Say No To GMOs! logo
January 2007 Updates

Alien Invasion!

SNTG Editorial
January 12, 2007

As 2007 looms, nostalgia is creeping in. Nostalgia for a time when country roads not far from the city were dotted with fresh produce stands tended by farmers and their families. The bounty, bursting with flavor and nutrition, was grown on family owned acres just a few steps away.

Back then, doctors were still packing a bag and making house calls. Big pharma had not yet taken over and many of the remedies were natural.

There were no freeways, not that many cars and the mass transit system had not yet been dismantled by the automotive industry.

Everyone survived quite well without air conditioning and electronic entertainment. The hot summer nights drove us outside where the air was fresh and filled with a myriad of insect life.

Gradually the great god of science began to insinuate itself into our psyche. The promise of scientific discovery offered hope of a better world and the consensus was that science held all the answers.

The genre of science fiction in literature and film reinforced the myth of the supremacy of science and man's control over nature. These imaginative stories were usually populated with good guys and bad guys, the bad guys predictably being various indestructible, unstoppable alien life forms which came in all shapes, sizes and colors of evil. Some came from galaxies far away while others were the creations of mad, white-coated scientists.

Fast forward to 2007 and much like the alien invaders of our naive collective imagination, genetically engineered life forms are now invading the natural world at an alarming rate - plants, insects, animals and undoubtedly human beings in the not too distant future. These alien life forms haven't come from outer space but from biotech labs where the very building blocks of life are being manipulated in ways once only imagined.

Everything changes but isn't it a bit dangerous to assume that all change is for the better? Just because something can be done, should it be done? More importantly, who gets to make the decisions? The public certainly hasn't been consulted. In fact, the pervasive presence of GMOs (genetically engineered organisms) in the food supply is hidden because labeling is not even required!

The sleeping multitudes - engrossed in self-importance, reproduction, acquisition and entertainment - are blissfully unaware of the roll of the dice of life happening around and within them. Those of us who have stepped back from the matrix are horrified that decisions impacting the biological future of our planet are being made in laboratories and corporate boardrooms with little thought given to the common good or long-term consequences.

The script of this B movie in which we live is a work in progress. The question is who will be writing it and directing the action? Everyone gives lip service to democracy but there is little evidence of it in reality. Unless more of the slumbering masses awake and participate, corporate puppetmasters and their regulatory lapdogs will continue to run the show.

But then . . . even if large numbers of people awaken to their guinea pig status would it be possible to turn things around? In 2007 the erosion of privacy and civil liberties and the ominous possibility of universal microchip identification implants points more towards a totalitarian state (that will have little tolerance for dissent) than a self-determining democracy. The convergence of population increase, declining resources and global warming will just make matters worse.

Extinction is something we think could never happen to us. But natural selection might write a different script in response to the course we are following. Perhaps in the end, our species will become just another reject in the dustbin of evolutionary history.

The Green Slime


Food From Cloned Animals: These Products Should Remain in the Lab

By David Schubert
San Diego Union-Tribune
January 3, 2007

It is curious that the U.S. population seems willing to act as guinea pigs solely for the financial benefit of a few companies. This is most recently exemplified by the lack of outcry over the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's move toward allowing the sale of milk and meat from cloned animals without any required labeling. The FDA decision is another example of the continuing sway that the U.S. agricultural biotechnology and chemical companies have over federal agencies.

The conclusion that cloned animal products are safe to eat is based almost completely on data and arguments provided by the companies that will profit from their sale. Similar scenarios allowed the introduction of genetically modified, or GM, foods 10 years ago, and the massive and largely unregulated introduction of pesticides after World War II.

The development of an agricultural system based on chemical pesticides, fertilizers and herbicides led to an increase in farm productivity and cheaper food. But it also blanketed our planet with chemicals now known to cause cancer, birth defects and huge environmental problems as well as bringing about economic disparities between populations who do and do not have the technology. More important, however, is the realization that had we given a little more thought and study to agricultural methods at the time, we would have come up with the more sustainable farming methods that are now being widely adapted.

Innovation and technological advancement are major driving forces for modern society, but they must be done in the context of both need and potential risk. Many European countries have outlawed toxic agricultural chemicals that are still widely used in the United States, and require much more stringent testing for adverse health and environmental effects before the introduction of new ones.

As with cloned farm animals, the introduction of GM food crops into our food supply was allowed by the FDA with essentially no regulatory oversight because it was claimed they were just like normal plants. GM crops were promoted as a way make food cheaper, reduce the need for agrochemicals and eliminate world hunger. Ten years after their introduction, there is no reduction in food cost, the worldwide use of chemicals on the farm has increased greatly, and world hunger is worse than ever. In addition, farmers have lost millions of dollars due to GM crop failures and closed export markets resulting from GM contamination because many countries do not allow GM foods.

The only benefactors of the GM technology have been the small group of companies that control over half of the world's seed supply and make 90 percent of the chemicals used in agriculture. Monsanto is the biggest player, controlling 41 percent of the global seed market for corn and 25 percent for soybeans. Its dominance was achieved through huge contributions to politicians, the intimidation of farmers, bribery and the perpetual harassment of individuals who oppose their views. If absolute control of our food supply is the goal, then the next step for agricultural biotechnology is to dominate the milk and meat markets through animal cloning.

As with the introduction of chemical agriculture and GM plants, animal cloning is a new and untested technology. Its famous first was Dolly the sheep. Cloning involves removing the genetic material from an egg, replacing it with that of the animal to be cloned, and then implanting the egg in the surrogate mother to which the clone is born. The advantage of animal cloning over breeding is that it eliminates the innate randomness of normal breeding and therefore is thought to assure that the desired characteristics are present in each clone. The trade-off, as with GM crops and pesticides, it that the health hazards to the consumer could be significant.

For example, to trick the surrogate mother into thinking that she is pregnant, she must be treated with high levels of hormones that will certainly enter our food supply along with her body parts. In addition, many clones are born with severely compromised immune systems. A good example is Dolly, which led a short, albeit glamorous, life due to multiple medical problems. It will therefore be necessary to treat cloned animals with antibiotics, which will further drive the selection for antibiotic resistant pathogens, already a major medical problem. Indeed, the National Academy of Sciences warned that cloned farm animals would likely increase the incidence of food-borne infections.

A logical extension of cloning is to make transgenic animals that contain genes from plants or other animals. This has in fact been done to solve a problem presented by the use of synthetic growth hormone to force cows to produce more milk. Since the super milk producer gets infections of her udder, the high-tech solution was to make a transgenic cow that produces its own antibiotics. Next up, cattle that make their own barbecue sauce.

Why is there such a drive to produce the type of laboratory-derived food represented by GM crops and cloned animals? Since the major, if not the only, benefactors of GM crop and animal cloning technologies are the companies that own them, it is clear the drive for their introduction is corporate profit. It is always assumed that the market drives the technology, but in the case of agricultural technology, supported by an enormous amount of money and political capital and the fact that the consumers do not seem to care, the reverse is clearly true.

And why are these products readily accepted in a country that has an overabundance of cheap food, while most of the world rejects this approach? The reason the U.S. population does not spend much time thinking about the origin of its food is because it believes the FDA is doing the necessary safety testing. In fact, there is no required safety testing for GM crops; there will be none for cloned animals.

The Europeans do not harbor this assumption because they have experienced dramatic failures of their regulatory agencies in the form of mad cow disease and HIV-infected blood supplies. An additional problem is that in the laboratory we only use guinea pigs in experiments where we can detect the outcome, while any adverse effects of biotech food on human health will be undetectable against the background of current medical problems. Therefore the claim that these foods are safe because there is no evidence of harm is invalid. It would seem to me that the toxic consequences of chemical farming and the failure of GM crop technology to produce any human benefit should force us to question the blind acceptance of yet another untested and unregulated agricultural practice.

Schubert is a professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies.

Cloned Animals on the Dinner Plate
PDF (318kb) from Food and Water Watch


Seeding Starvation in Iraq

By Jerry Mazza
Online Journal
January 4, 2007

In 2004, when L. Paul Bremer III left his position as Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) administrator to "transfer sovereignty," he also left behind 100 deadly orders to govern Iraq. Order 81, which included "Patent, Industrial Design, Integrated Circuits and Plant Variety," prohibited Iraqis from reusing seeds of "new" plant varieties patented under the law. Think about that for a second . . .

What that order means is that seeds from those "new" varieties cannot be saved for reuse, at least not without paying a royalty to its "manufacturer," whether it's Monsanto, Dow, Dupont, or any of the other genetically-modifying seed giants. This could easily bankrupt farmers and contribute vastly to massive food shortages and starvation.

This law amended Iraq's original patent law of 1970. Until it is revised or cancelled by a new Iraqi government, it is legally binding under the hawkish wing of the colonizing CPA. Historically, the Iraqi constitution prohibited private ownership of biological resources. Yet this US-stamped patent law does just that. It introduces a plan for monopoly rights over seeds, if you can believe it.

In fact, there is a whole new chapter on Plant Variety Protection (PVP) inserted into Iraq's former patent law. Page 15 and on provide for "protection" of new varieties of plants." In it, PVP becomes an "intellectual property right" (IPR) for plants, a monopoly right on planting material (seeds) for a breeder claiming to have discovered or developed a new variety. Move over god, earth spirit, Mother Nature, whatever you wish to call creation's prime mover. Monsanto is here, changing it all. And this has nothing to do with conservation. It's about safeguarding "free market" interests, that is, the behemoths who claim they created the new plants. How's that for a hustle?

To stack up for PVP status, plant varieties must meet standards of the UPOV Convention. What then? It calls for plants to be new, distinct, uniform and stable. Of course, farmers' seeds can't meet these criteria, despite the fact that Iraqi farmers have crossbred and improved their plants under close scrutiny for 8,000 years within their fertile crescent. But then, PVP-protected seeds are the proprietary domain of corporations. And what's good for GM (genetic modification), whether from Monsanto, or its equally rapacious competitors, is good for Iraq, and soon to be the world if they have their way.

These PVP rights cover harvest material and include whole plants and parts of plants gotten from use of a protected variety. In short, we're privatizing plantdom in Iraq, the possible first step towards an all-out patenting of life forms. In fact, this law does not rule out patenting animals as well. Consider this, too, in the light of the FDA recently approving cloned cattle as suitable for consumption. It is "virtually indistinguishable" from conventional livestock. "Virtually."

And you may ask, what's the up charge of the cloning process and genetic modifications to the farmer and consumer, not to mention the downside of any deadly side effects of toying with Eden's bounty, usually without sufficient time-proved testing for safety, i.e., with what was an animal or plant modified? There is the classic case in America of a tomato's seed being modified with genetic elements of an Alaskan fish, theoretically to toughen its skin and make it stand up better to frosts. Not surprisingly, it ended up tasting like hell and having an easily-bruised skin. I guess even a tomato likes to be treated right.

Bad taste aside, this also gives "the breeder" the right to knock-off major successes of nature, whether it's a Southeast Asian strain of rice, a Georgia peach, or the incomparable Iraqi date. What's more the term of monopoly is 20 years for crops, 25 for trees and vines. During this time the PVP becomes the breeder's property, and nobody, like nobody, can plant or use this without greasing the breeder.

Therefore, Iraqi farmers can't save seeds to replant any of the varieties registered under the PVP provisions in the new pick-your-pocket (PYP) patent law. Thus, it deprives them of what they and farmers around the world justly claim as their life-given right -- to save and replant seeds.

Also, once these plants get into the agro-growth cycle, there is no recall from any possible genetic pollution. So even if you never used the seeds, and the wind simply blew them onto your land, you (1) owe the breeder a royalty and (2) if anything's wrong with the GM seed, it's your problem or the world's problem. Go sue the Big M. Is this "reconstruction" or deconstruction, economic disaster for farmers to create a financial bonanza for "breeders"?

Even when we leave Iraq, if ever, their agro-system could remain under "occupation" forever. What a horrific thought for Iraqi farmers or any farmer anywhere, including the weird old USA. But truth is our US farmers have been dug into this war for earth freedom for over a decade. In fact since GM-PVP worked here originally, the corporatos figured, why not run it in Iraq, as in India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam? Sky's the limit. Thanks for opening my eyes. Open yours, reader. Read Grain's linked article in its entirety.

The biopiracy is homegrown

Genetic modification (GM) or genetic engineering (GE), bio-engineering, or biopiracy can all be traced back to our homegrown biotech industry. According to the article, "American People Participate in Biggest Biological Experiment Ever Conducted," the biotech hell's kitchen, along with federal regulatory agencies, has covertly converted a large fraction of our naturally grown food supply to one derived from genetically modified seeds. This has been going on since the early 90s.

GM (genetically modified) crops here in the corporate-occupied USA include corn, soybeans, potatoes and tomatoes. It's estimated that 60 percent of our processed food, some 30,000 products, contain genetically modified ingredients. Seventy million acres of our country's farmland is planted with genetically engineered crops. So, as you shed a tear for Iraq shed one for America and its farmers, who have been bucking the Mon[ster]santo and its clones.

Actually, peasants and farmers crossbred related plants or animals for hundreds of thousands of years. You can lead a horse to a donkey and get a mule, right? But you'll have a hell of a time (and for good reason) trying to get the horse to mate with an apple tree. So the key word to crossbreeding and pollination is "relatedness." That keeps it real, safe, successful. Beyond that, randomly stripping the elements from a gene and sticking them on a disparate gene or set of genes for "the hell of it," i.e., profit, is likely to give you a Frankenstein fish or a Moreau apple.

What's more, GM employs "genes from animals, plants, insects, bacteria and viruses and then artificially inserts them into the DNA of food crops." This both "bypasses gradual evolutionary process and actually creates pathways for diseases and genetic weaknesses to cross over to completely unrelated species." This can cause unexpected and even harmful changes in organisms, the humans that consume them and the environment that bears them. Here are some striking examples from

As Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin said in a New York Times Magazine article (10/25/98), "There's no way of knowing what all the downstream effects will be or how it might affect the environment. We have such a miserably poor misunderstanding of how the organism develops from its DNA that I would be surprised if we don't get one rude shock after another." Again, we can thank Monsanto most notably, as well as Dow, Dupont, Novartis and others.

The irony, as Peter Rosset, director of the Institute for Food and Development Policy, wrote in a New York Times article (9/01/99), "In fact there is no relationship between the prevalence of hunger in a given country and its population. For every densely populated and hungry nation like Bangladesh, there is a sparsely populated and hungry nation like Brazil.

"The world today produces more food per inhabitant than ever before. Enough is available to provide 4.3 pounds to every person every day: two and a half pounds of grain, beans and nuts, about a pound of meat, milk and eggs and another of fruits and vegetables -- more than anyone could ever eat."

The "American People . . . " article goes on say to say, "In fact the widespread introduction of GM crops in 'developing' countries will likely exacerbate world hunger by further increasing inequality. People in poor countries lack access to funds and land that enable them to grow an adequate food supply.

"IMF/World Bank structural adjustment programs impose severe restrictions on 'developing' countries, forcing them to abandon the production of food for local use and instead focus on the growth of exportable commodities such as coffee, which are subject to wildly fluctuating world market prices. Within this framework, international lending institutions such as the World Bank place more emphasis on the development of large export directed farms at the expense of small family farms.

"The new genetically altered seeds require high quality soil, large investments in new machinery, and increased use of chemicals. Only large corporate farms are capable of meeting these requirements in 'developing' countries. Under this system, family farms suffer and people are driven off the land into urban areas where they serve as a superfluous, highly exploited and underpaid labor force for international corporations in 'free trade' zones, resulting in massive poverty."

Furthermore, GM seeds are designed almost exclusively to grow the sales of herbicides and pesticides sold by the same companies that develop the seeds. Our old "friend" Monsanto developed corn and soybeans resistant to their own herbicide "Round Up" and plans to introduce "Round Up" resistant GM wheat in the future. So these souped-up seeds will enable a farmer to spray much higher doses of "Round Up" on their crops. The EPA tripled allowable residues (that could stay on the crop) to enable "Round Up" sprayed crops to be used, even in products like baby food. Brilliant.

Fattening the bottom line

Whether in Iraq, the US, or the world, the issue is fattening the bottom line. The FDA was lulled to sleep by Bush Sr. in the early 90s, and the Intellectual Property (IP) rules became scripture within the World Trade Organization's (WTO) "free trade" agreements. Thus, Monsanto has continually bought seed companies to monopolize the seed market. If a farmer buys seeds from El Monsanto, he can't collect and use his own seeds as well for future harvests.

In fact, the demonic Monsanto created a "Terminator" seed which will grow a crop that can't generate a new seed. It was forced by public outrage to abandon that beast. But it came back with a "Traitor" technology that will turn on or off a particular trait of a plant with certain chemicals ('promoters") that only Monsanto will sell. Look forward to "Traitor" tech to hand the earth over to the big M, unless you and I help put them out of business. In fact, they call people like us "Luddites" or "those who oppose change," even of a patented evil.

So there is the future. This time the bell tolls not only for Iraq. It tolls for us all. Are you listening? Can you hear it? Plants screaming in the light. Money clinking in cash registers. Humanity caught in the chains of raped genes, spiraled-out-of-control-strands of DNA. Stop it. Demand that all GM foods are labeled as such, until their gone from the earth with the people who made them. Act now. This offer cannot be repeated. It will be strangled before you know it.


GM Crops Still Not Performing

By EU Business
January 10, 2007

A new report released 9 January shows that genetically modified (GM) crops have failed to address the main challenges facing farmers in most countries of the world, and more than 70 percent of large scale GM planting is still limited to two countries (U.S. and Argentina).

The new report, 'Who Benefits from GM crops? An analysis of the global performance of genetically modified (GM) crops 1996-2006' also notes that the 'second generation' GM farm crops with attractive 'traits' long promised by the industry has failed to appear. "No GM crop on the market today offers benefits to the consumer in terms of quality or price, and to date these crops have done nothing to alleviate hunger or poverty in Africa or elsewhere," said Nnimmo Bassey of Friends of the Earth Africa in Nigeria.

"The great majority of GM crops cultivated today are used as high-priced animal feed to supply rich nations with meat," he added.

According to the report, GM crops commercialised today have on the whole increased rather than decreased pesticide use, and do not yield more than conventional varieties. The environment has not benefited, and GM crops will become increasingly unsustainable over the medium to long term.

In Europe, the report acknowledges a small increase in cultivation of GM maize (up to approximately 1 percent of all maize production) but highlights strong continued opposition to GM crops in the European Union and an increase in the number of European regions declaring themselves GM Free.

Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "The widespread opposition to genetically modified crops and foods in Europe continues to restrict the growing of these unwanted and unneeded crops. Consumers and farmers can see that they offer no added value and only additional environmental and health risks."

The Friends of the Earth International report launch coincides with the annual release of the 'Global Status of Commercialized Biotech' report of the industry-sponsored International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) - which promotes GM crops as a key solution to hunger and poverty. The GM crops industry continues to misleadingly claim that GM crops play a role in solving world hunger.

2006 A Bad Year for GM Crops

  • In 2006 the US Department of Agriculture, a chief proponent of GM crops, for the first time acknowledged that GM crop yields are not greater than those of conventional crops, and a compelling number of studies by independent scientists demonstrate that GM crop yields are lower than, or at best equivalent to, yields from non-GM varieties.
  • In 2006 due to a soybean sector crisis and lower yields in Brazil and Paraguay, Monsanto had to scale down its expectations in both countries. The company was forced to publicly announce in Paraguay a reduction in the royalties they demanded from soy producers. The Ministry of Environment in Paraguay detected higher losses in Roundup Ready soy yields than in the conventional varieties, verifying that the GM varieties were highly sensitive to drought.
  • In the last decade cotton production has declined in the majority of countries that have adopted GM cotton like Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, South Africa and Australia, and significant drops in GM cotton production specifically are forecast in 2006 for South Africa and Mexico.
  • In 2006 a European Union-wide survey of public views reconfirmed the European public's opposition to GM food.
  • In 2006 the rice food supply on four continents was contaminated with an illegal GM rice supposedly field-tested only until 2001, proving once again the inability or unwillingness of the biotech industry to control its products.

top of page