April 13, 2010
Opposition to GE Alfalfa
Last month (March 3, 2010) the Center for Food Safety posted a National Organic Coalition (NOC) press release estimating that more than 200,000 comments were submitted to the USDA critiquing the APHIS Draft Environmental Impact Statement concerning GM alfalfa (available here).
Also included in the Center for Food Safety Post is a letter submitted by 300 public interest groups, farmers, dairies, retailers and organic food producers who worry that GM alfalfa threatens their livelihood.
“GE alfalfa threatens the very fabric of the organic industry,” adds George Siemon, one of the founding farmers and CEO of Organic Valley. “Organic consumers want seeds and products to remain unpolluted by GE.”
Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student James McEnerney for preparing this post. Mr. McEnerney is a student of Professor Donna M. Byrne.
August 29, 2009
Testing and Certification for "non-GMO" foods
From the New York Times:
Alarmed that genetically engineered crops may be finding their way into organic and natural foods, an industry group has begun a campaign to test products and label those that are largely free of biotech ingredients. . . .
Hundreds of products already claim on their packaging that they do not contain genetically modified ingredients, but with little consistency in the labeling and little assurance that the products have actually been tested. The new labeling campaign hopes to clear up such confusion.
Read the article here
July 29, 2009
Genetically Engineered Potatoes On the Way
From London Reuters:
A crop trial of genetically engineered potatoes has resumed in northern Britain, a year after the trial was abandoned when protesters ripped up plants.
"We granted a three-year consent," a government official told Reuters on Monday. "The trial has been resumed. It's perfectly allowed," she added, denying a report in The Daily Telegraph that the resumption of the trial was "in secret."
July 21, 2009
Researchers Question Safety of GMOs
A study recently published in the International Journal of Biological Science questions the safety conclusions regarding consumption of genetically modified organisms. The researchers state that toxic effects seem undeniable. The official abstract is kind of a tough read, but here's an excerpt from the Conclusion:
All these observations taken together in our opinions do not allow a clear statement of toxic effects, but to suggest them as such, because they are clearly undeniable. Now, to any good researcher similar results would mean that there is much to be improved in the planning of experimental design; and thus to increase their resolution power to obtain unequivocal statements, for instance increasing the duration and/or the number of rats tested. Generally speaking it seems to us unbelievable that a risk assessment carried out only on forty rats of each sex receiving GM rich diets for 90 days (yielding results often at the limits of significance) have not been repeated and prolonged independently. We should overall take into account the fact that the analysed GM product could be fed long-term to people and animals of various ages and sexes, and with various pathologies.
We call for more serious standardized tests such as those used for pesticides or drugs, on at least three mammalian species tested for at least three months employing larger sample sizes, and up to one and two years before commercialization, for GM food or feed specifically modified to contain pesticide residues. We also call for a serious scientific debate about the criteria for testing significant adverse health effects for pesticides or chemicals, . . .
The full text of the study is available on the journal's website.
Sralini GE, de Vendmois JS, Cellier D, Sultan C, Buiatti M, Gallagher L, Antoniou M, Dronamraju KR. How Subchronic and Chronic Health Effects can be Neglected for GMOs, Pesticides or Chemicals. Int J Biol Sci 2009; 5:438-443.
Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student, Laura Bantle, for this item.
March 18, 2009
Mexico OKs GM corn experimentsFrom Latin America Press
Mexico has revised its biosafety law to reverse a nationwide ban on genetically-modified corn, the country´s most important crop and the centerpiece of the Mexican diet, and allow the varieties to be used in experiments. In a press conference, Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Juan Rafael Elvira Quesada, said that the government would fight any illicit planting of genetically-modified corn, of which Mexico is the birthplace.Read more
January 22, 2009
USDA Admits a Lack of Strategy for Monitoring GMO Imports
In a report released by the U.S. Agriculture Department's Office of Inspector General, the Office of Inspector General said it does not have an import control policy to regulate imported GMO animals. The Office of Inspector General recommended the department develop an overall control policy for all GMO imports and implement a strategy to monitor GMO crop and livestock development in foreign nations.
Read the Office of Inspector General's report.
The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), part of the USDA, currently regulates the importation of GMO's into the U.S. Read more on the current process of importing genetically modified organisms at the APHIS biotechnology website.
December 12, 2008
GAO Report on Genetically Engineered Crops
From the Document Summary:
Why GAO Did This Study
Genetically engineered (GE) crops—including crops engineered to resist pests or tolerate herbicides—are widespread in the United States and around the world. Taking direction from the 1986 Coordinated Framework for Regulation of Biotechnology, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulate GE crops to ensure that they are safe. The unauthorized mixing of some GE crops with non-GE crops has caused controversy and financial harm. GAO examined (1) unautho- rized releases of GE crops,
(2) coordination among the three agencies, and (3) additional actions they have proposed to improve oversight. GAO gathered data from agencies and stakeholders; used criteria from prior GAO work to assess coordination; and reviewed agency proposals.
What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that (1) FDA make public the results of its early food safety assessments of GE crops; (2) USDA and FDA develop an agreement to share information on GE crops with traits that, if released into the food or feed supply, could cause health concerns; and (3) USDA, EPA, and FDA develop a risk-based strategy for monitoring the widespread use of marketed GE crops. FDA agreed with the first recommendation, and, with USDA, agreed in part with the second. The agencies agreed in part with the third recommendation. We stand by the recommendations.
May 08, 2008
GE Roundup Ready sugar beets and Mother's Day candy -- Andrew Kimbrell on Huffington Post blog
Genetically engineered sugar beets are on the way, and next year's candy will include sugar from the new plants. Andrew Kimbrell of the Center for Food Safety has a post on The Huffington Post that's kind of interesting. I had assumed that sucrose is sucrose is sucrose, always a glucose molecule stuck to a fructose molecule. And I just assumed it's always pure. But here's an excerpt from the article suggesting I may be too calm about it:
Sugar in your Mother's Day candy comes from several sources, including sugar beets. A new option available to farmers this year is Monsanto's Roundup Ready sugar beet, genetically engineered to survive multiple direct applications of the weed killer, Roundup. At the request of Monsanto, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency increased the allowable amount of glyphosate residues on sugar beetroots by a whopping 5,000% -- glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup. Sugar is extracted from the beet's root and the inevitable result is more glyphosate in our sugar. This is not good news for those who want to enjoy their chocolate morsels without the threat of ingesting toxic weed killer.
March 30, 2008
Religious Investors Call for Boycott of GM Sugar
The Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility (ICCR) has launched an on-line campaign protesting the planting of genetically modified sugar beets in the upcoming spring planting season, arguing genetically engineered crops suffer from “‘weak governmental review and oversight, and the lack of long-term independent and peer-reviewed safety studies.’”
According to a March 5, 2008 news article on NutraIngredients-USA.com, ICCR’s campaign encourages consumers to print off and mail a letter to major food companies and manufacturers including, McDonald’s, Campbell’s Soup, and Kellogg’s, urging them to publicly oppose the planting of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets.
Leslie Lowe, Director of ICCR’s Energy and Environment Program, is optimistic the campaign will be successful because the companies targeted “face major potential backlashes if they do not act now to stop the use of genetically modified sugar from sugar beets.” She also went on to say that similar campaigns have successfully persuaded companies not to use genetically modified organisms in its food products.
Link to ICCR’s Press Release regarding the launch of its “Don’t Plant GMO Beets” campaign.
Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Sene Binsfeld for preparing this post.
February 12, 2008
Bratspies on The American Approach to Regulating GMOs
Professor Rebecca Bratspies, (CUNY School of Law) has posted Some Thoughts on the American Approach to Regulating Genetically Modified Organisms, Kansas Journal of Law & Pubic Policy, Vol. 16, No. 3, 2007, on SSRN at http://ssrn.com/abstract=1017832
Abstract: A healthy society needs room for genuine dialogue, particularly over issues of how to evaluate and weigh risks to public safety. When citizens do not have confidence in the regulatory systems that purport to protect them, social trust breaks down. The lack of a transparent, well-organized regulatory system threatens public trust in biotechnology and more fundamentally in government itself. The success of agricultural biotechnology depends on society's willingness to accept and consume food produced via this technology. This willingness hinges on the level of trust that the technology is being developed and used in a safe manner. (abstract continues)
This needed trust is multilayered - the consumer must trust that the scientists know what they are doing in developing these crops, that the companies marketing and distributing the crops are operating in a legal and ethical manner, that the regulators are exercising proper oversight, that the farmers are obeying the regulations, and that the consumer is not being lied to or misled. The presence or absence of trust dramatically affects communications about and perceptions of risk. As a result, a credible oversight scheme and trust in the institutions promoting and overseeing agricultural biotechnology may be the single biggest predictors of public acceptance of this technology
Because the development, production and marketing of GM crops requires the activities of so many different parties, there are multiple levels on which this process can break down, creating suspicion and mistrust. This article explores fundamental questions about the relationship between transparency, trust and acceptability of risk and makes some recommendations about the role that public voices should play in regulatory policy.
February 09, 2008
Dry Your Eyes, the Tearless Onion is Here
On February 1, 2008, Crop & Food Research announced the world’s first tearless onion. Dr. Colin Eady, a plant biologist, and his Japanese counterparts have saved cooks from the perils of crying in the kitchen. Normally the onion’s enzyme, lachrymatory-factor synthase, is released upon cutting the onion, which then leads to tearing. Eady’s onion silences the gene that produces that enzyme, giving the onion non-tearing properties.
Interest in Eady’s onion has been gaining momentum since his presentation at the 5th International Symposium on Edible Alliaceae, and his subsequent appearance on the cover of “Onion World” (an International Trade Journal that published Eady’s findings in their December 2007 issue). Don’t worry though, scientists insist the product is safe, and we have another decade before this onion will hit the grocery stores.
Dr. Eady’s interest in the GM onion dates back to 2003 when he applied to the New Zealand Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) for permission to test onion plants by adding a gene in order to make them tolerant to the herbicide glyphosate. Controversy surrounded Eady’s research when efforts to hide the financial backer’s identity were kept secret. Seminis Vegetable Seeds, the California-based international seed company, eventually stepped forward with their “altruistic” intent to help farmers by cutting the percentage of herbicide used by onion growers. Both Crop & Food Research and Seminis have already applied for patents with the U.S. and European Patent Offices.
Link to the 2003 ERMA Application
Thank you to William Mitchell College of Law student Wendy Sanchez, who prepared this post.
January 17, 2008
Calcium rich GE Supercarrots!
According to a study reported in this week’s Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, scientists have genetically engineered carrots to provide more calcium. From a BBC News article:
". . .Someone eating the new carrot absorbs 41% more calcium than if they ate the old, the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences study suggests.
The calcium-charged vegetable still needs to go through many safety trials. "These carrots were grown in carefully monitored and controlled environments," said Professor Kendal Hirschi, part of the team at the Baylor College of Medicine in Texas.
"Much more research needs to be conducted before this would be available to consumers."
Link to the Abstract on the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences website.
Link to Professor Kendal Hirschi
December 29, 2007
USDA -- Monsanto GE seed corn deal
From the Dec. 26 Chicago Tribune --
Seed Controversy Sprouts, by Stephen J. Hedges
While the federal government doesn't usually endorse products, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has struck an unusual arrangement with agribusiness giant Monsanto Co. that gives farmers in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Minnesota a break on federal crop insurance premiums if they plant Monsanto-brand seed corn this spring.
The arrangement has raised some eyebrows, particularly among organic farm groups that argue the government agency should not be promoting corn that contains an herbicide; the Monsanto brands contain chemicals that kill weeds and insects.
November 28, 2007
Final week for comments on USDA proposal to deregulate GE soybeans
WASHINGTON, Oct. 11, 2007--The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is seeking public comment on a petition to deregulate soybean line 356043, genetically engineered (GE) for herbicide resistance.
The petition for deregulation, submitted by Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., is in accordance with APHIS’ regulations concerning the introduction of GE organisms and products. APHIS has prepared a draft environmental assessment (EA) to determine whether deregulating the soybean could have a significant impact on the environment. After a thorough review of the scientific evidence, APHIS’ current preferred action is to deregulate the soybean based on the fact that it does not present a plant-pest risk.
How to comment:
APHIS is seeking comments on the petition and invites comments on the EA. Consideration will be given to comments received on or before Dec. 4. Send an original and three copies of postal mail or commercial delivery comments to Docket No. APHIS-2007-0019, Regulatory Analysis and Development, PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8, 4700 River Road, Unit 118, Riverdale, Md. 20737-1238. If you wish to submit a comment using the Internet, go to the Federal eRulemaking portal at http://www.regulations.gov, select “Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service” from the agency drop-down menu; then click on “Submit.” In the Docket ID column, select APHIS-2007-0019 to submit or view public comments and to view supporting and related materials available electronically.
Comments are posted on the Regulations.gov Web site and may also be viewed at USDA, Room 1141, South Building, 14th St. and Independence Ave., S.W., Washington, D.C., between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, excluding holidays. Please call (202) 690-2817 to facilitate entry into the comment reading room.
USDA Fines Scotts half a million dollars over genetically engineered creeping bentgrass
WASHINGTON, Nov. 26, 2007--The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has concluded an investigation into alleged compliance infractions by The Scotts Company, LLC. The investigation related to regulated genetically engineered glyphosate-tolerant creeping bentgrass. Under today's settlement agreement, Scotts has agreed to pay a civil penalty of $500,000 which is the maximum penalty allowed by the Plant Protection Act of 2000. This is a severe civil penalty and underscores USDA's strong commitment to compliance with its regulations.
November 17, 2007
Video -- Jim Chen on Beyond Food and Evil
Jim Chen has posted a RealPlayer video of his Duke Law Journal Administrative Law symposium presentation of Beyond Food and Evil (blogged here) on the Agricultural Law Blog. The presentation was delivered via videoconference after Jim's flight was cancelled. I don't actually know whether that's the only reason the digital version exists, but if so, what a lucky break for the rest of us! Click here to go to the Agricultural Law post and view the video.
October 23, 2007
LA Times on Biotech foods
The Los Angeles Times science section ran an interesting piece on biotech foods. There's not really anything new, but it describes the issues pretty well (IMHO):
Biotech foods are still hard to swallow, by Elena Conis
OPPONENTS call them Frankenfoods, man-made aberrations that should be banished from our grocery stores or at least clearly labeled so consumers know what they're eating.
Supporters have long cast genetically modified foods in a different light: as answers to human problems. They would, the dream went, make crops that didn't rot, spoil or succumb to frost. They would boost harvests, feed the hungry and fortify the malnourished.
Several decades later, very few of those goals have been realized. Yet today, largely unbeknownst to most consumers, more than 70% of processed foods on grocery store shelves contain genetically engineered or biotech ingredients.
October 20, 2007
Edwards, Richardson and Dodd favor mandatory labeling for genetically engineered foods
Fairfield, IA -- October 13, 2007 - Senator John Edwards, Governor Bill Richardson, and Senator Chris Dodd have all gone on record in favor of mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods this week in Iowa. In response to questions during their campaign visits to Fairfield this week, each candidate stated he would support legislation to require the mandatory labeling of genetically engineered foods if elected to be President of the United States.
October 11, 2007
GE Corn may harm stream ecosystems
A team of stream ecologists from four universities has just released a new study, "Toxins in transgenic crop byproducts may affect headwater stream ecosystems," by Todd V. Royer of Indiana University,
Emma Rosi-Marshall of Loyola University Chicago, Jennifer Tank of the University of Notre Dame and Matt Whiles of Southern Illinois University. From the Southern Illinois University news release:
The group, funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation, examined whether the genetically modified corn plant debris — everything from pollen to husks and cobs — might have unintended impacts on the stream food chain as aquatic insects use it for food. Genetically modified corn such as Bt corn is engineered to create a toxin aimed at destroying the European corn borer, a moth larvae, and other pests that typically feed on corn crops.
The current research focuses on caddisflies, small insects that break down the coarse biomaterial deposited into streams and provide an important food source for other stream life. The researchers chose caddisflies because they are closely related to pests targeted by Bt corn toxin.
Whiles and his graduate student, Catherine Chambers, found caddisflies have slower growth rates when feeding on Bt corn crop debris than when they feed on the non-modified variety. Because smaller insects tend to have fewer eggs, Whiles said it's possible their numbers could decline over time, which might have an overall negative effect on stream food webs.
Corn (Zea mays L.) that has been genetically engineered to produce the Cry1Ab protein (Bt corn) is resistant to lepidopteran pests. Bt corn is widely planted in the midwestern United States, often adjacent to headwater streams. We show that corn byproducts, such as pollen and detritus, enter headwater streams and are subject to storage, consumption, and transport to downstream water bodies. Laboratory feeding trials showed that consumption of Bt corn byproducts reduced growth and increased mortality of nontarget stream insects. Stream insects are important prey for aquatic and riparian predators, and widespread planting of Bt crops has unexpected ecosystem-scale consequences.
(If you click on Abstract above, you can see the abstract on the PNAS website. To get the whole article, you need a subscription.)
The Center for Food Safety has this to say:
"This is yet another example of a government agency granting clearance for a GE organism without requiring meaningful or stringent testing," said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety. "Bt corn is planted widely throughout the U.S. Had a study like this been done prior to the government's approval, we would not be looking at a popular crop that has the potential to broadly disrupt the environment."
October 09, 2007
National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy report on biotechnology
The National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy website includes its 2006 Update of Impacts on US Agriculture of Biotechnology-Derived Crops Planted in 2005, a quantitative analysis of the use of transgenic crops in the U.S. The National Center for Food and Agriculture Policy board includes both university and industry representatives. Projects are designed to illustrate the value of herbicides, the benefits of pesticide use, and the improvement in crop production due to transgenic crops. Project funding comes from industry and other sources. From the NCFAP website:
Biotechnology Assessment Program
NCFAP’s Biotechnology Assessment Program encompasses studies that analyze the potential of transgenic plants to improve pest management in the United States. NCFAP plays a unique role in the biotech debate because transgenic plants deliver pest control benefits. NCFAP’s extensive experience assembling and analyzing pesticide use data forms a strong basis for preparing these studies. NCFAP’s projects can best be described as educational in focus because they shape the basis to understand why US farmers have embraced biotechnology and are likely to continue to do so. NCFAP’s intent is to prepare concise, definitive, non-technical summaries of the technology and the reasons that farmers have chosen to plant millions of acres with transgenic plants.
NCFAP researchers began the Biotechnology Assessment Program before the first transgenic crops were commercialized. In the early 1990s, NCFAP researchers estimated the potential benefits that herbicide tolerant soybeans and cotton would provide once they were commercialized. Following the widespread adoption of genetically-engineered corn, soybeans and cotton plants in the mid-1990s, NCFAP researchers prepared a series of in-depth assessments of the aggregate national impacts through 1999 including changes in yield, production costs, and pesticide use. The Rockefeller Foundation and Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) financially supported these efforts.