Global rejection sent Monsanto profits
plummeting, farmers abandoning GM crops in record numbers, reclassification of
glyphosate as probable carcinogen triggering fresh calls for bans and
restrictions; GMOs failing old and new, while organic and non-GMO markets
continue booming; the days of GMOs are numbered, let’s hasten the demise Dr Mae-Wan Ho
The year 2015 is auspicious. It started
with oil prices plunging to a five year low, sparking a downsizing wave in an
industry desperate to rid itself of stranded assets as burgeoning renewable energies
are making oil redundant and civil society grassroots movements are winning
major campaigns to divest mega-investments from fossil fuels and leave oil in
the ground (see  Age
of Oil Ending?SiS 65).
remarkable conjunction of events is boding ill for GMOs (genetically modified
organisms). There is superb synergy between the end of oil and the end of the
heavily oil-dependent GMO monoculture for a truly sustainable world under
climate change, which we made clear in a comprehensive report  Food Futures
Now -Organic -Sustainable -Fossil Fuel Free published in 2008. So let’s
read the signs, and do our best to hasten the end of GMOs.
Mass rejection of US GM corn exports and record losses
It began with China rejecting shipment
after shipment of US corn imports that tested positive for Syngenta’s Agrisure
Vipera GM corn released and deregulated in the US since 2011, but not approved
in China. Between November 2013 and April 2014, 1.45 million tonnes of US GM
corn were destroyed or turned back . Farmers and farming businesses in 20
States in the US have filed more than 360 lawsuits against Syngenta and
hundreds more are expected as a federal judge is organizing the complex case.
Claims may be up to $3 billion . Although China eventually approved Vipera
in December 2014, sales have not improved for US corn growers . One reason
is that China has been importing Ukrainian non-GMO corn under a loan-for-grain
deal . Ukraine shipped nearly 1 million tonnes to China in 2014, 470 047
tonnes were shipped in January 2015, and more expected to follow.
The other more significant
reason is that US farmers are abandoning GMO crops and returning to non-GMO or switching
to organic crops (see later).
GMO labelling fight reaches national
level in the US
The GMO labelling movement in the US has
been inching forward, despite the fact that 64 countries worldwide now label
food containing GMOs, including China, Japan, Russia, Australia and all the EU
countries. Three states, Vermont, Maine, and Rhode Island have passed GMO
labelling laws so far, but California, Colorado and Oregon have been defeated thanks to heavily-funded counter-campaigns by
Monsanto, DuPont and the Grocery Manufacturers Association . A total of 70
bills for labelling were proposed in 30 states within the past two years. Now,
the battle has shifted to the national level. Kansas Congressman Mike Pompeo
introduced the ‘DARK’ (denying Americans the right to know) Act, which would
pre-empt states from setting up their own GMO labelling systems and bar them
from defining “natural” foods as free from GMOs. Food safety advocates and
consumer groups are fighting back, supporting a national mandatory labelling
bill called the Genetically Engineered Food Right to Know Act, re-introduced in
February by a group of congressional Democrats.
Non-GMO and organic
produce continue steep growth trajectory
Meanwhile, the Non-GMO project continues its
growth trajectory. At the beginning of 2015, it includes more than 20 000
products in over 1 500 companies, accounting for $8.5 billion in sales .
The US organic
market, similarly, is poised to surpass 45 billion in 2015  owing to rising
per capita expenditure, increasing health consciousness, growing awareness of
the benefits of chemical free (and GMO-free) organic food and rise in organic
farming. Strong distribution channels of manufacturers tied up with retailers
have made organic produce such as fruits and vegetables, dairy products, and
packaged food in the market more accessible and visible.
US farmers turn non
GMO & organic in record numbers, GM traits fail, and Monsanto profits
Simultaneously, record numbers of US
farmers are switching back to non-GMO crops in 2015 . Mac Ehrhardt, president
of Minnesota-based Albert Lea Seed reports selling more conventional non-GMO
corn seed by the end of November 2014 than he did all of last year. Tim Daley,
an agronomist at Stonebridge, Ltd., an Iowa-based buyer of non-GMO soybeans
also sees a marked demand by farmers for non-GMO seed. He said “some companies
have seen a 50 % increase in sales of non-GMO seed, and some have said they’ve
sold more non-GMO seed this year than in the last five.”
draw of non-GMO is more
profit: no technology fees plus a premium, and yields more. GM traits have
failed against rising tides of herbicide resistant superweeds and Bt resistant
corn breeder who preferred to remain anonymous said:
“The insect and
herbicide traits are losing effectiveness with increased resistant rootworm and
weed species. Growers are tired of paying for input costs that are reduced in
efficacy and funding additional forms of crop protection.”
A substantial proportion of non-GMO seed sales go to organic growers. The mega company, General Mills, purchased
organic food company Annie’s Homegrown for nearly $1 billion. And other large
food corporations are looking to swallow up smaller organic food companies.
January 2015, Monsanto announced its earnings fell 34 % in the first fiscal
quarter as South American farmers reject GMO crops . US farmers harvested record crops of soybeans and corn last year,
sending prices to their lowest levels in years. Monsanto’s agricultural
products revenue fell more than 8 % to $2.87 billion in the period on lower
sales of corn seeds and herbicide.
There has been a growing backlash against GMOs in Latin
America since Peru approved a 10 year moratorium in November 2012 and Costa
Rica has changed its stance on growing GMOs . In 2012, Brazilian farmers
sued Monsanto for collecting royalties on crops, and won. In 2014, Brazilian
farmers again demand Monsanto refund their money for pest-resistant Bt corn
that failed to protect against the target pest corn leaf worm . The pest
killed the crops instead of dying, and an extra $54 per ha had to be spent for
pest control at a time when corn prices are very low. The Bt corn seeds are
produced by Dow Agrosciences, DuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta. The very same
problems had been occurring in the US and elsewhere with different Bt corn and
cotton crops. In April 2015, Monsanto again announced
lost profits into the second quarter of 15 %, even more than projected by most
experts . And Monsanto vice president Kerry J. Preete sold 27 580 shares of
Monsanto company stock , just over 40 % of his holdings.
is in store for the beleaguered biotech giant.
herbicide reclassified a probable human carcinogen
On 20 March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) of the World
Health Organization (WHO), the world authority on cancer, declared the
herbicide glyphosate ‘probably carcinogenic to humans’ [15, 16]. A Working
Group of 17 experts from 11 countries met at IARC headquarters in Lyon, France,
3-10 March 2015 after almost a year of review and preparation, including a
comprehensive review of the latest available scientific evidence. The experts
were selected on the basis of their expertise and most importantly, the
absence of real or apparent conflicts of interest. The Working Group
considered “reports that have been published or accepted for publication in the
openly available scientific literature” as well as “data from governmental
reports that are publicly available”.
the findings cited for their decision, the IARC pointedly referred to US
Environment Protection Agency (EPA) evidence of glyphosate’s carcinogenic
potential from animal studies analysed since the 1980s, which has been
suppressed by EPA (see  Glyphosate and Cancer, SiS 62), and involved changing
glyphosate’s original classification as ‘possibly carcinogenic’ to
‘non-carcinogenic’. In 2013, EPA gave approval to raise the allowable limits of
glyphosate contamination in farm-grown food and animal feed. The amount of
allowable glyphosate in oilseed crops (except for canola and soy) went up from
20 ppm to 40 ppm, 100 000 times the amount needed to induce breast cancer cells
(see  Glyphosate 'Probably Carcinogenic to Humans' Latest WHO Assessment, SiS 66).
What Monsanto failed to
reveal is that the EU’s re-assessment, entrusted to the German government, was
in reality carried out by the Glyphosate Task Force, a Monsanto-led consortium
of chemical companies to promote glyphosate in Europe. The re-assessment was
most narrowly based in industry studies and other that concurred with the
findings from industry (see  Scandal
of Glyphosate Re-assessment in Europe, SiS 63 and .
It is clear that we have the
world authority on cancer’s evidence-based assessment free from conflict of
interest pitched against the Monsanto-led corrupt approvals in US and Europe .
Reaction in USA, top GM producer in the
According to the new yearly report from
industry funded International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech
Applications (ISAAA) , “18 million farmers in 28 countries planted more
than 181 million hectares [of GM crops] in 2014, up from 175 million in 27
countries in 2013.” The top grower by far is USA with 73.1 m ha (40.3 %),
Brazil comes second with 42.2 mha (23.3 %) and Argentina third with 24.3 m ha
(13.4 %). Thus, the top three growers account for more than 75 % of GM crop
area; and they are the countries that reacted most strongly to the IARC
reclassification of glyphosate as probable carcinogen.
The US EPA is
re-evaluating glyphosate mainly for weed resistance , and will be requiring
a weed resistance management plan. According
to data gathered by the USDA and US weed scientists, at least 14 weed species
and biotypes in the US have developed glyphosate resistance affecting more than
60 million acres of US farmland.
The EPA action comes in the
wake of the IARC reclassification. Although EPA’s weed management plan will not
address human health concerns, the agency is analysing health data as part of
the required re-evaluation of the herbicide. EPA is under pressure from environmentalists, scientists and
opponents of GMOs to exert tighter control over glyphosate. On March 26, a coalition of public interest
groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, and the Center for
Food Safety sent a letter to EPA administrator Gina McCarthy urging the agency
to “weigh heavily” WHO’s finding in its risk assessment.
At least 283.5 million pounds of glyphosate were used in
U.S. agriculture in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, up
from 110 million pounds in 2002, according to the US Geological Survey.
Globally, the herbicide is a key ingredient in more than 700 products and is used
to control weeds in gardens, along roadsides as well as millions of acres of
farmland. According to the US Department of Agriculture, more than 90 % of the
soybeans and cotton grown in the country last year, and 89 % of the corn, was
genetically modified to withstand herbicide applications.
US consumer groups, scientists and food companies have
already begun testing substances ranging from breakfast cereal to breast milk for
glyphosate . Requests spiked after the IARC reclassification.
Winkler, laboratory manager at Microbe Inotech Laboratories in St. Louis said
the lab has received three to four requests a week to test foods and other substances
for glyphosate residues, as opposed to three to four requests a year previously.
Microbe has handled recent requests for glyphosate residue testing from small
food companies, an advocacy group testing baby formula and a group of doctors
who want to test patients’ urine for glyphosate residues. Abraxis LLC, a diagnostics
company based in Warminster, Pennsylvania, has also seen a “measurable increase”
in glyphosate testing. Tests by Abraxis found glyphosate residues in 41 of 69
honey samples and in 10 of 28 soy sauces; Microbe tests detected glyphosate in
three of 18 breast milk samples and in six of 40 infant formula samples.
Dakota State University agronomist Joel Ransom reported to the US Wheat Quality
Council in February that tests he ordered showed traces of glyphosate in
several US and Canadian flour samples.
told Reuters that it may start testing food products for glyphosate residues
 “as public concern rises over possible links to disease.” And Health
Canada is looking into re-labelling Roundup in the light of the new
classification and to begin public consultations .
Reactions from second largest GM
Cancer Institute (INCA) of the country’s Ministry of Health issued a new report
on 6 April 2015, which says the release of GM crops in Brazil has helped make
it the largest consumer of agrochemicals in the world . Current national
consumption of agrochemical is equivalent to 0.2 litres per inhabitant.
Agrochemical sales increased from US$ 2 billion in 2001 to $8.5 billion in
2011; and GM crops is a key cause of the trend.
report continues : “The cropping pattern with the intensive use of
pesticides generates major harms, including environmental pollution and
poisoning of workers and the population in general. Acute pesticide poisoning
is the best known effect and affects especially those exposed in the workplace
(occupational exposure). This is characterized by effects such as irritation of
the skin and eyes, itching, cramps, vomiting, diarrhoea, spasms, breathing
difficulties, seizures and death.
chronic poisoning may affect the whole population, as this is due to multiple
exposures to pesticides, that is, the presence of pesticide residues in food
and the environment, usually at low doses. ... Among the effects that can be
associated with chronic exposure to pesticide active ingredients are
infertility, impotence, abortions, malformations, neurotoxicity, hormonal
disruption, effects on the immune system, and cancer.”
sources of exposure, the report says, “It is noteworthy that pesticide residues
not only occur in fresh food, but also in many processed food products, such as
cookies, chips, breads, breakfast cereals, lasagne, pizza and other ingredients
that contain wheat, corn and soybeans, for example. Pesticide traces may still
be present in meat and milk of animals fed with these crops, due to the process
the concern over pesticides must not mean a reduction in the consumption of
fruits and vegetables, which are key foods in healthy eating and of great
importance in preventing cancer. The main focus must be on combating the use of
pesticides, which contaminate all vital resources, including food, soil, water,
breastmilk and air. In addition, methods of cultivation free from pesticide use
can produce fruits, vegetables and legumes such as beans, with the greatest
2012, the report states, INCA organized a seminar on pesticides and cancer in
partnership with the National Health Surveillance Agency (ANVISA) and the
Oswaldo Cruz Foundation (Fiocruz). The event brought together health
professionals, researchers, farmers and consumers to discuss the risks to human
health from exposure to pesticides, particularly its relationship with certain
types of cancer. And in 2013, together with Fiocruz and Abrasco (Brazilian Association of
Health), INCA signed a declaration warning of the dangers
of the pesticide market.
that context, INCA says, the purpose of the new report is “to mark the position
of the INCA against current pesticide use practices in Brazil and highlight the
health risks, particularly with regard to the causes of cancer.” The report’s
authors approvingly cite the recent verdict of the World Health Organisation’s
cancer agency IARC that glyphosate herbicide is a “probable carcinogen”.
report calls for stronger regulation of pesticides and for the development of
agroecological alternatives to the dominant pesticide-dependent GMO
Three days later, ANVISA announced officially that it will reassess the
glyphosate risk in the country, in the wake of IARC re-classification of
glyphosate as a probable human carcinogen .
Reactions in third largest GM producer Argentina
Independent scientists from Argentina
reacted promptly to the IARC reclassification in a series of quotes compiled by
journalist Dario Aranda .
Rafael Lajmanovich, a professor at the Department of Ecotoxicology,
National University of Litoral and researcher at CONICET (Argentina’s National
Scientific and Technical Research Council), who has conducted over 85 research
investigations on agrochemicals, said: “The international scientific community
has warned for years, backed up by studies, that glyphosate is carcinogenic. It
is good that WHO has recognized this fact.” Further, “The National Library of
Medicine in the United States (Medline) has more than 500 scientific papers on
the toxicity of glyphosate.”
Fernando Manas, a member of the Genetics and Environmental Mutagenesis
(GEMA) Group at the National University of Río Cuarto, who has investigated the
effect of agrochemicals, for the past 9 years, publishing over 15 scientific
articles, confirmed the link between glyphosate and genetic damage, which leads
to cancer and a higher risk of spontaneous abortions and birth defects in the
new born. He said: “The recent classification by IARC-WHO is a consequence of
the growing scientific evidence that has been generated by several independent
investigators. This evidence, deliberately ignored until now, means that
have been used millions of gallons of herbicide with carcinogenic potential
according to regulations designed for a virtually harmless substance. He
charged that for two decades entire populations were “subjected” to chronic
pesticide exposures “based on criteria developed by the same companies that
produce and market” agrochemicals.
Raul Horacio Lucero (molecular biologist and researcher at Northeastern
University, located in Chaco) and Damian Verzeñassi (Faculty of Medical
Sciences, University of Rosario) have studied the impact of agrochemicals for
more than a decade. They confirmed malformations and cancer (among other
effects). They too noted the long time it took for WHO-IARC to produce the
appropriate classification, but also highlighted the fact that on a scale of
five, glyphosate has been classified in the second category of carcinogens.
Both researchers called for “urgent” application of the precautionary
principle, as required by the General Environmental Law.
Medardo Avila Vazquez of Physicians Network of Fumigated Peoples, explained that
according to the new classification, “glyphosate is as carcinogenic as PCB (a
chemical compound used in electrical transformers and now banned) and
formaldehyde, both members of Group 2A”.
Federation of Health Professional in Argentina (FESPROSA) representing more
than 30 000 doctors and health professionals issued a statement to support the
IARC reclassification . FESPROSA includes the Social Health Collective of
Andres Carrasco, researcher at CONICET who died a year ago, showed that
glyphosate caused embryonic abnormalities similar to birth defects in families
living near sprayed fields.
our country glyphosate is applied to more than 28 million hectares each year
the soil is sprayed with more than 320 million litres, putting 13 million people
at risk, according to the Physicians Network of Sprayed Peoples (RMPF)...”
not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous
abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological
authorities, including the National Ministry of Health and the political
powers, can no longer look away. Agribusiness cannot keep growing at the
expense of the health of the Argentine people. The 30,000 health professionals
in Argentina in the FESPROSA ask that glyphosate is now prohibited in our
country and that a debate on the necessary restructuring of agribusiness is
opened, focusing on the application of technologies that do not endanger human
A Cordoba province
bill introduced by Cordoba legislator Santiago Calivijo aims to prohibit the
aerial spraying of glyphosate herbicides as well as malathion, diazinon, tetrachlovinphos
and parathion . Further, gr0und application is to be forbidden within 1 500
metres from urban areas, rivers, and reservoirs. Current provincial law allows
aerial spraying of glyphosate herbicides up to 500 metres from urban areas.
New GM crops failing dismally
The ISAAA brief proudly announced that 28
countries grew GM crops in 2014, an increase of one over the 27 countries in
2013. It stated : “Notably Bangladesh, a small poor country approved Bt
brinjal/eggplant for the first time on 30 October 2013, and in record time –
less than 100 days after approval – small farmers commercialized Bt brinjal on
22 January 2014.”
It failed to report the
disastrous crop failures (see  Bangladeshi
Bt Brinjal Pilot Scheme Failed, SiS 63). The commercialization was
introduced over widespread protest. Bt brinjal strains were distributed to
Bangladeshi farmers and grown again in 2015 in many districts; and the crops
failed yet again, even more dismally  Bt
Brinjal Fails Two Years Running Risks Spreading Disease (SiS 66). A new
disease appears to have struck all the Bt varieties grown, killing the plants
prematurely, running a risk of spreading the disease to the indigenous
varieties in this centre of origin and biodiversity for brinjal.
The Bangladeshi Bt brinjal
commercialization serves as a lesson for other countries targeted by Monsanto
and other biotech companies for growing GM crops as rejection is rife worldwide
and the top growers are retreating from a massive failed experiment.
GMO myths thoroughly exposed
The two main arguments
for promoting GMOs are that GMOs are needed to feed the world and GMOs are
based on sound science; and both have been thoroughly exposed as myths .
the GMO industry is definitely not based on sound science. A new book by US
lawyer Steven Druker  meticulously
exposes the fraudulent science of the GMO agritech sector. GM foods were first
commercialised in 1992 but only because the Food and Drug Administration
covered up the extensive warnings of its own scientists about the dangers, lied
about the facts and violated federal food safety law by permitting these foods
to be marketed without having been proven safe through standard testing. Druker also documents how many well-placed scientists
have repeatedly issued misleading statements about GM foods, as have leading
scientific institutions such as the US National Academy of Sciences, the
American Association for the Advancement of Science and the UK’s Royal Society.
a new report released by the Washington DC based Environmental Working Group
puts paid to the argument that GMOs are needed to feed the world . A thorough analysis of recent research conducted
in the US and around the world shows that genetic modification has not
significantly improved the yields of crops such as corn and soy. Instead GM
crops have increased the use of toxic herbicides and led to herbicide resistant
the past 20 years, yields of both GM corn and soy have been no different from traditionally
bred non-GM corn and soy grown in Europe.Corn and soy account for roughly
80 % of global land area growing GM crops, and both are overwhelmingly used for
animal feed and biofuels, not for food.
modification compares very unfavourably with conventional breeding in
generating useful new varieties (see  Genetic
Modification Trails Conventional Breeding By Far, SiS 64). Industry supported research found that
it can take more than $100 million to research and develop a single GM variety
. In comparison, it typically costs only about $1 million to develop a new
variety by traditional breeding. In Africa, traditional crossbreeding has so
far outperformed genetic engineering in improving drought tolerance and
efficiency of resource use.
The report 
suggests several simple measures that will feed the world without GMOs.
Smarter use of fertilizers, as
over-fertilization pollutes water and increases emissions of nitrous
oxide, a greenhouse gas with global warming potential 310 times that of
Reducing food waste, which
account for a third of all food grown around the world by weight and a
quarter by calories. In the US about 40 % food production is wasted, some 60
million tonnes a year worth an estimated $162 billion. Furthermore, 31 %
of US cropland and 25 % US fresh water are consumed in growing that wasted
food. Reducing waste by just 30 % would feed about 50 million people, the
same number that live in food-insecure households in the US. In developing
countries about a third of food is wasted but mostly on the farm, due to inadequate
storage or inability to get the food to the market. Improving
infrastructure such as roads, transportation, and storage facilities is
Reversing biofuels incentives:
in 2010 ~5 % of all calories grown globally were used to make biofuels. In
the US ~40 % of corn grown goes to produce corn ethanol driven by federal
mandate to blend it with vehicle fuel under the Renewable Fuel Standard.
Shifting crops used for biofuels back to food production would increase
the global calorie supply by 8 %.
Reducing meat consumption: meat
production occupies about three-quarters of agricultural land, and on
average it takes about 10 calories of animal feed to produce one calorie
of meat. Shifting from grain-fed beef to chicken or grass-fed beef could
reduce the amount of land devoted to growing animal feed such as corn and
soy, and increase food availability by 54 %. Cutting global meat
consumption by half could increase food supplies by 27 % along with major
benefits for health and the environment.
GM crops are a massive
failed experiment that has lasted over 20 years, laying waste to land and
people’s lives and livelihoods, leaving behind a toxic legacy that will take
decades to heal.
has woken up from the GM nightmare. Global rejection has triggered a record
return to non-GMO crops in the world’s top producing country. Simultaneously,
Independent evidence-based science has finally triumphed in appropriately classifying
glyphosate – used on some 90 % of GM crops - as probable human carcinogen,
overturning the fraudulent industry science that had allowed the herbicide to
poison people and planet for the past 30 years. Calls for banning glyphosate
are now coming from the top GMO producing countries in the world. All the signs
are that the days of GMOs are numbered.
is shifting to a truly sustainable non-GM organic agriculture without fossil
fuels . Let us hasten the arrival of a sustainable, equitable world by
banishing both glyphosate and GMOs, starting with our homes and gardens, our
Todd Millions Comment left 22nd April 2015 22:10:38 Exellent news and well presented.You can ignore the health/ag canaduh calls for 'consultation' and ban-Its an election year,and such actions promised are not covered by open ended bonds of all assets and incomes,by the frosty banana republics political elite.Worse the luck.The one item they can all agree on that one.I would further caution that while monsanto is the big cheese,don't lose sight on what the other biowennies are up to.If I may say from personal experience, Adventis then monsanto and bayer work in pass it off mode-see:starlink BT corn.I was rather attached to the organette that had too be removed because of this crap-only learned why when they could no longer coverup it had the same effect on pigs.Ag and health canaduh- still haven't made the necessary connections. As its being more than a decade,educating the ring of ministers involved with small steely knifes would be an excellent idea.
Patrick McGean Comment left 21st April 2015 17:05:24 Want to end GMOs? Buy nothing in a box.