Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Hawaii Protest Declares Anti-GMO 'Tsunami' is Here

Following legislative successes, North Shore protest calls on land trust to 'evict Monsanto'

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer
(Photo: Mana Photo Hawaii)Braving heavy rains, roughly one thousand Hawaiians traveled to the town of Hale‘iwa on the North Shore of Oahu Sunday to take part in a march against Monsanto, adding their support to the growing "tsunami" against genetically modified (GM) crops.
The Aloha Aina (or "Love of the Land") March, organized by a number of environmental and community groups, was called to celebrate some regional successes against the biotech industry and to raise awareness of the fight, calling on Hawaiian landowners to join the movement and "evict Monsanto."
"For over 20 years, Hawaii has been the global center for the open-field testing of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs)," writes the group Hawaii GMO Justice.
Oahu's North Shore, more commonly recognized for its international surfing competitions, is also where biotech companies farm thousands of acres of crop land. World-renowned surfers Kelly Slater and John John Florence joined the Sunday protest along with notable actress and environmental activist Daryl Hannah.
"A huge wave has been built up about GMOs statewide," said Molokai activist Walter Ritte. "You can hear it, you can hear the enthusiasm going on. We want this message that's coming from the people to get to the Legislature this year."
"The potential for a tsunami of change is real and at our door step. Business as usual is over, done, pau."
—Gary Hooser, anti-GMO activist and former State Senate Majority Leader

The Earth Island Journal reports:
The goal of the event was to march a mile down the Kamehamehea Highway to the Hale’iwa Beach Park for a rally and non-GMO potluck party with some live music and dancing thrown in. [...]
After a round of prayers and a resounding blow of the conch, off they set down the wet highway, chanting, “A’ole, a‘lole, a‘ole GMO! Monsanto has got to go!” (“A‘ole” means “no” in Hawaiian)
The march specifically called out Hawaii's largest landowner, Kamehameha Schools, a private college-preparatory school and land trust that owns roughly half of Hawaii's farmland, which currently leases thousands of acres of land to biotech firms. GMO Justice continues:
Despite Kamehameha's public statements about sustainability and conservation, they lease substantial amounts of land to multi-national biotech firms, including Monsanto, Dow, Dupont/Pioneer and Syngenta for GMO open field tests and seed corn production.
Kamehameha is the only institution with the land, capital and resources to reduce our food imports, that are now over 90%, and ensure that Hawai'i does not run out of food in case of natural disasters or rising oil prices.
A video of the march can be seen here.
The protest follows minor legislative victories against GMOs including the recent passage on the Big Island of Bill 113, which prohibits any new GM crops from being grown, and Bill 2491 on Kauai, which requires the disclosure of GM crops and pesticide use.
Calling these new rules "a floor [for] new regulations, not a ceiling," Gary Hooser, former State Senate Majority Leader who has championed anti-GMO legislation and took part in the protest Sunday, writes:
On Kauai we have learned to speak truth to power, with aloha – and we won. We as a community challenged the power of the largest chemical companies in the world, and we won. Our request was minimal: Disclose to us what chemicals you are spraying in our community and don’t use them next to schools, hospitals and homes, yet they fought us every step of the way.
In Hawaii County, the same companies were challenged and again the people won. On Maui the tide also is beginning to turn.
On Oahu the battle in the coming months will no doubt be waged at the state legislature.
Legislators in support of putting the protection of people and the environment first will attempt to implement statewide regulation of pesticides and genetically modified organisms’ while preserving the rights of local communities to pass even more stringent standards – creating a floor of new regulations and not a ceiling.
"The potential for a tsunami of change is real and at our door step," he concludes. "Business as usual is over, done, pau [finished]."

Sunday, December 15, 2013


Brazil national congressUnease among Brazil's farmers as Congress votes on GM terminator seeds
Environmentalists warn approval could shatter global agreement not to use technology, with devastating repercussions. Brazil's national Congress is under pressure from landowning groups to green light GM 'terminator' seeds.

Photograph: Ruy Barbosa Pinto/Getty Images/Flickr RF

Brazil is set to break a global moratorium on genetically-modified "terminator" seeds, which are said to threaten the livelihoods of millions of small farmers around the world.

The sterile or "suicide" seeds are produced by means of genetic use restriction technology, which makes crops die off after one harvest without producing offspring. As a result, farmers have to buy new seeds for each planting, which reduces their self-sufficiency and makes them dependent on major seed and chemical companies.

Environmentalists fear that any such move by Brazil – one of the biggest agricultural producers on the planet – could produce a domino effect that would result in the worldwide adoption of the controversial technology.

Major seed and chemical companies, which together own more than 60% of the global seed market, all have patents on terminator seed technologies. However, in the 1990s they agreed not to employ the technique after a global outcry by small farmers, indigenous groups and civil society groups.

In 2000, 193 countries signed up to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity, which recommended a de facto moratorium on this technology.

The moratorium is under growing pressure in Brazil, where powerful landowning groups have been pushing Congress to allow the technology to be used for the controlled propogation of certain plants used for medicines and eucalyptus trees, which provide pulp for paper mills.

The landowning groups want to plant large areas with fast growing GMtrees and other non-food GM crops that could theoretically spread seeds over wide areas. The technology, they argue, would be a safeguard, ensuring that no second generation pollution of GM traits takes place. They insist that terminator seeds would only be used for non-food crops.

Their efforts to force a bill to this effect through Congress, ongoing since 2007, have been slowed due to resistance from environmentalists.

The proposed measure has been approved by the legislature's agricultural commission, rejected by the environmental commission, and now sits in the justice and citizenship commission. It is likely to go to a full Congressional vote, where it could be passed as early as next Tuesday, or soon after the Christmas recess.

Environment groups say there would be global consequences. "Brazil is the frontline. If the agro-industry breaks the moratorium here, they'll break it everywhere," said Maria José Guazzelli, of Centro Ecológico, which represents a coalition of Brazilian NGOs.

This week they presented a protest letter signed by 34,000 people to thwart the latest effort to move the proposed legislation forward. "If this bill goes through, it would be a disaster. Farmers would no longer be able to produce their own seeds. That's the ultimate aim of the agro-industry," she said.

The international technology watchdog ETC, which was among the earliest proponents of a ban on terminator technology in the 1990s, fears this is part of a strategy to crack the international consensus.

"If the bill is passed, [we expect] the Brazilian government to take a series of steps that will orchestrate the collapse of the 193-country consensus moratorium when the UN Convention on Biological Diversity meets for its biennial conference in Korea in October 2014," said executive director Pat Mooney.

But Eduardo Sciarra, Social Democratic party leader in the Brazilian Congress, said the proposed measure did not threaten farmers because it was intended only to set controlled guidelines for the research and development of "bioreactor" plants for medicine.

"Gene use restriction technology has its benefits. This bill allows the use of this technology only where it is good for humanity," he said.

The technology was developed by the US Department of Agriculture and the world's largest seed and agrochemical firms. Syngenta, Bayer, BASF, Dow, Monsanto and DuPont together control more than 60% of the global commercial seed market and 76% of the agrochemical market. All are believed to hold patents on the technology, but none are thought to have developed the seeds for commercial use.

Massive protests in the 1990s by Indian, Latin American and south-east Asian peasant farmers, indigenous groups and their supporters put the companies on the back foot, and they were reluctantly forced to shelve the technology after the UN called for a de-facto moratorium in 2000.

Now, while denying that they intend to use terminator seeds, the companies argue that the urgent need to combat climate change makes it imperative to use the technology. In addition, they say that the technology could protect conventional and organic farmers by stopping GM plants spreading their genes to wild relatives – an increasing problem in the US, Argentina and other countries where GM crops are grown on a large scale.

A Monsanto spokesman in Brazil said the company was unaware of the developments and stood by a commitment made in 1999 not to pursue terminator technology. "I'm not aware of so-called terminator seeds having been developed by any organisation, and Monsanto stands firmly by our commitment and has no plans or research relating to this," said Tom Helscher.

On its website, however, the company's commitment only appears to relate to "food crops", which does not encompass the tree and medicinal products under consideration in Brazil.

• Additional research by Anna Kaiser
Background to a controversy

Ever since GM companies were found to be patenting "gene-use restriction" or "terminator" technologies in the 1990s, they have been accused of threatening biodiversity and seeking to make farmers dependent on big industry for their livelihoods.

In many developing countries, where up to 80% of farmers each year choose their best plants and save their own seed, terminator technology is a byword for all genetic modification, raising fears that sterile GM strains could contaminate wild plants and regular crops – with devastating consequences.

The GM companies, which claimed in the 1990s that they wanted to introduce the seeds only to stop farmers stealing their products, were forced to shelve the technology in the face of massive protests in India, Latin Amercia and south-east Asia.

In the face of growing international alarm, the 193 countries signed up to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity unanimously agreed in 2000 that there should be a de facto international moratorium. This was strengthened at the Conference of the Parties in 2006, under the presidency of Brazil.

Since then, the moratorium has held firm. But the GM companies have shifted their arguments, saying that gene-use restriction technologies now allow seeds to reproduce, but could "switch off" the GM traits. This, they argue, would reduce the possibility of the seeds spreading sterility. In addition, they say the technology could protect organic and conventional farmers from the spread of transgenes to wild relatives and weeds, which plagues GM farmers in the US and elsewhere.

The fear now is that the global moratorium could quickly unravel if Brazil, one of the most important agricultural countries in the world, overturns its national law to ban terminator technology. Other countries, pressed strongly by the powerful GM lobby, would probably follow, leading inevitably to more protests.

Source: http://www.theguardian.com/global-development


Published on Friday, December 13, 2013 by Common Dreams

Hopes for 'Critical Mass in the Marketplace' Grow as Second State Joins GMO Labeling Push
Connecticut governor signs GMO labeling bill
- Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

(Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images)A growing movement calling for the labeling of GMOs on grocery store shelves took one step forward this week when Governor Dannel Malloy of Connecticut signed a bill mandating just that.

There was, however, one major caveat.

In order for the law to be enacted, at least four other Northeastern states, together totaling a population of over 20 million people, must enact similar GMO laws. This clause, according to theDanbury Daily Voice, was included to help local farmers "by ensuring regional adoption of the new labeling system before requiring local farms to analyze and label genetically engineered products."

Those states could include Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania or New Jersey.

However, on the other side of New England, Maine has already passed its own GMO labeling law, but this law also includes the same regional clause—meaning two New England states now require the labeling of GMOs, but only if the other nearby states join along.

However, while the rubik's cube of New England GMO labeling laws may seem difficult to line up, Malloy still remained confident that the move is a step in the right direction.

"This is a beginning, and I want to be clear what it is a beginning of," Malloy said at the public signing outside an organic restaurant in the city of Fairfield. "It is a national movement that will requiring (food) labeling."

“We are hopeful that legislators throughout the Northeast will follow the lead of Governor Malloy and all our legislative champions by passing laws that give consumers transparency in labeling,"said Tara Cook-Littman, director of GMO Free CT and one of the advocates for the law.

Similarly, when Connecticut's law passed the state legislature this summer before heading to Malloy's desk this month, Mark Kastel, co-director of the Cornucopia Institute, said that such the law's caveat may not hurt the label-GMO fight in the long run.

“The hurdles in the Connecticut bill, if surmounted, would mean a critical mass in the marketplace that would emulate the impacts that would have materialized if California had passed its ballot initiative,” said Kastel.

While other attempts at singular state initiatives to require labeling in states such as California and Washington have recently failed, in 2013 nearly half of all U.S. states have introduced bills that either require labeling or prohibit genetically engineered foods, according to the Center for Food Safety.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0
Source:  http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2013/12/13-9icense.


So Much Risk. So Little Benefit.   

It was only a matter of time.

The Arctic Apple®, genetically engineered to prevent oxidation, or browning, has been sitting in the pipeline, awaiting approval by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), since May of 2012. An initial comment period ended in September 2012. Plans initially called for a second and final comment period to open in the spring of 2013.

But with the GMO labeling battle going strong in Washington State—where more apples are grown than anywhere else in the U.S.—all has been silent on the Arctic Apple front for more than a year.

Until now.

No sooner had voters defeated I-522, Washington State’s GMO labeling initiative, than lo and behold, the USDA announced it had opened its second and final comment period before deciding whether or not to deregulate the first GMO apple.

DEADLINE DECEMBER 16 -TAKE ACTION: Tell the USDA You Don’t Want a GMO Apple!

Why the USDA?

Apples are food, right? So you’d think the U.S. Food & Drug Administration would be charged with approving a GMO apple for human consumption. Instead, deregulation of the Arctic Apple is up to the USDA, which is responsible for protecting U.S. agriculture from pests and diseases. How does the agency decide? By performing an assessment of whether or not the Arctic Apple poses a plant risk.

Neal Carter, who developed the Arctic Apple for Okanagan Specialty Fruits, alleges the frankenapple is harmless. "These are the most tested and scrutinized apples in the world, and probably the safest apples in the world,” he said in an interview.

Scientists, environmentalists and just about every organization http://www.nwrage.org/content/genetically-modified-apples-raise-concerns representing apple growers, in the U.S. and Canada,say otherwise. They predict that the GMO apple will likely contaminate conventional apple crops, in addition to introducing a whole new set of health concerns.

No health risk?

The Arctic Apple doesn’t require FDA approval, though the company says it is “voluntarily consulting with that agency to demonstrate that Arctic apples are as allergen-free and toxin-free as are all other apples.”

Right. We all know how often the FDA rejects genetically engineered food and crops.

But scientists have already sounded the alarm on health concerns, citing the relatively new and so-far untested dsRNA technology used to silence the gene that causes the apple to brown.

Professor Jack Heinemann (University of Canterbury, New Zealand), Sarah Agapito-Tenfen (from Santa Catarina University in Brazil) and Judy Carman (Flinders University in South Australia), say that dsRNA manipulation is untested, and therefore inherently risky. They argue that the dsRNA from our food, and presumably the Frankenapple, will enter the bloodstream and cells of consumers. They recommend research be done on the safety of the GMO apple before it’s approved for human consumption.

The Arctic Apple provides no health benefit to consumers. No benefit to growers. It’s only “benefit” is that it won’t turn brown when you slice it or bite into it.

The USDA is set to approve the GMO apple before Christmas. Unless the agency heeds the tens of thousands of consumers, environmentalists and apple growers who are asking for more safety testing. Or at the least, a label?

DEADLINE DECEMBER 16 -TAKE ACTION: Tell the USDA You Don’t Want a GMO Apple!

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