According to a study published Monday, the Western Corn Rootworm (actually a beetle larvae) has already developed a resistance to not one but two strains of genetically modified corn thanks to the over-reliance and improper implementation of the crops by farmers in Iowa.
Researchers first discovered that the worms were growing resistant to the Cry3Bb1 strain of Bt Corn back in 2009. Two years later, researchers subsequently found the worms chomping on a second strain of Bt Corn, mCry3A, in an adjacent field—spurring fears that the worms may have developed cross-resistance to both strains due to their close proximity to one another.
Turns out both Cry3Bb1 and mCry3A when managed incorrectly don’t produce enough toxin to kill the largest and healthiest of rootworms, which quickly led the population to select for larger, more robust (and therefore more toxin-resistant) specimens. So now Iowa has bigger, more destructive rootworms that can shrug off the effects Bt Corn’s toxins. Nature, it seems, has indeed found a way.
Glyphoste in animals and humans – new study
Glyphosate was detected in the urine and organs of dairy cows as well as in urine of hares, rabbits and humans in a new study – and chronically ill people had higher levels of the pesticide in urine.
Cows fed on GM-free feed had lower glyphosate concentrations in urine than cows fed with feed containing GMOs – yet another nail in the coffin for claims that products from GM-fed animals are no different from products from animals fed on non-GM feed. Humans eating predominantly organic food had lower levels of glyphosate in urine.
The finding that chronically ill humans had higher levels of glyphosate in urine than healthy humans suggests that high excretion of glyphosate cannot be assumed to be a sign of a healthy body that is efficiently eliminating the pesticide. This finding demands further research on the potential bioaccumulation of glyphosate in the human body.
Detection of glyphosate residues in animals and humans
Monika Krüger, Philipp Schledorn, Wieland Schrödl, Hans-Wolfgang Hoppe, Walburga Lutz and Awad A. Shehat
Detection of Glyphosate Residuals in Animals and Humans. J Environ Anal Toxicol
4: 210. doi: 10.4172/2161-0525.1000210
In the present study glyphosate residues were tested in urine and different organs of dairy cows as well as in urine of hares, rabbits and humans using ELISA and Gas Chromatography-Mass Spectroscopy (GC-MS). The correlation coefficients between ELISA and GC-MS were 0.96, 0.87, 0.97and 0.96 for cattle, human, and rabbit urine and organs, respectively. The recovery rate of glyphosate in spiked meat using ELISA was 91%. Glyphosate excretion in German dairy cows was significantly lower than Danish cows. Cows kept in genetically modified free area had significantly lower glyphosate concentrations in urine than conventional husbandry cows. Also glyphosate was detected in different organs of slaughtered cows as intestine, liver, muscles, spleen and kidney. Fattening rabbits showed significantly higher glyphosate residues in urine than hares. Moreover, glyphosate was significantly higher in urine of humans with conventional feeding. Furthermore, chronically ill humans showed significantly higher glyphosate residues in urine than healthy population. The presence of glyphosate residues in both humans and animals could haul the entire population towards numerous health hazards, studying the impact of glyphosate residues on health is warranted and the global regulations for the use of glyphosate may have to be re-evaluated.
It has been revealed that Professor John Pickett, the team leader behind Rothamsted’s controversial GM wheat trial, was one of the leading players in the destruction of a GM safety experiment more than 13 years ago. He did not need to pull up a GM crop.
Attacked GMO Studies
In 1998 Dr Arpad Pusztai and his colleagues at the Rowett Research Institute in Aberdeen discovered that for some reason rats which consumed GM potatoes in a carefully controlled feeding experiment suffered from health damage (1). With the permission of the Director of the Institute Dr Pusztai gave an interview to Granada TV which was aired after a lag of seven weeks, on August 10th. In the brief interview the researcher voiced his concerns about his findings and said that he wished to complete the research and maybe instigate a follow-up project to confirm his data. He said afterwards that – as a responsible scientist – he wanted to alert the public to the possible dangers of eating GM food. All hell was let loose. There was a media frenzy, and politicians and the GM industry joined forces to denounce Pusztai as incompetent and irresponsible. The scientific community went into damage limitation mode, and set about the systematic destruction of Pusztai’s research project and his reputation. His laboratory was closed, his team members were all dismissed, and Pusztai himself was sacked. His papers were confiscated, and for a time he was not allowed to speak to the press or to other scientists. The events of 1998 – 99 are too convoluted to recount in detail – but the Royal Society, which should have supported a highly respected and fastidious senior scientist, instead set about a carefully planned campaign of vilification dressed up as a “scientific review process.” This was absolutely out-of-order, and completely unprecedented. To this day we do not know the full background to this, but there were certainly very powerful political and commercial interests involved; it is clear that neither the GM industry nor the British government could cope with the idea that GM crops and foods might in some way be harmful (2).
Throughout this period of sustained attack Dr Pusztai maintained his dignity while lesser scientists – including many Fellows of the Royal Society – prowled and snarled around him and lied about his work in briefings to the media. To this day they have never found anything fundamentally wrong with his research, and none of them have ever sought to repeat it – probably because none of them has the competence (3). There were several consequences to “The Pusztai Affair.” One was that Arpad Pusztai – the small man mercilessly attacked by the scientific establishment – became the first “GM martyr” – lauded throughout the world simply because he spoke the truth. Another consequence was that the Royal Society became a laughing-stock (4) because of its pathetic and frenzied attempts to find fault with Pusztai’s project – which had after all been set up after a competitive tendering process and whose protocols had been subject to intense and ongoing peer review and scrutiny.
Third, it has been argued persuasively that this episode did irreparable harm to the reputation of British science, which had all too visibly allowed itself to be swayed by political and commercial pressures into a systematic misrepresentation of a careful and deeply worrying (from a public health point of view) piece of safety research. And fourth, the furore caused a mild concern about GM crops and foods in the UK to deepen into a solid antipathy, which continues to this day.
Where does John Pickett come into all of this? It is well documented that he was one of the Royal Society team who set out to destroy Pusztai’s experiments and his reputation. It is not known what role he played in 1998, but in 1999 he was one of the reviewers of the paper written by Pusztai and Stanley Ewen which was later published in The Lancet. Pickett was the only one out of 6 reviewers who opposed publication, and when he discovered that the paper was to be published he initiated a spoiler article in The Independent newspaper under the headline “Scientists revolt at publication of flawed GM study”. The article claimed that the paper had failed the peer review process. That was a lie. Below (5) there is a brief background to this affair.
It is deeply ironic that Pickett should now be involved in a high-pressure PR campaign orchestrated by the Rothamsted Research Press Office and Sense about Science under the title “Don’t Destroy Research”, since that is exactly what he and his colleagues set out to do in 1999. He has claimed that the Rothamsted GM wheat trial is “valid” because it is publicly funded and because it was grant aided through the normal UK research funding process. He has also claimed that those who threaten to “decontaminate” the GM wheat crop would be behaving undemocratically, since his project has gone through all of the appropriate regulatory procedures. And yet all that was also true of the Rowett Institute project led by Arpad Pusztai, which Pickett attacked with such vigour, presumably because he thought there was something wrong with it.
Commenting for GM-Free Cymru, Dr Brian John says: “We find it more than a little entertaining that this man is now pleading with protestors to enter into a scientific debate, and to allow his GM wheat trial to continue to completion. He is the very same person who joined a pack of Royal Society rottweilers back in 1999 to discredit an honest and highly respected senior scientist, to deny him the means of communication, and to shut down his research programme. He even broke academic convention by seeking publicly to “spoil” a learned article after himself taking part in the supposedly anonymous review process. Does he really expect anybody to take him seriously when he pleads “Don’t Destroy Research”? In 1999 Richard Horton, the Editor of The Lancet, wrote of the “breathtaking impertinence” of the Royal Society Fellows who sought to put pressure on him to stop publication.
Rules on GM crops should be overhauled to speed up the development of the technology, Britain’s chief scientist said
Sir Mark Walport claimed that the regulations, which have so far kept commercial GM cultivation out of Britain, are not fit for purpose and need urgent changes.
His backing for the hugely controversial technology came as a report by his committee of scientific advisers risked accusations of arrogance by saying GM opponents had a ‘neurosis’ which ‘boggles the mind’.
Sir Mark insisted that EU rules banning the commercial cultivation of GM crops had to be changed to feed the world.
Critics immediately accused the Chief Scientific Adviser of ‘playing a dangerous game’ with the nation’s safety.
There are concerns that tampering with genes in crops to create ‘Frankenstein foods’ – strains which are more resistant to diseases, pests or produce higher yields – could unintentionally damage natural ecosystems or even affect human health.
Dr Helen Wallace, director of GeneWatch UK, said: ‘Government advisers are playing a dangerous game with farming and our food. Tougher, not weaker, regulation is essential.’
And Liz O’Neill, of GM Freeze, said: ‘Just because we can do clever things with genetics it doesn’t mean that we should, and it certainly doesn’t mean we should cut corners when it comes to safety.’
One of the authors of yesterday’s report by the Council For Science And Technology, which advises the Government, argued that the debate had been skewed by an anti-GM ‘neurosis’ which has slowed progress.
Sir Mark Walport insisted that EU rules banning the commercial cultivation of GM crops had to be changed to feed the world
Genetic scientist Jonathan Jones, who recently developed a blight-resistant potato, said: ‘How anyone could think this is a bad thing boggles the mind. We need to better explain that there is nothing intrinsically wrong with the GM method.’
Professor Jones likened current regulation to early cars having to go slowly behind people waving a red flag. He said. ‘The regulation of the technology is not proportionate. It is time to remove the red flags.’ The report, which was produced at the request of the Prime Minister, recommends sweeping reform to the EU’s regulatory system, with crops licensed in this country in the same way as medical drugs.
Sir Mark insisted that he did not want to reduce regulation but instead make it ‘fit for purpose’.
He said: ‘We take it for granted that because shelves in supermarkets are heaving with food there is no problem. But we have limited agricultural land around the world and in the UK.
‘Climate disruption and population growth are increasing the pressures on food supply. The challenge is to get more from existing land in a sustainable way, or people will go unfed.’
In a letter to David Cameron, he said: ‘We should have confidence in the scientific evidence which concludes that, when properly controlled, GM products are as safe as their conventional counterparts.
‘The longer the EU continues to oppose GM, while the rest of the world adopt it, the greater the risk that EU agriculture will become uncompetitive, especially as more GM crops are commercialised successfully elsewhere.’
All food containing GM ingredients, such as flour or oils, have to be labelled, but meat, milk and eggs from animals fed on GM products do not. Last year a Food Standards Agency study revealed 67 per cent of shoppers want all GM products labelled.
The authors of a study calling for GM crops to be fast-tracked into Britain’s farms and kitchens all have links to the industry, it can be revealed.
The report was presented as the work of ‘independent’ scientists and was published on Thursday by a government advisory body.
It was used to support a bid to speed up the development of the controversial crops in the UK, but it has emerged that all five authors have a vested interest in promoting GM crops and food – and some are part-funded by the industry.
Critics of GM last night described the report as ‘biased and downright dangerous’, and accused the biotech giants and the Government of mounting a crude propaganda campaign to overturn public opposition.
The academics behind the study were chosen by the Council for Science and Technology, the body that advises the Prime Minister on science policy issues.
In the report presented at a press conference on Thursday, no information was given about the five scientists beyond their names and the institutions they work for.
They include Professor Sir David Baulcombe, from Cambridge University, who works as a consultant for GM firm Syngenta, which gives his department research funding.
Syngenta is behind a genetically modified maize or corn, called GA21, which could go into UK farms as early as next spring, making it Britain’s first commercially grown GM crop.
Also on the list is Professor Jonathan Jones, of the Sainsbury Laboratory, which is at the centre of Britain’s GM research. It is part-funded by former Labour science minister, Lord Sainsbury, who is one of the country’s biggest supporters of the technology.
Another co-author was Professor Jim Dunwell, of the University of Reading. He was a founder member of CropGen, which describes its mission as ‘to make the case for GM crops and foods’.
The study suggested GM crops could save the hungry in the Third World from starvation and create new plants resistant to disease and pests.
The authors argued that current EU regulation should be re-drawn to allow the UK to go it alone and plant the crops, even if the rest of Europe objects.
By contrast, the study pulled a veil over evidence of harm to the countryside, insects and wildlife associated with industrial GM farming practices.
The US has seen the emergence of superweeds that are immune to some chemical sprays and are now choking fields. Separately, there has been an absence of research into the health effects of eating GM.
A spokesman for GM Watch, Claire Robinson, said: ‘By no stretch of the imagination can these people be described as independent scientists.
‘Their views should be treated with the same scepticism we would apply to any sales pitch.’
Critics say the timing of the release of the study and a supporting letter from the Government’s chief scientist, Sir Mark Walport, are highly suspicious.
The details were sent to David Cameron in November – but Sir Mark and ministers delayed going public until now.
Food and Farming Secretary Owen Paterson, who is a passionate supporter of GM farming, is trying to convince the EU to allow Britain to plant GM crops even if other states want a ban.
The publication of the supposedly independent study calling for exactly this policy is expected to prove useful in those negotiations.
The director of GM Freeze, Liz O’Neill, said: ‘A group of scientists with financial interests in the success of GM wrote a letter to the Prime Minister in November but waited four months to tell the Press about it – just in time for EU discussions about regulation. Something certainly smells a bit fishy.’
The administrations in Scotland and Wales have previously made it clear they want nothing to do with GM crops.
Dr Brian John, of the group GM Free Wales, said: ‘This extraordinary report, published very conveniently to coincide with Owen Paterson’s attempts within the EU to dismantle GM regulations and to repatriate powers to the UK, is in turns naive, biased, disingenuous, cynical and downright dangerous.
‘We find it incredible that five senior scientists can have been so dismissive of the work of scores of independent scientists who have discovered that GM organisms are directly and indirectly harmful to mammals and to the environment.
‘In the world of science there should be respect for those whose findings are “inconvenient”.’
Sir David yesterday confirmed his connection to Syngenta, but said: ‘I am independent in that I am not paid a salary by any corporate organisation. I do receive funding for research in my lab from Syngenta and consult for them – although I do not receive the fee as it goes to a departmental fund.’
Prof Jones said that while some might question his independence, he was simply ‘very well informed about GM science and technology’. Prof Dunwell said he was a founder of CropGen, but no longer had any ties to the GM lobby group. He added: ‘I am an independent scientist.’
The two other authors were Professor John Pickett, of Rothamsted Research, and Professor Pere Puigdomenech, of the universities of Cambridge and Barcelona. Rothamsted is heavily involved in GM research.
Prof Pickett said: ‘I greatly value links with industry, particularly at the technology transfer level, and these are completely transparent interactions.’
Prof Puigdomenech was co-chairman of the seventh International Plant Molecular Biotechnology Congress, sponsored by Monsanto, Bayer and DuPont. He could not be contacted for a comment.
Last night, the Science Media Centre, which released the report, insisted the authors were independent.
A spokesman said: ‘They are not employed by government or industry and each works for different publicly funded universities and research institutes.
For better or worse, it’s not unusual any more for universities and institutions to get bits and pieces of funding from government, charities and industry – indeed many can only access public money on condition that they raise a proportion of their funds from commercial or private sources.
‘This does not automatically undermine their independence.’
But Soil Association chief executive Helen Browning said: ‘It’s really just not good enough for a group of scientists who have a strong interest, it seems, through their funding sources, in persuading a reluctant public to accept the growing of GM crops in the UK, to be the ones who attempt to write the rule book on how that should happen.’
GM experts: The REAL dossier
PROFESSOR JONATHAN JONES – Sainsbury Laboratory
He is group director at the Sainsbury Laboratory, and is also the founder of and adviser to biotech company Mendel Biotechnology, which counts Monsanto – a GM giant – as a major client. Mendel has been granted more than 20 biotechnology and GM patents.
Mendel’s 2009 annual report noted two collaborative partnerships: one with Monsanto and the other with Bayer CropScience.
Professor Jones co-founded the UK’s ‘first GM crop company’, Norfolk Plant Sciences, to find ways of commercializing Sainsbury Laboratory’s GM research into a new type of tomato.
PROFESSOR SIR DAVID BAULCOMBE – University of Cambridge
Fees: Receipts for Sir Davids consultancy go to his department fund
Sir David is a consultant for the GM crop company Syngenta.
The fees he receives, which are likely to be many thousands of pounds a year, go into a department fund to support his work.
He was previously the head of the Sainsbury Laboratory, which is part of the John Innes Centre (JIC) in Norwich. The Sainsbury Laboratory is at the heart of Britain’s GM research.
It has received millions of pounds in donations from Lord Sainsbury, a former Labour science minister and champion of GM.
Professor Baulcombe is also Regius Professor of Botany at Cambridge University.
Founder: Professor Dunwell was an early pro-GM advocate
PROFESSOR JIM DUNWELL – University of Reading
A founding member of the pro-GM lobby group CropGen in 2000.
The group’s stated mission is to ‘make the case for GM crops and foods by helping to achieve a greater measure of realism and better balance in the UK’s public discussions on agriculture and food’.
Professor Dunwell says that he has not been in contact with CropGen since 2002. However, he remains an advocate for GM. Recently, he wrote an opinion piece in which he accused the EU of slowing down the commercial exploitation of GM crops as a result of ‘unnecessarily tight’ regulation.
He works at Rothamsted Research, which lists biotech firms Aventis, DuPont, Novartis and Syngenta as ‘partners’.
Rothamsted, in Hertfordshire, is hosting a trial to grow GM wheat, which contains genes from the mint plant and gives off a scent that deters pests.
Professor Pickett suggested the technology could be commercialised to generate money for its developers.
In 1998, he was heavily involved in rubbishing research published by Professor Arpad Pusztai, of Aberdeen’s Rowett Research Institute, which appeared to show that feeding GM potatoes to rats had negative effects on the animals’ stomach lining and immune system.
Links: Professor Puigdomenech works closely with Sir David
PROFESSOR PERE PUIGDOMENECH – Institute of Molecular Biology at Barceolna CSIC and visiting research fellow at Cambridge
HE has worked closely with Sir David and has links with The Sainsbury Laboratory, the John Innes Centre, and Rothamsted Research Station.
Spain is the only country in Europe in which substantial areas are planted with GM maize.
Prof Puigdomenech was also co-chairman of the seventh International Plant Molecular Biotechnology Congress, sponsored by Monsanto, Bayer and DuPont.
Africa is expected to be the next target of GM food companies, as European scientists and policymakers travel to Ethiopia to boost the prospect of growing more of the controversial crops on the continent.
Anne Glover, the chief scientific adviser to the European commission, and other prominent pro-GM researchers and policymakers from European countries including Germany, Hungary, Italy, and Sweden will this week meet Ethiopian, Kenyan, Ghanaian, and Nigerian farm ministers as well as officials from the African Union.
The British environment secretary, Owen Paterson, who said last year that the UK would be acting immorally if it did not make GM crop technologies available to poor countries, pulled out of the conference in Addis Ababa, organised by the European Academies Science Advisory Council (Easac).
The New Alliance is intended to accelerate African agricultural production, but farmers have widely criticised it as a new form of colonialism.
Annual figures from Isaaa show that US farmers planted 70.1m hectares (173m acres) of GM crops in 2013, less than 1% more than in 2011 and 2012. Latin American and Asian farmers grow more than half of the world’s GM crops, mostly for animal feed or cotton production.
The latest figures show that 77% of the world’s GM crops are grown in three countries – 40% in the US, 23% in Brazil and 14% in Argentina – with plantings in Europe and Africa negligible, and concern growing worldwide about the emergence of herbicide-resistant “superweeds”.
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) of South Africa has today ordered Monsanto to withdraw its advertisement on Radio 702 with immediate effect, wherein Monsanto claims the benefits of GM crops. According to ASA, Monsanto’s claims were found to be unsubstantiated.
The African Centre for Biosafety (ACB) lodged a complaint to the ASA following an advertisement on Radio 702 by Monsanto wherein Monsanto claims that GM crops “enable us to produce more food sustainably whilst using fewer resources; provide a healthier environment by saving on pesticides; decrease greenhouse gas emissions and increase crop yields substantially.” The ACB was supported in its complaint by Ms Judith Taylor from Earthlife Africa.
Monsanto was given an opportunity by ASA to respond to the ACB’s complaint but was according to the ASA, only able to provide the ASA with links to documents on its website but was unable to provide, as it is required to in terms of South African law governing advertising, inputs from an independent and credible expert confirming the various studies that Monsanto relied upon showing the ostensible benefits of GM crops.
“We are elated with this decision. Monsanto has already been warned by the ASA as far back as 2007, that it needs to substantiate its claims from an independent and credible expert in the matter of GM Food/M Wells/ 8739 (18 June 2007) regarding its claims of the so-called benefits of GM crops. However, it appears Monsanto does not have much regard for South African law as it is hell bent on disseminating false information to the South African public, “ said Mariam Mayet, Executive Director of the ACB.
The ASA has warned Monsanto that “it should ensure that it holds proper substantiation for its advertising claims” or risk attracting further sanctions.
The Pusztai interview The Guardian, January 15 2008 http://education.guardian.co.uk/higher/profile/story/0,,2240572,00.html
‘Don’t Worry: Its Safe To Eat’ by Andy Rowell. [Earthscan, 2003, ISBN 1853839329].
(2) It is clear that at the time Prime Minister Tony Blair was obsessed by the idea that Britain should maintain its position “at the forefront of biotechnology research” and that he was placed under huge pressure also by the US administration and by the GM industry.
(4) There were many despicable actions by the Royal Society over this period, including accusations against Pusztai of scientific fraud, threats made against the Editor of The Lancet and the promotion (ie deliberate mis-citation) of a review paper on GM safety by Gasson and Burke as a piece of primary research. See Royal Society Policy Document 4/02 “Genetically modified plants for food use and human health — an update” Introduction, page 5
http://www.powerbase.info/index.php/John_Pickett The article in The Independent appears to have been part of a campaign to discredit the Pusztai paper prior to publication orchestrated by the Royal Society. In a front page article on the scandal The Guardian reported, ‘Prof Pickett said that when he realised that Dr Pusztai’s paper had been accepted for publication, he took his concerns to the Royal Society’ s biological secretary [Peter Lachmann] who told him the society was already preparing a press release. Five days before the Lancet published, an article appeared in a national newspaper in which Prof Pickett broke the protocols of peer review and publicly attacked the Lancet for agreeing to publish the Pusztai paper. Two days after the spoiler article appeared, Prof Lachmann made his phone call to the editor of the Lancet [in which he is said to have threatened the editor with the loss of his job if publication proceeded].’ The criticsms of the Pusztai and Ewen paper that Pickett made in The Independent were so misleading that Pusztai says the best interpretation that can be put upon Pickett’s comments is that he had not actually read the paper he had been asked to review. Pickett claimed
http://gizmodo.com/what-are-gmo-foods-and-are-they-okay-to-eat-1524547249/1547154883/+andrewtarantola , http://www.acbio.org.za/index.php/media/64-media-releases/454-monsanto-forced-to-withdraw-unsubstantiated-and-misleading-advertising-claims-on-benefits-of-gm-crops-advertising-standards-authority-of-south-africa , http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2581387/Scientists-hidden-links-GM-food-giants-Disturbing-truth-official-report-said-UK-forge-Frankenfoods.html , http://earthopensource.org/index.php/news/57-revealed-rothamsted-scientist-s-role-in-destruction-of-key-gm-research , http://gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2014/15361-glyphoste-in-animals-and-humans-new-study , http://gmwatch.org/index.php/news/archive/2014/15325-european-scientists-descend-on-africa-to-promote-gm-crops