GMO Studies, Patent Battles and Bees In This GMO Digest

While the Washington State labeling initiative appears to have been defeated, being outspent by opponents by a ratio of nearly 3-1, and with the focus now shifting to labeling initiatives in Oregon, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, we look at other important stories that you may have missed in the pre-election buzz.

Syngenta and Bayer Demand Use of Bee-Killing Pesticide

While increasingly governments are waking up to the dangers posed by agricultural chemicals, including fungicides and neonicotinoids, Syngenta urges farmers to continue using their neonicotinoid pesticides come hell or high water, despite a two year ban from the European authorities in April that followed a rash of disturbing scientific reports. Syngenta and Bayer are taking the European Commission to court challenging the two-year-ban on neonic use.

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Monarch Butterflies Disappear as Consequence of GMOs

Monarch butterfly flights are a beautiful summer sight and their meager numbers this year, particularly in the Midwest, raised alarms. While severe drought last year was in part to blame, this occurrence is just a continuation of a decade-long trend.  Scientists linked the disappearance to the broad adoption of genetically engineered corn and soybeans tolerant of herbicide used to wipe out milkweeds that the butterflies use to colonize rows of food crops.  It’s also believed that wind-blown Bt GMO pollen is killing butterfly larva.

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OSGATA Launches A New Supreme Court Battle To Kill GMO Patents

As the summer closed, undaunted by a Supreme Court loss in the Bowman matter earlier this year and despite the friendly embrace corporations share with this Supreme Court (ahem…Citizens United), the OSGATA group of organic and conventional farmers and businesses filed a petition with Supreme Court to protect them from genetic contamination and to invalidate Monsanto’s patents on genetically engineered seeds.

Since the filing of the petition, Monsanto has twice asked the Supreme Court for an extension to file its opposition and on November 4, 2013, the Supreme Court granted the company’s second request for such an extension. Daniel B. Ravicher, Executive Director Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT), a non-profit representing the OSGATA plaintiffs, provided GMO Journal with the briefing schedule for the case: Monsanto’s opposition is due December 9; PUBPAT’s reply is due by December 23. Thereafter, the Supreme Court’s will decide whether it will hear the case. That decision could be made as soon as January 10, 2014.

More to come on this story.

Read PubPat Petition

UN Calls on Governments To Wake Up Before Is Too Late

The United Nations Trade and Environmental review issued a report that urges governments to make an agricultural paradigm shift. Claire Provost of the Guardian sums up one of the key findings as follows: “The report argues that industrial, monoculture agriculture has failed to provide enough affordable food where it is needed, while the damage caused to the environment is ‘mounting and unsustainable’. It echoes the work of Nobel prize-winner Amartya Sen in arguing that the real causes of hunger – poverty and the lack of access to good, affordable food – are being overlooked.”

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Europe Proposes To Increase Time to Study GMOs in Foods

At the end of July, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued guidelines for carrying out two year whole food feeding studies to assess the risk of cancer and/or toxicity. Claire Robinson of GMWatch and EarthOpenSource commented that this “largely validates the methodology and choices of Prof. GE Seralini in his 2012 study on GM maize NK603 — methodology and choices that EFSA and countless other critics previously attacked him for.”  Industry’s GMO feeding studies are typically limited to just 90 days. Seralini’s study showed that cancer grew in rats fed GMOs over longer periods thus further underscoring the weakness of such industry food studies.

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Golden Rice Trampled in Rebuke

“Golden rice” that promises increased Vitamin A content made a not so golden splash in the summer headline pool. In August, headlines reported that 400 people in the Philippines trampled test plots of GE rice and several news outlets ran rosy stories in its defense. Those who were following the Golden Rice experiment that now spanned several decades wondered why GMO advocates still trumpet this unrealized “miracle”. Malnutrition is caused by poverty and lack of access to food. It will take real hard work to eliminate malnutrition in the world and a profit-boosting GMO “solution” won’t even scrape the surface of systemic problems.  Here is a worthwhile article from PANNA on the subject.

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In another relevant article, Prof. Marione Nestle explains the problems with the Golden Rice and pokes holes in industry’s PR with arguments she made over a decade ago.

What recent GMO story caught your attention?