers," the industry groups said.

Dan Specht, who raises organic beef cattle near McGregor, is concerned that organic alfalfa seed and hay will be more expensive. "I can see in the future that it would be impossible to get pure seed," he said.

A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences said the proliferation of biotech crops had made it harder for farmers to produce organic and other non-biotech crops that were free from any contamination by genetically modified varieties.

Monsanto's biotech alfalfa is engineered to survive being treated with Roundup herbicide, making it easier for farmers to control weeds. Similar varieties of Roundup Ready soybeans, corn and cotton have been in wide use for years.

Some alfalfa seed growers are worried that their non-biotech crops would be contaminated by the biotech variety. They sued to end the sale of the gene-altered alfalfa, and a federal judge stopped the sale of the seeds in 2007, two years after the seeds went on the market. The judge ordered the USDA to do a more thorough environmental analysis of the crop's potential impact.

Among other things, the judge said USDA officials had failed to adequately consider whether farmers growing non-biotech alfalfa can protect their crops from cross-pollinating with the gene-altered variety.

The USDA has since finished the environmental study and is moving once again toward approving the crop for commercial use. But Monsanto says the judge was wrong to force the seeds off the market without investigating the issue itself and looking for a way to address the interests of farmers who wanted to keep buying the seeds.

Another judge recently ruled that the department's review of biotech sugar beets was insufficient. Like the alfalfa, the sugar beets are immune to Roundup. The rulings don't affect other Roundup-tolerant crops, including soybeans and corn.

In a friend-of-the-court brief, the seed industry, the Farm Bureau and several commodity groups warned that such court rulings amount to de facto bans on biotechnology and "dramatically increase the degree of uncertainty surrounding the availability of genetically engineered crops."

Organic farmers can protect their crops from being contaminated with biotech varieties the same way growers of popcorn or seed corn have protected their crops from being cross-pollinated, such as by seeding fields so they pollinate at a different time than the neighboring crops.

"Agriculture has successfully managed these things for decades," said Jeff Rowe, vice president of biotech affairs for Pioneer.

The problem for the organic industry is that while federal rules don't require organic crops to be free of biotech contamination, some companies do, and that forces organic farmers to keep their crops as pure as possible.

Before the court order blocked the sale of the alfalfa variety, 5,550 growers planted the seed on 236,000 acres nationwide, according to Monsanto. Alfalfa is typically grown on about 23 million acres.

The biotech seeds won't be for everyone, even if they go back on the market. One of the farmers who tried them was Dick Kleis, a dairy producer near Zwingle, south of Dubuque. He said the seeds worked just as advertised.

He sprayed the field with Roundup after planting and wiped out the weeds. The only problem is that the absence of weeds left some of the ground around the young alfalfa exposed and soil washed away, he said. Now, he just lets his young cattle graze on the weeds that come up, and once the alfalfa matures, additional weeds don't have a place to grow.

"I have a really good (alfalfa) stand that I'm looking at right now that's not Roundup Ready," he said, as he talked on his cell phone from his fields. "It's beautiful. I don't see a weed in it."

Ex Monsanto Lawyer Clarence Thomas to Hear Major Monsanto Case

Celcias, March 11, 2010

In Monsanto v. Geertson Seed Farms, No. 09-475, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case which could have an enormous effect on the future of the American food industry. This is Monsanto's third appeal of the case, and if they win a favorable ruling from the high court, a deregulated Monsanto may find itself in position to corner the markets of numerous U.S. crops, and to litigate conventional farmers into oblivion.

Here's where it gets a bit dicier. Two Supreme Court justices have what appear to be direct conflicts of interest.

Stephen Breyer
Charles Breyer, the judge who ruled in the original decision of 2007 which is being appealed, is Stephen Breyer's brother, who apparently views this as a conflict of interest and has recused himself.

Clarence Thomas
From the years 1976 - 1979, Thomas worked as an attorney for Monsanto. Thomas apparently does not see this as a conflict of interest and has not recused himself.

Fox, meet henhouse.



GM Soy Linked To Sterility, Infant Mortality

Jeffrey Smith
"This study was just routine," said Russian biologist Alexey V. Surov, in what could end up as the understatement of this century. Surov and his colleagues set out to discover if Monsanto's genetically modified (GM) soy, grown on 91% of US soybean fields, leads to problems in growth or reproduction. What he discovered may uproot a multi-billion dollar industry.
After feeding hamsters for two years over three generations, those on the GM diet, and especially the group on the maximum GM soy diet, showed devastating results. By the third generation, most GM soy-fed hamsters lost the ability to have babies. They also suffered slower growth, and a high mortality rate among the pups.
And if this isn't shocking enough, some in the third generation even had hair growing inside their mouths - a phenomenon rarely seen, but apparently more prevalent among hamsters eating GM soy.
The study, jointly conducted by Surov's Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the Russian Academy of Sciences and the National Association for Gene Security, is expected to be published in three months (July 2010) --so the technical details will have to wait. But Surov sketched out the basic set up for me in an email.
He used Campbell hamsters, with a fast reproduction rate, divided into 4 groups. All were fed a normal diet, but one was without any soy, another had non-GM soy, a third used GM soy, and a fourth contained higher amounts of GM soy. They used 5 pairs of hamsters per group, each of which produced 7-8 litters, totally 140 animals.
Surov told The Voice of Russia,
"Originally, everything went smoothly. However, we noticed quite a serious effect when we selected new pairs from their cubs and continued to feed them as before. These pairs' growth rate was slower and reached their sexual maturity slowly."
He selected new pairs from each group, which generated another 39 litters. There were 52 pups born to the control group and 78 to the non-GM soy group. In the GM soy group, however, only 40 pups were born. And of these, 25% died. This was a fivefold higher death rate than the 5% seen among the controls. Of the hamsters that ate high GM soy content, only a single female hamster gave birth. She had 16 pups; about 20% died.
Surov said "The low numbers in F2 [third generation] showed that many animals were sterile."
The published paper will also include measurements of organ size for the third generation animals, including testes, spleen, uterus, etc. And if the team can raise sufficient funds, they will also analyze hormone levels in collected blood samples.
Hair Growing in the Mouth
Earlier this year, Surov co-authored a paper in Doklady Biological Sciences showing that in rare instances, hair grows inside recessed pouches in the mouths of hamsters.
"Some of these pouches contained single hairs; others, thick bundles of colorless or pigmented hairs reaching as high as the chewing surface of the teeth. Sometimes, the tooth row was surrounded with a regular brush of hair bundles on both sides. The hairs grew vertically and had sharp ends, often covered with lumps of a mucous."
(The photos of these hair bundles are truly disgusting. Trust me, or look for yourself.)
At the conclusion of the study, the authors surmise that such an astounding defect may be due to the diet of hamsters raised in the laboratory. They write, "This pathology may be exacerbated by elements of the food that are absent in natural food, such as genetically modified (GM) ingredients (GM soybean or maize meal) or contaminants (pesticides, mycotoxins, heavy metals, etc.)." Indeed, the number of hairy mouthed hamsters was much higher among the third generation of GM soy fed animals than anywhere Surov had seen before.
Preliminary, but Ominous
Surov warns against jumping to early conclusions. He said, "It is quite possible that the GMO does not cause these effects by itself." Surov wants to make the analysis of the feed components a priority, to discover just what is causing the effect and how.
In addition to the GMOs, it could be contaminants, he said, or higher herbicide residues, such as Roundup. There is in fact much higher levels of Roundup on these beans; they're called "Roundup Ready." Bacterial genes are forced into their DNA so that the plants can tolerate Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. Therefore, GM soy always carries the double threat of higher herbicide content, couple with any side effects of genetic engineering.
Years of Reproductive Disorders from GMO-Feed
Surov's hamsters are just the latest animals to suffer from reproductive disorders after consuming GMOs. In 2005, Irina Ermakova, also with the Russian National Academy of Sciences, reported that more than half the babies from mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks. This was also five times higher than the 10% death rate of the non-GMO soy group. The babies in the GM group were also smaller (see photo) and could not reproduce.
In a telling coincidence, after Ermakova's feeding trials, her laboratory started feeding all the rats in the facility a commercial rat chow using GM soy. Within two months, the infant mortality facility-wide reached 55%.
When Ermakova fed male rats GM soy, their testicles changed from the normal pink to dark blue! Italian scientists similarly found changes in mice testes (PDF), including damaged young sperm cells. Furthermore, the DNA of embryos from parent mice fed GM soy functioned differently.
An Austrian government study published in November 2008 showed that the more GM corn was fed to mice, the fewer the babies they had (PDF), and the smaller the babies were.
Central Iowa Farmer Jerry Rosman also had trouble with pigs and cows becoming sterile. Some of his pigs even had false pregnancies or gave birth to bags of water. After months of investigations and testing, he finally traced the problem to GM corn feed. Every time a newspaper, magazine, or TV show reported Jerry's problems, he would receive calls from more farmers complaining of livestock sterility on their farm, linked to GM corn.
Researchers at Baylor College of Medicine accidentally discovered that rats raised on corncob bedding "neither breed nor exhibit reproductive behavior." Tests on the corn material revealed two compounds that stopped the sexual cycle in females "at concentrations approximately two-hundredfold lower than classical phytoestrogens." One compound also curtailed male sexual behavior and both substances contributed to the growth of breast and prostate cancer cell cultures. Researchers found that the amount of the substances varied with GM corn varieties. The crushed corncob used at Baylor was likely shipped from central Iowa, near the farm of Jerry Rosman and others complaining of sterile livestock.
In Haryana, India, a team of investigating veterinarians report that buffalo consuming GM cottonseed suffer from infertility, as well as frequent abortions, premature deliveries, and prolapsed uteruses. Many adult and young buffalo have also died mysteriously.
Denial, Attack and Canceled Follow-up
Scientists who discover adverse findings from GMOs are regularly attacked, ridiculed, denied funding, and even fired. When Ermakova reported the high infant mortality among GM soy fed offspring, for example, she appealed to the scientific community to repeat and verify her preliminary results. She also sought additional funds to analyze preserved organs. Instead, she was attacked and vilified. Samples were stolen from her lab, papers were burnt on her desk, and she said that her boss, under pressure from his boss, told her to stop doing any more GMO research. No one has yet repeated Ermakova's simple, inexpensive studies.
In an attempt to offer her sympathy, one of her colleagues suggested that maybe the GM soy will solve the over population problem!
Surov reports that so far, he has not been under any pressure.
Opting Out of the Massive GMO Feeding Experiment
Without detailed tests, no one can pinpoint exactly what is causing the reproductive travesties in Russian hamsters and rats, Italian and Austrian mice, and livestock in India and America. And we can only speculate about the relationship between the introduction of genetically modified foods in 1996, and the corresponding upsurge in low birth weight babies, infertility, and other problems among the US population.
But many scientists, physicians, and concerned citizens don't think that the public should remain the lab animals for the biotech industry's massive uncontrolled experiment.Alexey Surov says, "We have no right to use GMOs until we understand the possible adverse effects, not only to ourselves but to future generations as well. We definitely need fully detailed studies to clarify this. Any type of contamination has to be tested before we consume it, and GMO is just one of them."

see: Russia says genetically modified foods are harmful

Bayer admits GMO contamination out of control

Thursday, April 15, 2010
David Gutierrez, staff writer

(NaturalNews) Drug and chemical giant Bayer AG has admitted that there is no way to stop the uncontrolled spread of its genetically modified crops.

"Even the best practices can't guarantee perfection," said Mark Ferguson, the company's defense lawyer in a recent trial.

Two Missouri farmers sued Bayer for contaminating their crop with modified genes from an experimental strain of rice engineered to be resistant to the company's Liberty-brand herbicide. The contamination occurred in 2006, during an open field test of the new rice, which was not approved for human consumption. According to the plaintiffs' lawyer, Don Downing, genetic material from the unapproved rice contaminated more than 30 percent of all rice cropland in the United States.

"Bayer was supposed to be careful," Downing said. "Bayer was not careful and that rice did escape into our commercial rice supplies."

The plaintiffs alleged that in addition to contaminating their fields, Bayer further harmed them financially by undermining their export market. When the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced the widespread rice contamination, important export markets were closed to U.S. producers. A report from Greenpeace International estimates the financial damage of the contamination at between $741 million and $1.3 billion.

Bayer claimed that there was no possible way it could have prevented the contamination, insisting that it followed not only the law but also the best industry practices. The jury disagreed, finding Bayer guilty of carelessness in handling the genetically modified crops. The company was ordered to pay farmers Kenneth Bell and Johnny Hunter $2 million.

"This is a huge victory, not only for Kenny and me, but for every farmer in America who was harmed by Bayer's LibertyLink rice contamination," Hunter said.

According to Hunter, the company got "the wake-up call they deserved."

Bayer is still being sued by more than 1,000 other farmers from Missouri, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Sources for this story include:;

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