Proposal to resolve 12-year deadlock would allow individual states to decide on what to cultivate or to continue restrictions
12 July 2010
The European Union will take a huge stride tomorrow towards freeing up the production of GM crops when the European commission proposes allowing national governments to make up their own minds on whether to permit their cultivation.
In a move which aims to resolve a 12-year deadlock that has resulted in a virtual freeze on the approval of GM farming, the commission will propose allowing pro-GM states such as Spain and the Netherlands to increase production, while also allowing others such as Germany and Austria to maintain restrictions.
The rare instance of Brussels handing back power to individual nations will likely present Britain's government with a delicate decision; caught between a robust GM industry lobby and a vocal protest movement.
While making it easier for states to ban GM crops, giving them the option of citing non-scientific grounds such as socio-economic or cultural reasons, Brussels is expecting a quid pro quo from opponents, that they will end what is seen as a strategy of stalling health and environmental approval by the EU.
"While it's up to member states to decide, we expect them to be more flexible from where they are now in terms of authorisation at the EU level," said one commission official.
GM cultivation in Europe has been in limbo since 1998, when a GM corn product developed by US giant Monsanto was approved, because of a deadlock between states that are for and against the biotechnology. The EU proposals are designed to appeal to both camps. On the one hand, they give anti-states broader rights to restrict GM crop cultivation on their own soil, in exchange for them softening their opposition to approval elsewhere. Austria, Bulgaria, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, and Luxembourg have banned cultivation; Spain, Sweden, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Britain are in favour.
"The momentous thing the commission is doing is a very simple addition to the [GM] legislation – one single article," said Carel du Marchie Sarvaas, of EuropaBio, the biotechnology lobbyists, "to allow an opt-out for political reasons".
"We hope this will break the deadlock over GM, but it's missing a defence of fundamental principles [of choice]. In some countries there might be more cultivation, but in many it will mean the end of the right of farmers to grow them at all."
Green groups are also opposed, but because they feel that the change "isn't worth the paper it's written on," according to Mute Schimps of Friends of the Earth Europe.
"It's going in two directions at the same time: ostensibly allowing more banning, but also easier authorisation at the EU level," she said.
"While the commission is seemingly offering countries the right to implement national bans, in reality the proposal does the opposite, opening Europe's fields to GM crops. Governments that try to ban GM crops in their countries will find the bans overturned in court by biotech lawyers due to the weak legal basis of this short-term proposal," she added.
In a mirror image of the pro-GM lobby, the anti-GM lobby says: "All European farmers have the right to be protected from GM contamination, not just some."
The expanded ability to ban crops, on the grounds of prevention of contamination, will go into effect immediately from tomorrow, while the long-term overhaul of existing regulations, allowing member states to prohibit cultivation on non-scientific grounds, could take up to two years following the usual legislative process in the European capital.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
British pressure for GM crops unwelcome in Europe
John Vidal, environment editor
12 July 2010
Britain is one of Europe's most vigorous cheerleaders for the expansion of GM crops. Along with Spain and the Netherlands it has lobbied the European commission to overturn the 12-year moratorium and has committed hundreds of millions of pounds of public money to agricultural research around the world.
The previous government, as well as leading scientists, argued strongly that GM crops are needed for national use as well as to help developing countries feed rapidly growing populations.
This stance was firmly backed last month by the new environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, who, in an interview with the Guardian, committed the coalition government to continuing and extending Labour's pro-GM position. She said she was in favour of GM foods "in the right circumstances".
Tomorrow's offer to allow national bans on GM crops in return for allowing large-scale commercial planting in other pro-GM countries is the latest attempt by the UK and other countries to open up the European market which they believe is worth billions of dollars a year.
"Britain regularly resists attempts in the European parliament to better regulate what remains a highly controversial industry," said Green MP and former European MEP Caroline Lucas.
"Opposition to GM crops is hardening in many European governments with Germany banning all the crops last year and Austria, France, Greece, Hungary and others invoking a 'safeguard clause' in EU legislation allowing them to ban them."
"Britain has consistently voted in favour of lifting GM bans, despite the safety concerns raised by other member states. It tried to end the EU moratorium on growing GM; it was the only EU state to oppose a plan to label food containing minute traces of GM material and last year it battled to prevent Germany banning a Monsanto maize crop," she added.
Friends of the Earth food campaigner Kirtana Chandrasekaran said that some member states are losing confidence in the judgment of the European commission on GM issues.
"Thanks to the support of the UK government, commission president (José Barroso) has become a stooge of the powerful agro-tech industry, which threatens to dominate the global food industry of the future if left unchecked," she said.
"The UK government has been openly pushing to weaken European laws on 'zero tolerance' towards entry to the EU of illegal GMOs (genetically modified organisms). It wants to allow contamination of imports to the UK with GMOs unapproved in Europe. Defra and the Cabinet Office have said that UK animal feed could quadruple in price within two years if growers in Brazil and Argentina produce more GM soya, which is banned in Europe," she added. The GM crop would displace conventional soya so making it more expensive.
The government's chief scientific adviser, John Beddington, has been a strong advocate for using new technologies, such as GM, to feed a growing world population, estimated to increase by 3 billion within 40 years.
In January he called for a "green technological revolution" which was widely interpreted as a GM revolution. He told the Guardian: "If GM technology can address some of the problems in agricultural production that conventional breeding or other technologies cannot, or can address them more efficiently and effectively, then clearly we need to be thinking about adopting it."
Beddington's comments followed a Royal Society report which backed GM foods, and speeches by Gordon Brown and other ministers calling for a debate on the issue.
Lord Smith, head of the Environment Agency, said in February that GM technology would be crucial for adapting to climate change. "We probably need to be readier to explore GM options, coupled of course with proper environmental safeguards, in adapting to the changes that the climate will bring."
Britain plans to give an estimated £80m a year to the Cgiar network of international agricultural research organisations which do most of the world's publicly-funded GM research.
The Department for International Development is the second biggest national funder of the network and has promised a further possible £60m to research drought-resistant maize for Africa, pest resistant crops and biofortified rice modified to increase vitamin A. Much of the work is expected to be in GM technologies.
The GM industry argues that scientific evidence from 15 years of widespread use of the technology has shown it to be safe, popular with farmers and a way of making agriculture more sustainable.
"In looking at GM the UK government may have considered the food security needs of the UK, which is a densely populated country with an increasing population. They may be concerned that UK food self sufficiency went from 74% of all food in 1990 to 59% in 2007," said a spokswoman for Monsanto UK.
"In the future, Monsanto would like to offer UK farmers and ultimately consumers a choice of UK crops grown with GM."
Greenpeace urged countries and consumers to reject the EU proposals.
"Member states should be aware that in the next couple of weeks they will be offered an empty promise, the result of which stands to change irreversibly the face of European agriculture for the worse. We call on the European Parliament and member states to reject this deal to ensure a GM-free future," said a spokesperson for the NGO.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Weed killer kills human cells. Study intensifies debate over 'inert' ingredients.
Environmental Health News
June 22, 2009
Used in yards, farms and parks throughout the world, Roundup has long been a top-selling weed killer. But now researchers have found that one of Roundup’s inert ingredients can kill human cells, particularly embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.
The new findings intensify a debate about so-called “inerts” — the solvents, preservatives, surfactants and other substances that manufacturers add to pesticides. Nearly 4,000 inert ingredients are approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Glyphosate, Roundup’s active ingredient, is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. About 100 million pounds are applied to U.S. farms and lawns every year, according to the EPA.
Until now, most health studies have focused on the safety of glyphosate, rather than the mixture of ingredients found in Roundup. But in the new study, scientists found that Roundup’s inert ingredients amplified the toxic effect on human cells—even at concentrations much more diluted than those used on farms and lawns.
One specific inert ingredient, polyethoxylated tallowamine, or POEA, was more deadly to human embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells than the herbicide itself – a finding the researchers call “astonishing.”
“This clearly confirms that the [inert ingredients] in Roundup formulations are not inert,” wrote the study authors from France’s University of Caen. “Moreover, the proprietary mixtures available on the market could cause cell damage and even death [at the] residual levels” found on Roundup-treated crops, such as soybeans, alfalfa and corn, or lawns and gardens.
The research team suspects that Roundup might cause pregnancy problems by interfering with hormone production, possibly leading to abnormal fetal development, low birth weights or miscarriages.
Monsanto, Roundup’s manufacturer, contends that the methods used in the study don’t reflect realistic conditions and that their product, which has been sold since the 1970s, is safe when used as directed. Hundreds of studies over the past 35 years have addressed the safety of glyphosate.
“Roundup has one of the most extensive human health safety and environmental data packages of any pesticide that's out there,” said Monsanto spokesman John Combest. “It's used in public parks, it's used to protect schools. There's been a great deal of study on Roundup, and we're very proud of its performance.”
The EPA considers glyphosate to have low toxicity when used at the recommended doses.
“Risk estimates for glyphosate were well below the level of concern,” said EPA spokesman Dale Kemery. The EPA classifies glyphosate as a Group E chemical, which means there is strong evidence that it does not cause cancer in humans.
In addition, the EPA and the U.S. Department of Agriculture both recognize POEA as an inert ingredient. Derived from animal fat, POEA is allowed in products certified organic by the USDA. The EPA has concluded that it is not dangerous to public health or the environment.
The French team, led by Gilles-Eric Seralini, a University of Caen molecular biologist, said its results highlight the need for health agencies to reconsider the safety of Roundup.
“The authorizations for using these Roundup herbicides must now clearly be revised since their toxic effects depend on, and are multiplied by, other compounds used in the mixtures,” Seralini’s team wrote.
Controversy about the safety of the weed killer recently erupted in Argentina, one of the world’s largest exporters of soy.
Last month, an environmental group petitioned Argentina’s Supreme Court, seeking a temporary ban on glyphosate use after an Argentine scientist and local activists reported a high incidence of birth defects and cancers in people living near crop-spraying areas. Scientists there also linked genetic malformations in amphibians to glysophate. In addition, last year in Sweden, a scientific team found that exposure is a risk factor for people developing non-Hodgkin lymphoma.
Inert ingredients are often less scrutinized than active pest-killing ingredients. Since specific herbicide formulations are protected as trade secrets, manufacturers aren’t required to publicly disclose them. Although Monsanto is the largest manufacturer of glyphosate-based herbicides, several other manufacturers sell similar herbicides with different inert ingredients.
The term “inert ingredient” is often misleading, according to Caroline Cox, research director of the Center for Environmental Health, an Oakland-based environmental organization. Federal law classifies all pesticide ingredients that don’t harm pests as “inert,” she said. Inert compounds, therefore, aren’t necessarily biologically or toxicologically harmless – they simply don’t kill insects or weeds.
Kemery said the EPA takes into account the inert ingredients and how the product is used, whenever a pesticide is approved for use. The aim, he said, is to ensure that “if the product is used according to labeled directions, both people’s health and the environment will not be harmed.” One label requirement for Roundup is that it should not be used in or near freshwater to protect amphibians and other wildlife.
But some inert ingredients have been found to potentially affect human health. Many amplify the effects of active ingredients by helping them penetrate clothing, protective equipment and cell membranes, or by increasing their toxicity. For example, a Croatian team recently found that an herbicide formulation containing atrazine caused DNA damage, which can lead to cancer, while atrazine alone did not.
POEA was recognized as a common inert ingredient in herbicides in the 1980s, when researchers linked it to a group of poisonings in Japan. Doctors there examined patients who drank Roundup, either intentionally or accidentally, and determined that their sicknesses and deaths were due to POEA, not glyphosate.
POEA is a surfactant, or detergent, derived from animal fat. It is added to Roundup and other herbicides to help them penetrate plants' surfaces, making the weed killer more effective.
"POEA helps glyphosate interact with the surfaces of plant cells," explained Negin Martin, a scientist at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in North Carolina, who was not involved in the study. POEA lowers water's surface tension--the property that makes water form droplets on most surfaces--which helps glyphosate disperse and penetrate the waxy surface of a plant.
In the French study, researchers tested four different Roundup formulations, all containing POEA and glyphosate at concentrations below the recommended lawn and agricultural dose. They also tested POEA and glyphosate separately to determine which caused more damage to embryonic, placental and umbilical cord cells.
Glyphosate, POEA and all four Roundup formulations damaged all three cell types. Umbilical cord cells were especially sensitive to POEA. Glyphosate became more harmful when combined with POEA, and POEA alone was more deadly to cells than glyphosate. The research appears in the January issue of the journal Chemical Research in Toxicology.
By using embryonic and placental cell lines, which multiply and respond to chemicals rapidly, and fresh umbilical cord cells, Seralini’s team was able to determine how the chemicals combine to damage cells.
The two ingredients work together to “limit breathing of the cells, stress them and drive them towards a suicide,” Seralini said.
The research was funded in part by France’s Committee for Research and Independent Information on Genetic Engineering, a scientific committee that investigates risks associated with genetically modified organisms. One of Roundup’s primary uses is on crops that are genetically engineered to be resistant to glyphosate.
Monsanto scientists argue that cells in Seralini’s study were exposed to unnaturally high levels of the chemicals. “It's very unlike anything you'd see in real-world exposure. People's cells are not bathed in these things,” said Donna Farmer, another toxicologist at Monsanto.
Seralini’s team, however, did study multiple concentrations of Roundup. These ranged from the typical agricultural or lawn dose down to concentrations 100,000 times more dilute than the products sold on shelves. The researchers saw cell damage at all concentrations.
Monsanto scientists also question the French team’s use of laboratory cell lines.
“These are just not very good models of a whole organism, like a human being,” said Dan Goldstein, a toxicologist with Monsanto.
Goldstein said humans have protective mechanisms that resist substances in the environment, such as skin and the lining of the gastrointestinal tract, which constantly renew themselves. “Those phenomena just don't happen with isolated cells in a Petri dish.”
But Cox, who studies pesticides and their inert ingredients at the Oakland environmental group, says lab experiments like these are important in determining whether a chemical is safe.
“We would never consider it ethical to test these products on people, so we're obliged to look at their effects on other species and in other systems,” she said. “There's really no way around that.”
Seralini said the cells used in the study are widely accepted in toxicology as good models for studying the toxicity of chemicals.
“The fact is that 90 percent of labs studying mechanisms of toxicity or physiology use cell lines,” he said.
Most research has examined glyphosate alone, rather than combined with Roundup’s inert ingredients. Researchers who have studied Roundup formulations have drawn conclusions similar to the Seralini group’s. For example, in 2005, University of Pittsburg ecologists added Roundup at the manufacturer’s recommended dose to ponds filled with frog and toad tadpoles. When they returned two weeks later, they found that 50 to 100 percent of the populations of several species of tadpoles had been killed.
A group of over 250 environmental, health and labor organizations has petitioned the EPA to change requirements for identifying pesticides’ inert ingredients. The agency’s decision is due this fall.
“It would be a big step for the agency to take,” said Cox. “But it’s one they definitely should.”
The groups claim that the laws allowing manufacturers to keep inert ingredients secret from competitors are essentially unnecessary. Companies can determine a competitor’s inert ingredients through routine lab analyses, said Cox.
“The proprietary protection laws really only keep information from the public,” she said.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Supermarkets selling meat from animals fed GM crops
Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
25 Jun 2010
They have acknowledged that meat, fish, eggs and dairy products on their shelves could contain “indirect” GM ingredients.
Every major supermarket in the country said it was unable to provide a guarantee that it was not selling products from animals given GM feed.
Even ''high-end’’ retailers said only the more expensive organic ranges were certain to have been produced without any GM involvement.
The disclosures have reignited the debate about the use of genetic technology in food production following health and environmental concerns.
Opponents of the technology claimed that retailers were using a loophole in labelling rules to “trick” the public over the link to GM.
The disclosures follow the recent resignation of two leading academics from a government panel set up to assess public attitudes to the new technology in protest at “GM propaganda”.
Under European rules, any food containing raw GM ingredients, such as corn or soy, must be labelled as such.
There is no legal obligation for food producers, shops and supermarkets to do the same when the GM link is further back in the food chain.
It means, for example, that milk from dairy cows reared on modified soy can be sold without any reference to GM on the label.
According to food watchdogs, such products can be exempted from food labelling rules because the original foodstuffs have been broken down into a different form in the animal’s stomach and no longer pose a health risk to consumers.
Campaigners said consumers deserved to be given the choice – and knowledge of the “indirect” GM link – through clearer labelling.
Michael Meacher, the former environment minister, said animal feed was being used as a way of “inserting GM into the food chain”.
“If people choose to eat GM that is a matter for them,” he said. “But I think we are trying to trick them by making sure it actually happens even though people realise what the implications are.”
Last night supermarkets including Iceland, Aldi and Lidl said they could provide no guarantee that meat, farmed fish, eggs or dairy products on sale did not come from animals given GM feed. Asda said “all livestock” could potentially have been fed GM products. Sainsbury’s and Tesco said poultry and animals for certain high value lines were fed a non-GM diet. But they could not guarantee animal products from most of the rest of the range.
M&S and Waitrose, which promote a tougher stance against factory-farmed foods, sell processed food such as chicken sandwiches and ice cream produced from animals fed a GM diet.
Retailers said British farmers relied largely on imported feed, most of which was made from GM soy meal from North or South America. Pete Riley, of the campaign group GM Freeze, said: “No supermarket can claim to be non-GM, they might have aspired to be at one point, but effectively they have been pulling the wool over people’s eyes.”
Shops where there is no policy of selling own brand products from animals that are fed a non-GM diet
No guarantee that meat, farmed fish, eggs and dairy (fresh, frozen and processed) is not from animals fed GM. Iceland do not sell any organic food.
No guarantee in any animal products that GM feed has not been used unless it is organic.
“Aldi UK does not stock any GM products or products containing GM ingredients.
“According to the European Food Safety Authority, GM foods used in animal feed are not considered to be an ingredient of any meat products. Legislation does not require food produced from animals fed GM feed to be authorised or labelled as GM.”
No guarantee that meat, farmed fish, eggs and dairy (fresh, frozen and processed) is not from animals fed GM, unless it is labelled organic.
"To confirm, all livestock could potentially be fed GM feed. This affects all supermarkets. As already stated. We are simply pointing out now that even within non GM soya, there is a high chance of finding traces of GM. So to be certain, for those consumers that "want to be able to choose food that’s guaranteed to be GM free."
No guarantee that meat, farmed fish, eggs and dairy (fresh, frozen and processed) is not from animals fed GM, unless it is labelled organic.
"We can confirm that the majority of products that we sell are own label products. Our suppliers generally have a policy that the animals supplied to them are not fed on GM feed, however it is extremely difficult to confirm at the current time that any feed is completely GM free. Additionally, due to the nature of animal movements it is impossible to guarantee that animals have never been fed GM feed during their life.
"We are continually monitoring the animal feed supply chain situation and the relevant regulations."
Shops where certain products and high value lines are from animals fed a non-GM diet
All poultry (fresh and frozen) and eggs are from animals fed a non-GM diet.
All other meat, farmed fish and dairy (fresh, frozen and processed) has no guarantee it is from animals fed a non-GM diet, unless it is labelled organic.
"We do not have any own-brand GM food on our shelves. Any branded products which contain GM are labelled as such. FSA guidance clearly states that products from animals fed on GM feed do not contain GM material and are completely safe. To give customers additional choice, all fresh and frozen poultry and eggs, and all our own brand organic meat are fed non-GM feed."
"All chicken, turkey and duck, fresh and frozen, is from animals that are fed a non-GM diet as are all products in the SO Organic range. Also Taste the Difference pork and bacon, beef and eggs. And farmed salmon and Farm Promise milk (dairy farms in conversion to organic certification).
"Otherwise there is no guarantee own brand milk, other farmed fish or meat, eggs and dairy product are not from animals fed on GM, unless it is from the SO Organic range. Also no guarantee on processed and frozen foods unless from the SO Organic range."
“All Morrisons fresh and frozen poultry, farmed fish, fresh eggs and organic product ranges are from animals that are fed a non GM diet. In line with many of our retail competitors, we can make no guarantee about any other products.
"The European Food Safety Authority have considered all scientific evidence and concluded that GM material does not migrate into the animal or food derived from them."
"In terms of animal feed, our laying hens (i.e. eggs), chicken, duck, farmed fish and New Zealand Lamb are fed a non-GM diet. We keep this situation under regular review. We can guarantee that our frozen salmon, frozen New Zealand Lamb and the New Zealand lamb used in our ready meals are also fed a non-GM diet. In addition, we are working to source a greater amount of our animal feed from the UK.
"One example is our initiative to source British barley and wheat for our pig farms from within a 50 mile radius of the mill used to manufacture the feed. This is the first such project in the UK, gives us greater autonomy in feed sourcing and is non-GM. All organic lines are guaranteed GM feed free."
All chicken, all eggs, all farmed salmon and trout, fresh turkey, fresh duck and New Zealand lamb is from animals fed a non-GM diet.
All other meat and dairy (fresh, frozen and processed) has no guarantee it is from animals fed a non-GM diet, unless it is labelled organic.
Shops where all animal products are from animals fed a non-GM diet except processed food, non milk dairy and frozen food
All fresh meat, poultry, eggs, farmed fish, milk and frozen chicken are from animals fed a non-GM diet.
There is no guarantee on processed dairy (including yogurt and cheese) and other frozen food containing animals products unless it is labelled organic.
'Limits We Should Not Cross'
Germany Takes Stand against Patents on Plants and Animals
The German government wants to prevent the patenting of agricultural livestock and plants. "There are limits that we should not cross," Germany's Minister of Food, Agriculture and Consumer Protection told SPIEGEL. In order to preserve genetic variety, farmers and breeders should not be handcuffed by biological patents, she argues.
She is supported in her position by the parliamentary group of the opposition center-left Social Democrats (SPD). The SPD even goes one step further, arguing that neither conventional breeding methods nor whole organisms should be patentable.
European Test Case
Aigner's push for a refinement of European regulations on biological patents comes shortly before an important precedent-setting decision that will be made by the Munich-based(EPO). In a hearing that begins on July 20, the office's Enlarged Board of Appeal, the EPO's highest board of appeal, will be looking into the validity of two patents, one applying to broccoli and one to tomatoes. The EPO's ruling will be final once a decision has been made and will serve as a precedent for further patents on conventional seeds.
The patents were actually granted several years ago. In the case of the broccoli, which is bred to contain elevated levels of glucosinolates, compounds believed to have anticarcinogenic properties, the patent was given to UK-based Plant Bioscience Limited in 2002, while the patent on the tomatoes, which have been bred to contain less water, was awarded to Israel's Ministry of Agriculture in 2003. The patents have been opposed by various parties, however, including other companies working in biotechnology such as Anglo-Dutch multinational Unilever and Swiss-based company Syngenta Participations AG.
Opposition to Patents on Conventional Breeding
Another of the organizations opposed to the patenting is the lobby group, an initiative founded by Greenpeace Germany together with the Swiss development organization Swissaid and Misereor, the overseas development agency of the Catholic Church in Germany.
The lobby opposed to seed patenting is concerned that what is being patented involves conventional plant breeding techniques and not genetic modification technology. For example, the drier tomato in question is produced by crossing several tomato hybrid seeds, then observing how the eventual tomato fruit dries, to see which plants have less moisture.
No Patents On Seeds is concerned about the implications of the EPO's impending ruling. "If the patent is revoked, it might become more difficult for similar patents on normal seeds to be granted," the group said in a statement. "On the other hand, it is likely that the companies mainly filed their oppositions to get the EPO to confirm, rather than to revoke, the patentability of conventional seeds." The lobby group points out that one of the commercial opponents of the broccoli patent, Syngenta, has also applied for a similar patent on a type of rice.
Traditionally, a kind of open-source principle applied in agriculture, whereby newly developed varieties of plant or breeds of animal were available to all users. In contrast, patents give their holders exclusive rights and controls over any new varieties.
June 23, 2010
On June 21, the US Supreme Court released its long awaited decision on the first case involving genetically modified crops, allowing the USDA to impose a partial deregulation, should it so choose. This would permit the sale of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa (RRA). However, in its 7-1 ruling, the court also upheld the lower decision to ban complete deregulation.
The US Supreme Court found that the “District Court abused its discretion when banning a partial deregulation and in prohibiting the planting of RRA pending completion of a detailed environmental review,” known as an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS).
The decision flies in the face of the facts in this case, and subjects us to further contamination of our food supply.
Monsanto expressed glee: “We have Roundup Ready alfalfa seed ready to deliver and await USDA guidance on its release. Our goal is to have everything in place for growers to plant in fall 2010."
Adversarial party Center for Food Safety also expressed delight in the decision, calling it a “Victory for Center for Food Safety, Farmers.” In its release, CFS asserts:
“The Justices’ decision today means that the selling and planting of Roundup Ready Alfalfa is illegal. The ban on the crop will remain in place until a full and adequate EIS is prepared by USDA and they officially deregulate the crop. This is a year or more away according to the agency, and even then, a deregulation move may be subject to further litigation if the agency’s analysis is not adequate.”
CFS is happy because, as the Court pointed out, “we do know that the vacatur of APHIS’s deregulation decision means that virtually no RRA can be grown or sold until such time as a new deregulation decision is in place, and we also know that any party aggrieved by a hypothetical future deregulation decision will have ample opportunity to challenge it, and to seek appropriate preliminary relief, if and when such a decision is made.”
While CFS may be happy to fight this case again, food freedom suffered a blow by this decision.
Dissenting Justice John Paul Stevens clarifies the convoluted decision:
“In this case, the agency [U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, known as APHIS] had attempted to deregulate RRA without an EIS in spite of ample evidence of potential environmental harms. And when the court made clear that the agency had violated NEPA [National Environmental Policy Act], the agency responded by seeking to ‘streamline’ the process … submitting a deregulation proposal with Monsanto that suffered from some of the same legal and empirical holes as its initial plan to deregulate.”
APHIS had offered the lower court a partial deregulation plan, which was rejected. That is the portion of the District Court decision that SCOTUS deemed was beyond its authority to impose.
The High Court condemned the lower court for choosing a middle course of action, instead of taking “more extreme actions on either end.” It found the lower court’s ban on future plantings inconsistent with its allowance of current planting:
“The order enjoining any partial deregulation was also inconsistent with other aspects of the very same judgment. In fashioning its remedy for the NEPA violation, the District Court steered a ‘middle course’ between more extreme options on either end…. On the one hand, the District Court rejected APHIS’s proposal … to allow continued planting and harvesting of RRA subject to the agency’s proposed limitations. On the other hand, the District Court did not bar continued planting of RRA as a regulated article under permit from APHIS … and it expressly allowed farmers to harvest and sell RRA planted before
March 30, 2007.”
Justice Stevens, however, applauds the ‘middle road’ taken by the District Court. In defending the lower court’s two-part decision, Justice Stevens pointed out that courts must weigh the diverse equities before it:
“At the outset, it is important to observe that when a district court is faced with an unlawful agency action, a set of parties who have relied on that action, and a prayer for relief to avoid irreparable harm, the court is operating under its powers of equity. In such a case, a court’s function is to ‘do equity and to mould each decree to the necessities of the particular case.’
“Flexibility and practicality are the touchstones of these remedial determinations, as the public interest, private needs, and competing private claims must all be weighed….
“Exercising its equitable discretion to balance the interests of the parties and the public, the District Court would have been well within its rights to find that NEPA requires an EIS … yet also to find that a partial stay of the vacatur was appropriate to protect the interests of those farmers who had already acted in good-faith reliance on APHIS.” [Internal quote marks removed.]
Geertson Seed Decision Abrogates Food Freedom
No one denies that gene transfer did occur; that GM crops contaminate natural ones. Instead, like Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan did when defending Monsanto in this case (as Solicitor General), SCOTUS simply ignored this most important fact when deciding to allow partial deregulation.
The US Supreme Court also ignored that APHIS is unable to monitor for contamination. GE alfalfa is planted in 48 states, and, while under the purview of APHIS, contamination of natural fields occurred. The lower court was realistic when determining “that APHIS lacks monitoring capacity.”
Allowing for the spread of GM crops removes the public’s right to not choose GMOs, because the natural supply no longer exists, or becomes nearly impossible to find or afford. We saw this when Bayer’s GM rice contaminated a third of the US supply. And already today:
95% of all US beets are genetically modified (Greenwire);
91% of all US soybeans (USDA);
71% of US cotton (USDA);
And over two-thirds (68%) of all US corn (USDA).
Today, GMO derivatives are found in more than 70% of the foods in the supermarket,” reports activist and author Jeffrey M. Smith, which includes virtually 100% of our processed food.
There are a number of other problems with GM crops, which the Supreme Court ignores, even when presented with some of these issues.
First and foremost, GMOs are created to tolerate or produce pesticide. North America is losing its natural pollinators, specifically bees, butterflies and bats, because of the enormous tonnage of chemicals sprayed in this nation. If we lose our bees, said Einstein, humans will last about six years. We need our pollinators. The entire web of life depends on them.
Those pesticide chemicals have poisoned all of our waters, damaging the biota, or making seafood toxic for humans. Chemical companies like Monsanto, Dow, Bayer, etc. created GMOs so they could sell chemicals. Those chemicals are bad for the environment and for humans.
Another side effect of our toxic spraying is we now have super bugs and super weeds. The overuse of pesticides has allowed those plants that are pesticide resistant to thrive. Resistant pigweed, for example, is destroying cotton farming in the Southeast US. These biotech companies ignore the science of evolution when pushing their dangerous product on us. We are now suffering for their scientific ignorance.
Weed resistance was considered in Geertson Seed, but SCOTUS dismissed that relevancy because “Respondents in this case do not represent a class, so they could not seek to enjoin such an order on the ground that it might cause harm to other parties.”
Second, GM crops contaminate natural crops by cross breeding with them. Thus, GMOs are destroying biodiversity. The Irish potato famine happened because every Irish family grew them - monoculture is a disaster waiting to happen. When the blight hit, there was no natural way to stop it. Phytophthora infestans spread like wildfire because its food source was everywhere.
When you destroy biodiversity, you invite total destruction from widespread infestation. This is basic natural science. GM crops increase the threat to food safety, food security.
SCOTUS ignored the facts, and science, when lifting the ban on partial deregulation.
Third, GM food is dangerous to animals, including humans. We evolved with the bugs and the natural food that exists on this planet. We did not evolve with these new GM creations of the past fourteen years. When studying evolution, the significance of this statement becomes profound. Evolution takes hundreds or thousands of years (or longer). Instead, those who eat GM foods might as well be eating food from a different planet. They did not evolve with that food and the consequences can be generational as well as immediately toxic to the eater (organ damage, sterility, diabetes and obesity, etc.)
Biotechnology may have its uses, but not in the food supply. The Supreme Court’s ruling abrogates our right to GM free food by paving the way for further contamination.
Rady Ananda’s work has appeared in several online and print publications. She obtained a B.S. in Natural Resources from The Ohio State University’s School of Agriculture in 2003.
GM public consultation has 'no credibility' - say campaigners
Louise Gray, Environment Correspondent
07 Jun 2010
The 'public dialogue' set up by Government quango the Food Standards Agency is already in disarray after the vice chairman resigned.
Professor Brian Wynne said the FSA was promoting GM 'propaganda' and incapable of carrying out an objective public consultation.
Now the Soil Association, Friends of the Earth, GM Watch and two other non-Governmental organisations have written to the FSA in support of Prof Wynne.
In a letter to Lord Jeffrey Rooker, Chairman of the FSA, they complained that the dialogue is a "silly waste of money".
"As public interest groups who oppose the use of expensive, unproven and environmentally and socially damaging GM technology in farming and food, we do not intend to have anything to do with your GM assessment, and this £500,000 waste of public money, and we will encourage our supporters and others to avoid giving any spurious legitimacy to this exercise," it reads.
Lord Peter Melchett, policy director of the Soil Association, said the public consultation will have no credibility without the input of public interests groups.
"It cannot possibly have an credibility for exactly the reason Professor Wynne said, that the FSA is displaying an institutional bias in favour of GM," he said.
The FSA pointed out that the public dialogue is still at the planning stage and will only go-ahead when the Government decides.
The Department for the Environment Food and Rural Affairs, that is in charge of the decision, said it is still being considered.
“The details of the Government’s GM policy are yet to be decided, and ministers will consider whether to continue with the Dialogue," a spokesman said.
GM lobby helped draw up crucial report on Britain's food supplies
Email trail shows how biotech group helped watchdog to draw up analysis of GM crops ... and prompted two advisers to quit
A powerful lobbying organisation representing agribusiness interests helped draft a key government report that has been attacked by environmentalists for heavily favouring the arguments of the genetically modified food industry.
The revelation comes after the resignation of two government advisers who have criticised the close relationship between the Food Standards Agency (FSA), the body that oversees the UK's food industry, and the GM lobby.
Emails between the FSA and the Agricultural Biotechnology Council (ABC) show the council inserted key sentences strengthening the case for GM food that ended up in the final report.
The report, "Food Standards Agency work on changes in the market and the GM regulatory system", examines how GM products are entering the UK, where the growing of GM products is banned, through the animal feed system. It acknowledges food prices could go up if GM products continue to be excluded.
Emails from the council – which represents leading GM food companies such as Monsanto and Bayer – to Dr Clair Baynton, the then head of novel foods at the FSA, show a close dialogue between both sides between 2008 and August 2009, when the report was published.
On 19 November 2008, Baynton sent the council a draft of the report, saying: "I am happy to discuss… if that would be helpful."
In response, the council suggested a series of changes that emphasised how GM food was playing an increasingly important role in global agriculture and helping bring down food prices. Some of the amendments were rejected by the FSA, but others were accepted.
One accepted alteration acknowledged the GM lobby's argument that GM food is inevitable in the European Union because of its ubiquity elsewhere. It stated that "retailers were concerned they may not be able to maintain their current non-GM sources of supply as producers increasingly adopt GM technology around the world".
And the FSA also accepted the suggested amendment that soya protein (which can be grown as a GM crop) remains "the most cost-effective method of supplementing animal feed at present". Baynton replied a few days later: "Many thanks for your comments on the draft report", and asked the council for help in finding evidence of the prevalence of GM foods, "either authorised or being considered for authorisation in Argentina, Brazil and the US".
Months later, the council sent Baynton, a former employee of GM food producer Syngenta, a list of whom it wanted on a steering group overseeing a "public engagement exercise" on GM food. The email stated: "We believe GM must be presented as an option within the wider context of food security as part of a solution to feeding a growing population."
The FSA was due to start the public engagement exercise, which is expected to cost the taxpayer £500,000, this month. But the move is being seen in some quarters as a "rigged" exercise.
Two members who sit on the FSA's steering group have resigned in protest. Dr Helen Wallace, director of Genewatch UK, a scientific pressure group opposed to GM, stepped down last month. Last week, the group's vice-chairman, Professor Brian Wynne, an expert on public engagement with science, resigned, complaining that the FSA had adopted a "dogmatically entrenched", pro-GM attitude.
Wallace said the emails "expose how the Food Standards Agency is acting as a puppet of the GM industry, by colluding with foreign GM companies to undermine people's access to GM-free food supplies in Britain". The FSA is chaired by former Labour minister Lord Rooker, a GM enthusiast, who has attacked its critics as "anti-science".
A confidential bid document to win the contract to run the engagement exercise, submitted by the polling company Ipsos MORI, acknowledges the sensitivity of the initiative. "There will be no active seeking of media interest in relation to this project," it explains.
The bidding document states that it works on behalf of a "multinational agro-chemical and seed company" and warns: "Campaign organisations who may feel that the 'battle' was won in 2003 could decide to try and hijack the process to ensure GM food does not get a chance to be reintroduced into the UK."
An FSA spokesman defended its decision to include the GM lobby's suggested changes in the final report.
"In order to obtain an accurate picture of the situation, the FSA held a series of meetings with stakeholders before drafting this report," the spokesman said. "As the report was concerned with the markets for food and animal feed, the biotech industry had not been involved in these meetings. However, in order to ensure the report was balanced and not to exclude this relevant stakeholder group, the view of the ABC was also sought. Their comments were taken on board in the final draft, as were the comments by other stakeholders."
But Wallace was critical of the decision. "The stakeholder meeting was transparent – the changes made behind the scenes at the industry's request were not," she said. "The report fails to represent the vast majority of GM-free farmers, who will have to pay a heavy price if their crops or seed are allowed to become contaminated with GM crops or seed."
The row came as the environment secretary, Caroline Spelman, who used to work as director of a biotech lobbying firm, said that she was in favour of GM foods "in the right circumstances".
BRIEF HISTORY OF GM
People have been breeding animals and new varieties of plants for centuries. As a result, the world's main food crops have been selected, crossed and bred to suit local conditions and to make them tastier.
Whereas traditional methods involve mixing thousands of genes, genetic modification allows just one or a small number of genes to be inserted into a plant to change it in a predetermined way. Genes can be "switched" on or off to change how it develops.
The first commercially grown genetically modified whole food crop was a type of tomato, which was modified to ripen without softening and was approved for release in the US in 1994.
Most GM crops are grown in North America. The Grocery Manufacturers of America association estimates that 75% of all processed foods in the US contain a GM ingredient. In the EU, if a food contains or consists of genetically modified organisms (GMOs), this must be indicated.
Public opposition to GM food within the EU saw one of its main proponents, Monsanto, pull out of the European seed cereal business in 2003.---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Move to allow EU ban on GM crops
Joshua Chaffin in Brussels
June 4 2010
European Union member states would have the power to ban the cultivation of genetically modified organisms under a forthcoming proposal from the European Commission that is intended to break a regulatory logjam of the controversial products.
The draft proposal is to be tabled next month by John Dalli, the commissioner for health and consumer policy, and has been highly anticipated by the biotech industry and groups that oppose GMOs.
The plan attempts to end the EU’s paralysis over GMOs by giving individual member states the authority to ban their cultivation for whatever reason they please, according to people who have reviewed the document. Under the current policy, bans must be supported by scientific evidence of health concerns – a process that can involve years of review.
In return, Mr Dalli is hoping that those member states that are staunch opponents of GMOs, such as Austria and Hungary, will abandon delaying tactics and allow others to use them.
Partisans on both sides of the debate offered a cautious welcome on Friday to news of the proposal.
Adrian Bebb, an agriculture specialist at Friends of the Earth Europe, which has long warned of health and environmental risks posed by GMOs, called the proposal “a welcome opportunity for countries in Europe to ban genetically modified crops”. But, Mr Bebb warned, stronger barriers would be needed to protect states that reject GMOs from those that embrace them.
Mike Hall, a spokesman for Pioneer Hi-Bred, a division of DuPont, said his company supported any measure that would give farmers more choice, but noted that “the devil is always in the detail of these things”.
Specifically, Mr Hall speculated that the proposal could run afoul of the EU’s internal market rules if it resulted in farmers from Spain or Slovakia having access to GMO seeds while those in neighbouring France or Hungary did not.
Meanwhile, Médard Schoenmaeckers, a spokesperson for Syngenta, another agri-business company, warned that the new proposal could have the unintended consequence of making the regulatory process more complex.
The draft proposal follows the Commission’s decision in March to break a 12-year moratorium on the cultivation of GMOs in Europe when it gave approval to Amflora, a potato engineered by German chemicals group BASF. Amflora, which produces high volumes of starch for paper manufacturers and other industrial users, is to be grown in Germany, the Czech Republic and Sweden.
That decision reflected the determination by Mr Dalli and his boss, José Manuel Barroso, the European Commission president, to pursue a GMO policy based on science, and that supported their broader goal of improving European innovation. It was seen as a potential sea-change in a GMO policy that had become paralysed by political division and bureaucratic delay.
GMO proponents argue that their products have passed repeated health reviews from the European Food Safety Authority, and that without them European farmers will face a widening competitive gap with counterparts in the US, Canada and Latin America.
The Commission is also expected to propose new rules later this year that would relax a zero-tolerance policy on imports of cattle feed contaminated with traces of unapproved GMOs.