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ISIS Report 24/05/13, updated 25/07/13

Ban GMOs Now

Health & Environmental Hazards Especially in the Light of the New Genetics

Special ISIS Report now published Order your copy now

Executive Summary | Contents

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Ban GMOs Now

GM agriculture is failing on all counts while hazards to health and the environment are coming to light. Opposition to GMOs is gaining momentum worldwide but the expansionist GM corporate agenda continues undiminished. 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. Take action now to ban environmental releases of GMOs, locally in communities, villages, towns, municipalities, regions, as well as nationally and globally. We the people need to reclaim our food and seed sovereignty from the corporate empire before they destroy our food and farming irreversibly.

The GM battle intensifies

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” [1].

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 [3]. 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 [4], 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 [5]. The shipments were eventually cancelled, which could cost US farmers billions [6].

In fact 8 European Union countries have imposed outright bans on crops approved: Austria, France, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Greece, Bulgaria and Poland [7]. 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 [8] “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 [9]. Italy is the latest to ban cultivation of GM maize (MON 810) citing environmental concerns [10]. 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 [11]; 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 [12] (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 [13] (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 [14]. 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 [15].

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 [16].

In the same month, Kenya banned import of all GMOs with immediate effect [13]. 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 [18]

On 22 July 2013, the Indian Supreme Court’s expert panel of scientists called for a ban on herbicide tolerant crops for India [19].

A critical juncture

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 [20]. 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 [21]. 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 ([22] 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 [23].

Ban GMOs Now

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 [24] (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 ([25] 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 [26], 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.

References

  1. ISAAA. Pocket K No. 16: Global status of commercialized biotech/GM crops in 2012. Internatioanl Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application, accessed 14 May 2013, http://www.isaaa.org/resources/publications/pocketk/16/
  2. “The inconvenient truth about GM”, Geoffrey Lean, Telegraph, 18 May 2013, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/agriculture/geneticmodification/10064255/The-inconvenient-truth-about-GM.html
  3. “Monsanto gives up fight for GM plants in Europe” Deutsche Wele, 31 May 2013, http://www.dw.de/monsanto-gives-up-fight-for-gm-plants-in-europe/a-16851701
  4. “Monsanto to withdraw EU approval requests for new GMO crops”, Charlie Dunmore,  Reuters, 17 July 2013, http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/17/us-eu-monsanto-gmos-idUSBRE96G16R20130717
  5. “Monsanto shares fall as South Korea joins pause in wheat imports”, Steven Mufson, Wasington Post, 1 June 2013, http://www.washingtonpost.com/business/economy/monsanto-shares-fall-as-south-korea-joins-pause-in-wheat-imports/2013/05/31/5df79a3a-ca2c-11e2-8da7-d274bc611a47_story.html
  6. “US Department of Agriculture probes Oregon Monsanto GM wheat mystery”, Suzanne Goldenberg, Guardian, 22 June 2013, http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2013/jun/22/agriculture-oregon-monsanto-gm-wheat
  7. “Eight European countries ban genetically modified crops, Poland the latest”, 8 January 2013, http://www.examiner.com/article/eight-european-countries-ban-genetically-modified-crops-poland-the-latest
  8. “Genetically modified crops and their significance for sustainable agriculture in Switzerland”, EuropaBio, 22 March 2013, http://www.europabio.org/news/genetically-modified-crops-and-their-significance-sustainable-agriculture-switzerland
  9. “This is the end of GM crops in Denmark”, Niels C. Jensen, DR dk, 29 May 2013, http://www.dr.dk/Nyheder/Indland/2013/05/28/184747.htm (automatically translated by Google).
  10. “Italy moves to ban growing of genetically modified maize type”, Reuters, 12 July 2013, http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/07/12/us-italy-gmo-idUKBRE96B0OS20130712
  11. List of GMO-Free Regions, accessed 14 May 2013, http://www.gmo-free-regions.org/fileadmin/files/gmo-free-regions/full_list/List_GMO-free_regions_Europe_update_September_2010.pdf
  12. Ho MW. GM crops facing meltdown in the USA. Science in Society 46, 24-27, 2010.
  13. Sirinathsinghji E. US staple crop system failing from GM and monoculture. Science in Society 59 (to appear).
  14. “New GMO labelling bill will be the ultimate test between the will of the people versus the greed and power of the biotech industry”, Michelle Goldstein, Natural News, 29 April 2013, http://www.naturalnews.com/040118_Monsanto_GMO_labeling_Federal_Bill.html
  15. “Green Party calls Monsanto a top risk to health and the environment, urges a moratorium on genetically modified food crops”, Press Release, Green Party, 16 May 2013, http://www.gp.org/press/pr-national.php?ID=618
  16. “Peru bans Monsanto and GMOs”, Kristen M, Food Renegad, 3 December 2012, http://www.foodrenegade.com/
  17. “Kenya bans the import of all GMOs with immediate effect”, Food Exposed, 21 November 2012, http://www.foodexposed.co.za/kenya-bans-the-import-of-all-gmos-with-immediate-effect/
  18. “Venezuela goes for law against transgenic seeds”, Prensa Latina, 1 June 2013, http://www.plenglish.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=1470181&Itemid=1
  19. “Indefinite moratorium on GM field trials recommended”, Latha Jishnu, Down to Earth, 22 July 2013, http://www.downtoearth.org.in/content/indefinite-ban-gm-field-trials-recommended
  20. “Mexico – Ground zero in the fight for the future of maize”, Emilio Goday, Inter Press Service, Global issues, 8 May 2013, http://www.globalissues.org/news/2013/05/08/16502
  21. “The GMO seed cartel”, Ken Roseboro, The Organic & Non-GMO Report, 1 February 2013, http://www.non-gmoreport.com/articles/february2013/the-gmo-seed-cartel.php
  22. Ho MW. Farmer suicides & Bt cotton nightmare unfolding in India. Science in Society 45, 32-39, 2010.
  23. Ho MW and Lim LC. The Case for a GM-Free Sustainable World, Independent Science Panel Report, Institute of Science in Society and Third World Network, London and Penang, 2003; republished GM-Free, Exposing the Hazards of Biotechnology to Ensure the Integrity of Our Food Supply, Vitalhealth Publishing, Ridgefield, Ct., 2004 (both available from ISIS online bookstore  http://www.i-sis.org.uk/onlinestore/books.php#1)
  24.  Mcintyre BD, Herren HR, Wakhungu J and Watson RT eds. Agriculture at a Crossroads, International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, Synthesis Report, Island Press, Washington D.C., 2009. http://www.unep.org/dewa/agassessment/reports/IAASTD/EN/Agriculture%20at%20a%20Crossroads_Synthesis%20Report%20(English).pdf
  25. Ho MW, Burcher S, Lim LC, Cummins J. et al. Food Futures Now, Organic, Sustainable, Fossil Fuel Free, ISIS/TWN, London/Penang, 2008. http://www.i-sis.org.uk/foodFutures.php
  26. Agriculture at a Crossroads, International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development, Synthesis Report, 2009, Island Press, Washington DC,  http://www.unep.org/dewa/agassessment/reports/IAASTD/EN/Agriculture%20at%20a%20Crossroads_Synthesis%20Report%20(English).pdf

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There are 9 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
Ken Conrad Comment left 24th May 2013 17:05:46
I agree With Jon. Ken
Dr. I.S. Perlingieri Comment left 25th May 2013 18:06:10
25 May 2013. Today is the day that the US and 36 other countries are participating in a global STOP MONSANTO day. The evidence is already overwhelming of the toxicity of GM crops. If the governments want to do business with criminals, then it is up to citizens from all over the world NOT to buy any products from corporations that continue to cause such massive harm to us and the entire web of life. We do have the Power of the PUR$E! The buck or eruo does stop at the cash register. We can choose not to buy and, therefore, NOT support financially any company that makes products designed to harm! Just think: if Monsanto did not have any sales for 2-3 weeks, how that would impact their balance sheet!
Jon Tattersall Comment left 24th May 2013 14:02:19
These are not the deeds of corporations. They are the doings of men . They should be named.
william pina Comment left 31st May 2013 06:06:17
Hi there!!...Thank you for posting such important article about the big monsters,Monsanto Dupont ect,I swear am just waiting for the they to see those stupid things Gmo's (ALL),stoped for good of the entire humanity,'cause those corporations does not care about anything but (Get rich)no matter who's beeing affected by their acts. That in the concerning is the all world,because(they)are trying to plant their poison everywhere,but just in those countries that don't offers resistance to those plans. ¡¡Fight,fight,fight and never stop fighing, until we make them stop. Thanks again....
Rory Short Comment left 17th June 2013 19:07:10
The problem that we are facing is much deeper and wider than that posed by GMO's alone. GMO's are the natural outcome of us seeing ourselves as being APART from Nature not, as us recognising, that we are a PART of Nature and thus seeking in our behaviour to be in harmony with Nature at all times.
Theresa Comment left 19th June 2013 13:01:56
Following on from Jon and Rory's comments, I think we need to keep an eye on the Rt. Hon.David Willetts, Minister for Universities and Science - see more at: http://www.georgefreeman.co.uk/blog/content/government-announces-%C2%A3250m-new-funding-uk-bio-economy Note the mention of the OECD here: https://www.gov.uk/government/speeches/david-willetts-minister-for-universities-and-science-hepi-conference-speech and here: http://www.innovation.gov.au/Industry/Biotechnology/IndustrialBiotechnology/Pages/BioeconomyandIndustrialBiotechnology.aspx More information on the KBBE "concept?" here: http://www.msi.govt.nz/get-funded/research-organisations/types-of-funding/funding-for-international-relationships/knowledge-based-bio-economy-kbbe-forum/ I am seeing my MP on Friday. http://www.writetothem.com/ How best to address the issues???? One idea might be to immediately* push for stronger regulations (and promote discussion of the alternatives, see ETC Group's work on synbio for example and Corporate Watch are doing some good work) if moratoriums cannot be negotiated. *Imperial College are shortly to have an International Synbio conference http://sb6.biobricks.org/. See speakers. So who might be investing* in unsafe and unethical technologies? Which projects are safe and which are not? Are risks worth taking while there are alternatives? * Info, 2 years old http://greeneconomypost.com/synthetic-biology-biofuel-biochemical-company-17244.htm Note: Soros, Dupont, BP (NASA ??).
Dr. I.S. Perlingieri Comment left 21st June 2013 12:12:06
21 June 2013 I am calling for a 4-day Nationwide General Strike in the US over the 4th of July holiday. As part of our collective global grievances, I have included Dr. Mae-Wan Ho's "Ban GMOs Now". Please help spread the word. The link can be found at: http://aircrap.org/americas-invisible-crises-connecting-dots-part-3/337530 My Part 2 (also referenced above) has more on Dr. Ho's GMO Ban. Thank you.
lorina Comment left 13th October 2013 07:07:26
YES BAN NOW OF GMO'S
joan Russow Comment left 21st October 2013 23:11:14
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.

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