Posts Tagged ‘genetically modified organism’

The Food Read Round-up: Opposition mounting to GMOs and pesticides

Friday, June 7th, 2013

Rallies against Monsanto and GMOs took place in Canada and more than 50 other countries on May 25, 2013.
Photo: Alexis Baden-Mayer, Flickr

The Food Read Round-up curates media stories about food and farming in Ottawa, across Canada, and around the world.

The genetically modified chickens are coming home to roost. Opposition to foods that contain genes from different species (known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs*) and to the agro-chemical companies that make them seems to be building. Resistance reached new heights over the past few weeks with worldwide public protests and anti-GMO actions from international governments.

At the same time, more evidence has emerged linking the use of pesticides with the decline of honeybees and other food crop pollinators. Scientists, beekeepers and environmentalists are calling for restrictions on these substances and some government bodies have already responded.

The bottom line: awareness is growing that the food system is too important to entrust to agro-chemical corporations and their wares.

Monsanto takes heat from international governments and the public.  It’s been an eventful few weeks for Monsanto.  In the face of staunch opposition from most European countries, the multinational maker of GM seed and the herbicide Roundup has decided to walk away from its drive to expand GM crops in those markets. This means no more lobbying efforts or attempts to seek approvals for new plants. Instead, Monsanto says, it will focus on the handful of European markets where there is broader public acceptance of GM technology, such as Spain, Portugal and Ukraine.

In addition, as the European Union (EU) and the U.S. prepare for trade talks, it’s predicted that Europe could force GM crops off the table entirely – bad news not only for Monsanto, but for agro-chemical competitors like DuPont and Syngenta. European farmers, environmentalists and consumers worry that if trade restrictions are loosened, GM seeds and U.S.-grown GM crops would flood farmlands and grocery stores, jeopardizing human health and natural ecosystems.

But it’s not just Europeans who are turning their backs on GM food products. On May 31, Japan and South Korea suspended imports of some U.S. wheat after a rogue GM strain was found on an Oregon farm.

And while GM corn, soybeans and other crops dominate in North America, pressure for change has been building here, too. On May 25, rallies against Monsanto and its products were held across Canada and the U.S., as well as in 50 other countries. This past week, Connecticut became the first state to pass a law requiring GM foods be labeled. Although there’s a major catch – the requirement won’t take effect until at least four other states pass similar legislation – Connecticut lawmakers are hoping that the precedent they’ve set will persuade others to get on board.

Fourth insecticide added to list of risks to honeybees. The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has added fipronil to its list of high-risk insect nerve agents, or neonicotinoids, believed to have contributed to the worldwide drop in populations of honeybees and other insects. Together, these insects pollinate three-quarters of the world’s food crops. In its assessment of fipronil, the EFSA noted that drifting pesticide dust has been found to pose a “high acute risk to honeybees when used as a seed treatment for maize.”  A product of German chemical manufacturer BASF, fipronil is used on more than 100 crops in 70 countries.

The EFSA move came on the heels of an April 29 ban by the European Commission on three other neonicotinoids.

In North America, there are similar concerns about pesticides and pollinators.  Health Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency has linked the pesticides with mass bee deaths during last year’s spring corn planting in Ontario and Québec; beekeepers and environmental advocacy groups have begun calling for restrictions on neonicotinoid use. In the U.S., the American Bird Conservancy wants a ban on the pesticides as seed treatments because of the potential to harm to birds and other wildlife. In March 2013, a group of beekeepers, conservationists, and supporters of sustainable farming sued the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for allowing registration of neonicotinoids without sufficient study.

*Genetic modification is defined by the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network (CBAN) as the alteration of “plants or animals at the molecular level by inserting genes or DNA segments from other organisms. Unlike conventional breeding and hybridization, the process of genetic engineering enables the direct transfer of genes between different species…that would not breed in nature.” 

What food stories have you been reading?