GMO news related to the United States

18.01.2019 |

Costco to be the First Major Retailer to Dump Monsanto's Roundup and Glyphosate Herbicide from its Shelves

It’s been said that voting with your dollars is the most effective way of creating change in this consumer/capitalist culture, and after years of petitioning major retailers to stop selling products that contain Monsanto’s toxic glyphosate herbicide it appears that Costco may be the first major store to remove this product from its shelves.

The use of glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup, has skyrocketed around the globe in spite of research outlining the harmful effects of this herbicide, including liver disease and cancer.

This is big news because in addition to the industrial use of glyphosate, the retail sale of glyphosate direct to consumers for use on home lawns and gardens is also a huge business.

11.01.2019 |

Updated seed monopoly chart
As four seed companies now control more than 60 percent of the global market, a seed policy expert argues that consolidation poses major risks to our food supply.

The Sobering Details Behind the Latest Seed Monopoly Chart

When Philip Howard of Michigan State University published the first iteration of his now well-known seed industry consolidation chart in 2008, it starkly illustrated the extent of acquisitions and mergers of the previous decade: Six corporations dominated the majority of the brand-name seed market, and they were starting to enter into new alliances with competitors that threatened to further weaken competition.

Howard’s newly updated seed chart is similar but even starker. It shows how weak antitrust law enforcement and oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has allowed a handful of firms to amass enormous market, economic, and political power over our global seed supply. The newest findings show that the Big 6 (Monsanto, DuPont, Syngenta, Dow, Bayer, and BASF) have consolidated into a Big 4 dominated by Bayer and Corteva (a new firm created as a result of the Dow–DuPont merger), and rounded out with ChemChina and BASF. These four firms control more than 60 percent of global proprietary seed sales.

Howard began his annual tracking of seed industry ownership changes in 1998, a year that served as a turning point for industry consolidation. Two years after genetically engineered (GE) varieties were introduced in 1996, by 1998 the large agribusiness companies had accelerated their consolidation by buying up smaller firms to accumulate more intellectual property (IP) rights. By 2008, Monsanto’s patented genetics alone were planted on 80 percent of U.S. corn acres, 86 percent of cotton acres, and 92 percent of soybean acres. Today, these percentages are even higher.

08.01.2019 |

Factbox: China approves new GMO soybean, corn and canola traits

CHICAGO (Reuters) - China approved five genetically modified crops for import on Tuesday, the first in about 18 months, as representatives from the Asian country and the United States met in face-to-face talks to try to resolve trade disagreements.

Five other products, whose makers are known to be seeking approval of, were not given the green light by China’s agriculture ministry, however.

Some that were approved, including two canola varieties, had been waiting for six years. Others, like DowDuPont Inc’s (DWDP.N) Enlist E3 soybeans, are more recent and were developed to challenge the historic dominance of Monsanto Co, now owned by Germany’s Bayer (BAYGn.DE), of the $40 billion U.S. soybean market.

U.S. farmers will not plant soybean seeds in large quantities unless they are approved by China, which until the trade war imported 60 percent of U.S. soybeans.

Below are the seed traits approved, their trade names and the companies that make them.

21.12.2018 |

TOOTHLESS: Even major food companies hate the new US rules for GMO food labeling

Two bottles of soybean oil sit on a grocery store shelf. Both contain genetically modified (GM) soybeans from the same crop. One bottle is labelled as a GM product, the other is not.

Both are in compliance with the US Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) new GM food labeling rules (pdf).

Confused? You’re not alone.

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The loophole is so glaring that even a handful of the world’s biggest food companies were taken aback. Danone, Mars, Nestlé, and Unilever released a comment this week through their trade group, the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, voicing concern that the USDA rule didn’t go far enough. “The standards fall short of consumer expectations, and the practices of leading food companies, particularly when it comes to how we are already disclosing highly-refined ingredients and the threshold for disclosure,” the group said in its statement.

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.

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