Superbug vs. Monsanto: Nature rebels against biotech titan
A growing number of rootworms are now able to devour genetically modified corn specifically designed by Monsanto to kill those same pests. A new study shows that while the biotech giant may triumph in Congress, it will never be able to outsmart nature.
Western corn rootworms have been able to harmlessly consume the genetically modified maize, a research paper published in the latest issue of the journal GM Crops & Food reveals. A 2010 sample of the rootworm population had an elevenfold survival rate on the genetically modified corn compared to a control population. That’s eight times more than the year before, when the resistant population was first identified.
Experts are also noting that this year’s resistant rootworm populations are maturing earlier than expected. In fact, the time the bug’s larvae hatched was the earliest in decades.
“The Western corn rootworm 'season' is underway at a pace earlier than I have experienced since I began studying this versatile insect as a graduate student in the late 1970s,” entomologist Mike Gray wrote in The Bulletin, a periodical issued by the University of Chicago’s Department of Crop Studies.
Studies in other states have also revealed that the rootworm population is becoming increasingly resistant to genetically modified corn. Last year, Iowa State University researcher Aaron Gassmann noted that a number of farmers reported discovering, much to their dismay, that a large number of rootworms survived after the consumption of their GM crops. Gassmann branded these pests “superbugs.”
Farmers and food companies have increasingly been dependent on GM crops, and many have abandoned crop rotation, a practice that has been used to stave off pest infestations for centuries. Some have even gone as far as to ignore federal regulation, which require the GM corn plantations be accompanied by a small “refuge” of non-GM maize.
The recent findings have potentially devastating ramifications for both farmers and consumers. Genetic maize plantation would easily come under attack from the swelling number of “superbugs,” resulting in dwindling harvest numbers for farmers. Ultimately, consumers will pay the price not only for corn, an essential product whose derivatives are used in a plethora of products ranging from yogurts to baby powder, but for other crops sold in the market. Rising corn prices would mean that more farmers would plant corn, despite the risks, and the yield for other crops would drop. That would drive prices for virtually all food items up, hitting hard on a population already smitten by ongoing economic difficulties.
Monsanto launched its anti-rootworm GM corm in 2003. The Cry3Bb1 protein, derived from the Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt.) bacterium, was inserted into the corn’s genetic code. The embedded protein was supposed to be fatal to all rootworms.
The recent findings came days after Monsanto, along with other biotech companies, got a major boost from a congressional panel, which okayed the manufacture of GM crops despite pending legal challenges. Many of the lawsuits that Monsanto faces include assessments that its crops are unsafe for human consumption and affect the health of unborn children.
Monsanto has also been an active plaintiff itself. Its primary targets include entities that seek to label GM foods, and small farmers, whom the biotech behemoth accuses of using genetically modified crops patented by Monsanto.
The Lies You’re Told about Genetically Engineered Foods ;
"By Dr. Mercola
The Atlantici recently reported on the findings of new research into the claims made for the safety and efficacy of genetically engineered foods.
The authors of the report GMO Myths and Truthsii took a science-based approach to evaluating the available research, and came to the conclusion that most of the scientific evidence regarding safety and increase yield potential do not support the claims made at all. In fact, the evidence demonstrates that the claims for genetically engineered foods are not just wildly overblown; they simply aren't true...
The featured article summarizes the evidence presented, which shows that genetically engineered (GE) crops:
Are laboratory-made, using technology that is totally different from natural breeding methods, and pose different risks from non-GE crops
Can be toxic, allergenic or less nutritious than their natural counterparts
Are not adequately regulated to ensure safety
Do not increase yield potential
Do not reduce pesticide use but increase it
Create serious problems for farmers, including herbicide-tolerant "superweeds", compromised soil quality, and increased disease susceptibility in crops
Have mixed economic effects
Harm soil quality, disrupt ecosystems, and reduce biodiversity
Do not offer effective solutions to climate change
Are as energy-hungry as any other chemically-farmed crops
Cannot solve the problem of world hunger but distract from its real causes - poverty, lack of access to food and, increasingly, lack of access to land to grow it on
The authors of this critical report include Michael Antoniou, PhD, who heads the Gene Expression and Therapy Group at King's College at London School of Medicine in the UK. He's a 28-year veteran of genetic engineering technology who has himself invented a number of gene expression biotechnologies; as well as John Fagan, PhD, a leading authority on food sustainability, biosafety, and GMO testing.
If you want to get an in-depth understanding of genetically engineered foods, I highly recommend reading their reportiii, which covers the ins-and-outs of genetic engineering and the disturbing findings of a large number of scientific studies...."
Monsanto rider: New bill could make biotech companies immune to courts
If passed, an amendment in the Agricultural Appropriations Bill will not just allow, but require the secretary of agriculture to grant permits for planting or cultivating GM crops – even if a federal court has given an injunction against it.
Basically, all Monsanto and other biotech companies have to do is ask and the industry gets its way. Issues like crop contamination, damage to farmers or consumers, courts orders or USDA studies all go out the window and the biotech industry cashes in.
Organizations like Food Democracy Now are in a panic, calling all to petition against the bill, which they say “fundamentally undermines the concept of judicial review and would strip judges of their constitutional mandate to protect consumer rights and the environment, while opening up the floodgates for the planting of new untested genetically engineered crops, endangering farmers, consumers and the environment.”
Representative Peter DeFazio has been trying to push through an amendment that would kill the havoc-wreaking rider. He has the support of organizations like Organic Consumers Associations, Center for Food Safety and others. Their warnings have been circulating the web, gathering attention and support – but will they be enough to sway the House?
"Ceding broad and unprecedented powers to industry, the rider poses a direct threat to the authority of US courts, jettisons the US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) established oversight powers on key agriculture issues and puts the nation's farmers and food supply at risk, " claimed the Center for Food Safety in a recent statement.
But how has such a rider even made it on to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill? According to Tom Philpot of Mother Jones, agricultural sub-committee chair Jack Kingston is responsible for inserting this pro-industry provision, which, many argue, has nothing to do with agricultural appropriations. Interestingly enough, Kingston was also voted “legislator of the year for 2011-2012″ by none other than the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include Monsanto and DuPont.
The media is speculating that the House of Representatives will vote on the bill on July 23rd, after allegedly delaying the issue twice earlier this month. But one thing is certain – if passed, this one line in a 90-page document will mean Frankenfood for consumers, losses for farmers and huge profits for biotech companies that don’t appear to care much for anything else.
Monsanto spends millions to fight labeling of genetically modified food
Activists in California are fighting to pass Proposition 37, a law that would legally require genetically modified foods to be labeled as such. Biotech giant Monsanto doesn’t like that idea, though, and has donated over $4.2 million to oppose it.
If the majority of voters in California can come together to support Proposition 37 on Election Day, companies such as Monsanto will be forced to advertise products created through genetic engineering and modification as being exactly that. And although the initiative is being touted by activists who demand a right to know what is being sold in supermarkets and grocery stores across the state, Monsanto and other GMO corporations are condemning the legislation.
No on 37, a “coalition against the deceptive food labeling scheme, sponsored by farmers and food producers,” has been put together to push back the proposition. According to campaign records publically available on the California State Department’s website, Monsanto has handed over $4,208,000 so far to support the movement aimed against Prop 37.
Dow Agrosciences, a multi-billion-dollar chemical company with strong GMO ties, has also contributed almost $1.2 million; Dupont has offered $1,273,600.
Taking into account the contributors from by Dupont, Dow and Monsanto made only this week, those three entities alone have donated $6.8 million in just a few days towards fighting the mandated labeling. The parent companies of Nestle, Pepsi, Hershey and Kellogg have also made handed over substantial amounts of money, as have Coca Cola, Sara Lee, Rich Products , Dole and Del Monte — and some have even made repeated donations.
"Everyone is impacted because everyone buys groceries, and one of the impacts is going to be higher grocery bills," No on 37 spokesperson Kathy Fairbanks tells the Associated Press. "Prop. 37 leaves consumers with the incorrect impression that there is something wrong with GE crops, when that is not true."
In a classic case of David against Goliath, though, the supporters of Prop 37 say that they will persevere in the end, even if they are going against millions of dollars in unmatched contributions.
“The giant pesticide and food companies are afraid of the mothers and grandmothers who want the right to know what’s in our food,” Stacy Malkan, media director of California Right to Know, tells Raw Story. “These companies will try to buy the election, but it won’t work. California moms and dads will prevail over Monsanto and Dupont.“
So far No on 37 has raised almost $25 million, more than 10 times what supporters of the proposition have produced, the AP reports. The bill will be up for vote on Election Day this November.