By Dr Mae-Wan Ho and Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji
The industry-funded International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) claims that the global area of genetically modified (GM) crops reached 170.3 m hectares (420 m acres) in 2012; a 100-fold increase since commercialization began in 1996; and “the fastest adopted crop technology in the history of modern agriculture” .
However, GM crops are still confined to 28 countries, with nearly 90 % planted in just five. USA’s 69.5 m ha tops the list at 40.8 % of the total area; Brazil and Argentina with 36.6 and 23.9 m ha account for 21.5 % and 14.0 % respectively; and Canada and India with 11.6 and 10.8 m ha account for 6.8 % and 6.3 % respectively. Herbicide (glyphosate) tolerant crops comprise nearly 60 %, Bt crops 15% and stacked traits 25 %. The major crops are just three: herbicide tolerant soybean (47 %) maize (Bt 4%, stacked traits 23 %) and cotton (Bt 11 %, stacked traits 2%).
GM remains limited to two traits in three major crops that are largely kept out of most of the world.
One main reason is its inability to deliver really useful traits. As Geoffrey Lean of the Telegraph remarked in reviewing a new book by Prof Sir Gordon Conway, formerly President of the Rockefeller Foundation and Chief Scientific Adviser to the Department for International Development, and a known GM supporter [2}: “But what emerges from his book, One Billion Hungry….is how little – so far, at least – GM technology is contributing to beating hunger.” In contrast, conventional breeding assisted by genetic markers has been turning out miracles in the meantime, as described in Conway’s book. Scientists at Britain’s National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) have just created new wheat hybrids that could increase yields by 30 %. But it is in Africa that major successes have been tumbling out. Nerica rice varieties up to four times as productive as traditional varieties with much shorter growing season, more protein, resist pests and diseases, thrive on poor soils, and withstand drought; also 30 varieties of drought-tolerant maize are boosting yield 20 to 30 % across 13 countries, climbing beans treble production in Central Africa, wheat varieties thriving on salty soils, plus a host of other wonders: blight-resistant potatoes, crops enriched with vitamin A, iron and other essential nutrients.
The other reason is that resistance to GM crops and GMOs (genetically modified organisms including transgenic trees, fish and livestock) has been growing simultaneously worldwide as the failures and hazards are coming to light behind the corporate propaganda.
GM crops are hardly grown in Europe even though the European Commission has given commercial approval for cultivation, showing every sign of caving in to the GM lobby. But at the end of May 2013, Monsanto, the largest producer of GM seeds, announced it is pulling out from Europe. Monsanto’s Europe representative Brandon Mitchener told the press the company would no longer engage in any lobbying in Europe and would not apply for approval of any GM plants . German Agriculture Ministry issued a revealing statement: “The promises of GM industry have not come true for European agriculture, nor have they for the agriculture in developing and emerging economies.” Monsanto is the last company to depart Germany, if not Europe, following Bayer CropScience, BASF and Syngenta. On 17 July 2013, Monsanto announced it will withdraw all EU approval requests for new GMO crops , to concentrate on growing its conventional seeds business in Europe, and to secure EU approvals to import its GM crop varieties widely grown in the US and South America. So, the company has not given up on pushing GMOs on Europe after all. It was setting up a smokescreen to put us off our guard.
Monsanto has been in the news simultaneously for its unapproved glyphosate tolerant GM wheat that has turned up in a farmer’s field in Oregon; and Japan and then South Korea suspended their wheat imports for fear of GM contamination, leading to a 4% drop in Monsanto’s shares . The shipments were eventually cancelled, which could cost US farmers billions .
In fact 8 European Union countries have imposed outright bans on crops approved: Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria and Poland . Switzerland has had a moratorium on GM crops since 2008, which was set to end in 2013. But in March 2013, the Swiss Parliament voted to prolong the moratorium ignoring the findings of their National Research Programme 59, which  “re-confirmed the safety of the commercial use of GM crops and recommended an end to the moratorium.” Denmark gave up on GM crops after having allowed Monsanto to carry out field trials of GM maize since 2009 . Italy is the latest to ban cultivation of GM maize (MON 810) citing environmental concerns . In addition, regions and local administrations at every level in 37 European countries have declared themselves GMO-free. As of 2010, this comprises 169 main regions (prefectures, etc.); 123 intermediate regions (provinces, districts, etc.), 4 713 local governments (municipalities and communities up to areas of 1 m ha), and 31 357 individuals ; and the movement is growing rapidly.
Within the heartland of GMOs the USA, the failures of GM crops and the problems created are most visible and most acute  (GM Crops Facing Meltdown in the USA, SiS 46). A new study reveals that the US staple crop system has performed worse than non-GM Europe in yields, pesticide use, genetic diversity and resilience since GM crops were planted  (US Staple Crop System Failing from GM and Monoculture, SiS 59); with a dangerous downward trend in recent years. Meanwhile, a pitched battle is taking place to get GM crops out through GMO-labelling legislation that would unleash the power of consumers against the might of the biotech industry . Close to 95 % of Americans support GM labelling. In October 2011, the Center for Food Safety filed a legal petition with the FDA to require labelling of all GM food. In 2012, 55 members of Congress wrote a letter to the FDA commissioner in support of the petition. The FDA has received over one million public comments supporting the petition, the largest response ever received by the agency. Meanwhile, 37 GM food labelling bills have been introduced in 21 states in 2013. In the latest move in Washington, Senator Barbara Boxer and Congressman Peter DeFazio have jointly sponsored new federal legislation that requires labelling of all GM food in the US. The Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act is the first national labelling bill to be introduced in Congress since 2010. The US Green Party has called Monsanto “a top risk to public health and the environment,” and has urged a moratorium on GM food crops .
In November 2012, Peru imposed a 10 year ban on GMOs in the country, thanks to the effort of farmers from Parque de la Papa in Cusco, a community of 6 000 anxious to protect indigenous biodiversity especially of corn and potatoes on which their livelihood depends .
In the same month, Kenya banned import of all GMOs with immediate effect . This followed a decision made by the cabinet on the basis of “inadequate research done on GMOs and scientific evidence provided to prove the safety of the foods”.
On 1 June 2013, the new administration in Venezuela announced a new law to protect farmers against GM seeds 
On 22 July 2013, the Indian Supreme Court’s expert panel of scientists called for a ban on herbicide tolerant crops for India .
The rising opposition to GMOs has done little to diminish the aggressive expansionist agenda of the GM corporate empire. Mexico is a major target. US biotech firms Monsanto, DuPont and Dow have applied for permits to grow more than two million hectares of GM maize in northern Mexico . Mexico is the birthplace of maize and a centre of biodiversity. Since 2009, the Mexican government has granted 177 permits for experimental plots of GM maize covering 2 664 hectares. Large-scale commercial release of GM maize has not yet been authorised; but GM contamination of native maize has already been discovered, as the result of what some regard as “a carefully and perversely planned strategy”.
The other major strategy of the GM corporate empire is seed monopoly and escalating seed costs. Conventional non-GM seeds are pushed out at the expense of GM seeds, thereby reducing farmers’ choices . The big four biotech seed companies – Monsanto DuPont/ Pioneer Hi-Bred, Syngenta, and Dow AgroSciences – now own 80 % of the US corn market and 70 % of soybean business. The costs of seeds have increased two to three fold since 1995. This is destroying the lives of farmers around the world; the most visible in India, where the introduction of GM cotton has coincided with an escalation of farm suicides ( Farmer Suicides and Bt Cotton Nightmare Unfolding in India, SiS 45). At the same time, farmers who want to return to conventional non-GM seed after experiencing increased pest resistance and crop failures find themselves unable to do so, on account of the limited availability of non-GM seeds .
This is a dangerous situation for the future of food and farming, one that needs to be reversed as quickly as possible, particularly as GM agriculture is failing on all counts. That can only be achieved by a ban on GMOs, an action already taken by countries and local communities around the world. We need to join forces with them, to put an end to the GM corporate empire.
Ten years ago, 24 scientists from around the world formed an Independent Science Panel and produced a report  (The Case for A GM-Free Sustainable World, ISIS/TWN publication) summarizing compelling evidence on the hazards of GM crops and the benefits of organic agro-ecological farming, and called for a global ban on environmental releases of GMOs, and a shift to non-GM sustainable agriculture. This report was widely circulated, translated into several languages, and republished in the US a year later. It remains the most succinct and complete account on the subject; but crucial new evidence has come to light within the past decade that strengthens the case considerably.
First of all, decisive evidence has emerged on the unsustainability and destructiveness of conventional industrial agriculture, of which GM is the most extreme; in stark contrast to the proven successes of non-GM ecological farming: its productivity and resilience, environmental and health benefits, and in particular, its enormous potential for saving energy and carbon emissions in mitigating and adapting to climate change. We presented all that in a comprehensive and definitive report published in 2008 ( Food Futures Now *Organic *Sustainable *Fossil Fuel Free , ISIS/TWN publication). Our report is completely in line with the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) report , which resulted from a three-year consultative process involving 900 participants and 110 countries around the world; a sure sign of the scientific consensus that has emerged around non-GM ecological farming as the way forward in food and farming.
To complete the case, we need to bring together all the damning evidence against GMOs on health and the environment, especially in the light of new discoveries in molecular genetics within the past ten years. That is the main reason for the present report.
GM agriculture is a recipe for disaster, as this report will make clear. It is also standing in the way of the shift to sustainable agriculture already taking place in local communities all over the world that can truly enable people to feed themselves in times of climate change. Future generations will not forgive us if we do not stop the GM takeover now.
Please use this report, circulate it widely, and send it to your political representatives.
Since the first commercial growing began in 1996, the global area of genetically modified (GM) crops is reported to have increased 100-fold. However, nearly 90 % are confined to 5 countries, with top grower the US accounting for more than 40 %. GM crops have been largely excluded from Europe and most developing countries because opposition has been growing simultaneously as widespread agronomical failures of the GM crops as well the health and environmental impacts are coming to light.
GM remains limited to three major crops – soybean, maize and cotton – and two traits: herbicide (mainly glyphosate) tolerance (HT) at nearly 60 % and insect resistance with toxins from the soil bacterium Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) at 15 %, with the remaining stacked traits (HT and one or more Bt) at 25%.
The failures and hazards of glyphosate and glyphosate tolerant crops and Bt crops are reviewed respectively in Chapter 1 and Chapter 2. Chapter 3 reviews the range of hazards resulting from the uncontrollable, unpredictable process of genetic modification itself in the light of advances in molecular genetics within the past decade, which tells us why the technology cannot be safety applied to grow our crops or produce our food.
Glyphosate use has gone up sharply worldwide since the introduction of glyphosate-tolerant GM crops. Herbicide use per acre has doubled in the US within the past five years compared with the first five years of commercial GM crops cultivation, the increase almost entirely due to glyphosate herbicides. Glyphosate has contaminated land, water, air, and our food supply. Damning evidence of its serious harm to health and the environment has been piling up, but the maximum permitted levels are set to rise by 100-150 times in the European Union with further hikes of already unacceptably high levels in the US if Monsanto gets its way.
Bt crops were sold on the premise that they would increase yields and reduce pesticide use; instead they have resulted in too many crop failures, and the introduction of Bt cotton is now acknowledged to be responsible for the escalation in farm suicides in India.
The rationale and impetus for genetic engineering and genetic modification was the ‘central dogma’ of molecular biology that assumed DNA carries all the instructions for making an organism. This is contrary to the reality of the fluid and responsive genome that already has come to light since the early 1980s. Instead of linear causal chains leading from DNA to RNA to protein and downstream biological functions, complex feed-forward and feed-back cycles interconnect organism and environment at all levels, marking and changing RNA and DNA down the generations. In order to survive, the organism needs to engage in natural genetic modification in real time, an exquisitely precise molecular dance of life with RNA and DNA responding to and participating fully in ‘downstream’ biological functions. That is why organisms and ecosystems are particularly vulnerable to the crude, artificial genetically modified RNA and DNA created by human genetic engineers. It is also why genetic modification can probably never be safe.
1. Genetic modification done by human genetic engineers is anything but precise; it is uncontrollable and unpredictable, introducing many collateral damage to the host genome as well as new transcripts, proteins and metabolites that could be harmful.
2. GM feed with very different transgenes have been shown to be harmful to a wide range of species, by farmers in the field and independent scientists working in the lab, indicating that genetic modification itself is unsafe.
3. Genetic modification done by human genetic engineers is different from natural genetic modification done by organisms themselves for the following reasons: it relies on making unnatural GM constructs designed to cross species barriers and jump into genomes; it combines and transfers genes between species that would never have exchanged genes in nature; GM constructs tend to be unstable and hence more prone to further horizontal gene transfer after it has integrated into the genome.
4. Horizontal gene transfer and recombination is a major route for creating new viruses and bacteria that cause diseases and spreading drug and antibiotic resistance. Transgenic DNA is especially dangerous because the GM constructs are already combinations of sequences from diverse bacteria and viruses that cause diseases, and contain antibiotic resistance marker genes.
5. There is experimental evidence that transgenes are much more likely to spread and to transfer horizontally.
6. The instability of the GM construct is reflected in the instability of transgenic varieties due to both transgene silencing and the loss of transgenes, for which abundant evidence exists. Transgenic instability makes a mockery of ‘event-specific’ characterization and risk assessment, because any change in transgene expression, or worse, rearrangement or movement of the transgenic DNA insert(s) would create another transgenic plant different from the one that was characterized and risk assessed. And it matters little how thoroughly the original characterization and risk assessment may have been done. Unstable transgenic lines are illegal, they should not be growing commercially, and they are not eligible for patent protection.
7. There is abundant evidence for horizontal transfer of transgenic DNA from plant to bacteria in the lab and it is well known that transgenic DNA can persist in debris and residue in the soil long after the crops have been cultivated. At least 87 species (2 % of all known species) of bacteria can take up foreign DNA and integrate it into their genome; the frequency of that happening being greatly increased when a short homologous anchor sequence is present.
8. The frequency at which transgenic DNA transfers horizontal has been routinely underestimated because the overwhelming majority of natural bacteria cannot be cultured. Using direct detection methods without the need to culture, substantial gene transfers were observed on the surface of intact leaves as well as on rotting damaged leaves.
9. In the only monitoring experiment carried out with appropriate molecular probes so far, China has detected the spread of a GM antibiotic resistance gene to bacteria in all of its major rivers; suggesting that horizontal gene transfer has contributed to the recent rise in antibiotic resistance in animals and humans in the country.
10. GM DNA has been found to survive digestion in the gut of mice, the rumen of sheep and duodenum of cattle and to enter the blood stream.
11. In the only feeding trial carried out on humans, the complete 2 266 bp of the epsps transgene in Roundup Ready soybean flour was recovered from the colostomy bag in 6 out of 7 ileostomy subjects. In 3 out of 7 subjects, bacteria cultured from the contents of the colostomy bag were positive for the GM soya transgene, showing that horizontal transfer of the transgene had occurred; but no bacteria were positive for any natural soybean genes.
12. The gastrointestinal tract of mammals is a hotspot for horizontal gene transfer between bacteria, transfer beginning in the mouth.
13. Evidence is emerging that genomes of higher plants and animals may be even softer targets for horizontal gene transfer than genomes of bacteria.
14. The CaMV 35S promoter, most widely used in commercial GM crops, is known to have a fragmentation hotspot, which makes it prone to horizontal gene transfer; in addition. it is promiscuously active in bacteria, fungi, as well as human cells. Recent evidence also suggests that the promoter may enhance multiplication of disease-associated viruses including HIV and cytomegalovirus through the induction of proteins required for transcription of the viruses. It also overlaps with a viral gene that interferes with gene silencing, an essential function in plants and animals that protects them against viruses.
15. The Agrobacterium vector, most widely used for creating GM plants is now known to transfer genes also to fungi and human cells, and to share genetic signals for gene transfer with common bacteria in the environment. In addition, the Agrobacterium bacteria as well as it gene transfer vector tend to remain in the GM crops created, thereby constituting a ready route for horizontal gene transfer to all organisms interacting with the GM crops, or come into contact with the soil on which GM crops are growing or have been grown.
16. In 2008, Agrobacterium was linked to the outbreak of Morgellons disease. The Centers for Disease Control in the US launched an investigation, which concluded in 2012, with the finding: “no common underlying medical condition or infection source was identified”. But they had failed to investigate the involvement of Agrobacterium.
17. New GM crops that produce double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) for specific gene-silencing are hazardous because many off-target effects in the RNA interference process are now known, and cannot be controlled. Furthermore, small dsRNA in food plants were found to survive digestion in the human gut and to enter the bloodstream where they are transported to different tissues and cells to silence genes.
18. Evidence accumulated over the past 50 years have revealed nucleic acids (both DNA and RNA) circulating in the bloodstream of humans and other animals that are actively secreted by cells for intercommunication. The nucleic acids are taken up by target cells to silence genes in the case of double-stranded microRNA (miRNA), and may be integrated into the cells’ genome, in the case of DNA. The profile of the circulating nucleic acids change according to states of health and disease. Cancer cells use the system to spread cancer around the body. This nucleic acid intercom leaves the body very vulnerable to genetically modified nucleic acids that can take over the system to do considerable harm.
The serious harm to health and the ecological and agronomical impacts of glyphosate and glyphosate tolerant crops are the most thoroughly researched, and for which there is little remaining doubt. The same kind of evidence has now emerged for Bt crops and Bt toxins. Evidence that genetic modification per se is harmful is also convincing, and can be attributed to the uncontrollable process of genetic modification itself as well as the dangers from the horizontal transfer of the GM constructs, which can spread antibiotic resistance, create new pathogens and trigger ‘insertion carcinogenesis’, as well as taking over the body’s natural nucleic acid intercom to do harm.
There is a compelling case for banning all environmental releases of GMOs now, and with that the glyphosate herbicides. Action can be taken locally in communities, villages, towns, municipalities, regions, as well as nationally and globally. It must be done now; for time is running out. We need to shift comprehensively to non-GM sustainable ecological farming in order to feed ourselves under climate change. We the people need to reclaim our food and seed sovereignty from the corporate empire before they destroy our food and farming irreversibly.
1 Double Jeopardy of Glyphosate & Glyphosate Tolerant Crops
2 Regulators and industry both culpable
3 How glyphosate works
4 Health impacts
4.1 Teratogenicity and reproductive effects
4.2 Endocrine disruption
4.5 Cytotoxicity of glyphosate & adjuvant
4.7 Internal organ toxicity
4.8 Acute toxicity
4.9 Glyphosate & modern diseases
5 Environmental and agronomic effects
5.1 Glyphosate resistant weeds
5.2 Effects on crop and plant health
5.3 Effects on soil ecology
5.4 Effects on ecosystems
5.5 Diseases of livestock
6 To conclude
2 Bt Crops Failing & Harmful to Health and Environment
1. Crop failures, farm suicides, & false accounting
2. Risks to human health
3. Breakdown of pest control
3.1 Bt toxin levels insufficient to kill pests
3.2 Secondary pest and disease infestations
3.3 Bt resistance in target pests
4. Environmental and ecological damage
5. To conclude
3 New Genetics & Hazards of GMOs
1. What’s a GMO?
2. The fluid genome and natural genetic engineering
3. GM inherently hazardous
4. What are the hazards of GMOs
5. Transgene instability & the illegality of GMOs
6. Horizontal gene transfer from GMOs does happen
7. Hazards of the CaMV 35S promoter
8. Hazards of Agrobacterium vector
8.1 Agrobacterium & Morgellons disease
9. RNA interference and double stranded RNA
10. The nucleic acid intercom
11. To conclude
Article first published 24/05/13
Got something to say about this page? Comment
There are 14 comments on this article so far. Add your comment above.
Todd millions Comment left 27th May 2013 05:05:44
Quite a summary,well done. In the actual process of coming off this nightmare,restoration of seed sources variety and development will have to occur.Bioweenies jumped from the petrochem and posion warfare mafias after all. so protecting breeders rights without sustaining these bankster backed industries,will cost. This may be as high as no breeder protections till the lawyers give up,due too lack of blood to feed on.Say 20-40 years.
Mazell Comment left 1st June 2013 18:06:02
That is about as clear as I have ever seen! Thank you!
Jeff Cox Comment left 5th June 2013 21:09:12
The fact that the DNA-->RNA-->Protein system is not just a copying machine, but is a living biosystem with loops and feedbacks is of the utmost importance, and a central reason why the mechanistic creation of GMO crops is based on economics, not science. It's a perverse use of science to amass wealth and power (see Monsanto and the U.S. government) despite the destructive consequences.
Frank Woolf Comment left 23rd October 2013 21:09:57
A brilliant article. It contains all the important details while remaining easy to understand. I will be spreading this around as much as I can.
joan Russow Comment left 21st October 2013 22:10:32
I remember in 1999 in Delhi, Vandana Shiva held the Biodevastation II Conference, which Dr Mae Wong Ho and I attended. At that Conference there was a debate about tactics- to call for labeling or banning. In the end all the participants, except the International Consumer's Association whose campaign was labeling, signed the following Petition: Biodevastastion II Global Ban Declaration (i) A global ban on genetically engineered foods and crops; (ii) A global ban on the patenting of life forms; (iii) An end to the exploitation of the knowledge of farmers, peasants and indigenous peoples; (iv) A global support program for promoting organic agriculture and other forms of ecological farming, and for instituting a fair and just transition program for affected farmers and communities. Labelling addresses the right to know issue but not the equity issue - not everyone can afford GE-free or organic food and crops, and not the environmental issue- genetic drift and contamination. Monsanto and the other GE food and crops industries should have their charters or licences revoked and be charged with gross or criminal negligence for jeopardizing global food security and food sovereignty. Nnimmo Bassey from Nigeria and I have been circulating a petition calling for a global ban on genetically engineered food and crops. I hope you will sign it and share it http://www.change.org/en-CA/petitions/the-un-general-assembly-institute-a-global-ban-on-genetically-engineered-food-and-crops
Ravi Kant Dwivedi Comment left 15th November 2013 09:09:02
we must unite against all these who's only motive is to make profit. Still if we are not alerted and take actions then the doom is not far... at least we should act for food security of our children!!!
ant Comment left 8th March 2014 06:06:36
the motive may be profit but actions of forcing countries to take GMO's and if they happen to be poor and black even more so, may make one believe that population control in in the mix of controlled events.
fran anderson Comment left 24th May 2014 14:02:43
We will be demonstating against monsanto and GMO's across many countries. In London, we have discovered that the local Council, Hackney, is using Round UP spraying this toxic substance in public parks and gardens. Check that your council isnt doing the same thing and if they are, please take them to court and challenge this under various laws.
fran anderson Comment left 24th May 2014 14:02:48
I forgot to add: Im a free lance journalist and if anyone would like to be interviewed for independent media outlets on this topic, please get in touch: I can skype or meet you if in london. Email firstname.lastname@example.org
v.spinner Comment left 25th August 2014 14:02:10
sry, just saw theres a free download pdf now, super! and thanks!
v.spinner Comment left 25th August 2014 14:02:08
would be important, to make it freely available to link in forums etc. informations in this booklet are crucial, must be spread. if its free, its easyer spread. thanks to the scientists doing this work!
Sharon Mau Comment left 5th October 2014 20:08:57
Aloha . thank you so much for this valuable information resource as we work together to ban gmo and transgenic crops along with preventing harmful pesticides and chemicals from polluting our ecosystem on the island of Maui and throughout the Hawaiian Islands . .
Gary Wiles Comment left 4th December 2014 20:08:18
Thank you for this article and to all the scientists who support banning GMOs. I think a highlight of this article in terms the general public could understand would be very beneficial.
Mike Puffy Comment left 29th May 2015 20:08:39
Powerpoint Presentation “Say No to GMO” https://www.sendspace.com/file/idnjg4 Feel Free To Distribute without any restriction any where on this planet and beyond to save human race.