Volatility

January 29, 2016

GMO News Summary, January 29th, 2016

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*The court decision refusing the EPA’s request that it temporarily rescind Enlist Duo’s registration is going to get its own post. For the moment I’ll point out that even if you don’t think the courts are corrupted beyond redemption, here we have proof that the law itself certainly is. If it’s true that the law is so calcified and maladaptive that it can’t react when a toxicity situation arises which is so dire that even the EPA wants to slow down and take another look, then that’s proof of a terminally busted system of law. We have to get it straight, in addition to all its de jure evils, this system does not work.
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*The fighters of Argentina continue to stand tall blocking Monsanto’s poison factory.
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*Here’s more on the attempt to partially repeal Oregon’s preemption law which was passed to crush the groundswell of county-level democracy action. One good paragraph concisely describes why it’s impossible for the state government of Oregon to make assertive agricultural policy which would be just, rational, or practical.
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So currently, although there are seven distinct geographical agricultural sectors in Oregon, each with different agricultural emphases, (for example, apples in Hood River, alfalfa in the Klamath Basin, brassica seed in the Willamette Valley), none of these sectors now have the right, either democratically or through a court of law, to address their own particular agricultural concerns, even regarding weed seeds. Can you see which way the wind is blowing?

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Imagine how much less possible it is for the federal government to be legitimate or rational in asserting itself over hundreds of distinct foodsheds and watersheds? When we ponder those who claim to care about food and agriculture but who still believe in federal power over these, only “better”, it sure looks like their level of knowledge and policy position is similar to Monsanto’s, only from a superficially different angle. What does this mean where it comes to NGOs and GM labeling advocates who want things like a preemptive FDA labeling standard or the “Food Safety Modernization Act”? (How’s that for an Orwellian name?) They’re just as ignorant as Monsanto and often as arrogant, only from a superficially different point of view. That’s one reason I don’t trust them to ever really draw a line in the sand and say “no further.” (For example the party line seems to be, “support preemption only if the FDA policy is at least as strong as Vermont’s”. I don’t believe they’ll hold to that, and since such an FDA policy is impossible anyway, because that’s not what the FDA does or wants to do, what’s the point of saying such a thing, other than to buy time for further triangulation?) Their underlying logic is basically the same as that of the corporations. Also in the clear fact that democracy in itself is no principle for them and has no value to them at all.
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A federal labeling law is the worst possible “solution”, since it’s guaranteed to be a preemptive sham, meant to lead in the wrong direction and waste time and resources we don’t have to waste. As the history proves, preemption never works the way so many people seem to want to hope and believe. The only point of it is to force the lowest standards. Otherwise why would any “stakeholder” want it? Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
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*Dueling Monsanto lawsuits, one as plaintiff, two new ones (two more of many) as defendant. Monsanto is suing California trying to prevent the state’s Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) from listing glyphosate on the list of carcinogens. This would impose some labeling requirements and restrictions on its use. Monsanto’s complaint is just a bunch of whining with no substance whatsoever. I’ll be writing more about this lawsuit separately.
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Meanwhile the city of Seattle has filed the latest lawsuit trying to force Monsanto to pay for a cleanup of the PCBs still ubiquitous in sediments of the city’s drainage system and the Duwamish River. Monsanto lied for decades about PCBs although it knew of their toxicity at least since 1937. A major reason for the corporate reshuffling Monsanto undertook in order to dump its industrial chemical division Solutia in 2002 was to try to unload its PCB liability. This hasn’t worked so far, though the penalties aren’t even in the same galaxy with what the company, its executives, its technicians and its salesmen deserve. And the Nuremburg-actionable lies continue still to this day. Just as the CEO of Solutia continued to lie for years, so Monsanto lies today:
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“PCBs sold at the time were a lawful and useful product that was then incorporated by third parties into other useful products. If improper disposal or other improper uses allowed for necessary clean up costs, then these other third parties would bear responsibility for these costs.”

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This is a direct Nuremburg lie. Monsanto has known since the 1930s that PCBs as such are extremely toxic. They cause cancer, birth defects, and horrible skin and organ symptoms. Over the 1950s-60s Monsanto accumulated very detailed knowledge and sought systematically to cover it up. See Marie-Monique Robin’s The World According to Monsanto for a detailed history of this and many of Monsanto’s other crimes against humanity. Monsanto adhered to this stonewalling strategy for decades. So it was Monsanto which lied to its customers and encouraged these third parties to incorporate the PCB product without warning them of what it knew about the danger.
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Finally, in California Brenda and James Huerta are suing Monsanto for giving them cancer through chronic long-term exposures to Roundup spraying while they lived on a commercial sod farm in the state’s Riverside County. Here the law is geared to protect the seller and the sprayer. Even if the US and California state governments recognized glyphosate as carcinogenic (as we just mentioned Monsanto is currently suing to prevent the state from recognizing it as such, while the US EPA denies it), it would generally be considered impossible to ascribe a particular case of cancer to the product. And if all else failed, Monsanto would try to claim the sprayer didn’t adhere to the label requirements for application. Farmer scapegoating is standard wherever straight lies and denial don’t work.
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These are reasons why the abolitionist position must be to impose strict liability on all manufacturers, sellers, and users of a poisonous product for all harms which come from it. In a legal sense they’re all part of one big conspiracy to promote cancer, and since it is usually not feasible to identify the “particular” culprit in a given case, all must be held equally responsible. I propose the same standard for pesticide drift effects, for any campaign against 2,4-D and dicamba GMOs. Strict liability first as a philosophical and polemical plank, wherever possible as a demand for legal reform, and always as the Nuremburg standard which must be imposed once we the people take back the power.
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So we have dueling lawsuits. Monsanto sues California for saying glyphosate causes cancer, citizens are suing Monsanto for giving them cancer, Seattle files the latest of many lawsuits because Monsanto systematically sickened and murdered people with PCBs and to this day systematically lies about it. The EPA, FDA, and USDA say Monsanto is a good, honest citizen. Who do you trust about Roundup?
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*More data on glyphosate residues in urine, as monitored over 15 years by Germany’s federal environmental agency. The levels are lower than EFSA “tolerance” limits, which means little. Regulators mechanically raise these legal levels in accord with how much poison the manufacturer expects to sell. In itself this is a strong indicator of the regulators’ poison-maximizing ideology. The procedure has zero scientific content and exists at all only as a political farce, to make it look like the regulator is “protecting” us. Scientifically, like all pesticides glyphosate is an endocrine disruptor which means it causes cancer and birth defects at ultra-low doses, and there is no safe level. The German agency also warned that formulations are far more toxic than glyphosate by itself. In other words, bad as this is, it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
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*Here’s one thing that won’t wait for labeling to be gotten right over however many years that would take. If we don’t want to see the monarch butterfly go extinct within our lifetimes, we have to abolish glyphosate NOW. Anything else is just empty talk.
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There’s a new petition to the world’s most pro-Monsanto, pro-Roundup government, calling for better action for the monarch. Seems far-fetched, but it’s possible if there were enough of a groundswell on everything from monarchs to cancer, the system might be forced to sacrifice Roundup as long as it thought it could preserve the rest of the poison regime. But this will require a full-scale social movement toward this goal. (The goal of abolishing glyphosate must be part of the broader goal of abolishing poison-based agriculture, but we can also choose particular campaigns for special focus.) Things like petitions not rooted in a movement grounding will be blown off like the air they are. The prognosis is clear. Unless glyphosate is completely banned, it’ll be the end of the monarch. Americans are going to have to choose once and for all. What’ll it be, the monarch or Monsanto? You can’t have both.
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*Gilles-Eric Seralini has performed another of his thorough and damning analyses of GMO trial data. This time he analyzed the trial data and the subsequent veterinary records from the 1997-2002 dairy cow feeding trial in Germany with silage from Syngenta’s Bt176 maize. This was one of the ominous incidents in GMO history. The animals became badly ill, many died, the records were analyzed by Syngenta and the German government, and farmer Gottfried Glöckner sued the company. Although Syngenta has always denied the GMO had anything to do with the epidemic, it paid off Glöckner and pulled Bt176 from the market. Now Seralini, assisted by Glöckner, has analyzed all the records and concluded that Bt176 “provoked long-term toxic effects on mammals”. There are many anecdotal reports of similar epidemics stemming from diets with a heavy Bt crop proportion, among farm workers in South Africa and livestock in India.
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The action needed is not, however, “more testing” as Seralini calls for. He’s a scientist so of course that’s his first thought. But in fact this new evidence adds to what’s already conclusive proof – Bt-expressing GMOs don’t work and are dangerous to human, animal, and environmental health. They must be abolished, not tested over and over again forever. Every time I see the “more testing” call I wonder how much evidence would finally satisfy people. There’s far more than enough to satisfy anyone without a strong investment in the poison system itself, if that evidence is propagated competently and relentlessly and in the context of the affirmative Food Sovereignty idea. On the other hand, without this work even a hundred times as much evidence would be of little use.
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*Meanwhile the state government of Idaho is acknowledging a pesticide crisis. Here they let potato farmers apply methyl bromide, which of course suffused the soil. The poison then became part of the tissue of a subsequent alfalfa crop whose poisoned hay caused “deformities and sickness” in cattle which fed upon it. “Additionally, test samples of wheat, barley, potatoes, alfalfa, tomato, corn and straw grown on other treated fields also showed some level of bromide.” The state agriculture department told the legislature that the soil needs an emergency cleanup, of course asking for taxpayer money to be provided for the necessary research and work. To the great injury of the poisoning of our food and soil they now add the insult of expecting the people, not the criminals, to pay to clean it up.
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If GMOs tolerant of 2,4-D and dicamba are deployed on a large scale, the result will be this same quarantine of the soil and destruction of vast swaths of crops from the toxic drift. The whole thing, everywhere, sums to one vast moral insult. This insult shall never be made whole until we the people apply all moral force necessary to abolish these poisons.
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.*The Indian state of Karnataka is yet again having to prepare a farmer bailout after yet another Bt cotton disaster. This time the target pest, the pink bollowrm, simply feasted as if the two Bt toxins and neonics weren’t even there. Karnataka will yet again have to decide whether and how to demand the seed companies pay farmer compensation. Karnataka is one of the states most severely devastated by the suicide epidemic among Indian small cotton farmers. The state really ought to launch a transformation program away from commodity production and toward organic production, as fellow state Sikkim is proving can be done on a large scale.
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Another Bt cotton blunder may soon be history, as Burkina Faso’s farmers and seed dealers are abandoning the product. The country’s experience with Bt cotton has paralleled that of other countries, including the crop’s poor performance under anything but optimal conditions. Burkina Faso also experienced low-quality lint production even when the overall boll yield was good. This problem, which has also been seen in India, seems to be related to pleiotropic effects from Monsanto’s breeding its Bt cultivar into the pirated regional Burknabe variety. Here’s the latest proof of how imprecise and unpredictable genetic engineering is. It’s always a crapshoot. Monsanto is implicitly admitting this as it’s now frantically “backcrossing its Bt varieties into a new local cultivar.” But farmers seem to be fed up with the whole Bt cotton concept, as have been all non-rich farmers who ever tried to work with it. It’s a shoddy product, in addition to its health dangers.
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Food sovereignty and civil society campaigners are confident that Burkina Faso’s rejection of Bt cotton will help steel African resolve to resist this and other GMOs. The struggle continues in Kenya as farmer and civil society groups oppose proposals to lift the government’s moratorium on cultivation and importation of GMO products. In recent weeks the government has indicated it will soon approve cultivation of Bt maize, but missed a scheduled press conference. For more on the truth of the corporate-driven food insecurity in Africa which GMOs promise to make much worse, see here.
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*Canadian environmental groups Ecology Action Centre and Living Oceans Society are suing the government to overturn a 2013 ruling which threatens to allow the grow-out of GM salmon under conditions exceeding those allowed by Canadian environmental law.
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*Much ado about the temporary retraction of a paper by Italian researchers documenting transgenic DNA fragments persisting in the tissues of animals fed GM feed. The retraction is on grounds of what the retracting journal calls an “honest error” involving the reuse of some images which had appeared in an earlier paper by the same researchers. The study’s basic findings remain intact. In a sign of how desperate the pro-GMO activists are, they whooped it up as if this technicality constituted some kind of evidence in their favor. The GMWatch piece does a good job detailing the hypocrisy and double standards of the GMO lobby and corporate media. In fact even if this particular study’s substantive finding were in doubt, it would be just be one drop retracted from a lake of evidence. GMWatch adds:
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Several years ago we at GMWatch were reprimanded by a government scientist (who was emphatically not anti-GMO) for our naive belief that we still had to ‘prove’ that GM DNA was detectable in the tissues of animals that ate GM feed. This fact, the scientist pointed out, was “not controversial and we have known it for a long time”. The only controversial aspect was whether such GM DNA had any biological effect on animals that was different from the effects of non-GM DNA.

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I think it’s time for the whole movement to be more confident about what’s been proven beyond any doubt and go from there, rather than imply we’re willing to keep running in place forever needing “more study”, as if we ourselves weren’t 100% confident in the existing evidence. Endless calls for “more data” are a classic sign of the Peter Principle in action.

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1 Comment

  1. […] mildest slap on the wrist. As I said two weeks ago about the court judgements against Monsanto for its crimes involving PCBs, the penalties aren’t even in the same galaxy with what the company, its executives, its […]

    Pingback by GMO News Summary February 12th, 2016 | Volatility — February 12, 2016 @ 8:01 am


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