Category Archives: GMO’s

Open Door to GMO? Britain Faced with EU-US Biotechnology Dilemma Post-Brexit

Global Research – Nov 29, 2019 – Natasha Foote

The question of whether the UK will open its doors to GMOs after Brexit has become more pertinent after EU Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier told MEPs on Tuesday (26 November) that in order to secure a trade agreement, the UK would have to agree to maintain a ‘level playing field’ and not undercut EU regulation.

Barnier said that if a new UK government sought to diverge from EU regulatory standards that would weaken environmental standards there will never be a free trade agreement, MEPs at a meeting in the European Parliament revealed.

The discussion over science-based policymaking in the EU, in general, has been heating up in recent years, with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) front and centre of the debate.

Concerns have been raised particularly regarding the unknown impact of the release of GMOs into the environment and the food system, with critics citing a lack of adequate and sufficient risk assessment.

In July 2018, the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that organisms obtained by new mutagenesis plant breeding techniques should, in principle, fall under the GMO Directive.

This ruling is one in a long line of resolutions against approvals of the use and import of GMOs that the EU has adopted in recent years.

However, there could soon be a shift of thinking about GM crops in the UK, with Prime Minister Boris Johnson pledging to “liberate” the UK’s bioscience sector from the EU’s anti-GM regulation post-Brexit.

Opening Britain’s doors to GMOs has also been suggested as key to allowing the UK to draw up a quick trade agreement with the United States.

Speaking at a recent plant breeding conference in Brussels, Dr Thorben Sprink from the Julius Kühn-Institute in Germany said he thought the UK would “make the most” of the opportunity Brexit presented for the country to reject Europe’s “very tight regulation” and encourage more GMO research.

At the event, Secretary-General of Euroseeds Garlich Von Essen said that neither breeders nor farmers want to be in the “second league” and that Brexit would allow the UK to implement “science-based regulation”.

Liz O’Neill, director of GM Freeze, a UK non-profit organisation which campaigns against GM, told EURACTIV that GM regulations have already been identified as a non-tariff barrier to trade, citing that Donald Trump signed an Executive Order in June, aiming to force the UK (and the EU) to open the door to GM crops from the US.

She said that there will undoubtedly be pressure on the UK to accept GMOs, and that Brexit has the potential to “change everything with food and farming and open the floodgates to unregulated GMOs”.

UK National farmers union (NFU) chief science and regulatory affairs adviser, Dr Helen Ferrier, told EURACTIV that biotechnology and GMOs “have the potential to offer multiple benefits to the public, farmers and the environment, and could help tackle some intractable issues in the production and consumption of food”.

She said “there may be opportunities to look at different regulatory approaches after Brexit to the way technologies are developed and used.

The potential impact on trade with key partners, whether the EU or the US, needs to be kept in mind, as well as the need for access to the full toolbox of innovations to help find solutions to major challenges such as climate change and diet-related illness.“

However, she highlighted that the use of biotechnology “must be regulated using sound science in terms of its environmental and health impact”.

The UK department for environment, food and rural affairs (DEFRA) said they were unable to comment on future policy decisions during the pre-election period.

Low consumer acceptance 

However, NGOs and anti-GM campaign groups say that public support for GM remains low in the UK.

O’Neill told EURACTIV that “the UK public consistently rejects the use of GM in food and farming, both in polls and at the checkout” and that they “simply do not sell”.

In April 2018, an IPPR poll found that only 8% of the public thought the UK should lower food safety standards to secure a trade deal with the US, with 82% preferring to keep standards as they are.

O’Neill said that UK politicians will, therefore, have a “very hard time” persuading the electorate that a “US trade deal is more important than the high food standards they consistently support”.

SOURCE

Genetically Engineered Animals: From Lab to Factory Farm

Friends of the Earth – Nov 13, 2019

This report, provides a scientific overview of the concerns with genetically engineered food animal experiments that are underway, and reveals the risks to human health, the environment and animal welfare. It sheds light on the unintended consequences of genetic engineering techniques known as gene editing, and considers the implications for U.S. regulations. The report also highlights the gaps in what scientists know about the effects of editing DNA to confer certain desirable traits.

The report summarizes peer-reviewed research on genetically engineered animals in development, including super-muscly pigs, hornless cows and disease resistant chickens and pigs. Studies show that, far from being “precise,” gene editing can cause genetic errors, even if only a genetic “tweak” is intended. Genetic errors can lead to unexpected effects in gene-edited animals, such as enlarged tongues in rabbits and extra vertebrae in pigs. Studies also suggest that common gene editing traits, such as hornless cows and disease resistance, will perpetuate the poor animal management, such as crowding, often found in animal factory farming. Rather than creating genetically engineered animals to fit into factory farming systems, the report recommends it is critical to develop sustainable and ecological animal agriculture systems that support preservation and restoration of biodiversity, public health and animal welfare. 

The report was co-authored by Dana Perls, senior food and technology campaigner, Friends of the Earth and Dr. Janet Cotter, Logos Environmental.

Press release
Full report
Executive summary
Op-ed

Key Findings:
  • Studies show that, far from being “precise,” gene editing can cause genetic errors, even if only a genetic “tweak” is intended. Genes can be changed at additional locations and gene editing can interfere with gene regulation.
  • Common gene editing traits, such as hornless cows and disease resistance, will perpetuate the poor animal management, such as crowding, often found in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). This will magnify the current ethical, health and welfare concerns for animals housed in CAFOs.
  • Genetic engineering of animals often involves cloning, which leads to birth defects, spontaneous abortions and early postnatal death. Genetic errors can lead to unexpected effects in gene-edited animals, such as enlarged tongues in rabbits and extra vertebrae in pigs. These raise concerns for animal health, welfare and consumer safety.
  • Unexpected effects include the production of abnormal proteins in gene-edited animals. Allergens are proteins, so abnormal proteins could create new food allergies and have significant implications for food safety.
  • There are significant gaps in research about how genetic errors at the cellular level manifest as unexpected effects and how these unexpected effects may impact the animal’s health, interact with complex environmental factors and affect food safety.
  • Although still at the hypothetical stage, gene drive systems could drive a specific trait through a herd or population of farm animals and could accidentally spread to the natural population, potentially affecting biodiversity and even an entire ecosystem.
Recommendations:
  • Rather than creating genetically engineered animals to fit into factory farming systems, it is critical to develop sustainable and ecological animal agriculture systems that support animal welfare, preservation and restoration of biodiversity and public health. 
  • All genetic engineering techniques should fall within the scope of government regulatory oversight of genetic engineering, including gene editing, using the Precautionary Principle to protect human health and the environment.
  • Oversight and regulations for GMOs, including gene-edited animals, should include independent assessment for environmental and food safety and long-term impacts before entering the market or environment. Products of all genetic engineering should be traceable and clearly labeled as GMOs.

SOURCE

Call to Re-think Genetically Engineered Herbicide-Tolerant Crops

CBAN – Aug 22, 2019 – Lucy Sharratt

Proposed Monsanto corn tolerates four herbicides

Ottawa, August 22, 2019. Canadian civil society groups the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) and Prevent Cancer Now (PCN) are calling for a review of the use of genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) herbicide-tolerant crops in Canada, in response to Monsanto’s request for government approval of a GM corn that can withstand applications of four herbicides, including 2,4-D and dicamba.(1)

“This proposed GM corn demonstrates the breakdown of herbicide-tolerant crops,” said Lucy Sharratt of CBAN. “GM glyphosate-tolerant crops are no longer working due to the spread of glyphosate resistant weeds so companies are replacing them with GM crop plants that are tolerant to other herbicides. This is a short-term fix that will likely recreate the problem and further increase herbicide use. A government review of the impacts of using herbicide-tolerant crops is needed.”

Over twenty years, herbicide-tolerant cropping systems have not reduced herbicide use in Canada as promised. Instead, herbicide sales have gone up and the use of herbicides has led to the development and spread of more herbicide resistant weeds, particularly glyphosate resistant weeds, which are in turn leading to the use of yet more herbicides.

Monsanto’s new proposed corn MON 87429 (now owned by Bayer) is the first GM crop plant to be tolerant to both 2,4-D and dicamba. Most herbicide tolerant crop plants on the market are now tolerant to more than one herbicide. MON 87429 is genetically engineered to tolerate four herbicides: dicamba, 2,4-D, quizalofop, and glufosinate.

“In the escalating weed wars, as herbicide use is increasing the industry is returning to hazardous chlorinated chemicals such as 2,4-D, dicamba and quizalofop,” said Meg Sears, Chair of PCN. “Returning to multiple older herbicide formulations can put farmers and consumers at risk.”

In comments to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, CBAN and PCN call for comprehensive review of the environmental, health and economic impacts of using herbicide-tolerant crops in Canada.

“We need to evaluate the impacts of the whole system, not just assess individual products one by one,” said Sharratt.

Herbicide tolerant crops are designed to survive sprayings of particular pesticide formulations. Approvals of genetically engineered herbicide-tolerant crops since 1995 have led to a predominance of herbicide-tolerant cropping systems in corn, canola, soy and sugarbeet production in Canada. These systems are reliant on patented GM seeds and the accompanying brand-name herbicide formulations. Almost 100% of all the GM crops grown in Canada are genetically engineered to be herbicide-tolerant.

“A national pesticide-reduction strategy is urgently needed, to support biodiverse, resilient ecosystems and help transition to sustainable agriculture in the face of climate change,” said Sears.

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SOURCE

Tell the USDA to Do Its Job: Protect Consumers, Not the Biotech Industry!

Aug 1, 2019 – Organic Consumers Association

DEADLINE AUGUST 5: Tell the USDA to do its job: protect-consumers, not the biotech industry!

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) wants to let companies like #Monsanto-Bayer#Dow #Dupont and #Syngenta (now owned by #ChemChina) “ #regulate” their own genetically engineered products—under a proposed rule the #USDA euphemistically calls the “ #Sustainable#Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient,” or “SECURE” for short.
Please feel free to cut and paste to share with friends
https://advocacy.organicconsumers.org/page/12118/petition/1

Now, under the Trump administration’s “free-for-all” approach to regulation, the USDA wants to let companies like Monsanto-Bayer, DowDupont and Syngenta (now owned by ChemChina) “regulate” their own genetically engineered products.

TAKE ACTION: Tell the USDA to do its job: protect consumers, not the biotech industry!

From the department of “you can’t make this stuff up,” the USDA calls its new proposed rule for reviewing and approving GMOs “Sustainable, Ecological, Consistent, Uniform, Responsible, Efficient,” or “SECURE” for short.

If this new rule is allowed to take effect, biotech companies will for sure be more secure—secure in the fact that they will be allowed to unleash any genetically engineered organism into the environment or into the food system—with no oversight, no independent testing and no accountability.

The USDA’s proposed rule follows Trump’s executive order, issued in June, calling for “modernizing the regulatory framework for agricultural biotechnology products.” Which is just shorthand for protecting corporate profits at the expense of human health and the environment.

If passed, “SECURE” will also be a disaster for organic farmers, whose organic certification—and livelihoods—will bethreatened even further by contamination of their non-GMO, organic crops when GMO seeds “drift” into their fields.

Under USDA’s proposed “no-regulation rule,” almost every GMO would be exempt from regulation. And biotech companies would be the ones to decide whether or not their frankenfoods are “safe.”

As Dr. Allison A. Snow, professor of evolution, ecology and organismal biology at Ohio State University, wrote to the New York Times in 2015:

Asserting that biotech is safe is like saying that electricity is safe. Genetic engineering can be used safely or stupidly. Scientists, corporations and government agencies try to avoid the latter, and regulators need strong scientific data to evaluate risks.

Snow had this to say to a National Geographic reporter:

“Every transgenic organism brings with it a different set of potential risks and benefits,” says Snow. “Each needs to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. But right now only one percent of USDA biotech research money goes to risk assessment.”

In other words, we need more—not less—regulation of GMOs, especially in the rapidly changing era of new “gene-editing” technologies such as CRISPR and RNA interference (RNAi).

As Snow said, even before the USDA’s new proposed plan to hand over the regulation of GMOs to biotech corporations:

“We’ve let the cat out of the bag before we have real data, and there’s no calling it back.” 

Given the coordinated effort and relentless push by the biotech industry and the USDA to deregulate, it may also be too late to “call back” this latest proposed rule. But try we must.

PETITION and SOURCE FOR ARTICLE

USDA Reveals Germany GMO-Free Labeling Program Erodes Demand for US GMO Soybeans

Sustainable Pulse – July 18, 2019

Germany’s voluntary GMO-free labeling program is gaining momentum, generating $11 billion in sales in the country in 2018, according to a report by the US Dept of Agriculture’s (USDA) Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN) service.

According to the report, German consumers’ increasing awareness of and preference for Ohne Gentechnik (“without genetic engineering”) labelled foods “is also driving demand in the market for GMO-free animal feed, leading to marketing opportunities for growers and producers of non-GMO feed ingredients and additives, while eroding demand for US exports of genetically engineered soy”.

The USDA’s report is a revealing admission from a body that has long been dedicated to promoting the US’s GM crop exports.

GMO labelling in the EU

Since 2004, the EU has required on-label disclosure for foods and animal feed products that contain GM ingredients. However, there is no mandatory EU labelling requirement for non-GMO food products or for foods derived from animals fed GMO feed.

In 2008, Germany enacted its own legislation establishing a voluntary GMO-free labelling program. The law set standards for the voluntary labelling of non-GMO plant-based foods and for products derived from livestock fed with non-GMO feed. In 2010, the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture delegated authority to administer the voluntary GMO-free labelling standard to the Verband Lebensmittel ohne Gentechnik (Association for Food without Genetic Engineering), commonly known by its German acronym, VLOG.

VLOG is a non-profit company with the exclusive authority to license food manufacturers’ and retailers’ use of the standard Ohne Gentechnik (GMO-free) label and animal feed producers’ use of the VLOG Geprüft (VLOG Approved) label. VLOG is a membership-based organization open to any consumer or business; however, most members are farmers, processors, retailers, marketers, food producers, and trade associations.

A company does not have to obtain VLOG membership to secure a license to use the Ohne Gentechnik label on its products, but many licensees are also VLOG members. VLOG has over 700 members and licensees that represent nearly every food and agribusiness product sector, from dairy, eggs, and vegetables to cereals, meats, and beverages.

Continuing market growth

Sales of GMO-free foods in Germany, labeled as Ohne Gentechnik (without genetic engineering), are steadily rising, the USDA report says. In 2018, 10 years after Germany passed legislation establishing the Ohne Gentechnik standard, German consumers spent $11 billion on foods bearing the Ohne Gentechnik label — a 41 percent increase from 2017. Milk and dairy products comprised the bulk of those sales (66 percent), with poultry and eggs making up 18 percent and 12 percent of Ohne Gentechnik sales, respectively.

Germany’s market for Ohne Gentechnik products is now almost as large as the country’s organic food market, which was valued at more than $12 billion in 2018. VLOG projects that Ohne Gentechnik food sales will continue to grow in 2019, increasing by at least 11 percent. In response to this growth in demand, food retailers continue to expand the amount of shelf space devoted to Ohne Gentechnik products.

The major German grocers — Edeka, Rewe, Schwarz Group (Lidl), and Aldi — have all adopted the Ohne Gentechnik label on many of their own brand products, particularly meat, dairy, eggs, and poultry. In early 2019, spurred by the growing popularity of the Ohne Gentechnik label, the Schwarz Group-owned grocery chain Kaufland began marketing a line of Ohne Gentechnik pork products. Kaufland, which operates around 600 stores in Germany, currently offers at least 700 Ohne Gentechnik products and plans to expand those GMO-free offerings in the future.

The growing popularity of Ohne Gentechnik products reflects German consumers’ food perceptions and preferences. In a study commissioned by Germany’s Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety, 93 percent of respondents said they wanted to know when their food came from animals fed genetically modified feed. Up to 63 percent of German consumers check food labels for GMO-free claims, which they cite as an important influence on their purchasing decisions. Of German consumers who purchase organic food, 58 percent claim to purchase organic products because they are GMO-free.

SOURCE

TORONTO MARCH AGAINST BAYER + HEALTH CANADA

Toronto Non-GMO Coalition – Posted May 17, 2019

TIME:             12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.  

DATE:            Saturday, May 25, 2019  

PLACE:          Beginning at Old City Hall, 60 Queen St. W. -– Ending at St. James Park

Why Do We March?

Since Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto in June 2018, we should all be far more concerned about the future of agriculture. We’re outraged how our food system has been hijacked by a handful of chemical companies who continue to patent nature and forge monopolies over the world’s food supply.

Media Inquiries Contact:    Jennifer Berman Diaz, 647-980-4686