Wednesday, November 12, 2014


EU one step closer to law on national GMO crop bans

 Nov 12, 2014
Anti-GMO protest. New York, May 2013. [waywuwei/Flickr]
Members of the European Parliament on Tuesday (11 November) backed a plan to allow nations to ban genetically modified crops on their soil, even if they are given approval to be grown in the European Union, raising the chance their use will remain limited on the continent.

Widely grown in the Americas and Asia, GM crops in Europe have divided opinion, with opposition in many countries including France and Germany, while Britain favours them.
A previous compromise endorsed this year by EU ministers would have required negotiations with the relevant companies, if a nation wanted to ban a GM crop in the event it had been approved for EU-wide use.
>> Read our LinksDossier: GMO cultivation in Europe: A decade of legal battles
The plan voted through the Parliament's environment committee on Tuesday would leave out that stage and allows member states to ban GM crops on environmental grounds.
It drew praise from GM opponents.

“MEPs have today voted to strengthen the hand of member states or regions wanting to opt-out of EU authorisations of GMOs," said Bart Staes, a spokesperson for the Greens in the European Parliament. "No must mean no: countries wanting to opt out of GM authorisations must have a totally legally watertight framework for doing so."

"Today's vote would give European countries a legally solid right to ban GM cultivation in their territory, making it difficult for the biotech industry to challenge such bans in court," Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU agriculture policy director, said.
Left-leaning politicians also welcomed Tuesday's vote, which kicks off formal negotiations on a legal text, saying it strengthened the grounds for opting out of any GM cultivation.
Conservatives were opposed.

"The parliament's position on GM cultivation risks inflicting untold damage to robust, science-based policymaking in Europe. We strongly oppose these proposals and voted against them today. We will continue to oppose them," Julie Girling, environment spokeswoman for the Conservatives in the European Parliament, said.

The executive European Commission said in a statement it was confident the law could be in place in 2015, once it had received final endorsement from the European Parliament and member states.

GM cultivation has provoked opposition in Europe for years. An earlier attempt to agree a compromise on GM cultivation failed in 2012, when EU ministers were unable to agree.
So far, EU authorities have approved only two GM crops for commercial cultivation, and one was later blocked by a court.

That leaves Monsanto's GM maize MON810 as the only GM crop grown in Europe, where it has been cultivated in Spain and Portugal for a decade.

Food & Water Europe, a nonprofit consumer group, hailed the Parliament's vote, saying the discussion on GMO opt-outs had been fraught because they allowed seed companies to have a say.

"The Parliament has rightly rejected the totally unacceptable involvement of biotech companies in national GM policy development," said Eve Mitchell, EU Food Policy Advisor at Food & Water Europe. Mitchell said the Council's proposals were "legally flawed" because they were they were not certain to provide GMO bans with "the sound footing needed to survive any challenge from the biotech industry or international trade partners."
“Pro-GM governments like the UK must accept that trying to force GM crops onto an unwilling public has not worked and will not work. Citizens want protection from GM contamination, the right to make decisions without interference from vested interests and the simple right to decide what they will eat and what they reject. Talk about democracy is nice, but this is what it looks like on the ground. Unresponsive Ministers and unelected Commissioners can have a deal on GM crops if they want one, but the Parliament sets the rules.”
"The ball is now firmly in the Council and Commission courts — will they listen to the democratic representatives of EU citizens, or will they listen to biotech lobbyists?”
  • 2014-2015: European Parliament and Council to continue discussions in second reading to reach agreement on a common text
  • 2015: Final adoption expected
External links: 

European Commission


$ 25 Million GMO and Pesticide Safety Study Launched in London

The World’s Largest Study on GMO and Pesticide Safety was launched by Factor GMO in London, UK on Tuesday.
The $ 25 million ‘Factor GMO’ study will investigate the health effects of a genetically modified (GMO) crop that has been in our food and animal feed supplies for many years. It will answer the question: Is this GMO food and associated pesticide (Glyphosate / Roundup) safe for human health?
Farmers, retailers, governments, scientists and consumers have been involved in a heated international debate since GM foods were introduced in 1994. However, there has never been a scientific study that is comprehensive enough to give them a clear answer regarding the safety for human health of any one GM food – until now.
Factor GMO will also add invaluable data of unprecedented power to enable regulators, governments and the general public of every country to answer the question: Is the GM food and associated pesticide tested safe at real-world levels of consumption and exposure?

Study summary
Factor GMO’s preparatory phase started in early 2014. The full experiment will begin in 2015 and will last 2-3 years, with interim results being published at regular intervals during that time.
The study will test a herbicide-tolerant GM maize and realistic levels of the glyphosate herbicide it is engineered to be grown with a total of over 6000 rats.
The study will take place at undisclosed locations in Western Europe and Russia. The exact locations of the study must be kept confidential for security reasons as Factor GMO wants to avoid any outside interference that could compromise the day-to-day running of the experiments and/or the final results.

Laboratory animals (rats) will be fed the GM food and pesticides according to a protocol whose scale, rigour and range of measurements will meet and exceed current international standards for testing the toxicity of GM foods, pesticides, and other chemicals.

The experiment uses more rigorous approaches to investigate the fundamental question of the safety of GM foods and pesticides than are currently required by regulators. It will provide sufficient data to say with confidence whether the real world levels of consumption of the GM food and its associated pesticide are safe.

The three arms (toxicity, carcinogenicity and multi-generational arms) of the experiment will enable vital questions to be answered, such as:
Is the GM food (or its associated pesticide) toxic to organ systems over the long-term?
Does the GM food (or its associated pesticide) cause cancer?
Does the GM food (or its associated pesticide) reduce fertility or cause birth defects?
Is the mixture of chemicals present in Roundup herbicide more or less toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate?

The Scientists
The scientists involved in Factor GMO come from a ‘neutral’ background, in that they have no connection to the biotech industry or the anti-GMO movement, a factor that will add credibility to the results.
The 3 scientists on the study review board are internationally respected experts in their fields:

Dr. Oxana Sinitsyna; Deputy Director for Science at the Federal State Organization “A. N. Sysin Research Institute of Human Ecology and Environmental Health” of the Ministry of Health of the Russian Federation, Moscow.

“The scale and format of this research project will allow us to create a really objective and comprehensive data set on the mechanics of the impacts of a GMO diet on the health of living organisms over the long term. From a scientific point of view the ‘Factor GMO’ project is highly ambitious, which makes it very interesting, for both the public and for the scientists involved.

“The evaluation of allergenic and immunotoxic effects are accompanied by the possibility of evaluating general toxicity and carcinogenic long-term effects (not just 90 days, but long-term over 2-3 years) of the use of appropriate GMO diets. In addition, there has never been comprehensive research investigating the effects of a GM food on reproductive function. The protocol of the ‘Factor GMO’ project includes the assessment of the impacts of a GM food on 5 generations, not only 2, as is suggested in the OECD* recommendations. Due to the uniqueness of the project, it’s a special honour and responsibility for me to represent Russia on the Factor GMO review board. With my international colleagues, we will make every effort to ensure a comprehensive research experiment with an impeccable reputation.”

* The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which sets protocols for industry safety studies on chemicals.

Dr. Bruce Blumberg; Professor, Developmental & Cell Biology, School of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine, USA.

“The Factor GMO study has the potential to provide invaluable information on the health effects of a commercialized, herbicide-resistant GM food and its associated herbicide. The cultivation of herbicide resistant crops is widespread in the US, and the use of the herbicides to which these crops are resistant has increased many-fold in the decades since they were introduced. There is a notable lack of published, peer-reviewed data on their safety, as well as data on the safety of the increased use of herbicides with which they are grown. The Factor GMO study could be very useful in reducing the uncertainty about the safety of these products.”

Dr. Fiorella Belpoggi (on the Review Board as a Fellow of the Collegium Ramazzini); Director and Chief of Pathology of the Cesare Maltoni Cancer Research Centre of the Ramazzini Institute, Bentivoglio, Italy.

“The concern over genetically modified (GM) crops is largely due to the fact that plant breeders can construct synthetic DNA sequences and insert these into crop genomes, effectively adding new traits to the plant. This raises enormous possibilities for developing benign products, but equally it has the potential to create products with unwanted traits and side-effects. The animal feeding studies performed up to now to study GM-related risks for consumers vary in test diet, length, and type of animal used, making the results difficult to compare and interpret. Most are too short to detect potential long-term effects. The proposed integrated rat-feeding study will investigate a wide range of possible health effects in consistent experimental conditions. The long-term study design will reveal any effects that take time to show up. The Factor GMO study could provide the detailed data needed for a scientific evidenced-based risk assessment of possible human health hazards from the GM crop and its associated pesticide.”

The Organizers
The Russian National Association for Genetic Safety (NAGS) is the initiator and coordinator of the Factor GMO experiment. However, NAGS has had and will have no involvement in designing the study, in the day-to-day running of the experiment, or in the gathering, interpretation, or publication of the scientific results. These aspects have been and will continue to be decided and controlled by the independent and neutral scientific review board.

The neutral scientific review board showed interest in the comprehensive study, after the idea for such a study was introduced online by NAGS. Following a full introduction by the members of the scientific review board regarding their work experience and expertise, NAGS supported the idea of them taking full control of the Factor GMO scientific process.
The evaluation of correct protocols and the selection of scientists to work directly on the experimental phase of the study is under the complete control of the neutral scientific review board. NAGS has not had any involvement in this process.

NAGS was formed in 2004 as a non-governmental, non-profit organization based in Moscow, Russia. NAGS’s aim is “to contribute the protection of biological and genetic safety of humankind and the environment, and to promote sustainable development.”
NAGS has always promoted the idea of comprehensive safety studies on GMOs and their associated pesticides and has therefore taken on the role of coordinating the funding and security for the Factor GMO study.

Elena Sharoykina, initiator of the project ‘Factor GMO’, director and co-founder of NAGS:
“Comprehensive scientific safety studies on GMOs and their related pesticides are long overdue. All previous studies caused controversy for various reasons: choice of animal, insufficient statistics, duration of tests, research parameters, and researchers’ connections to the anti-GMO movement or the biotech industry. ‘Factor GMO’ is intended to remedy the situation. The project organizers have considered all of the points of disagreement and distrust surrounding this subject. Factor GMO has in its arsenal a scientific protocol drawn up with all the necessary standards, an international scientific team of leading professionals with a neutral background, independent funding, and perhaps most importantly, full transparency. Food is the main source of energy for all living beings, and its safety is the key to their health and well-being, as well as to sustainable development. In order to prevent irreversible consequences, humankind must ensure the total safety of GM crops and their associated pesticides before they are planted even more widely.

The funding process will be totally transparent and a full list of funders will be provided at the start of the experimental phase in 2015. We will not wait for the results to be published before publishing the full list of funders as many scientific studies do.
Up to this stage private individuals from across Russia and the EU have put forward their funds to support the project (names to be disclosed next year). We cannot disclose the exact amount of funds collected until now due to contractual agreements with the funders, however we can say that a high % of the total needed has been secured, allowing us to start the experimental phase in Spring 2015.
The close to $25 million in funding needed for this project has been/is being sourced from around the world.

Factor GMO has not and will not accept funds from the industry that manufactures GM crops and their associated pesticides.
The funders will have no influence on the design, results, or publication of the study.

For details on the study please contact NAGS and visit the website
Nadya Novoselova (for Russian and English):  Tel: +7 910 468-17-32
Ivan Lambert (for English first language):


Monsanto GM or GMO maize Largest international study into safety of GM food launched by Russian NGO
Thousands of rats will be fed Monsanto maize diets in a $23m, three-year ‘Factor GMO’ study into long-term health effects of GM food and associated pesticides
 A Russian group working with scientists is set to launch world’s largest long-term health study on a GM food. Photograph: Daniel Acker/Bloomberg

Tuesday 11 November 2014 11.32 EST

A Russian group working with scientists is set to launch what they call the world’s largest and most comprehensive long-term health study on a GM food.

The $25m three-year experiment will involve scientists testing thousands of rats which will be fed differing diets of a Monsanto GM maize and the world’s most widely-used herbicide which it it is engineered to be grown with.

The organisers of the Factor GMO [genetically modified organism] study, announced in London on Tuesday and due to start fully next year, say it will investigate the long-term health effects of a diet of a GM maize developed by US seed and chemical company Monsanto.

“It will answer the question: is this GM food, and associated pesticide, safe for human health?” said Elena Sharoykina, a campaigner and co-founder of the Russian national association for genetic safety (Nags), the co-ordinator of the experiment. 

According to the Nags, the experiment will try to establish whether the GM maize and its associated herbicide cause cancers, reduce fertility or cause birth defects. The scientists also want to know whether the mixture of chemicals present in Roundup (Monsanto’s tradename for its glyphosate herbicide) are more or less toxic than its active ingredient glyphosate.

Farmers, governments, scientists and consumers around the world have been involved in an intense debate since GM foods were introduced in 1994. But while there have been many thousands of studies conducted, mostly by GM companies, which show that there is no health risk, government regulators have not required evidence of long-term safety and deep mistrust has built between different “sides”.

“We would clearly support well-conducted, hypothesis-driven science. If the science is conducted according to OECD guidelines and shows that there are hazards with a particular event, then the public will understand that,” said Prof Huw Jones, senior research scientist at Rothamsted Research, which specialises in agricultural research and is the only research institute in the UK currently carrying out a GM crop trial.

Oxana Sinitsyna, deputy science director at the Sysin research institute of human ecology and environmental health which is part of the Russian ministry of health, one of the three scientists on the Factor GMO study’s review board, said: “The scale and format of this research project will allow us to create a really objective and comprehensive data set on the mechanics of the impacts of a GM diet on the health of living organisms over the long term.

“From a scientific point of view the ‘Factor GMO’ project is highly ambitious, which makes it very interesting, for both the public and for the scientists involved.”

Bruce Blumberg, another board member, who is a biology professor at the University of California, Irvine, said: “The cultivation of herbicide resistant crops is widespread in the US, and the use of the herbicides to which these crops are resistant has increased many-fold in the decades since they were introduced. There is a notable lack of published, peer-reviewed data on their safety, as well as data on the safety of the increased use of herbicides with which they are grown.”

The planned study will have no input from the biotech industry or the anti-GM movement, said Sharoykina.“Comprehensive scientific safety studies on GMOs and their related pesticides are long overdue. All previous studies caused controversy for various reasons: choice of animal, insufficient statistics, duration of tests, research parameters, and researchers’ connections to the anti-GMO movement or the biotech industry.

“This study is intended to remedy the situation. The project organisers have considered all of the points of disagreement and distrust surrounding this subject.” She added that Nags would not have any involvement in the scientific process.

Most of the $25m has been raised, say the organisers, but the names of sponsors and funders will not be revealed until the experiment starts fully next year. 

Fiorella Belpoggi, a cancer specialist with the Ramazzini insistute in Italy and a board member of the study said: “This is not at all an anti-GM study. We are being neutral. We don’t know if it’s good or bad. Maybe in the future I will be a cheerleader with Monsanto. But I want science to find out”.

The experiment, which will be conducted in western Europe and Russia, was cautiously welcomed by both GM sceptics and proponents of the technology. However, Monsanto did not respond to invitations for an interview.

Karl Haro von Mogel, a public research geneticist in Madison, said on the Biofortified website: “If they conduct the study and publish it in the peer-reviewed literature, it can make a contribution to the existing literature. They frame the need for this study by saying that ‘there has never been a scientific study that is comprehensive enough to give them a clear answer regarding the safety for human health of any one GM food – until now’. The study has not been done yet, so this is putting the cart before the horse.”

Doug Parr, chief scientist at Greenpeace UK, said: “There is still scientific uncertainty regarding what effects GM crops could have on the environment and the health of consumers, especially in the long term. If this is a well-designed, transparent and accountable study, then hopefully it can help to fill some of the major gaps in our knowledge of the impacts of GM glyphosate resistant maize and glyphosate on health.”

Peter Melchett, policy director with the Soil Association, said: “I welcome this. It has been a scientific fraud that no scientific study like this has been done in the past.”

Monsanto was contacted for a response but did not reply. In the past it has claimed that trillions of meals have been eaten by consumers without ill effects.

The announcement of the experiment came as British anti-GM campaignersdelivered a letter to Downing street signed by US environment groups representing over 50m people, as well as celebrities including Susan Sarandon, Daryl Hannah and Robert Kennedy. The letter warns Britain that the intensive growing of GM crops has caused major environmental problems in the US. 

“GM crops have never delivered on their promises to increase yields and profits or to decrease pesticide use. In fact, they have done the opposite with the cost of growing GM crops now greater than conventional crops in the US and pesticide use 24% higher amongst GM farmers than non-GM farmers planting the same crops”, says the letter which was delivered by former Labour environment minister Michael Meacher and Tory MP Zac Goldsmith.

Separately on TuesdayMEPs voted to allow national bans on GM food crops for environmental reasons.

Monday, November 10, 2014


USDA Approves Genetically Engineered Potato

TIME - ‎21 hours ago‎
The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday approved a genetically engineered potato that is resistant to bruising and cuts down on a possible cancer-causing substance, though some food-safety experts aren't so excited about the super spud.

US hopes for GMO crop cultivation in China still alive, barely

Reuters - ‎4 hours ago‎
Nov 10 (Reuters) - DuPont Pioneer, one of the world's largest seed companies, is refusing to give up on efforts to cultivate genetically modified crops in Chinese fields in the face of regulatory hurdles, even as rivals pull back. The Iowa-based ...

Genetically Engineered Food: The Criminality of the GMO Biotech Industry ...

Center for Research on Globalization - ‎Nov 9, 2014‎
The GM Contamination Register database has been run by Genewatch and Greenpeace for about ten years and contains cases dating from 1997 to the end of 2013 [1].


GMO opponents alarmed over new state law (w/video)

Santa Rosa Press Democrat - ‎Nov 9, 2014‎
That includes state Sen. Noreen Evans, D-Santa Rosa, who has long sought to label products in California that contain GMOs.

U.S. OKs Genetically Modified Potato with Lower Cancer Risk

Scientific American - ‎10 hours ago‎
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday approved the first genetically modified potato for commercial planting in the United States, a move likely to draw the ire of groups opposed to artificial manipulation of foods.

USDA approves genetically engineered potato designed by Idaho's J.R. Simplot ...

Fox Business - ‎Nov 7, 2014‎
BOISE, Idaho - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved commercial planting of a potato that is genetically modified to resist bruising and to produce less of a chemical that has caused cancer in animals. Boise, Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co.

Market speaks louder than science: GMO-free animals a good business model

Sacramento Bee - ‎Nov 8, 2014‎
Megan Brown sells beef from grass-fed cows, but the Butte County rancher's choice is motivated more by the higher price she can get for organic beef than worries about the health consequences of eating meat from cows that ate genetically modified grain.

Vermont food producers prepare for GMO labeling - ‎22 hours ago‎
Vermont is the first state in the nation to make GMO labeling mandatory for food manufacturers and retailers. The state is now seeking comments on a set of proposed rules that are to be finalized by July 2015.

Despite narrow Oregon loss, GMO label backers not giving up the fight

Grand Island Independent - ‎Nov 8, 2014‎
In the end, not even Oregon's backyard chicken owners and vegan foodies had enough money and clout to persuade voters to pass a ballot measure that would have required labeling of genetically modified foods. Oregon is the fourth state in the West that ...

Sunday, November 9, 2014


Published on

How Much Pesticide Residue on Your Produce? FDA Doesn't Know

New GAO report reveals FDA doing scant testing for pesticides        by Andrea Germanos, staff writer
The Center for Biological Diversity says FDA has "dropped the ball when it comes to pesticides." (Photo:  Dean Hochman/flickr/cc)
The Food and Drug Administration is carrying out little testing for pesticide residues on fruit and vegetables, a new report by a federal watchdog reveals.

The Government Accountability Office (GAO) report (pdf) found that in 2012, the FDA tested less than one-tenth of 1 percent of imported shipments.
FDA does not test for some commonly used pesticides—like glyphosate—for which the EPA has established tolerance levels, nor does FDA disclose in its annual reports that it doesn't do this testing, the GAO analysis states.

In addition, GAO charges, "FDA does not use statistically valid methods consistent with Office of Management and Budget standards to collect national information on the incidence and level of pesticide residues."

The Center for Biological Diversity, a nonprofit conservation organization, says the report shows that inadequate safeguards are in place and urged the FDA to take appropriate action.
"The FDA is supposed to be protecting the American people from dangers in their food and it’s clear they’ve dropped the ball when it comes to pesticides," Lori Ann Burd, endangered species campaign director for the organization, said in a statement.

"As scientists continue to uncover information regarding the harmful effects of pesticides on human health and the environment, the American public deserves to be able to rely on FDA to provide the basic monitoring required to protect the health of people, wildlife and our waterways," Burd added.