Wednesday, March 31, 2010

GM Bananas Premier in Australia

Genetically modified bananas with increased levels of pro-vitamin A have been selected and grown in north Queensland, Australia. The GM bananas were planted in the South Johnstone area of Queensland as a part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation project to address mineral and vitamin deficiencies in human nutrition in East Africa. Eastern African bananas are recipients of the pro-vitamin A genes in breeding studies conducted by the Australian Queensland University of Technology and the Ugandan Agriculture Research Organization (NARO). Succeeding research efforts will be geared towards iron accumulation in the fruit. The researchers headed by Professsors James Dale and Wilberforce Tushemereirwe are optimistic that micronutrient-enriched bananas will be in East African tables within five years.
For details of the article, see

Friday, March 26, 2010

Genetically engineered corn causes new plant pest

Testbiotech warns that fields will turn into battlefields
Munich / Bremen, 25 March 2010

Large-scale cultivation of genetically engineered corn is causing the spread of a new pest in the US Corn Belt. The western bean cutworm infests the tips of the corncobs. Massive damage is being reported from those regions where the corn MON810 (sold as YieldGard by company of Monsanto) is grown on large scale.

The genetically engineered corn is clearly suppressing the competitor of the western bean cutworm and thus creating an ecological niche for this insect. At an international conference in Bremen, Germany this Friday, Testbiotech will present a report giving an overview of the current situation.

"Several reports show that the damage is increasing from year to year," explains Christoph Then, executive director of Testbiotech and author of the report. "But not much information is given to the farmers about the causes. The agrochemical companies are mainly interested in using this as an opportunity to sell other genetically engineered corn and insecticides that are highly toxic."

On behalf of Greenpeace, Testbiotech analysed many reports on the spread of the western bean cutworm and exchanged opinions with several experts. The cause of the spread of the new pest is hardly known to farmers in US, despite the fact that the western bean cutworm has spread through the whole Corn Belt since the year 2000. Farmers have only been told how to identify infestation and which insecticides they can use. No warnings were given on the dangers of large- scale MON810 cultivation. Instead, companies like Monsanto are trying to sell new varieties of genetically engineered corn such as 'SmartStax' that produces six different insecticides in its plant tissue.

Martin Hofstetter from Greenpeace, Germany, the organization that commissioned the report, has drawn the conclusion that: "There is a race going on in the fields which will lead to an increasing use of insecticides and the cultivation of more and more genetically engineered plants. There is a huge risk of causing ecological damage. Farmers are likely to lose the race by being forced to invest more and more in chemicals and high priced seed without being able to increase their yields. Industry's solution doesn't appear to be either sustainable or ecologically sound. It will just foster extremely industrialized agriculture."

The report will be available for downloading on Friday, 26 march on

International Conference "Second International Conference on Implications of GM Crop Cultivation at Large Spatial Scales" in Bremen:

For further information please call:

Christoph Then, executive director, Tel.: +49 (0)151 54 63 80 40 and

Martin Hofstetter, Greenpeace, 040 30 61 84 31

or Andrea Reiche, Testbiotech office: +49 (0)89 35 89 92 76
Testbiotech e. V.
Institute for Independent Impact Assessment in Biotechnology
Frohschammerstr. 14, 80807 M√ľnchen
Fon: +49 (0)89-358 99 92 76
Fax: +49 (0)89-359 66 22
info@testbiotech.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Executive Director: Christoph Then

Saturday, March 20, 2010

GM potatoes: BASF at work

After a nod by the European Commission to cultivation of the controversial genetically modified (GM) potato developed by the BASF chemical company and known as Amflora, a speaker for the company has announced plans to apply for approval for two further varieties of GM potato.

The company stated its intention to seek approval presently for a successor to Amflora. This new variety also produces amylopectin starch that is advantageous for specific industrial processes such as the manufacture of paper.
For the Amflora successor, a different variety of potato was genetically modified. A BASF spokesperson indicated application "soon" for approval of this yet-unnamed potato. BASF also intends to apply for approval of its ‘Fortuna’ potato by the end of the year. Fortuna has been genetically modified towards resistance to a mould disease that repeatedly has led to high harvest losses. The potato is intended for use in the industrial manufacture of foodstuff such as potato chips and crisps.
Beginning in April, Amflora will be planted on 20 hectares in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, on 80 hectares in Sweden and on 150 hectares in the Czech Republic. According to media reports, the fields in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania and Sweden are dedicated to seed production. The fields in the Czech Republic are used for commercial aims with an unnamed partner.

Eli Lilly's Desperate, Deceptive Campaign to Boost Bovine Growth Hormone

By Melanie Warner
B Net, March 16, 2010
Straight to the Source

With sales and public perception of bovine growth hormone dropping fast in the U.S., it’s not easy to find reputable scientific organizations willing to endorse such a controversial genetically modified additive. So, in a shameless and desperate maneuver, Eli Lilly (LLY) decided to make some up.

At a Montreal animal science meeting in July 2009, Eli Lilly’s Elanco division sponsored a press release masquerading as a scientific paper that concluded — surprise, surprise — that bovine growth hormone is perfectly safe for cows and humans. Tucked into page two of the eleven-page Q&A document is a claim that “more than 20 leading health organizations in the United States” have endorsed the safety of the synthetic hormone, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Cancer Society and the American Medical Association.

The fact that none of these three groups have ever come close to singing the praises of bovine growth hormone — known variously as rBST or rBGH — went unnoticed until last month when a biotech watchdog called the Bioscience Resource Project got wind of the report and started making a few calls. A spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatricians told the group that the AAP “does not endorse the safety of rBGH.” Ditto for the ACA and AMA.

It turns out that the eight so-called medical and dairy science experts who were paid to write the paper for Eli Lilly came up with a very creative interpretation of the word “endorsement.” One of the authors admitted to the Bioscience Resource Project that the endorsements are “technically untrue.”

“We counted endorsement as failure to oppose rBGH”, said David Clemmons, a professor at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine and a paid consultant for Eli Lilly.

By this twisted standard, as Michael Hansen of Consumers Union points out, the Federal Reserve and the American Automobile Association are also big supporters of bovine growth hormone. Hell, BNET endorses it.

Eli Lilly certainly doesn’t have any easy job trying to lift the fortunes of bovine growth hormone. More than half of the nation’s 100 largest dairies have completely or partially discontinued the use of rBGH, including the largest, Dean Foods (DF). Starbucks (SBUX) and Chipotle (CMG) have gone completely rBGH-free and Walmart (WMT) and Kroger (KR) have banned it from their store brand milk.

>>> Read the Full Article

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Geraniums Could Help Control Devastating Japanese Beetle

The beautiful flowers of the ornamental plant geranium attract pollinating insects and predators alike. It tricks the most destructive pest of ornamental and turf plants in eastern United States, the beetle, Popillia japonica. When the petals are chewed by the beetle, they exhibit a twitching stance and become paralyzed for several hours. In the field, the stunned beetle could then be devoured by other predators before it recovers.

This phenomenon was recorded in the 1920s but has not been studied since. Scientists of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service in Ohio led by Chris Ranger continued on with the research and started a botanical formulation from geraniums that would be used in managing the beetles. This would be cost-effective since controlling the beetles through insecticide sprays and replacing beetle-damaged plants could cost around $450 million each year.

For details, see:

Thursday, March 4, 2010

No Technical Impediments to Biotech Rice

Recombinant DNA technology and methods for generating biotech rice are available thus assuring that there are no technical impediments to the widespread adoption of biotech rice by rice-growing countries. Dr. John Bennett, honorary professor of the School of Biological Sciences, University of Sydney, Australia, predicts that there will be further increases in the efficiency of biotech rice production with the introduction of (1) floral spray inoculation of Agrobacterium to avoid tissues culture; (2) homologous recombination to insert genes in a targeted rather than random manner, and (3) plastome transformation to permit alteration of key photosynthetic genes in the chloroplast.

In Biotech Rice-Present Status and Future Prospects, a special feature in Brief 41 on the Global Status of Commercialized Biotech/GM Crops 2009 published by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications, Bennett notes however, that several potential impediments arise from the regulation of biotech crops in the major rice-growing countries. He said that two major rice-growing countries, China and India, would benefit from more transparency in devising and costing the tests for food safety and environmental protection. A major challenge will be to enhance yield potential and yield stability and to give high priority to issues such as climate change.

A copy of Brief 41 can be purchased online at