Four Steps Forward, One Leap Back on Global Governance of Synthetic Biology
UN Biodiversity Convention grapples with threats posed by extreme biotech industry
CANCUN, MEXICO — This week, 196 countries meeting at the 2016 UN Convention on Biodiversity (CBD) Conference of the Parties made progress on the global governance and oversight of synthetic biology. Synthetic biology (syn bio) has become one of the most fiercely debated topics at the Biodiversity Convention, almost 7 years after civil society first brought the need for precaution and regulation of the new set of biotechnologies to this UN body.
During the 13th Conference of the Parties (COP 13) to the CBD, countries agreed to investigate how digital genetic sequences may be used to commit biopiracy and warned against a risky new genetic extinction technology called gene drives. They also agreed on a working definition of synthetic biology (2) and to support an ongoing expert group to move forward international discussions on the topic. However, this progress was undermined by a significant ‘move backwards’ in safety oversight and risk assessment when a key standing expert group expected to issue risk assessment guidelines for synthetic biology was dissolved.
“Syn bio was among the hottest topics on the negotiating table,” explains Jim Thomas of ETC Group, who sits on the CBD’s expert group on Synthetic Biology. “Governments now get it: they need to urgently grapple with how synthetic biology and other fast moving, risky technologies are threatening biodiversity, local economies and the rights of farmers and Indigenous Peoples.”
What To Do About GMOs in the Trump Era by Jeffrey Smith
Perhaps you, like I, had high hopes for a more enlightened approach to GMOs when President Obama came into office. During his 2008 campaign, he had publicly called for labeling and good science. And boy did we need good science, especially when it came to informing US policy makers.
During the Reagan years, Vice President George HW Bush visited Monsanto headquarters and was recorded on video offering them help with getting their products through the government. “We’re in the de-reg business,” he told them.
When he became president, we realized the extent to which that was true. His Vice President, Dan Quayle, was put in charge of a high-level Competitiveness Council, charged with reducing US export deficits. For some reason, they believed that introducing GMOs would increase US exports and US domination in the trade of food. So on May 26th, 1992, in the Indian Treaty room in the White House, Vice President Quayle announced that they would avoid the unnecessary regulations and treat GMOs just like other foods. Three days later, the FDA policy was unveiled, claiming that “the agency is not aware of any information showing that the foods created by these new methods differ from other foods in any meaningful or uniform way.” On that basis, not a single safety study was required, and GMOs could go on the market without any labeling requirement.
Years later, when 44,000 FDA documents were forced to the public domain because of a lawsuit spearheaded by Steven Druker and the Alliance for Bio integrity, we learned that the entire policy was based on a fraudulent premise. Not only had the scientists working at the FDA come to a very different conclusion, warning about unique health dangers and recommending extensive tests, but the person in charge of GMO policy at the FDA was Michael Taylor, Monsanto’s former attorney, and later their vice president.
The Clinton administration continued to cheerlead for Monsanto...
Cornucopia vigorously opposed the introduction of GMO alfalfa. We highlighted many of the problems with the GMO version of this perennial and important crop for farmers. Both organic and conventional farmers expressed considerable concern over Monsanto’s alfalfa creation. It’s interesting that it has thus far failed to meet the biotech giant’s expectations.
Addressing the issue of horizontal gene transfer from a diet containing genetically modified components into rat tissues - 2014
Fragments of GMO DNA were found in the brains, blood and liver of Wistar rats fed a GMO diet after 30, 60 and 90 days of feeding. Most disturbingly, higher levels were found as feeding duration increased, suggesting accumulation. Tests were only performed on brains, blood & liver tissue so the study does not rule out finding fragments of GMO DNA in other parts of the rats.
Spinning Food: How Food Industry Front Groups and Covert Communications are Shaping the Story of Food
Our new report, "Spinning food," investigates how Big Food and agrochemical corporations are deliberately misleading the public -- and reporters -- on facts about industrial agriculture and organic and sustainable food production.
Taking their cues from the tobacco industry, these companies have spent hundreds of millions of dollars in the past few years on stealth PR tactics, deploying over a dozen front groups to push coordinated messages attacking organic food production, defending pesticides and the routine use of antibiotics and promoting GMOs -- messages that are making their way into the pages of our largest media outlets.
The report shows how these companies are trying to preserve their markets and advance policy agendas by deploying front groups; targeting moms, attacking journalists and scientists; grooming third-party allies that pose as independent sources; producing advertising disguised as editorial content and using other covert social media tactics to influence public opinion and sway policymakers -- without most people realizing the story is being shaped behind the scenes to promote corporate interests.
This report aims to shed light on how the industrial food and agriculture sector is trying to defuse concerns about the real risks of chemical-intensive industrial agriculture and undermine public confidence in the benefits of organic food and diversified, ecological production systems. We hope this report helps reporters, policymakers, opinion leaders and the public bring increased scrutiny to the food industry’s messages and messengers. By revealing key groups and tactics used by industry, we also hope that it will help generate more balanced and accurate reporting on our food system.
Ib Borup Pedersen, a Pig Farmer in Denmark, discusses his experience of harm to his sows and piglets when fed GM soya and the direct correlation he sees between glyphosate and severe health effects. He is interviewed by Sam Burcher at the Tribunal Against Monsanto in the Hague on 16th October 2016.
You may not have heard of it, but GE grass has quite a horror-film backstory. Once destined for golf courses nationwide, Monsanto first petitioned USDA for approval in 2002. Scientists were very worried: like all GMOs, the GE grass could cross-pollinate with related wild species, and spread uncontrollably. Because their tiny seeds and even lighter pollen can be carried on the wind for many miles, and they have lots of relatives they can cross-pollinate, GE grasses are even more assured to spread and contaminate other plants than other GE crops, like GE corn or GE soy, are. And like all of Monsanto’s GE products, they were engineered with the sole purpose of selling more Roundup to douse on them, which has resulted in dramatic increases in the pesticides entering our waters and native ecosystems. So when the GE grass did escape, farmers and regulators would have a superweed to deal with, one that would require even more toxic herbicides to kill.
A groundbreaking new peer reviewed study has documented that Monsanto's Roundup Ready NK603 corn, which was approved in 2000, produces worrying levels of toxins caused by the process of genetic engineering. A total of 117 proteins and 91 small molecule biochemicals (metabolites) were found to be significantly altered in NK603 corn by the genetic modification transformation process. The new analysis used cutting-edge molecular profiling methods. The results of the analysis showed disturbances in energy utilization and oxidative stress (damage to cells and tissues by reactive oxygen) in the GMO corn. There were also, in the words of one of the scientists, Dr. Antoniou, “worryingly large increases” in substances called polyamines, which are linked to the formation of carcinogens, increase the severity of allergic reactions and are likely linked to liver and kidney damage. GMO corn is not substantially equivalent to non-GMO corn.
An integrated multi-omics analysis of the NK603 Roundup-tolerant GM maize reveals metabolism disturbances caused by the transformation process
China’s Top Grain Producing Province Bans GM Crops
Growing of GM corn, rice and soybean will be banned, while illegal production and sales of GM crops and supply of their seeds will also be prohibited.
The new regulation also bans illegal production, processing, sale and imports of edible GM farm produce or edible farm products that contain GM ingredients. It requires all GM food be sold in a special zone, clearly indicated in stores.
"Thank you, Dr. Margulis, for speaking out frankly on this important topic. It seems clear to me that the synergistic toxicity of glyphosate in the food supply (from the pervasive herbicide, Roundup) and multiple ingredients in the vaccines (aluminum, mercury, glutamate, formaldehyde, etc.), as well as the Tylenol that’s often administered with the vaccines, are the main factors in the autism epidemic. It would be so easy to turn this epidemic around by switching to sustainable organic agriculture and cutting way back on the vaccine schedule. Furthermore, recent evidence from Zen Honeycutt of Moms Across America and from Anthony Samsel, a toxicologist, has shown that some vaccines, particularly MMR, are contaminated with glyphosate. This lends new meaning to the word “synergy.” Contamination is expected either from the gelatin sourced from pigs and cows fed heavy doses of GMO Roundup-Ready feed or the fetal bovine serum that the live virus is often grown on."
Medical Doctors Concerned We Are Giving America’s Children Too Many Vaccines Too Soon By Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D.
The problem responsible scientists are faced with right now is that the evidence is accumulating that the CDC’s childhood vaccine schedule is not scientifically-based. The medical doctors, academic researchers, citizen scientists, and concerned parents who are taking the time to read the science and educate themselves about what we know and what we don’t about vaccines are all coming to the same conclusion: something is very wrong with today’s childhood vaccine recommendations. Our current medical recommendations seem to be harming children’s bodies and their brains.
Let’s hear from a few of those on-the-ground medical doctors themselves. These are not crackpots. These are not crystal-slinging tree-hugging hippies. These are top doctors and thought leaders, physicians who care deeply about the health of our children and our nation. So what do they have to say?
Seneff: “Rosemary Mason is one of my personal heroes. She has been tirelessly fighting for regulations restricting glyphosate so far with little success. This is an interesting article with specific facts about what glyphosate has done to her nature reserve. I don't know when it was published, but it's timeless.”
A personal witness to the devastating demise of wild pollinators and other species as glyphosate herbicide residues increase in the environment