Genetically modified failures

Genetically modified failures

By Pat Thomas, Mark Anslow

SOURCE : NYR Natural News

Don’t believe what you hear from vested interests, rent-a-quote ‘scientists’ and’ bought’ politicians. After nearly 20 years of promises that genetically modified food would revolutionize our world, feed the hungry, boost the yields and therefore the incomes of farmers, and even cure disease, genetically modified crops have never lived up to those promises.

These are the genetically modified failures that big biotech refuses to be accountable for, doesn’t want you to know about and the reasons why we continue to say ‘NO!’ to GMOs.

Failure to deliver

Despite the hype, genetic modification consistently fails to live up to industry claims. Only two GM traits have ever made it to market – herbicide resistance and BT toxin expression. Other promises of genetic modification have failed to materialize.

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The much vaunted GM ‘golden rice’ – hailed for a decade as a cure for vitamin A deficiency and night blindness still hasn’t made it into the field. Trial plantings may go ahead in the Philippines 2013 but it remains untested in humans and now there is concern that high levels of beta carotene are unhealthy. Retinol, a breakdown product of beta-carotene which is dangerous in high doses can, in high doses, also cause carotenosis which stresses the liver and causes the skin to turn orange.

In 2004, the Kenyan government admitted that Monsanto’s GM sweet potatoes were no more resistant to feathery mottle virus than ordinary strains, and in fact produced lower yields. And in January 2008, news that scientists had modified a carrot to cure osteoporosis by providing calcium had to be weighed against the fact that you would need to eat 1.6 kilograms of these vegetables each day to meet your recommended calcium intake.

Costing the Earth

GM crops are costing farmers and governments more money than they make. A report by the Soil Association in 2003 estimated the cost to the US economy of GM crops at around $12 billion (£6 billion) since 1999, on account of inflated farm subsidies, loss of export orders and seed recalls.

A study in Iowa found that GM soya beans required all the same costs as conventional farming but, because they produced lower yields, the farmers ended up making no profit at all.

In India, an independent study found BT cotton crops were costing farmers 10% more than non-BT variants, and bringing in 40% lower profits. In India, between 2001 and 2005, more than 32,000 farmers committed suicide, a portion of the blame for these deaths have been attributed to mounting debts caused by inadequate crops.

Contamination and gene escape

These days you can never be sure that what you are eating is GM-free. An article in New Scientist admits that contamination and cross-fertilization between GM and non-GM crops “has happened on many occasions already”.

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In late 2007, US company Scotts Miracle-Gro was fined $500,000 by the US Department of Agriculture when genetic material from a new golf-course grass Scotts had been testing was found in native grasses as much as 13 miles away from the test sites, apparently released when freshly cut grass was caught and blown by the wind.

In 2006, an analysis of 40 Spanish conventional and organic farms found that 8 were contaminated with GM corn varieties, including one farmer whose crop contained 12.6 % GM plants.

Reliance on pesticides

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Far from reducing dependency on pesticides and fertilizers, GM crops frequently increase farmers’ reliance on these products. Herbicide resistant crops have not reduced chemical use as promised, and recent figures show that GM crop fields required over 26% more pounds of pesticides per acre than fields planted to non-GM varieties.

However, this means that significantly higher levels of herbicide are found in the final food product, and often a second herbicide is used in the late stages of the crop to promote ‘desiccation’ or drying, meaning that these crops receive a double dose of harmful chemicals. BT maize, engineered to produce an insecticidal toxin, has never eliminated the use of pesticides, and because the BT gene cannot be ‘switched off’ the crops continue to produce the toxin right up until harvest, meaning the food reaches the consumer with the highest possible level of pesticide residue.

“Franken foods”

Despite the best efforts of the biotech industry, consumers remain staunchly opposed to GM food. In 2007, the vast majority of 11,700 responses to the Government’s consultation on whether contamination of organic food with traces of GM crops should be allowed were strongly negative.

The Government’s own ‘GM Nation’ debate in 2003 discovered that half of its participants ‘never want to see GM crops grown in the United Kingdom under any circumstances’, and 96% thought that society knew too little about the health impacts of genetic modification.

In India, farmers’ experience of BT cotton has been so disastrous that the Maharashtra government now advises that farmers grow soybeans instead. And in 2007 in Australia, over 250 food companies lodged appeals with the state governments of New South Wales and Victoria over the lifting of bans against growing GM canola crops.

Most recently a UK Food Standards Agency (FSA) survey in 2012 found that around two-thirds of respondents felt strongly that GM food should be labelled.

Breeding resistance

Nature is smart, and there are already reports of species resistant to GM.

crops emerging. This is seen in the emergence of new ‘super weeds’ on farms in North America – plants which have evolved the ability to withstand the industry’s chemicals.

A report by then UK conservation body English Nature (now Natural England) in 2002 revealed that oilseed rape plants which had developed resistance to three or more herbicides were ‘not uncommon’ in Canada. The super weeds had been created through random crosses between neighbouring GM crops. In order to tackle these super weeds, Canadian farmers were forced to resort to even stronger, more toxic herbicides.

Similarly, pests (notably the diamondback moth) have been quick to develop resistance to BT toxin, and in 2007 swarms of mealy bugs began attacking supposedly pest-resistant Indian cotton.

Creating problems for solutions

Many of the so-called ‘problems’ for which the biotechnology industry develops ‘solutions’ seem to be notions of PR rather than science.

Herbicide resistance was sold on the claim that since crops could be doused in chemicals, there would be less need to weed mechanically or plough the soil, keeping more carbon and nitrates under the surface.

But a new long-term study by the US Agricultural Research Service has shown that organic farming, even with ploughing, stores more carbon than the GM crops save. BT cotton was claimed to increase resistance to pests. But in East Africa, farmers discovered that by planting a local weed amongst their corn crop, they could lure pests to lay their eggs on the weed and not the crop.

Health risks

The results of tests on animals exposed to GM crops give serious cause for concern. In 1998, Scottish scientists found damage to every single internal organ in rats fed blight-resistant GM potatoes. In a 2006 experiment, female rats fed on herbicide resistant soybeans gave birth to severely stunted pups, of which half died within three weeks. The survivors were sterile.

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That same year, Indian news agencies reported that thousands of sheep allowed to graze on BT cotton crop residues had died suddenly. Further livestock deaths followed in 2007.

There have also been reports of allergy-like symptoms amongst Indian laborers in BT cotton fields. The only trial ever to involve human beings appeared to show in 2002 that altered genetic material from GM soybeans not only survives in the human gut, but may even pass its genetic material to bacteria within the digestive system.




In 2012 a widely publicized French study found multiple tumors in rats fed on a lifetime diet of GM maize.

Left hungry

GM crops have always come with promises of increased yields, but this has rarely been the case. A three-year study of 87 villages in India found that non-BT cotton consistently produced 30% higher yields than the (more expensive) GM alternative.

It is now widely accepted that GM soybeans produce consistently lower yields than conventional varieties. In 1992, Monsanto’s own trials showed that the company’s Roundup Ready soybeans yield 11.5% less on harvest. Later Monsanto studies found some trials of GM canola crops in Australia actually produced yields 16% below the non-GM national average.

Wedded to fertilizers and fossil fuels

No GM crops have not yet reduced the need for chemical fertilizers in order to achieve expected yields. Although much has been made of the possibility of splicing nitrogen-fixing genes into commercial food crops in order to boost yields, there has so far been little success.

This means that GM crops are just as dependent on fossil fuels to make fertilizers as conventional agriculture. In addition, GM traits are often specifically designed to fit with large-scale industrial agriculture.

Herbicide resistance is of no real benefit unless your farm is too vast to weed mechanically, and it presumes the farmers already farm in a way which involves chemical spraying. Similarly BT toxin expression is designed to counteract the problem of pest control in vast monocultures, which encourage infestations. In a world which will soon have to change its view of farming, GM crops will look like a relic of bygone practices.



India Goes Bananas Over GM Crops

India Goes Bananas Over GM Crops

By Ranjit Devraj


India’s environmental and food security activists who have so far succeeded in stalling attempts to introduce genetically modified (GM) food crops into this largely farming country now find themselves up against a bill in parliament that could criminalize such opposition.

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The Biotechnology Regulatory Authority of India (BRAI) bill, introduced into parliament in April, provides for ‘single window clearance’ for projects by  biotechnology and agribusiness companies including those to bring GM food crops into this country, 70 percent of whose 1.1 billion people are involved in agricultural activities.

“Popular opposition to the introduction of GM crops is the result of a campaign launched by civil society groups to create awareness among consumers,” said Devinder Sharma, food security expert and leader of the Forum for Biotechnology and Food Security. “Right now we are opposing a plan to introduce GM bananas from Australia.”

Sharma told IPS that if the BRAI bill becomes law such awareness campaigns will attract stiff penalties. The bill provides for jail terms and fines for “whoever, without any evidence or scientific record misleads the public about the safety of organisms and products…”

Suman Sahai, who leads ‘Gene Campaign’, an organisation dedicated to the conservation of genetic resources and indigenous knowledge, told IPS that “this draconian bill has been introduced in parliament without taking into account evidence constantly streaming in from around the world about the safety risks posed by GM food crops.”

She said that Indian activists are now studying a new report published in the peer-reviewed Organic Systems Journal by Judy Carmen at Flinders University in Adelaide, Australia, showing evidence that pigs fed on GM corn and soy are likely to develop severe stomach inflammation.

“The new bill is not about regulation, but the promotion of the interests of food giants trying to introduce risky technologies into India, ignoring the rights of farmers and consumers,” Sahai said. “It is alarming because it gives administrators the power to quell opposition to GM technology and criminalise those who speak up against it.”

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The past month has seen stiff opposition to plans to introduce GM bananas into India by a group of leading NGOs that includes the Initiative for Health & Equity in Society, Guild of Services, Azadi Bachao Andolan, Save Honey Bees Campaign, Navdanya and Gene Ethics in Australia.

These groups are seeking cancellation of a deal between the Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and India’s biotechnology department to grow GM bananas here.

Vandana Shiva, who leads the biodiversity conservation organisation Navdanya, and is among India’s top campaigners against GM crops, told IPS that such food crop experiments pose a “direct threat to India’s biodiversity, seed sovereignty, indigenous knowledge and public health by gradually replacing diverse crop varieties with a few patented monocultures.”

She fears that an attempt is being made to control the cultivation of bananas in India through patents by “powerful men in distant places, who are totally ignorant of the biodiversity in our fields.”

India produces and consumes 30 million tonnes of bananas annually, followed by Uganda which produces 12 million tonnes and consumes the fruit as a staple.

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GMO leads to livestock deaths


GMO toxicity and the Giant Biotech SYNGENTA was Charged for Covering up Livestock Deaths

The giant biotech company Syngenta has been charged for covering up the death of livestock because of itsgenetically modified Bt corn.

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The story started back in Germany when the cows of a farmer suffered and suddenly died from a mysterious disease after they were exclusively fed on Syngenta’s GM Bt 176.

The farmer took Syngenta to court and Syngenta had to pay the farmer 40,000 Euros but the giant biotechcompletely denied that its GM corn caused the death of the livestock.


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However, few years later, the farmer found out that in a feeding study, Syngenta’s GM corn killed four cows in just two days. Now, few German farmers have come together and have taken Syngenta to the court for the death of famer’s cattle and covering up the deaths of livestock in the study.

Most importantly, Hans-Theo Jahmann, the head of Syngenta is charged for not sharing his prior knowledge about the feeding study that resulted in the death of livestock in the first civil court.

However, the German farmer isn’t the only case that shows the toxicity of Bt corn. According to Institute of Science and Society, more than 1,800 sheep were reported dead after grazing on Bt cotton crops from severe toxicity in four villages in Andhra Pradesh India. Also in the last three years ill workers and dead villagers have been reported in the same village.

Mass Deaths in Sheep Grazing on Bt Cotton

Also in 2003, in Philippines there have been several reports of death of livestock and fever, chest pain, respiratory, intestinal and skin ailments of villagers who lived close by Bt maize fields.

Dozens Ill & Five Deaths in the Philippines and GM Ban Long Overdue

What’s amazing is that in all the cases, Bt toxin has led to sudden death and mysterious illnesses in humans and livestock.

In fact, in 2012 the Canadian study showed large percentages of both glyphosate and gluphosinate (glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup used as herbicide for GM crops) in the blood of non-pregnant women. Also Bt toxin was found in the blood of 95% of pregnant women and 83% of their unborn fetuses.

Recently, another long-term French study by Gilles-Eric Séralini also linked Bt corn to severe kidney and liver toxicity and giant tumors in rats.

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