Just when I think things can’t possibly get any worse…

“Iowa State University researchers are putting flu vaccines into the genetic makeup of corn, which may someday allow pigs and humans to get a flu vaccination simply by eating corn or corn products.

“We’re trying to figure out which genes from the swine influenza virus to incorporate into corn so those genes, when expressed, would produce protein,” said Hank Harris, professor in animal science and one of the researchers on the project. “When the pig consumes that corn, it would serve as a vaccine.”

This collaborative effort project involves Mr. Harris and Brad Bosworth, an affiliate associate professor of animal science working with pigs, and Kan Wang, a professor in agronomy, who is developing the vaccine traits in the corn.

According to the researchers, the corn vaccine would also work in humans when they eat corn or even corn flakes, corn chips, tortillas or anything that contains corn, Mr. Harris said. The research is funded by a grant from Iowa State University’s Plant Sciences Institute, and is their Biopharmaceuticals and Bioindustrials Research Initiative. Read the rest of this entry »

Reacting to a growing public health problem, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a $466,125 research grant to the Mount Sinai School of Medicine to investigate the mechanisms that make food allergies occur and pinpoint what triggers them. Within the biotechnology sector, EPA regulates the proteins used as pesticides that are introduced to our food supply and aims to ensure that these do not have adverse health impacts. The innovative microbiology study will examine the genetic factors that contribute to the spread of food allergy by closely examining its pathogenesis or step-by-step development.

“Food allergies affect six to eight percent of children in the U.S., but there is a shortage of information on how food allergies develop and how to prevent them,” said George Pavlou, Acting EPA Regional Administrator. “An important component of EPA’s biotechnology research is to improve our understanding of the health effects from genetically engineering proteins. This study will bring us closer to identifying environmental or dietary triggers that lead to food allergy.”

To date, no adverse health effects attributed to genetically engineered foods have been documented in the human population. However, the majority of soybeans, as well as large proportions of corn, canola, and cotton crops produced worldwide are genetically engineered with custom made proteins for resistance to pests. The results of the EPA funded research will be used to better predict if the development of dietary allergens is connected with genetic engineering of foods.

EPA regulates the use of all pesticides in the U.S., including pesticide proteins introduced into food through genetic engineering. EPA has a regulatory power to establish acceptable levels for pesticide residues and evaluate human health and ecological risks under authority of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

For more details about the project go to: http://cfpub.epa.gov/ncer_abstracts/index.cfm/fuseaction/display.abstractDetail/abstract/8939/report/0

For years, the biotechnology industry has trumpeted that it will feed the world, promising that its genetically engineered crops will produce higher yields.

That promise has proven to be empty, according to a new report by the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Despite 20 years of research and 13 years of commercialization, genetic engineering has failed to significantly increase U.S. crop yields.

“The biotech industry has spent billions on research and public relations hype, but genetically engineered food and feed crops haven’t enabled American farmers to grow significantly more crops per acre of land,” said Doug Gurian-Sherman, a biologist in the UCS Food and Environment Program and author of the report. “In comparison, traditional breeding continues to deliver better results.”

The report, “Failure to Yield: Evaluating the Performance of Genetically Engineered Crops,” is the first to closely evaluate the overall effect genetic engineering has had on crop yields in relation to other agricultural technologies. It reviewed two dozen academic studies of corn and soybeans, the two primary genetically engineered food and feed crops grown in the United States. Based on those studies, the UCS report concluded that genetically engineering herbicide-tolerant soybeans and herbicide-tolerant corn has not increased yields. Insect-resistant corn, meanwhile, has improved yields only marginally. The increase in yields for both crops over the last 13 years, the report found, was largely due to traditional breeding or improvements in agricultural practices. Read the rest of this entry »

Germany has thrown its weight behind a growing European mutiny over genetically modified crops by banning the planting of a widely grown pest-resistant corn variety.

Agriculture minister Ilse Aigner said there was enough evidence to support arguments that MON 810, which is the only GM crop widely grown in Europe, posed a danger.

“I have come to the conclusion that genetically-modified corn from the MON 810 strain constitutes a danger to the environment,” Aigner told reporters in Berlin. Read the rest of this entry »

monsanto-lobbbying-2008

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Lobbying Expenditures: $8,831,120

Monsanto CEO Letter to Annual Shareholders

“…In describing our financial results for fiscal 2008, it is very gratifying to repeat a message you have heard for what is now the past five fiscal years: We achieved new records in net sales and net income. …Along the way in 2008, we made several acquisitions that bolster our business across our key crops and complement the organic growth we continue to enjoy. We also garnered meaningful share gains in the United States and Argentina. And we obtained a number of key regulatory approvals for our game-changing technologies that will support our long-term growth. It is against this backdrop that we made the confident yet carefully considered commitment to more than double our 2007 gross profit by 2012 — raised from our previous forecasts…” Hugh Grant, Monsanto President and CEO

In keeping with its commitment to deliver innovations for agriculture, Monsanto Company announced on March 9 that it has completed regulatory submissions in the U.S. and Canada for the world’s first biotech drought-tolerant corn product developed together with Germany-based BASF. The company applied for U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) approval of its drought-tolerant corn product following its submission to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) last December.

Monsanto invests more than $2.6 million per day on leading agricultural research.

Money talks.

Sources:
http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/clientsum.phplname=Monsanto+Co&year=2008
http://www.monsanto.com/investors/financial_reports/annual_report/2008/letter_to_shareholders.asp

http://news.moneycentral.msn.com/ticker/article.aspx?Feed=PR&Date=20090309&ID=9678216&Symbol=MON

“Despite the GM hype built up by the industry during the food crisis, there is still not a single commercial GM crop with increased yield, drought-tolerance, salt-tolerance, enhanced nutrition or any of the other ‘beneficial’ traits long-promised by the industry. Disease-resistant GM crops are practically nonexistent, and are grown on a tiny scale.”

The world is facing a crisis in the global food system but the major biotechnology corporations (also the leading agro-chemical players) increasingly controls the world’s seed supply.
 
In its annual assessment of GM crops worldwide, Friends of the Earth International (FOEI) maintained that the biotechnology industry’s insistence that GM technology is the answer to solving hunger and the food crisis is merely a hype. Its report, “Who benefits from GM crops?” looks behind the spin and exposes the reasons why GM crops cannot, and are unlikely to contribute to poverty reduction, global food security or sustainable farming.
 
The report also noted that GM crops are not as widely cultivated around the world as the biotech industry’s figures suggest and found that these figures are often inflated to make GM farming appear more widespread than it really is.

According to the report, “GM crops are still confined to a handful of countries with highly industrialised, export-oriented agricultural sectors. Nearly 90 per cent of the area planted to GM crops in 2007 was found in just six countries in North and South America, with 80 per cent in the US, Argentina and Brazil. One country alone, the United States, plants over 50 per cent of the world’s GM crops. Just 3 per cent or less of cropland in India and China is planted to GM crops”.

With respect to Europe, the area grown with GM crops in Europe has actually declined rather than increased.
 
The report is available online at: http://www.foei.org/en/what-we-do/gmos/global/who-benefits-09

Scientists have grown genetically-engineered purple tomatoes in an unusual endeavour to promote healthy food.

The tomatoes include two genes taken from the snapdragon flower (Antirrhinum majus) to enable them to express a compound called anthocyanin, the purple pigment found in high levels in fruit such as blackberries and cranberries.

Previous research has found that anthocyanins offer protection against certain cancers, cardiovascular disease and degenerative diseases, and may also hinder inflammation, obesity and diabetes.

The study is published online on Sunday by Nature Biotechnology, a journal of the London-based Nature Publishing Group.

Researcher Cathie Martin from the John Innes Centre, a biotechnology institute in Norwich, eastern England, said the point behind the purple toms was to boost the healthiness of diets. Read the rest of this entry »

Behold the featherless chicken, created by Scientists at the genetics faculty at the Rehovot Agronomy Institute near Tel Aviv, Israel. The idea behind the development of this naked bird is that it will create a more ‘convenient’ and energy efficient chicken that can live in crowded environments like factory farms. Not growing feathers saves energy that can be used to grow meat.

Think there’s no way this sad version of a chicken could end up as your next meal? Think again. This past week the FDA opened the way for genetically engineered chickens, salmon, cows, and other fish and animals to move from the laboratory to your dinner table, unveiling an approval process that would classify the modified creatures as drugs. No labels will be required.

“There is no special labeling requirement simply because the animal itself was engineered,” says Randall Lutter, a deputy commissioner for policy.

FDA regulates GE animals under the “new animal drug” provisions of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA), FDA’s regulations for new animal drugs. Companies are not required to alert consumers when antibiotics, hormones, or other drugs are used in raising the animals.

The decision does not affect cloned animals or their offspring, which earlier this year were declared safe as a food source by the FDA.

Many experts fear that the proposed regulations do not go far enough to protect and reassure the public. In particular, they argue that the approval process would be highly secretive to protect the commercial interests of the companies involved and that the new rules do not place sufficient weight on the environmental impact of what many consider to be Frankenstein animals. Read the rest of this entry »

Farming in a GM wonderland

September 15, 2008

GM Watch’s Quiz 2

We’re off to see the biotech equivalent of the Wizard of Oz…

 1. Many pro-GM commentators hail the technology as the solution to the current food crisis because of its ability to reduce fertilizer use and help farmers cope with problems like drought, salinity or flooding. After 20 years of GM research, how many GM drought tolerant, or salt tolerant, or flood tolerant, or fertilizer-reducing crops are there on the market worldwide? ANSWER: None.

2. There have been tens of thousands of articles in the world’s media about ‘miracle’ crops genetically engineered for enhanced appearance, flavour, nutrition, or to be allergen-free, or to combat problems like obesity or to contain edible vaccines that protect against major diseases like cancer. How many of these GM crops are there on the market worldwide? ANSWER: None.

3. When published in April 2008, which appraisal of global agriculture, sponsored by the World Bank and the U.N., and undertaken on a scale comparable to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concluded that GM crops have at best variable impacts on yields and would not play a substantial role in addressing climate change, loss of biodiversity, hunger or poverty? ANSWER: IAASTD – International Assessment of Agricultural knowledge, Science and Technology for Development

4. More than 50% of the GM crops grown worldwide are farmed in the United States, and by far the most widely grown crop is herbicide-tolerant soyabeans. Based on U.S. Department of Agriculture trend data and numerous field studies, by roughly how much has GM soya increased yield for U.S. farmers compared to conventional (non-GM) varieties? ANSWER: Zero – it may even have decreased yields compared to non-GM varieties. Read the rest of this entry »

China is set to launch a US$3.5 billion research project for genetically modified (GM) crops to help address the demand for food in the world’s most populous nation.

The initiative is expected to be rolled out later this month. Exact details have yet to be worked out, but the State Council, China’s cabinet, approved the research initiative in July, after Premier Wen Jiabao told senior scientists that the country needs “big science and technology measures” like GM to solve its food problem.

China has already widely planted insect-resistant GM cotton, which occupies 70 per cent of the area devoted to growing the crop in China. Chinese scientists have also successfully developed several types of GM rice, whose field trials have shown higher yields and less pesticide uses. But the government has delayed commercialisation of GM rice due to biosafety concerns.

The new initiative will also include a public education initiative to try to ease public safety concerns over GM. Chinese scientists say that legitimate concerns over GM crops’ biosafety should not be used to mislead the public in the name of environmental protection.

http://www.scidev.net/en/news/china-pushes-us-3-5-billion-gm-project.html