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
Sign the petition to ban glyphosate here: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/monsanto_dont_silence_science_loc/
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).
Simultaneously, a 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.”
The main 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 insects. One 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.
In 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.
More is in store for the beleaguered biotech giant.
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”.
Among 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).
Monsanto, whose $15.9 billion of annual sales are closely tied to glyphosate , immediately protested that the scientific data did not support the conclusions and has outrageously called on IARC to ‘retract’ its assessment (see  Elsevier Climb Down over SÃ©ralini Retraction but IARC Retraction Next for Monsanto, SiS 66). “We don’t know how IARC could reach a conclusion that is such a dramatic departure from the conclusion reached by all regulatory agencies around the globe,” Philip Miller, Monsanto’s vice-president of global regulatory affairs, told the press . Apart from the EPA’s 2013 hike of allowable glyphosate contamination levels , the German government completed a four year evaluation of glyphosate on behalf of the EU, concluding that it was “unlikely to pose a carcinogenic risk in humans” .
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 .
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.
Ben 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.
North 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.
EPA 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 .
Brazil’s National 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.
The 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.
“Already 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.”
Regarding 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 of bioaccumulation.
“Therefore, 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 anticancer potential.”
In 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 Collective Health), INCA signed a declaration warning of the dangers of the pesticide market.
In 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”.
The report calls for stronger regulation of pesticides and for the development of agroecological alternatives to the dominant pesticide-dependent GMO agricultural model.
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 .
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”.
The 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.
“In 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)...”
“Glyphosate not only causes cancer. It is also associated with increased spontaneous abortions, birth defects, skin diseases, and respiratory and neurological disease.”
“Health 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 life.”
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.
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.
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 .
First, 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.
And, 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 super weeds.
Over 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.
Genetic 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.
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.
The world 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.
The world 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 local communities.
You may also like to sign the petition to ban glyphosate here: https://secure.avaaz.org/en/monsanto_dont_silence_science_loc/?slideshow
Article first published 21/04/15
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Todd Millions Comment left 22nd April 2015 21:09:38
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 16:04:24
Want to end GMOs? Buy nothing in a box.