May 16, 2014

GMO News Summary May 16th, 2014


*The farming trial of Bt brinjal (eggplant) in Bangladesh has turned into a fiasco, with the twenty farmers who received the seedlings lamenting their participation in the government trial. The seeds haven’t yet been released for commercial sale, but instead the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), with much fanfare, provided selected farmers with the seedlings and gave them technical support throughout the trial. The crops are a joint project of Monsanto and BARI. (That means a “public private partnership” where the government does all the intellectual work, the taxpayers pay the costs, and the corporation pockets the profits.)
The result, by all accounts, has been dismal. The crops grew poorly and were attacked by pests. The government claims “only” secondary pests attacked, the farmers say the crop’s endemic Bt poison performed poorly even against the target fruit and shoot borers. Of course even such instantaneous attacks by secondary pests would constitute a significant speeding up of nature’s inexorable counterattack against GMOs. Usually where a Bt crop temporarily functions against the target insect, it takes a few years for secondary pests to fill the vacuum and ravage the crop. Either way, heckuva job BARI! It’s a new world record for GMO failure.
Unfortunately we can’t just laugh at this. That GMOs are a failure for farmers is par for the course. But a far more dire problem is that Southeast Asia is the world’s center of origin and diversity for eggplant. Over thousands of years the farmers of India, Bangladesh, and other countries have developed thousands of eggplant varieties superbly adapted to every regional vagary. But the scorched earth monoculture model of industrial GMOs threatens to contaminate, level, and eradicate this vast genetic diversity. The legal and economic structures of patented seed are designed to wipe out all non-patented seed. The goal of the GMO cartel is to eradicate natural brinjal biodiversity and replace it with a perilously narrow genetic range of patented varieties. When these inevitably fail, as this first release is already failing, the result will be the complete collapse of the crop.   
*The EFSA wants to nearly double the allowed daily human intake of glyphosate, a poison which is known to cause birth defects, reproductive failure, endocrine disruption, DNA damage, organ damage, and cancer. As always, regulator-approved exposure levels are based not on scientific evidence of safety, but simply on how much exposure industrial agriculture is forcing upon workers and eaters.
Also as always, what meager regulator appraisal there’s been has been only on the so-called “active ingredient” glyphosate, and not on the far more toxic commercial formulation Roundup which is used in real life. The adjuvants and surfactants, alleged “inert ingredients” in Roundup and other commercial poisons, by themselves or in synergy with the “active” ingredient are often far more toxic than the active ingredient itself.
*Mi Zhen-yu, a Chinese general and former coordinator of military science, has published an article in the government newspaper “Science and Technology Abstracts” criticizing China’s increasing dependency on poison-based agriculture and the health harms which are already manifesting, and the worse effects likely to come. (This newspaper is part of the Chinese equivalent of the corporate media. It’s telling that a government publication prints such a criticism of agricultural poisons.)
He singles out two factors: How China is increasingly shifting from its historical soy cuisine, based on using fermented soy as a condiment, to the use of cheap soybean oil directly in food, and to the Western pattern of using soybean oil in processed food; and the massive application of human-toxic glyphosate to the GMO soybeans China imports. Glyphosate is designed to suffuse the cells of the plant, and it becomes an inextricable, omnipresent part of the tissues of Roundup Ready crops. Studies demonstrate how RR soy contains very high endemic levels of glyphosate and its breakdown component AMPA, which are not found in soybeans which are grown organically or in non-GMO conventionally grown soy.
Zhen-yu also emphasizes the fact that since glyphosate is a potent mineral chelator, Roundup Ready crops are nutritionally denuded. The transgene enables them to survive the herbicide application, but they’re not unscathed. Symbolically of the effect industrial food has on people, an RR GMO survives but in a weakened, malnourished state. This chelation and subsequent malnutrition, along with glyphosate’s hindering of the EPSPS enzyme which is critical for nutritional assimilation, is how glyphosate kills plants. Roundup Ready GMOs merely have mechanisms which help them grimly endure the toxin.
The article surveys the scientific evidence on Roundup, tallies the declining health of Chinese in recent years concurrent with China’s switch from being a soybean exporter to importer, gives examples of typical government collusion with the poisoners, points out the systematic refusal of governments and corporations to perform ANY safety study on GMOs and their associated poisons, and adds Zhen-yu’s voice to the growing chorus of scientists, public health professionals, farmers, consumers, and citizens calling for real studies to be done on GMOs and their companion poisons like glyphosate.
Of course we already have sufficient scientific evidence to draw a conclusion about poison-based agriculture. The presence or absence of the political will to abolish it will in the end be a measure of political consciousness and moral courage. Science can only supplement this. Meanwhile hack scientism does all it can to help repress morality and ensure that the only politics of agriculture and food are the anti-politics of corporatism.
*The Chinese army has announced a ban on sourcing of GMO grains and oil, according to a city grain bureau website report.
In considering this and previous moves by Chinese government ministries (see here, for example), I assume that no one in the Chinese hierarchy really cares about the health or environmental hazards of GMOs, nor that they care about the socioeconomic effects on farmers. Rather, I assume that their main perspective, which is correct from their point of view, is that this is a power struggle with the US corporatist system. GMO propagation is a critical strategic weapon of Western corporatism. The Chinese, and probably the Russians, want to prevent their own agriculture from being subsumed in the Monsanto-dominated Western regime, while they figure out their own agricultural strategy for the era of oil’s decline. This may include trying to build their own rival GMO cartel.
Meanwhile in 2013 the Chinese agricultural ministry went against expectations and approved Monsanto’s Intacta stacked GM soybeans for import from Brazil. This followed a diplomatic dance where the Chinese were saying they wanted non-GM conventional soybeans, and Brazil’s industrial soy trade group was claiming it could fill that order.
While Brazilian production of conventional soybeans has been increasing for years, apparently the country would still struggle to produce enough to supply both Europe and China, and China felt it had no choice but to grudgingly approve Monsanto’s soybeans for importation. Unless this is part of a power struggle among different Chinese ministries. Monsanto has been assiduously lobbying in China, trying to find allies there.
*Pakistan’s Lahore High Court has ordered the government to stop approving GMO varieties and to impose a moratorium on growing of approved varieties until a rigorous regulatory review system is in place.
In particular, the order affects the recent decision of the National Biosafety Committee to approve for sale several dozen varieties of Bt maize and cotton.
The ruling was in a case brought by the farmer group Kisan Board Pakistan. The farmers are complaining mostly about the poor quality of the seeds the government has previously approved for sale, the extremely low germination rate the government allows, the often low levels of Bt expression which usually fail to kill the target pest and serve mostly to select quickly for resistance (such lemon Bt seeds have always been a major problem in India as well), and the fact that seed vendors and packaging often fail to inform the farmer that Bt seeds require far more water than conventional seeds and therefore won’t work in rainfed fields. massive consumer fraud on this point has played a big role in the Indian farmer suicide epidemic. The suit also established how the government is incompetent to assess or regulate the health and biodiversity implications of GMO cultivation.
We see how wherever the GMO peddlers can get away with it, they cast all product quality control to the wind. But then, this is congenital to the industrial seed sector. The very first American Seed Trade Association convention in the 1880s was dedicated to the question of how to prevent regulators from requiring seed sellers to warrant any kind of quality standards whatsoever. So it goes to this day…  
*Vermont has once again confirmed its reputation as a social pioneer by becoming the first state to pass a real law (without “triggers” which essentially render the thing little more than a propaganda exercise, as in Connecticut and Maine) which will mandate labels on products which may contain GMOs, starting in 2016.
It’s part of Vermont’s honor to thus become the first state threatened with a lawsuit by the liars, louts, and thugs at Monsanto’s political combat wing, the Grocery Manufacturers Association. It’s a testament to how the pro-GMO thugs have zero right or even argument on their side that their entire position is based on legal technicalities (that state-level labeling allegedly usurps the prerogatives of the federal government; of course this is false both in terms of human sovereignty and in terms of the constitution as well), along with the standard rhetoric that the people are too stupid for democracy – labels will “confuse” the childish consumer. In truth consumers have a vastly better record than any cadre in how they’ve viewed GMOs – with a rational, prudent “show me” attitude, rather than the fundamentalist dogmas of supporters and the conformists and cowards among the “professional classes”.
The law includes setting up a fund to fight the expected lawsuits. The fund can receive public donations. of course in a better, more just world, agribiz and corporate contract growers would be taxed to pay for this self-defense measure on the part of the people.
(The GMA is also pushing for a federal preemption law, the DARK Act, which would try to quash the state-level democratic movement.)
This is a good step, but it’s still too modest. If the policy is enacted as planned, all it’s going to require is an unobtrusive line below the ingredients list saying something like “This product may contain genetically modified organisms”. It’s not going to have “GMO!” emblazoned across the front of the package in big neon letters. It’s possible the main effect will be to lull the worries of many of the people who became interested in the problem, just as may be the main effect of the toothless Connecticut and Maine laws.
If this is going to have any effect, then the work of the labeling movement has only begun. Once the packages have the obscure labels on them, the job of the movement will be to catalog these and publicize the list in a more
*The people of Jackson and Josephine counties in Oregon will vote on 5/20 to start regaining control of their farms, communities, and ecosystems when they vote on initiatives to ban GMO cultivation and impose other restrictions on poison use. In Benton County the campaign is underway to gather signatures for the November vote on their own Local Food System initiative.
*Wonder what the community rights movement is all about? Read this excellent FAQ.



  1. Quick update. “PORTLAND, ORE. — Residents in a southwest Oregon county voted emphatically to ban genetically engineered crops following a campaign that attracted a bushel of out-of-state money.

    With most of the ballots counted in Tuesday’s all-mail election, Jackson County voters approved the measure by a 2-to-1 margin. A similar, lower-profile measure in neighboring Josephine County led 58 percent to 42 percent with nearly two-thirds of expected ballots counted.

    Though it’s a local issue, the Jackson County measure attracted national interest. A pair of competing campaigns raised $1.3 million to sway the county’s 120,000 registered voters. Nearly $1 million of that money was raised to defeat the proposed ban.

    “The voters here have many generations of fruit and vegetable growing, so they’re among the most educated voters,” said Chuck Burr, president of the Southern Oregon Seed Growers Association. “The opposition spent a million dollars and couldn’t convince the people.”

    The outcome, however, won’t start an immediate trend in Oregon because Gov. John Kitzhaber signed a bill last fall that prohibits local governments from regulating genetically engineered crops. An exception was made for Jackson County because its measure had already qualified for the ballot.

    Despite the bill, opponents of GMOs in Josephine County went ahead with their own measure, saying they’ll let the courts decide if the vote is valid.”

    Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/2014/05/20/3193777/oregon-voters-deciding-13m-race.html?sp=/99/103/#storylink=cpy

    Comment by Pete — May 21, 2014 @ 7:38 am

    • Thanks Pete. I’ll be writing more about this great news. It’s already a trend, since at least one more county (Benton; Lane was also supposed to vote in November but last I heard their campaign was in legal limbo) is gathering signatures for the November election, and several others are planning to follow in the next few years.

      Comment by Russ — May 21, 2014 @ 9:40 am

      • I would love to hear some NSA recorded phone calls back and forth between Dupont, Monsanto, Syngenta, and the Gov’s office. I have to think if this became a war of attrition, real food advocates will begin to gain the upper hand. If they have to keep tossing out a couple million for each county that wants to kick them out, it’s going to begin to add up… disinformation is going to get real expensive.

        Comment by Pete — May 21, 2014 @ 7:14 pm

      • That’s the main reason they’ve shifted from opposing any form of GMO labeling to actively lobbying for a preemptive FDA policy. The manufacturers especially found the propaganda costs in California and Washington to be very high. Not to mention the terrible PR backlash they got. That’s why the likes of Walmart and Coca-Cola met with the FDA on their own to discuss a preemptive federal labeling bill.


        In turn, the cartel, who also couldn’t have liked the millions they had to spend in those states, countered with a “voluntary” and preemptive bill. That’s the version now being pushed in the Congress.


        If stronger measures like these country-level bans get traction, the corporate push for federal preemption will get much more clamorous. The corporations dislike and despise labeling, but they fear the Community Rights idea far more.

        Comment by Russ — May 22, 2014 @ 2:19 pm

      • Monsanto & friends are starting to look like they’re running out of fingers to plug a leaky dam. The river is gathering too much force and that dam is going to bust soon… I can sense it. Keep plugging away my friend. Much to my chagrin, I still disseminate info on social media, but I can see a massive shift in awareness happening- especially recently. Hopefully we have the internet tubes open long enough to keep the information flowing.

        Russ, have you ever heard of or followed any of Michael Ruppert’s stuff?

        Comment by Pete — May 22, 2014 @ 5:36 pm

      • I sense it too, Pete. On every front, from Southern farmer opposition, to Western consumer and citizen opposition, to the growing consensus that GMOs are shoddy and inferior in every way to either organic or non-GM conventional production, to the cartel’s own broadening implicit admission that GE doesn’t work for anything beyond poison delivery, to the incontrovertible fact that nature is routing GMOs on every front, and that all the new-fangled “second generation” products are nothing but desperate rearguard actions against the surging weeds and insects (which can be effectively controlled ONLY through agroecological practices), it’s increasingly clear that nothing but brute force keeps GMOs in the field at all, literally or politically/economically.

        I used to read Ruppert, but have mostly lost touch with the Peak Oilers. From the Wilderness had some good stuff on resources, agriculture, Wall Street, etc.

        Comment by Russ — May 23, 2014 @ 8:05 am

      • Yes, yes, and yes. Regarding Ruppert, apparently he decided he had had enough and took his own life. I guess I can’t blame him too much. You could tell he was starting to lose it in his last documentary. He was an extraordinarily intelligent guy…tragic… now I need to go read your new GMO updates. Up and over.

        Comment by Pete — May 23, 2014 @ 1:21 pm

      • I heard about Ruppert. Have to admit I wasn’t too surprised, given how emotional he sometimes seemed. I don’t blame him, but it’s too bad his work wasn’t enough to keep him going.

        Comment by Russ — May 23, 2014 @ 6:30 pm

  2. […] discussed the tumultuous and often inscrutable GMO situation in China. For more see here, here, here, here, and here. The GM corn phenomenon seems like a chaotic black market situation. Presumably the […]

    Pingback by GMO News Summary, January 8th 2016 | Volatility — January 8, 2016 @ 8:28 am

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