Posted By Cathryn June 13, 2013
Anti-GMO activists and the pseudoscientists they turn to for support are at it again. Claiming hogs fed corn and soy varieties developed with biotechnology show an increased incidence of severe stomach inflammation, this so-called science amounts to nothing more than hogwash.
Authored by two veteran anti-biotech activists, Australian researcher Judy Carman and Iowa farmer Howard Vlieger, the report was published in an obscure online journal, far from the scrutiny required for inclusion in respected peer-reviewed tomes. Here, reporting only their own observations, they assert claims which fly in the face of the preponderance of the scientific evidence gathered over hundreds of independent food and feed safety studies that found no difference in animals fed GMO or non-GMO diets.
Outside the probing scope of mainstream academia, they can get away with reporting that both groups of pigs actually showed stomach inflammation without explaining how this supports their theory. They can ignore the prevalence of stomach inflammation in hogs that have high feed intake or consume finely ground feed. They can decide to avoid any sort of critical analysis from parties already aware of this fact by leaving this important information out altogether.
When it comes down to it, almost anyone can get away with saying almost anything on the internet. Those who wish to blindly buy into their claims in order to reaffirm their personal beliefs will. Those who want to discern the truth must put forth the time and effort to look at what respected, peer-reviewed articles say on the subject.
If readers do not critically evaluate studies such as this one, they may be buying this hogwash with a side of poppycock to go with it.
Posted By Cindy May 22, 2013
The name might sound like a new corn-based laundry detergent, but it’s actually a new alliance between corn growers of North and South America created to address key global issues concerning food security, biotechnology, stewardship, trade and producer image.
MAIZALL is the International Maize Alliance, signed last week by representatives of the U.S. Grains Council (USGC), the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA), Argentina organization MAIZAR, and ABRAMILHO (Brazilian Association of Corn Producers). “The main idea is to coordinate communications and speak with a more united voice as producers to the rest of the world,” said US Grains Council president and CEO Tom Sleight. “It adds the farmer’s voice to the already on-going government-to-government, industry-to-industry negotiations.”
Sleight says members of Congress are showing an interest in making global regulatory issues a priority in discussions with international trading partners, which could lead to greater inclusion of market access barriers related to agricultural biotechnology in future bilateral and multilateral trade discussions. “With all these new trade agreements coming down the road – the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the Trans-Atlantic Trade Investment Partnership – key issues coming in these negotiations are market access, sanitary and phytosanitary agreements and agricultural biotechnology.”
While the primary focus of this new alliance is on the need for better consumer understanding of production agriculture and the benefits of biotechnology, MAIZALL will also conduct outreach to governments and stakeholders on the need for trade-enabling biotechnology policies and regulatory procedures.
Read more here.
Posted By Cathryn May 14, 2013
Driving home from work last night, I was confronted with a story on NPR that showed just how short-sighted and visionless today’s media can be. The reporter characterized the Supreme Court Decision in Bowman v. Monsanto as a victory for big ag at the expense of farmers. Since then, countless radio and television talking heads have repeated this banal banter based in the bogus assumption that paying for something is always a bad thing.
Quite often, paying for something can be a good thing. In this case, paying for the use of a product that requires extensive research and years of testing provides an incentive for companies like Monsanto to develop improved seeds that have the traits farmers want. From corn varieties that can maintain yields under heat or drought stress to plants that have stronger stalks, companies must spend extremely large amounts of money and make astonishing time and resource investments in these traits well before ever seeing one dime of return.
Even large companies need to make a profit in order to reinvest in research and development. Even large companies need an incentive to innovate. Intellectual property rights provide that incentive by creating a fair system in which innovation is rewarded .
Likewise, the companies developing these traits monitor that quality of the products they bring to market. Farmers who invest in their seeds have a clear picture of what they are buying. The further down the genetic line from these original seeds that a farmer gets, the less likely it is that the advantages of the original variety are preserved. In this case, violating intellectual property rights is breaking the law to steal an unknown.
The Supreme Court’s unanimous ruling in Bowman v. Monsanto was not a victory for big ag at the expense of the farmer. It was a victory for innovators and for the people who need those innovations to thrive in their own profession.
Everyone may grumble when the check comes, but it makes little sense to declare having to pay for a product one wants a loss. When it comes down to it, no one works for free.
Note: CommonGround Kentucky volunteer and family farmer Mary Courtney explained why she feels it is important to pay for GMO technology in a recent interview with Modern Farmer. Check out what she had to say by clicking here.
Posted By Cindy May 2, 2013
Bills were introduced last week in the U.S. House and Senate that would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to “clearly label genetically engineered (GE) foods so that consumers can make informed choices about what they eat.”
The legislation would require clear labels for genetically engineered whole foods and processed foods, directing the FDA to write new labeling standards that are consistent with U.S. labeling standards and international standards.
To simplify, perhaps this wording would help: “This product may contain ingredients derived from safe modern biotechnology.” Just a suggestion.
Posted By Cathryn April 1, 2013
Whether critics of biotechnology in agriculture are being intentionally obtuse or honestly believe that it is acceptable to rage against proven technology while basing accusations in willful ignorance, the current backlash against Section 733 of the Fiscal Year 2013 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Act has painted an inaccurate picture of the provision and panicked many sensible Americans. Anti-biotech vigilantes using a truly ridiculous combination of ominous implications and arguments based in their own carefully cultivated ignorance have misled the masses and, in doing so, furthered the lack of understanding that makes many fearful of their food.
Section 733, in its essence, protects American family farmers who, due to frivolous lawsuits based in procedural arguments and directed at major corporations, could face serious economic harm. The provisions of this Act would assure farmers that they could plant and harvest crops developed through biotechnology already approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture under a temporary stewardship agreement in the event of litigation against the agencies decision.
In simple terms, Section 733 removes a potentially significant financial risk facing farmers. Today, the regulatory process for biotechnology leaves the family farmers who purchase seeds approved by their government vulnerable to costly losses should an activist group choose to legally challenge the government’s decision. Without this provision, these men and women, acting in good faith, become collateral damage in an ideological battle between those who embrace and eschew science.
The need for such protection has been made evident over the past several years as opponents of agricultural biotechnology have repeatedly filed lawsuits against the USDA on procedural grounds. In filing these suits, the anti-activists aim to disrupt the regulatory process and, in a broader fashion, undermine the science-based regulation of biotech ag products. These lawsuits strain USDA resources and delay the approval of new, innovative products America’s farmers need to grow abundant, affordable food and remain internationally competitive.
Furthermore, the anti-modern ag groups flaunt their use of the legal system as a weapon, openly admitting their intention of continuing to impede the availability of new products to the detriment of our nation’s farmers and consumers. In previous cases, these litigants have tied up the regulatory pipeline for years. Even when the Supreme Court has decided in favor of the defendants, these constant complainers continue creating controversy and threatening not only further delay but even the destruction of the crop grown by law abiding farmers.
While anti-activists may not understand sound science and live in constant denial of the overwhelming evidence that biotechnology is not only safe but is beneficial, they intrinsically understand how to engineer panic and fear. They expertly manufacture the perception of public outrage and then use it as grounds on which to attack a provision intended to protect America’s farm families from their assault on science. The scorched-earth mentality of their assault dictates that their ability to inflict collateral damage be maintained.
Don’t fall for the self-serving hype disguised as righteous indignation. Assaults on biotechnology in general and Section 733 specifically are assaults on America’s farm families.
Posted By Cindy March 13, 2013
The post on this blog that has received the most comments is one about corn allergies, which – like all food allergies – can be very serious to those who suffer from them. A better future for them, and those who suffer from allergies to other foods like peanuts, could be in biotechnology.
“Biotechnology is going to be the solution to food allergies,” said Iowa corn grower Bill Horan, who is COO of Horan BioProduction and also chairman of Truth About Trade and Technology. “As those products come along people are going to understand the real value of biotech.”
Bill farms over 4,000 acres of corn in northwest Iowa with his brother Joe and was on a panel at the recent Bayer CropScience Ag Issues Forum on farmers who are doing things differently. His difference is farming pharmaceuticals. “About 11 years ago we started with a French company,” he said. “They had inserted canine lipase into a corn plant to produce a lipase for cystic fibrosis patients.”
This year they will be working with a German company growing potatoes that produce an antibacterial protein for use in cosmetics. Horan points out some of the leading biotech companies are based in Europe, but because of the laws against growing genetically modified crops they have to contract for commercial production outside of Europe. However, he adds that it’s not easy for the average farmer to do it in this country either. “It’s very difficult to get permits from USDA to grow these biologics,” he said, noting that because he and his brother have been working at it now for over a decade they know how to get it done.
Listen to some of Bill’s comments here: Iowa Farmer Bill Horan
Posted By Cindy February 5, 2013
A leading environmental activist and critic of genetically modified food recently announced the error of his ways and his conversion to being a supporter of biotech crops.
“I apologise for having spent several years ripping up GM crops. I am also sorry that I helped to start the anti-GM movement back in the mid 1990s, and that I thereby assisted in demonising an important technological option which can be used to benefit the environment,” said author and activist Mark Lynas during an address last month to the Oxford Farming Conference.
Lynas explained his change of heart towards GM by saying, “I discovered science, and in the process I hope I became a better environmentalist.”
In his one hour address to the conference, Lynas made a strong appeal to both the environmental community and governments to see the importance of safe biotech crops in feeding a growing population, invoking the sacred name of Norman Borlaug, father of the Green Revolution.
Before Borlaug died in 2009 he spent many years campaigning against those who for political and ideological reasons oppose modern innovation in agriculture. To quote: “If the naysayers do manage to stop agricultural biotechnology, they might actually precipitate the famines and the crisis of global biodiversity they have been predicting for nearly 40 years.”
And, thanks to supposedly environmental campaigns spread from affluent countries, we are perilously close to this position now. Biotechnology has not been stopped, but it has been made prohibitively expensive to all but the very biggest corporations.
Worth reading, watching and quoting.
Posted By Cindy February 4, 2013
As Africa’s economy is growing and the population is urbanizing, more people are getting removed from food production – but some are calling on Africa to “think agriculture” for jobs.
“Agriculture should be Africa’s number one priority, especially when it comes to employment,” said Philippe Egger, Director of the International Labour Organization (ILO) Bureau of Programming and Management, in a recent commentary on the ILO website.
The reality is that agriculture in Africa has been neglected by governments, international development lenders and policy advisers alike. This carries a high cost: Per capita food production has barely grown over the last 50 years, at a pace of 0.06 per cent a year. With the population rising at 2.6 per cent a year, food imports have increased at an annual rate of 3.4 per cent since 1980, with cereals accounting for the largest share. Africa receives close to half of the world’s total cereal food aid.
Yields are comparatively low at an average of 1.3 tons per hectare of harvested land, less than half the world average. Yields have increased at an annual rate of just over 1 per cent, while the world average grew 2 per cent.
Egger suggests that Africa needs to focus on “raising food output per unit of land among the large majority of small-holders” by using an “agriculture first” strategy that includes “wider use of fertilizer and sound water management techniques; support to rural infrastructure and market access; and agricultural research.” But there is no mention of increasing use of biotech crops.
While there is no official ban on growing GMO crops in most of Africa, Europe’s restriction on imports of biotech crops has a significant impact on what farmers in Africa will plant.
A recent story in Europe’s Farmers Weekly, written by a farmer from the UK, claims that the European Union’s GM policy is “starving Africa.”
The EU is a market for much African produce and these restrictions are preventing many African farmers from growing GM crops. GM crops that could improve yields dramatically, or are more drought tolerant, or resistant to local pests, are being overlooked.
Bluntly, children in Africa are starving because their farmers are frightened to grow GM crops for fear that they will be unable to sell their produce.
That is blunt – probably a bit exaggerated as well – but the point is that both African food production and employment could benefit from growing more biotech crops. Bluntly, biotech crops increase yields which grows the agricultural economy – and helps feed starving children.
Posted By Cindy December 11, 2012
An important milestone for biotechnology is nearing, which will mean the beginning of a new era for genetically modified traits.
In 2015, patents for the very first ag biotech “events,” as they are called, will be expiring and becoming “generic.” Like pharmaceutical drugs are less expensive when they can be offered in a generic form, one benefit to the expiring patents may be lower seed prices and greater opportunities for the industry. However, also like drugs, International Seed Federation (ISF) president Tim Johnson of Illinois Foundation Seeds says these “events” are highly regulated. “We do not want biotechnology to disrupt markets,” he said, noting that the seed industry has been working on a framework to ensure access to the technology while addressing international trade concerns.
The initial step was announced recently by the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) and the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) in “The Accord” – which has already been signed by most of the major companies involved in the biotech business for agriculture. “The Accord is a framework that we developed to provide a mechanism for that transition from proprietary biotech events to off-patent or generic biotech events,” says ASTA Vice President for Science and International Affairs Bernice Slutsky. “We view it as an opportunity for our broader membership to utilize events when they go off patent to provide farmers with a wide array of product.”
Interview with Bernice Slutsky
It’s amazing to think that the first biotech events aren’t even old enough to drink yet. That includes Bt corn and cotton, and Roundup Ready soybeans, as well as canola with modified oil composition and bromoxynil resistant cotton. “Biotechnology’s in its teenage years,” said Johnson, giving credit to Monsanto’s Hugh Grant for the analogy. “We’ve learned a tremendous amount over the last 15-20 years in biotechnology.”
If biotech is only a teenager, it’s achieved Justin Bieber-like popularity in that time. Between 90 and 95% of the U.S. canola, corn, cotton and soybean crops are genetically modified today – up from zero in 1994, when Justin Bieber was born.
“It’s important for us to find pathways that respect all technologies and all genetics to move forward on behalf of society,” Johnson says. “The accord lays that foundation down for us.”
Interview with Tim Johnson
Find out more about The Accord at agaccord.org.
Posted By Cindy November 21, 2012
One of the positive outcomes of the 2012 election was that Californians actually voted against Proposition 37, which would have required the labeling of foods containing genetically-modified organisms (GMOs). However, those opposed to GMOs continue to attack the technology that increases safe, affordable and abundant food by stepping up their scare tactics.
GMOinside, for example, is urging people to “Celebrate a Non-GMO Thanksgiving!” Check this out:
Thanksgiving is a time for celebrating around the dinner table with family and friends. But, is there an unwanted guest at your table? You may not realize that many common Thanksgiving foods contain genetically engineered ingredients!
The website proceeds to provide a chart to help people “identify the GMOs in popular holiday foods” and urging them to “keep a look out for foods from companies that opposed Prop 37, such as Campbell’s, Coke, General Mills, Kraft, Nestle, Pepsi, Hershey, Unilever.” Oddly enough, turkey is not mentioned on the list, despite the fact that the majority of commercial turkey production uses corn for feed – and most feed corn is genetically-modified.
What really bugs me about the non-GMO movement is that the people who are most against modifying crops to prevent disease or tolerate drought are very much in favor of attempts to genetically-modify humans to prevent or eliminate diseases or increase life spans. What’s wrong with that picture?
One of the main reasons that Thanksgiving is celebrated during this time of the year is to give thanks for the blessings of the harvest. Instead of demonizing GMOs, we should be giving thanks for the scientific breakthroughs that continue to allow us to produce more bountiful harvests every year.
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