Monday, 8 June 2009

Some news on GM crops

One of the main concerns for advocates against Genetically Modified (GM) crops is the growing number of pesticide tolerant or resistant weeds and their affect on crop yield. According to an article published in Geoforum by Binimelis et al, in 2009 a glyphosate-resistant biotype of johnsongrass (Sorghum halepense (L.)) appeared in Argentina and now covers at least 10,000 ha. They explain that no preventive strategies are deployed against the invasion. The reactive measures are based on "gene-stacking" that allows the use of still more glyphosate or new combinations of herbicides. A new phenomenon called the "transgenic treadmill" is identified. A colleague of mine pointed out that since the EU is the largest importer of soybeans, European awareness of the local impacts of imported soybeans (as feedstuffs and/or agro-fuels) should not focus only on deforestation, but also consider the socio-environmental consequences apart from the loss of productivity.

Bonnie Azab Powell at the Ethicurean recently posted “The Failure of Science”: New paper makes a damning case against genetically modified food crops" where she mentions the new book “Intervention: Confronting the Real Risks of Genetic Engineering and Life on a Biotech Planet" by technology reporter Denise Caruso and recent articles published in the International Journal of Society of Agriculture and Food. The two part series Part 1: The Development of a Flawed Enterprise and Part 2: Academic Capitalism and the Loss of Scientific Integrity highlight the conflict between science and society through a historical perspective, tactics used, and regulatory flaws and failures.

This year's Global Food Security Act of 2009 introduced by Senator Richard Lugar, "would authorize appropriations for fiscal years 2010 through 2014 to provide assistance to foreign countries to promote food security, to stimulate rural economies, and to improve emergency response to food crises, to amend the Foreign Assistance Act(FAA) of 1961." Sounds like a great bill for the US to help alleviate world hunger except that it creatively amends the FAA of 1961 by makinging the first sentence include "research on biotechnological advances appropriate to local ecological conditions, including genetically modified technology." Consequently, the bill specifies that the U.S. MUST fund GMOs and biotechnology, a change in policy up to this point.

The bill was nicknamed "the REAL Monsanto bill" by the Organic Consumers Association. According to Monsanto's first quarter lobbying reports, the company spent $2,094,000 in the first quarter 2009. Their specific lobbying issues were Biotechnology acceptance, S. 384- Global Food Security Act of 2009, Sustainable Yield Initiative, Crop insurance/Biotech yield endorsement and USDA Rulemaking - 7CFR Part 340. (thanks to La Vida Locavore who was contacted by Monsanto who denied involvement in the bill).

In the waning months of the Bush Administration, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a proposal to completely overhaul its regulation of genetically engineered crops, significantly weakening its oversight. USDA also published the rules before publishing the full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS), as required by law, and in the absence of public review of the data needed to make regulatory recommendations. A comment period for USDA's Docket No. APHIS-2008-0023, Importation, Interstate Movement, and Release into the Environment of Certain Genetically Engineered Organisms has been extended until June 29th.

If you wish to submit a comment using the Internet, go to the Federal eRulemaking portal. Then click on “Add Comments.” This will also allow you to view public comments and related materials available electronically. Using the Federal eRulemaking portal is the best way to ensure that your comments will be associated with the right docket and reviewed by the right people. Consideration will be given to all comments received on or before June 29th.

Crossposted from Epicurean Ideal.

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