Controversial French Study Finds Tumors in Rats Fed GM Corn

ImageA controversial study released last month by French scientists revealed that rats fed Monsanto’s GM corn were more likely to die prematurely, and suffer from tumors and severe liver and kidney damage. Rats were fed on corn of the variety NK603, created to resist Monsanto’s Roundup Ready pesticide, and researchers from the University of Caen observed that “fifty percent of male and 70 percent of female rats died prematurely, compared with only 30 percent and 20 percent in the control group.” Although Monsanto claims that this study is guilty of reaching “ubstantiated conclusions,” the study has succeeded in drawing the biotech giant and its’ surrounding controversies back into the public eye.

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Ghana’s New Biosafety Authority

ImageGhana’s science and technology minister, Sherry Ayitey, announced that a national bio-safety authority will soon be set up to oversee the transport and development of GMOs throuh Ghana. Ayitey said that this governmental authority will be responsible for making sure the application of science and technology in GM crops will be safe and guarantee quality of life for all. Once this organization is in place, international agribusiness organizations will be able to buy and sell GM seeds for cultivation in Ghana. Critics of this change believe that it will lead to Ghana losing much of its food sovereignty, and are note that it was passed with the encouragement of influences outside of Ghana.

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Nigeria Plans to Grow Cassava Industry through Biotechnology

ImageThe cassava root is an important staple product in Africa, and its use is slowly increasing in the rest of the world. It has a wide variety of uses and can be processed into food products like breads and cakes, or used for the production of adhesives and biofuels. Nigeria is the world’s largest producer of this root, and the country has seen a growing dialogue about whether or not it should utilize biotechnology to increase yields, extend shelf life, and combat pests. This has also prompted the need for to pass a Biosafety law in Nigeria, after which the Ministry of Agriculture and Development plans to grow the cassava industry and transform Nigeria into a leader in the global food market.

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GE food for all? – AGRA Watch’s Bereano responds to Fedoroff

In a recent  New York Times Op Ed entitled “Genetically Engineered Food for All,” Nina Fedoroff made a novel argument: The manifold virtues of genetically engineered food, she claimed, remain unrealised because of excessive regulation. The US government is stifling innovation by an over-cautious approach to this benevolent, life-sustaining technology.

Here’s what AGRA Watch’s Phil Bereano had to say in response:

Editor, NY Times:

Contrary to the assertion by Nina Fedoroff (Aug 19 Op Ed) that the US has a “regulatory thicket” which is “slowing down the development” of GE crops, the government has essentially abandoned what little oversight it did exercise.  Our procedures fall far short of those recommended by international agencies such as the treaty governing the movement of GE organisms across international borders and the UN guidelines for scientific assessment of GE food risks.

To avoid drawing the public’s attention to GE and its risks, the government decided in 1986 against Congressional consideration of a special GE regulatory statute. Instead it announced that existing laws would be stretched to cover these new products. The result has been the deployment of illogical legal pretence to “cover” vastly novel products (like engineered fish). Further, the set up provides few opportunities for  public information and oversight.

In 1992 the FDA announced it would not regulate GE foods, claiming (without evidence and over the opposition of its own scientists) that they were “substantially equivalent” to regular ones; subsequently, this view has been rejected by international authorities.

Meanwhile the Agriculture Department has refused to do any environmental assessments of GE crops, despite mounting scientific and empirical evidence of contamination and harm to biodiversity.  In recent years, court lawsuits forced it to do several such examinations, but these have been inadequate by international standards. Thus, the “safety” of GE is far from proven. Risk research is barely funded; rather “don’t look, don’t find” has been the US posture.

The absence of evidence of GE risks is, therefore, not evidence of the absence of risk or that GE crops are safe.

– By Philip L. Bereano, professor emeritus at the University of Washington

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