More on "Frankenfood"
Organic farming will be forced out of production in Britain and across Europe if genetically engineered/modified (GE/GM) crops are grown commercially, says a startling new EU report.
The report -- which is so controversial that top EC officials tried to stop its release -- shows that organic farms will become so contaminated by genes from the new crops that they can no longer be licensed or farmers will have to spend so much money trying to protect themselves that their farms will become uneconomic. Conventional non-GM farms will also be seriously affected.
Drawn up as a result of two years of studies in Britain, France, Italy and Germany, the report provides the most damning confirmation to date of the arguments, long advanced by environmentalists, that it is not possible for GM and organic farming to co-exist. The report, which looks at the effects of growing modified maize, potatoes and oilseed rape commercially on several types of farms, warns that genes from GM crops will travel long distances, creating superweeds.
And in Canada, there is confirmation of something canola farmers have been saying for years: that genetically modified canola is popping up where it wasn't planted and where it wasn't wanted.
An Agricultural Canada study suggests the problem is in the seeds. More than half of the seed samples tested showed some level of GM presence. The study's authors conclude that means almost every canola field planted with conventional seed will contain some genetically modified seed.
[Sources: The Independent, May 26, 2002: http://www.independent.co.uk: CBC News Online, June 28, 2002: http://cbc.ca/stories/2002/06/27/gncanola020627; reprinted in Nexus Magazine
, vol. 9, no. 5]
Transgenics compromise organics standards. That is the gist of declarations by two organic agricultural organisations to describe the effect of transgenic crop production on organic farming. As is the case with conventional soy, corn, and camola, organic crops have tested positive for the presence of foreign genetic material because of cross-pollination and seed stock contamination. The inability to segregate transgenic crops from their organic and conventional counterparts during harvest, handling, transport and milling is also responsible for contamination.
The Organic Federation of Australia declared that contamination from transgenic crops in the United States has spread to such a degree that it cannot verify the purity of imported organic ingredients.
Farm Verified Organic seconded that assertion. A press release from the North Dakota certification agency stated: "...the GM pollutionof American commodities is now so pervasive, we believe it is not possible for farmers in North America to source seed free from it."
According to the November 2000 edition of Farmindustrynews.com: "The widespread adoption of GM crops in the US makes it difficult to ensure that grain is not being contaminated with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as it is handled and transported from the field to the end customer. Industry insiders even question whether the foundation (parent) seed for non-GM varieties can meet a 1% purity level."
But one should remember that organic standards have to do with production, not purity, said Annie Kirschenmann, of Farm Verified Organic. This means that testing for any kind of residue, be it from pesticide or genetic drift, is not part of determining whether to certify a farm as organic.
[Source: Cropchoice News, 1 May 2001, www.cropchoice.com/, reprinted in Nexus Magazine
, vol. 8 no. 5]
On 29 March 2001, a Canadian judge dealt a crushing blow to farmers' rights by ruling that Percy Schmeiser, a third-generation Saskatchewan farmer, must pay Monsanto thousands of dollars for violating the corporation's monopoly patent on genetically engineered (GE) canola seed.
Under Canadian patent law, as in the US and many other industrialized countries, it is illegal for farmers to re-use patented seed or grow Monsanto's GE seed without signing a licensing agreement.
If the biotech corporations and US trade reps get their way, every nation in the world will be forced to adopt patent laws that make seed-saving illegal. The ruling against Schmeiser establishes an even more dangerous precedent because it means that farmers can be forced to pay royalties on GE seeds found on their land, even if they didn't buy the seeds or benefit from them.
Percy Schmeiser did not buy Monsanto's patented seed, nor did he obtain the seed illegally. Pollen from Monsanto's GE canola seeds blew onto his land from neighboring farms, without his consent. (Percy Schmeiser's neighbors and an estimated 40% of farmers in western Canada grow GE canola.) Shortly thereafter, Monsanto's "gene police" invaded his farm and took seed samples without his permission. Percy Schmeiser was a victim of genetic pollution from GE crops, but the court says he must now pay Monsanto US$10,000 for licensing fees and up to US$75,000 in profits from his 1998 crop.
The GE canola that drifted onto Schneiser's farm was engineered to withstand spraying of Monsanto's proprietary weedkiller, Roundup. But Schmeiser did not use Roundup on his canola crop. After all, if he'd sprayed his crop, the chemical would have killed the majority of his canola plants that were not genetically engineered to tolerate the weedkiller!
Schmeiser didn't take advantage of Monsanto's GE technology, but the court ruling says he's guilty of using the seed without a licensing agreement. He has now filed a counter-suit against Monsanto, but needs help with legal costs (visit Schmeiser Defense Fund, www.percyschmeiser.com).
Meanwhile, Monsanto has threantened to "vigorously prosecute" hundreds of cases against seed-saving farmers.
[Source: Rural Advancement FoundationInternational, 2 April 2001, www.rafi.org; reprinted in Nexus Magazine
, vol. 8 no. 4]
After hearing of a farmer's observations that mice appeared unwilling to eat GE/GM grain if given a choice, 17-year-old Dutch undergraduate Hinze Hogendoorn decided to investigate further. He obtained 30 female six-week-old mice from a herpetology centre (these rodents were bred to be fed to snakes) and some rodent feed mix with cereals and oatmeal specified to be "GM-free". He also bought some GM maize and soya.
The mice were let loose in big cages with two piles of food -- one GM and one non-GM -- stacked in four bowls. Overwhelmingly, the mice showed a preference for non-GM grains over GM food. Interestingly, the mice did not like eating the soya meal, whether GM or non-GM.
Hinze then conducted a series of other tests to find out what would happen when the mice were force-fed with GM foods. The group fed GM ate more, but they gained less weight. By the end, they actually lost weight. In contrast, the group fed non-GM ate less and gained more weight, continuing to gain weight until the end of the experiment.
That was not the only difference observed. The mice fed GM food "seemed less active while in their cages". The differences in activity between the two cages grew as the experiment progressed: the mice in the non-GM cage were in the exercise wheel more often than those in the GM cage. The most striking difference was that the mice fed GM food were "more distressed" than the other mice.
"Many were running round and round the basket, scrabbling desperately in the sawdust, and even frantically jumping up the sides -- something I'd never seen before. For me, this was the most disconcerting evidence that GM food is not quite normal," said Hinze.
Another "interesting result" is that one of the mice in the GM food cage was found dead at the end of the experiment.
Hinze's report was presented to the Dutch Parliment on December 11, 2001, and can be found at the website http://www.talk2000.nl.
[Sources: The Ecologist, June 2002; Dr Mae-Wan Ho's report at her website, http://www.i-sis.org.uk; reprinted in Nexus Magazine
, vol. 9 no. 5]