Monsanto

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's picture

Farmers, Indigenous people and rural communities around the world celebrated the International Day for Biological Diversity last week. But casting a long shadow was the news that big funders and new NGOs are teaming up with the pesticide-biotech giant, Syngenta, in a renewed effort to push genetically engineered rice forward in Bangladesh and the Philippines.

Nicknamed “golden rice,” this untested, highly controversial GE crop threatens biodiversity across the region and risks bringing economic and ecological disaster to Asia’s farms. 

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's picture

My mom hackles are up. GE toxins are turning up in umbilical cordblood and the blood of pregnant women, according to a study by independent Canadian doctors. And what might be the effect of these toxins on developing fetuses? No one really knows. Let me tell you why this is big news.

All this time, Monsanto has based its assertion that crops engineered to contain the bacterial toxin, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), are harmless on an assumption that the toxin breaks down in the digestive system and so never enters the rest of the body. Regulators have been repeating this to us for over a generation. Now it turns out that the Bt toxin is not only surviving in our guts, but is making its way on into our bloodstreams — and if we’re pregnant, into the soon-to-be-babies in our bellies.

Pesticide Action Network's picture

Looks like the Obama Administration has a second chance to get it right on food and agricultural research. Last week, the director of the relatively new National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), Roger Beachy, announced his resignation. Previously, Beachy had served as president of Monsanto’s de facto nonprofit research arm, the Danforth Plant Science Center.

The abrupt resignation leaves open an influential public research post — one that could this time be filled by a scientist without deep ties to corporate agribusiness, but who might instead prioritize sustainable, agroecological and organic food and farming systems.

Pesticide Action Network's picture

Since 2008, Brazil has held the dubious distinction of spending more on pesticides than anyplace else on earth. But what has the country's farmers, public health professionals and environmental advocates even more worried is Brazil's corresponding rise in planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops, engineered to tolerate mega-doses of herbicides like glyphosate (Roundup). And these crops are driving emergence of herbicide-tolerant "superweeds".

Marcia Ishii-Eiteman's picture

Earlier this year, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) shocked the American public with its hasty approval of three highly controversial GE crops in a row (alfalfa, sugar beets and ethanol corn). In doing so, the agency effectively thumbed its nose at U.S. federal courts and spit in the face of consumers and farmers alike. Now, USDA has apparently decided that getting sued for ignoring U.S. environmental laws is getting to be too much of a hassle. So they've come up with a new plan: why not let Monsanto evaluate the potential harms of its new transgenic products? It’ll be so much quicker this way. And save USDA a lot of money.

The two-year pilot program allowing GE developers to conduct their own environmental assessments for USDA is an “experiment” to improve its systems, says USDA. Tom Philpott calls it a craven way out.