Monday, 30 August 2010

Gates Foundation Invests in Monsanto and I write to Bill and Melinda Gates

30 August 2010


Bill and Melinda Gates
c/o Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
Main Office
Seattle, Washington
info@gatesfoundation.org


Dear Mr and Mrs Gates

I recently read on the Community Alliance for Global Justice website about your Foundation's investment in the transnational corporation Monsanto (http://www.seattleglobaljustice.org/ ). This caused me to wonder if either of you have read the book by Marie-Monique Robin called The World According to Monsanto, Pollution, Corruption, and the Control of our Food Supply, An Investigation into the World’s Most Controversial Company, New York: The New Press, 2010. It is a very well written book that could change your minds about investing in this company. As the title suggests, Robin uncovers corporate behaviour that has been destroying lives, communities, biodiversity and the environment for over 100 years and is still doing it.

I am in the process of researching to write my own book – first one. I have set up a blog and make new posts regularly. It’s called “When Corporations Rule the Food Chain, Agri-food business law and policy: health and environment issues” and can be found at http://foodlawandpolicy.blogspot.com/. I’ve included a bibliography and events page to show where I am in my research. Although I originally set out to write this letter solely in response to the news of your Foundation's investment in Monsanto, I now think it is more constructive to offer my project as one small, albeit worthwhile, alternative investment. Like many other books, I hope it will be enjoyable to read and add to the knowledge bank. What follows is a brief history of this project and some of my ideas.

News that GM potato test trials were to begin in Norfolk not far from where I live in Peterborough, England, was the catalyst that got me started on this project. That was in June. I’ve covered a lot of ground since then. As an organic whole food supporter and having lived in Northern Ireland for around twenty years, I found that I was very much out of touch with what has been happening in the food industry. It may be that I am naive, but when I think about it, I still cannot believe that we spray toxic chemicals on our food or give animals drugs to make them produce more food. But, there are many people in the world who have the same difficulty I have in understanding our “developed” way of producing food.

Not long ago, I watched a video where you, Mr Gates, expressed interest in genetically modified organisms (GMOs – EU definition on my blog) to help developing countries. This is a popular theme with corporations in the industry and many writers. However, I find gaps and flaws in the logic that GMOs are beneficial. One difficulty arises because of our tendency to put things in isolated boxes. We have to remember that GMOs are being developed as part of industrial farming. When discussing starving people in developing countries, we are taking GMOs from an industrial perspective and applying it to countries that primarily have systems of smallholder farms. But more than this, I think we should first look at what we have become as developed nations. Is this an achievement that smallholder farmers and developing countries can admire? Have we attained superior health and managed our environment in a positive fashion? Has the development of GMOs over the past decade or so shown signs of improving food systems anywhere or only added to corporate wealth?

To this end, I would ask you to look at the parent country of Monsanto, the company you have chosen to invest in. Look at the United States and see the state of the nation’s health. You will see that people are not well. They are fat, depressed, on medications, and generally getting unhealthier. The nation is not well environmentally either. Fast food and industrial farms create much pollution. This is what you are promoting by investing in Monsanto. And you are promoting the spread of it throughout the world.

The efficiency models for food production were developed by the founders of fast food, many of whom did not have much formal education. Their ideas were simple and have made fortunes for a few people. But their legacy is a food production system that makes people eat and work like machines. Instead of nutritional food and employment that suits our nature, transnational corporations have created a global conveyer belt of misery. I do not believe that replacing the misery of starving with the misery caused by fast food is a desirable goal.

Developed societies have come to the point where they believe that science can ‘fix’ nature and humans are superior to nature. These are mistaken beliefs. We have the power to improve nature, but only if we work in tandem with it because, of course, we are part of nature. And the popular notion of escaping to outer space when this planet is “used up” is hardly a panacea.

I am planning to write an article for my blog about amaranth. So far, I have discovered that it is a highly nutritious, prolific plant that can be grown in awkward climates, especially in developing countries. Yet, my research to date mostly shows it being used as a colour additive and complained about because of the weedy variety -- the herbicide-resistant strain of Amaranthus palmeri or Palmer amaranth which is glyphosate-resistant and so cannot be killed by Monsanto’s popular Roundup herbicide. However, it can also be a beneficial weed as a companion plant. I believe that this plant may be one of nature’s sign posts for sustainably solving our global food problems and I plan to look into why, after 26 years since a similar claim was made by a US government research report, it has not been followed.

Thank you for considering these issues. I would be delighted to hear from you.

Yours sincerely

Jennie Wilson

Jennie Wilson, BSc, LLB, GDip (Law), PGDip (LPC)

Thursday, 26 August 2010

New labelling requirements for US chain restaurants and vending machines

Updated on 28 October 2010

I think the latter recipient of this new law says it all -- vending machines. After all, restaurants such as McDonalds are little more than vending machines since the people who work in these establishments have been turned into cogs in the wheel, so to speak.  Fast food is mechanically constructed and analysed like fuel for a machine.  Since we are not machines, this new labelling law will not help us.

But what of the caloric and other ‘vital’ information that consumers will now be able to take note of when they grab their big Mac, fries and Coke? Under the heading of 'Nutrition Facts' we are given categories that include fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, sugars, fibre, total protein and calories.  First of all, the implication is that these boxed areas are the most important nutrients in food which can be as deceptive as considering the sugar in an apple (with no label) compared to a chocolate bar.  Secondly, this labelling implies that if these things are considered, then a healthy diet can be achieved, which is quite unlikely since nutrition is complex.  And thirdly, it requires that consumers carry around a calculator, chart and even a scale to add up these categories on a daily basis, which of course, they won’t, at least not on any long-term basis -- who has the time?  Most people probably won't even look at these labels, making them a waste of time and money.

What’s next? Will labels be required on coconuts because of high saturated fat content? What about celery, which has high sodium content? Or perhaps grapes need a label because of high sugar content?  This would require even more packaging, which the environment could certainly do without, and most people as well.

As far as health matters are concerned with fast food and vending machine products, labelling GM ingredients, additives, chemical residues, and lack of nutritional value because of processing the foods would be much more effective.  It would even be easier because a blanket label to say that 'this food contains virtually no nutritional value' could be applied to many products such as sugary drinks and snacks. People need to think about why they eat from a HOLISTIC nutritional standpoint. But our societies, at the behest of corporations, now eat for every reason but to sustain and nourish our health!

Details of this news and law are available on these links:

US Agricultural and Food law and policy blog

US Food and Drug Administration

Reuters article

Wall Street Journal article

Photo credit and information on how to read this label.

More wasted effort:
Food Association Plans a Package-Front Label Showing Nutritional Data, New York Times, October 27,2010

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Great Milk Debate returns

National Farmers Union - 25 August 2010

The National Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) is set to join forces with the NFU again to highlight the critical situation facing British dairy farmers.

The two organisations will be addressing the issues of alleged bullyboy tactics by supermarkets, the millions of pounds which fail to reach beyond the farmgate and what can be done to safeguard the industry’s long-term future.

In 2007 the NFWI joined the NFU to officially launch the Why Dairy Farming Matters campaign. A nationwide campaign followed with regional milk debates to highlight the disproportionate share of revenues received by dairy farmers for their milk.

Policymakers as well as representatives from major retailers and milk processors will be invited to the Great Milk Debate - on 16 November at London's RICS Parliament Square.

Monday, 23 August 2010

The Pavlovsk Experimental Station

The AWL, August 11, 2010
by Mary Phillips-Sandy posted @2:20 PM

Earlier today, to absolutely no one's surprise, a Russian court decided to let a state-backed residential development fund proceed with its plan to build houses on a field in Pavlovsk, outside St. Petersburg. The reason this mundane matter even reached a court is that the field is presently inhabited by thousands of rare fruits and berries, better known as the historic gene bank of the Pavlovsk Experimental Station.

What does this mean for those of us who will want jam on our toast even after the apocalypse comes? And what does it mean for Russia, which is having its own apocalypse problem right now?

The Pavlovsk station is operated by the Vavilov Institute of Plant Industry, a research center founded by botanist Nikolai Vavilov in 1926. (Before the current controversy, one key fact about the Institute was that several Russian scientists starved to death at its headquarters when Leningrad was under siege, because they refused to eat their collections.) The station in Pavlovsk includes thousands of samples of berries, apples, cherries and other fruits, most of which do not exist anywhere else, but unlike this James Bond-ish vault in the mountains of Norway, the Pavlovsk station is not a seed bank. Some uncooperative plants can't be replicated exactly from frozen seeds, so keeping them and their fruits alive, in the dirt where they are, is the only way to preserve their genetic information.

For full article click here.

Also see article in the LA Times.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Protect nature for world economic security, warns UN biodiversity chief

Ahmed Djoghlaf says nations risk economic collapse and loss of culture if it does not protect the natural world

By John Vidal, environment editor guardian.co.uk, Monday 16 August 2010 17.21 BST

"What we are seeing today is a total disaster," said Ahmed Djoghlaf, the secretary-general of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity. "No country has met its targets to protect nature. We are losing biodiversity at an unprecedented rate. If current levels [of destruction] go on we will reach a tipping point very soon. The future of the planet now depends on governments taking action in the next few years."

Industrialisation, population growth, the spread of cities and farms and climate change are all now threatening the fundamentals of life itself, said Djoghlaf, in London before a key UN meeting where governments are expected to sign up to a more ambitious agreement to protect nature.
 
For Full Article plus audio link see: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2010/aug/16/nature-economic-security
 
See also:
'Crown jewels' of Britain's landscape could be sold off
Plan to sell off nature reserves risks 'austerity countryside'

Book Review - "Our Final Century" by Martin Reese

Martin Rees is a cosmologist based at Cambridge University and his true interests shine through in the final chapters. He ends by wondering if the wider cosmos has a potential future for humanity that could even be infinite. He states that “[h]umankind will remain vulnerable so long as it stays confined here on Earth.” I question his reasoning from start to finish. He begins with an analysis of the risks we have living on this planet and ends up with a suggestion that an escape to space may be our best option. But common sense tells us that we would have even greater risks if we left the Earth for places where we do not naturally fit. He talks about science transforming Mars and people moving there and colonizing, possibly with a little artificially induced variation in the genome to assist with diversity (and manmade food and plants of course). He says that space exploration is safer than the terrestrial exploration done in the past, but fails to acknowledge that pioneers were not driven by fear due to the risk of devastation of the homeland, but by the motives of improving life, information gathering and acquiring things.

Rees explores the doomsday theories from natural events such as astroids striking the Earth to manmade catastrophes and points out that the manmade ones are far more likely and disquieting. He even made a bet in the WIRED magazine “[t]hat by the year 2020 an instance of bioerror or bioterror will have killed a million people.” He talks about a possibly growing number of Americans with a “tenuous hold on rationality” who may gain access to advanced technology in addition to other individuals and countries in the world with destructive intentions. He describes the use of nanotechnology in the development of robots and superhuman computers that may out do us. And he discusses how some scientific research (such as today’s Large Hadron Collider) could risk the entire Earth or even space as well.

However, Rees does not explore science in food much which is a vital aspect of our survival as human beings. He does not mention the development of nanotechnology in the food industry. No mention of cloning in food either. Although, those were the early days back in 2002 when an American funded cloning research in Texas with five million dollars to clone his aging dog. He didn’t get his dog cloned, but we now have the Cloned Texas Icon Bull! He expresses a lack of concern for genetic modification of food despite quoting Prince Charles saying that we do not understand the true complexity of nature. Since food is the part of nature that sustains us physically, and these scientific manipulations are tampering with nature without fully understanding the process or consequences, I question his lack of attention to detail in this area.

I found the discussion about the global population expanding interesting where he mentions 8 billion, not today’s touted 9 billion for 2050. I think these estimates are bold either way because although many people are living longer today, we also have many dying from Aids (which Rees says is rising in Africa, Russia, China and India), famine, medical treatment, and obesity related diseases (which today’s news tells us is rising globally at an exponential rate). Besides health problems, climate change disturbances will contribute to make even the lower prediction of 8 billion unlikely to come to pass.

Rees gives good evidence that there is so much we can do to improve our lot on this planet, but in the end I got the impression that he would rather join the wealthy individual space explorers and leave the planet behind because the risks here are just too great. He says that the developing science technologies are moving forward too quickly and impossible to control to allow us to survive on Earth for much more than this century. He argues that we can put a moratorium on science, but it would only slow it down a bit, not stop it. Science seems to be taking over from nature and is our doom. But by saying that science is a way to escape the Earth, Rees is basically saying that science is our saviour as well. I don’t think science will be our saviour, not even in the sense where we put a few people somewhere in space to start a new population. Humans will simply take their problems with them and in the time frame of billions of years may die out soon anyway. Also, although this was news after Rees wrote this book, some theorists claim that dark matter in space is collapsing and space and everything in it will go back to the nothing it came from. Rees is hoping for a better future in space, one that entails vast expenses and effort. If all this money and time were spent on fixing the things wrong with how we live our lives on this planet, we could all be happy here and not want to travel to space out of desperation and fear to conquer new worlds, but perhaps one day, as a pastime ... for fun, curiosity, to expand our knowledge and as an expression of our creativity instead.

Despite my criticisms, I enjoyed the book very much and would recommend it.

Our Final Century
by Marin Reese
London: William Heinemann, 2003

I borrowed the book from my local library.

Wednesday, 18 August 2010

Bayer Must Pay Rice Farmers $940,000

From the US Agricultural & Food Law and Policy Blog
July 30, 2010

A jury awarded over $940,000 in damages to six Arkansas farmers for losses incurred "since traces of genetically modified rice were found in the U.S. long-grain rice supply in 2006," according to the Arkansas Times Online. Bayer Crop-Science was found negligent in the handling of rice bred to tolerate its Liberty Link herbicide.

Bayer, partnering with Louisiana State University, tested its "genetically modified rice at a school-run facility in Crowley, La. in 1998." The rice had not been approved for human consumption at the time. In 2006, USDA announced that contamination had occurred with Liberty Link 601 in the commercial rice supply and Japan and the European Union (EU) banned US rice imports. Consequently, rice prices and exports dropped.

For full article see: http://www.agandfoodlaw.com/2010/07/bayer-must-pay-rice-farmers-940000.html

Tuesday, 17 August 2010

Judge Revokes Approval of Modified Sugar Beets

By ANDREW POLLACK, New York Times
Published: August 13, 2010

A federal district court judge revoked the government’s approval of genetically engineered sugar beets Friday, saying that the Agriculture Department had not adequately assessed the environmental consequences before approving them for commercial cultivation.

The decision, by Judge Jeffrey S. White of Federal District Court in San Francisco, appears to effectively ban the planting of the genetically modified sugar beets, which make up about 95 percent of the crop, until the Agriculture Department prepares an environmental impact statement and approves the crop again, a process that might take a couple of years.


For full article see:  http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/14/business/14sugar.html?th&emc=th

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Wake-Up Call

GMO Crops Super-Weed Time Bomb Explodes

The scene is set at harvest time in Arkansas October 2009. Grim-faced farmers and scientists speak from fields infested with giant pigweed plants that can withstand as much glyphosate herbicide as you can afford to douse on them. One farmer spent US$0.5 million in three months trying to clear the monster weeds in vain; they stop combine harvesters and break hand tools. Already, an estimated one million acres of soybean and cotton crops in Arkansas have become infested.

The palmer amaranth or palmer pigweed is the most dreaded weed. It can grow 7-8 feet tall, withstand withering heat and prolonged droughts, produce thousands of seeds and has a root system that drains nutrients away from crops. If left unchecked, it would take over a field in a year.

See full article:  http://laudyms.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/gmo-crops-produce-super-weed-time-bomb/

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Letter to my MP regarding Cloned Animals

9 August 2010

Shailesh Vara MP
North West Cambridgehsire
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Dear Shailesh Vara

I am writing to you about the recent news of cloned animal food entering the market and the offspring of cloned cows living on various farms in the United Kingdom. This news was unwelcome and the Government’s response was inadequate.

First of all, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) needs to stop claiming that it can authorise cloned animal foods as novel foods. The FSA claims its authority for this action under the ‘Novel Foods Regulation’ (Regulation (EC) No 258/97). However, this regulation does not cover foods from cloned animals.

Article 1 sets out the definition of novel foods that is currently in force and I believe it is subsection 5 that the FSA is relying on to make its claims.

5) foods and food ingredients consisting of or isolated from plants and food ingredients isolated from animals except for foods and food ingredients obtained by traditional propagating or breeding practices and having a history of safe food use;
Although this wording is broad, it only refers to food ingredients from animals, not foods. Since milk and beef from cloned cows are foods, they are not covered. The regulatory framework for this controversial technology in our food chain is not only inadequate, but virtually non-existent.

Furthermore, the Europa News Release of 7/7/2010 about how the MEPs voted on the amendments to the new novel foods regulation tells us that the EU has not regulated dairy products and meat from cloned animals. The Release also states that the MEPs do not want foods from cloned animals to be considered as novel foods. They called for a moratorium on the sale of foods from cloned animals until a specific regulation could be put in place to prohibit these foods.

One of the biggest issues of cloning is cruelty to the farm animals. The RSPCA has written about this on their website, see RSPCA - Cloning.  And not only did the European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies state in its Opinion (No. 23) of 16 January 2008 that there is no justification for cloned animals to be put on the market, but the cloning of animals is incompatible with Council Directive 98/58/EC of 20 July 1998 concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes. Another amendment to the new novel foods regulation reminds us that animals are sentient beings and their welfare is to be considered when formulating and implementing policies.

The safety of these foods for our health is also of vital importance. Although there are claims circulating that it is safe, the scientific evidence is sparse and unconvincing. Logically, this food would be inferior to non-cloned animal foods if the animals are deformed and unhealthy. Of course, this argument and the argument for animal welfare have not made much impact on other animal issues such as penned cows that eat corn and soy (now much of it GMOs) and given many drugs to keep them 'healthy' as opposed to grass grazing cows; and chickens crammed into long dark huts, again fed corn, soy and drugs as opposed to truly free-range chickens. Among others, the organic food movement, famous cooks, journalists and film-makers are working to educate everyone on these issues. But a little more help from the Government would be welcome.

Furthermore, for there to be no controls, tracing and labelling of cloned foods so that when I go to the shop, I can be confident that I know what I am buying is an infringement of my right to chose not to partake in this madness. This also holds true for farmers wishing to avoid cloned animals. There is a real possibility of contamination of organic standards which prohibit foods from cloned animals. It is an extremely urgent matter that needs to be dealt with now.

Cyagra, an American livestock cloning company, is an example of where these animals are coming from and their advertising is alluring. British farmers need to be warned and protected against buying these dubious products. Similar to most of the women in the FSA’s recent research on the matter, the more I find out, the more I am against cloning. Like GMOs, cloning is another money-making spin that is being pushed at any cost. It appears to me that the precautionary principle is fading, and once again, the Government is colluding with big corporations.

Based on the above, I would call for the Government to take immediate action. All cloned animals and their offspring should be terminated and the remains incinerated to avoid further suffering of the animals and ensure that cloned animal products do not enter the food chain at any level. So far the FSA has taken steps in this direction which is good, but much more is needed. Finally, emergency measures need to be put in place to ban cloned animals and animal foods from further entering this country.

Yours sincerely

J. Wilson


cc: Soil Association: responses@soilassociation.org

Saturday, 7 August 2010

Pesticide Prognosis of "Organic"

In the UK, farmers are not legally bound to take care that pesticides do not poison people, never mind contaminate organic crops. Georgina Downs has been campaigning for years and taken her case to court, then an appeal and now proceedings in the European Courts to get protection for human health from farmers spraying pesticides. From her latest post she says that “[c]onsidering the distance that pesticides have been shown to travel then the distance of the no-spray area would need to be substantial.” Pesticides Campaign.

The Soil Association, oversees the strictest organic label in the UK.* You might be as surprised as I was to learn that the Soil Association is a charity that receives no government funding. Anyway, it calls for farmers “to move to farming systems that don’t require dangerous chemicals to produce our food.” This is the solution I endorse.

Besides the health of people and contamination of our food, there are the issues of chemical sprays affecting pollinators, wildlife, water and soil health. Pesticides are also referred to as inputs or plant protection products. Whatever these chemicals are referred to, they are in the food chain and may contaminate organic food in more ways than one.


The Soil Association published an updated organic standards for producers manual in July this year which states that the social principle of organic farming includes avoiding agrochemical pesticides in order to minimises the disruption to the natural environment. It does not allow the use petroleum oils, paraffin oils or other mineral oils as pesticides. However, it does not ban the use of all pesticides or fungicides. Something that hopefully will continue to be disallowed in organic farming is the known and developing uses of nanotechnology which includes pesticides, such as pesticide delivery in nanoemulsions. Soil Association Organic Standards Manual, July 2010.

There are other forms of pesticide contamination of organic foods including storing methods and compost. The Soil Association does not allow the use of ionising radiation or synthetic chemicals as an aid to preservation materials (including sprout inhibitors, fungicidal sprays, dips or powders and chemical fumigants or pesticides) in stores or on premises where organic crops are stored.

Since 1 September 2008, a new European regulation completed the harmonisation and simplification of pesticide maximum residue levels (MRLs) with the aim of protecting all consumers. The new MRLs can be viewed at Plant Protection - Pesticide Residues. In the UK, the Pesticides Residue Committee (PRC) tests for residues on crops to determine whether (MRLs) have been exceeded. Such crops cannot legally be sold and the PRC publishes testing results to the public, which could damage the market. Problems may occur with elemental sulphur, which some crops naturally produce and laboratories are unable to distinguish from the applied sulphur. Therefore, the Pesticides Safety Directorate (PSD) will not analyse for sulphur. Soil Association Certification News, Winter 2008.

The Soil Association will provide further details of the MRLs for compounds permitted to licensees upon request. It is collecting information from farmers to improve this service. The Soil Association further states that “[a]lthough pesticide residues are occasionally found in organic food (largely as a result of pesticide spray drift from neighbouring farms), a diet based on organically produced food can significantly reduce the amounts of pesticide consumed and consequently any damaging effects of these chemicals." This all shows that “organic” is not a 100% exact science, but at least the effort is a positive one.

____________________________
*I have recently learned that the Biodynamic Agriculture Association (BDAA) may be stricter in some cases, but have only discussed the Soil Association in this article.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Beware of Cloned Animals

Update: 21 June 2014

This article was written at the time when cloned cattle were in the news.  But now, we have at least one cloned dog in the UK thanks to South Korean Sooame Biotech.  I haven't looked to see if the law on cloned animals for food products has changed, but if it hasn't it will probably soon be legal.  Back in 2010, I wrote this three prong argument.  I also wrote a poem called Cloning Craze.  The real problem with cloning is that corporations (the B'org) will be able to patent cloned animals and make them all the same.  This does not bode well for our food supply. 

Back in 2010, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) was claiming that it could authorise cloned animal foods as novel foods.  Despite its claims that it could do this, meat and milk from cloned animals could not be authorised in the UK. But, there was no specific ban on it. The European Executive was making a new regulation on novel foods that would ban cloned animals. I explained this in my Blog article called FSA Makes Law on Cloned Animals.  But see also a Guardian article called Clone-derived meat entered UK food chain last year, says FSA (3 August 2010).

Secondly, cruelty to animals was claimed to be the biggest concern with cloned animals. The RSPCA is the organisation entrusted with the welfare of animals in the UK and they took on board the cloned animal issue and put an article on their website, RSPCA Concern over recent cloned animal claims. Oddly enough, this page is no longer available, but instead there's a picture of a dog (cloned one?).

Thirdly, it is claimed by the FSA and others that cloned animal food is safe to eat. However, as with most so-called scientific evidence bandying about, it is a matter of opinion and speculation based on propaganda.  And 'safe' in this context is not necessarily nutritious or healthy.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

FSA Makes Law on Cloned Animals

The Food Services Agency (FSA) is today reminding farmers with cloned animals that in order to produce food products from them they will need to seek authorisation under the Novel Food Regulations. [1]  This is an inaccurate statement.

It is true that the 'Novel Foods Regulation' (Regulation (EC) No 258/97) lays out detailed rules for the authorisation of novel foods, ingredients and processes. However, this regulation does not cover foods from cloned animals.[2]

The law is in the process of being amended at the European level. Here are three separate amendments taken from the Second reading of the new draft Regulation on Novel Foods: [3]

(2c) The European Parliament called on the Commission, in its resolution of 3 September 2008 on the cloning of animals for food supply, to submit proposals prohibiting for food supply purposes (i) the cloning of animals, (ii) the farming of cloned animals or their offspring, (iii) the placing on the market of meat or dairy products derived from cloned animals or their offspring and (iv) the importing of cloned animals, their offspring, semen and embryos from cloned animals or their offspring, and meat or dairy products derived from cloned animals or their offspring.
(6a) The cloning of animals is incompatible with Council Directive 98/58/EC of 20 July 1998 concerning the protection of animals kept for farming purposes, point 20 of the Annex of which states that natural or artificial breeding procedures which cause or are likely to cause suffering or injury to any of the animals concerned must not be practised. Food from cloned animals or their descendants must therefore not be placed on the Union list.
(7) The European Group on Ethics in Science and New Technologies stated in its Opinion (No. 23) of 16 January 2008 on ethical aspects of animal cloning for food supply that it ‘does not see convincing arguments to justify the production of food from clones and their offspring’. The Scientific Committee of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) concluded in its Opinion of 15 July 2008 on animal cloning that ‘the health and welfare of a significant proportion of clones … have been found to be adversely affected, often severely and with a fatal outcome’.
These amendments clearly show that European Executive does not intend to authorise the use of cloned animals in food production. This regulation would be binding on the United Kingdom. But in the interim the FSA is left to deal with cloned animals being brought into the food chain with no specific law to deal with it. [4] It is commendable that the FSA has seen that cloned animals have been taken out of circulation, but I would argue that it is not entitled to authorise the use of cloned animals for food production.  Hopefully these incidents will accelerate the proper ban on cloned animal foods and food ingredients.

Footnotes
 
1.  FSA Update on Cloned Animals, 4 Aug 2010
The FSA claims that foods produced from cloned animals fall under Regulation (EC) No 258/97 (the ‘Novel Foods Regulation’). FSA Cloned Animals

2. Article 1 of Regulation (EC) No 258/97 sets out the definition of novel foods that is currently in force. Regulation (EC) No 258/97

Novel foods or novel food ingredients include:

1) GMOs
2) from GMOs
3) molecularly altered
4) isolated from micro-organisms, fungi or algae
5) “foods and food ingredients consisting of or isolated from plants and food ingredients isolated from animals except for foods and food ingredients obtained by traditional propagating or breeding practices and having a history of safe food use”. Although this wording is broad and probably the basis for the FSA’s claim of authority to allow cloned animals for foods into the market despite the concerns mentioned above, it only refers to food ingredients from animals, not foods. Milk and beef from cloned cows are foods, and therefore, not covered.
6) processed foods

3.  European Parliament, The Legislative Observatory, Procedure File, Novel Foods, Second Reading, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/oeil/file.jsp?id=5583302

4.  "Since 2007, the Food Standards Agency’s interpretation of the law has been that meat and products from clones and their offspring are considered novel foods and would therefore need to be authorised before being placed on the market." FSA Statement on Cloned Animals and their Offspring







Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Letter to my MP regarding the GM potato trials in Norfolk

3 August 2010

Your Ref: mcw260710

Shailesh Vara MP
North West Cambridgehsire
House of Commons
London SW1A 0AA

Dear Shailesh Vara

Thank you very much for your letter of 26th July with copy letter from Lord Henley attached which I received today.

I did indeed receive a letter from Defra, although I did not write to them directly about the GM potato trials. However, I did send a copy of my letter to Lord Henley on July10th when I discovered that he signed the authorisation for the Norfolk trials, and Defra replied on his behalf.

Basically, Defra’s letter was an attempt to assure me that the GM potato trials would not create any health or environment risks as the application was assessed by the Advisory Committee on Releases to the Environment (ACRE) which is “an independent scientific expert group that advises Defra on this issue”. Also, I was told that officials will check the site after the trials to ensure that GM material does not persist. And, the GM potatoes will not be allowed to enter the food or animal feed chain.

However, I already had this information. Although disappointed, I’m not surprised by this very narrow view of the situation. The government has not published its official GMO policy yet, but it is fully aware of and supports the European developments in favour of commercial GM crops in the Member States. It is already encouraging GM food and GM feed in the United Kingdom with its safety and nutrition propaganda, e.g., on the Food Standards Agency website.

From the letters I have received from government officials, it would appear that many do not fully understand the GMO issues. As evidence of this, I invite you to read a letter from Lord Hughes of Woodside to me and my recent reply on my Blog: http://borgfoodchain.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/2-august-2010-dear-lord-hughes-of.html.

My initial concern was not whether GMOs are safe or not, but my choice to avoid GMOs in my food. Organic food has already had to accommodate up to 0.9% GMO content in processed foods which I avoid. But if organic whole foods are contaminated, I will eventually not be able to avoid GMOs even by "growing my own." The point of my complaint is not whether GMOs are safe or not, but my diminishing right to choose organic non-GMO foods produced in a natural way.

Besides your letters, the only reassurance I have received to date is that Lord Livsey of Talgarth agrees with my concerns and many supermarkets have confirmed their non-GMO policies in their own brand foods. As Hannah Sutter metaphorically says in her book Big Fat Lies, Is your government making you fat?, the ship is heading for an iceberg. Why calls of warning are being ignored can only be because those at the helm (and others in charge) are asleep, or as spiritualists would say, unconscious. So I have now joined in the warning efforts with hopes that the ship will steer clear of the impending disaster. The fate of the Titanic may seem inevitable, but I will keep a positive outlook nonetheless.

Thank you again for your interest and writing on my behalf.

Yours sincerely

J. Wilson

cc: Lord Henley
      Christopher Hussesy, Defra Customer Contact Unit

Monday, 2 August 2010

Letter from Lord Hughes of Woodside and my reply, re GMOs


2 August 2010

Dear Lord Hughes of Woodside,

I am grateful to receive your letter, especially because you have an alternative view to mine.

It is a common misunderstanding that GMOs are considered to be the same as “selective breeding”. When I refer to GMO, I refer to the European Community’s definition of a GMO from Directive 1990/200 which states that an “‘organism’ is any biological entity capable of replication or of transferring genetic material.” And then, “‘Genetically Modified Organism (GMO)’ means an organism in which the genetic material has been altered in a way that does not occur naturally by mating and/or natural recombination.”

In her book, The World According to Monsanto, which I recommended in my letter instigated by the news of the GM potato test crops in Norfolk, Marie-Monique Robin describes how genetic manipulation is carried out. A scientist (not a farmer) genetically modifies an organism by making a selected gene enter a target cell by force. One technique is to use a bacterium that causes crown gall disease, which in effect infects the cell, but with the gene that induces tumours being suppressed. The insertion tool most frequently used today though is a “gene gun” which forces the desired DNA to penetrate into the target cells. “It works by attaching genetic constructs to microscopic gold or tungsten bullets and shooting them into a culture of embryonic cells.” (pp 138 – 141)

I am not anti-science. If GMOs were only grown indoors and contained and there were no cases of contamination of non-GM food, I would not have a complaint. However, the pollen from GM crops has been shown to contaminate non-GM crops. Because of GMO contamination, organic farmers have lost their organic status and conventional farmers have been sued by Monsanto under patent law. Also, GMOs have contaminated non-GM foods. Last year, GM Freeze organised a test that found GM Flax seed in an M&S loaf of bread when their policy is non-GMO. In addition, this particular GM flax was deregulated with all stocks supposedly destroyed in 2001. In America, Starlink GM corn that was intended for livestock feed accidentally got mixed in with a human supply which caused many mild to severe allergic reactions in people eating products containing it.

I am also not anti-modern medicine. However, people have been using medicine dubiously at least since the start of the industrial revolution. It was reported in 2000 in the Journal of the American Medical Association that one third of deaths in the United States are caused by medical treatment (and I don’t think things have improved much in the last 10 years or that they differ much in the UK). GMOs are being used in medicine and there are plans for GM plants to be grown with medicinal properties, which at best will only complicate the situation.

American money says “In God We Trust.” But it is not God that is producing GMOs and medicine, but Monsanto and other huge multi-national companies (mostly from America) for money. I do not trust or authorise these companies to tinker with my organic food (or my medicine if one day I required treatment). But because of contamination issues, my rights are denied. And while they are tinkering, they are racing to claim ownership of every gene on the planet with patent law. Neither God nor trust seems to have anything to do with it. It’s a mad dash for the finish line. According Paul Roberts, in his economic analysis of the food industry up to 2008, The End of Food, the finish line is the end of food. And he’s not against transgenic plants and animals as he calls GMOs (he’s American and they don’t have a legal definition for GMO because of the ‘substantially equivalent’ principle).  But he says that the GMO "debate has more or less stalled out on the margins of food policy" (p 313) and does not address the issue directly.  I think GMOs are at the centre of food policy (although maybe covertly) because they are the next step in making a quicker buck regardless of health or environment concerns.

And thank you for letting me know that you received my letter in hard copy. I realise that computers use electricity and the manufacturing process is bad in some ways like any other. But I’m not anti-technology either. I use my computer for a lot and sending a letter does not add much to the total cost.

Paper production, on the other hand, adds to the dilemma we are facing with a freshwater crisis. Not only is half the freshwater in England below standard, but according to the Sunday Times, one kilogram of paper requires 125 litres of water to process, and that excludes the water needed to grow the tree. In addition, I am disheartened to learn from India News (online) that 250,000 GM trees are being test grown starting this year by Aborgen for the paper industry in Southern states in the US. These are non-native eucalyptus trees that grow faster. Other GM trees have been designed that have systemic pesticide (some planned for Europe). All GM trees are an ecological threat and unsustainable.

Maybe the demonstrators in Kent didn’t have the best slogan. But I know that they had their hearts in the right place.

For other information on GMOs and related food issues, please see my new Blog which I post to regularly http://borgfoodchain.blogspot.co.uk/.

Thank you again for sharing your ideas and giving me this opportunity to add to the discussion.

Yours sincerely,

J. Wilson



cc:  Lord Jenkin of Roding
      Baroness Byford DBE
      Lord Henley
      Christopher Hussey, Defra Customer Contact Unit