US corn trade rocked by fresh mainland China GM scrutiny

US grain sales plunge as Chinese screening of yet-unapproved variety is stepped up

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 29 December, 2013, 5:04am



Mainland quarantine authorities refused to accept 545,000 tonnes of US corn in November and December. Photo: Xinhua

Corn exporters in the US are in turmoil after mainland authorities tightened screening procedures to check for an unapproved strain of genetically modified grain that led to an 85 per cent plunge in sales to Chinese customers last week.

Shippers have been forced to divert cargoes destined for China, the world’s biggest consumer of feed grain and the market for about 40 per cent of US corn exports in the 2012/2013 season. Continue reading “US corn trade rocked by fresh mainland China GM scrutiny”

Money Talks: ‘Monstanto Protection Act’ quietly passed by US Congress


Thursday, 12 September 2013

A budget provision protecting genetically-modified seeds from litigation in the face of health risks was extended for three months in an approved US House of Representatives’ spending bill on Tuesday evening.

Called “The Monsanto Protection Act” by opponents, the budget rider shields biotech behemoths like Monsanto, Cargill and others from the threat of lawsuits and bars federal courts from intervening to force an end to the sale of a GMO (genetically-modified organism) even if the genetically-engineered product causes damaging health effects.

The biotech rider first made news in March when it was a last-minute addition to the successfully-passed House Agriculture Appropriations Bill for 2013, a short-term funding bill that was approved to avoid a federal government shutdown.

The current three-month extension is part of the short-term FY14 Continuing Resolution spending bill.

The Center for Food Safety, a vocal opponent of the rider, released a statement expressing dismay that the measure once again avoided proper legislative process while usurping the power to challenge GMO products in court.

“The rider represents an unprecedented attack on US judicial review, which is an essential element of US law and provides a critical check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods,” they wrote. “This also raises potential jurisdictional concerns with the Senate Agriculture and Judiciary Committees that merited hearings by the Committees before its consideration.”

Following the original vote in March, President Barack Obama signed the provision into law as part of larger legislation to avoid a government shutdown. Rallies took place worldwide in May protesting the clandestine effort to protect the powerful companies from judicial scrutiny.

“It is extremely disappointing to see the damaging ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ policy rider extended in the House spending bill,” said Colin O’Neil, director of government affairs for Center for Food Safety. “Hundreds of thousands of Americans called their elected officials to voice their frustration and disappointment over the inclusion of ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ this past spring. Its inclusion is a slap in the face to the American public and our justice system.”

Largely as a result of prior lawsuits, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) is required to complete environmental impact statements (EIS) to assess risk prior to both the planting and sale of GMO crops. The extent and effectiveness to which the USDA exercises this rule is in itself a source of serious dispute.

The reviews have been the focus of heated debate between food safety advocacy groups and the biotech industry in the past. In December of 2009, for example, Food Democracy Now collected signatures during the EIS commenting period in a bid to prevent the approval of Monsanto’s GMO alfalfa, which many feared would contaminate organic feed used by dairy farmers; it was approved regardless.

The biotech rider “could override any court-mandated caution and could instead allow continued planting. Further, it forces USDA to approve permits for such continued planting immediately, putting industry completely in charge by allowing for a ‘back door approval’ mechanism,” the Center for Food Safety said.


Scientists confirm: Pesticides kill America’s honey bees

                                                     Published time: July 25, 2013 20:24                                                                            

Reuters / Stephane MaheReuters / Stephane Mahe

Honey bees are quickly disappearing from the US – a phenomenon that has left scientists baffled. But new research shows that bees exposed to common agricultural chemicals while pollinating US crops are less likely to resist a parasitic infection.

As a result of chemical exposure, honey bees are more likely to  succumb to the lethal Nosema ceranae parasite and die from  the resulting complications.

Scientists from the University of Maryland and the US Department  of Agriculture on Wednesday published a study that linked chemicals, including  fungicides, to the mass  die-offs. Scientists have long struggled to find the cause  behind the Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), in which an estimated  10 million beehives at an average value of $200 each have been  lost since 2006.

Last winter, the honey bee population declined by 31.1 percent,  with some beekeepers reporting losses of 90 to 100 percent of  their bee populations. Scientists are concerned that   “Beemageddon” could cause the collapse of the $200 billion  agriculture industry, since more than 100 US crops rely on honey  bees to pollinate them.

The new findings are key in determining one of the causes of the  CCD, but they fail to explain why entire beehives sometimes die  at once.

UMD and DOA researchers found that pollen samples in fields  ranging from Delaware to Maine contained nine different  agricultural chemicals, including fungicides, herbicides,  insecticides and miticides. One particular sample even contained  21 different agricultural chemicals. To test their theory, they  fed pesticide-ridden pollen samples to healthy bees and then  infected them with the parasite. They found that the pesticides  hindered the bees’ abilities to resist the infection, thus  contributing to their deaths. The fungicide chlorothalonil was  particularly damaging, tripling the risks of parasitic  infection.

“We don’t think of fungicides as having a negative effect on  bees, because they’re not designed to kill insects,” Dennis  vanEngelsdorp, the study’s senior author, said in a news release.

He explained that federal regulations restrict the use of  insecticides while pollinators are foraging, but noted that   “there are no such restrictions on fungicides, so you’ll often  see fungicide applications going on while bees are foraging on  the crop. The finding suggests that we have to reconsider that  policy.”

Bees are declining at such a fast rate that one bad winter could  trigger an agricultural disaster. California’s almond crop would  be hit particularly hard, since the state supplies 80 percent of  the world’s almonds. Pollinating California’s 760,000 acres of  almond fields requires 1.5 million out-of-state bee colonies,  which makes up 60 percent of the country’s beehives. The CCD is a  major threat to this $4 billion industry.

Entomologists suspect that a number of other factors also  contribute to the CCD, including climate change, habitat  destructing and handling practices that expose bees to foreign  pathogens. But the effect of agricultural chemicals is  particularly alarming, especially since the US does not have laws  banning the use of the pesticides that are affecting bee health.

“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we  have led to believe,” vanEngelsdorp said. “It’s a lot more  complicated than just one product, which means of course the  solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”

RNA-interference pesticides will need special safety testing

Contact: Tim Beardsley 703-674-2500 x326 American Institute of Biological Sciences

A new technology for creating pesticides and pest-resistant crops could have effects on beneficial species that current toxicity testing will miss

Standard toxicity testing is inadequate to assess the safety of a new technology with potential for creating pesticides and genetically modifying crops, according to a Forum article published in the August issue of BioScience. The authors of the article, Jonathan G. Lundgren and Jian J. Duan of the USDA Agricultural Research Service, argue that pesticides and insect-resistant crops based on RNA interference, now in exploratory development, may have to be tested under elaborate procedures that assess effects on animals’ whole life cycles, rather than by methods that look for short-term toxicity.

RNA interference is a natural process that affects the level of activity of genes in animals and plants. Agricultural scientists have, however, successfully devised artificial “interfering RNAs” that target genes in insect pests, slowing their growth or killing them. The hope is that interfering RNAs might be applied to crops, or that crops might be genetically engineered to make interfering RNAs harmful to their pests, thus increasing crop yields.

The safety concern, as with other types of genetic modification and with pesticides generally, is that the artificial interfering RNAs will also harm desirable insects or other animals. And the way interfering RNA works means that simply testing for lethality might not detect important damaging effects. For example, an interfering RNA might have the unintended effect of suppressing the action of a gene needed for reproduction in a beneficial species. Standard laboratory testing would detect no harm, but there could be ecological disruption in fields because of the effects on reproduction.

Lundgren and Duan suggest that researchers investigating the potential of interference RNA pesticides create types that are designed to be unlikely to affect non-target species. They also suggest a research program to evaluate how the chemicals move in real-life situations. If such steps are taken, Lundgren and Duan are optimistic that the “flexibility, adaptability, and demonstrated effectiveness” of RNA interference technology mean it will have “an important place in the future of pest management.”



BioScience, published monthly, is the journal of the American Institute of Biological Sciences (AIBS; BioScience is a forum for integrating the life sciences that publishes commentary and peer-reviewed articles. The journal has been published since 1964. AIBS is a meta-level organization for professional scientific societies and organizations that are involved with biology. It represents nearly 160 member societies and organizations. The article by Lundgren and Duan can be accessed ahead of print as an uncorrected proof at until early August.

The complete list of peer-reviewed articles in the August 2013 issue of BioScience is as follows. These are now published ahead of print.

Improving Ocean Management through the Use of Ecological Principles and Integrated Ecosystem Assessments. Melissa M. Foley, Matthew H. Armsby, Erin E. Prahler, Margaret R. Caldwell, Ashley L. Erickson, John N. Kittinger, Larry B. Crowder, and Phillip S. Levin

How Far Are Stem-Cell-derived Erythrocytes from the Clinical Arena? Xiaolei Li, Zhiqiang Wu, Xiaobing Fu, and Weidong Han

Invasive Plants in Wildlife Refuges: Coordinated Research with Undergraduate Ecology Courses. Martha F. Hoopes, David M. Marsh, Karen H. Beard, Nisse Goldberg, Alberto Aparicio, Annie Arbuthnot, Benjamin Hixon, Danelle Laflower, Lucas Lee, Amanda Little, Emily Mooney, April Pallette, Alison Ravenscraft, Steven Scheele, Kyle Stowe, Colin Sykes, Robert Watson, and Blia Yang

RNAi-based Insecticidal Crops: Potential Effects on Nontarget Species. Jonathan G. Lundgren and Jian J. Duan

Expert Opinion on Climate Change and Threats to Biodiversity. Debra Javeline, Jessica J. Hellmann, Rodrigo Castro Cornejo, and Gregory Shufeldt

Discovering Ecologically Relevant Knowledge from Published Studies through Geosemantic Searching. Jason W. Karl, Jeffrey E. Herrick, Robert S. Unnasch, Jeffrey K. Gillan, Erle C. Ellis, Wayne G. Lutters, and Laura J. Martin

U.S. approves a horse slaughterhouse, sees two more plants

Source: Reuters – Sat, 29 Jun 2013 12:08 AM

Author: Reuters


* Animal welfare groups say they will sue to prevent slaughter

* Congress may vote soon on whether to reinstate slaughter ban

WASHINGTON, June 28 (Reuters) – A New Mexico meat plant received federal approval on Friday to slaughter horses for meat, a move that drew immediate opposition from animal rights group and will likely be opposed by the White House.

The U.S. Agriculture Department said it was required by law to issue a “grant of inspection” to Valley Meat Co, Roswell, New Mexico, because it had met all federal requirements. Now, the USDA is obliged to assign meat inspectors to the plant.

The USDA also said it may soon issue similar grants for plants in Missouri and Iowa.

Horse meat cannot be sold as food in the United States, but it can be exported. Attempts to reach Valley Meat Co via a number listed online were unsuccessful.

Valley Meat would be the first meat plant to be allowed to slaughter horses since Congress banned it in 2006.

It is not known when the plant will start production, but two bills in Congress want to ban horse slaughter and President Obama has asked Congress to ban it.

The Humane Society of the United States and Front Range Equine Rescue threatened on Friday to sue the USDA, saying horses are raised as pets and as working animals. Because they are not intended as food animals, horses are given medications banned from other livestock, the groups said, questioning if the meat would be safe.

The USDA says it can test for residues of 130 pesticide and veterinary drugs. It also has safeguards to keep horse meat out of the food supply.

Congress effectively banned horse slaughter in 2006 by saying the USDA could not spend any money to inspect horse plants. Without USDA inspection, meat plants cannot operate.

The ban was part of the annual USDA funding bill and was renewed a year at a time through 2011. The prohibition expired in October 2011.

Lawmakers could vote on reinstating the ban in coming weeks when the USDA appropriations bills are debated in the House and Senate. But no date has been set to consider the bills and it could be months before work is completed.

The USDA said it was required by law to issue the grant of inspection because Valley Meat met all federal requirements. At one point, the company sued the USDA for an overly long review of its application. Once it issues a grant of inspection, the USDA is obliged to assign meat inspectors to a meat plant.

“Until Congress acts, the department must comply with current law,” said a USDA spokeswoman.

Valley Meat retrofitted its plant for horses after drought weakened its cattle slaughter business.

Horse meat is sold for human consumption in China, Russia, Mexico and other foreign nations and is sometimes used as feed for zoo animals.

But in the United States, horses enjoy a higher stature, more akin to house pets, than to hogs, cattle and chickens.

An estimated 130,000 U.S. horses are shipped annually to slaughter in Canada and Mexico. Groups have quarreled for a decade whether a ban on slaughter will save horses from a cruel death or lead to abandonment by owners of animals they cannot afford to feed or treat for illness.

Early this year, regulators discovered that horse meat was being sold as beef in Ireland. The mislabeled meat was found in meatballs sold by Swedish retailer IKEA in much of Europe and in other outlets.

USDA conducts tests on domestic and imported products to identify the species that yielded the meat. The tests can distinguish beef, sheep, swine, poultry, deer and horse.

As well, USDA stepped up its species testing in April because of the meat adulteration scandal in Europe.  (Reporting By Charles Abbott; Editing by Bernard Orr)


Japan halts some U.S. imports after modified wheat found


Business May. 31, 2013 – 03:15PM JST ( 20 )


Japan has suspended some imports of U.S. wheat after a genetically engineered version of the grain was found on a U.S. farm.

The Agriculture Department announced the discovery of the modified wheat on Wednesday. No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for U.S. farming.

Japan is one of the largest export markets for U.S. wheat growers. Katsuhiro Saka, a counselor at the Japanese Embassy in Washington, said Thursday that Japan had canceled orders of western white wheat from the Pacific Northwest and also of some feed-grade wheat. He said the country was waiting for more information from the Agriculture Department as it investigates the discovery.

“In most countries the unapproved genetically modified wheat would be a target of concern,” Saka said. “The Japanese people have similar kinds of concerns.”

USDA officials said the wheat was the same strain as a genetically modified wheat that was designed to be herbicide-resistant and was legally tested by seed giant Monsanto a decade ago but never approved. Monsanto stopped testing that product in Oregon and several other states in 2005.

The Agriculture Department said the genetically engineered wheat is safe to eat and there is no evidence that modified wheat entered the marketplace. But the department is investigating how it ended up in the field, whether there was any criminal wrongdoing and whether its growth is widespread.

The mystery could have implications on the wheat trade in the U.S. and abroad, as evidenced by Japan’s suspension of imports on Thursday.

Many countries around the world will not accept imports of genetically modified foods, and the United States exports about half of its wheat crop.

Japan imports 90% of its wheat, or about 5 million metric tons annually, including 3 million metric tons from the U.S., according to Toru Hisazome, an official with the Ministry of Agriculture in Tokyo.

Japan, which bans the import of genetically modified foods, suspended a tender for 25,000 metric tons of western white wheat, mainly used in Japan for making cakes, he said.

“We don’t have the exact information from the U.S. side yet,” Hisazome said.

Import orders for other types of U.S. wheat would not be affected, he said.

South’s Korea agriculture ministry said it will increase inspections of wheat imported from the U.S.

American consumers also have shown increasing interest in avoiding genetically modified foods. There has been little evidence to show that foods grown from engineered seeds are less safe than their conventional counterparts, but several state legislatures are considering bills that would require them to be labeled so consumers know what they are eating.

While most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are already modified, the country’s wheat crop is not. Many wheat farmers have shown reluctance to use genetically engineered seeds since their product is usually consumed directly, while much of the corn and soybean crop is used as feed.

The modified wheat was discovered when field workers at an Eastern Oregon wheat farm were clearing acres for the bare offseason when they came across a patch of wheat that didn’t belong. The workers sprayed it and sprayed it, but the wheat wouldn’t die. Their confused boss grabbed a few stalks and sent it to a university lab in early May.

A few weeks later, Oregon State wheat scientists made a startling discovery: The wheat was genetically modified, in clear violation of U.S. law. They contacted the USDA, which ran more tests and confirmed their discovery.

“It looked like regular wheat,” said Bob Zemetra, Oregon State’s wheat breeder.

The tests confirmed that the plants were a strain developed by Monsanto to resist its Roundup Ready herbicides and were tested between 1998 and 2005. At the time Monsanto had applied to the USDA for permission to develop the engineered wheat, but the company later withdrew its application.

The Agriculture Department said that during that seven-year period, it authorized more than 100 field tests with the same glyphosate-resistant wheat variety. Tests were conducted in in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.

During that testing and application process, the Food and Drug Administration reviewed the variety found in Oregon and said it was as safe as conventional varieties of wheat.

USDA officials declined to speculate whether the modified seeds blew into the field from a testing site or whether they were somehow planted or taken there, and they would not identify the farmer or the farm’s location. They said they had not received any other reports of discoveries of modified wheat.

Japan is regularly the top buyer of Northwest wheat, said Blake Rowe, CEO of the Oregon Wheat Commission. He said reductions in wheat sales would affect farmers in Idaho and Washington as well as Oregon, because the wheat is blended together.

Oregon sold $492 million in wheat in 2011, the most recent data available, and 90% of it went overseas, Oregon Department of Agriculture spokesman Bruce Pokarney said.

“If those markets are closed off – you can do the math,” Pokarney said.

Unapproved genetically engineered wheat has been discovered in an Oregon field : Discovery could have far-reaching implications for US wheat industry

Genetically modified wheat found in Oregon field raises trade concerns

Discovery could have far-reaching implications for US wheat industry if growth of Monsanto crop turns out to be far-flung


    •  Associated Press in Washington
    •,    Wednesday 29 May 2013 17.35 EDT
Wheat harvest

No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for US farming. Photograph: Laszlo Balogh/Reuters

Unapproved genetically engineered wheat has been discovered in an Oregon field, a potential threat to trade with countries that have concerns about genetically modified foods.

The US Agriculture Department said Wednesday that the genetically engineered wheat is safe to eat and there is no evidence that modified wheat entered the marketplace. But the department is investigating how it ended up in the field, whether there was any criminal wrongdoing and whether its growth is widespread.

“We are taking this very seriously,” said Michael Firko of the Agriculture Department’s animal and plant health inspection service.

A farmer discovered the genetically modified plants on his farm and contacted Oregon State University, which notified USDA early this month, Firko said.

No genetically engineered wheat has been approved for US farming. USDA officials said the wheat is the same strain as a genetically modified wheat that was legally tested by seed giant Monsanto a decade ago but never approved. Monsanto stopped testing that product in Oregon and several other states in 2005.

The discovery could have far-reaching implications for the US wheat industry if the growth of the engineered product turns out to be far-flung. Many countries around the world will not accept imports of genetically modified foods, and the United States exports about half of its wheat crop.

Oregon department of agriculture director Katy Coba said in a statement that the discovery is “a very serious development that could have major trade ramifications”. The state exports about 90% of its wheat.

“I am concerned that a highly regulated plant material such as genetically modified wheat somehow was able to escape into a crop field,” she said.

USDA officials declined to speculate whether the modified seeds blew into the field from a testing site or if they were somehow planted or taken there, and they would not identify the farmer or the farm’s location. The Oregon department of agriculture said the field is in the eastern part of the state.

The discovery also could have implications for organic companies, which by law cannot use genetically engineered ingredients in its foods. Organic farmers have frequently expressed concern that genetically modified seed will blow into organic farms and contaminate their products.

US consumers have shown increasing interest in avoiding genetically modified foods. There has been little evidence to show that modified foods are less safe than their conventional counterparts, but several state legislatures are considering bills that would require them to be labeled so consumers know what they are eating.

While most of the corn and soybeans grown in the United States are already modified, the country’s wheat crop is not.

USDA said the unidentified farmer discovered the modified wheat when farm workers were trying to kill some wheat plants that popped up between harvests. The farmer used the herbicide glyphosate to kill the plants, but they did not die, prompting the tests at Oregon State to find out if the crops were genetically engineered to resist herbicides.

The tests confirmed that the plants were a strain developed by Monsanto to resist its herbicides and tested between 1998 and 2005. At the time Monsanto had applied to USDA for permission to develop the engineered wheat, but the company later pulled its application.

The Agriculture Department said that during that seven-year period, it authorised more than 100 field tests with the same glyphosate-resistant wheat variety. Tests were conducted in in Arizona, California, Colorado, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Washington and Wyoming.

During that testing and application process, the Food and Drug Administration reviewed the variety found in Oregon and said it was as safe as conventional varieties of wheat.

Officials said they have received no other reports of discoveries of genetically modified wheat. Firko and acting deputy secretary of agriculture Michael T Scuse said they have already been in touch with international trading partners to try and assuage any concerns.

“Hopefully our trading partners will be understanding that this is not a food or feed safety issue,” Scuse said.

Monsanto pressing ahead with GMO crop amid USDA scrutiny

Source: Reuters – Wed, 15 May 2013 12:40 AM

Author: Reuters

By Carey Gillam

St. Louis, Mo. May 14 (Reuters) – Monsanto Co. is pushing on with plans to introduce a controversial new type of herbicide-tolerant crop, and last week’s decision by the U.S. government to extend its scrutiny of the proposed new crops should not spell a significant delay, a top company official said Tuesday.

U.S.-based Monsanto is setting up 20 field locations around the United States to test and market its “Xtend” soybean product at the same time that company officials said they would be working quickly to provide the U.S. Department of Agriculture with additional study data to show the product’s safety. The company continues to have a goal of securing regulatory approval by 2015 or shortly after, Monsanto Chief Technology Officer Robert Fraley said in an interview.

“We’ll put the additional studies in and we’ll move through it as quickly as we can,” he said.

Monsanto’s new soybeans are genetically altered to tolerate dousings of a herbicide concoction of glyphosate and dicamba chemicals. Monsanto developed the biotech crop in conjunction with BASF to address an explosion of crop-choking weeds around the U.S. that have become resistant to glyphosate, which is the chief ingredient in Monsanto’s popular Roundup herbicide.

The company was surprised on Friday when USDA regulators said they wanted to conduct a full environmental impact statement (EIS) after receiving an onslaught of opposition to the company’s plans from critics who say the new chemicals will only further weed resistance and have other harmful impacts.

Monsanto had not expected to go through that process before receiving regulatory approval, and said it could take an additional 15 months.

Still, Fraley said the delay would give them extra time to expose farmers and retailers to the product and acquaint them with how to use the genetically altered beans in conjunction with the Xtend herbicide. And it should allow Monsanto to come to market with a better seed supply if and when regulators grant approval, said Fraley.

The move by USDA to require more scrutiny comes after it lost court challenges to previous approvals it granted for biotech sugarbeets and alfalfa. Courts said the USDA broke the law by failing to do an EIS for each.

In its decision announced Friday, the USDA also said it would require an EIS for new herbicide-tolerant corn known as Enlist developed by Dow AgroSciences, a unit of Dow Chemical .

Critics contend the new Monsanto and Dow crops will accelerate herbicide use and further weed resistance problems. They also warn that increased use of the new herbicides that would come with the new crops would cause damage to fruits, vegetables and other crops as dicamba and 2,4-D have been known to travel on the wind far from the fields where they are sprayed. Many also worry that the new biotech crops will contaminate conventional and organic crops and potentially harm human and animal health.

But Monsanto and Dow say the chemicals and the crops are proven safe and the best hope for farmers who are suffering reductions in crop production due to weeds.

Shocking US government leaflet tells Mexican immigrants they can collect food stamp benefits without admitting they’re in the country illegally

  • Conservative legal group obtained  Agriculture Department flyer
  • ‘You need not divulge information regarding  your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your children’
  • Program in all 50 Mexican consulates in the  U.S. helps push food stamps

PUBLISHED: 06:56 EST, 26  April 2013 |  UPDATED: 14:45 EST, 26 April 2013


A Spanish-language leaflet that the U.S.  Department of Agriculture has provided to the Mexican Embassy in Washington  advises border-crossing Mexicans that they can collect taxpayer-funded food  stamp benefits for their children without admitting that they’re illegal  immigrants.
Underlined and in  boldface type, the document tells immigrants who are unlawfully in the United  States that, ‘You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status  in seeking this benefit for your children.’
The  USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly known as food  stamps, is funded in order to prevent hunger by helping poor families maintain a  basic level of nutrition for both adults and children.

Congress spent $86.5 billion on the SNAP program in 2012, by far the largest single line-item in the USDA's $205 billion overall budget

Congress spent $86.5 billion on the SNAP program in  2012, by far the largest single line-item in the USDA’s $205 billion overall  budget

The underlined portion reads: 'You need not divulge information regarding your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your children'The underlined portion reads: ‘You need not divulge  information regarding your immigration status in seeking this benefit for your  children’

The Agriculture Department says SNAP benefits  are only to be distributed to U.S. citizens and other legal residents. On its  website, it acknowledges an education ‘partnership’ with the Mexican government,  but insists that its aim is to help educate only ‘eligible Mexican nationals  living in the United States’ about nutrition benefits for which they might  qualify.

That education partnership is carried out  through a program called ‘Ventanillas de Salud,’ meaning ‘Windows to Health,’  implemented through 50 Mexican consulates in the U.S.

Judicial Watch obtained the Spanish language  leaflet through a Freedom of Information Act request. An attached email dates  the document to March 2009, just months after President Barack Obama took  office.

In an email, a spokesperson for the SNAP  program told The  Daily Caller, which first reported on the leaflet, that  “non-citizens who are unlawfully  present, are not, nor have they ever been, eligible to receive  Supplemental  Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.

In this Monday, March 25, 2013 photo, Border Patrol agent Richard Gordon, a 23-year veteran of the agency, walks the border fence in the Boulevard area east of San Diego looking for signs that reveal movement of illegal immigrantsU.S. Border Patrol agents detain undocumented immigrants near the U.S.-Mexico border on April 11, 2013 near Mission, Texas

U.S. Border Patrol agents walk fences on the Mexican  border, and detain illegal immigrants – including children – before returning  them to south of the border. A majority will try to cross the border  again

The leaflet, released late Thursday by the  conservative group Judicial Watch, will raise questions about the Obama  administration’s commitment to limiting the expenditure of taxpayer funds to  eligible Mexican nationals – meaning those with legal permission to reside in  the United States.

‘The revelation that the USDA is actively  working with the Mexican government to promote food stamps for illegal aliens  should have a direct impact on the fate of the immigration bill now being  debated in Congress,’ Judicial Watch president Tom Fitton said in a  statement.

‘These disclosures further confirm the fact  that the Obama administration cannot be trusted to protect our borders or  enforce our immigration laws. And the coordination with a foreign government to  attack the policies of an American state is contemptible.’

Fitton’s group also obtained a March 2010  USDA flyer advertising a taxpayer-funded online seminar for nonprofits serving  Hispanic communities. The teaching session, promoted as being ‘free for all  participants,’ taught activists how to get USDA funding to provide free lunches  during the summer.

A Federal food stamps card is used to purchase food in Fort Lauderdale, FloridaThe UDSA designated food retailers like this Oregon grocery store as SNAP program participants

The federal government’s SNAP program served about 43.6  million people in November 2010. Before the recession, the program had just 26  million enrollees. The USDA licenses food retailers like this Oregon grocery  store as SNAP program participants

And in a March 2012 communication, Judicial  Watch said, the USDA asked the Mexican Embassy to approve a letter addressed to  that country’s 50 consulates. That letter encouraged staff at those Mexican  diplomatic missions to learn in another webinar how to encourage more of ‘the  needy families that the consulates serve’ to enroll in the SNAP  program.

Judicial Watch said Thursday that the 2012  document did not discriminate between legal US residents and illegal  immigrants.

In August, Agriculture Under Secretary Kevin  Concannon rolled out a new range of anti-fraud programs aimed at preventing food  stamp funds from going to ineligible recipients.

‘USDA has a zero tolerance policy for SNAP  fraud,’ Concannon said when announcing new measures to clamp down on abuse of  the program that he promised would ‘help us hold bad actors even more  accountable than in the past and discourage them from abusing the public’s  trust.’

The agency’s press release, however, made no  mention of efforts intended to deny SNAP benefits to illegal  immigrants.

People line up for their monthly debt cards and food stamps all over the country 

People line up for their monthly debt cards and food  stamps all over the country


Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is President Obama's Secretary of Agriculture and is responsible for the SNAP program's operation 

Former Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is President Obama’s  Secretary of Agriculture and is responsible for the SNAP program’s  operation

Last year Alabama Republican Senator Jeff  Sessions complained in writing to USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack that, ‘It defies  rational thinking for the United States – now dangerously $16 trillion in debt –  to partner with foreign governments to help us place more foreign nationals on  American welfare.’

An estimated 11 million illegal immigrants  are living in the United States. President Obama and a bipartisan group of eight  U.S. Senators are gathering support for comprehensive immigration reform   legislation that would put most of them on a path to legal residence and,  conservatives allege, both amnesty and citizenship.

Read more: Follow us: @MailOnline on Twitter | DailyMail on Facebook

Obama signs ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ written by Monsanto-sponsored senator

Published time: March 28, 2013 19:04                                                                            

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowsky)

US President Barack Obama (AFP Photo / Brendan Smialowsky)

United States President Barack Obama has signed a bill into law that was written in part by the very billion-dollar corporation that will benefit directly from the legislation.

On Tuesday, Pres. Obama inked his name to H.R. 933, a continuing resolution spending bill approved in Congress days earlier. Buried 78 pages within the bill exists a provision that grossly protects biotech corporations such as the California-based Monsanto Company from litigation.

With the president’s signature, agriculture giants that deal with genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds are given the go-ahead to continue to plant and sell man-made crops, even as questions remain largely unanswered about the health risks these types of products pose to consumers.

In light of approval from the House and Senate, more than 250,000 people signed a petition asking the president to veto the spending bill over the biotech rider tacked on, an item that has since been widely referred to as the “Monsanto Protection Act.”

“But Obama ignored [the petition],” IB Times’ Connor Sheets writes, “instead choosing to sign a bill that effectively bars federal courts from being able to halt the sale or planting of GMO or GE crops and seeds, no matter what health consequences from the consumption of these products may come to light in the future.”

James Brumley, a reporter for Investor Place, explains a little more thoroughly just how dangerous the rider is now that biotech companies are allowed to bypass judicial scrutiny. Up until it was signed, he writes, “the USDA [US Department of Agriculture] oversaw and approved (or denied) the testing of genetically modified seeds, while the federal courts retained the authority to halt the testing or sale of these plants if it felt that public health was being jeopardized. With HR 933 now a law, however, the court system no longer has the right to step in and protect the consumer.”

If the president’s signature isn’t all that surprising, though, consider the genesis of the bill itself. According to an article published Monday in the New York Daily News, US Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Missouri) “worked with Monsanto to craft the language in the bill.”

Sen. Blunt defended his bill to the News, shrugging off suggestions that it set a startling precedent that will affect all US agriculture by firing back, “What it says is if you plant a crop that is legal to plant when you plant it, you get to harvest it. But it is only a one-year protection in that bill.”

One year could be all it takes to cause catastrophic damage to the environment by allowing laboratory-produced organisms to be planted into the earth without oversight. Under the Monsanto Protection Act, health concerns that arise in the immediate future involving the planting of GMO crops won’t be able to be heard by a judge. Blunt, a junior senator that has held elected office since the late ‘90s, has good reason to whitewash the very bill he helped craft. The Center for Responsive Politics notes that Sen. Blunt received $64,250 from Monsanto to go towards his campaign committee between 2008 and 2012. The Money Monocle website adds that Blunt has been the largest Republican Party recipient of Monsanto funding as of late.

On the lawmaker’s official website, a statement explains a little more as to why he favored HR 933 and the rider within it.

“As the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies, Senator Blunt played a vital role in writing the fiscal year 2013 Agriculture Appropriations bill. This legislation maintained vital support for research and extension at land grant universities, capacity building grants for non-land grant colleges of agriculture, and competitive funding under the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agriculture and Food Research Initiative (AFRI). The bill also included funding for conservation activities, housing and business loan programs for rural communities, domestic and international nutrition programs.”

Nowhere does the senator’s site mention the Monsanto Protection Act by name, although it claims Blunt “supports continued investments in agricultural research and engineering.”

“Did Blunt not realize that Monsanto would stand to gain significantly if section 735 survived and HR 933 was signed into law?” asks Brumley. “Not likely,”

“There’s no way of getting around the fact this is an abusive conflict of interest,” he says.

Clearly isn’t Brumley the only one that feels that way either: Blunt’s Wikipedia page was vandalized this week to read in the first paragraph, “His Senate seat was previously held by Republican Kit Bond, until Bond’s retirement, and will be sold by Blunt to Monsanto Corporation upon his retirement.”

Turmeric extract suppresses fat tissue growth in rodent models

2009 study posted for filing

Contact: Andrea Grossman
Tufts University, Health Sciences

BOSTON (May 18, 2009) Curcumin, the major polyphenol found in turmeric, appears to reduce weight gain in mice and suppress the growth of fat tissue in mice and cell models. Researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (USDA HNRCA) studied mice fed high fat diets supplemented with curcumin and cell cultures incubated with curcumin.

“Weight gain is the result of the growth and expansion of fat tissue, which cannot happen unless new blood vessels form, a process known as angiogenesis.” said senior author Mohsen Meydani, DVM, PhD, director of the Vascular Biology Laboratory at the USDA HNRCA. “Based on our data, curcumin appears to suppress angiogenic activity in the fat tissue of mice fed high fat diets.”

Meydani continued, “It is important to note, we don’t know whether these results can be replicated in humans because, to our knowledge, no studies have been done.”

Turmeric is known for providing flavor to curry. One of its components is curcumin, a type of phytochemical known as a polyphenol. Research findings suggest that phytochemicals, which are the chemicals found in plants, appear to help prevent disease. As the bioactive component of turmeric, curcumin is readily absorbed for use by the body.

Meydani and colleagues studied mice fed high fat diets for 12 weeks. The high fat diet of one group was supplemented with 500 mg of curcumin/ kg diet; the other group consumed no curcumin. Both groups ate the same amount of food, indicating curcumin did not affect appetite, but mice fed the curcumin supplemented diet did not gain as much weight as mice that were not fed curcumin.

“Curcumin appeared to be responsible for total lower body fat in the group that received supplementation,” said Meydani, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. “In those mice, we observed a suppression of microvessel density in fat tissue, a sign of less blood vessel growth and thus less expansion of fat. We also found lower blood cholesterol levels and fat in the liver of those mice. In general, angiogenesis and an accumulation of lipids in fat cells contribute to fat tissue growth.”

Writing in the May 2009 issue of the Journal of Nutrition, the authors note similar results in cell cultures. Additionally, curcumin appeared to interfere with expression of two genes, which contributed to angiogenesis progression in both cell and rodent models.

“Again, based on this data, we have no way of telling whether curcumin could prevent fat tissue growth in humans.” Meydani said. “The mechanism or mechanisms by which curcumin appears to affect fat tissue must be investigated in a randomized, clinical trial involving humans.”




This study was funded by a grant from the United States Department of Agriculture. Asma Ejaz, a graduate student who worked on this project received a scholarship grant from the Higher Education Commission of Pakistan.

Ejaz A, Wu, D, Kwan P, and Meydani M. Journal of Nutrition. May 2009; 139 (5): 1042-1048. “Curcumin Inhibits Adipogenesis in 3T3-L1 Adipocytes and Angiogenesis and Obesity in C57/BL Mice. 919-925.”

About Tufts University School of Nutrition

The Gerald J. and Dorothy R. Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University is the only independent school of nutrition in the United States. The school’s eight centers, which focus on questions relating to famine, hunger, poverty, and communications, are renowned for the application of scientific research to national and international policy. For two decades, the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University has studied the relationship between good nutrition and good health in aging populations. Tufts research scientists work with federal agencies to establish the USDA Dietary Guidelines, the Dietary Reference Intakes, and other significant public policies.

If you are a member of the media interested in learning more about this topic, or speaking with a faculty member at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, or another Tufts health sciences researcher, please contact Andrea Grossman at 617-636-3728 or Christine Fennelly at 617-636-3707.

Viral alliances overcoming plant defenses: Could lead to new generation of viruses

Contact: Hanu Pappu 509-335-3752 Washington State University

Could lead to new generation of viruses

PULLMAN, Wash.— Washington State University researchers have found that viruses will join forces to overcome a plant’s defenses and cause more severe infections.

“These findings have important implications in our ability to control these viruses”, says Hanu Pappu, Sam Smith Distinguished Professor of Plant Virology and chair of WSU’s Department of Plant Pathology. “Mixed infections are quite common in the field and now we know that viruses in these mixed infections are helping each other at the genetic level to overcome host defenses and possibly lead to the generation of new viruses.”

Pappu publishes his findings in the latest issue of the journal PLOS ONE. Joining him are PhD student Sudeep Bag and Neena Mitter, an associate professor at Australia’s University of Queensland.

The researchers focused on Iris yellow spot virus and Tomato spotted wilt virus after Bag discovered that, when they infect the same plant, they helped each other overcome a plant’s defense response. With Mitter’s help and sophisticated molecular techniques, Bag found both viruses dramatically changed their genetic expression, breaking down the plant’s defenses and leading to more severe disease.  Bag also found that genes from the Tomato spotted wilt virus seemed to “aid and abet” Iris yellow spot virus as it spread throughout the plant and caused more disease.

Growers should take this phenomenon into account, says Pappu, with broader management tactics targeting more than one virus and possible variations.



The research was funded in part by the Specialty Crops Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, a branch of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

The paper, “Complementation between Two Tospoviruses Facilitates the Systemic Movement of a Plant Virus Silencing Suppressor in an Otherwise Restrictive Host,” can be found at

Nutrient in Eggs and Meat May Influence Gene Expression from Infancy to Adulthood: Choline



Implications for Wide Range of Disorders – Hypertension to Mental Health Problems


September 20, 2012


Just as women are advised to get plenty of folic acid around the time of conception and throughout early pregnancy, new research suggests another very similar nutrient may one day deserve a spot on the obstetrician’s list of recommendations.


Consuming greater amounts of choline – a nutrient found in eggs and meat – during pregnancy may lower an infant’s vulnerability to stress-related illnesses, such as mental health disturbances, and chronic conditions, like hypertension, later in life.


In an early study in The FASEB Journal, nutrition scientists and obstetricians at Cornell University and the University of Rochester Medical Center found that higher-than-normal amounts of choline in the diet during pregnancy changed epigenetic markers – modifications on our DNA that tell our genes to switch on or off, to go gangbusters or keep a low profile – in the fetus. While epigenetic markers don’t change our genes, they make a permanent imprint by dictating their fate: If a gene is not expressed – turned on – it’s as if it didn’t exist.


The finding became particularly exciting when researchers discovered that the affected markers were those that regulated the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal or HPA axis, which controls virtually all hormone activity in the body, including the production of the hormone cortisol that reflects our response to stress and regulates our metabolism, among other things.


More choline in the mother’s diet led to a more stable HPA axis and consequently less cortisol in the fetus. As with many aspects of our health, stability is a very good thing: Past research has shown that early exposure to high levels of cortisol, often a result of a mother’s anxiety or depression, can increase a baby’s lifelong risk of stress-related and metabolic disorders.


“The study is important because it shows that a relatively simple nutrient can have significant effects in prenatal life, and that these effects likely continue to have a long-lasting influence on adult life,” said Eva K. Pressman, M.D., study author and director of the high-risk pregnancy program at the University of Rochester Medical Center. “While our results won’t change practice at this point, the idea that maternal choline intake could essentially change fetal genetic expression into adulthood is quite novel.”


Pressman, who advises pregnant women every day, says choline isn’t something people think a lot about because it is already present in many things we eat and there is usually no concern of choline deficiency. Though much more research has focused on folate – functionally very similar to choline and used to decrease the risk of neural tube defects like spina bifida – a few very compelling studies sparked her interest, including animal studies on the role of choline in mitigating fetal alcohol syndrome and changing outcomes in Down syndrome.


A long-time collaborator with researchers at Cornell, Pressman joined a team led by Marie Caudill, Ph.D., R.D., professor in the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell, in studying 26 pregnant women in their third trimester who were assigned to take 480 mg of choline per day, an amount slightly above the standard recommendation of 450 mg per day, or about double that amount, 930 mg per day. The choline was derived from the diet and from supplements and was consumed up until delivery.


The team found that higher maternal choline intake led to a greater amount of DNA methylation, a process in which methyl groups – one carbon atom linked to three hydrogen atoms – are added to our DNA. Choline is one of a handful of nutrients that provides methyl groups for this process. The addition of a single methyl group is all it takes to change an individual’s epigenome.


Measurements of cord blood and samples from the placenta showed that increased choline, via the addition of methyl groups, altered epigenetic markers that govern cortisol-regulating genes. Higher choline lessened the expression of these genes, leading to 33 percent lower cortisol in the blood of babies whose mom’s consumed 930 mg per day.


Study authors say the findings raise the exciting possibility that choline may be used therapeutically in cases where excess maternal stress from anxiety, depression or other prenatal conditions might make the fetal HPA axis more reactive and more likely to release greater-than-expected amounts of cortisol.


While more research is needed, Caudill says that her message to pregnant women would be to consume a diet that includes choline rich foods such as eggs, lean meat, beans and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli. For women who limit their consumption of animal products, which are richer sources of choline than plant foods, she adds that supplemental choline may be warranted as choline is generally absent in prenatal vitamin supplements.


“One day we might prescribe choline in the same way we prescribe folate to all pregnant women,” notes Pressman, the James R. Woods Professor in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology. “It is cheap and has virtually no side effects at the doses provided in this study. In the future, we could use choline to do even more good than we are doing right now.”


In addition to Pressman and Caudill, several scientists and clinicians from the Division of Nutritional Science and the Statistical Consulting Unit at Cornell and the Cayuga Medical Center in Ithaca, N. Y., participated in the research. The study was funded by the Egg Nutrition Center, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the Nebraska Beef Council, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the President’s Council of Cornell Women. The funding sources had no role in the study design, interpretation of the data, or publication of the results.




For Media Inquiries:

Emily Boynton

(585) 273-1757

Email Emily Boynton


Organic and sustainable foods have more polyphenolics linked to health benefits

Contact: Andy Fell 530-752-4533 University of California – Davis

Organically or sustainably grown berries and corn contain up to 58 percent more polyphenolics, natural antioxidants that are a natural defense for plants and may be good for our health, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Davis. The work suggests that pesticides and herbicides may actually reduce the production of polyphenolics by plants.

“This really opens the door to more research in this area,” said Alyson Mitchell, assistant professor of food science at UC Davis, who led the research team.  The researchers compared levels of total polyphenolics and ascorbic acid content in marionberries (a type of blackberry) and corn grown organically, sustainably or conventionally, and in strawberries grown sustainably or conventionally. The fruits and corn used were frozen, freeze-dried or air-dried.

Frozen sustainably-grown and organic marionberries and corn contained 50 to 58 percent more polyphenolics than conventionally grown crops from neighboring plots. Sustainably-grown frozen strawberries contained 19 percent more polyphenolics than conventional fruit. Sustainably-grown and organic produce also had higher levels of ascorbic acid.

Frozen fruit and corn tended to have higher levels of polyphenolics than freeze-dried or air-dried foods.

The polyphenolics in the organic crops were at levels you would expect to see in wild plants, suggesting that pesticide use reduces the need for plants to make these chemicals, Mitchell said

Polyphenolics are natural chemicals produced by plants as by products of other processes. When plants are stressed, for example by insects, they produce higher levels of polyphenolics, which can taste bitter, to drive away pests.

Studies show that eating a diet rich in fruit and vegetables, which is high in polyphenolics can reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease. But scientists don’t know exactly how polyphenolics cause these effects.

“We know they’re beneficial, but we don’t know what types of polyphenolics are beneficial , or in what quantities,” Mitchell said.

The organic foods were grown according to the definition set by the U.S.  Department of Agriculture, without artificial pesticides or fertilizers used in conventional farming. Sustainably-grown produce was grown with artificial fertilizers, but without pesticides.

Total polyphenolics levels were slightly higher in sustainably grown produce, suggesting that a combination of organic and conventional practices yields the highest levels. Crops grown without using pesticides or herbicides might make more polyphenolics because they are more likely to be stressed by insects or other pests, Mitchell said.

“This may reflect the balance between adequate nutrition in the form of fertilizers and external pest pressures because of the lack of pesticides and herbicides,” she said.


The research, which was partly supported by a gift from Oregon Freeze-Dry Inc., was published in the Feb. 26 edition of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry

Repost 2003

Plants uptake antibiotics

Contact: Sara Uttech 608-268-4948 Soil Science Society of America

Routine feeding of antibiotics to livestock may be contaminating the environment

MADISON, WI, JULY 09, 2007- Scientists at the University of Minnesota have been evaluating the impact of antibiotic feeding in livestock production on the environment.  This particular study, funded by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), evaluated whether food crops accumulate antibiotics from soils spread with manure that contains antibiotics.  Results from the study are published in the July-August 2007 issue of the Journal of Environmental Quality.  The research was also presented in Indianapolis, IN at the Annual Soil Science Society of America Meeting in November 2006.

Plant uptake was evaluated in a greenhouse study involving three food crops: corn, lettuce, and potato.  Plants were grown on soil modified with liquid hog manure containing Sulfamethazine, a commonly used veterinary antibiotic.  This antibiotic was taken up by all three crops.  Concentrations of antibiotics were found in the plant leaves.  Concentrations in plant tissue also increased as the amount of antibiotics present in the manure increased.  It also diffused into potato tubers, which suggests that root crops, such as potatoes, carrots, and radishes, that directly come in contact with soil may be particularly vulnerable to antibiotic contamination.

The ability of plants to absorb antibiotics raises the potential for contamination of human food supply.  However, Satish Gupta, group leader notes “The adverse impacts of consuming plants that contain small quantities of antibiotics are largely unknown”.  Consumption of antibiotics in plants may cause allergic reactions in sensitive populations, such as young children.  There is also concern that consuming antibiotics may lead to the development of antimicrobial resistance, which can render antibiotics ineffective.

Holly Dolliver, the lead scientist in this study, notes that antibiotics consumed by plants may be of particular concern to the organic farming industry.  Manure is often the main source of crop nutrients for organic food production, since regulations prohibit the use of synthetic fertilizers.  According to the USDA, producers must manage animal materials in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops by residues of prohibited substances, which includes antibiotics.  However, manures containing antibiotics are not formally banned or prohibited.

Further research is needed to investigate the presence of antibiotics in edible parts of plants, especially vegetables that are consumed raw, and how different plants absorb different antibiotic compounds.  Research is ongoing at the University of Minnesota to further investigate the potential fate and transport of antibiotics introduced to the environment from livestock operations.


To learn more, view the Journal of Environmental Quality article abstract at:

The Journal of Environmental Quality, is a peer-reviewed, international journal of environmental quality in natural and agricultural ecosystems published six times a year by the American Society of Agronomy (ASA), Crop Science Society of America (CSSA), and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA). The Journal of Environmental Quality covers various aspects of anthropogenic impacts on the environment, including terrestrial, atmospheric, and aquatic systems.

The American Society of Agronomy (ASA), the Crop Science Society of America (CSSA) and the Soil Science Society of America (SSSA) are educational organizations helping their 11,000+ members advance the disciplines and practices of agronomy, crop and soil sciences by supporting professional growth and science policy initiatives, and by providing quality, research-based publications and a variety of member services

*Reposted for Filing

Capitalizing on the Drought – Unregulated genetically modified organism (article 1) Will OUTLAW independent Reviews

Capitalizing on the Drought

July 23, 2012 | Lindsey Blomberg

In the midst of the worst drought to hit the American agricultural industry since the 1950s, bio-agricultural giants Monsanto and Dow Chemical are attempting to quickly push their drought-resistant crops to market via the 2012 Farm Bill and 2013 Agriculture Appropriations Bill. The addition of several new biotech-friendly provisions to both bills may work against organic family farms and instead pave the way for widespread, unregulated genetically modified organism (GMO) contamination throughout the food supply.

In the Farmer Assurance Provision (Section 733) of the 2013 Agriculture Appropriations Bill, dubbed the “Monsanto Rider,” the Secretary of Agriculture would be required to grant a temporary permit for the planting or cultivation of a GM crop, even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed. Additionally, any review of genetically engineered crops’ impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Endangered Species Act (ESA), or any other environmental law, or by any other agency other than the U.S Department of Agriculture (USDA) would be outlawed—and the USDA may be forced to allow continued planting of that same crop upon request, even if they find that the crop poses previously unrecognized risks. According to the Organic Consumers Association, GMOs have already been linked to thousands of toxic and allergic reactions, thousands of sick, sterile and dead livestock, and damage to virtually every organ and system in studied lab animals.

“There are dozens and scores of peer-reviewed articles building up that point out that when you feed these genetically engineered foods to animals, you do serious damage to their systems,” said Ronnie Cummins, executive director of the Organic Consumers Association. “The public wants genetically engineered foods labeled and we want them properly safety tested before they’re pushed out into the environment and onto our plates in our kitchens and school cafeterias. This [rider] is not only a threat to public health, the environment and biodiversity; it’s a threat to the constitution.”

Furthermore, sections 10011-10014 of the 2012 Farm Bill could significantly weaken the USDA’s ability to regulate the use of GMOs by greatly narrowing the scope of the environmental assessment for genetically engineered crop approvals. It would also authorize the USDA to exempt certain genetically engineered crops from the regulatory review process and to make recommendations for the development of a national policy for the presence of bio-engineered material in crops. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would also no longer have the authority to regulate pesticide pollution under the Clean Water Act or to modify pesticide use based on the opinions of the National Marine Fisheries Services or the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

The Grocery Manufacturers Association, the National Grain and Feed Association (which represents more than 1,000 companies) and food safety advocacy organizations have been busy informing the public about what’s at stake if these provisions pass. Earlier this month, a letter signed by 40 organizations and businesses including the Center for Food Safety, Sierra Club, Earthjustice, National Family Farm Coalition and Organic Trade Association was delivered to Committee Chair Frank Lucas (R-OK) and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN) opposing the biotech riders.

“These reckless and unnecessary attacks on our food supply must not stand, and we join our colleagues in calling on Congress to make sure that they do not,” said Colin O’Neil, regulatory policy analyst for the Center for Food Safety.

The “Monsanto Rider”: Are Biotech Companies About to Gain Immunity From Federal Law? (article 2 confirmation)

While many Americans were firing up barbecues and breaking out the sparklers to celebrate Independence Day, biotech industry executives were more likely chilling champagne to celebrate another kind of independence: immunity from federal law.

A so-called “Monsanto rider,” quietly slipped into the multi-billion dollar FY 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill, would require – not just allow, but require – the Secretary of Agriculture to grant a temporary permit for the planting or cultivation of a genetically engineered crop, even if a federal court has ordered the planting be halted until an Environmental Impact Statement is completed. All the farmer or the biotech producer has to do is ask, and the questionable crops could be released into the environment where they could potentially contaminate conventional or organic crops and, ultimately, the nation’s food supply.

Unless the Senate or a citizen’s army of farmers and consumers can stop them, the House of Representatives is likely to ram this dangerous rider through any day now.

In a statement issued last month, the Center For Food Safety had this to say about the biotech industry’s latest attempt to circumvent legal and regulatory safeguards:

Ceding broad and unprecedented powers to industry, the rider poses a direct threat to the authority of U.S. courts, jettisons the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) established oversight powers on key agriculture issues and puts the nation’s farmers and food supply at risk.

In other words, if this single line in the 90-page Agricultural Appropriations bill slips through, it’s Independence Day for the biotech industry.

Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) has sponsored an amendment to kill the rider, whose official name is “the farmers assurance” provision. But even if DeFazio’s amendment makes it through the House vote, it still has to survive the Senate. Meanwhile, organizations like the Organic Consumers Association, Center for Food Safety, FoodDemocracyNow!, the Alliance for Natural Health USA and many others are gathering hundreds of thousands of signatures in protest of the rider, and in support of DeFazio’s amendment.

Will Congress do the right thing and keep what are arguably already-weak safeguards in place, to protect farmers and the environment? Or will industry win yet another fight in the battle to exert total control over our farms and food supply?

Biotech’s ‘Legislator of the Year’ behind the latest sneak attack

Whom do we have to thank for this sneak attack on USDA safeguards? The agricultural sub-committee chair Jack Kingston (R-Ga.) – who not coincidentally was voted “legislator of the year for 2011-2012” by none other than the Biotechnology Industry Organization, whose members include Monsanto and DuPont. As reported by Mother Jones, the Biotechnology Industry Organization declared Kingston a “champion of America’s biotechnology industry” who has “helped to protect funding for programs essential to the survival of biotechnology companies across the United States.”

Kingston clearly isn’t interested in the survival of America’s farmers.

Aiding and abetting Kingston is John C. Greenwood, former US Congressman from Pennsylvania and now president of the Biotechnology Industry Organization. No stranger to the inner workings of Congress, Greenwood lobbied for the “farmers assurance provision” in a June 13 letter to Congress, according to Mother Jones and Bloomberg, claiming that “a stream of lawsuits” have slowed approvals and “created uncertainties” for companies developing GE crops.

Greenwood was no doubt referring to several past lawsuits, including one brought in 2007 by the Center for Food safety challenging the legality of the USDA’s approval of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready alfalfa. In that case, a federal court ruled that the USDA’s approval of GMO alfalfa violated environmental laws by failing to analyze risks such as the contamination of conventional and organic alfalfa, the evolution of glyphosate-resistant weeds, and increased use of Roundup. The USDA was forced to undertake a four-year study of GMO alfalfa’s impacts under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). During the four-year study, farmers were banned from planting or selling the crop – creating that ‘uncertainty” that Greenwood is so worried about.

The USDA study slowed down the release of GMO alfalfa, but ultimately couldn’t stop it. As Mother Jones reports, in 2011, the USDA deregulated the crop, even though according to its own study, the USDA said that “gene flow” between GM and non-GM alfalfa is “probable,” and threatens organic dairy producers and other users of non-GMO alfalfa, and that there is strong potential for the creation of Roundup-resistant “superweeds” that require ever-higher doses of Roundup and application of ever-more toxic herbicides. The report noted that two million acres of US farmland already harbor Roundup-resistant weeds caused by other Roundup Ready crops.

In another case – which perhaps paved the way for this latest provision now before the House – the USDA in 2011 outright defied a federal judge’s order to halt the planting of Monsanto’s controversial Roundup-Ready GMO sugar beets until it completed an Environmental Impact Statement. The USDA allowed farmers to continue planting the crop even while it was being assessed for safety on the grounds that there were no longer enough non-GMO seeds available to plant.

Who loses if Monsanto wins this one?

Among the biggest losers if Congress ignores the DeFazio amendment and passes the “farmers assurance provision” are thousands of farmers of conventional and organic crops, including those who rely on the export market for their livelihoods. An increasing number of global markets are requiring GMO-free agricultural products or, at the very least, enforcing strict GMO labeling laws. If this provision passes, it will allow unrestricted planting of potentially dangerous crops, exposing other safe and non-GMO crops to risk of contamination.

As we’ve seen in the past, farmers who grow crops that have been inadequately tested and later found dangerous, or whose safe crops become contaminated by nearby unsafe crops, risk huge losses and potentially, lawsuits from their customers. Ultimately, the entire US agriculture market and US economy suffers.

We have only to look back to the StarLink corn and LibertyLink rice contamination episodes for evidence of how misguided this provision is. In October 2000, traces of an Aventis GM corn called StarLink showed up in taco shells in the U.S. even though the corn had not been approved for human consumption because leading allergists were concerned it would cause food allergies. The contamination led to a massive billion dollar recall of over 300 food brands. The ‘StarLink’ gene also turned up unexpectedly in a second company’s corn and in US corn exports, causing a costly disruption to the nation’s grain-handling system, and spurring lawsuits by farmers whose crops were damaged.

A similar disaster occurred for US rice farmers in 2006. In august of that year the USDA announced that mutant DNA of Liberty Link, a genetically modified variety of rice developed by Bayer CropScience, a then-German agri-business giant, were found in commercially-grown long-grain rice in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Missouri. LibertyLink rice, named for Bayer’s broad-spectrum herbicide glufosinate-ammonium, was never intended for human consumption. Following the announcement of contamination, Japan banned all long-grain rice imports from the U.S., and U.S. trade with the EU and other countries ground to a halt. Rice farmers and cooperatives were forced to engage in five long years of litigation against Bayer

CropScience in an attempt to recoup some of their losses.

All the other ways this provision is just plain bad

There’s a reason we have laws like the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the Plant Protection Act of 2000, which was specifically designed “to strengthen the safety net for agricultural producers by providing greater access to more affordable risk management tools and improved protection from production and income loss . . .”. The ‘farmers assurance provision” is a thinly disguised attempt by the biotech industry to undermine these protections. Worse yet, it’s an affront to everyone who believes the US judicial system exists to protect US citizens and public health.

Why should you be outraged about this provision? For all these reasons:

· The Monsanto Rider is an unconstitutional violation of the separation of powers. Judicial review is an essential element of U.S. law, providing a critical and impartial check on government decisions that may negatively impact human health, the environment or livelihoods. Maintaining the clear-cut boundary of a Constitutionally-guaranteed separation of powers is essential to our government. This provision will blur that line.

· Judicial review is a gateway, not a roadblock. Congress should be fully supportive of our nation’s independent judiciary. The ability of courts to review, evaluate and judge an issue that impacts public and environmental health is a strength, not a weakness, of our system. The loss of this fundamental safeguard could leave public health, the environment and livelihoods at risk.

· It removes the “legal brakes” that prevent fraud and abuse. In recent years, federal courts have ruled that several USDA GE crop approvals violated the law and required further study of their health and environmental impact. These judgments indicated that continued planting would cause harm to the environment and/or farmers and ordered interim planting restrictions pending further USDA analysis and consideration. The Monsanto rider would prevent a federal court from putting in place court-ordered restrictions, even if the approval were fraudulent or involved bribery.

· It’s unnecessary and duplicative. Every court dealing with these issues is supposed to carefully weigh the interests of all affected farmers and consumers, as is already required by law. No farmer has ever had his or her crops destroyed as a result. USDA already has working mechanisms in place to allow partial approvals, and the Department has used them, making this provision completely unnecessary.

· It shuts out the USDA. The rider would not merely allow, it would compel the Secretary of Agriculture to immediately grant any requests for permits to allow continued planting and commercialization of an unlawfully approved GE crop. With this provision in place, USDA may not be able to prevent costly contamination episodes like Starlink or Liberty Link rice, which have already cost farmers hundreds of millions of dollars in losses. The rider would also make a mockery of USDA’s legally mandated review, transforming it into a ‘rubber stamp’ approval process.

· It’s a back-door amendment of a statute. This rider, quietly tacked onto an appropriations bill, is in effect a substantial amendment to USDA’s governing statute for GE crops, the Plant Protection Act. If Congress feels the law needs to be changed, it should be done in a transparent manner by holding hearings, soliciting expert testimony and including full opportunity for public debate.

If we allow this “Monsanto Rider” to be slipped into the FY 2013 Agricultural Appropriations bill, consumers and farmers will lose what little control we have now over what we plant and what we eat.

If you would like to join the hundreds of thousands of concerned citizens who have already written to Congress in support of the DeFazio amendment, please sign our petition here.

This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license.

Researchers: Honeybee deaths linked to seed insecticide exposure

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – Honeybee populations have been in serious decline for years, and Purdue University scientists may have identified one of the factors that cause bee deaths around agricultural fields.

Analyses of bees found dead in and around hives from several apiaries over two years in Indiana showed the presence of neonicotinoid insecticides, which are commonly used to coat corn and soybean seeds before planting. The research showed that those insecticides were present at high concentrations in waste talc that is exhausted from farm machinery during planting.

The insecticides clothianidin and thiamethoxam were also consistently found at low levels in soil – up to two years after treated seed was planted – on nearby dandelion flowers and in corn pollen gathered by the bees, according to the findings released in the journal PLoS One this month.

“We know that these insecticides are highly toxic to bees; we found them in each sample of dead and dying bees,” said Christian Krupke, associate professor of entomology and a co-author of the findings.

The United States is losing about one-third of its honeybee hives each year, according to Greg Hunt, a Purdue professor of behavioral genetics, honeybee specialist and co-author of the findings. Hunt said no one factor is to blame, though scientists believe that others such as mites and insecticides are all working against the bees, which are important for pollinating food crops and wild plants.

“It╒s like death by a thousand cuts for these bees,” Hunt said.

Krupke and Hunt received reports that bee deaths in 2010 and 2011 were occurring at planting time in hives near agricultural fields. Toxicological screenings performed by Brian Eitzer, a co-author of the study from the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, for an array of pesticides showed that the neonicotinoids used to treat corn and soybean seed were present in each sample of affected bees. Krupke said other bees at those hives exhibited tremors, uncoordinated movement and convulsions, all signs of insecticide poisoning.

Seeds of most annual crops are coated in neonicotinoid insecticides for protection after planting. All corn seed and about half of all soybean seed is treated. The coatings are sticky, and in order to keep seeds flowing freely in the vacuum systems used in planters, they are mixed with talc. Excess talc used in the process is released during planting and routine planter cleaning procedures.

“Given the rates of corn planting and talc usage, we are blowing large amounts of contaminated talc into the environment. The dust is quite light and appears to be quite mobile,” Krupke said.

Krupke said the corn pollen that bees were bringing back to hives later in the year tested positive for neonicotinoids at levels roughly below 100 parts per billion.

“That’s enough to kill bees if sufficient amounts are consumed, but it is not acutely toxic,” he said.

On the other hand, the exhausted talc showed extremely high levels of the insecticides – up to about 700,000 times the lethal contact dose for a bee.

“Whatever was on the seed was being exhausted into the environment,” Krupke said. “This material is so concentrated that even small amounts landing on flowering plants around a field can kill foragers or be transported to the hive in contaminated pollen. This might be why we found these insecticides in pollen that the bees had collected and brought back to their hives.”

Krupke suggested that efforts could be made to limit or eliminate talc emissions during planting.

“That’s the first target for corrective action,” he said. “It stands out as being an enormous source of potential environmental contamination, not just for honeybees, but for any insects living in or near these fields. The fact that these compounds can persist for months or years means that plants growing in these soils can take up these compounds in leaf tissue or pollen.”

Although corn and soybean production does not require insect pollinators, that is not the case for most plants that provide food. Krupke said protecting bees benefits agriculture since most fruit, nut and vegetable crop plants depend upon honeybees for pollination. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates the value of honeybees to commercial agriculture at $15 billion to $20 billion annually.

Hunt said he would continue to study the sublethal effects of neonicotinoids. He said for bees that do not die from the insecticide there could be other effects, such as loss of homing ability or less resistance to disease or mites.

“I think we need to stop and try to understand the risks associated with these insecticides,” Hunt said.

USDA Prepares to Green-Light Gnarliest GMO Soy Yet


| Wed Jul. 18, 2012 3:30 AM PDT

In early July, on the sleepy Friday after Independence Day, the USDA quietly signaled its intention to green-light a new genetically engineered soybean seed from Dow AgroSciences. The product is designed to produce soy plants that withstand 2,4-D, a highly toxic herbicide (and, famously, the less toxic component in the notorious Vietnam War-era defoliant Agent Orange).

Readers may remember that during an even-sleepier period—the week between Christmas and the New Year—the USDA made a similar move on Dow’s 2,4-D-ready corn.

If the USDA deregulates the two products—as it has telegraphed its intention to do—Dow will enjoy a massive profit opportunity. Every year, about half of all US farmland is planted in corn and soy. Currently, Dow’s rival Monsanto has a tight grip on weed management in corn-and-soy country. Upward of 90 percent of soy and 70 percent of corn is engineered to withstand another herbicide called glyphosate through highly profitable Monsanto’s Roundup Ready seed lines. And after so many years of lashing so much land with the same herbicide, glyphosate-resistant superweeds are now vexing farmers and “alarming” weed control experts throughout the Midwest.

And that’s where Dow’s 2,4-D-ready corn and soy seeds come in. Dow’s  novel products will be engineered to withstand glyphosate and 2,4-D, so  farmers can douse their fields with both herbicides; the 2,4-D will kill  the weeds that glyphosate no longer can. That’s the marketing pitch, anyway.

The USDA, for its part, is buying what Dow is selling. In May, the agency released its Draft Environmental Assessment for the product, declaring that its “preferred alternative” was to deregulate it. And on July 13, USDA put out its “Plant Pest Risk Assessment” for it. This is a key document in the regulatory process for GMOs. Under the industry-friendly framework for GMO oversight cobbled together in the early ’90s by then-Vice President Dan Quayle,  the USDA can only regulate genetically modified organisms if they  literally pose a risk to other plants as defined by the Federal Plant  Pest Act. This is a very high bar; and as happens with nearly  all GMO applications, the USDA’s assessment of Dow’s novel soy  concluded that it’s “highly unlikely to pose a plant pest risk.”

With those hurdles cleared, the USDA is now seeking public comments on  the product until September 11, 2012, after which point it will make a  final decision. Dow’s 2,4-D corn product has already gone through the  comment process—during which time the USDA received 365,00 opposing it. A USDA press officer told me that the agency is “still considering comments” and had no timetable for a final decision.

Once  these products lurch through the USDA’s process toward almost certain  deregulation, the Midwest faces a veritable gusher of 2,4-D. It’s  already the third-most-used US herbicide, after glyphosate and atrazine.  If Dow gets it’s way, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

What happened  with glyphosate after the introduction of Roundup Ready technology  provides a preview of 2,4-D’s prospects. According to an analysis of  USDA data by the Center for Food Safety, farmers applied 4.9 million  pounds of glyphosate to soybean crops in 1994, the year before Roundup  Ready seeds hit the field. By 2006 (the last year for which there is  data), glyphosate use in soybeans had hit 96.7 million pounds—a nearly  20-fold increase. Overall, CFS found, glyphosate use in soy, corn, and  cotton jumped by a factor of 15 between the mid-’90s and 2006, as  Roundup Ready technology conquered farm country.

The USDA’s own Draft Environmental Assessment  reveals potential for vast expansion of 2,4-D use. According to the  report, just 3 percent of total US soybean acres were treated with 2,4-D  in 2006. If Dow’s new seeds are embraced by farmers as the antidote to  glyphosate-resistant weeds, that number will jump dramatically. And as  2,4-D expands its geographic reach, it will also be used in greater  amounts per acre—by a factor of as much as three, the USDA assessment  reveals.

What can dousing millions of acres of farmland with 2,4-D mean? The EPA insists that it’s safe and recently brushed off a petition by environmental groups insisting that it be banned. But it has been shown to get into drinking water, and the environmental group Beyond Pesticides has assembled an impressive dossier of  research on its ill health effects, including evidence that it causes  non-Hodgkins lymphoma and acts as an endocrine disruptor. Nor is there any research on how 2,4-D and glyphosate affect human and wildlife health in combination.

2,4-D also has a tendency to drift far and wide upon application.  This past June in California, a farmer who sprayed 1,000 acres of  pasture with 2,4-D inadvertently damaged 15,000 acres of cotton and a  pomegranate orchard, Western Farm Press reports. The drift reached as far as 100 miles away from the sprayed land. Dow insists  it has conjured up a new form of 2,4-D that is much less prone to drift  than the kind currently in use. But as Center for Food Safety has put it,  the new formulation’s “efficacy has not been independently validated;  and in any case, neither EPA nor Dow will be able to prevent the use of  cheaper, highly-drift prone formulations.”

Most damningly of all, the new product is highly unlikely to end the problem of weed resistance, as this 2012 paper by Penn State University researchers shows (which I wrote about here).  More likely, they conclude, Dow’s novel seeds will generate new  generations of superweeds—which will almost certainly require a another round of new chemical cocktails.

Monsanto GMO Seeds Use to Further Expand Within US

Mike Barrett Natural Society December 30, 2011

While genetically modified foods are continually being banned in other countries, the US is slow to follow the very necessary trend. The USDA has chosen to step back and give Monsanto even more power over GMO seeds, and now some states are taking similar action. A bill which could be passed in Lansing, Michigan could make Michigan the 15th state to allow for the expansion of GMO seed use, causing Michigan farms to be plagued with disease-riddled, genetically modified crops.

Calling for the Expansion of GMO Seeds

In order to pave way for the expansion of GMO seeds in Michigan, a slight modification must be made to Sen. Bill 777, which has been in the Senate Agriculture, Forestry and Tourism Committee since Septrember 2005. The change seeks to prevent anti-GMO laws, giving biotech corporations even more room to wreak havoc on the environment and humankind alike. The new bill seeks to remove the following:

“Any authority local governments may have to adopt and enforce ordinances that prohibit or regulate the labeling, sale, storage, transportation, distribution, use, or planting of agricultural, vegetable, flower or forest tree seeds.”

It is interesting to see how some areas encourage the expansion of GMO crops while others, such as Colorado’s Boulder County, recognize the dangers and choose to heed the warnings. Jeff Cobb, legislative aid to GOP Sen. Gerald Van Woekom, the sponsor of the legislation, says that his boss feels local governments don’t have the scientific capacity to determine the safety of GM seeds. The Food and Drug Administration, Environmental Protection Agency, and the United States Department of Agriculture are the three government entities which have the power to regulate GMO seeds, and Cobb, along with others, feels that local government should not play a role

The USDA and FDA are Failing to ‘Protect the People’

But if there is any hope for the massive decline of GMO crops, these government entities should be the last to have the power and control. Just recently, the USDA decided to deregulate two of Monsanto’s genetically modified seed varieties, giving the company a further grasp on the food supply of the nation. This is also the same organization that has continually pushed for the approval of genetically modified salmon, which was rejected by Congress due to health concerns. The USDA is so dedicated, in fact, that they decided to help forward the approval of genetically modified salmon by generously funding the cause with nearly $500,000. Not only that, but the organization also illegally approved Monsanto’s GMO sugarbeets, which were to be destroyed some time after.

The FDA is another government entity which doesn’t seem to be doing a great job at protecting the people. The FDA is seeking to outlaw the majority of supplements created after 1994 until they have been heavily proven to be 100% effective and free of any slight side effects, meanwhile the organization allows for harmful genetically modified ingredients to fill the world’s food supply. In another vein, despite seafood showing extremely high levels of contamination, the FDA decided that the food was still safe for consumption