Sunday, August 30, 2015

NEW ENGLAND JOURNAL OF MEDICINE TO FDA, USDA, EPA, AMERICANS: LABEL GMOs NOW!

Perspective

GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health

Philip J. Landrigan, M.D., and Charles Benbrook, Ph.D.
N Engl J Med 2015; 373:693-695August 20, 2015DOI: 10.1056/NEJMp1505660
References

Audio Interview
Interview with Dr. Philip Landrigan on health concerns associated with genetically modified crops and the herbicides used on them.
Interview with Dr. Philip Landrigan on health concerns associated with genetically modified crops and the herbicides used on them. (7:58)
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) are not high on most physicians' worry lists. If we think at all about biotechnology, most of us probably focus on direct threats to human health, such as prospects for converting pathogens to biologic weapons or the implications of new technologies for editing the human germline. But while those debates simmer, the application of biotechnology to agriculture has been rapid and aggressive. The vast majority of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are now genetically engineered. Foods produced from GM crops have become ubiquitous. And unlike regulatory bodies in 64 other countries, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require labeling of GM foods.
Two recent developments are dramatically changing the GMO landscape. First, there have been sharp increases in the amounts and numbers of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops, and still further increases — the largest in a generation — are scheduled to occur in the next few years. Second, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has classified glyphosate, the herbicide most widely used on GM crops, as a “probable human carcinogen”1 and classified a second herbicide, 2,4-dichlorophenoxyacetic acid (2,4-D), as a “possible human carcinogen.”2
The application of genetic engineering to agriculture builds on the ancient practice of selective breeding. But unlike traditional selective breeding, genetic engineering vastly expands the range of traits that can be moved into plants and enables breeders to import DNA from virtually anywhere in the biosphere. Depending on the traits selected, genetically engineered crops can increase yields, thrive when irrigated with salty water, or produce fruits and vegetables resistant to mold and rot.
The National Academy of Sciences has twice reviewed the safety of GM crops — in 2000 and 2004.3 Those reviews, which focused almost entirely on the genetic aspects of biotechnology, concluded that GM crops pose no unique hazards to human health. They noted that genetic transformation has the potential to produce unanticipated allergens or toxins and might alter the nutritional quality of food. Both reports recommended development of new risk-assessment tools and postmarketing surveillance. Those recommendations have largely gone unheeded.
Herbicide resistance is the main characteristic that the biotechnology industry has chosen to introduce into plants. Corn and soybeans with genetically engineered tolerance to glyphosate (Roundup) were first introduced in the mid-1990s. These “Roundup-Ready” crops now account for more than 90% of the corn and soybeans planted in the United States.4 Their advantage, especially in the first years after introduction, is that they greatly simplify weed management. Farmers can spray herbicide both before and during the growing season, leaving their crops unharmed.
But widespread adoption of herbicide-resistant crops has led to overreliance on herbicides and, in particular, on glyphosate.5 In the United States, glyphosate use has increased by a factor of more than 250 — from 0.4 million kg in 1974 to 113 million kg in 2014. Global use has increased by a factor of more than 10. Not surprisingly, glyphosate-resistant weeds have emerged and are found today on nearly 100 million acres in 36 states. Fields must now be treated with multiple herbicides, including 2,4-D, a component of the Agent Orange defoliant used in the Vietnam War.
The first of the two developments that raise fresh concerns about the safety of GM crops is a 2014 decision by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to approve Enlist Duo, a new combination herbicide comprising glyphosate plus 2,4-D. Enlist Duo was formulated to combat herbicide resistance. It will be marketed in tandem with newly approved seeds genetically engineered to resist glyphosate, 2,4-D, and multiple other herbicides. The EPA anticipates that a 3-to-7-fold increase in 2,4-D use will result.
In our view, the science and the risk assessment supporting the Enlist Duo decision are flawed. The science consisted solely of toxicologic studies commissioned by the herbicide manufacturers in the 1980s and 1990s and never published, not an uncommon practice in U.S. pesticide regulation. These studies predated current knowledge of low-dose, endocrine-mediated, and epigenetic effects and were not designed to detect them. The risk assessment gave little consideration to potential health effects in infants and children, thus contravening federal pesticide law. It failed to consider ecologic impact, such as effects on the monarch butterfly and other pollinators. It considered only pure glyphosate, despite studies showing that formulated glyphosate that contains surfactants and adjuvants is more toxic than the pure compound.
The second new development is the determination by the IARC in 2015 that glyphosate is a “probable human carcinogen”1 and 2,4-D a “possible human carcinogen.”2 These classifications were based on comprehensive assessments of the toxicologic and epidemiologic literature that linked both herbicides to dose-related increases in malignant tumors at multiple anatomical sites in animals and linked glyphosate to an increased incidence of non-Hodgkin's lymphoma in humans.
These developments suggest that GM foods and the herbicides applied to them may pose hazards to human health that were not examined in previous assessments. We believe that the time has therefore come to thoroughly reconsider all aspects of the safety of plant biotechnology. The National Academy of Sciences has convened a new committee to reassess the social, economic, environmental, and human health effects of GM crops. This development is welcome, but the committee's report is not expected until at least 2016.
In the meantime, we offer two recommendations. First, we believe the EPA should delay implementation of its decision to permit use of Enlist Duo. This decision was made in haste. It was based on poorly designed and outdated studies and on an incomplete assessment of human exposure and environmental effects. It would have benefited from deeper consideration of independently funded studies published in the peer-reviewed literature. And it preceded the recent IARC determinations on glyphosate and 2,4-D. Second, the National Toxicology Program should urgently assess the toxicology of pure glyphosate, formulated glyphosate, and mixtures of glyphosate and other herbicides.
Finally, we believe the time has come to revisit the United States' reluctance to label GM foods. Labeling will deliver multiple benefits. It is essential for tracking emergence of novel food allergies and assessing effects of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops. It would respect the wishes of a growing number of consumers who insist they have a right to know what foods they are buying and how they were produced. And the argument that there is nothing new about genetic rearrangement misses the point that GM crops are now the agricultural products most heavily treated with herbicides and that two of these herbicides may pose risks of cancer. We hope, in light of this new information, that the FDA will reconsider labeling of GM foods and couple it with adequately funded, long-term postmarketing surveillance.
Disclosure forms provided by the authors are available with the full text of this article at NEJM.org.

SOURCE INFORMATION

From the Department of Preventive Medicine, Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, New York (P.J.L.); and the Department of Crops and Soil Sciences, Washington State University, Pullman, WA (C.B.).

Source:  http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMp1505660#t=articl
e

WHO'S CALLING WHO ANTI-SCIENCE ON GMOs?

New England Journal of Medicine article calls for labeling of GM foods


In the August 20 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, two respected experts on pesticides and children’s environmental health call for the FDA to require mandatory labeling of GMO foods.
Currently, the FDA does not require labeling of genetically modified foods, even though 65 countries mandate the labeling of GM foods, and more than 90 percent of Americans support it. Last month, the DARK Act, which would block states and federal government from making mandatory labeling laws, passed in the House. Next, it goes to the Senate.
What the article says
In the article, titled “GMOs, Herbicides, and Public Health,” Dr. Philip J. Landrigan, the Dean for Global Health at Mount Sinai School of Medicine, and co-author Charles Benbrook, a crop and soil scientist, say the time has come for three important steps.
One of these is GMO labeling. They write: “We believe the time has come to revisit the United States’ reluctance to label GM foods.”
As they explain, two recent developments are dramatically changing the GMO landscape:
  1. The number of chemical herbicides applied to GM crops has increased sharply and is scheduled to increase even more in the next few years.
  2. This year, the International Agency for Research on Cancer classified glyphosate, the herbicide used most widely on GM crops, as a “probable human carcinogen.” And the agency classified 2,4-D, another herbicide, as a “possible human carcinogen.”
The authors believe labeling will have multiple benefits. It will help track the emergence of new food allergies and better evaluate the effects of chemical herbicides applied to GM foods. And also, it will respect the wishes of the growing numbers of consumers who insist they have a right to know what is in the foods and beverages they are buying.
The article also calls for the National Toxicology Program to urgently assess the nature, effects, and possible poisons in pure glyphosate, formulated glyphosate, and mixtures of glyphosate and other herbicides.
Finally, the article calls for the EPA to delay its implementation of its decision to allow the use of Enlist Duo, a combination herbicide made with both glyphosate and 2,4-D that is designed for use on GMO crops.
The authors say the data supporting the herbicide combination is flawed and doesn’t consider more recent studies showing the potential health effects in infants and children.
What you can do to help mandate GMO labeling in the U.S.
Now is an important time to act. If you believe you have a right to know what’s really in the food and beverages you put in your body, please take a stand and sign our petition to the FDA to label GM foods.
You can also tell Coca-Cola to stop funding the fight against your right to know. The company spent $2 million to fight GMO labeling in Oregon and Colorado. You can join the millions of people who have stopped purchasing Coke’s “natural brands” until they stop fighting your right to know what you’re eating and drinking.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

CENTER FOR FOOD SAFETY SUES USDA OVER GMOs

Green Business Tue Aug 25, 2015 7:06pm EDT

U.S. regulator sued for withholding information on GMO crops



http://www.reuters.com/article/2015/08/25/us-usa-agriculture-gmo-regulations-idUSKCN0QU2M920150825
A food safety advocacy group sued an arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Tuesday, saying it illegally withheld public information on genetically engineered crops.

The lawsuit, brought by the Center for Food Safety (CFS) against the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), claims the regulator has routinely failed to respond as required to requests for records that relate to many concerns with the GMO crops.
The lawsuit accuses the agency of violating the Freedom of Information Act dozens of times, unlawfully withholding information for more than 13 years. APHIS had no immediate response.
In particular, the lawsuit alleges that the agency failed to respond as required to requests for records related to new GMO regulations that APHIS proposed in 2008 but withdrew earlier this year.
The lawsuit also accuses the agency of failing to respond as required to inquiries about the handling of experimental genetically engineered wheat that was found growing uncontrolled in an Oregon field in 2013. That incident led to lost U.S. wheat export sales as foreign markets feared contaminated supplies.
The lawsuit says APHIS has also failed to respond to requests or withheld records it sought about the handling of other experimental crops that the group believes have escaped review and regulation.
The requests have covered GMO wheat, rice, alfalfa, sugar beets, bent grass, corn and other GMOs. Delays in providing information have run years for some requests, and violated federal law covering the release of public information, according to the lawsuit.
For years, advocacy groups, lawmakers and others critics have harshly criticized U.S. regulation of GMOs as too lax. APHIS has been cited in government auditing for oversight lapses. Some GMO contamination events have led to food recalls and disrupted trade.
In July, the White House directed APHIS and the two other U.S. agencies that oversee biotech crop products, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drug Administration, to improve and modernize their regulatory framework to boost public confidence.
The CFS lawsuit, filed in federal court in Washington, asks the court to declare APHIS's actions unlawful and order the agency to produce the records by date to be set by the court. CFS also asks that the court supervise the regulator for compliance.

The Freedom of Information Act provides for the release of federal agency records when requested, with certain exemptions and provisions, and imposes strict deadlines on government agencies to respond.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

DEMOCRACY? GERMANY SEEKS BAN ON ALL GMOs; US REFUSES EVEN A LABEL

Answering 'Resistance From All Sides,' Germany Moves to Ban GMO Crops
Following Scotland's lead, Germany becomes latest in EU to pursue opt-out clause in GMO rules

by
Published on Tuesday, August 25, 2015 
by

A protest against GMOs takes place outside of the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. (Photo: Greenpeace Germany/flickr/cc)
Germany on Monday became the latest country in the European Union to take a stand against genetically modified (GMO) crops in its food supply.
German Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt told government officials that he will seek to implement the European Union's "opt-out" rule to stop GMO crop cultivation in the country, including those varieties which may be approved by the EU, according to documents seen by Reuters this week.
Individual regions in Germany will have until September 11 to inform Schmidt if they wish to be included in the opt-out. Germany will then have until October 3 to tell the EU whether or not it will participate in the cultivation program.
As agriculture ministry spokesperson Christian Fronczak told Bloomberg, "The German government is clear in that it seeks a nationwide cultivation ban."
"There’s resistance from all sides, from the public to the farmers," Fronczak said.


Scotland was the most recent country to ban GMOs across the board, which it announced earlier this month. At the time, rural affairs secretary Richard Lochhead said concerns over GMO crops are "shared by other European countries and consumers, and which should not be dismissed lightly."
In response to Germany's move, Scottish National Party (SNP) minister Rob Gibson on Tuesday said, "Like Scotland, the German Government recognises the importance of protecting its food and drink sector and keeping its environment clean and green.... The German decision shows that Scotland is now also leading Europe on GM crops."
"Germany has committed a true act of food democracy by listening to the majority of its citizens that oppose GMO cultivation and support more sustainable, resilient organic food production that doesn’t perpetuate the overuse of toxic herbicides," Lisa Archer, food and technology director at environmental nonprofit Friends of the Earth, told Common Dreams in response to the move. "We are hopeful that more members of the EU will follow suit and that the U.S. Congress will protect our basic right to know what we are feeding our families by requiring mandatory GMO labeling."
Schmidt's letter said the new effort continues a previous GMO policy. As of October 2014, more than 200 regions in the country had elected to ban cultivation of such crops.
The EU in April approved the import of 19 GMOs, including 11 made by agrochemical giant Monsanto, but gave individual nations in the union the choice to opt out of selling such crops. At the time, food safety spokesperson for the Greens in the European Parliament, Bart Staes, said the approval was "an affront to democracy."
"European citizens do not want GMOs," Staes said.

Monday, August 24, 2015

17X POISON ON GMO CROPS GROWN IN HAWAI'I - BRINGS BIRTH DEFECT SPIKE

Pesticides in paradise: Hawaii's spike in birth defects puts focus on GM crops

Local doctors are in the eye of a storm swirling for the past three years over whether corn that’s been genetically modified to resist pesticides is a source of prosperity, as companies claim, or of birth defects and illnesses
Hwaii

 After four separate attempts to rein in the companies failed, an estimated 10,000 people marched through Honolulu’s Waikiki tourist district. Photograph: Christopher Pala for the Guardian

Pediatrician Carla Nelson remembers catching sight of the unusually pale newborn, then hearing an abnormal heartbeat through the stethoscope and thinking that something was terribly wrong.
The baby was born minutes before with a severe heart malformation that would require complex surgery. What worried her as she waited for the ambulance plane to take the infant from Waimea, on the island of Kauai, to the main children’s hospital in Honolulu, on another Hawaiian island, was that it was the fourth one shehad seen in three years.
In all of Waimea, there have been at least nine in five years, she says, shaking her head. That’s more than 10 times the national rate, according to analysis by localdoctors.
Nelson, a Californian, and other local doctors find themselves in the eye of a storm swirling for the past three years around the Hawaiian archipelago over whether a major cash crop on four of the six main islands, corn that’s been genetically modified to resist pesticides, is a source of prosperity, as the companies claim – or of birth defects and illnesses, as the doctors and many others suspect.
After four separate attempts to rein in the companies over the past two years all failed, an estimated 10,000 people marched on 9 August through Honolulu’s Waikiki tourist district. Some held signs like, “We Deserve the Right to Know: Stop Poisoning Paradise” and “Save Hawaii – Stop GMOs” (Genetically Modified Organisms), while others protested different issues.
“The turnout and the number of groups marching showed how many people are very frustrated with the situation,” says native Hawaiian activist Walter Ritte of the island of Molokai.

Seventeen times more pesticide


Waimea
Pinterest
 Waimea and the GMO fields. The two orange-roof buildings at bottom left are the Middle School. The one to its right is the hospital. Photograph: Christopher Pala for the Guardian

Waimea, a small town of low, pastel wood houses built in south-west Kauai for plantation workers in the 19th century, now sustains its economy mostly from a trickle of tourists on their way to a spectacular canyon. Perhaps 200 people work full-time for the four giant chemical companies that grow the corn – all of it exported – on some 12,000 acres leased mostly from the state.
In Kauai, chemical companies Dow, BASF, Syngenta and DuPont spray 17 times more pesticide per acre (mostly herbicides, along with insecticides and fungicides) than on ordinary cornfields in the US mainland, according to the most detailed study of the sector, by the Center for Food Safety.
That’s because they are precisely testing the strain’s resistance to herbicides that kill other plants. About a fourth of the total are called Restricted Use Pesticides because of their harmfulness. Just in Kauai, 18 tons – mostly atrazine, paraquat (both banned in Europe) and chlorpyrifos – were applied in 2012. The World Health Organization this year announced that glyphosate, sold as Roundup, the most common of the non-restricted herbicides, is “probably carcinogenic in humans”.
The cornfields lie above Waimea as the land, developed in the 1870s for the Kekaha Sugar Company plantation, slopes gently up toward arid, craggy hilltops. Most fields are reddish-brown and perfectly furrowed. Some parts are bright green: that’s when the corn is actually grown.
Both parts are sprayed frequently, sometimes every couple of days. Most of the fields lie fallow at any given time as they await the next crop, but they are still sprayed with pesticides to keep anything from growing. “To grow either seed crops or test crops, you need soil that’s essentially sterile,” says professor Hector Valenzuela of the University of Hawaii department of tropical plant and soil science.
When the spraying is underway and the wind blows downhill from the fields to the town – a time no spraying should occur – residents complain of stinging eyes, headaches and vomiting.
“Your eyes and lungs hurt, you feel dizzy and nauseous. It’s awful,” says middle school special education teacher Howard Hurst, who was present at two evacuations. “Here, 10% of the students get special-ed services, but the state average is 6.3%,” he says. “It’s hard to think the pesticides don’t play a role.”
At these times, many crowd the waiting rooms of the town’s main hospital, which was run until recently by Dow AgroSciences’ former chief lobbyist in Honolulu. It lies beside the middle school, both 1,700ft from Syngenta fields. The hospital, built by the old sugar plantation, has never studied the effects of the pesticides on its patients.
The chemical companies that grow the corn in land previously used for sugar refuse to disclose with any precision which chemicals they use, where and in what amounts, but they insist the pesticides are safe, and most state and local politicians concur. “The Hawai‘i legislature has never given the slightest indication that it intended to regulate genetically engineered crops,” wrote lawyer Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice in a recent court case.
As for the birth defects spike, “We have not seen any credible source of statistical health information to support the claims,” said Bennette Misalucha, executive director of Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, the chemical companies trade association, in a written statement distributed by a publicist. She declined to be interviewed.
Nelson, the pediatrician, points out that American Academy of Pediatrics’ report,Pesticide Exposure in Children, found “an association between pesticides and adverse birth outcomes, including physical birth defects”. Noting that local schools have been evacuated twice and children sent to hospital because of pesticide drift, Nelson says doctors need prior disclosure of sprayings: “It’s hard to treat a child when you don’t know which chemical he’s been exposed to.”
Her concerns and those of most of her colleagues have grown as the chemical companies doubled to 25,000 acres in a decade the area in Hawaii they devote to growing new varieties of herbicide-resistant corn.
Today, about 90% of industrial GMO corn grown in the US was originally developed in Hawaii, with the island of Kauai hosting the biggest area. The balmy weather yields three crops a year instead of one, allowing the companies to bring a new strain to market in a third of the time.
Once it’s ready, the same fields are used to raise seed corn, which is sent to contract farms on the mainland. It is their output, called by critics a pesticide delivery system, that is sold to the US farmers, along with the pesticides manufactured by the breeder that each strain has been modified to tolerate.
Corn’s uses are as industrial as its cultivation: less than 1% is eaten. About 40% is turned into ethanol for cars, 36% becomes cattle feed, 10% is used by the food industry and the rest is exported.

‘We just want to gather information’


Hawaii
Pinterest
 A march against pesticides in Hawaii. Photograph: Christopher Pala for the Guardian

At a Starbucks just outside Honolulu, Sidney Johnson, a pediatric surgeon at the Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children who oversees all children born in Hawaii with major birth defects and operates on many, says he’s been thinking about pesticides a lot lately. The reason: he’s noticed that the number of babies born here with their abdominal organs outside, a rare condition known as gastroschisis, has grown from three a year in the 1980s to about a dozen now.
“We have cleanest water and air in the world,” he says. So he’s working with a medical student on a study of his hospital’s records to determine whether the parents of the gastroschisis infants were living near fields that were being sprayed around the time of conception and early pregnancy. He plans to extend the study to parents of babies suffering from heart defects.
“You kind of wonder why this wasn’t done before,” he says. “Data from other states show there might be a link, and Hawaii might be the best place to prove it.”
Unbeknownst to Johnson, another two physicians have been heading in the same direction, but with some constraints. They’re members of a state-county commission appointed this year to “determine if there are human harms coming from these pesticides”, as its chairman, a professional facilitator named Peter Adler, tells a meeting of angry local residents in Waimea earlier this month. Several express skepticism that the panel is anything but another exercise in obfuscation.
The panel of nine part-time volunteers also includes two scientists from the chemical companies and several of their critics. “We just want to gather information and make some recommendations,” Adler tells the crowd of about 60 people. “We won’t be doing any original research.”
But one of the two doctors, a retired pediatrician named Lee Evslin, plans to do just that. “I want see if any health trends stand out among people that might have been exposed to pesticides,” he says in an interview. “It won’t be a full epidemiological study, but it will probably be more complete than anything that’s been done before.”
The panel itself, called the Joint Fact-Finding Study Group on Genetically Modified Crops and Pesticides on KauaŹ»i, is the only achievement of three years of failed attempts to force the companies to disclose in advance what they spray and to create buffer zones – which they do in 11 other states, where food crops receive much less pesticides per acre.
The pushback from the expansion of the GMO acreage first emerged when Gary Hooser of Kauai, a former state senate majority leader who failed in a bid for lieutenant governor in 2010, ran for his old seat on the Kauai County council in 2012.
“Everywhere I went, people were concerned about GMOs and pesticides. They were saying, ‘Gary, we gotta do something’,” he recounts over coffee at the trendy Ha Coffee Bar in Lihue, the island’s capital. “Some were worried about the GMO process itself and others by the threats of the pesticides, and it became one of the dominant political issues.”
Once elected, Hooser, who has a ruddy complexion, piercing blue eyes and arrived in Hawaii as a teenager from California, approached the companies for information about exactly what they were spraying and in what amounts. He was rebuffed.

In the process of what he called “doing my homework”, he discovered that the companies, unlike regular farmers, were operating under a decades-old Environmental Protection Agency permit to discharge toxic chemicals in water that had been grandfathered from the days of the sugar plantation, when the amounts and toxicities of pesticides were much lower. The state has asked for a federal exemption for the companies so they can avoid modern standards of compliance.
He also found that the companies, unlike regular farmers, don’t pay the 4% state excise tax. Some weren’t even asked to pay property taxes, worth $125,000 a year. After pressure from Hooser and the county tax office, the companies paid two years’ worth of back taxes.
So with the backing of three other members of the seven-member Kauai council, he drafted a law requiring the companies to disclose yearly what they had grown and where, and to announce in advance which pesticides they proposed to spray, where and when. The law initially also imposed a moratorium on the chemical companies expanding their acreage while their environmental impact was assessed.
After a series of hearings packed by company employees and their families wearing blue and opponents wearing red, the bill was watered down by eliminating the moratorium and reducing the scope of the environmental study. The ordinance then passed, but the companies sued in federal court, where a judge ruled that the state’s law on pesticides precluded the counties from regulating them. 
After the ruling, the state and the county created the joint fact-finding panel officially committed to conducting no new research.After a series of hearings packed by company employees and their families wearing blue and opponents wearing red, the bill was watered down by eliminating the moratorium and reducing the scope of the environmental study. The ordinance then passed, but the companies sued in federal court, where a judge ruled that the state’s law on pesticides precluded the counties from regulating them. 
Hooser is confident the ruling will be overturned on appeal: the Hawaii constitution “specifically requires” the state and the counties to protect the communities and their environment.
In his appeal, Achitoff of Earthjustice argued that Hawaii’s general pesticide law does not “demonstrate that the legislature intended to force the county to sit and watch while its schoolchildren are being sent to the hospital so long as state agencies do not remedy the problem.”
In the Big Island, which is called Hawaii and hosts no GMO corn, a similar process unfolded later in 2013: the county council passed a law that effectively banned the chemical companies from moving in, and it was struck down in federal court for the same reasons. A ban on genetically modified taro, a food root deemed sacred in Hawaiian mythology, was allowed to stand.

In Maui County, which includes the islands of Maui and Molokai, both with large GMO corn fields, a group of residents calling themselves the Shaka Movement sidestepped the company-friendly council and launched a ballot initiative that called for a moratorium on all GMO farming until a full environmental impact statement is completed there.
The companies, primarily Monsanto, spent $7.2m on the campaign ($327.95 per “no” vote, reported to be the most expensive political campaign in Hawaii history) and still lost.
Again, they sued in federal court, and, a judge found that the Maui County initiative was preempted by federal law. Those rulings are also being appealed.
In the state legislature in Honolulu, Senator Josh Green, a Democrat who then chaired the health committee, earlier this year attempted a fourth effort at curbing the pesticide spraying.
In the legislature, he said, it’s an open secret that most heads of the agriculture 
committee have had “a closer relationship with the agro-chemical companies than with the environmental groups”.
Green, an emergency room doctor who was raised in Pennsylvania, drafted legislation to mandate some prior disclosure and some buffer zones. “I thought that was a reasonable compromise,” he says. Still, he also drafted a weaker bill as a failsafe. “If even that one doesn’t pass, it’s going to be obvious that the state doesn’t have the political will to stand up to the chemical companies,” he said in a phone interview at the time. “That would be terrible.”
The chairman of the senate agricultural committee, Cliff Tsuji, didn’t even bring the weaker bill to a vote, even though Hawaii’s governor had pledged to sign any bill that created buffer zones.
Asked by email what he would do now, Green replied with a quip: “Drink scotch.”
This report was supported by a grant from the Fund for Investigative Journalism.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

DRUKER: MONSANTO SILENCE IS NO SURPRISE


Monsanto’s Code of Silence

alteredgenes
In his book Altered Genes, Twisted Truth, US public interest attorney Steven Druker exposed the fraudulent practices and deceptions that led to the commercialisation of GM food and crops in the US. Not long after the book’s release, he wrote an open letter to the Royal Society in Britain calling on it to acknowledge and correct the misleading and exaggerated statements that it has used to actively promote GMOs and in effect convey false impressions and the other to Monsanto. He followed this up by delivering a challenge to Monsanto’s headquarters on May 20, 2015 calling on the company to address the evidence presented in the book.
The fully referenced book exposes the substantial risks of genetically engineered foods and the multiple misrepresentations conveyed by scientists and official bodies that have allowed them to permeate world markets. Druker has given Monsanto a chance to publicly critique his claims and argues that if the company cannot prove that his book is essentially erroneous, the world will have a right to regard these controversial foods as unacceptably risky – and to promptly ban them.
‘Altered Genes, Twisted Truth’ is the result of more than 15 years of intensive research and investigation by Druker, who initiated a lawsuit against the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that forced it to divulge its files on GM foods. The book indicates that the commercialisation of GM food in the US was based on a massive fraud. The FDA files revealed that GM foods first achieved commercialisation in 1992 but only because the FDA covered up the extensive warnings of its own scientists about their dangers, lied about the facts and then violated federal food safety law by permitting these foods to be marketed without having been proven safe through standard testing.
If the FDA had heeded its own experts’ advice and publicly acknowledged their warnings that GM foods entailed higher risks than their conventional counterparts, Druker says that the GM food venture would have imploded and never gained traction anywhere.
He also argues that that many well-placed scientists have repeatedly issued misleading statements about GM foods, and so have leading scientific institutions such as the US National Academy of Sciences, the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the UK’s Royal Society.
Druker states that contrary to the claims of biotech advocates, humans have indeed been harmed by consuming the output of genetic engineering. He also explains that laboratory animals have also suffered from eating products of genetic engineering, and well-conducted tests with GM crops have yielded many troubling results, including intestinal abnormalities, liver disturbances, and impaired immune systems.
Druker says:
“Contrary to the assertions of its proponents, the massive enterprise to reconfigure the genetic core of the world’s food supply is not based on sound science but on the systematic subversion of science – and it would collapse if subjected to an open airing of the facts.”
In his open letter to Monsanto, dated 19 May, Druker challenged Monsanto Chief Technology Officer, Robb Fraley, to:
“Face Up to the Extensive Evidence Demonstrating that Genetically Engineered Foods Entail Unacceptable Risks and Should Be Promptly Removed from the Market.”
Druker finishes his letter by saying:
“If by July 20th you and your allies have not been able to refute the essential factual accuracy of Altered Genes, Twisted Truth according to the terms set forth above, the world will have a right to assume that it is as sound as the experts who reviewed it have affirmed – and to conclude that GE foods are unacceptably risky and must be banned.”
In his letter to the Royal Society, Druker provides specific instances where its members have at various times made false statements and the institutes actions were not objective or based on scientific reasoning but seemingly were little more than biased and stridently pro-GMO. He argued that the Royal Society has misrepresented the case for GMOs and has effectively engaged in a campaign of disinformation.
The Royal Society acts as a scientific advisor to the British government. It disseminates
scientific advances through its journals. It also promotes science information and communication with the public. The Royal Society is a prestigious institution that feeds into policy formulation processes at national level in the UK.
By the mid-1990s, Druker notes that the Royal Society had become a partisan defender of GM foods and embraced a proactive policy on their behalf. In pursuing this proactive policy, he argues that several individuals holding prominent positions within the society – and even the society itself – have issued misleading statements in regard to GM foods that have created significant confusion and illegitimately downplayed their risks. He then goes on to document specific instances of occasions when this occurred.
Certain claims made in favour of GMOs were not supported by solid scientific evidence, neither did they clearly represent a consensus within the scientific community. However, Druker notes that the society’s most deplorable actions in defense of GM foods were directed at the research on GM potatoes conducted at the Rowett Institute under the direction of Dr. Arpad Pusztai. That research study is still one of the most rigorous yet performed on a GM food. It continues to be highly relevant because it controlled for the effects of the new foreign protein – which entails that the adverse results it registered were attributable to a broader feature of the genetic engineering process itself.
Druker then goes on to present seven specific instances of the Society’s offenses against that particular piece of research, including what could be described as a PR campaign mounted against Pusztai and his study. Even the editor of the respected journal The Lancet published an editorial rebuking the Society for a “gesture of breath-taking impertinence to the Rowett Institute scientists…”
Druker states that having unfairly attacked the research, the Society then strove to prevent it from being published. Even after the research was published (in The Lancet in October 1999), the Society continued to unjustly malign it.
He called on the Society to clear up the confusion caused by the misleading statements it has made to promote GM food and issue a formal statement acknowledging the following.
1. That there is not now nor never has been a consensus within the scientific community that GM foods are safe, that many well-credentialed experts do not regard their safety as having been established, and that a substantial number think that the research as a whole casts the safety of many of them in doubt.
2. That neither you nor any other scientific body has directly confronted and refuted the cautionary reasoning in the 2001 report issued by the Royal Society of Canada (which it has never retracted or revised) – and that this report stands as one of the compelling testaments that there is not a scientific consensus that GM foods are safe.
3. That the process of creating new varieties of food crops via genetic engineering is not more precise and predictable than conventional breeding in regard to food safety and instead entails a greater likelihood of unintended effects that could directly impact consumer health.
4. That although there are known instances in which genetic engineering has induced the production of a novel toxin or allergen, there are none in which conventional breeding has done so.
5. That Dr. Pusztai’s research was properly peer-reviewed and gained publication in The Lancet based on its merits, with five out of six referees voting in favor – and that, contrary to claims that the Society and other proponents of GM foods have advanced, the research has never been refuted or in any way discredited by subsequent studies – which entails that it is still relevant today.
6. Your statement should also contain a formal apology to Dr. Pusztai and his colleagues for the irresponsible manner in which the Society and several of its members have besmirched their reputations and derided the integrity of their research.
Druker continued by stating:
“Unless you promptly take these steps, it will demonstrate that your commitment to promoting GM foods is stronger than your commitment to honoring the truth and upholding the integrity of science.”
According to Druker, it is time The Royal Society confronted the facts about GM foods and set the record straight. He also challenged it to find factual or logical inaccuracies in his book. He finished his letter by stating:
“If you have not done so by 20 April 2015, the world will have a right to assume that it [his book] is as sound as the experts who reviewed it have affirmed – and that GM foods are therefore unacceptably risky and must be banned.”
And the response from Monsanto and the Royal Society?
Silence!
As the preeminent scientific body within the UK that advises the government, the Royal Society has an obligation to the British public to provide a public response and “put the record straight” on GMOs, not least because the current staunchly pro-GMO Cameron-led administration will likely sanction the planting of GM crops in England within the next couple of years and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) deal could open the floodgates to GM foods appearing on the shelves of UK supermarkets.
The purpose of The Royal Society is according to its website to “recognise, promote, and support excellence in science and to encourage the development and use of science for the benefit of humanity.”
The Royal Society’s record on GMOs has been shameful (as a prominent public body in the UK, it is certainly not alone in this respect). Given what is at stake, its silence towards the issues raised by Steven Druker is little better.
As for Monsanto, perhaps it too, like the RS, hopes that by ignoring Druker, he and his book will quickly fade from public memory.
Or perhaps the company is just too preoccupied with fighting lawsuits, trying to influence legislation by pouring money into campaigns, attacking critics, infiltrating public bodies, pouring more money into its PR spin machine, funding ‘travel expenses’ for pro-GM scientists, lobbying the EU to try to get GMOs into Europe, mounting a campaign against WHO-associated scientists, fighting a rear-guard action in Argentina, managing its profits courtesy of the massive subsidies given to US farmers, working with the Gates Foundation to uproot indigenous agriculture in Africa or cementing its grip in Ukraine on the back of the US-led coup there.
As you can see from this somewhat shortened list, its workload is huge. However, you will not see any of that listed under any ‘who we are’ section of its website or a listed under any ‘what we do’ explanation.
Monsanto is a very busy company. But it seems some things are best ignored rather than addressed. Or perhaps it was always the case that it was simply not up to the challenge laid down by Steven Druker. It’s something many have suspected all along.
Colin Todhunter is an extensively published independent writer and former social policy researcher based in the UK and India.