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08/07/2012 05:09 PM     print story email story  

GMO Corn Headed for US Supermarket Shelves

SustainableBusiness.com News

Genetically engineered sweet corn from Monsanto is headed for Walmart store shelves, the first GE product to travel from farms directly to consumer plates.

Other Monsanto GE foods have first been processed into animal feed, sugars, oils, fibers and other ingredients found in a wide variety of conventional food, says Beyond Pesticides.  

And you won't even know it, since there is no federal labeling requirement for GMO foods in the US. The most recent attempt at labeling was removed from the Farm Bill in late June when  Congress succumbed to corporate lobbyists. 

The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) quietly approved Monsanto's corn at the end of 2011. The "drought tolerant" corn is designed to be resistant to Monsanto's Roundup herbicide and to produce a Bt toxin that kills insects that try to feed on the plants. The corn is being grown in the Midwest, Northwest, Southeast and Texas.

Despite an onslaught of consumer pressure (500,000 signatures), Walmart confirmed that it has no objection to selling the corn in a statement to The Chicago Tribune. "After closely looking at both sides of the debate and collaborating with a number of respected food safety experts, we see no scientifically validated safety reasons to implement restrictions on this product," the company told the Tribune.

While Whole Foods and Trader Joes have vowed not to sell the corn, and food company General Mills has come out against it, Safeway, Kroger and other grocery chains are silent on the issue. 

Monsanto's corn is touted as a safer, less toxic alternative to Dow Chemical's, which uses the 2,4-D (the key ingredient in Agent Orange!), and which is also going through the approval process. Scientists say those claims are false, reports Beyond Pesticides.

For one thing, there is growing concern over increasing rates of insect resistance to Bt crops. GE corn with Bt also negatively impacts soil life, reducing the presence of beneficial mycorrhizal fungi that are important for nutrient and water uptake.

GE crops also present cross-pollination risks for organic farms, and are increasingly being connected as one of the causes of collapse of polliinator populations, such as honey bees.

And GE crops are the subject of an ongoing dispute over patents between Monsanto and local farmers. More than 300,000 people including farmers, seed growers and agricultural organizations participated in a recent lawsuit against Monsanto. A federal judge dismissed the case in February, and the organics community has appealed (see more information below).

Scientists Sour on GMOs

Meanwhile, scientific evidence on the danger of GMOs is building.

"GMO Myths and Truths" concludes GMOs create toxins and allergens in foods, and encourage new strains of herbicide-resistant superweeds as more farm and communities are exposed to these chemicals.

Epidemiological studies have also demonstrated a link between herbicide use, and birth defects and cancer, the report finds.

Taken together, the data offers more evidence why policymakers should be leery of using GMO for animal or human food, according to the report's authors.

"Research studies show that genetically modified crops have harmful effects on laboratory animals in feeding trials and on the environment during cultivation," says one author, Dr. Michael Antoniou, an expert in genetic engineering from Kings College London School of Medicine. "They have increased the use of pesticides and have failed to increase yields. Our report concludes that there are safer and more effective alternatives to meeting the world's food needs."

The "GMO Myths and Truths" report seeks to counter the "PR machine" used by biotech companies to discredit independent research into the effects of GMOs.

"The GM industry is trying to change our food supply in far-reaching and potentially dangerous ways," says Claire Robinson, research director of Earth Open Source. "We all need to inform ourselves about what is going on and ensure that we -- not biotechnology companies -- keep control of our food system and crop seeds."

Farmers Renew Legal Offensive Against Monsanto

Speaking of control, The Organic Seeds Growers and Trade Association (OSGTA) filed a brief in early July asking a US Appeals Court in Washington, D.C., to reverse a decision that dismissed their 2011 lawsuit seeking to invalidate Monsanto's GMO seed patents and to prevent the company from suing farmers whose crops became genetically contaminated by air-borne seeds.

11 prominent law professors and 14 renowned organic food safety and consumer nonprofit organizations quickly came out in support of the farmers' appeal.

"Monsanto continues to claim that plaintiffs' concerns about being accused of patent infringement after being contaminated by Monsanto's transgenic seed are unsubstantiated and unjustified," says Dan Ravicher, attorney for the nonprofit Publlic Patent Foundation, which represents the plaintiffs in the suit. "But now two impeccable groups have joined with plaintiffs in explaining to the Court of Appeals how real and legitimate their concerns really are, especially since Monsanto continues to refuse to simply promise never to sue contaminated farmers for patent infringement."

Dozens of farmers have been driven into bankruptcy and many organic and non-GMO farmers are now afraid to plant seeds. Every year Monsanto investigates more than 500 farmers with “seed police,” says OGSTA. To date, the company has brought suits against 144 farmers; 700 farmers have been forced to settle out of court for undisclosed sums.

“We have a right to farm the way we choose,” says Maine organic seed farmer Jim Gerritsen, president of OSGTA. “Yet Monsanto is unwilling to control their GMO pollution and they refuse to sign a binding covenant not-to-sue our family farmers for patent infringement should their seed contaminate our crops. Monsanto’s publicized ‘Commitment’ promising that they would not sue farmers was described by Monsanto’s own lawyers as being ‘vague.’ "

Download the "GMO Myths and Truths" report:

Website: http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3.pdf



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