Science, Society, Sustainability
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ISIS Report 08/03/10

SmartStax Corn: Corporate War on Bees

US regulatory agencies are aiding and abetting in killing bees and more Prof. Joe Cummins

This report has been submitted to the US EPA on behalf of ISIS

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SmartStax corn

Smartstax is a genetically modified (GM) corn that has eight GM traits combined or ‘stacked’ together, six for insect resistance (Bt) and two for herbicide tolerance. Current stacked GM trait crops on the market only have up to three traits each. SmartStax was created through a collaboration between Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences, allowing the two corporations to share GM traits. The traits are combined together using crosses between existing transgenic corn lines rather than using genetic transformation of a single maize strain. Interestingly, a collection of old transgenes brought together with traditional crosses are being described as the ‘new’ technology.  Monsanto and Dow are predicting that SmartStax will be the largest commercial launch of a single GM corn because it will replace a lot of the existing GM corn varieties on the market. The main benefit of Smartstax maize is that it provides above and below ground insect protection along with tolerance to two herbicides (glyphosate and glufosinate) [1].  Herbicide tolerance and insect resistance genes are engineered in redundant combinations in the belief that it will prevent establishment of resistances to herbicides and the Bt proteins among weeds and insect pests respectively [2]. The USDA provided a premium reduction in the cost of crop insurance for farmers growing  Smartstax maize while the US EPA  granted a reduction in the size of the refuge area set aside from 20 percent to 5 percent, which constitutes substantial government financial incentives for growing  Smartstax maize [3]. It is supposed to protect growers of Smartstax maize from the uncertainties of climatic instabilities associated with global warming. The USDA crop insurance program covers organic farmers too, but fails to protect the organic premium on price and will not consider the crop loss from pollen contamination from GM crops. Organic and conventional growers are placed at a clear disadvantage in comparison to growers of  Smartstax  corn.

Smartstax can end bees

Smarstax corn contains a potpourri of transgenes claimed to control pests both above and below ground. Monsanto’s subsidiary Genuity, which markets Smartstax corn along with stacked versions of GM soybeans and cotton, uses Acceleron seed treatment products. These contain a combination of fungicides including ipconazole, metalaxyl and trifloxystrobin for  protection against primary seed-borne and soil-borne diseases, along with clothianidin, an insecticide, to reduce damage caused by secondary pests [2].  Clothianidin is a systemic insecticide that may be carried to all parts of the corn plant including the pollen-producing tassel and pollen visited by bees [4]. The selection of clothianidin for seed treatment is rather cavalier because the insecticide has been implicated in bee die-offs [5]. A German judge prohibited the use of clothianidin in maize seed treatment after the pesticide was observed to have killed foraging honey bees [6] Emergency Pesticide Ban for Saving the Honeybee, SiS 39). A German coalition of farmers brought legal action against the president of Bayer Crop Science  for marketing the dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides such as clothianidin that have caused mass death of bees all over the world [7]. The Institute of Science in Society has long maintained that  the neonicotinoid insecticides, such as clothianidin, in seed dressing and sprays are responsible for the collapse of honey bee colonies, The insecticides  impair the bee’s foraging behaviour and its immunity to parasitic and viral diseases. The Bt toxins such as those contained in the Smartstax corn have also been found to impair the bee’s behaviour and immunity to disease [8-10] (Requiem for the Honeybee, SiS 35;  Saving the Honeybee Through Organic Farming, SiS 38;To Bee Organic or not to Bee, SiS 39).

Can Smartstax be safe for bees or humans?

The stacked  transgenic varieties assembled using conventional breeding are not regulated by USDA/APHIS and environments assessment is not required.  But such introductions are regulated by US EPA, which does not appear to be concerned over the die-off of bees from seed treatment chemicals nor from the transgenic Bt proteins. This is clearly unacceptable, and these regulatory agencies should be held fully responsible for aiding and abetting in the corporate killing of bees.

EPA should also note that ISIS has previously requested the agency to ban glyphosate and Roundup herbicide based on new evidence over its toxicity [11] (Death by Multiple Poisoning, Glyphosate and Roundup, SiS 42), and more damning evidence has emerged since that glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disrupting [12]. In addition, a ban on glufosinate herbicide has been approved by the European Parliament in January 2009 [13].

References

1. Agbios GM Database MON-89Ø34-3 x DAS- Ø15Ø7-1 x MON-88Ø17-3 x DAS-59122-7 (MON89034 x TC1507 x MON88017 x DAS-59122-7) SmartStax™ 2010 http://www.agbios.com/dbase.php

2. Genuity: Traits: Corn: SmartStax™ Early season insect control utilizing clothianidin, a leading insecticide, to reduce  damage caused by secondary pests.2010  http://www.genuity.com/Traits/Corn/Genuity-SmartStax.aspx

3. California Farmer Monsanto, Dow Agrosciences Smartstax Corn Hybrids Eligible for Crop Insurance Pilot Premium Rate Reduction Program In 2010 http://californiafarmer.com/story.aspx/monsanto/dow/agrosciences/smartstax/corn/hybrids/eligible/
for/crop/insurance/pilot/premium/rate/reduction/program/in/2010/13/32056

4. Gross M. Pesticides linked to bee deaths.  Current Biology 2008, 18(16), R684.

5. Everts S. Germany suspends use of clothianidin after the pesticide is linked to honeybee deaths. Chemical & Engineering News May 26, 2008, p. 10

6. Ho M-W. Emergency pesticide ban for saving the honeybee. Science in Society 39, 40, 2008.

7. Environmental News Service German Coalition Sues Bayer Over Pesticide Honey Bee  Deaths 2008 http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/aug2008/2008-08-25-01.asp

8. Cummins J. Requiem for the honey bee. Science in Society 35, 37,2007

9. Cummins J. Saving the honey bee through organic farming. Science in Society 38, 16, 2008.

10. Cummins J. To bee organic or not ot bee . Science in Society 39, 41, 2008.

11. Ho MW and Cherry B. Death by multiple poisoning, glyphosate and Roundup. Science in Society 42, 14, 2009.

12. Gasnier C, Dumont C, Benachour N, Clair E, Chagnon M-C, and Séralini G-E. Glyphosate-based herbicides are toxic and endocrine disruptors in human cell lines. Toxicology 2009, 262, 184-91.

13. “MEPs approve pesticides legislation”, European Parliament, 13 January 2009, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/news/expert/infopress_page/066-45937-012-01-03-911-20090112IPR45936-12-01-2009-2009-false/default_en.htm

There are 11 comments on this article so far. Add your comment
joe cummins Comment left 9th March 2010 06:06:13
Replying to the comment from dave ryan: At present I am not aware of an estimate of this years planting. Approvals have been made in Canada,Japan,Korea.Mexico,Taiwan and United States. These approvals have been fairly cursory based on the earlier approvals of the individual transgenes and the fact that the genes are combined using traditional breeding. I expect that total plantings may be a large percent of total maize acres in each country. If the clothianidin seed treatment is used in every planting the damage to honey bees will be frightful. Thanks for the question. Replying to Zahra: I share your concern and look forward to the day that the madness stops.Thanks for the comment. Replying to Dr. mae-wan ho: Glyphosate is still registered for use in Canada. Municipalities such as London,Ontario banned cosmetic use of pestices including glyphosate but agriculture and forestry use much too much glyphosate.Thanks for the comment. Replying to stephen macallan: You state a fundamental truth people will have to take the lead to protect the honey bee and stop the use of toxic herbicides. If there were any real liberty most citizens of the globe would reject the transgenic crops. There is a reasonable possibility that the courts may stop the patenting of genes which also contributed to the spread of transgenic crops. Thanks for the comment.
dave ryan Comment left 8th March 2010 18:06:34
Do you know if Canada is involved and do you know the amount of cultivated hectares planned? Thanks, Dave
George Wade Comment left 9th August 2010 17:05:36
There are so many threads to the argument: if we look at the perfectly clear history of disabilities in human colony disruption: we see 'Straws that break camels' backs." An immense background wizards' brew of more or less persistent organic pollution + junk GM food + radiation. Drop one more straw, Eg. neonicotinamides, and the camels' backs are broken. Vaccines and humans' backs break... You didn't suspect that bees too have ADD and all the other disabilities; or did you ? At the same time this may be much too big a problem for humans, with nothing better than critical logic and fear reflexes for software to run their minds, to manage. Are the bee killers saving the world by destroying it; especially the over industrialised portions ? This is meant to be a discussion: NOT a prediction... ;~)
Zahra Comment left 8th March 2010 22:10:34
WTF? I feel worse than angry, I pray for these folks every day, and bless them, just because I really do believe that 'whatever we resist, persists', and that education is the key to WAKE everybody UP!!!! But I've got to say, more and more, it seems like they know EXACTLY what they're doing, AND it explains just WHY they had to store up so many seeds in they're ARK up in Norway, (or where ever it is!), because they plan to deliberately wipe us ALL out, along with the bees! It will be ridiculously, and tragically, ironic if in the course of this multi-species-cide, they try to sequester themselves, but don't succeed and those 'bad seeds' survive instead! HA! I, like everyone else I know, feel outraged, anxious, and helpless in the face of all this BS! Like where can you go to live? They're pretty much everywhere already....
mae-wan ho Comment left 8th March 2010 22:10:35
thanks Jo, for reminding us that Denmark has banned glyphosate since 2003. However, I don't think Canada has banned it.
stephenmacallan Comment left 8th March 2010 21:09:22
Oh, dear, when are people going to wake up! The dangers that you have described are becoming ever more frequent. I fear that the only solution will be civilian uprising against big Pharma and against big Gov., if big Gov does not soon start governing for the PEOPLE! stephen
Allison Day Bees Action Network Comment left 9th March 2010 13:01:49
We find it absolutely tragic that so much effort goes into these huge global money making schemes. If all the 'expertise' in GM companies was put into protecting, preserving and promoting a naturally healthy ethos how different the future would look. Poor bees. Poor us. But we can change this. The ordinary person has a big voice. As consumers we can face down GMO's and Goverments. Show them what people power can do. It is amazing how quickly governments change course when they realise votes are at risk. We are spreading the word too.
Todd Millions Comment left 18th March 2010 06:06:18
I have already had a personal encounter with the toxicity of bt insert corn-when the pollen'accidentally' took off. The toxic symptons were induced by a dosage of the normal N.american miaze intake average,plus about 600 grams per week of popcorn. The symptoms closely matched those of the hogs,whose feed was the only approved use of this crap,and cleared up after I cut all corn product and 'may contain' from my diet. Must have being 'in my head',as there are still No official health effects from bt corn-Just as it must have being in the pigs heads eh! The ral problem over this one is; Under the NAFTA agreement and all the subsequent trade agreements based on it- Corparations have defacto -"Patent protection sans Liability".The goverments that rubber stanp these approvals are liable,not the corparations they granted the patents and approvalstoo. Naturally in 3rd world shitholes-The politicians and beaurucrates who do these deeds are endebduefied and completely free of responsibility or liability. Including of course the board of director positions and mysteriously over paid consultancies they pick up on leaving office and public service.As any perusal of any dept of the Canadian goverment would show.The taxpayer is liable-not the parties who do the damages.
Rich Ramsey Comment left 16th March 2010 08:08:19
It's not the GMO that is the problem here. It's the insecticide treatment on the seed.
Dr. Punit Kumar Agarwal Comment left 12th March 2010 02:02:16
Democracy is 'Government by the people, of the people and for the people'. But by adopting such policies governments keep 'Failing the People'. We need to rethink how much and what governance do we need. People will have to snatch that 'Real Liberty', you mentioned in your reply to comments, to reject the transgenic crops. Yes, judicial activism is a bright silver lining in the dark clouds. Thanks Prof. Cummins- Punit
EULU Comment left 6th August 2013 00:12:22
Take request a few minutes of your time and acts. Hope die at last. The organisation European (against) lobbyists union begins the campaign MONSANTO GO HOME Please, will sign and help us this to spread all over the world. Only together we reach something. http://www.avaaz.org/en/petition/Monsanto_go_home?copy Thank you

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