Are genetically modified organisms (GMOs) a threat to organic agriculture? Are they dangerous when consumed? Do they lead to higher use of chemical herbicides and pesticides? And why aren’t GMOs labeled so we know which foods are made with them? We find and discuss the latest news on this critical issue.
While most of the GMO attention these days is focused on the upcoming vote on California’s “Right To Know” initiative, another GMO controversy has boiled to the surface, this time with apples. Okanagan Specialty Fruits corporation has developed a genetically modified apple — known as the “Arctic Apple” — that does not brown, or at least doesn’t brown as quickly, when exposed to the air. The fruits are also not as susceptible to bruising, a problem that results in apples being refused by buyers at both the distribution and consumer levels. The controversy has spread across British Columbia’s apple growing regions and now, with articles in The New York Times and other publications, is gaining more focus in America.
The Arctic apple, so far developed as Granny Smiths and Golden Delicious (Galas and Fujis are on the way), contains a synthetic gene that sharply reduces production of polyphenol oxidase, an enzyme responsible for the browning. The introduced gene is taken from the apple itself and then inhibits the production of genes that result in the browning agents. (more…)
It’s no surprise that Monsanto, Dupont and others are pouring big money into California to fight the state’s GMO labeling referendum which will be on the ballot November 6. How they’re doing it — through surrogate organizations — is right out of the grand American political tradition of ironically-named organizations. Front groups help hide the players behind these organizations. And what could be more ironic that hiding the identities of the companies and individuals who are fighting a right-to-know initiative?
AlterNet, the independent news gathering service, estimates that several big front groups will spend $60 to $100 million fighting the initiative. One of the largest is The Coalitition Against Costly Food Labeling. Their website lists such scary articles on topics including how GMO labeling will hurt the poor and limit your food choices. Who exactly is behind the CACFL? The names aren’t surprising. According to the article, it’s composed of the “Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), whose members also include Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Dow and Syngenta, all producers of GMO seed and related products, as well as many large food processors and supermarket chains. (more…)
From Natural News, a public education website anyone interested in keeping up with GMO issues should follow, comes this not-so-surprising information. Disney, at its Florida-based EPCOT Center (Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow) has for years been hosting biologists from the United States Department of Agriculture who have been growing genetically-modified fruits and vegetables. The story was originally broken by Susan Fehrenbacher over at Inhabitant, but it’s been no secret. The USDA announced back in 1996 in its Agricultural Research magazine that it was working with Disney “to communicate the science of agriculture. We do this by showcasing various tools — such as biotechnology…” The site, a two-acre facility sponsored by Nestlé USA, is called Living With the Land. Nestlé is one of the world’s largest pro-GMO corporations. In 2006, it obtained a patent on a genetically-engineered coffee.
In her original article, Fehrenbacher reported that she was told by EPCOT guides that some of the GMO food grown at Living with the Land is served at EPCOT resort’s restaurants. “Ever wonder where those Mickey shaped cucumbers come from?” asks Disney’s own Living With the Land web page. (more…)
The GMO products issue is gaining attention world-wide, a fact that can only help the cause against them. In the U.S., it’s currently focused on labeling. Should consumers have the right to know what products they’re buying has been made from genetically-modified crops? This article in today’s New York Times, centered on activists fixing GMO labels on products, serves to demonstrate just how complicated the issue is while emphasizing the forces arrayed against those demanding simple product labeling. Who is it that fears what GMO labeling might do to their sales? “…conventional farmers, agricultural biotechnology companies like Monsanto and many of the nation’s best-known food brands like Kellogg’s and Kraft.” We’re talking big money. The article estimates that tens of millions of dollar will be spent ahead of the vote on California’s referendum on labeling GMO products. Want to guess which side will have the most to spend?
It’s important to remember, as this article at the Organic Consumers Association points out, that corporate control of the seed market extends right into your home garden. Important takeaway from the article: when Monsanto purchased international seed giant Seminis in 2005, it took control of a company that produced 40% of the international vegetable seed market. The chart (PDF format) accompanying the article is particularly revealing, illustrating how a handful of international conglomerates control almost all of the commercial seed companies in the world (yes, Monsanto is shown to be the largest). Surprisingly, these large seed controlling companies are often chemical and pharmaceutical companies. (more…)
Those hoping for a GMO ban on crops know that the issue will only be resolved through a series of incremental steps. Labeling GMO food products would go a long way towards that goal. By giving consumers the knowledge of which foods they purchase contain GMO they will have a choice. And if given a choice, we can guess which side consumers would come down on.
The labeling movement took a big step this month in California when supporters turned in nearly a million signatures to put the labeling issue on the ballot (550,000 signatures were needed). The United States lags behind other countries in the banning, let alone labeling, of GMOs. While we wait for the count to be certified in California, here’s a citizen-written editorial that makes common sense of the GMO issue. The takeaway: (more…)
The decline of honeybees in the United States — a third of the country’s hives were wiped out in 2008 — and elsewhere has been a matter of concern for a number of years. Recent studies in France and Britain now point the finger at a class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids. These commonly-used pesticides, which are often used to treat seed corn ahead of planting, work against the bees in two ways: by confusing their homing capability and limiting their ability to provide enough food to their hives for producing new queens. Other studies in the U.S. and Germany indict the pesticides but for different reasons. Calls for banning neonicotinoids were immediate.
Why should we care about bees and pesticides? Honeybees are responsible for pollinating some 70% of the earth’s food crops. No less an authority than Albert Einstein predicted that “if the bee disappeared off the surface of the globe, man would have only four years to live.” (more…)