Ten months before Russian troops poured into Ukraine, that country’s President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a bill into law authorizing the private sale of farmland, reversing a moratorium that had been in place since 2001. An earlier administration in Ukraine had instituted the moratorium in order to halt further privatization of The Commons and small farms, which were being bought up by oligarchs and concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. As documented in a series of critical reports over ten years by the Oakland Institute based in California*,* the moratorium on land sales in Ukraine aimed to prevent the acquisition and consolidation of farmland in the hands of the domestic oligarch class and foreign corporations. The marketization of farmland is part of a series of policy “reforms” that the International Monetary Fund stipulated as a precondition enabling Ukraine to receive $8 billion in loans from the IMF.
Orange, California - Last month México’s Supreme Court provided hope for biodiversity, especially in the Global South, while flaming fear for seed companies. In a historic step, it ruled for corn advocates and against genetically modified (GMO) corn. The decision was a momentous act in country where maíz (corn) carries daily and sacred significance. This promises a way out of stale GMO debates that plague us. One side argues that genetic changes to seeds increase harvests. Seed companies and industrial agriculture make up this side. Another side says GMOs damage plant DNA. Small-scale farmers and environmentalists stand on this side. Neither addresses the other. This standstill keeps GMO policies ineffective. The court’s decision offers a path out of this by cutting at seed company positions.
Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador quietly rocked the agribusiness world with his New Year’s Eve decree to phase out use of the herbicide glyphosate and the cultivation of genetically modified corn. His administration sent an even stronger aftershock two weeks later, clarifying that the government would also phase out GM corn imports in three years and the ban would include not just corn for human consumption but yellow corn destined primarily for livestock. Under NAFTA, the United States has seen a 400% increase in corn exports to Mexico, the vast majority genetically modified yellow dent corn. The bold policy moves fulfill a campaign promise by Mexico’s populist president, whose agricultural policies have begun to favor Mexican producers, particularly small-scale farmers, and protect consumers alarmed by the rise of obesity and chronic diseases associated with high-fat, high-sugar processed foods.
Fourteen years ago, the Bill and Melinda Gates and Rockefeller Foundations launched the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) with the stated goal of doubling productivity and incomes by 2020 for 30 million small-scale farming households while reducing food insecurity by half in 20 countries. AGRA claims success, but a broad-based civil society alliance has just published "False Promises: The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)," in which they conclude that the number of Africans suffering extreme hunger has increased by 30 percent in the 13 countries that AGRA eventually focused on. I spoke to researcher and writer Timothy A. Wise, Senior Advisor at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy and author of the book Eating Tomorrow: Agribusiness, Family Farmers, and the Battle for the Future of Food.
For decades, the biotech industry has spun a narrative around genetically engineered crops that could be summed up very simply as “jam tomorrow, instead of bread and butter today.” Sustained—and financed—largely on the promise of spectacular success at some unidentified point in the future, the research and development of new types of GMO foods, made with a whole host of new genetic engineering technologies, has gathered pace in recent years.
Agricultural giant Monsanto has spent much of the last decade attempting to polish its public image amid campaigns to label genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and horrifying stories about how the company treats anyone who might get in its way. In 2013, it enlisted Ketchum PR ― the public relations firm for Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian natural gas giant Gazprom and many governments known for human rights abuses ― to help. To reboot the national dialogue, Ketchum created a campaign called GMO Answers...
On June 6, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposed to overhaul longstanding regulations governing genetically modified organisms (GMO). The proposed new rule would revise the agency's current method for regulating genetically modified plants, and would exclude newer so-called “gene-edited” GMOs. In a statement, the USDA said the new rule came "in response to advances in genetic engineering." A week later, in the political equivalent of a one-two-punch, President Trump bolstered the USDA’s proposal by signing an executive order directing the USDA...
Of all the mega-corps running amok, Monsanto has consistently outperformed its rivals, earning the crown as “most evil corporation on Earth!” Not content to simply rest upon its throne of death, atop a mountain of rotting corpses, it remains focused on newer, more scientifically innovative ways to harm the planet and its people. As true champions of evil, they won’t stop until…well, until they’re stopped! But what is Monsanto and how did they get to be so obscenely evil in the first place? I think that’s the best place to start this journey, so grab a few non-GMO snacks or beverages and let’s go for a ride into the deep, murky sewers of their dark past.
The Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU), including the countries of Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Belarus, has introduced clear GMO labeling on all food and supplement products containing genetically modified organisms, starting from last week. Russia’s Federal Service for Supervision of Consumer Protection and Welfare (Rospotrebnadzor) announced in 2016 that it was inviting all EAEU countries to apply a “GMO” label on the packaging of food products that contain genetically modified organisms. The Rospotrebnadzor and the EAEU confirmed the proposed amendments to the technical regulations on the labeling of food products in the EAEU, despite objections from some European Union food manufacturers...
It is amazing that the USDA and FDA approved the GM potatoes by only evaluating our own data. How can the regulatory agencies assume there is no bias? When I was at J.R. Simplot, I truly believed that my GM potatoes were perfect, just like a parent believes his or her children are perfect. I was biased and all genetic engineers are biased. It is not just an emotional bias. We need the GM crops to be approved. There is a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed, to justify our existence by developing modifications that create hundreds of millions of dollars in value. We test our GM crops to confirm their safety, not to question their safety.
With the breakneck speed of recent developments in genetic engineering that could be used to alter DNA in plants, animals, bacteria, and even humans, the report examines the growing body of scientific studies highlighting the risks and unintended consequences from the use of genetic engineering techniques like gene editing in agriculture. “Increasingly, scientific publications are revealing the genetic errors that gene-editing can create. It’s becoming clear that, if gene-edited GMOs are to be used in U.S. agriculture, they need to be carefully scrutinized for any unexpected effects,” said co-author Dr. Janet Cotter of Logos Environmental. “The real question is whether GMOs are needed in agriculture at all. Advanced conventional breeding is now highly effective at producing the traits in plants and animals that both farmers and consumers desire and entails less risks to the environment and human health.”
The European Court of Justice (ECJ) today published its ruling on the legal status of food and feed crops derived from certain new genetic modification techniques. It gave clear confirmation that organisms from these new gene editing techniques are covered by existing EU GMO regulation. Reacting to the decision, which corroborates the January 2018 opinion of one of the court’s Advocates General, Corporate Europe Observatory’s agribusiness campaigner Nina Holland said: “This is a big victory for the environment, farmers and consumers. It clarifies that EU decision makers have to ensure that products from these new techniques are assessed for potential food safety and environmental risks, and that they are properly labelled as GMOs.
The Government approved the transposition of an EU Directive, which will enable Ireland to opt out of cultivation of GMO crops approved for cultivation elsewhere in the EU. This will happen on a much wider range of policy grounds than had previously been the case. These grounds include where such cultivation would be contrary to environmental policy objectives, town and country planning, land use, socio-economic impacts, avoidance of GMO presence in other products, agricultural policy objectives and public policy. Announcing the Cabinet’s decision today, The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment Denis Naughten said it was a very significant development.
Everyone loves a feel-good story about the future. You’ve probably heard this one: high-tech foods enhanced by science will feed the 9 billion people expected on the planet by 2050. Food made in labs and crops and animals genetically engineered to grow faster and better will make it possible to feed the crowded world, according to stories that spin through our institutions of media and education. “6th grade students brainstorming big biotech ideas to #Feedthe9″ touted a recent tweet tagged to the chemical industry’s promotional website GMOAnswers. Student ideas included “breed carrots to have more vitamins” and “corn that will grow in harsh winter conditions.” It all sounds so promising until you look at the realities behind the rhetoric.
After decades of chemical-intensive agriculture, factory farms and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in our food, and an ongoing war against natural systems and traditional knowledge, America's rural communities, environment and public health are rapidly deteriorating. The fatal harvest of Big Food Inc. includes rural economic decline and depopulation throughout the Americas, forced migration from Mexico and Central America, water and air pollution, aquifer depletion, pollinator and biodiversity destruction, soil erosion and fertility loss, climate destabilization, food contamination and nutrient degradation, and deteriorating public health. Unfortunately, the U.S. Congress and the White House, aided and abetted by collaborators north and south of the border, are still dishing out their standard culinary message: Shut up and eat your GMOs.