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TT51 is a transgenic Bt rice created by fusion a synthetic CryAb/CryAc gene into rice MingHui63. A significant number of animal feeding studies with transgenic crops have been carried out with the rapid development of transgenic crops. However, the evidence is far from identifying whether certain novel transgenic crops possess potential danger for human or animal health after long-term consumption. Rice-based diets, containing 60% ordinary grocery rice, MingHui63 rice or TT51 rice by weight, were fed to two generations of male and female rats in order to determine the potential reproductive effects of TT51.
In this study, both clinical performance variables and histopathological responses were examined and compared between groups. There were no significant differences between groups on body weights, food consumption, reproductive data and relative organ/body weights. There were some statistically significant differences in hematology and serum chemistry parameters, but no histological abnormalities were seen in the brain, heart, liver, spleen, kidneys, stomach, small intestine, thymus, ovaries, uterus, testes and epididymides. Based on the results, under the circumstance of this study TT51 show no significant differences on reproduction performance of rats compared with MingHui63 and the control.
A new study… shows that improvements in education levels around the world have been key drivers of economic growth in developing countries that has previously been attributed to declines in fertility rates…
Many demographers argue that as a consequence of declining birth rates the proportion of children in the population declines and this results in a “demographic window of opportunity,” where a larger proportion of people is of working age.
This observation—known as the demographic dividend—was widely assumed to be a direct linkage, and had led to policy prescriptions aimed at decreasing fertility. But… study shows that such a paradigm may be flawed. Reducing fertility is not enough…
In countries where the fertility rate had declined but education levels did not increase, the economic development was not as pronounced as in countries where education levels also rose…
Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s13524-013-0245-x
In August environmentalists in the Philippines vandalised a field of Golden Rice, an experimental grain whose genes had been modified to carry beta-carotene, a chemical precursor of vitamin A. Golden Rice is not produced by a corporate behemoth but by the public sector. Its seeds will be handed out free to farmers. The aim is to improve the health of children in poor countries by reducing vitamin A deficiency, which contributes to hundreds of thousands of premature deaths and cases of blindness each year.
Environmentalists claim that these sorts of actions are justified because genetically modified (GM) crops pose health risks. Now the main ground for those claims has crumbled… There is now no serious scientific evidence that GM crops do any harm to the health of human beings…
Organic farming… uses far too much land. If the Green revolution had never happened, and yields had stayed at 1960 levels, the world could not produce its current food output even if it ploughed up every last acre of cultivable land…
Genetic research holds out the possibility of breakthroughs that could vastly increase the productivity of farming, such as grains that fix their own nitrogen. Vandalising GM field trials is a bit like the campaign of some religious leaders to prevent smallpox inoculations: it causes misery, even death, in the name of obscurantism and unscientific belief…
Corn that contains proteins that protect it from insect damage has been grown in the U.S. since the mid-1990s. Known as Bt corn, because the proteins are derived from a bacterium called Bacillus thuringiensis, these plants have been widely grown by farmers.
While Bt corn has been highly effective against the European corn borer, it has been less so against the western corn rootworm, which has been documented to show resistance to the Bt proteins. In a new article… the authors explain why this has occurred, and they recommend an integrated pest management (IPM) approach to address it.
[They] examine why Bt corn has been more effective against the European corn borer, which tunnels in the stem of the plant, and less so against the rootworm, which attacks the roots. First, Bt proteins intended for the European corn borer are produced at a higher dose than the ones intended for rootworms; this ensures that fewer corn borers are likely to survive, which lowers the chances of them producing offspring that may be resistant. Second, corn borer moths travel farther before mating, which increases the chances of potentially resistant insects mating with non-resistant ones that have not been exposed to Bt proteins; this lowers the chances of them producing resistant offspring…
Recommend that growers use the following IPM approaches to delay further rootworm resistance to Bt corn:
- Rotate to soybean or other crops to break the corn rootworm life cycle between growing seasons.
- Occasionally rotate to a non-Bt corn hybrid and consider use of a rootworm soil insecticide during planting.
- Consider using corn that contains different Bt proteins than ones that may have performed poorly in the past.
- Consider using pyramided Bt hybrids, which is defined as corn that contains multiple Bt proteins targeting corn rootworm .
- If crop rotation is not an option and corn containing multiple Bt proteins is not available, suppression of rootworm adults by using insecticides for one or two growing seasons may be an appropriate remediation step.
- Most importantly, implement a long-term integrated approach to corn rootworm management, based on scouting information and knowledge of corn rootworm densities, that uses multiple tactics such as rotation with other crops, rotation of Bt proteins, and the use of soil insecticides at planting with a non-Bt hybrid. Integration of tactics across seasons is fundamental to prolonging the usefulness of any effective management strategy.
Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1603/IPM13012
Elsevier announces that the article “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” by Gilles Eric Séralini et al. has been retracted by the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology. The journal has issued the following retraction statement: The journal Food and Chemical Toxicology retracts the article “Long term toxicity of a Roundup herbicide and a Roundup-tolerant genetically modified maize,” which was published in this journal in November 2012.
This retraction comes after a thorough and time-consuming analysis of the published article and the data it reports, along with an investigation into the peer-review behind the article… Very shortly after the publication of this article, the journal received Letters to the Editor expressing concerns about the validity of the findings it described, the proper use of animals, and even allegations of fraud. Many of these letters called upon the editors of the journal to retract the paper. According to the journal’s standard practice, these letters, as well as the letters in support of the findings, were published along with a response from the authors.
Due to the nature of the concerns raised about this paper, the Editor-in-Chief examined all aspects of the peer review process and requested permission from the corresponding author to review the raw data… there is a legitimate cause for concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group and the particular strain selected. The low number of animals had been identified as a cause for concern during the initial review process, but the peer review decision ultimately weighed that the work still had merit despite this limitation. A more in-depth look at the raw data revealed that no definitive conclusions can be reached with this small sample size regarding the role of either NK603 or glyphosate in regards to overall mortality or tumor incidence.
Given the known high incidence of tumors in the Sprague-Dawley rat, normal variability cannot be excluded as the cause of the higher mortality and incidence observed in the treated groups. Ultimately, the results presented (while not incorrect) are inconclusive, and therefore do not reach the threshold of publication for Food and Chemical Toxicology…
So the finding is that tumor-prone rats get tumors whatever they are fed — conventional maize, herbicide-tolerant GM maize, or glyphosate? Or that herbicide-tolerant maize is not better than conventional maize at preventing tumors?
We describe patterns of international transfer to and adaptation of genetically modified (GM) cotton in Argentina, and ask whether political bargaining between the technology owner, a multinational enterprise (MNE), and host country actors may have influenced upgrading. We suggest that the MNE was able to use its exclusive capacity to upgrade GM cotton technologies as a negotiation tool to persuade host actors to change the rules that affected its multi-lines of business in the country. This implies wider policy scope to encourage technology upgrading; host actors could negotiate over a wider range of aspects of interest to MNEs…
In our example of cotton, the firm appeared to be deciding on its upgrading activities in light of its broader strategic, multiproduct interests in the region. Moreover, since MNEs not only have a multi-product but also global logic to their innovation strategies, there is also scope for regional collaboration between governments in designing innovation policies that focus on bargaining with MNEs over the kinds of technology transfer and adaptation activities that are undertaken. Such collaboration may be desirable because it increases the bargaining power available to government. For example, Argentina and Brazil could negotiate together to allow MNE seed firms access to the public sector resources provided by INTA and Brazilian EMBRAPA (in particular germplasm, expertise, and basic research) in exchange for investment by the firm in R&D in maize or whatever might, in itself, be insufficiently commercially attractive for the firm, but which would be of benefit to both countries. This kind of regional negotiation with MNEs is already practiced but for non-R&D resources (e.g., Argentina and Brazil have bargained with MNEs to ensure that the automobile industry in both countries is complementary rather than overlapping) and there is no reason why this kind of regional policy collaboration could be extended to innovation strategies too.
Smallholder farmers in Africa — mostly women — wage silent battles against the elements and other forces beyond their control to feed their families, their villages, their countries… They face a host of natural, climatic, and man-made threats to their lives and livelihoods. Often, their only defence seems to be more work, more suffering, and reduced expectations for the future.
Most of the world was once caught up in this same struggle. A few vocal anti-technology activists would have us believe otherwise, but the extent to which historically-agrarian societies have emerged from poverty and hunger largely depends on their adoption of modern farming technologies.
Principal among these has been seed of improved, higher-yielding crop varieties. While mechanisation, fertilisers, improved storage, and other technologies are all important in making farming more efficient, better seed is the catalyst for change — the ‘software’ that powers the crop and lets farmers profitably integrate other technologies.
Without good seed, few other attempts to increase farmers’ yields succeed or prove sustainable. Yet in spite of much ink spilled, international conferences organised, and money spent, Sub-Saharan Africa’s smallholder farmers still have very limited access to seed of high-yielding, locally-adapted varieties of their staple food crops.
As it turns out, establishing dependable systems for supplying seed of improved varieties is probably the most difficult part of agricultural development. Seed is a living technology, notoriously picky about its environment and hugely unforgiving of neglect, late delivery, or being planted in the wrong place. Moreover, Africa’s highly diverse cropping landscape creates micro-climates that require myriad location-specific varieties…
Africa’s farmers have continued planting whatever seed they have on-hand, all the while suffering the indignity of being thought resistant to change and uninterested in new technologies. It is time to get things right for Africa’s farmers. By its very nature, supplying improved seed, much like furniture-making or hotel management, is mostly a business proposition — a complex and rather unglamorous business, perhaps, but a business nonetheless.
A group of us at the Rockefeller Foundation came to this conclusion in the early 2000s. We needed businesspeople who understood that their potential customers tended to be very poor, lived in remote locations, and were mostly unaware of the value of new seeds. We needed people who could understand which seeds smallholder farmers would purchase, how much they would pay for them, and in what quantities they were needed.
We turned to local business people and started lots of conversations, often in small dusty rooms, about whether they thought they could make a viable business out of seed. They assured us they could, if they were given proper business and policy support to sell the right seed, at the right prices, the right way…
A few key principles began to emerge. New seed had to be affordable as well as desirable. It had to be available in small packages of 2 kilograms or less. It needed to be readily available at local shops when it was needed. And farmers needed to be made aware of the new seed in convincing ways — the best being small demonstration plots on their own land…
This model for supplying Africa’s smallholder farmers with improved seed diverges significantly from the mainstream. Once established, it does not rely on funding from governments, NGOs, or donors operating from distant lands. And it contrasts sharply with the image of large, multi-national seed companies dominating the hybrid maize sector while largely neglecting other crops.
It begins with consultations between farmers and breeders to establish the optimal combination of crop traits. It continues with farmer-participation in breeding and selecting improved varieties, a process that can take several years. Once a new variety is released, breeders teach local companies how to produce the seed at scale. Seed companies integrate production, processing, and marketing activities and ‘live or die’ based on their ability to supply quality seed to local farmers at affordable prices…
Things just may be looking better for Africa’s long-suffering farmers. Official crop yield data from countries as diverse as Ethiopia, Mali, Tanzania and Uganda show significant increases in recent years.
A new paper from members of the HEAL (Health & Ecosystems: Analysis of Linkages) consortium delineates a new branch of environmental health that focuses on the public health risks of human-caused changes to Earth’s natural systems.
Looking comprehensively at available research to date, the paper’s authors highlight repeated correlations between changes in natural systems and existing and potential human health outcomes, including:
* Forest fires used to clear land in Indonesia generate airborne particulates that are linked to cardiopulmonary disease in downwind population centers like Singapore.
* Risk of human exposure to Chagas disease in Panama and the Brazilian Amazon, and to Lyme disease in the United States, is positively correlated with reduced mammalian diversity.
* When households in rural Madagascar are unable to harvest wild meat for consumption, their children can experience a 30% higher risk of iron deficiency anemia—a condition that increases the risk for sickness and death from infectious disease, and reduces IQ and the lifelong capacity for physical activity.
* In Belize, nutrient enrichment from agricultural runoff hundreds of miles upstream causes a change in the vegetation pattern of lowland wetlands that favors more efficient malaria vectors, leading to increased malaria exposure among coastal populations.
* Human health impacts of anthropogenic climate change include exposure to heat stress, air pollution, infectious disease, respiratory allergens, and natural hazards as well as increased water scarcity, food insecurity and population displacement.
“Human activity is affecting nearly all of Earth’s natural systems—altering the planet’s land cover, rivers and oceans, climate, and the full range of complex ecological relationships and biogeochemical cycles that have long sustained life on Earth,” said Dr. Samuel Myers of the Harvard School of Public Health and the study’s lead author. “Defining a new epoch, the Anthropocene, these changes and their effects put in question the ability of the planet to provide for a human population now exceeding 7 billion with an exponentially growing demand for goods and services.”
In their paper, the authors demonstrate the far reaching effects of this little explored and increasingly critical focus on ecological change and public health by illustrating what is known, identifying gaps for and limitations of future research efforts, addressing the scale of the global burden of disease associated with changes to natural systems, and proposing a research framework that strengthens the scientific underpinnings of both public health and environmental conservation. Such efforts should lead to a more robust understanding of the human health impacts of accelerating environmental change and inform decision-making in the land-use planning, conservation, and public health policy realms. They also point out the equity and inter-generational justice issues related to this field, as most of the burdens associated with increased degradation of natural systems will be experienced by the poor and by future generations.
Dr. Steven Osofsky… said, “Not all governments prioritize environmental stewardship, and many lack adequate resources to support public health. If we can combine forces and utilize sound science to build inter-sectoral bridges where conservation and public health interests are demonstrated to coincide, it’s a win-win. On the other hand, if we don’t work together to understand the global burden of disease that’s associated with alterations in the structure and function of natural systems, we may find ourselves testing planetary boundaries in ways that are frightening and difficult to reverse.”
Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1218656110
Climate change means that Europe’s insect pest invasion is going to get worse. Scientists in the Department of Biology at the University of Fribourg, in collaboration with the Swiss Research Station Agroscope ART and the University of Neuenburg, have discovered factors which have an effect on the probability of insect pests taking hold in Europe.
In this study, which was published in the online journal Diversity & Distributions, researchers in the Department of Biology at the University of Fribourg have established the influence of global trade in agricultural products, cultivation of host plants and climate on the probability of insect pests taking hold in Europe. The scientists discovered that though all three of these factors exert a strong influence on where Europe will be infested with insect pests, it is actually the size of the area under the cultivation of host plants that is crucial. The research team has put together a list of European countries which – according to their calculations – are most likely to become the next “victims” of an invasion by insect pests. Italy, France, Spain, Hungary and Germany feature on this list. The scientists also drew up a list of the most likely insect candidates. Amongst others, the list features the Oriental Cotton Leafworm, (Spodoptera litura), the Northern Corn Rootworm (Diabrotica barberi) and the Sugarbeet Wireworm (Pheletes californicus).
According to the results of the study, north-eastern European countries in particular will be exposed to the risk of new invasions by insect pests as climate change progresses, rather than central European countries, whose risk will even diminish. These results have the potential to aid national plant protection authorities in, for example, developing specific control strategies geared to the level of risk of the affected countries.
The study, which bears the title “Quarantine arthropod invasions in Europe: the role of climate, hosts and propagule pressure“ is a follow-up study of the research project “Gaps in Border Controls are related to Quarantine Alien Insect Invasions in Europe”, which was able to show that defective border control of agricultural products can lead to invasions of insect pests in Europe.
Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/ddi.12149
Seems as if more and better pest control options will soon be needed in Europe…
Currently, butterfly populations in many countries decline at alarming rates. Many of these populations are closely associated with the agricultural landscape. Changes in farming practises and land use can therefore have far-reaching consequences for the success and persistence of the butterfly fauna. A research team from Sweden and Germany have now reviewed effects of land management on butterfly diversity using historical and current surveys during the last 100 years.
The study focuses on systematic surveys of butterfly population trends and extinction rates in southern Swedish agricultural landscapes. In some areas, half of the butterfly fauna has been lost during the last 60-100 years. The study is published in the journal Nature Conservation.
Land use in these parts of northern Europe has changed markedly with key butterfly habitats such as hay meadows disappearing at alarming rates. Grazed, mixed open woodlands have been transformed into dense forests and domestic grazers have been relocated from woodlands to arable fields and semi-natural grasslands. Hay and silage harvest now start much earlier in the season which reduces the time available for larval development. The changed and intensified land use has also markedly reduced the availability of nectar resources in the landscape. Adding to these problems, current agricultural subsidy systems favour intensive grazing on the remaining semi-natural grasslands, with strong negative effects on butterfly diversity.
While the documented changes in farming practises and land use are problematic for the butterfly fauna, relatively minor adjustments to land management have a potential of drastically counteracting these effects. In order to mitigate risks of further species loss and to work towards recovery of threatened butterfly populations, the review ends by recommending twelve management measures favourable for many butterflies. Examples include later grazing, rotational grazing with parts of semi-natural grasslands grazed only in late summer in some years, and careful choice of grazers.
Original article: http://dx.doi.org/10.3897/natureconservation.6.5205
As with the monarchs, butterfly decline is complex and needs to be addressed at the lanscape level.
A range of risk factors pose significant challenges to health in the region. Despite progress made in reducing health loss from ischemic heart disease and stroke, these remain among the top three causes of disease burden in the EU/EFTA region. There is enormous potential to reduce the impact of these diseases by addressing dietary risks, high blood pressure, and strengthening tobacco control efforts.
Between 1990 and 2010, the EU and EFTA countries succeeded in decreasing premature death and disability from most communicable, newborn, nutritional, and maternal causes, especially in poorer countries such as Romania and Bulgaria.
HIV/AIDS, lower respiratory infections, iron-deficiency anemia, and preterm birth complications were the only communicable, newborn, nutritional, and maternal causes found among the top 25
causes of health loss in any EU and EFTA country…
Very interesting: Even in rich countries undernutrition (iron deficiency) is still a major public health problem, at least in relative terms. Clearly, relying on income growth or better education alone will not be sufficient to address micronutrient malnutrition in much poorer countries. Cost-effective and sustainable food-based strategies are needed.
The U.S. Agency for International Development is hiring economists and arming in-house staff with cost-benefit analysis expertise to make project design more “rational” and help missions choose between alternative investment opportunities.
Officials say the effort is part of Administrator Rajiv Shah’s drive to reposition USAID as a “premier” development institution…
As development donors everywhere are looking to get more bang for their buck, cost-benefit analysis gives project designers a helpful tool for choosing between alternatives — like which road to rehabilitate in Haiti, or which agricultural supply chain to support in Egypt…
Agency leaders have asked him whether cost-benefit analysis ought to be a required part of project design. His answer: USAID is “not ready” yet. “If it comes from Washington, first people will push back, because they push back about anything that comes from Washington… We want it to be done seriously.”
USAID’s “project design guidance” defines cost-benefit analysis as “a decision-making approach used to determine if a proposed project is worth doing, or to choose between several alternative ones.” …
I’m a granola…-eating, tree-hugging, liberal/progressive. If I was called by a pollster asking about the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), I’d be counted among the folks that disapprove, but only because I think it doesn’t go far enough… I think we should tax the rich at much higher rates, expand social safety nets and reign in corporations. I support local farmers and shop at Whole Foods.
All that said, to me, science matters more than ideology… when it comes to genetically modified organisms in our food supply, I take the position that the National Academies, the American Association for the Advancement of Science, theAmerican Medical Association, the European Commission, and the Royal Society take, namely that GMOs are safe for consumption.
On Tuesday, voters in Washington state defeated a ballot initiative that would have required special labels on foods containing genetically modified organisms. As Christie Wilcox noted almost exactly a year ago when a similar measure was defeated in California: ”The simple fact is that there is no evidence that GMOs, as a blanket group, are dangerous. There’s a simple reason for this: not all GMOs are the same. Every plant created with genetic technology contains a different modification. More to the point, if the goal is to know more about what’s in your food, a generic GMO label won’t tell you. Adding Bt toxin to corn is different than adding Vitamin A to rice or vaccines to potatoes or heart-protective peptides to tomatoes… The proposed label system is too vague and contains little useful information… Consumers wishing to discern between GE and non-GE products can already do so through existing, non-mandatory labeling designations provided by USDA Organic certification, or one of several private non-GE certification businesses…
And yet, despite the lack of evidence for harm, despite the fact that it’s already possible to find food that doesn’t contain GMO, people on my side of the political spectrum, who are generally pro-science when it comes to climate change, seem to ignore or misrepresent the science of biotechnology. Some of this is surely driven by anti-corporatism… I’ll admit, it pains me to take the same side as Monsanto on matters of public policy. Surely, Monsanto’s position on GMOs is informed by profit motive, not the public good. But in this case, the profit motive lines up with scientific consensus…
Whether to label or not isn’t strictly a scientific question, but the arguments in favor of labeling are based on claims that can be addressed by science. In general, why would you want to label food?
Nutrition: The scientific evidence suggests that there’s no nutritional difference between genetically engineered crops and their conventional counterparts.
Safety: The scientific evidence suggests that genetically engineered foods (at least those currently on the market) are safe for consumption.
Information?: Companies are already free to label their foods as GMO-free, or get certified as organic (part of the organic classification is lack of GMO).
Where we mandate labeling by law, we do so when there is are plausible health consequences, and we do so consistently. Proponents of labeling often claim “consumers have a right to know” what’s in their food, but we don’t mandate that food boxes contain labels informing consumers which pesticides were used to grow the plants in their food, nor what fertilizer provided the nutrients, nor where the food was grown. If a scientist bombards a corn seed with radiation to introduce hundreds or thousands of mutations, and then selects for mutants with beneficial properties, that would not warrant a label, whereas a targeted insertion of a single gene would…
Twenty years [an entire generation already] after the controversial introduction of unlabeled and untested [tested they were, the only logically permissible criticism could be that they were not sufficiently tested] genetically engineered foods and crops, opposition to GMOs (Genetically Modified Organisms) and Monsanto [opponents of GM crops generally accept GMOs outside agriculture, i.e. the focus on Monsanto is perhaps the most telling here] has created one of the largest netroots-grassroots movements in the U.S.
There are arguably more important issues facing us today than the battle against Frankenfoods. [Very true. Sad that so many resources and otherwise clever minds are wasted in this “battle”.] …
An army [interesting choice of words: battle, army…] of organic food and natural health activists have put Corporate America and the political elite on the defensive. We’ve demonstrated that aggressive populist [surprisingly honest admission: it’s populism] issue-framing; unconventional “inside-outside” coalition-building; marketplace pressure; online list-building, mobilization and fundraising can be strategically channeled into local and state-based political action and can begin to even up the odds between David and Goliath [nice framing] …
Forty percent of consumers believe that unlabeled genetically engineered foods and crops are unsafe. Another 40 percent are unsure [which means 80 percent do not know] … Mandatory labeling of GMOs, which will likely drive these controversial foods and crops off the market, just as labeling laws have already done in Europe [interesting and again honest admission: it’s not about the right to know but about the elimination of choice]…
Green businesses, including Mercola.com, Dr. Bronner’s, and Nature’s Path, are approaching something like critical mass. Over 100 million U.S. consumers are now regularly shopping for organic and natural foods, nutritional supplements and other products, giving rise to a rapidly growing $80 billion-a-year market for organic and natural products [interesting how the movement is against “corporations” and “chemical companies” – to defend the business interests of other corporations and other chemical companies that are selling dietary supplements and hygiene products] … activist groups (the “outsiders”) are now increasingly joining hands with a number of profitable organic/green/Fair Trade businesses (the “insiders”) [interesting how organic, green and fair-trade are all lumped together as one, even if there is nothing inherently organic in fair-trade products and vice versa] …
This ecumenical “inside-outside” strategy has allowed the more radical organic and natural health groups and scientists to highlight the alarming human health and environmental hazards of GMOs [interesting, if those hazards were “alarming”, after 20 years there surely should be proof for acute health problems etc.] … While the less radical campaign groups and coalitions meanwhile appeal to a more moderate demographic with the mainstream message that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food [which is not what their agenda is about, as above the stated purpose is to drive GM products off the market, i.e. they are lying to their mainstream target groups] …
We must get political, and vote for a healthy, climate-friendly food and farming system in the voting booth as well [the question is, though, how if not through scientific analysis should anyone know what’s health and climate-friendly? And science says GMOs per se are safe, the land-use changes due to organic agriculture most likely turn their alleged environmental benefit upside down, some GM crops may actually help lower their CO2-footprint, etc.]. If we want to drive GMO foods off the market [again the admission that it’s not about a “right to know”], we must not only walk our talk in the marketplace and in our everyday lives, but also “get political” and mobilize our base to get involved in legislative battles and political campaigns…
Anti-GMO campaigners are rapidly becoming more sophisticated in… raising funds online…. Over the past 12 months… raising over $20 million [Which is a lot of money if it is spent on remunerations and PR, when the same people criticise that – over 10 years – millions were spent on humanitarian projects such as vitamin-rich rice children and mothers in poorer parts of the world] …
Movement has evolved into a savvy army of grassroots activists who are committed to the ongoing battle [again this interesting choice of words of army and battle] to reclaim our food and farming systems, part of a larger battle to transform the entire political and economic system [and again the admission that this is not about the “right to know” or even GMOs but a much larger political agenda] …
"… we want to drive GMO foods off the market…" and "… the anti-GMO Movement… are committed to… a larger battle to transform the entire political and economic system."
» This is very much in line with another recent article in The Ecologist entitled “The real point of GM food is corporate control of farming”  that links the opposition to GMOs to a whole gamut of (subjective and more objective) ills, such as neoliberalism, economic growth, profits, monoculture, big-scale agriculture, urbanisation, big business, big government, patents, regulations, exclusive property, high-tech, industrialized agriculture, meat consumption, food waste, price volatility, overproduction, misallocation, biofuels, global markets, industrialization, supermarkets, middle-men, banks, etc.
» Opposition to GMOs is not about a “right to know”, it is not even about GMOs, and most crucially, it is not about health or environmental risks of GMOs; the latter are only used to lure members of the mainstream to give their financial and political support for the (larger but more hidden agenda) agenda of the anti-GMO movement. Rather, the opposition to GMOs is driven by a deeply political agenda to “transform the entire political and economic system”, which has nevertheless formed an alliance with “green-minded for-profit businesses” (i.e. with corporations that evidently do well in the current system), and which indicates a certain conflict of interest or a more than purely ideological influence in the movement…
While one may or may not agree with some or all of the other objectives of the larger agenda , it is very unfortunate that this “army” is willing to sacrifice the real and potential social, health and environmental benefits of GM crops in the fight of their larger “battle”. And it is even more unfortunatey that the (opportunity) cost of not being able to realise these benefits are mostly borne by others. (But that may well be a characteristic of battles, that the “collateral” damage is often greater among the civilians.)
The battle against food insecurity in rural areas isn’t only fought in the fields. In Uganda, scientists are developing groundbreaking tools in the laboratory to boost crop yields and combat hunger. With funding and technical support from the U.S. African Development Foundation (USADF) … an agro-biotechnology laboratory in Kampala is successfully introducing improved plant varieties to rural farmers in order to guarantee food security for more Ugandan households.
In the early 2000s, Uganda saw a dramatic reduction in its crop yields nationwide, mostly due to a devastating host of pests and diseases. A full half of Uganda’s Robusta coffee trees were killed by coffee wilt disease, debilitating the country’s coffee exports, and low banana yields forced smallholder farmers (who grow more than 90 percent of bananas in Uganda) to choose between feeding their families or selling their produce for income.
Agro-Genetic Technologies Limited (AGT) … focuses on creating more resilient staple crops in Uganda so that farmers who grow crops like coffee and bananas can thrive. The company uses tissue culture, a technology that enables scientists to grow living cells in a laboratory, to produce pest- and disease-resistant plants.
At AGT, tissue culture helps lab technicians grow “super plants” that replace low-yield crops with faster-growing produce that can withstand common pests and diseases. The company then delivers this transformative technology at an affordable price to thousands of smallholder farmers in Ugandan communities…
Why do writers of press releases and other PR folks so often think they have to reach for the most extreme superlatives, such as “super plants”?! Don’t they realise that this can raise expectations beyond what’s reasonable – which otherwise would be considered a great achievement – and therefore might backfire?
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