Saturday, May 24, 2014


y Marion Nestle         

GMO labels cost families $800/year: Guess who paid for the study?  May 23, 2014

Yesterday, Food Navigator reported that Cornell economists calculated that GMO labels

would cost the average family of four a whopping $800 per year.

This seemed so improbable that I immediately wondered: Who paid for it?

I clicked on the link to the study: Bingo!

The work on this report was supported financially by the Council for Biotechnology Information.

You won’t find the list of companies and groups that support the Council on its website, butSource Watch fills the gap.

I am increasingly alarmed by the increasing extent of industry research sponsorship—it’s become a huge issue in studies of nutrition, diet, and health.

The influence of funding source on research outcomes is so predictable—many studies have now shown that industry-funded studies almost invariably produce results that favor the sponsor—that I’m batting nearly 100% on conflict-of-interest checks, of which this GMO study is a particularly blatant example.

It’s not that industry pays investigators to find the desired answers to questions. It’s more complicated than that. It has to do with the way investigators ask and try to answer the research questions. The industry favored biases get built into the study’s assumptions and controls, often (I think) unconsciously.

This study, for example, is based on an elaborate set of assumptions leading to the $800 per family estimate. Other assumptions might give different results. The authors do not discuss the limitations of their estimates, nor are they required to in this type of report.

But I’m willing to hazard a guess that independently funded studies would come to considerably lower estimates.

Moral: if a study produces surprising results that favor an industry position, look hard to see who sponsored it.


Friday, May 23, 2014


LabelGMOs California's Grassroots

Folks…WE MADE IT OUT OF APPROPRIATIONS!! Now it’s on to the Senate Floor for a vote sometime between Wed the 28th and Friday May 30th, 2014.

I’m sure that this Saturday many of you will all be marching in one location or another around the state.  I’m hearing that there are 450 marches around the world!  Very cool. 

How can we best leverage the Marches?
  • Have a brigade of unlimited minutes cell phones at the marches to get folks to call their reps.  It would be great if all the Senators in our state came back from the weekend to hundreds of messages on their voice mailboxes.  Other orgs have successfully used this action and it really works.  I suggest having a few smart phones or iPads dedicated to helping folks find out who their reps are at  then they can go to call on another phone.
  • Please hand out something and spread the word about calling their Senators.  Here is a 4up action alert flyer to use if you don’t have time to make one of your own
  • Please take lots of pics and send them along so we can post them on the FB page…or let us know where you post yours so we can share
  • I’ve included a short message below that I would love if you could read at the marches from me to the crowd. Not a huge deal and even if you don’t use it, if you could get the basic ideas out there, I’d appreciate it.
A short message from Pamm Larry for all Marchers across California
As you all probably know by now, this has been an amazing week for our movement!  It started on Tuesday.  Jackson and Josephine Counties both banned growing GMOs by a landslide!!  These two counties in OR sent a very loud message to large corporations that more and more of us are waking up to what they are doing to the planet and all living beings on it. Josephine and Jackson counties did it by uniting on the ground and educating their communities. 

It took time, effort, guts, commitment and tenacity.  It wasn’t easy. They got discouraged at times, but they kept on going.  In the end, they showed us what WE can do if we unite, commit and do what it takes to get the job done.  Their victory is our victory as we are One.  Around the world,  we are joining together to put Biotech on notice that the veneer of their lies is crumbling. When people know the truth of their lies, we overwhelmingly say NO to their unproven chemical- laden, contaminating agriculture. 

Our own Humboldt County is next in the fight to ban GMO crop cultivation. Jackson and Josephine won with help outside their county. Humboldt needs our support as they carry that torch for all of us.
But there’s MORE!   Yesterday, California has achieved monumental victory by moving SB 1381 to the Senate Floor for a vote next week. 
Will we make it out of the California Senate?  It will be a full on fight, but I believe our chances are high IF we unite and do what it takes to get the job done.  CT, VT, ME, Jackson and Josephine victories all have ONE thing in common- WE THE PEOPLE took a strong stand and stayed the course.  We marched but continued with more work- we tabled, we educated our communities, we visited our reps to educate them and their staffers.  We called our representatives and each other to spread the word of our power and our need to unite.  We put in hours of our time to protect our rights and the future of food seeds and food sovereignty.   WE CAN MAKE SB 1381 LAW IF WE UNITE!!
And now, to close out this amazing week, we are uniting with people all around the globe to march for our futures.  Marches are a great celebration and statement but the work to change things is ongoing.  Please join us and unite with us in our work to get labeling and support local food movements of all kinds.  This work isn’t always easy. It isn’t often convenient. But it’s the most important, satisfying work I’ve encountered. Please sign up to stay in touch, then remain active.
Step by step we are making huge headway, but we need YOU with us.
Thanks and see you on the streets!


Permaculture Poised to Conquer the Caribbean

No fertilisers, herbicides, or pesticides but a bold vision to save a region from climate change and resource scarcity

by Mark Olalde
Erle Rahaman-Noronha cutting produce on his farm. (Credit: Mark Olalde/IPS)FREEPORT, Trinidad and Tobago - Erle Rahaman-Noronha is not a revolutionary, not in any radical sense at least. He is not even that exciting. In truth, Rahaman-Noronha is merely a man with a shovel, a small farm, and a big dream. But that dream is poised to conquer the Caribbean.
Rahaman-Noronha wants to see ‘permaculture’ – short for permanent agriculture – take root and spreads across the Caribbean, and he is doing his part by teaching anyone who will listen about its benefits.
Joining him is a fluid group of permaculturalists working from their home islands and sharing the same goal: to harness permaculture as a solution to climate change, food and water insecurity, and rising costs of living.
“You can start in your backyard, so there’s no cost. You can implement certain parts of it in your apartment...If you have a porch with some sunlight, you can plant something there and start thinking about permaculture.”
-- Erle Rahaman-Noronha, permaculturalist
Author of the manual, Australian Bill Mollison, first used the term nearly four decades ago and since then the idea has spread to Europe and the U.S. Now, the developing Caribbean is beginning to embrace the philosophy of permaculture, especially since 2008’s global recession.
Born in Kenya, Rahaman-Noronha – whose work was recently highlighted in a TEDx talk – fulfilled a keen interest in the environment by studying applied biochemstry and zoology in Canada.
“I’ve always had a strong passion for the outdoors and conservation, but just doing conservation doesn’t make money,” he says with a chuckle. “Permaculture allows me to live on a site, produce food on a site, produce an income, as well as practice conservation.”
Wa Samaki is Rahaman-Noronha’s permaculture farm, and it has been his workplace, classroom, grocery store, and home since he relocated to Trinidad in 1998. Meaning “of the fish” in Swahili, Wa Samaki covers 30 acres in Freeport in central Trinidad.
Although he uses no fertilisers, herbicides, or pesticides, Rahaman-Noronha is able to make a living off the farm’s fruit, flower, lumber, and fish sales. His newest addition is a large aquaponics system, a closed loop food production system in which fish tanks and potted plants circulate water and sustain one another.
With his partner John Stollmeyer, Rahaman-Noronha works to spread awareness of permaculture across the Caribbean, home to nearly 40 million people who are particularly susceptible to climate change.
The pair consults Trinidadian businesses, teaches permaculture design courses (PDCs), and holds workshops everywhere from Puerto Rico to St. Lucia. “How are we going to create sustainable human culture?” Stollmeyer asks. “Discovering permaculture for me was a wake up call.”
Where environmentalism meets savvy economics
The need for conservation is in no small part a result of climate change, especially when the Hurricane Belt covers nearly all of the Caribbean.
Trinidad and Tobago continues to compound the issue as both a major exporter and consumer of fossil fuels. The country produced more than 119,000 barrels of oil per day in 2012 and 1.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas that same year, all the while boasting the second highest rate of CO2 emissions per capita in the world, more than twice that of the United States.
United Nations data dating back to 2005, the last time such statistics were compiled, indicates that industrialised agriculture accounts for 20 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In this environment, Rahaman-Noronha’s goal is to become an incubator of conservation start-ups that cannot secure necessary bank loans. Currently, he houses beekeepers and a wildlife rescue center on the farm for minimal rent, and he hopes that list will grow.
One such entrepreneurial mind that passed through Wa Samaki was Berber van Beek, a native of Curaçao who recently moved home after years of wandering the world. Before returning to the Caribbean, she practiced permaculture across Europe and Australia, but when van Beek wanted to develop her skills in a tropical climate, she came to Rahaman-Noronha.
“He gave me a lot of freedom on his farm to make and create a design,” van Beek says, describing a garden of banana trees she planted at Wa Samaki.
In Curaçao, van Beek uses permaculture as more than simply a food source. She realises its social potential and is working to start after-school programmes for at-risk youth who can learn useful gardening skills and the responsibility and respect for nature that come with caring for their own gardens.
In addition, she is soon opening her first large-scale organic gardening class, closely resembling a PDC.
Such initiatives are urgently needed in Curaçao, which is facing a stagnant economy and is currently nursing a youth unemployment rate of 37 percent.
According to van Beek, shifting global climates and markets have major effects on her own island in which nearly everything must be imported. “If you go to the supermarket, look where your food is coming from. Is it coming from Venezuela or is it coming from the U.S. or is it coming from Europe?” she says. “People could be more aware of what to buy and what not to buy.”
The problem, experts say, is regional. According to the Food Export Association of the Midwest USA – a group of nonprofits focusing on agricultural issues – around 80 percent of food consumed in the Caribbean is imported.
The beauty and purpose of permaculture is that it is a system of solutions that can be practiced at any level to combat environmental issues.
“You can start in your backyard, so there’s no cost. You can implement certain parts of it in your apartment if you really need to,” Rahaman-Noronha explains. “If you have a porch with some sunlight, you can plant something there and start thinking about permaculture.”
Naturally, van Beek took his message to heart, keeping a perfectly groomed permaculture garden in her own tiny backyard, using dead leaves as fertiliser and recycled rain and shower-water to sustain the plants.
“Seeing is believing,” she says. It’s her own quiet mantra, spoken when she describes her approach to spreading permaculture, and vocalised when she needs the energy to keep pressing on and to convince others that this is the right path.
Rahaman-Noronha, too, has worked to convert non-believers. From schools who tour the wildlife center and his farm to the several thousand people who watched his TEDx talk online, he is adamant that he has traded in misconceptions for progress.
“I think [the reason] I don’t get challenged…is that I’m not just preaching permaculture,” he says. “I’m actually practicing it.”


Are Organic Standards in Jeopardy? Watchdogs Say 'Yes'

Alexis Baden-Mayer of the Organic Consumers Association protesting the corruption of organic safeguards at the National Organic Standards Board meeting in San Antonio, Texas. (Photo: @JennyHops reporting for Politico Pro)When organic activist Alexis Baden Mayer of the Organic Consumers Association was arrested after leading a "spirited protest" against watering down organic standards last month, she wasn't at a rally on the street or in a park. She was at a meeting of the National Organic Standards Board, a 15-member advisory board with statutory authority to review what substances are allowed and prohibited in organic agriculture -- usually a relatively staid affair.
Organic foods and products are popular among consumers in the United States. It's the fastest growing sector of U.S. agriculture, with nearly $35 billion in sales as of 2012, and growing at 15-20 percent per year.
Organic foods are certified not to contain or be produced using genetically modified organisms (GMOs), pesticides, antibiotics, growth hormones, chemical fertilizers, or sewage sludge, and to contain as few synthetic or non-organic ingredients or treatments as possible. Organic farming methods build healthy soil, sequester carbon, and focus on humane treatment of animals.
Consumers buying organic products rely on standards to ensure this is the case.
But the growing organic market presents a temptation for business interests in the organic industry to look for ways to lower costs and gain bigger market share, including by lowering standards.
Organic pioneers and watchdog groups like the Organic Consumers Association and the Cornucopia Institute allege that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is capitulating to corporate interests and reversing 20 years of precedent by removing the ability of the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) to effectively decide the working definition of the organic food production system as well as what synthetic and non-organic materialsare acceptable to include in organic agriculture and food on a temporary basis. Examples of non-organic materials that have been exempted include the use of antiobiotics like tetracycline on apple and pear trees; and algal and fungal oils as sources of DHA omega-3 fatty acids and ARA omega-6 fatty acids in infant formula and other foods, asThe Progressive/Center for Media and Democracy (CMD) has reported.

USDA "Power Grab" Flips Review Process on its Head

For 20 years, until last fall, the NOSB reviewed exemptions for synthetic and non-organic ingredients allowed in organic foods every five years, automatically removing them from the list of allowed substances unless they voted to retain them for another five years, in what's known as a sunset process.
But USDA Deputy Administrator Miles McEvoy announced a new set of rules in the fall of 2013 in which exempted synthetic and non-organic materials are allowed indefinitelyunless a two-thirds supermajority of the NOSB votes to remove them from the list. The rule change was not subject to the process of full public notice and comment.

Organic Law Authors Question Legality of USDA Policy Change

U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR), original authors of the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act, wrote a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack in April 2014, saying that they believe the policy change to be "in conflict with both the letter and intent of the statute."
The Congressmen emphasized that the "most alarming part of this sunset policy announcement was the decision by the agency to not subject this substantive policy change to full notice and comment rulemaking, a critical step to allow the public to provide scientific and market information to aid the Secretary and the NOSB in fulfilling its statutory review duties. Had the agency engaged in a full rulemaking process for the policy change, it would have given the Secretary the benefit of hearing about the strong objections to this change from the public, from many in the affected organic community, and from Members of Congress, such as ourselves."

Former NOSB Chairmen Criticise "Radical Shift," Warn of Court Challenge

Former NOSB Chairmen Jim Riddle, Jeff Moyer, and Barry Flamm called the rule change "a radical shift away from the collaborative government of the organic industry that Congress had clearly indicated and pioneering organic farming advocates demanded" in another letter to Secretary Vilsack.
Riddle, Moyer, and Flamm stressed that "specific violations" of the organics law "could lead to a court challenge" and called other violations of the intent of lawmakers "a grave insult to the current and past volunteers who have served on the National Organic Standards Board and the thousands of organic stakeholders who have, earnestly, participated in the public process to develop standards, materials and procedures for the NOSB."

USDA Attempts to Spin the Shift

USDA recently issued a "fact sheet" positing that the changes to the sunset review process as an "improvement," with a nifty diagram of the new process. Roger Blobaum, an organic pioneer who served as an agricultural staff member in both houses of Congress and was co-chair of the coalition that helped shape the organics law, called it "another USDA attempt to re-define the required sunset process and make it sound necessary and reasonable."
Blobaum noted that it "does not reflect the description and definition of sunset in the Leahy/DeFazio letter or the letter submitted by three former NOSB chairs or the public/private relationship mandated in the Organic Foods Production Act. It appears to me that the so-called fact sheet is part of USDA's overall public relations campaign to confuse consumers and others, including members of Congress..."

Watchdogs Cite Corporate Influence

Mark Kastel, Co-Director of the Cornucopia Institute, called the rule change a "power grab" and said that "corporate interests, including the industry lobby group the Organic Trade Association, have been gaming the system for years with the help of USDA. What has changed recently, as a result of the NOSB refusing to go along with agribusiness in approving gimicky synthetics and nutraceuticals in organic food, is that they have now had their minions at the USDA change the rules in the middle of the game."
Blobaum told CMD that because of the number of big corporate organic industry representatives that the USDA has placed on the NOSB in the places reserved for farmers and consumers, the supermajority required to remove materials from the list would be especially hard to achieve. There are specific seats reserved on the board for farmers, environmentalists, consumers, processors, a retailer, a scientist, and a certifier.

Organics at the Crossroads

Roger BlobaumBecause of the growing popularity of organics, the involvement and undue influence of heavy hitters in the organic industry, and the current challenges of owning and operating organic family farms, organic agriculture is at a crossroads.
Roger Blobaum has devoted his career to the organic movement since 1971 and recently launched a project helping the Wisconsin Historical Society identify and collect historic materials from the organic agriculture movement, including his own personal papers, documents, photos, and other historic materials.
At a recent lecture called "Building a Movement" at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Blobaum sketched the timeline of the history of the organic movement starting in 1911 with the publication of Farmers of Forty Centuries, which described how people in China had farmed the same fields for 4,000 years without depleting soil fertility, by former USDA Division of Soil Management chief F.H. King.

The Law and the Rule: 1990 Organic Foods Production Act

Blobaum described the process of crafting and passing the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act as well as developing the final rule implemented by the USDA in 2002. State pressure was instrumental, he pointed out, as 27 states supporting organic farming via statutes on the books by 1990. The NOSB, the duties of which were laid out in the law, was appointed in 1992 and helped craft the rule that would eventually govern organics.
After hearings around the country, the NOSB submitted a draft rule to USDA that had the buy-in of many different organic groups. But the draft the USDA published in response "trashed" the NOSB proposal, according to Blobaum. It "ignored many of the recommendations," opened the door to weakening organic standards across the board, "and challenged the authority of the NOSB to regulate materials, which was in the law."
In response, the organic community gathered to review the USDA proposal line-by-line, and published "The Sixty-Six Points of Darkness: Key Issues in the Proposed National Organic Program Rules as brought up by the National Campaign for Sustainable Agriculture's Organic Meeting." As a result of this concerted organic community pushback -- and 270,000 negative comments on the USDA's proposed rule, according to Blobaum -- the USDA took the rule back and rewrote it. After years of negotiations and public comments, that rule went into effect ten years later, in 2002.

Attempts to Undermine the NOSB

Since the organics rule went into effect, Blobaum said, "there's been an attempt almost all the time to undermine the role of the NOSB. And the NOSB represents us all, that's the whole point. When the NOSB was set up, it was part of the bargain.... The USDA didn't like what NOSB was doing, and they had the power to appoint NOSB members, so what they started doing was putting industry people in the slots that were reserved by law for farmers and for consumers. This was an abuse of their authority to appoint. And that's still going on."
Blobaum described the most recent crisis: "USDA is getting all kinds of pressure to approve more of these materials to lower the standards. They decided, well, let's change the rule here. These materials are going to stay on the list until we get a big vote from the NOSB to take them off.... It's another indicator of the USDA's bad attitude towards the NOSB."

Watchdogs Ask USDA not to Weaken Organics

As Blobaum pointed out, "the NOSB represents us all": farmers, eaters, scientists, environmentalists, certifiers, and retailers. Blobaum is concerned that the USDA is gradually reducing the statutory authority that the NOSB was given by the 1990 organics law, turning it into a mere advisory body.
Organic watchdog groups like the Organic Consumers Association and Cornucopia Institute are asking supporters to tell Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to reverse the rule currently weakening organics.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


Measures to ban most GMO crops passing in
Jackson, Josephine counties

14664112-mmmain.jpgProtesters gathered at the Oregon Capitol in July to help block a bill that would have pre-empted local ordinances against genetically modified seeds. That bill died, but a similar bill passed in October. (Yuxing Zheng/The Oregonian/2013)
Yuxing Zheng | yzheng@oregonian.comBy Yuxing Zheng | 
Email the author | Follow on Twitter
on May 20, 2014 at 8:15 PM, updated May 20, 2014 at 10:25 PM
controversial Jackson County measure to ban most genetically engineered crops passed, as did a similar measure in next-door Josephine County, according to unofficial returns Tuesday night.
Jackson County's Measure 15-119 has attracted more than $1.3 million to the southern Oregon county with about 206,000 residents. That includes$455,000 donated to the opposition campaign from six biotechnology and agriculture companies, including Monsanto and Syngenta.
"We fought the most powerful and influential chemical companies in the world and we won," said Elise Higley, a Jackson County farmer with the anti-GMO group Our Family Farms Coalition.

Higley said her county will now be a safe haven against the pollen-creep of genetically modified crops. "Regrettably ideology defeated sound science and common sense in Jackson County," said Barry Bushue, president of the Oregon Farm Bureau and spokesman for Good Neighbor Farmers, in a news release.

"We respect the voice of the voters," Bushue said, "but remain convinced Measure 15-119 – the crop ban – is bad public policy. While this election is over, this debate is not. We will continue to fight to protect the rights of all farmers to choose for themselves how they farm."

The Jackson County measure and the one in Josephine County have managed to hit on some of the most hot-button issues in Oregon: property rights, local control and scarce resources for former timber-reliant counties.

The no-GMO measure in Jackson County passed with 66 percent of the vote, according to a tally of more than 45,000 voters. The vote against GMO crops in Josephine County passed with 57 percent, according to partial returns.   
Both sides focused on the Jackson County measure because it might be the sole opportunity in Oregon for a legal, enforceable measure to pass.

The Oregon Legislature in October passed a bill during a special session that named the state as the regulator of seeds. The law exempted Jackson County, where the crops measure had already qualified for the May ballot.

In Josephine County, it's unclear whether a successful measure could be enforced because it was placed on the ballot after the new law took effect.
-- Yuxing Zheng and Bryan Denson


LabelGMOs California's Grassroots

I am so very happy to let you all know that both Josephine and Jackson County ballot initiatives in Oregon - to ban GMO crop cultivation won!!

Josephine raised only $22K and won at 57% yes!
Jackson county was well funded and got 66% of the vote.

Both campaigns were grassroots started, grassroots run. Jackson did hire a manager (a wonderful woman farmer who learned lots really quickly) and a consultant. But control of the election stayed local and was educationally, guerilla based.

This is huge, folks! Not only were they able to ban GMOs in an Ag area, they showed all of us the power of grassroots!We know what needs to be done and we know how to do it, especially with the time, experience and learning we've all been privy to.

Both campaigns had input from seasoned campaigners, but they ran their campaigns with their hearts and their guts, not numbers and the status quo. This, to me, was an equal victory for our movement.

Thanks to all of you for continuing your work out there. We have an incredible opportunity with SB1381 GE Food Labeling Bill now in California. VT, CT and ME all got laws because of Grassroots involvement. We will never get labels without our voices uniting. Let's keep this wave of success going!

Onward to the Friday, May 23, 2014 California State Senate Appropriations Committee to Vote YES!!! for SB1381 GE Food Labeling Bill (Senator Noreen Evans) ..... then on to the California State Senate floor!!

Blessed to be with you all on this journey-

Pamm Larry, LabelGMOs
LabelGMOs California's Grassroots · United States

Tuesday, May 20, 2014


Moderator’s Note: One of the most significant proven threats to the environment stems from the use of genetically engineered organisms, including the widespread near global deployment of transgenic crops. With recent news that both China and Russia are retreating from the embrace of commercial agricultural biotechnology, it seems that the momentum against GMOs is increasing. A major issue facing the non-GMO movement stems from the decades long work done on the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and the Cartegena Biosafety Protocols, which establish rules for the protection of biodiversity including threats posed by transgenic organisisms.

An international coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has issued a call for and end to the spread of transgenes – the snippets of bacterial, viral, and other genetic materials that are used to assemble GMOs. The coalition includes some of the most highly respected NGOs including Third World Network, ETC Group, and Red de Semillas (Seed Network).

To read more scroll down or use this link: 

Devon G. Peña, Ph.D.

"Memory is a moral obligation, all the time."
 -J. Derrida

Transgene escape. Courtesy of: ETC Group
Moderator’s Note: One of the most significant proven threats to the environment stems from the use of genetically engineered organisms, including the widespread near global deployment of transgenic crops. With recent news that both China and Russia are retreating from the embrace of commercial agricultural biotechnology, it seems that the momentum against GMOs is increasing. A major issue facing the non-GMO movement stems from the decades long work done on the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) and the Cartegena Biosafety Protocols, which establish rules for the protection of biodiversity including threats posed by transgenic organisisms.

An international coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has issued a call for and end to the spread of transgenes – the snippets of bacterial, viral, and other genetic materials that are used to assemble GMOs. The coalition includes some of the most highly respected NGOs including Third World Network, ETC Group, and Red de Semillas (Seed Network).

I am reposting the press release that was circulated over the weekend through the movement networks. I note three important points about this call for action on transgene flow that are important for those of us struggling in the unique context of the USA, one of the major nations that has refused to sign on to the CBD or its Cartegena Biosafety Protocols. First, the emphasis is on the scientifically-established and irrefutable fact of gene flow, noting that “the release of genetically engineered plants that can persist and invade the environment or lead to transgene flow into native populations or local varieties at centres of origin and of genetic diversity.”

Second, the emphasis of the coalition is on the threats posed to “centres of origin and of genetic diversity” and this provides a key to the strategic shift that is emerging in the USA and focuses on resistance to the USDA’s so-called “Coexistence Policy” – a proposed administrative rule that seeks to impose a “pluralistic” model in which GMO, conventional, organic, and other farmers are to accept each other and get along. This is unacceptable to those of us who are plant breeders and seed savers, given the reality of gene flow. The challenge that we now need to address is how certain regions of the USA are also centers of origin and of genetic diversity – e.g., the Southwest is widely recognized as a valid extension of the Mesoamerican Vavilov center.

Third, the ETC group warns that while GURTs (genetic use restriction technologies) are currently banned under the Cartegena Protocols, there are a number of countries now discussing their use. I have reported on GURTs in previous posts: The advent of genetic use restriction technology (GURT) must be dutifully monitored because it represents an enduring threat to all seed savers and plant breeders. Readers will recall that Terminator technology makes seeds sterile. The only imaginable use of this technology is to protect transgenic seed patent owners.

Now GURT is being re-branded and re-packaged by Monsanto and other corporations as a method to contain gene flow between GMO and nonGMO plants. Monsanto’s statements allege that it is only trying to protect small and organic farmers from genetic contamination by using other genetically engineered organisms. The promise is really to keep large-scale monoculture growers tethered to the transgenics treadmill while attaining ‘plausible deniability’ in the event of litigation by organic farmers for damages arising from transgenic drift. See, for e.g., Suicide Seeds: Terminator Technology Remains Active Threat (2010), The Year in Food and Agriculture: Forget the Hungry; Farm Workers; Urban Agriculture; Terminators; SB1070…(2010), and The Politics of Seed (2012).

The original press release and report was posted to: Stop the Spread of Transgenes

Terminator carrot. Source: joabbess
Stop the Spread
of Transgenes

Start of an international call to stop genetically engineered organisms spreading into the environment!

Coalition calls for the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to take action

16 May 2014 - Today sees the start of an international call by a broad coalition of organisations to stop the spread of genetically engineered organisms into the environment. The initiative says that binding regulations must be implemented to prevent the release of genetically engineered plants that can persist and invade the environment or lead to transgene flow into native populations or local varieties at centres of origin and of genetic diversity. The organisations will be approaching the Parties of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and encouraging them to become actively involved. The CBD, under its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety, requests that effective measures are taken to protect biodiversity and prevent unintended transboundary movements of genetically engineered organisms.

The call is supported by Asociandote a Ecologistas en Accion (Spain) Econexus, Ecoropa, ETC Group, European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), Friends of the Earth, Europe (FOE), Gene-ethical Network (Germany), Greenpeace International, Red de Semillas (Spain), Testbiotech (Germany), the Third World Network and the Union de Cientificos Comprometidos con la Sociedad, UCCS (Mexico) and others. Further supporters will be asked to join.

“There are already several well-documented examples of genetically engineered plants spreading uncontrolled into wild populations and ecosystems. There are also cases of repeated transgene presence in landraces or local varieties of crop plants such as maize in Mexico and rice in China”, says Elena Alvarez-Buylla from Mexico. “There is a great risk that we will not be able to go back to the original biodiversity without the bio-active transgenes, which can profoundly alter the dynamics of wild and cultivated native varieties.” Alvarez-Buylla is a leading Mexican biologist, currently travelling in Europe and a Member of the Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad, UCCS (Mexico). She has been involved in several research projects that showed that genetically engineered plants had contaminated native populations and regional varieties in Mexico.

The Third World Network (TWN) has followed the negotiations on the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety very closely for many years. The international organisation is very concerned about the long-term impact of uncontrolled gene flow of transgenes into the environment: “Article 17 of the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety requires Parties to prevent or minimise the risks of unintentional transboundary movements of genetically engineered organisms, but the current trend of an increasing spread of these organisms into the environment enhances the potential for genetically engineered plants to move across borders”, says Lim Li Ching for TWN. “The precautionary principle can only be implemented if genetically engineered organisms can be retrieved from the environment in case of emergency. This becomes impossible once transgenes move and accumulate in wild and landrace varieties.”

Mexican non-GMO protestor. Courtesy of: notifamanacional
The international ETC Group warns that technical approaches as proposed by industry and some governments will not bring any solutions: “GURTs (genetic use restriction technologies, also known as “Terminator”), are a set of engineering technologies to make seeds sterile in the second generation and are proposed by the biotech industry as an answer to “biosafety”, but in reality they only serve to stop farmers from reproducing seeds. There are scientific reports indicating that GURTS will not function as predicted and implicate new and additional risks. These technologies are under a moratorium at the CBD because of the risks they present to biodiversity, indigenous and local communities, but despite the moratorium some countries are discussing their release”, says Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group Latin America Director.

The organisations signing up to the call are aiming to mobilise further support from civil society and will bring the issue to the meetings of the Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety and the Convention on Biological Diversity, in September/October 2014 in South Korea.


Elena Alvarez-Buylla, Laboratorio de Genetica Molecular, Desarrollo y Evolucion de Plantas Instituto de Ecologia (Dpto de Ecologia Funcional), Mexico,
Lim Li Ching, Third World Network, tel:
Silvia Ribeiro, ETC Group Latin America Director,
Christoph Then, Testbiotech, tel
Maria Carrascosa Garcia, Red de Semillas, Telf. +34650102339