Friday, November 5, 2010


New Report Refutes Industry Argument that Genetically Modified Salmon will Feed Hungry World Populations
BRUSSELS - November 4, 2010 - Food & Water Europe released a report today outlining why the genetically engineered (GE) salmon currently being considered by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval as a human food will not alleviate global hunger.

GE Salmon Will Not Feed the World outlines several reasons why this transgenic fish is likely to be more expensive to produce than perceived, as well as problematic for the environment, fishing communities and consumers. The report was released a day after Scottish MP Rob Gibson motioned to petition the Scottish Government to monitor the FDA’s approval process, noting that escapees are likely to occur through time and could easily reach the shores of Scotland, “altering forever the genetic integrity of wild Atlantic salmon and of quality Scottish farmed salmon.”

“The company producing this experimental fish, AquaBounty, is the only one who will be profiting from it, despite misleading claims that this product could be a means to feed growing populations around the world,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Europe.

Since GE salmon can require large amounts of food, display deformities and likely have higher oxygen demands, they can be costly to produce. These projected costs, combined with the various potential human health and ecological concerns associated with GE fish, will not likely add up to a more financially advantageous product for growers or consumers.

Furthermore, farmed salmon in general may not be as nutritious or safe as wild salmon. They contain on average 35 percent fewer omega-3 fatty acids – which are important for human health, but not produced by the body. Also, farmed salmon often contain higher levels of contaminants in their fat (which they can have more of than wild salmon), including 10 times the amount of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). GE salmon are also known to have higher levels of insulin-like growth factor 1, which has been associated with increased risk of certain types of cancer.

These worrying food safety issues are compounded by the environmental damage GE salmon would add to the already unsustainable salmon farming industry. The small, wild fish used in salmon feed are a major food source for marine mammals, birds and larger fish as well as low-income, food insecure populations around the world. In 2006, the aquaculture sector alone consumed nearly 90 percent of small prey fish captured worldwide. GE salmon may require about five times the amount of feed as a non-altered salmon to grow faster. This will further exacerbate the decline of available wild fish for marine wildlife and people in countries that need it most. If fish are not used in feed, it is entirely likely that the fish would be fed on industrial soya—which is associated with serious environmental and human rights impacts as well. Escapes of GE salmon into the wild could also threaten wild salmon, by competing for food, habitat and mates.

“GE salmon is an inefficient way to produce food that comes with more costs than benefits,” says Hauter. “We should be concerned about protecting consumers and our wild fish populations rather than pushing forward to approve this potentially dangerous product.”

Read the report –
Food & Water Europe is a program of Food & Water Watch, Inc., a non-profit consumer NGO based in Washington, D.C., working to ensure clean water and safe food in Europe and around the world. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

CONTACT: Food & Water Watch Europe
Eve Mitchell, +44 (0)7962 437 128 or +44 (0)1381 610 740, emitchell(at)
Gabriella Zanzanaini, +32 (0)488 409 662, gzanzanaini(at)

Monday, November 1, 2010


The Cary Institute for Ecosystem Studies published research findings in late September showing an insecticidal protein, called Cry1Ab, inserted into genetically modified corn to fight insect predation, was found in US waterways.

The Cary Institute announced the publication of their research results in late September, but only a small handful of media outlets picked up on the story. The researchers found streams near corn fields containing corn genetically modified to contain Bt contained the pesticidal bacteria, and they were able to determine that the pesticide contamination came directly from the GM corn. The results of the research, Occurrence of maize detritus and a transgenic insecticidal protein (Cry1Ab) within the stream network of an agricultural landscape was published in September by Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America (PNAS).
Monsanto acknowledged the research in a simple statement that said

"On September 27, 2010, an article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) reported the presence of corn leaves and other plant material in streams close to corn fields, and detection of the protein Cry1Ab which is present in Bt corn. Previous studies have already reported this observation.
The results of this study are neither new nor surprising. Cry1Ab protein is expected to be present in degrading corn residues in aquatic systems near corn fields. The study did not suggest that concentrations of Cry1Ab detected have any effect on non-target organisms.
Monsanto takes the safety and stewardship of our products seriously. Our scientists review every new publication related to the safety of our products, promptly and carefully."

Bt or "Bacillus thuringiensis ... is a naturally occurring, soil borne organism that has gained recent popularity for its ability to control certain insect pests in a natural, environmentally friendly manner." Bt corn first was planted in 1996 in the USA, and since then, said a study by Indiana University researchers, has been enormously beneficial for farmers.
While Bt itself appears to be safe for many animals, there have been concerns raised about transgenic Bt -- the Bt inserted into the genes of plants since then, according to a 1998 research paper prepared by scientists from the Swiss Federal Research Station for Acroecology and Agriculture. That paper said a definitive conclusion on the safety of transgenic Bt was not possible at the time. Many subsequent studies have concluded that transgenic Bt does not pose a threat.
However, some studies have shown the protein Cry1Ab poses a threat to some living creatures, usually called "non-target organisms," such as butterflies and honey bees reported The Bioscience Resource Project.
Leaving aside safety issues, the real issue, said lead researcher for the Cary Institute report, Dr. E.J. Rosi-Marshall was the fact that

“... corn crop byproducts can be dispersed throughout a stream network, and that the compounds associated with genetically-modified crops, such as insecticidal proteins, can enter nearby water bodies.”

As the researchers point out,

"... Genetically-modified plants are a mainstay of large-scale agriculture in the American Midwest, where corn is a dominant crop. In 2009, more than 85% of U.S. corn crops were genetically modified to repel pests and/or resist herbicide exposure. Corn engineered to release an insecticide that wards off the European corn borer, commonly referred to as Bt corn, comprised 63% of crops. The tissue of these plants has been modified to express insecticidal proteins, one of which is commonly known as Cry1Ab."

The researchers assessed 217 streams in Indiana, finding

"... dissolved Cry1Ab proteins from Bt corn present in stream water at nearly a quarter of the sites, including headwater streams. Eighty-six percent of the sampled sites contained corn leaves, husks, stalks, or cobs in their channels; at 13% of these sites corn byproducts contained detectable Cry1Ab proteins. The study was conducted six months after crop harvest, indicating that the insecticidal proteins in crop byproducts can persist in the landscape."

More than that, however, the researchers said the streams with the Cry1Ab

"... were located within 500 meters of a corn field ... Furthermore, given current agricultural land use patterns, 91% percent of the streams and rivers throughout Iowa, Illinois, and Indiana —some 159,000 miles of waterways—are also located within 500 meters of corn fields."

Ultimately, why should anyone care about a substance that has largely been scientifically proven to be save for most living beings? As the Cary Institute points out,

"... These corn byproducts may alter the health of freshwaters. Ultimately, streams that originate in the Corn Belt drain into the Mississippi River and the Great Lakes."

Research on the effects of Cry1Ab on waterways and animals living in streams, rivers and lakes is lacking. However, early research conducted in Canada showed some accumulation of Cry1Ab in fresh water mussels. No one knows what effects this contamination might have.

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Monsanto has no magic cure for its woes as company flounders
By Stephanie Dearing.
Monsanto is under the gun on a number of different issues, and the company has no magic elixir or engineered fix to halt the corporation's plummet from its recent position as Forbe's Company of the Year.
Major cracks have formed in the Monsanto facade this past year. Dropping fortunes appear to be the result of a combination of factors, including 'super weeds,' the high cost of Monsanto seeds and inputs and competition on the herbicide front from China. Could Monsanto could be in a dive so precipitous it won't be able to recover?
Glyphosphate-resistant weeds have proven to be a major Achilles heel for Monsanto. Glyphosphate is the key ingredient in the corporation's main product, the herbicide it calls Roundup. Obviously a field full of resistant 'super weeds' is not good business for a farmer, and Monsanto recently announced it would issue millions in rebates to farmers who use other herbicides.
Stephen P. Bowles summarized the glyphosphate issue in a research paper on glyphosphate resistance, published in PNAS earlier this year.

"... History shows that threats to food production have major repercussions, including famine, war, and civil unrest. A major threat to food production occurs every single growing season, when wild plant species (weeds) infest crop fields. Humans have battled since the dawn of agriculture to control weeds and to minimize their negative influence on food production. Modern herbicides have largely replaced human labor as the primary tool for weed control, and this has contributed significantly to the productivity of world cropping. However, despite the success of herbicides, weeds remain a primary challenge to food production, in part because selection pressure from herbicides has resulted in the evolution of herbicide resistance in weeds."

Initially, Monsanto paid lip service to the topic of glyphosphate resistance, but even this summer, the corporation was still downplaying the extent of the problem. CBC News reported Monsanto said 'resistance was often overstated.' At the same time, Monsanto was offering American farmers a $12 per acre rebate for using competitors' herbicides.
Monsanto made the rebate official this month after experimenting with it over the summer. Farmers in the United States growing cotton and soybeans are eligible for rebates of either $3 or $20 per acre -- that is, if the farmers follow Monsanto's directions for integrated management outlined in Monsanto's Roundup Ready Weed Management Plus Platform. When announcing the program, Monsanto said

""We have talked with farmers, weed scientists and others in the industry to develop a set of best management recommendations to control glyphosate-resistant weeds where they exist and reduce the risk of developing these weeds on other fields where farmers are growing Roundup Ready crops. The Roundup Ready PLUS platform was designed to improve on-farm productivity, sustain the benefits of conservation tillage and provide effective weed management. We have assembled a set of recommendations, products and incentives packaged together to bring solutions to the farm."
The Roundup Ready PLUS platform provides weed management recommendations for Roundup Ready crops for each farm situation, by pairing crop protection products from Monsanto and other companies."

But not all farmers are pleased with the new program. Some farmers, reported AgFax, have panned the deal, saying (in part)

"... Monsanto has helped somewhat in weed resistance management by rebating a small amount ($2.50/ac or so) for each of several herbicides if they are applied. However, it would require that a producer use all five herbicides on the list in order to get a total of $12.50/ac in return.
And there is no consideration for rates. Cotoran and diuron, for instance, must be used at the highest labeled rates for most of our soil types where cotton is grown in our area, yet the same amount of $ is allocated per acre regardless. The $2.50/ac rebate for Cotoran would be less than 20% of the cost of a efficacious rate of that herbicide for many of our acres. We appreciate the thought, but we need more bucks if Monsanto truly wants to help with resistance management in our area."

Why is Monsanto backing down from its denial of glyphosphate resistance? As Joseph Mendelson noted in 1998, writing for The Ecologist,

"... Monsanto has built much of its corporate empire upon the back of one chemical - glyphosate. Introduced almost 25 years ago, glyphosate, marketed mainly as the herbicide Roundup, is Monsanto's key agri-chemical product."

Monsanto lost money on its sales of Roundup in the third quarter of 2010, but optimistically predicts the company will make $550 to $600 million from Roundup sales in 2011. Profits from Roundup sales in the 4th quarter of 2009 were $322 million.
Monsanto developed Roundup in 1974, and has been designing crops to be Roundup ready ever since. The herbicide has been hailed as a breakthrough product for agriculture, and Monsanto claims its products create many benefits for farmers and the environment, as well as human health, although there is at least one study claiming Roundup causes liver cell death.
Monsanto's financial fortunes are facing increased pressure from issues such as the US Department of Justice's investigation into Monsanto for allegations that the company has monopolized the seed market with its Roundup ready seeds, said St. Louis Public Radio. In addition, a number of other states are looking into Monsanto's soy beans, and West Virginia just filed a law suit against Monsanto for not backing up its claims about the superiority of its soybeans. At the same time, those who care were rocked by the revelation that the Gates Foundation holds 500,000 shares in Monsanto.
Last year, Forbes named Monsanto "Company of the year," which journalist Robert Langreth said in his Forbes blog was a big mistake.
Zack's just rated Monsanto as "... Underperform Recommendation in line with the stock’s current Sell rating, equivalent to a Zacks #4 Rank." Zack's is confident Monsanto will climb out of this deepening hole, primarily due to the GE corn, SmartStax. Zack's issued its rating for Monsanto on October 20, saying

"... We believe this will continue for a substantial period of time based on the slower market recovery. Further, an intensely competitive environment and Monsanto's huge dependence on a few large customers can lead to risk.
Monsanto also faces foreign currency risk since a significant portion of its income comes from outside the U.S. Thus, we downgraded our recommendation on the stock from Neutral to Underperform...

Addendum: Earlier this month, Monsanto told the New York Times the company was taking steps to deal with the growing discontent farmers have expressed with Monsanto's products. One of those steps was the rebate program for integrated weed management to fight glyphosphate resistance, and another step is the lowering of the price of SmartStax corn. The corporation is even going so far as to offer seeds that are less genetically engineered, reported the New York Times.

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