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Monsanto Wins Worst Company of 2011 Award

Natural Society has awarded Monsanto the Worst Company of 2011 award for its ongoing work to threaten human health and the environment.  Currently responsible for 90 percent of all genetically-modified (GM) seed in the US, the biotechnology giant is also the leader in developing genetically-modified (GM) seeds and the resulting crops worldwide.   But Monsanto is perhaps best known for its herbicide Roundup, which many experts link to soil damage and herbicide-resistant superweeds, not to mention potential health problems.

Contrast “Worst Company of 2011” to Forbes Magazine’s listing of Monsanto as one of the “World’s Top 10 Most Innovative Companies.” Monsanto may be innovative if you consider its genetic modification of the world’s food supply without concern for the environmental and health impacts “innovation.” (As an aside: you may recall that Nazis were called “innovative” too yet look at the atrocities they committed!) More and more scientists would disagree with Forbes.

In a recent study of genetically-modified corn, scientists found that the genetically-modified food may be linked to organ damage, namely liver and kidney damage, in rats.  Published in the International Journal of Biological Sciences, this study is calling into question the safety of “Frankenfoods” as they are also known.

John Fagan, PhD, molecular biologist and genetically-modified organisms (GMOs) expert commented on the study and Monsanto’s neglectful reporting methods on

“The paper was a landmark study. Monsanto was forced by court to release raw data and Gilles-Eric Seralini and his team applied careful statistical methods that revealed the Monsanto had glossed over many important effects of the GMOs. In particular, Monsanto had used inappropriate criteria for judging whether results were biologically significant or not. A common case was that they rejected as biologically unimportant any effect that showed up in male animals or in female animals but was not observed in both. The fact is that sex related differences are common in physiological responses particularly in liver and kidney responses. Also, Monsanto rejected as biologically unimportant effects that were not proportional to dose. That is, if the effect was strong at low doses but weaker at high doses, they would reject the effect as biologically insignificant. Yet it is well known that many effects, especially endocrine effects, are stronger at low doses than at high.”

But Monsanto continues to disregard the warning signs about GMOs and instead, ships them in droves around the world.  Monsanto has also been blamed for the many suicides of farmers in India who used Monsanto’s GM-seed but failed to yield crops to support their families.

Now, American farmers are taking a stand against Monsanto by launching a lawsuit against the billion-dollar corporation for widespread genetic contamination. The farmers, like many others, are concerned that Monsanto is threatening the integrity of organic farms worldwide.  Many organic farms have been devastated by genetically-modified crops.  Currently, most of the world’s wheat, soy, canola, and corn are now genetically-modified.

Percy Schmeiser—a humble farmer in the Canadian prairies endured a decade-long lawsuit initiated by Monsanto—and is now declaring victory. His farm was contaminated by GM-seed so Monsanto slapped a lawsuit on HIM, as they have done with other farmers, charging him with patent infringement.  But in this modern day David-and-Goliath story, Percy fought back.  Over 320 hectares of his land were found to be contaminated with the company’s patented “Roundup Ready Canola.”  Schmeiser slapped a lawsuit back on Monsanto, charging the company with libel, trespassing, improperly obtaining seed samples from his farm, callous disregard for the environment for its introduction of genetically-modified (GM) crops without proper controls and containment, and contamination of his crops with unwanted GM plants. Monsanto finally settled out of court to clean up Schmeiser’s land.  Percy Schmeiser’s victory over Monsanto is a victory for all farmers, all Canadians, and everyone who eats…that’s everyone.

Is it any surprise that Monsanto was selected as the Worst Company of 2011? Perhaps that it didn’t receive Worst Company of the Century award…but such an award doesn’t exist.

For more information about the Worst Company of 2011 Award, visit Natural Society.  For more information about Percy Schmeiser’s victory over Monsanto or to help him with his giant legal bills visit his website:

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6 AUG 2010 5:41 AM
Madison city hallThe produce outside the capitol building at Madison, WI, is donated to a food pantry.(Kelly Hafermann/Flickr)Montpelier VT city hall with chard 
Chard is one of the many plants growing in the Montpelier, Vt. state house vegetable garden.Photo: Waldo Jaquith via FlickrThere’s a new breed of urban agriculture germinating throughout the country, one whose seeds come from an unlikely source.
Local government officials from Baltimore, Md., to Bainbridge Island, Wash. are plowing under the ubiquitous hydrangeas, petunias, daylilies, and turf grass around public buildings, and planting fruits and vegetables instead — as well as in underutilized spaces in our parks, plazas, street medians, and even parking lots. The new attitude at forward-thinking city halls seems to be, in a tough economy, why expend precious resources growing ornamental plants, when you can grow edible ones? And the bounty from these municipal gardens — call it public produce — not only promotes healthy eating, it bolsters food security simply by providing passersby with ready access to low- or no-cost fresh fruits and vegetables.

But is this really city government’s job?

As long as municipal policymakers strive to create programs to reduce social inequity and increase the quality of life for their citizens, I contend that it is. Access to healthy, low-cost food helps assure the health, safety, and welfare of citizens every bit as much as other services that city governments provide, such as clean drinking water, protection from crime and catastrophe, sewage treatment, garbage collection, shelters and low-income housing programs, fallen-tree disposal, and pothole-free streets.

Median magicians

In Seattle, a forgotten strip of land that once attracted only those engaged in illicit behavior is now a source of fresh food and community pride. Residents of the Queen Anne neighborhood worked with the Department of Transportation to transform a neglected street median, rampant with invasive plants and pricked with hypodermic syringes, into a community garden and gathering space. They cleared the median of its debris and weeds, and have recently constructed raised vegetable beds and planted fruit trees. (I had the honor of attending the dedication ceremony back in April, and planted — what else? — an apple tree.)

Planting a medianVolunteers plant a median in the Queen Anne neighborhood of Seattle with edible landscaping.Photo: Darrin Nordahl

Parks and Recreation staff in Des Moines, Iowa, meanwhile, are cultivating the land in neighborhood parks and around schools and community shelters. Fruits and nuts are the foods of choice for Des Moines staff, since once established, these woody perennials require considerably less maintenance than annual vegetable crops such as corn, beans, and tomatoes. Des Moines’ reasons to turn public space into food gardens are profound: bolster food security, improve economic self-sufficiency, increase community access to culturally appropriate and nutritious food, and to make connections between community members, organizations, and resources to ensure the longevity and viability of the urban food system.

Interestingly, city staff purposely plant fruits that are unfamiliar to many. By encouraging Des Moines citizens to try new foods they hope to increase dietary diversity and to improve “food literacy.” That these plants are unfamiliar to many is somewhat ironic, as many of the fruit trees and shrubs — such as paw paw, spicebush, and serviceberry — are actually native to Iowa.

Parking garage plans An eyesore of a parking garage           (top) will become an edible oasis (bottom), thanks to a joint effort by the city of Davenport,  Iowa, volunteers, and nonprofits.A bit further east along Highway 80, city planners in Davenport, Iowa, where I work, are refining plans to turn an underutilized downtown parking lot into an edible oasis. What is today a one-acre eyesore will become green space filled with fruit and nut orchards, garden plots, and pergolas replete with rambling grape vines. The renovation of this parking-lot-cum-park is being funded out of the municipality’s Capital Improvement Program: $370,000 is allocated for construction, with ongoing maintenance supplied by volunteers from United Way, Big Brothers Big Sisters, students from local grade schools and universities, and even the proprietor of the Thai restaurant across the street. (The produce he will plant and harvest — such as Thai eggplants, chilies, and basil — is essential to his authentic cuisine, but difficult to source in Davenport.)

The willingness on behalf of these local organizations to help the City of Davenport with the ongoing production of fruits and vegetables should placate anyone concerned with maintenance of these public produce plots. Imagine how few takers there would be if municipal leaders were to offer citizens an “opportunity” to help city staff mow the grass in the neighborhood park or weed the petunia beds in the downtown plaza. Ask those same citizens to help grow food for their community, and it is remarkable the legions who step forward, trowel in hand.

Capitol ideas

Higher-profile landscapes around city halls are also shedding their purely ornamental visage for an edible makeover. Such garden transformations have already occurred in Baltimore, Md. and Portland, Ore. In Montpelier, Vt., chard, beets, kale, collards, and red lettuces adorn the public grounds around the historic statehouse. Madison, Wisc. staffers ripped out the flowers around the Capitol and replaced them with potatoes, cabbage, carrots, corn, peppers, and tomatoes.

Municipal government officials have no doubt been inspired by First Lady Michelle Obama’s transformation of a portion of the White House South Lawn into a vegetable garden. But there’s an important distinction between the produce being grown at the White House and that at city hall. The food from the First Family’s garden is primarily for them and their dinner guests. At these green-thumbed city halls, the growing of food is an endeavor by the people, for the people.

“I want people to see city hall differently — that it’s our public land, and that it works for us and with us,” Sallie Maron, a Bainbridge Island resident who recently helped transform the landscaping around the town’s city hall into an edible bounty, told the Kitsap Sun. The volunteers planted more than 40 plants, including cauliflower, kale, and strawberries, and any resident is welcome to grab a tomato and some basil for their dinner. As another Bainbridge Islander remarked, “It’s for people in need or people who just want to try some fresh food.”

The Bainbridge Island folk were inspired by the tale of Provo, Utah, where — as in many municipalities across the country –
– the recession has reduced budgets and forced cutbacks on maintenance. Fussy ornamental landscapes adorning civic places just don’t seem a high financial priority for elected officials.

Seedlings in a cubicleCity planners in Provo, Utah germinated seeds for the city hall plaza in their makeshift greenhouse — in this case their cubicles in city hall.Photo: Darrin NordahlBut nobody likes to look at empty plots of dirt or weed patches outside their window. So in Provo, three planners volunteered their time to re-establish the landscape outside their city hall — but did so in a manner that adds immense value to the landscape and the community. They sowed melons, beans, cucumbers, and beets in the many brick planters.

During their first season (which was last year), the city planners harvested 350 pounds of produce from 250 square feet of dirt and donated it to the local food bank. This year, with a bit more gardening know-how under their hats, they plan to cultivate an expanded 500-square-foot space from which they hope to reap more than 1,000 pounds — quite a harvest from such diminutive plots. (The group is also blogging the progress of the city hall “farm.”)

San Francico City Hall victory gardenSan Francisco planted a Victory Garden in front of its city hall during World War II.Photo: SF Public LibraryAs with many of the urban agriculture projects, the idea of growing food on municipal land is not new. (See the introduction to the Feeding the Cities series, “The History of Urban Agriculture Should Inspire its Future.”) Vegetable gardens have helped bolster America’s food supply when times were tough during the Long Depression of the 1890s and the Great Depression, as well as both World Wars. The most popular of these public veggie patches — the Victory Gardens of World War II — were planted not only by patriotic citizens around the nation, but by city governments in public spaces to provide, teach, and inspire their people.

With unemployment in many cities, food stamp use, and pressure on food banks at an all-time high, it simply makes sense to grow food, not flowers, where possible. Victory Gardens supplied the nation with 40 percent of its fresh vegetables. It is staggering how much edible bounty can be produced from small-scale gardening efforts on public land. The time is ripe to revisit Victory Gardens in public spaces: with just a little bit of organization and encouragement from our government officials, we could bring the community together to brighten the landscape and nourish the needy.  Read more

Darrin Nordahl is the city designer at the Davenport Design Center, a division of the Community & Economic Development Department of the City of Davenport, Iowa. He has taught in the planning program at the University of California at Berkeley and is the author of My Kind of Transit and <a href=”;Public Produce, which makes a case for local government involvement in shaping food policy.

By RP Siegel | February 3rd, 2012

Those of you who can remember the Vietnam War will be familiar with the term “escalation.” That was when the powers in charge of our “limited military operation” were compelled to increase the size and scope of our involvement, as the enemy increased theirs.

If you remember that, then you will also remember Agent Orange, the powerful chemical defoliant, whose heavy usage resulted in close to 40,000 disability claims from US military personnel who suffered numerous maladies ranging from skin conditions to various cancers as the result of limited exposure to it. As bad as that was, it was minor compared with the 400,000 Vietnamese citizens who were either killed or maimed by the more prolonged exposure they suffered.

Both of those terms will apply to today’s story.

Bio-tech giant Monsanto has now applied for USDA approval on a new variety of genetically-modified corn that is not only resistant to its well-known glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, but is also resistant to the far more potent and dangerous 2,4-D produced by its competitor, Dow Agro-Science. Not surprisingly, with all thefriends Monsanto has in the government, the USDA appears likely to approve it.

Why, you might ask, would they develop a new variety of corn that is compatible with its competitor’s product?

Because, as many critics have long maintained, the proliferation of genetically modified crops would eventually lead to the proliferation of herbicide-resistant superweeds, such as pigweed, which is exactly what has happened. Hence, we now have a dangerous escalation of chemical warfare in the fields from which our food is being harvested.

This completely undermines the basic (and patently false) original premise behind Monsanto’s Roundup Ready™ crops. The company claimed that since Roundup was one of the least toxic herbicides on the market, and since it could be sprayed directly on the crops themselves, the proliferation of these crops was actually beneficial to the environment, because less herbicide would be required. At one time they might have actually believed that. However, their claims that Roundup is biodegradable were shown to be false. In fact, Roundup is among the top three causes of pesticide-related illness among farm and landscape workers in California, and the NY Attorney General has required them to remove the words “environmentally friendly” from the label.

So what does any of this have to do with Agent Orange? The “new” herbicide 2,4-D that Monsanto’s latest corn will be resistant to, is actually one of the two active ingredients in Agent Orange. (The other is 2,4,5-T in a 50/50 mix).

Monsanto’s genetically-modified seed program for herbicide resistance appears to be spinning out of control. This was a predictable and inevitable outcome of a cash and hubris-rich chemical company wandering into the field of biology, of which they blithely overlooked the basic principles that guaranteed that it was only a matter of time before resistant varieties would begin to evolve continuously. Now, with everything to lose, they are locked in a desperate battle to save the billions they have invested, literally throwing all caution to the wind, while we, as consumers, unless we scrupulously buy organic, have no choice but to eat the fruit of their desperate experiments.

Keep in mind that when a food crop has been developed to be resistant to an herbicide, that means farmers can spray liberal amounts of the poison directly on the food itself without killing it.

Despite the company’s  initial assurances that this would not happen, proliferation of these crops has led to an increase of 318 million more pounds of herbicides and pesticides used in the past 14 years as a result of planting GM crop seeds like Roundup Ready corn and soy, much of which ends up in our bodies.

California currently has a ballot initiative, Proposition 65, that would require all GM foods to be labeled. Biotech executives have admitted that the impact of this would be devastating, considering that 70% of all foods now on grocery shelves now contain GM ingredients. Several countries including the European Union, Japan, China, Korea, Australia, New Zealand now have GMO labeling laws on their books.

Generally speaking, GMO crops offer little in the way of advantages to consumers, though they are more convenient for farmers to grow. But the biggest beneficiaries by far have been the companies that produce them.

One potentially effective alternative to this biochemical arms race that has been proposed is Integrated Weed Management (IWM), similar to Integrated Pest Management (IPM), which combines biological controls with a modest amount of chemical controls.  Read more

[Image credit: Zoe Spumoni: Flickr Creative Commons]

RP Siegel, PE, is the President of Rain Mountain LLC. He is also the co-author of the eco-thriller Vapor Trails, the first in a series covering the human side of various sustainability issues including energy, food, and water.Now available on Kindle.

Follow RP Siegel on Twitter.

By Susan Andrew on 01/31/2012 06:49 PM

Farmers enter the courthouse

Carol Koury, owner of Asheville‘s Sow True Seed, joined some 82 other farmers, advocacy groups and seed companies as part of a class-action lawsuit brought in federal court today, Jan. 31, in New York City. The Organic Seed Grower and Trade Association and others are taking on agricultural giant Monsanto, in a filing by the New York-based Public Patent Foundation. Koury and Sow True Seed staffer Cathryn Zommer traveled to New York to hear the opening oral arguments in what participants say is a groundbreaking food safety case against the bio-tech behemoth, Monsanto.

This morning, before the hearing, the two joined an assembly of citizens gathered in support of family farmers and seed companies that hope to counter Monsanto attorneys’ opening motion to dismiss the case as frivolous.

What’s at stake is anything but frivolous, say the growers participating in the lawsuit: At stake is the ability to provide high quality, open-pollinated and heirloom seeds. That task is becoming considerably more difficult, the growers say, with the rise of genetic engineering (GE) in agriculture, spear-headed by Monsanto.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of some 300,000 organic and non-GMO farmers seeking judicial relief, “protecting themselves from ever being accused of infringing patents on transgenic seed,” Zommer tells Xpress.

“Unlabeled and untested, pollen drifting from GE crops is a threat to the integrity of organic and non-genetically modified crops,” says Zommer. “This is in direct conflict with our right to produce and consume pure, natural food.”

To bring this message home, Zommer says, Sow True Seed has launched a petition drive that seeks to establish an agricultural conservation zone in Western North Carolina, free from genetically modified crops.

“The petition gives a voice to the overwhelming majority of people who support mandatory labeling of genetically modified ingredients in our food,” Zommer tells Xpress. Readers can sign the petition online or in person by visiting the Sow True Seed warehouse at 146 Church Street.

The complainants in the class action argue that in the past two decades, the seed monopoly staked out by Monsanto has grown so powerful that the company controls the genetics of nearly 90 percent of five major commodity crops: corn, soybeans, cotton, canola and sugar beets. The complainants say the result is increased costs to farmers in support of high-tech patent fees for seed, as well as burdensome litigation costs incurred in defending themselves against lawsuits brought against them by Monsanto.

The complainants further allege that organic and conventional farmers have been forced to stop growing certain crops in order to avoid genetic contamination and potential lawsuits. Between 1997 and 2010, they say, Monsanto filed 144 lawsuits against American farmers in at least 27 different states, for alleged infringement of its transgenic seed patents; another 700 such cases have been settled out of court for undisclosed amounts. As a result of the aggressive lawsuits, the growers say, Monsanto has created an atmosphere of fear and driven dozens of farmers into bankruptcy.  Read more

Watch some of the protest staged in solidarity with the farmers-

| Thu Aug. 18, 2011 3:28 AM PDT

A corn field in Sonora, Mexico Flickr/Wonderlane

As I wrote a few days ago, Monsanto has been publicly flaunting its effort to develop high-tech patented seeds to “feed the world” amid climate change and resource scarcity. These wonder seeds, designed to grow in hot, dry conditions, are just around the corner, Monsanto says. And without them, millions will starve, the company implies.

Meanwhile, people in Gaza, already facing a hot, water-scarce climate, are turning to organic agriculture to feed themselves. And it seems to be working. “Gaza doesn’t need Monsanto’s wonder seeds,” I concluded in my post.

Well, it turns out that Mexico doesn’t either. A study (abstract; I ponied up $10 to rent the full paper for two days—so much for public research) recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academies of Science (PNAS) look at small-holder farmer communities in throughout Eastern Mexico, in variety of micro-climates, from highlands to lowlands.

Mexico, of course, was the original site of the green revolution—the effort, starting in the 1940s and funded by US foundations to bring the wonders of “modern” chemical agriculture to the global south. (See my review of Nick Cullather’s recent history of the green revolution,The Hungry World). But the green revolution only really took root in the the flatlands of northern Mexico; the parts of the country covered by the study have remained largely in the hands of smallholders practicing traditional agriculture.

Here’s how the researchers describe the communities they studied:

The small-scale maize farmers in this study include both indigenous and Mestizo [of mixed European and indigenous  heritage] households. They have diversified livelihoods, producing multiple crops, fruit trees, and domesticated animals both for self-consumption and for the market. Farmers also engage in nonfarm activities. Maize, however, continues to play a key role in their livelihoods, having multiple uses, both for consumption and sale.

While Monsanto and a a few larger companies dominate the seed market for US corn farmers, the company has no traction at all in southern Mexico. The authors describe how the farmers they studied get their seeds:

[Most seeds are] saved from their own farms. Seed obtained from outside the farm  accounts for less than a third of seed in any of the agro-climate environments, and most of this seed is obtained from the farmers’ social network of family, neighbors, and friends. Only a minority of seed sourced off-farm comes from stores, the government, or strangers. The role of the formal seed system, therefore, is minimal, even though there have been government programs to disseminate improved seed.

The researchers hypothesized that such “traditional maize seed systems” would fail under standard models of climate change—that the farmers wouldn’t have access to seeds adapted to changing conditions, and would face either chronic crop failure or the prospect of having to go outside of their networks to buy seeds—for example, to Monsanto and its wonder seeds.

Instead, what they found in modeling for climate change was that there is so much genetic diversity among the corn varieties available to these farmers within their own communities that they will likely be able to adapt just fine to climate change without outside help.

To put it another way, while Monsanto spends billions of dollars trying to develop and market climate-ready wonder seeds, these farmers have already developed sufficient genetic diversity within their farming systems that they don’t need Monsanto’s wonder seeds. The only exception is high-altitude areas, but these regions, too, could get the seeds they need from within national borders, and won’t likely need to tap the global seed market. The authors conclude that:

Maize landraces in Mexico show remarkable diversity and climatic adaptability, growing in environments ranging from arid to humid and from temperate to very hot. This diversity raises the possibility that Mexico already has maize germplasm suitable for predicted environments, i.e., that there are current analogs in the country for the ‘”novel” crop climates predicted by 2050.

Now, one might be tempted to discount this conclusion if it came, say,  from some hippie ecologist at UC Santa Cruz. But one of the study’s authors hails from the UN’s Food and Agriculture; and another works at International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center(CIMMYT). The CIMMYT was founded in Mexico by Norman Borlaug—founder of the green revolution. Read more

You may not want to eat genetically modified (GM) foods, but chances are, you are eating them anyway. There are urgent reasons why we need to ban them altogether.

Monsanto is one of the most malevolent organizations and considered the most hated company in the world. Genetically modified foods are now accepted as one of the biggest threats to all living things.


1. Increased Pesticide Use

US government data shows that in the US, GM crops have produced an overall increase, not decrease, in pesticide use compared to conventional crops.

“The promise was that you could use less chemicals and produce a greater yield. But let me tell you none of this is true.” — Bill Christison, President of the US National Family Farm Coalition.

2. They Have Been Shown To Be Dangerous To Your Health and Unsafe To Eat

Genetic modification is a crude and imprecise way of incorporating foreign genetic material (e.g. from viruses, bacteria) into crops, with unpredictable consequences. The resulting GM foods have undergone little rigorous and no long-term safety testing. However, animal feeding tests have shown that GM foods have toxic effects, including abnormal changes in organs, immune system disturbances, accelerated aging, and changes in gene expression. Very few studies have been published on the direct effects on humans of eating a GM food. One such study found unexpected effects on gut bacteria, but was never followed up.

It is claimed that Americans have eaten GM foods for years with no ill effects. But these foods are unlabeled in the US and no one has monitored the consequences. With other novel foods like trans fats, it has taken decades to realize that they have caused millions of premature deaths.

GM foods are an imminent threat to humanity’s food supply. Besides the ethical concerns, genetic pollution is self-perpetuating. It can never be reversed or cleaned up. Genetic mistakes will be passed on to all future generations of a species. Wind, rain, birds, bees, and insect pollinators have begun carrying genetically altered pollen into adjoining fields, polluting the DNA of crops of organic and non-GM farmers. This has been happening all over the world for more than a decade. Theoretically, it genetic pollution continues, it could obliterate the world’s natural organic food supply. Use of herbicide-resistant crops will also lead to an accelerated increase in the use of herbicides, resulting in even greater pollution of our food and water with toxic agrochemicals.

“We are confronted with the most powerful technology the world has ever known, and it is being rapidly deployed with almost no thought whatsoever to its consequences.” — Dr Suzanne Wuerthele, US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) toxicologist

3. GM Foods Are Hidden In Animal Feed

As a spokesperson for Asgrow, a subsidiary of Monsanto, said, “If you put a label on genetically engineered food, you might as well put a skull and crossbones on it.” The GM industry has avoided, to a degree, the problem of consumer rejection of GM foods by hiding them in animal feed. Meat, eggs and dairy products from animals raised on the millions of tons of GM feed imported into Europe do not have to be labelled. Some studies show that contrary to GM and food industry claims, animals raised on GM feed ARE different from those raised on non-GM feed.  Other studies show that if GM crops are fed to animals, GM material can appear in the resulting products and affect the animals’ health. So eating these “stealth GMOs” may affect the health of consumers.

4. GM and non-GM Cannot Co-Exist

GM contamination of conventional and organic food is increasing. An unapproved GM rice that was grown for only one year in field trials was found to have extensively contaminated the US rice supply and seed stocks. In Canada, the organic oilseed rape industry has been destroyed by contamination from GM rape. In Spain, a study found that GM maize “has caused a drastic reduction in organic cultivations of this grain and is making their coexistence practically impossible”.

The time has come to choose between a GM-based, or a non-GM-based, world food supply.

Alfalfa is the main forage crop for dairy cows and one of the principle foods for beef cows, especially grass-fed cattle. Alfalfa is a perennial, easily lasting five years once planted. And it’s bee-pollinated, which means each year, every non-GM alfalfa plant within five miles of every GM alfalfa plant will likely be contaminated by GM genes.

“If some people are allowed to choose to grow, sell and consume GM foods, soon nobody will be able to choose food, or a biosphere, free of GM. It’s a one way choice, like the introduction of rabbits or cane toads to Australia; once it’s made, it can’t be reversed.” — Roger Levett, specialist in sustainable development.

5. Long-term Economic Disaster For Farmers

A 2009 report showed that GM seed prices in America have increased dramatically, compared to non-GM and organic seeds, cutting average farm incomes for US farmers growing GM crops. The report concluded, “At the present time there is a massive disconnect between the sometimes lofty rhetoric from those championing biotechnology as the proven path toward global food security and what is actually happening on farms in the US that have grown dependent on GM seeds and are now dealing with the consequences.”

6. GM Companies Cannot Be Trusted

The big biotech firms pushing their GM foods have a terrible history of toxic contamination and public deception. GM is attractive to them because it gives them patents that allow monopoly control over the world’s food supply. They have taken to harassing and intimidating farmers for the “crime” of saving patented seed or “stealing” patented genes — even if those genes got into the farmer’s fields through accidental contamination by wind or insects.

Monsanto has been the largest player in the GM foods game. They have single handedly made the United States the world’s biggest producer of GM foods, pesticides and herbicides. Founded in 1901, Monsanto has manufactured industrial chemicals (e.g. sulphuric acid), plastics and synthetics, and saccharin, a carcinogenic artificial sweetener. It has also produced or granted production licenses for most of the world’s toxic PCB’s which are now mostly banned worldwide.

“Farmers are being sued for having GMOs on their property that they did not buy, do not want, will not use and cannot sell.” — Tom Wiley, North Dakota farmer.

7. GM Foods Will Never Solve The Food Crisis

A 2008 World Bank report concluded that increased biofuel production is the major cause of the increase in food prices. Biofuels are crops grown for fuel rather than food. GM giant Monsanto has been at the heart of the lobbying for biofuels — while profiting enormously from the resulting food crisis and using it as a PR opportunity to promote GM foods!

“The climate crisis was used to boost biofuels, helping to create the food crisis; and now the food crisis is being used to revive the fortunes of the GM industry.” — Daniel Howden, Africa correspondent, The Independent (UK).

“The cynic in me thinks that they’re just using the current food crisis and the fuel crisis as a springboard to push GM crops back on to the public agenda. I understand why they’re doing it, but the danger is that if they’re making these claims about GM crops solving the problem of drought or feeding the world, that’s bullshit.” — Prof Denis Murphy, head of biotechnology, University of Glamorgan, Wales.  Read more

Kelley Bergman is a media consultant, critic and geopolitical investigator. She has worked as a journalist and writer, specializing in geostrategic issues around the globe.

Say "no" to GE rice.

Say “no” to GE rice.

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The fight to keep GE rice out of China is one that can be traced back to the beginnings of Greenpeace in Mainland China itself. And it’s a story that encapsulates much of what Greenpeace stands for: Even with the most formidable of opponents, from both government and industry, positive change can be achieved.

First let’s introduce the bald guy. He’s 38-year-old Sze Pang Cheung, also known as Kontau (which means bald in Cantonese). He’s now the Campaign Director of Greenpeace East Asia.

Sze Pang Cheung in front of the Nestle HQBack in 2004, the GE rice campaign was one of the first campaigns for the new Greenpeace team in Mainland China. Fujian-born Kontau had just joined the organization, having learnt the ropes as a student activist in Hong Kong. His face breaks into a smile when he remembers those early Greenpeace days.

“We launched the campaign with a five-day bus tour of Guangzhou,” he says. “Actually it was more like a van than a bus, and it wasn’t even ours. We were borrowing it from another environmental NGO in China called ‘Friends of Nature’.”

It was chocolate that gave us our first media win. In Guangzhou, the team released test results that showed Swiss-owned Nestle manufactured chocolate powder contained GE ingredients. Shanghai mother Eileen Zhu sued the company because she was angry that she had unknowingly been feeding her child a GE product. The media pounced and the GE public debate had begun.


Farmer holding a duckThe origins of rice cultivation can be traced to the valleys of China’s Yangtze River, with some estimates putting it at over 7,000 years ago. In that time, rice has become an integral part of Chinese life and culture. It dictates the lives of millions of farmers in the Chinese countryside, feeds over a billion Chinese citizens each year and is synonymous with Chinese cuisine and culture. And Yunnan, in southwestern China is where much of this rice originates from.

In October 2004, Kontau and his team headed to Yunnan where many of the locals employ traditional sustainable farming methods. They handed out cameras so that the locals could record their rice lives including “duck-rice” farming where ducks paddle about the flooded rice paddies, eating up pests and fertilizing fields with their manure. Duck-rice farming has been around for 2,000 years.

“It was one of those funky things we did in those early years,” says Kontau.

The tour was such a success that the cameras were lent out for an extended period of a year and a beautiful book was made to record the images.

But just as they were about to head south, the team got some bad news. Chinese scientists had applied to commercialize four varieties of Chinese GE rice.

“I was totally shocked,” says Kontau. While the scientists’ move didn’t mean that GE rice would be commercialized any time soon – there were lots of steps to pass first – it was a major step towards commercialization.

What’s wrong with genetic engineering? Genetic engineering (GE) enables scientists to create plants, animals and micro-organisms by manipulating genes in a way that does not occur naturally. These genetically modified organisms (GMOs) can spread through nature and interbreed with natural organisms, thereby contaminating natural organisms in an unforeseeable and uncontrollable way.

Their release is ‘genetic pollution’ and is a major threat because GE foods cannot be recalled once released into the environment. And there have been over 140 documented cases of GE crop contamination in the past 10 years. Once they are released into the environment, they are out of control. If anything goes wrong, if crops fail, human health risks are identified or the environment is harmed, they are impossible to recall.

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11 year old Birke Baehr lays out very clearly what’s wrong with our food system, and why he wants to be an organic farmer.  What we consume in today’s world is far from the “real” food that our grandparents, or even our parents ate when they were young.  GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, monocultures, biodiversity loss, fertilizer runoff, ecosystem destruction, dead soil ecology, colony collapse disorder, the list seems to go on forever.  It’s very assuring to see the next generation taking interest in helping change our food system back to being healthy and sustainable again.