jueves, mayo 31, 2012

More GMO's in Puerto Rico

Please post and distribute
More GM Crops in Puerto Rico, Why We Should Worry

Carmelo Ruiz-Marrero
Puerto Rico Project on Biosafety
September 12 2011

The US-based Monsanto company, the world's biggest seed company and undisputed world leader in agricultural biotechnology, announced in June 2011 that it would increase its activities in Puerto Rico. Specifically, the corporation is investing $4.3 million in the construction of a 20,000-square foot laboratory for corn and cotton seed development in the southern municipality of Juana Diaz. These will be genetically modified (GM) seeds, no doubt, since Monsanto spends the bulk of its research and development budget on this technology. The announcement was made in Washington DC during the Biotechnology Industry Organization's annual conference. Puerto Rico Industrial Development Corporation executive director Jose Perez-Riera and agriculture secretary Javier Rivera-Aquino were in the convention in a celebration mood with Juan Santiago, Monsanto's chief of operations in Puerto Rico, while he was making the announcement.

Pioneer Hi Bred, Monsanto's leading competitor in the GM seed business, is not far behind. That same month it inaugurated in the municipality of Salinas, several miles east of Juana Diaz, a 22,000-square foot seed laboratory. Pioneer, which has been in Puerto Rico since 1989, has been a subsidiary of multinational corporation Dupont since 1999. The Dupont-Pioneer corporate giant was the world's largest seed company until 2005, when Monsanto surpassed it by purchasing Mexico's Seminis seed company for $1.4 billion.

Puerto Rico governor Luis Fortuño attended the Pioneer laboratory's festive inauguration and heaped praise on the agricultural biotechnology corporations that operate in the island. “Puerto Rico is an ideal place for bioagricultural research,” Fortuño said during the inauguration. “The island boasts a regulatory framework aligned with the U.S., an efficient transportation system, a longer growing season suitable for planting crops year-round, novel economic incentives, and a highly-educated workforce.”.

What's wrong with all this? GM products are the subject of a worldwide heated controversy, whose participants include doctors and scientists as well as peasant movements, international organizations and political leaders, and has led to arrests, violent repression and persecution against scientists that have dared to contradict the official discourse on biotechnology. Since the 1990's this debate has produced numerous books, television and newspaper reports, documentaries (both short and of full-length), scientific symposia, contentious international negotiations, and even protest marches and civil disobedience.

When we say genetically modified we mean an organism whose genetic code, or genome, has had foreign genes inserted into it through genetic engineering. The process of genetic engineering tears down cell barriers in order to make genetic combinations that would have never happened in nature, and it's used in food and agriculture since the 1990's. There are actually tens of millions of hectares of farmland planted with GM crops in the world, the great majority of them in only four countries: the United States, Canada, Brazil and Argentina. Almost all these GM crops are soy and corn. The rest are mostly cotton and canola.

These GM crops do not yield more than their conventional non-GM counterparts, they are not more nutritional, and do not use less toxic agrochemicals. The majority were altered to be immune to a herbicide called Roundup, a product of Monsanto, and they are thus known as Roundup Ready. The rest produce their own pesticide, and are known as Bt crops. This soy and corn are used to make, among other things, flour, starch, cooking oil, high fructose corn syrup, biofuels and feed for the farm animals that give us meat, eggs and dairy.

A safe herbicide?

It goes without saying that foodstuffs derived from Roundup Ready crops can have substantial traces of Roundup. So, how safe is this herbicide for human consumption?

In June 2011 an international group of scientists and researchers, organized as Earth Open Source, published a report titled “Roundup and Birth Defects: Is the Public Being Kept in the Dark?”. The document says that as early as the 1980's Monsanto knew that glyphosate, active ingredient of Roundup, caused birth defects in laboratory animals; that the German government had this information at least since 1998; and, to quote from the report's press release:

“The German government has known about these findings since at least the 1990s, when as the 'rapporteur' member state (of the European Union) for glyphosate, it reviewed industry's studies for the EU approval of the herbicide. The European Commission has known since at least 2002, when it signed off on glyphosate's approval. But this information was not made public. On the contrary, regulators have consistently misled the public about glyphosate's safety. As recently as last year, the German Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety, BVL, told the Commission there was "no evidence of 'teratogenicity' (ability to cause birth defects) for glyphosate.” (Parentheses in original)

In 2010 a prestigious scientific journal, Chemical Research in Toxicology, published a peer-reviewed study, written by Argentine embryologist Andres Carrasco, leading researcher at the National Council of Scientific and Technical Research (Conicet) and director of the molecular embryology laboratory at the University of Buenos Aires, which determined that glyphosate is extremely toxic for amphibian embryos in doses much lower than those used in agriculturural sprayings, as much as 1,540 times lower. And Argentina has over 20 million hectares (over half of the country's farmland) planted with Roundup Ready soy, which receive over 200 million liters of glyphosate a year!

In August 2010 Argentina held its First National Encounter of Medics of Fumigated Towns, in which participating scientists, researchers, and academics wrote an open letter to agribusiness trade associations, from which we quote:

“The cancers and other severe illnesses are detected with more frequency now. As well as miscarriages, disruptions of fertility and the birth of children with birth malformations, which we find in very elevated rates. And respiratory, endocrine, hematological, neurological and psychic ailments are, also now, much more frequent in the systematically fumigated populations. Fumigated because they share the same geographic space as the agroindustrial and genetically engineered crops that you yourselves exploit.

... We, the doctors and other members of the health teams, the researchers, scientists and academics that analyze this problem, are certain that the increasing health ailments in the inhabitants of the fumigated towns are caused by the fumigations that you yourselves carry out.”

The Grupo de Reflexion Rural (GRR), an Argentine NGO that is critical of GM crops and industrial agriculture, has been documenting these horrors for years:

“Some time ago, the (GRR) took on the task of collecting information about the impacts of glyphosate on diverse Argentine populations: among other places, in the Ituzaingo neighborhood in Cordoba; Las Petacas, in Santa Fe; in San Lorenzo, also in Santa Fe; and Los Toldos in Buenos Aires. In each of these populations dramatic situations were detected. And precisely in the Ituzaingo neighborhood... over two hundred cancer cases in a population of hardly 5,000 inhabitants, as well as deformations among the newborn. Ituzaingo is a population surrounded by soy fields that are systematically fumigated. The spray from these fumigations arrives at the doors of the houses.”

In 2008 Chemical Research in Toxicology published a study by Gilles-Eric Seralini, a French specialist in molecular biology and professor at the University of Caen, which indicates that Roundup is lethal to human cells. According to Seralini's research, doses far below those used on soy crops cause cell death in a few hours. “Even in doses diluted one thousand times, Roundup herbicide stimulates the deaths of human embryonic cells, which could cause deformations, miscarriages, hormonal, genital and reproductive problems, as well as different types of cancer”, Seralini told Argentine newspaper Pagina 12.

In 2005 Seralini had already confirmed that Roundup provokes toxic effects in human placental cells and embryos even in very low doses, in a study published by Environmental Health Perspectives. The herbicide kills a great proportion of these cells after only 18 hours of exposure in concentrations lower than those of agricultural use.

“He also emphasized that in solutions of between 10 thousand and 100 thousand times more diluted than in the commercial product it no longer killed cells, but it blocked their production of sex hormones, which could provoke in fetuses difficulties in the development of bones and of the reproductive system. He alerted about the possibility that the herbicide could be an endocrine disruptor, and called for new studies.”

Seralini's study in Chemical Research in Toxicology focused on human umbilical cord, embryo and placental cells. The cells died in the 24 hours of exposure to the Roundup varieties. “A cell action mechanism was studied with four different Roundup formulations (Express, Bioforce or Extra, Gran Tavaraux, and Grand Tavaraux Plus). The results show that the four Roundup herbicides, and the pure glyphosate, cause cell death. Confirmed by the morphology of the cells after the treatment it is determined that, even in the lowest of concentrations, it causes important cell death”, says the publication.

Genetically engineered pesticide

Biotechnology companies assure us that the toxin secreted by Bt crops is harmless to human beings and that it dissolves in the human digestive system. Today we know both statements are wrong.

Bt toxin was found in the blood of pregnant women and their fetuses, as well as in non-pregnant women, by doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec. Specifically, the study determined that the toxin was present in 93% of 30 pregnant women, in the umbilical cord blood of 80% of the fetuses, and in 67% of 39 non-pregnant women. The study has been accepted for publication in Reproductive Toxicology, a peer-reviewed journal.

Research funded by the Italian government published in 2008 found that laboratory rats fed with Monsanto's Bt corn had abnormally high IgE and IgG antibodies, something that is typically associated with allergies and infections. They also had elevated levels of interleukins, which is associated to various diseases in humans, from rheumatoid arthritis and osteoporosis to multiple sclerosis and Lou Gehrig's. The animals also had abnormally high levels of T gamma delta cells, which is what happens in cases of asthma, childhood food allergies, and juvenile arthritis.

The insecticide produced by the tissues of Bt plants is the genetically engineered version of a natural toxin produced by Bacillus thuringiensis, a very common soil bacterium. Natural Bt has been used as pesticide in organic agriculture for decades. Biotech companies assure that this pesticide in its natural form is safe and that therefore its GM variant must be safe too. But today we know that natural Bt can have adverse effects if it is not used correctly.

According to scientific peer-reviewed studies (Vazquez et al), lab rats fed with natural Bt toxin suffered tissue damage and developed immune responses as severe as those caused by cholera toxin, and even started having adverse reactions to foods that previously had caused them no trouble.

Adverse reactions in humans have alse been documented:

In 1999 Environmental Health Perspectives published a study authored by I. L. Bernstein et al, which found that farm workers have developed immune system reactions when exposed to natural Bt.

In March 2001 the Environmental Protection Agency's Scientific Advisory Panel warned that published studies on animals and humans suggest that Bt proteins can cause allergies. The EPA ignored the panel, and it also ignored a 1993 Washington State Health Department report and a study published by the American Journal of Public Health in 1990 which documented that hundreds of people in the states of Washington and Oregon had allergy symptoms after Bt sprayings to eradicate the gypsy moth.

In India there are thousands of farm workers that have symptoms similar to the aforementioned cases reported in the USA- what these Indian farm workers all have in common is that they work with Bt cotton plants. "According to reports and records from doctors, hospitals, and pharmacies, as well as numerous investigative reports and case studies, workers are struggling with constant itching and rashes; some take antihistamines every day in order to go to work.", according to researcher Jeffrey Smith, executive director of the Institute for Responsible Technology and author of "Seeds of Deception".

We quote Smith again:

"When they allow livestock to graze on the Bt cotton plants after harvest, thousands of sheep, goats, and buffalo died. Numerous others got sick. I visited one village where for seven to eight years they allowed their buffalo to graze on natural cotton plants without incident. But on January 3rd, 2008, they allowed their 13 buffalo to graze on Bt cotton plants for the first time. After just one day’s exposure, all died. The village also lost 26 goats and sheep. One small study in Andhra Pradesh reported that all six sheep that grazed on Bt cotton plants died within a month, while the three controls fed natural cotton plants showed no adverse symptoms."

Information on the hazards of Bt crops is not new. On May 22 2005, England's The Independent reported the existence of a secret Monsanto report about Mon 863, one of their Bt corn varieties. According to the 1,139-page report, rats fed with this corn for 13 weeks had unusually high counts of white blood cells and lymphocytes, which increase in cases of cancer, poisoning or infection; low levels of reticulocytes, which can indicate anemia; loss of kidney weight, which can indicate blood pressure problems; liver necrosis; high blood sugar; and other adverse symptoms. Monsanto spokespeople assured that the company would make the report public, but did not do so willingly, invoking "confidentiality", and at first only published an 11-page summary. It was not until a German court ordered its disclosure months later that the full text became public.

It is important to point out that this important information about Mon 863 is public not because of Monsanto's good faith but because someone, most probably an employee with access to the company's confidential documents took the risk of taking it to the press. If it were not for this anonymous hero, this Wikileaks of biotechnology, today we would be blissfully ignorant of the effects of this genetically engineered corn. We must ask then, Can there be other harmful GM foods that the biotech industry is feeding us knowing full well that they can cause harm to people?

This has been an extremely brief summary of health risks caused by the GM products that companies like Monsanto and Dupont are developing in Puerto Rican farmlands. For more information, please see the bilingual blog of the Puerto Rico Project on Biosafety (http://bioseguridad.blogspot.com/), a small collective founded in 2004 to alert the citizenry about the implications of GM crops and products.

A Spanish language version of this article was published in 80 Grados, a Puerto Rican online publication (http://www.80grados.net/).

Ruiz-Marrero is a Puerto Rican author, investigative journalist, environmental educator, and director of the Project on Biosafety. He is a Research Associate of the Institute for Social Ecology and a Fellow of the Oakland Institute, and has published over 1,000 articles over the last 20 years in the most diverse outlets, including Counterpunch, Inter Press Service, Corporate Watch, Alternet, Grist, Z Magazine, CIP Americas Policy Program, Food First, Earth Island Journal, and many more. His bilingual blog on all things progressive and ecological is updated almost daily (http://carmeloruiz.blogspot.com/). His Twitter ID is carmeloruiz.

Earth Open Source. Roundup and Birth Defects. http://es.scribd.com/doc/57277946/RoundupandBirthDefectsv5

GMO's in Puerto Rico (mostly in Spanish) http://bioseguridad.blogspot.com/search/label/Puerto%20Rico

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lunes, mayo 28, 2012

"Only GM can save the banana" (?)


"Only GM can save the banana" is the underlying message of a story that first surfaced in 2001, made a comeback in 2003, and has done the rounds in the media ever since. The story claims that because bananas are sterile, they can't be bred to avoid virulent banana diseases and so could be extinct within a decade. 
According to the story, "The standard variety, the Cavendish, is already threatened with a disease called black Sigatoka, and a new strain of another fungal condition, Panama disease, could wipe the plant out within a decade." The banana business, we are told, is "doomed".[1] "No more fresh bananas. No more banana bread. No more banana muffins or banana cream pie."[2] Worse still, bananas are an important nutritional source for many in the developing world. "Half a billion people in Africa and Asia depend on the banana for up to half their daily calories," say the reports.[3] "Genetic engineering may be the only answer"[4]: "Scientists believe that the creation of a GM banana that can resist the diseases may be the only way of preserving the fruit's future."[5]
Each time this headline-grabbing story (re)emerges, it gets expertly debunked... untill the next time comes around. And almost every time, the same scientist is quoted, Dr Emile Frison. Here are some of the headlines Dr Frison has helped to generate:
But the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has directly contradicted Dr Frison's claims that bananas are on the verge of extinction, saying that while there are problems of vulnerability to disease, this is aggravated by the widescale commercial use of the Cavendish banana, and can be countered by promoting greater genetic diversity. The FAO also points out that small-scale farmers around the world grow a wide range of banana species which are mostly less threatened than the Cavendish. There are, in fact, hundreds of different species of banana, and only 10 percent of the bananas produced and consumed globally are from the Cavendish.[6]
Other scientists have also dismissed the claim that the banana is close to extinction. The Thai scientist, Benchamas Silayoi from Kasetsart University's Faculty of Agriculture, has said it is just not possible for bananas to vanish so quickly. She points out that there is a world collection of banana germplasm in the Catholic University in Leuven, Belgium, containing over 1,100 accessions, precisely for the purpose of conserving the plant. In addition, there is also an Asian banana collection in the Philippines, and Thailand also has its own collection at Kasetsart University's banana tissue culture lab. According to Benchamas, pests and diseases could not possibly make the banana extinct in the kind of time period claimed. "Only big bombs can do that," she says.[7]
Plant pathologist Dr David Jones, a banana specialist, has also contradicted the claim that genetic engineering may be the only option for improving "sterile" banana cultivars. He points out that although "sterile" bananas "don't breed well, if at all, they can be induced to produce seed if pollinated by hand. Honduras's agricultural research foundation has had the most successful conventional banana breeding programme to date. The Honduran Foundation of Agricultural Research (Fundacíon Hondureña de Investigación Agrícola - FHIA) has bred disease-resistant bananas that are now grown extensively in Cuba [where severe problems with disease occurred  previously]. One called Goldfinger is also grown in Australia, and others are on trial in Africa and elsewhere. Conventional breeding can deliver the goods, especially when it comes to  bananas favoured by developing countries."[8] Even in the case of the familiar Cavendish banana with its supposed sterility problems, recent research in Honduras has shown that a few Cavendish plants can produce viable seeds. Researchers at the FHIA say these non-sterile fruit form the basis of a series of promising hybrids, that can be bred for resistance to the fungi.[9] David Jones says it may also be possible "to breed a commercially acceptable disease-resistant export banana using a fertile dwarf variety of 'Gros Michel', an earlier export dessert banana."
In addition, less controversial biotechnologies than genetic engineering have been used with some apparent success, most notably propagation through tissue culture as a means of reducing the risk of spreading banana diseases. And according to banana expert Dan Koeppel: "Most banana researchers agree that the real answer - as has been the case with crops like potatoes, apples, and grapes - is to abandon the monoculture that makes the emergence of a disease so devastating. A more diverse banana harvest would allow farmers to isolate susceptible bananas, surrounding them with more resistant varieties."[9]
Stories suggesting GM is the only means of saving the banana follow a classic pattern. An exaggerated crisis narrative is created in order to then present genetic engineering as the magical solution to an otherwise intractable problem. This then creates a false dilemma - accept GM or watch poor people suffer. The aim is to blackmail reluctant consumers and farmers into accepting GM bananas as the only solution to a problem that is far more complex than admitted, and where other measures are already proving effective. The driving force behind such scare stories, of course, is the need to overcome market rejection.
It is also worth noting that the GM crops developed to date have generally enabled much greater corporate control of farming - the very last thing small banana farmers need, as they already often have to contend with hugely powerful multinational corporations. On top of that, the biggest threat to the banana, according to the FAO, arises from genetic uniformity, and genetic engineering - with all its hype about techno-fixes - is likely to discourage the pursuit of genetic diversity, reinforcing uniformity.

Interestingly, Dr Emile Frison, the scientist who has done so much to promote GM bananas, is the director general of Bioversity International (BI). BI was set up to deploy genetic resources to counter the rapid loss of crop biodiversity. Although it lays strong emphasis on its governmental sources of funding, among the list of Top 20 donors in BI's Annual Report 2008 is the Global Crop Diversity Trust, which includes among its funders the big corporate players in genetic modification (GM), DuPont and Syngenta. Also among the Top 20 donors to BI are other well known proponents of GM, such as USAID.[10]

[1] Mark Henderson, "Bananas 'will slip into extinction without GM'", The Times, 16 January 2003
[2] Robert Alison, "Yes, we'll have no bananas", Globe & Mail (Canada), 19 July 2003
[3] Robert Uhlig, "Defenceless banana 'will be extinct in 10 years", Daily Telegraph, 16 January 2003
[4] Robert Uhlig, "Defenceless banana 'will be extinct in 10 years", Daily Telegraph, 16 January 2003
[5] Mark Henderson, "Bananas 'will slip into extinction without GM'", The Times, 16 January
[6] "Bananas not on verge of extinction, says FAO", UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Rome, Italy, 30 January 2003;
"UN food agency says bananas not threatened", Agence France Presse, January 30 2003
[7] "Bananas 'can't disappear by 2013'", The Nation, January 30 2003
[8] David Jones, "Bananas about GM", New Scientist, August 4 2001, Letters

[9] Dan Koeppel, "The Beginning of the End for Bananas?", The Scientist, July 22 2011
[10] "Biodiversity International", SpinProfiles, accessed June 30 2009


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domingo, mayo 27, 2012

Monsanto to end hunger in Africa (?)

Obama and Rich Nations Leave Monsanto in Charge of Ending Hunger in Africa

At the Group of Eight (G8) meetings this past weekend at Camp David, President Obama and the leaders of the rest of the world's richest nations abandoned their governments'  previous commitments to donate $7.3 billion a year to end hunger in Africa and instead left the problem in the hands of the so-called New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition where private corporations will invest $3 billion over 10 years - Monsanto has committed $50 million - beginning in three countries, Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia.
Leaving the  problem of hunger in the hand of multinationals like Monsanto and Cargill will only exacerbate the conditions already driving poverty in Africa - rich  countries' protectionism, land-grabbing, commodity speculation, food  waste, and diversion of crops to livestock feed and biofuels - and  ratchet up the costs of farming for small farmers by encouraging the use  of expensive and unsustainable GMO seeds, pesticides and fertilizers.
Read what food policy experts have to say about ending hunger in Africa.

TAKE ACTION:http://www.dakarappeal.org/index.php/en/

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viernes, mayo 25, 2012

Don't like Monsanto

Moneybomb Monsanto: We’re Closing in on Our Goal! Your Donation Could Put Us Over the Top!

Our ‘Drop the Money Bomb on Monsanto’ campaign continues to make history, as more individuals and more groups pitch in to help guarantee a $1 million matching gift – and the nation’s first victory in GMO labeling.
People and groups from every state in the US have been pitching in for this campaign. Why? Because we all know how much is riding on this victory in California. We’ve already seen GMO labeling laws make their way through legislatures in states like Washington, Vermont, and Connecticut, only to falter before they could be put to a vote. But the work pro-labelers have done in those states, and the publicity generated around their campaigns, have helped rally consumers in every state around the California campaign.
The California labeling law is our best shot at eventually guaranteeing consumers’ right to know on a national scale. This time, legislators can’t cave into Big Biotech – because this is a citizens’ initiative. And polls show that 90% of California voters support GMO labeling.
Big Food, Monsanto and the rest of the Biotech Bullies are revving up for a massive ad campaign to try to kill this initiative – and they’ve got a $60 million war chest to play with. We don’t need $60 million, because voters already support labeling 9 to 1. But we do need to run an effective campaign to counter the lies and propaganda that will soon hit the California airwaves.
We can do this – with your help. With just two days left, we need about $150,000. We’re counting on small donations of $5, $10, $20 to get us there. Your donation could be the one that puts us over the top!

Occupy Monsanto Week Begins September 17

In an effort to expose Monsanto's greed and hold the company accountable for their crimes, we are making Genetic Crimes Unit (GCU) Action Kits available for free to the first 50 groups who commit to Occupy Monsanto during the week of September 17th, 2012. Fill out the online form with your mailing address, email address, size, and basic info (date, time, and location) about your Occupy Monsanto plans for the week of September 17th and get your free kit!
Over the last 10 years Monsanto has spent over $52 million dollars making sure they get the most favorable legislation possible. Of that $52 million, nearly $11 million was paid to outside lobbying firms to lobby on behalf of Monsanto, while the rest of the total was spent on Monsanto's staff lobbyists.
When you’ve got billions of dollars in your coffers, you can afford to pay off political candidates & members of Congress. Follow this link to learn whether your Senator or Representative received donations from Monsanto’s Political Action Committee known as Monsanto Citizenship Fund between 2002 and the first quarter of 2012. If so, please contact them to say that you don’t support Monsanto’s efforts to genetically contaminate the world’s food supply.
In order to convince America's hardworking farmers that Monsanto's patented genes & toxic chemicals are safe, Monsanto has created a mobile advertising "unit" that will be spreading lies & pro-GMO propaganda around the United States this year. If your Genetic Crime Unit needs a good location to protect against further genetic contamination, go here for more information.

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Stop GM mosquitoes in Florida

April 19, 2012
Office of Governor Rick Scott
State of Florida
The Capitol
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001

Dear Governor Scott,

The undersigned consumer and environmental groups urge you to prevent the experimental release of British biotechnology company Oxitec’s genetically engineered mosquitoes in the Florida Keys.
This experiment would be a first in the United States. The supposed purpose of this experiment is to determine if the Aedes aegypti mosquito population will be reduced, as genetically engineered males mate with wild females, passing on a genetic defect that kills their offspring before they reach adulthood. The company claims this would theoretically reduce the mosquito population and the prevalence of dengue fever.

While mosquitoes that breed themselves out of existence may seem like a new option for dealing with the threat of disease and an irritating daily fact of life for Floridians, it has yet to be proven that this engineered mosquito is safe for people or the environment – or that it can effectively reduce the spread of dengue fever.

This would be the first genetically engineered insect to be introduced in the United States with the intent to wipe out a wild population in the name of disease control. Oxitec has already released millions of GE insects into the wild in South America and the Caribbean without studying potential environmental or health risks. Now Floridians are set to be Oxitec’s next guinea pigs, despite the fact that the Florida Keys had no reported cases of dengue fever in 2011.

The release of the company’s transgenic mosquitoes by the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District was planned to occur as early as spring 2012.

According to the Associated Press, during a two-month trial, between 5,000 and 10,000 of these transgenic mosquitoes would be released into an undisclosed 36-square-acre block near the Key West Cemetery.

The experiment raises serious concerns around the impact releasing genetically engineered mosquitoes could have on public health and the environment. For example, biting female mosquitoes could inject an engineered protein into humans along with other proteins from the mosquitos’ salivary gland. Oxitec has yet to conduct or publish any study showing that this protein is not expressed in the salivary gland and therefore cannot be passed on to humans. This is a real concern, even though officials only plan to release non-biting males, as genetically engineered females can also be accidentally released.

The company expects each batch to contain less than one percent females.
This is because mosquito pupae are tiny and sorting them for a large-scale release leaves plenty of room for error. Additionally, 3.5 percent of the insects in an Oxitec lab test survived to adulthood despite presumably carrying the lethal gene. These two facts combined mean that there will be a significant number of genetically engineered female mosquitoes in the environment that bite humans and spread disease. Since Aedes aegypti females bite many people in one feeding, it is able to spread disease even at low population levels. This means Oxitec’s technology might not even work in limiting the spread of disease while still exposing Keys residents to possible risks.
Despite the grave and growing public concerns that have been raised about the genetically engineered mosquitoes, there is no indication that the U.S. Food & Drug Administration or any other federal or state agency has evaluated the safety of the company’s planned release. Nor has there been an independent analysis to examine the public health or environmental impacts of this release. While it does appear Oxitec has a pending application, no agency seems to know who is actively responsible for considering it. Recent reports claim that despite a lack of clarity on which federal agency will have oversight over Oxitec’s transgenic mosquitoes, the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District is still interested in moving ahead with their field trial in 2012.
Communities near the proposed test areas should not become Oxitec’s laboratory for the field release of genetically engineered mosquitoes.
Since the federal government is not actively regulating these insects, Florida’s government should step up to protect Floridians and prohibit the release of these unregulated and uncontrolled mosquitoes in South Florida.
On April 3, 2012, the Key West City Commission voted 5 to 2 to pass a resolution objecting to the release of Oxitec’s genetically engineered mosquitoes. Please stand with Key West residents and their elected officials and oppose the release of these genetically engineered mosquitoes.
If you have questions or need more information, please contact Meagan Morrison at morrisonmeagan@yahoo.com or at (305) 879-3042.

Florida Keys Environmental Coalition
Food & Water Watch
Friends of the Earth
GMO Free Florida
Sierra Club Florida
Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam Florida congressional delegation

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miércoles, mayo 23, 2012

Transgénicos en Ecuador

Transgénicos en Ecuador, un interés de los Estados Unidos


"¿Cómo puede la embajada lograr una posición más favorable para los transgénicos? ¿Se busca acaso romper nuestra Constitución para dar paso a intereses foráneos y de los grupos de poder del país?"
En los últimos años el Ecuador ha sido reconocido en el ámbito internacional por su Nueva Constitución pues en ella se enmarca el Buen Vivir como una forma innovadora de mirar la relación sociedad-naturaleza. Son muchos los temas que transversalmente van dando sentido a este principio, uno de ellos es la declaratoria del Ecuador como un país libre de cultivos y semillas transgénicos.

La elaboración de la Constitución fue un proceso participativo, en el cual la sociedad civil debatió y argumentó posturas y propuestas, su aprobación fue una fiesta democrática en la cual participó toda la población Ecuatoriana; consecuentemente los mandatos de la Constitución son una reivindicación colectiva de nuestras aspiraciones como sociedad.

Esa, nuestra decisión libre y soberana, se ve amenazada constantemente por el interés de los Estados Unidos, que en defensa de sus empresas transnacionales y con apoyo del agronegocio ecuatoriano intenta a toda costa introducir semillas y cultivos transgénicos en Ecuador. La presión de este país para que aceptemos transgénicos tiene una larga historia. En el 2000 el Ministro de Agricultura fue invitado a visitar sitios de producción de cultivos transgénicos, luego vino la idea de aprobar un Reglamento de AgroBioseguridad (1) , presentado por el MAG. En el 2001, la Embajada de Estados Unidos trajo al país al Dr. Wayne Parrott quien en varias conferencias dirigidas a funcionarios gubernamentales (2), hablaba de los beneficios de la ingeniería genética. Luego en la propuesta de ley de Biodiversidad (2002) cuya aprobación era también un interés de la Embajada de Estados Unidos (3), se incluyó un capítulo sobre Bioseguridad, que evidentemente sentaba las pautas para introducir transgénicos.

Estados Unidos llevó a cabo un importante trabajo para promover la ingeniería genética en Ecuador. A través del Cochran Fellowship Program periodistas y personas claves participaron en cursos cortos sobre biotecnología en Hawai y Michigan. La promoción también se hacía utilizando los recursos de los programas de ayuda alimentaria de la USDA. Así, en el convenio del 2002, bajo el Título I de la PL480 (compras a crédito) se establecía que una parte del dinero obtenido por la monetización se destine a desarrollar y diseminar material para consumidores y productores sobre los beneficios de la biotecnología moderna. De igual forma, en el convenio de 2004, FGR-518-2004/187-00, firmado bajo título de Alimentos para el Progreso, entre sus objetivos se señala “suministrar educación en temas de biotecnología y tecnología agrícola” (4).

Luego de aprobada la Constitución, el 22 de Julio de 2010, la embajada de Estados Unidos (5) volvió a organizar en Quito y Guayaquil un seminario para periodistas, con el mismo científico que vino en el 2001 y quien en esta ocasión hizo pública su propia interpretación de nuestra Constitución: Al Ecuador pueden ingresar semillas y cultivos transgénicos (6) .

Hace algunos meses, fue publicado un wikileak (7), una comunicación de la embajadora de Estados Unidos según la cual la aceptación de transgénicos en el país se encuentra en una encrucijada –por la Constitución y la Ley de Soberanía Alimentaria- y es necesario cambiar la percepción de la opinión pública a fin de que ésta sea favorable a la biotecnología y enfrente las protestas cuando la excepción constitucional (para introducir semillas y cultivos transgénicos) sea aplicada por el Presidente o la Asamblea Nacional, y/o se apruebe nueva legislación secundaria.

Otro aspecto importante citado en este documento y que debemos tomar en cuenta es que de acuerdo a la embajada, la introducción de la excepción constitucional fue posible gracias a la influencia y al lobby del agronegocio del país.

Ante esto nos preguntamos: ¿Cómo puede la embajada lograr una posición más favorable para los transgénicos? ¿Se busca acaso romper nuestra Constitución para dar paso a intereses foráneos y de los grupos de poder del país? Sí, pero seguramente este intento no tendrá mayor eco en el gobierno actual que dice defender ante todo sus decisiones soberanas, seguramente no se va a permitir tal atrevimiento y, al contrario, para defender el Buen Vivir, se apoyará la legislación secundaria presentada por la Conferencia Pluricultural de Soberanía Alimentaria (COPISA) , éste es un proyecto construido participativamente, cuyo fin es proteger la agrobiodiversidad del país; garantizar el mandato constitucional para mantener el país libre de cultivos y semillas transgénicas; y apoyar a las múltiples experiencias agroecológicas existentes en el país, que representan la construcción de la verdadera soberanía alimentaria: alimentos sanos, producidos sin dependencia, sin contaminación y sin contribuir al cambio climático.

(1) Propuesta de Reglamento sobre Bioseguridad para Organismos Genéticamente Modificados en el sector agropecuario. Albán M.A y Torres M.L. Informe final de consultoría no publicado. PSA/MAG/BID. Convenio MAG/IICA. Quito, mayo de 2000.

(2) Biotechnology Ecuador Standing Biotechnology Report 2005, USDA Foreign Agricultural Service, GAIN Report Number: EC5008

(3) El 15 del 2004 en la oficina de The Nature Conservancy, TNC, en Quito, se llevó a cabo una reunión con los socios locales de esta organización, USAID y un representante de la embajada de Estados Unidos para plantear una estrategia de cabildeo a alto nivel con el fin de presionar a los miembros del Congreso Nacional para la aprobación en segundo debate de la Ley de Biodiversidad.

(4) Bravo A, 2007 Impactos de la introducción de alimentos transgénicos a través de los programas de ayuda alimentaria en Ecuador y Guatemala, CLACSO, Argentina.

(5) Ver aquí.

(6) El Expreso, 21 de Julio de 2010.

(7) (10QUITO54) Embassy Quito Request for Funding of Biotech Proposal. Ver aquí.

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Hanky panky at Gill Tract

Unclean Hands at the Gill Tract?

UC Berkeley researchers say they have nothing to do with Big Agribusiness, but records show that companies like Monsanto profit from their work.
The Gill Tract in Albany, CA by Steve Rhodes
By Darwin Bond Graham, East Bay Express, May 16,2012
The Gill Tract in Albany, CA, Photo by Steve Rhodes/Flickr
The battle over the future of Albany's Gill Tract has tapped into multiple, deep-seated conflicts that perennially dominate Bay Area politics, from land use and development to food ethics. But in one area, the roots of disagreement are potentially very deep: biotechnology and its uses.
Genetic engineering has been a topic of intense debate since its emergence in the early 1970s when scientists developed methods to cut and paste fragments of DNA, creating genetically modified organisms — GMOs. Some claim that GMOs represent a dangerous leap in the technological manipulation of life. Critics also point out that GMO research products benefit large corporations, producing proprietary crop varieties designed to promote industrialized models of agriculture, at the expense of small farmers and the public. Proponents, meanwhile, contend that genetic engineering is simply a new tool that could, if responsibly applied, enable humanity to better provide for the common good.
The East Bay encapsulates the entire debate like no place else. UC Berkeley and many of its spin-off companies are on the cutting edge of biotech. This university-led academic-industrial combine has arguably done more to promote the genetic engineering of food crops than any other cluster of institutions. Paradoxically, the Bay Area is also an epicenter for GMO opposition. It's no wonder, then, that the issue has lurked in the background of the recent farm occupation in Albany.

While saying they respect the academic freedom of the current crop of UC researchers who utilize the Gill Tract, and even inviting these researchers to continue their work alongside them, organizers of the farm occupation have expressed concern with the University of California's wider links to agribusiness corporations. Perhaps due to these criticisms, a few of the researchers who use the Gill Tract in their experiments have fired back. They said their work, and, by association, UC's research program at the Gill Tract, isn't connected to the biotech industry's profit motives, nor the genetic engineering of food crops.

In an interview with Albany Patch shortly after the occupation began, Damon Lisch, a UC researcher who uses the Gill Tract in his studies, characterized his work as having nothing to do with the agenda of corporate agribusiness. "Basic research using corn as a model is different than making GMO corn to improve profits for Monsanto," he said. In another Albany Patch article, UC researcher Sarah Hake said her research "is not to create new products (such as in genetic engineering)," but rather, "to understand basic processes in plant biology." Most recently, Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson quoted UC researcher George Chuck, who is a member of Hake's lab team, as saying that research at the Gill Tract is not funded by large oil and other corporate concerns.
But are the GMO-free claims of UC's researchers true? Is research at the Gill Tract by UC's scientists purely a public service, unconnected to corporate profits?

A survey of biotechnology patents that cite the research of these outspoken scientists shows that some of their research has, in fact, resulted in the production of GMO technologies. While UC's researchers might not be conducting GMO trials at the Tract directly for Big Agribusiness, some of their findings have been heavily cited by private sector researchers who are developing transgenic crops for their corporate employers. In fact, Lisch, the most outspoken researcher opposed to the Gill Tract occupation, is a co-inventor of a patent that is directly applicable to GMO research.

Lisch is a named inventor of one biotechnology patent owned by UC, "Genetic functions required for gene silencing in maize." The patent claims to solve a problem, known as "transgene silencing," faced by developers of GMO corn. In addition, the UC Office of Technology Transfer markets the techniques described in Lisch's patent to biotechnology companies so they can use these methods in their GMO development operations. According to the UC's Office of Intellectual Property and Industry Research Alliances website, the patent's "applications" are relevant to the "genetic engineering of corn." UC's Office of Technology Transfer says it's university policy to keep the names of corporations that are licensing a specific technology confidential, so it's not clear who is using Lisch's patented research findings to develop GMO corn.

Researcher Chuck's insistence that his work at the Gill Tract isn't funded by industry might be technically true, but his research has also been patented and marketed, not by UC, but by a private biotechnology company called DNA Plant Technology Corporation, which was headquartered on San Pablo Avenue in North Oakland during the 1990s, giving researchers physical access to UC's resources, including the Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany. DNA Plant Technology's intellectual property holdings were bought by the Bionova Holding Corporation in the mid-1990s. Bionova markets numerous GMO plant varieties, and has "major technology relationships" with Monsanto and UC, according to the company's website.

The academic research of UC's Gill Tract scientists also serves as an important building block in private industry's biotech efforts. A search of the US Patent and Trademark Office's online database reveals more than a dozen patents or patent applications that cite Hake's research. One patent that cites Hake's corn research involves inserting genetic material from another life form from outside the plant kingdom. The owner of the patent is DeKalb Genetics Corporation, a subsidiary of Monsanto. Lisch's research is also referenced in patents involving the genetic manipulation of food crops by Pioneer Hi-Bred, a subsidiary of DuPont.
A reference to academic research within a patent does not mean the cited researcher necessarily endorses the end product, or intended to facilitate its creation. Furthermore, a few patents citing Lisch and Hake's research do not involve genetic engineering methods, but instead employ more "traditional" means of plant breeding or modification. Neither Lisch nor Hake responded to requests for comment.
The University of California is a major contributor to the development of genetically engineered food crops, and the Plant Gene Expression Center, which uses the Gill Tract, is a large part of UC's link to the biotech industry. UC owns more than 150 GMO plant patents, according to the US Patent and Trademark Office. UC policy states that financial proceeds from licensed technologies are shared with the inventors, and that the remainder is plowed back into research at the university or put into the general fund.
According to UC's most recent annual report, the university earned approximately $182 million on its patented technologies on 2011. A mere 25 UC-owned patents earned the bulk of this — about $155 million. Among these are licenses for four different varieties of strawberries and a mandarin orange. Through a licensing arrangement with UC, one of the strawberries, the Camarosa, was genetically engineered by DNA Plant Technology Corporation to withstand Monsanto's Roundup herbicide. The Camarosa Strawberry patent earned the university $2.36 million last year.
Many other UC patents are routinely licensed by biotech companies to develop GMO crops, like the Endless Summer Tomato, another product of DNA Plant Technology. Such deals are lucrative for UC. The university had 627 active plant licensing contracts with industry at the end of last year. More than a few of these were developed from research conducted at the Plant Gene Expression Center. Hake is the center's director.
Monsanto and UC have at least twenty agreements "that include licensing, sharing materials for research, sponsoring research, and utilizing their specialized, technical services," according to Kelly Clauss, a Monsanto spokeswoman. "We've had a long-standing relationship with the University of California, as well as many other land-grant universities across the country, for decades," Clauss added. "As a company rooted in science and research, we are proud to work with universities and support agricultural research through these types of collaborative programs."
Organizers of Occupy the Farm contacted for this article said they support academic freedom, and were wary of jumping into any debates about the nature of research that has been conducted at the Gill Tract. After planting their crops in late April, Occupy the Farm organizers posted several open letters to all the researchers inviting them to continue their projects alongside the working farm.

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jueves, mayo 17, 2012

Gobierno polaco prohibe maíz MON810 de Monsanto

Monsanto prohibido en Polonia, Bélgica, Gran Bretaña, Bulgaria, Francia, Alemania, Irlanda y Eslovaquia
30 de Abril de 2012
Gobierno polaco prohibe el maíz MON810 transgénico de Monsanto

Las recientes protestas de apicultores y activistas anti-OGM tienen una conclusión exitosa. Los activistas exigían que el Ministro de Agricultura, Marek Sawicki prohibiera el MON810 en el país. La buena noticia es que sus protestas tuvieron éxito. El funcionario fijó otra polémica norma internacional contra los cuestionados transgénicos de Monsanto.
- "Además de vincularse destruir la salud humana produciendo una gama de dolencias", señaló Sawicki, "el polen procedente de la cepa GM podría ser devastador para la población de abejas que ya se redujo en el país". Acorde a la agencia AFP, Sawicki indicó que: "El decreto dictamina la prohibición total de la cepa del maíz MON810 en Polonia".

Apicultores polacos logran un triunfo contra Monsanto, que está exterminando las abejas con sus cuestionados cultivos transgénicos
El 9 de marzo, hubo una oposición similar a las cepas genéticamente modificadas de Monsanto. En esa fecha, 7 países europeos bloquearon la propuesta de la Presidencia danesa que permitía el cultivo de transgénicos en continente europeo. Los países que bloquearon esta propuesta son Bélgica, Gran Bretaña, Bulgaria, Francia, Alemania, Irlanda y Eslovaquia. Una semana después de este anuncio, Francia impuso una prohibición temporal para el MON810. En Lyon, Francia, el Tribunal dictó una sentencia después de que Paul Francois, un productor de granos, informó que Monsanto no proporcionó advertencias suficientes en la etiqueta del herbicida Lasso. La falta de advertencias causó daños en la población, como problemas neurológicos, incluyendo dolores de cabeza y pérdida de la memoria.
Tras el testimonio, el tribunal ordenó un dictamen pericial para verificar la relación entre Lasso y las enfermedades reportadas, así como también para determinar la suma a pagar por daños y perjuicios. Monsanto resultó CULPABLE, y esto allanó el camino para una acción legal similar en nombre de los agricultores en el futuro.
Además, en Francia, la rama agraria del Sistema de Seguridad Social halló alrededor de 200 efectos adversos dañinos para el ser humano y el medioambiente, desde 1996, en relación con los pesticidas de Monsanto.
La lucha contra Monsanto continúa en muchos países, no solo por sus herbicidas sino también por el resultante, sus nocivos productos transgénicos: La India comienza a alzarse contra la corporación, cerrando drásticamente al agro-gigante bajo cargos de "biopiratería". Y Hungría, recientemente destruyó 1.000 hectáreas de maíz modificado genéticamente.
La victoria en Polonia es otra victoria para los activistas anti-OMG de todo el mundo.
Por Abby Sakura BWN Mundo

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Noticias de transgénicos en Bolivia, México y Colombia. Boletín N° 472 de la RALLT


Algunos datos sobre los transgénicos en Bolivia; Colombia: el rey de la soya mira a las cordilleras. De la pampa a la altillanura; México: una raya más al tigre de la Ley Monsanto; ¿Transgénicos? No, gracias. Boletín N° 472 de la Red por una América Latina Libre de Transgénicos.
Noticias de la industria transgénica 

¿Transgénicos? No, gracias

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miércoles, mayo 16, 2012

GM Wheat Outcrosses Six Times More Than Non-GM

GM Wheat Outcrosses Six Times More Than Non-GM GM Freeze, 3 May 2012 http://www.gmfreeze.org/news-releases/190/
Recent research has found that varieties of GM wheat are outcrossing to other plants at a rate six times higher than conventional varieties. [1]
These findings, along with other data showing wheat can outcross from commercial fields to crops over 2.75 kilometres away, are reviewed in a new briefing published today by GM Freeze. [2]
Although wheat is largely self-pollinating the new data show the difficulties of preventing contamination if GM wheat is ever grown commercially.
Further difficulties in keeping GM and non-GM wheat seed and grain separate throughout the food web are also highlighted. Comingling of the two crops even at low level due to carelessness, poor standards or human error would cause considerable problems for any farmer or producer committed to producing non-GM bakery products or animal feed.
The costs of cleaning up any GM contamination in wheat would fall on farmers, seed merchants, millers, feed merchants, bakers and retailers because the GM industry refused to accept liability for it's products.
This has been seen in earlier examples of contamination incidents of long-grain rice in the US and flax in Canada. [3]
Commenting Pete Riley Campaign Director said:
"If GM wheat is ever grown on a commercial scale contamination will be inevitable either through outcrossing or mixing of seeds and grains. Even pro-GM sources now admit this, but they say it doesn't matter.
"Experience from the US and Canada shows that even small experimental plots can cause widespread contamination and disruption of the food chain, with considerable costs to food companies and farmers, including widespread loss of export markets.
"Biotech companies have so far been very reluctant to compensate farmers and companies in the food chain without court action compelling them to pay up.
The clean up costs of any GM contamination in wheat products like flour or bread will fall on anyone but the biotech companies.
"The presence of GM wheat in fields will immediately impose additional costs to trace and monitor all wheat crops from field to plate to ensure that no contamination has taken place.
"EU consumers have made it clear that they don't want GM food, and the simple way to ensure markets are protected is to stay well away from GM wheat in the first place. This is why bakers and food businesses like the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union and Chef Raymond Blanc support our call to halt the GM wheat trial in Hertfordshire,"
Calls to Pete Riley 07903 341 065
[1] Rieben S, Kalinina O, Schmid B and Zeller SL, 2011. "Gene Flow in Genetically Modified Wheat". PLoS ONE 6(12): e29730.
[2] GM Freeze, 2012. GM wheat: Cross pollination and contamination http://www.gmfreeze.org/publications/briefings/128/
[3] GM Freeze, 2010. GM in The Dock: US Courts step in where regulators fail. Briefing III: Bayer brought to book for contaminating rice http://www.gmfreeze.org/publications/briefings/103/
GM Freeze, 2009. GM Flax Containation from Canada http://www.gmfreeze.org/publications/briefings/96/
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martes, mayo 15, 2012

Nestle on GM superweeds


by Marion Nestle

May 14 2012

GM crops in crisis: Roundup-resistant “superweeds”

I was a member of the FDA Food Advisory Committee when the agency approved production of genetically modified foods in the early 1990s.
At the time, critics repeatedly warned that widespread planting of GM crops modified to resist Monsanto’s weed-killer, Roundup, were highly likely to select for “superweeds” that could withstand treatment with Roundup.
I wrote about this problem in Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety.  I added this update to the 2010 edition:
Late in 2004, weeds resistant to Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup began appearing in GM plantings in Georgia and soon spread to other Southern states.  By 2009, more than one hundred thousand acres in Georgia were infested with Roundup-resistant pigweed.  Planters were advised to apply multiple herbicides, thereby defeating the point of Roundup: to reduce chemical applications.
Today, the idea that planting of GM crops is “widespread” is an understatement.

So, according to Reuters, is Roundup resistance.
Weed resistance has spread to more than 12 million U.S. acres and primarily afflicts key agricultural areas in the U.S. Southeast and the corn and soybean growing areas of the Midwest.
Many of the worst weeds, some of which grow more than six feet and can sharply reduce crop yields, have become resistant to the popular glyphosate-based weed-killer Roundup, as well as other common herbicides.
This is not a trivial problem.  As the Ottawa Citizen explains,
The resilience of nature is evident across almost five million hectares of superweed-infested U.S. farmland. Some runaway weeds in the southern U.S. are said to be big enough to stop combines dead in their tracks.
How is the chemical industry responding to this threat?  Zap it harder!
The industry is pressing the U.S. and Canadian governments to approve GM corn engineered to resist 2,4-D.
Remember 2,4-D?   It was the principal ingredient in Agent Orange, the defoliant used during the Vietnam War.  Although the health problems it caused have been attributed to contamination with dioxin, the uncontaminated chemical has also been associated with illness in some studies (the Wikipedia entry has references).
The chemical industry maintains that 2,4-D is safe at current usage levels.  Maybe, but Ontario bans its use on lawns, gardens, and in school yards and parks.  Weeds resistant to 2,4-D have been identified since the 1950s.
Is pouring more toxic herbicides on food crops a good idea?  These chemicals cannot be healthy for farmworkers or for soil or groundwater.
Organic agriculture anyone?
Addition: Fred Kirschenmann, Distinguished Fellow at the Leopold Center at Iowa State and organic farmer says in an e-mail:
The other issue that has weed scientists concerned is the fact that 2-4-D is known to be much more invasive than many other herbicides—it can drift in the air for long periods of time and land on many unintended crops.
2-4-D has been identified as the main cause for destroying the grape industry in Iowa—in the 1940′s Iowa was the 4th largest grape producing state in the nation, and then was virtually reduced to zero.
Clearly if 2-4-D is going to be the “answer” to Roundup Ready resistance it will now be used in much larger quantities than in the 1950′s and is not only likely to destroy the rebounding grape production (I think some 200 acres now) and the 8 wineries in Iowa, but will make it extremely difficult to grow vegetables, which will not be good news for the burgeoning CSA/farmers Market industry that has emerged in recent years.

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