Blog Archives

Owen Paterson-fronted GM onslaught: defanged by leaked encyclical?

owen paterson on return from chinaFormer Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Owen Paterson [right] once again trots out tired myths about the virtues of genetic modification of crops.

He is said to be assisted by his brother-in-law, Viscount Matt Ridley, a genetic scientist who is a visiting professor at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory (CSHL) in New York which has received funding from Monsanto and Novartis. His long-term support for the technology, first highlighted in a ‘civilian’ September 2012 speech at the Rothamsted Research facility, inviting GMO innovators to take root in the UK, was followed by his DEFRA appointment.

monsanto logo (3)Monsanto (renamed in Windscale damage limitation mode) plans a British HQ for its new company – if it can acquire Syngenta.

Minister Paterson, in partnership with the Agricultural Biotechnology Council, financed by GM companies Monsanto, Syngenta and Bayer CropScience, frequently lobbied the EU on the desirability of GM crops. Last April he refused a Freedom of Information Act request to supply details about meetings between the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and the GM industry trade body. He had to leave DEFRA, having extolled Britain’s shale gas reserves, ‘an unexpected and potentially huge windfall’, and mishandled the summer floods and badger culls.


He then set up a think tank UK2020. Millionaire-founded, it steers clear of direct funding from GM industries but vigorously promotes the technology at events such as last year’s South African agricultural biotechnology media conference, hosted by ISAAA which receives donations from both Monsanto and Bayer CropScience.

Murdoch’s Fox News: “the most anticipated and feared papal document in recent times”

Farming Weekly Online reports the thoughts of Pope Francis on GMOs and pesticides, voiced in the draft of this major environmental document. He has called for a “scientific and social debate” on genetically modified foods that considers all the information available. He highlighted “significant problems” with the technology that should not be minimised, such as the “development of oligopolies in the production of seeds” and a “concentration of productive land in the hands of the few” that leads to the “disappearance of small producers”.

Brian John commented: Religious leaders — of all faiths — have been very slow to enter this debate, partly because they have been put under intense diplomatic pressure by the GMO /agrichemical industries and by the US and other governments.

The GMO industry, and its acolytes, bang on all the time, quite cynically, about GMOs being needed to “feed the world” in a future full of uncertainties – nonsense of course.

The Pope’s intervention at this stage is of vast significance.


UK Food Group Chair asks if The Observer/Guardian is now joining the quislings, collaborating with powerful industrial interests (Monsanto etc)

John Mulholland’s hackneyed article strings together a series of ‘feed the world’ myths ‘busted’ a thousand times by reputable academics*.

org logoIt is a double affront to the shade of David Astor, as editor of the Observer, who set up the trust which now owns the paper and – above all – as founder of the Organic Research Centre Elm Farm.

The scourge of hunger has almost nothing to do with food production per se – it’s a problem of redistribution, rights and reduction of waste

Peru grows hundreds of species of potatoes

Peru grows hundreds of species of potatoes

Working in Kamayoq in Peru at the moment, “where there is such strong defence of good food and local control”, Patrick Mulvany, chair of the UK Food Group, once more dispels these misconceptions ardently promoted by the Monsanto, Syngenta, Bayer etc.

He writes to Mulholland:

The scourge of hunger has almost nothing to do with food production per se – it’s a problem of redistribution, rights and reduction of waste. GM crops have almost nothing to do with productivity and produce mainly industrial commodities – animal feed, agrofuels and fibre – not food.

So, on what basis can your editor assert that GM crops will solve the problem of hunger?

As many of your readers will know, UK plc’s AgriTech business strategy, pushed by BIS and implemented by the BBSRC (the UK’s biotech science funder), is to export proprietary British technology that will deliver returns through patents and the sale of scientific know-how with biotechnological and chemical input packages of benefit to the UK – the only technologies that the UK now has expertise in, having lost most of its capacity to do research that supports real food production.

To achieve their strategy, government, the scientific establishment and agro-biotech industry need to have a testbed in a UK that permits the release of GM crops, for which, as government and retailers well know, there is no consumer demand.

Multinational corporations have their eye on controlling the world’s industrial commodity production system

Once legalised, it will also open the floodgates to US GM crops – with the collateral advantage to powerful industrial interests of easing the entry of US GM technologies into the EU.

Those who feed most people in the world, the smallholder farmers, livestock keepers, artisanal fishers and other small-scale food providers, have the solution – developed in their framework of food sovereignty – to the problem posed in your editorial.

Supporting localised food regimes will secure future food. Industrial commodity production will trash it.

From where I am here in Cuzco, Peru, a region that has legally rejected GM crops in favour of supporting local campesinos’ production of biodiverse foods produced ecologically, your editorial appears insular – the views of a little Englander – and rather farcical if there were not a darker side to it.

Is The Observer/Guardian now joining the quislings who are collaborating with powerful industrial interests, which are set to undermine and contaminate the world’s efficient, effective, biodiverse and ecological food systems, so that their proprietary technologies dominate globally?

The GMO Myths and Truths report: one of many rebuttals.


US & UK: rising use of GM herbicides, prostate cancer, Parkinson’s, dementia, autism etc

Is it a coincidence, that – as the use of glyphosate rises – so does the incidence of Parkinson’s disease, senile dementia, childhood autism, prostate cancer and many other conditions?

Glyphosate was first marketed in 1976 and its use has greatly increased since 1995, when it was first used with genetically engineered crops. GE crops absorb glyphosate through direct application, and from the soil. It cannot be washed off, is found in rivers, streams, air, rain and food (according to the US National Center for Biotechnology Information).

Note that most recording and research comes from American sources

glyph soy parkinsons graph

Graphs of death rates for Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and senile dementia have been plotted against glyphosate applications to U.S. corn and soy crops. Dr Swanson notes that the correlations are quite strong. American deaths due to Alzheimer’s have been rising since 1980, but there was a sharp spike in 1999.

glyph soy senile demetia graphDr Swanson points out that correlation does not necessarily imply causation and there are now a host of other chemicals in our food and our environment.

glyph soy autism graphAutism data: U.S. Department of Education, Crop data: U.S. Department of Agriculture

Britain: an increasing number of cancers and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone Disease and MS – and glyphosate in rivers and drinking water

In a new review paper written by Dr. Rosemary Mason (MB, ChB, FRCA) – medical doctor and naturalist – and submitted to the Scottish Parliament, glyphosate is shown to destroy both human health and biodiversity. She has compiled information from a global network of independent scientists, toxicologists, beekeepers, Industry, environmentalists, governments and regulators, noting that:

“UK has an increasing number of cancers and neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s, Motor Neurone Disease and MS. We have just had our drinking water analysed in Germany and we have glyphosate in it and in our rivers! Wales, like Scotland has epidemics of type 2 diabetes, obesity and autism”.

This water testing was a private initiative – in Scotland the water is not tested – see a FOI response to Graham White.

Dr Mason says: “We asked the Environment Agency why the most used herbicide and the most used insecticide isn’t being measured in groundwater and they said it wasn’t necessary”.

Though the presence of glyphosate in other British waters is also not tested for/recorded, Monsanto has commissioned a report on removal methods by Swindon-based Water Research Centre: WRc Ref: UC7374/14690-0 July 2007: WRC General Report – Roundup.

Her paper can be downloaded here: Glyphosate – Destructor of Human Health and Biodiversity

Dr Mason notes that agrochemical corporations wield tremendous control over the British and American governments and influence the formulation of pesticide regulations – effectively controlling human health and biodiversity.  She presents a Cancer Research UK graph recording the incidence of prostate cancer in Britain; to the untutored eye the trajectory looks chillingly similar to the American graphs.

glyph soy prostate cancer graph

Lucrative symbiosis: agrochemicals damage, then Big Pharma treats

Rosemary Mason looks at one example of investment in the medical sector and political funding:

“Syngenta is one of several chemicals companies which market biotech seeds and pesticides; AstraZeneca, its parent company, manufactures six different anti-cancer drugs mainly aimed at breast and prostate cancer.

“AstraZeneca’s Oncology Website predicts: “Cancer claims over 7 million lives every year and the number continues to rise. Deaths are estimated to reach 12 million by 2030.”

“Michael Pragnell MA MBA, founder of Syngenta, was appointed a Trustee of Cancer Research UK (CRUK) in March 2010 and Chairman in November 2010. CRUK is donating £450 million/year to the Government’s Strategy for UK Life Sciences – see the relevant government website, page 9. #

Dr. Nancy Swanson received her Ph.D. in physics from The Florida State University and then worked as a staff scientist for the United States Navy. She  taught physics at Western Washington University and holds five U.S. patents. She is the author of over 30 scientific publications and two books on women in science. More detail here.


Ditch the precautionary principle and innovate, to further the global control of food

Corporate-political alliances in many countries seek to control the food supply and to profit, not only by trading activities, but by speculation.


stephen drucker insert.

Bayer, Dow Chemical, Novartis and Syngenta – why was Monsanto’s name missing?

Recently, the CEOs of several agrochemical companies sent a letter to the Presidents of the European Commission, Parliament and Council calling on them to stop applying the precautionary principle to risk assessments and start applying the ‘Innovation Principle’, to stimulate economic recovery in Europe.

ERF logoThe companies used the medium of the European Risk Forum, whose policy briefs are said to provide high-level, focused analysis of major regulatory issues; their ‘Communication 12’ may be read via this link.

Was Monsanto following the Tesco example? Having become very unpopular, Tesco dropped its name from its new convenience stores, Was Monsanto advised not to sign by its peers for the same reason – or was it a company decision?

Recently agro-chemical industries have:

  • organised the first European Innovation Summit – hosted by Ireland during their EU Presidency;
  • posted many ‘opinion pieces’ on various mainstream media on GM (golden rice in particular)
  • accused environmentalists of hindering progress and causing the death of thousands of children;
  • created media space for ‘GM ambassadors’ such as Mark Lynas and the UK environment minister, Owen Paterson..

EEA logo

However, a recent report from the European Environment Agency has documented the benefits of taking precautionary action which often include resource and cost savings, as well as secondary societal and economic benefits.

It concludes that use of the precautionary principle accelerates innovation, reducing the costs of harm by promoting the development of more efficient and safer alternatives to polluting activities and products.

Late lessons from early warnings: science, precaution, innovation. European Environment Agency, EEA Report No 1/2013.


Media manipulation – 20: has the BBC joined the renewed corporate-political drive to impose GM crops?

Extracts from the complaint to the BBC about the Countryfile Report on GM Crops by Tom Heap, 15/07/2012, by Dr Rosemary Mason, MB, ChB, FRCA

The BBC (which is undoubtedly very influential with the public) has demonstrated support for GM technology. Companies like Monsanto and Syngenta are already hammering at Europe’s door. The EC and the EFSA have joined with them to force their crops into Europe (and on to a previously GM-suspicious UK).

Investigation was inaccurate, lacked impartiality and failed to declare conflicts of interest

Under the BBC’s charter, it is committed to achieving accuracy of reporting, impartiality and to declare conflicts of interest. The investigation of GM crops on 15th July 2012 was inaccurate, lacked impartiality and failed to declare conflicts of interest of some of the people interviewed. The whole presentation was an outrageous travesty of the truth, presumably fed to your journalist by the government and the agrochemical industry.

Meant to impress the public 

The journalist, Tom Heap, presented a so-called ‘in depth’ investigation of GM crops. He asked three questions. Will it be welcomed? Could it deliver us a healthy diet? Could it feed the world? He then went on to say that it had “gained the support of one of the world’s richest and most influential men”.

None of these statements were challenged by Heap . . . 

A superficial and biased series of sound-bites followed. First, Tom Heap marvelled over a purple tomato, cut into two by a glamorous-looking research scientist working at the John Innes Centre. She declared that they had incorporated two pigment genes that could prevent a whole gamut of age-related diseases; cancer, obesity, diabetes. She also said that they were going to develop a type of barley, with added zinc, that boosted the immune system.

Implication that anti-GM protesters are an irresponsible minority holding up real science  .  .  .

The only person the BBC allowed to speak against GM crops was Peter Melchett, Director of the Soil Association. He gave an account of why GM crops were not needed any more; there are better, newer technologies; conventional breeding techniques have advanced so much. However, it cannot have been by accident that the interview was preceded by archive footage of Melchett as a young man pulling out a GM maize crop . . .

The ‘independent’ expert Dr Charlie Clutterbuck had previously served on the Advisory Committee on Pesticides

Tom Heap said that 60% of the public in the UK were worried about GM ingredients in food and 71% thought it was important that retailers had policies not allowing GM ingredients. Dr Charlie Clutterbuck, an ‘independent’ food industry expert, emerged from a high street produce market. He looked disappointed. He said that traders were still saying they didn’t want GM. However, in a stage whisper, he said:

“Privately, they are saying one thing to government, but in public…they don’t want to be seen to be the first ones to go down this road.” Then he added, rather petulantly: “people are already eating GMO in the form of GM food supplied to cattle and pigs”.

Ed: See Clutterbuck: “Resistance is going to be a big issue  . . . Clearly there is a role for Genetically Modified crops (GM) here . . . There is a case that the government should spend much more on Integrated Pest Management and GM.”

Attempting to further influence the British public by misrepresenting the popular mood

Dr Mason noted that ten days later, on 25th July, the BBC Radio 4 Today Programme announced a new poll had shown that “Most Britons are in favour of GM crops.” It was on the front page of The Independent, with a report, from Andrew Grice, the Political Editor: “Dramatic change as two-thirds now support GM crop testing”.

With thanks to Ian Panton of GM Free Cymru who sent this information


The revolving door yet again: European Food Safety Agency compromised by links with GM industry

Yesterday The Grocer reported that Dr Banati, was asked to resign over a potential conflict of interest between her work with EFSA and her plan to become executive and scientific director at the International Life Sciences Institute, a pro-GM body where she sat on the board until 2010.

In 2010, French Green MEP José Bové called for the resignation of the chair of the management board of European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), Dr. Diana Banati, over a conflict of interest scandal.

He outlined the details of Dr Banati’s extensive links to the food industry, which completely undermined the need for independence at the EFSA.

Among its other roles, the EFSA is responsible for assessing genetically modified organisms as part of the EU approval process, for which it has been frequently criticised.

According to José Bové, Dr Banati was a member of the board of the International Life Science Institute, an organisation representing a myriad of businesses, including Monsanto, Syngenta, Dupont, Nestlé and Kraft, among others, which has a history of lobbying for the interests of the food industry.

ILSI describes itself as a ‘non-profit, worldwide organisation whose mission is to provide science that improves public health and well-being.’ 

EFSA had already faced one conflict of interest controversy, with the revolving door case of GM regulator Suzy Renckens who moved from EFSA to food industry giant Syngenta. 

The Mail Online reports that Green campaigners are demanding that any decisions made by EFSA to approve GM crops and food in recent years should be revoked pending further investigation.

Potential EU conflict of interest on genetic engineering issues

Some cheering news passed on by a wideawake reader. 

As the EU Parliament Magazine confirms, the European ombudsman Nikiforos Diamandouros has ruled in favour of a complaint filed by Testbiotech against the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), created in 2002 created to improve EU food safety, ensure a high level of consumer protection and restore and maintain confidence in the EU food supply.

A former senior staff member at EFSA, Dr Suzy Renckens, who was head of the unit responsible for the risk assessment of genetically engineered plants for five years until 2008 has moved to a job at Syngenta, a company that produces and markets these plants.

The Strasbourg-based ombudsman said “EFSA should acknowledge that it failed to observe the relevant procedural rules and to carry out a sufficiently thorough assessment of the potential conflict of interests arising from the move of a former member of its staff to a biotechnology company.”

Christoph Then, of Testbiotech had earlier been very concerned that both EFSA and the commission had rejected their original complaints, potentially putting at risk the protection of consumers and the environment.” 

Others have passed through the revolving door

Olivier Hoedeman, of Corporate Europe Observatory, said, “There have been other cases of staff going through the revolving door. EFSA should look carefully at the ruling and introduce a far stricter approach to conflicts of interest in the future.

EFSA now has until 31 March to respond to the judgement of the ombudsman who has the power to table the issue in parliament. 

Olivier Hoedeman adds: “The ombudsman makes important recommendations which should lead to changes in how revolving door rules are implemented across the EU institutions, including at the commission”.