GMO news related to the United States

04.12.2018 |

The USDA Will Release a Final Rule on Labeling GMO Foods

After a contentious two-year comment period pitted corporate interests against consumer advocates, a rule requiring companies to label genetically modified foods is being finalized this week. The White House Office of Management and Budget approved the Obama-era legislation last week, industry site IEG Policy reports, marking its last step before publishing.

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When the proposal was first unveiled for comment, many of the food and environmental groups that had spearheaded the call for transparency in food labeling opposed it, criticizing the friendly design and confusing language as "pro-biotech propaganda." (Notably, the labels change GMO to "BE" for bioengineered.) "It's almost a little smiley face," George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement to the Sierra Club.

Since then, the USDA has modified its design: The new, slightly more somber labels will adorn packing on GMO foods starting in 2020—exempting certain manufacturers and foods with minor GMO ingredients, according to the proposal.

29.11.2018 |

Monsanto Lost Its Most Important Case Yet. Soon More Victims Will Get Their Day in Court

Dewayne Johnson never wanted to be a celebrity acting out his life on an international stage. He’d much rather be a healthy man, going to work, taking care of his family, making a modest-but-steady living.

In a recent interview with Time magazine, the former school groundskeeper said:

“I’ve never really been a fan of attention or fanfare. And now it seems like that’s taken over my life. I get requests for media interviews from all over the world, and people ask me to come to their events and speak, and I’ve had people telling me they want to buy my 'life rights' to try to get movie deals . . . It’s crazy.”

Crazy, maybe. But Johnson, who recently won a $289-million judgment (later reduced to $78 million) against Monsanto (now Bayer) for manufacturing a product he says (and the jury agreed) caused his terminal cancer—and for hiding evidence of that product’s lethal toxicity—has perhaps done more than any one single person to shine a spotlight on how bad Roundup weedkiller is. And how deceitful Monsanto is.

There are more than 8,000 claims pending against Monsanto in state courts, about 620 awaiting trial in federal court, as more victims come forward to tell their stories of how they believed Monsanto’s public claims of safety, only to become deathly ill from exposure to Roundup.

Next up is the case of Edward Hardeman, whose trial is set to begin on February, 25, 2019, in a San Francisco federal court. Reuters reports that Hardeman’s case was selected as “a so-called bellwether, or test trial, frequently used in U.S. product liability mass litigation to help both sides gauge the range of damages and define settlement options.”

Bayer CEO Werner Baumann says the lawsuits are just "nuisances." Maybe. But the Germany-based chemical giant’s shareholders aren’t happy about them. Feeling the pressure, Baumann recently announced the company will sell a number of businesses and cut 12,000 jobs, after Bayer's stock dropped 35 percent.

26.11.2018 |

Meet the Modern Farmer: William Woys Weaver, Roughwood Seed Collection

He’s keeping heirloom vegetables alive.

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For a long time, William Woys Weaver thought that everyone’s grandfather collected seeds. “I just continued what my family had been doing all along,” he says. Weaver’s grandfather began the Roughwood Seed Collection in 1932 and grew it all his life. Today, his collection is not only the oldest collection of seeds in Pennsylvania but also the largest private holding of Native American food plants anywhere.

Stored on bookshelves in a dark archive room are hundreds of feet of tiny, carefully categorized seeds — and not just any seeds but special, very old ones. Weaver doesn’t just have a seed for corn; he has seeds for Oneida corn flour, one of the oldest and finest Native American flours that was used to feed George Washington’s starving army in the 18th century. He doesn’t just have russet potato seeds; he has about 100 varieties of potatoes, including a rare potato from Scotland that has red, white and blue patches on its skin.

“If we lose these seeds, we lose control of our own food supply, which was the situation for medieval serfs,” says Weaver. Most of the food we eat today — even much of the food grown in our own gardens — comes from seeds that have been genetically modified over time. On its own, that isn’t a bad thing. Take the watermelon, for example. Watermelons were heavily crossbred in the 20th century to make them easier to sell. At first, they were crossbred to be more resistant to pests, which also made them a little mealier. Then they had too many seeds, which could be crossbred out. They also kept breaking on trains, so they needed thicker rinds. The watermelon we have today is perfectly bred for transportation and mass consumption, but it wasn’t modified for taste.

31.10.2018 |

GMO Potato Now Classified as High-Risk

Non-GMO Project addresses supply chain risks caused by new techniques like CRISPR and RNAi

BELLINGHAM, WA—October 31—The potato has been added to the High-Risk list of the Non-GMO Project Standard because a GMO potato variety is now “widely commercially available” in the United States. To determine when a crop needs to be moved from the Monitored-Risk list to the High-Risk list, the Project uses an established set of criteria related to the likelihood of GMO contamination in the conventional and non-GMO supply chain. As a result of today’s move, products made with potato will now be subject to extra scrutiny before they can become Non-GMO Project Verified.

On the market since 2015, the GMO potato developed by J.R. Simplot has been engineered through a method of gene silencing called RNA interference (RNAi). This genetic engineering technique results in a potato that hides the symptoms of blackspot bruising. Currently, GMO potatoes are being marketed under the Simplot Innate brand, found under the trademark White Russet.

30.10.2018 |

Bad spud: GMO potato creator now fears its impact on human health

New book, Pandora’s Potatoes, describes genetic engineer’s work to develop the Innate genetically modified potato and his misgivings about that work

Of all the genetic engineers who have renounced the technology—Arpad Pusztai, Belinda Martineau, Thierry Vrain, and John Fagan, among others—because of its shortsighted approach and ability to produce unintended and potentially toxic consequences, Caius Rommens’ story may be the most compelling. Rommens was director of research at Simplot Plant Sciences from 2000 to 2013 where he led development of the company’s genetically engineered Innate potato. But over time, Rommens started to have serious doubts about his work and worried about potential health risks from eating the GMO potatoes, which are now sold in 4,000 supermarkets in the U.S.

Rommens’ concerns about the GMO potato led him to write a book, Pandora’s Potatoes, which was recently published. The book is a case study on how a scientist’s initial enthusiasm about genetic engineering turns to doubt and fear as he realizes the hazards the technology can create.

I recently interviewed Caius Rommens about his work developing the GMO potato and the misgivings he now has about it.

18.10.2018 |

GMOs in the Aloha State: Biotech’s Passion for Hawaii

Many images may come to mind when one thinks of Hawaii: tropical beaches, big wave surfing, a fruity beverage underneath palm trees swaying in a light breeze…But what about GMOs? Would it surprise you to know that the Hawaiian Islands have been home to some of the largest GMO experiments in the United States—most of which have nothing to do with the highly celebrated Rainbow Papaya?

Hawaiian Agriculture in a Macadamia Nutshell

Since the arrival of Captain Cook in the 18th century, Hawaiian agriculture has been dominated by foreign interests. Native Hawaiians were increasingly alienated from their land and natural resources as plantation crop agriculture flourished. While remnants of the sugarcane and pineapple industries can still be seen on the islands today, the majority of the plantations have given way to a new type of agriculture: seed crops.

09.10.2018 |

What is Non-GMO? What are genetically modified foods?

Non-GMO means non-genetically modified organisms. GMOs (genetically modified organisms), are novel organisms created in a laboratory using genetic modification/engineering techniques. Scientists and consumer and environmental groups have cited many health and environmental risks with foods containing GMOs.

As a result of the risks, many people in the United States and around the world are demanding “non-GMO” foods. We have created an ebook offering our top 13 tips for buying organic food to help keep your family safe and healthy.

08.10.2018 |

The world is against them: new era of cancer lawsuits threaten Monsanto

A landmark verdict found Roundup caused a man’s cancer, paving the way for thousands of other families to seek justice

Dean Brooks grasped on to the shopping cart, suddenly unable to stand or breathe. Later, at a California emergency room, a nurse with teary eyes delivered the news, telling his wife, Deborah, to hold out hope for a miracle. It was December 2015 when they learned that a blood cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) was rapidly attacking the man’s body and immune system.

By July 2016, Dean was dead. Deborah gets emotional recounting the gruesome final chapter of the love of her life. But in recent months, she has had reason to be hopeful again.

In an historic verdict in August, a jury ruled that Monsanto had caused a man’s terminal cancer and ordered the agrochemical corporation to pay $289m in damages. The extraordinary decision, exposing the potential hazards of the world’s most widely used herbicide, has paved the way for thousands of other cancer patients and families to seek justice and compensation in court.

03.10.2018 |

New Study Shows Roundup Kills Bees

Glyphosate targets undesired weeds—as well as honeybees

The most widely sprayed herbicide in the world kills honeybees, according to a new report.

Glyphosate, an herbicide and active ingredient in Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) Roundup weed killer, targets enzymes long assumed to be found only in plants. The product is advertised as being innocuous to wildlife. But some bacteria also use this enzyme, including a microbiome found in the intestines of most bees. When pollinators come in contact with glyphosate, the chemical reduces this gut bacteria, leaving bees vulnerable to pathogens and premature death.

“The bee itself has no molecular targets from glyphosate,” Nancy Moran, a biologist at the University of Texas at Austin and a coauthor of the study, told Environmental Health News. “But its gut bacteria do have targets.”

Moran and other scientists liken glyphosate exposure to taking too many antibiotics—and upsetting the balance of good bacteria that supports immunity and digestion.

“We all know that glyphosate is an antibiotic. It’s very toxic to bacteria. It’s even patented as an antibiotic,” says Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But very few researchers have actually dived into this issue. The good thing is, that’s starting to change.”

26.09.2018 |

The man who beat Monsanto: 'They have to pay for not being honest'

A jury ruled the agrochemical company caused Dewayne Johnson’s cancer. He tells the Guardian he wants to use the victory to make a difference while he still can

Dewayne Johnson looks on after hearing the verdict in his case against Monsanto. A California jury ordered the company to pay $289m to the former school groundskeeper dying of cancer.

Dewayne Johnson tries not to think about dying.

Doctors have said the 46-year-old cancer patient could have months to live, but he doesn’t like to dwell on death. These days, he has an easy distraction – navigating the international attention on his life.

The father of three and former school groundskeeper has been learning to live with the gift and burden of being in the spotlight in the month since a California jury ruled that Monsanto caused his terminal cancer. The historic verdict against the agrochemical corporation, which included an award of $289m, has ignited widespread health concerns about the world’s most popular weedkiller and prompted regulatory debates across the globe.

Johnson, who never imagined he would be known as “dying man” in dozens of news headlines, is still processing the historic win.

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