June 2, 2009
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
April 15, 2009
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 »
April 15, 2009
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 »
April 7, 2009
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.
March 16, 2009
“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 »