ConAgra, Kellogg’s, General Mills, and Mars Agree To GMO Labels

Earlier this year, Campbell’s Soup announced their intent to label all products which contain Genetically-Modified Foods.  This week four other food giants, ConAgra, Kellogg’s, General Mills and candy giant Mars, Inc, joined them.

This good news in transparency in food ingredient disclosure was a major milestone for GMO-labeling advocates.  It also came on top of an important defeat of a bill in the U.S. Senate less than a week ago which would have banned states from requiring GMO labeling. With Vermont having already passed a strong mandatory labeling law to take effect on July 1 – and other states considering their own – this keeps the pressure on GMO-producing companies to make public their use of GMOs.

The win has taken time, was hard fought on both sides, and was costly in money for all concerned.  This specific wave of successes goes back to 2012’s California Proposition 37, in which food and biotech companies spent as much as $45 million to block mandatory labeling. Washington State, Oregon, and Colorado also saw battles, in which $20 million was spent to block Washington’s Prop 92, $20 million halted Oregon’s Prop 92, and Colorado’s Prop 105 was beaten back through a $12.6 million no-labeling campaign.

The five major U.S. food suppliers who made the decision to label GMOs were also part of these specific “no to labeling” campaigns.  According to an independent analysis, Campbell’s Soup paid $598,000 and Mars, Inc. paid $498,350 to stop the forced labeling campaign in California.  Other companies, including Nestle USA, Hillshire Brands, Pinnacle Foods Group, Sara Lee Corporation, and the H.J. Heinz company also have contributed to the fight as well.

While the five companies agreeing to say yes to labeling – and the Senate defeat of the Dark Act – are therefore still good news, there are many outliers remaining who have not yet taken the same step.

To help move thanks forward, Food Revolution Network along with the Center for Food Safety and many others have launched a campaign to get Coca Cola to make the pledge to label as well.  Those interested in pushing for that are urged to sign the petition they have prepared for this at: http://cokeboycott.com/

French Scientist Who Showed GMOs Cause Tumors Wins New Lawsuit

French Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini is the research scientist who demonstrated that if one feeds rats with food from genetically-modified crops for over 90 days it can cause serious health problems. He won accolades from anti-GMO activists around the world for his work.

Now he just won another vote of support, this time from the High Court in Paris, for a trial find a decision of libel and fraud against the professor from one of his most powerful critics.

Professor Séralini’s studies into the true hazards of GMO crops along with the herbicides and pesticides associated with them raise considerable problems for GMO agribusiness giant Monsanto when they first appeared.  Using experiments with strong scientific controls, the French researcher showed that – when the GMOs were fed to rats beyond the 90 day test periods Monsanto had used to “prove” (their words) that their GMOs were safe – rats developed grotesque tumors that would eventually kill them.

Not exactly the kind of article you want written about your multi-billion dollar genetic engineered food and seed products.

When the research first came out in its first form – in a peer-reviewed journal – it was originally retracted.  The reason combined a strong public relations attack by Monsanto and the entire biotech industry, claiming the work was highly flawed.

After further review, the original study has been republished in yet another peer-reviewed journal.  Others are also coming out to say they now have analyzed the research and reconfirmed the results.

Séralini’s research team also won a defamation lawsuit against the authors of an article in the French Marianne magazine which referred to the work of Séralini’s team as “scientific fraud”.  That win was announced on November 6.

And now there is further reason for Professor Séralini to celebrate.

Because on November 25, 2015, the High Court in Paris indicated Marc Fallous for “forgery” and “use of forgery”.  According to information from those close to the case, Fallous apparently transferred the signature of another scientist to documents that argued Séralini and his team had made the wrong conclusions about Monsanto’s products.  The scientist whose signature Fallous copied in fact had no knowledge of what Fallous was publishing and gave no consent to the use of his signature or reputation on Fallous’ materials.

Marc Fallous, the former chairman of France’s Biomolecular Engineering Commission, will be sentenced for his crimes in June 2016.

In the meantime, Séralini’s team continues to find its work validated and supported worldwide.

Monsanto, however, is having to deal with its herbicide GMO-partner product glyphosate labeled as a carcinogen and likely carcinogen around the world.  And having even the entire state of California denying them to withdraw their identification of the substance in that way.

The Company is also going to trial at the Hague International Criminal Court for its actions regarding many of its agribusiness chemicals this fall.

Gates Foundation Funds GMO Propaganda Campaign

A new analysis by U.S. Right to Know published in The Ecologist documents how millions of dollars from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation are being used to run a propaganda campaign out of corrupt Cornell University that promotes toxic GMOs and pesticides on behalf of criminal agrichemical corporations.

The analysis documents how the so-called Cornell Alliance for Science, launched in 2014 with a $5.6 million grant from the Gates Foundation, is operating as a PR campaign that promotes genetically engineered crops and foods using the same fraudulent messaging and unscrupulous tactics the agrichemical industry uses to push its agenda for chemically intensive, GMO agriculture.

Findings include:

  • Under the guise of “standing up for science,” the Cornell Alliance for Science routinely makes unscientific statements about GMOs.
  • The Cornell Alliance for Science partners with chemical industry PR operatives to teach “science” to students.
  • The Cornell Alliance for Science offers fellowships for GMO advocates including an ethically questionable journalism fellowship.

Evidence for these claims is described in detail in “Why is Cornell University hosting a GMO propaganda campaign?” by Stacy Malkan, co-director of he consumer group U.S. Right to Know.Earlier this week, the U.K.-based campaign group Global Justice Now released a report making the case that the Gates Foundation, the largest charitable foundation in the world, is  funding strategies that promote multinational corporate interests at the expense of social and economic justice.For more information about the Gates Foundation, see:

Global Justice Now report, January 2016, “Gated Development – is the Gates Foundation always a force for good?

Guardian, “Are Gates and Rockefeller using their influence to set agenda in poor states?

Seattle Times, “New Report says Gates Foundation favors businesses, not poor,”

Analysis by Barcelona-based research group Grain, November 2014, “How does the Gates Foundation spend its money to feed the world?

Campbell’s Soup Company Agrees To Label Food With GMOs, Drops Fights Against It

In the case of mandatory labeling of foods containing Genetically-Modified Ingredients, at least one corporation, Campbell Soup Company, has seen the ‘writing on the wall’ about the inevitability of marking products to denote whether or not GMO ingredients are included.  And it has now asked for a single universal standard across the entire United States for how food products that include GMOs must be labeled.

Even more important is its statement, released January 7th, that “As a result of its decision to support mandatory national GMO labeling, Campbell will withdraw from all efforts led by coalitions and groups opposing such measures.”

The company released a graphic giving one example of such a label below.

In a press release recommending the labeling, Campbell Soup Company said it “continues to recognize that GMOs are safe, as the science indicates that foods derived from crops grown using genetically modified seeds are not nutritionally different from other foods”.

But with the pressure on from consumers, activist groups, increased information suggesting links between GMO crops plus their pesticides and cancer, and the leadership by regional political officials at all levels, many food companies – like Campbell’s – are realizing they will end up having to mark their products that include Genetically-Modified Organisms (GMOs) as having those kinds of ingredients.

And having seen this sea change appearing, Campbell’s is recommending there be just one label rather than the potential of many different labeling requirements by city, county, state or at the Federal level.

So, on January 7th, Campbell Soup Company announced its support for the enactment of federal legislation to establish a single mandatory labeling standard for foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs).

In its press release, Campbell Soup Company went on to say that:

“The company continues to oppose a patchwork of state-by-state labeling laws, which it believes are incomplete, impractical and create unnecessary confusion for consumers.

“Campbell is optimistic a federal solution can be established in a reasonable amount of time if all the interested stakeholders cooperate. However, if that is not the case, Campbell is prepared to label all of its U.S. products for the presence of ingredients that were derived from GMOs, not just those required by pending legislation in Vermont. The company would seek guidance from the FDA and approval by USDA.

“In the case of mandatory labeling of foods containing Genetically-Modified Ingredients, at least one corporation, Campbell Soup Company, has seen the ‘writing on the wall’ about the inevitability of marking products to denote whether or not GMO ingredients are included.  And it has now asked for a single universal standard across the entire United States for how food products that include GMOs must be labeled.”

For those completely opposed to the growing and sale of GMOs, this step definitely does not end the battle.  But with a company of the size and stature of Campbell Soup Company agreeing to lay down some of its legal arms and agree to GMO content labeling in this way, it is a big step forward.

Monsanto To Be Tried For “Crimes Against Humanity”

The Monsanto Company has been charged with “Crimes Against Humanity” and will be tried at The Hague in The Netherlands next year.  The trial is currently scheduled for October 12-16, 2016.

The Monsanto Company’s history in creating havoc for human and other forms of life is extensive, having created and mass-produced many highly toxic products including polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs, now banned in many areas and one of 12 so-called “Persistant Organic Pollutants”; 2,4,5-T (a dioxin-containing part of what is sometimes known as Agent Orange and which has been linked to and continues to be blamed for extensive cancers and birth defects, long after its original use in chemical bombings in Vietnam); Lasso, the trade name for the herbicide with the active ingredient and recently classified as a possible carcinogen by the US EPA; and Roundup, the trade name for a glyphosate-based herbicide ‘cocktail’ which has been recently reclassified as possible carcinogen also by the U.S. EPA.

The charges in the case include that it has on an ongoing basis ignored the health/environmental damage by its products, worked to conceal the truth of the hazards, lobbied governments and regulatory agencies to look the other way, sponsored fraudulent studies to convince others of the products’ safety, pressured scientists not to challenge the company, as well as working systematically with the press and media to keep the truth submerged and the Monsanto version of things alive.\

The trial will involve assessing the truth of these allegations against The Monsanto Corporation and, assuming fault is found, assess damages.  Two key rules of law will be used in evaluating the case, including the United Nations’ 2001 “Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights” and – in particular for the potential criminal liability part of the trial – the Rome statute that is behind the whole concept of the International Criminal Court created at the Hague in 2002.

It is clear that the case will be fought hard by Monsanto, and winning the case against the company will be expensive.  As a result, a unique crowdfunding approach to securing additional litigation expenses has been launched by those leading the trial.  The crowdfunding goal is raising € 1 Million.  Those interested in making a donation to that effort can go to:  http://www.monsanto-tribunal.org/home/donate/.

GMO Eggplant Field Testing Banned By Philippine Supreme Court

In a decision passed down by the Supreme Court on December 8, the Philippine Supreme Court decided to block further field tests of Bt talong, a genetically-modified variant of eggplant that the Supreme Court found as to risky to “the health of the people”.

The same ruling also banned field testing, further commercialization and propagation, applications for contained use, and even importation of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) on at least a temporary basis.

The Supreme Court released its decision during their last regular session of the year yesterday.

As for the details of the decision, essentially the Supreme Court supported a lower court decision by the Philippine Court of Appeals which included all these provisions. In that ruling, that court ruled that existing laws by both the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Agriculture (DA) are “insufficient to guarantee the safety of the environment and the health of the people”. They also said, using the Rules of Procedure for Environmental Cases, that “the overall safety guarantee of the Bt talong ‘remains unknown’”.

Those seeking the ban on Bt talong were a group of respondents headed by Greenpeace Southeast Asia Philippines. Their counterparts who supported allowing Bt talong to proceed included the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications, Inc., the Environmental Management Bureau, Crop Life Philippines, the University of the Philippines at Los Baños, and University of the Philippines. The last two on the list were universities involved one way or another in the development and/or testing of the crops.

Bt talong is part of a class of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in which gene sections both from a normal unmodified eggplant variant and a bacterium that is toxic to certain insect pests that would normally attack eggplant are, more or less, mixed together to create a unique GMO which is part eggplant, part bacterium.

Those who developed Bt talong and its counterparts defend the creation of this kind of product as something that will help produce crops with higher yields because the insect pests will die if they attempt to consume the GMO eggplant variants during the growth cycle.

Those who are against the GMO product variant challenge it because it creates a product with a built-in toxin producer that everyone else eating the product must consume. There is also a parallel but very important issue that once these GMO crops are planted in soil, seed generated naturally in the process of growing the crops will spread and become potentially unstoppable if a harmful situation were discovered from the use of the crops.

Also, since in many countries GMOs are often protected by patents as a uniquely company-created species, when the seed from already-harvested crops spreads across adjacent farmers’ lands, the companies who created the patented crops have used patent infringement laws to block those farmers from being able to harvest their fields that are now at least partially contaminated with GMO items.

In their closing comments about the case, the Philippine Supreme Court was quite clear about its decision and did not seem to leave a great deal of flexibility for GMO proponents. As they said in closing comments about their decision, “In sum, current scientific research indicates that the biotech industry has not sufficiently addressed the uncertainties over the safety of genetically modified foods and crops”.

The Supreme Court also said the administrative order that would have allowed for the field testing of Bt talong Eggplant is sufficiently unsafe that it does not meet the minimum requirement of the Philippine’s National Biosafety Framework.

European Food Safety Authority Corrupted by Monsatano

“Serious Deficiencies” in EFSA Glyphosate Re-assessment Signals EU Re-approval

In preparation for the EUs approval of glyphosate, EFSA has concluded it safe and unlikely carcinogenic; clashing with the IARC’s classification of “probable carcinogen” by selective dismissal of relevant data; EFSA’s conclusion should be rejected outright Dr Eva Sirinathsinghji

Sign the Independent Scientists Manifesto on Glyphosate here:
http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Independent_Scientists_Manifesto_on_Glyphosate.php

As the EU is set to decide on the re-approval of glyphosate, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has ruled that the herbicide is “unlikely to be genotoxic (i.e. damaging to DNA) or to pose a carcinogenic threat to humans” [1]. The ruling is in contrast to that of the WHO earlier in the year, whose specialist oncology arm, the International Agency for Cancer Research (IARC), declared the top selling herbicide a “probable human carcinogen” [2] Glyphosate ‘Probably Carcinogenic to Humans’ Latest WHO Assessment, SiS66).

The opposing conclusions of the two assessments highlight the difference in approach between the two organisations. The IARC base its analysis solely on published peer-reviewed papers and publically available government documents, with the intention of maintaining a transparent assessment procedure by experts with no conflict of interest. The EFSA assessment on the other hand was performed in conjunction with industry and included unpublished industry data (see [3] Scandal of Glyphosate Re-assessment in Europe, SiS 63). As revealed in a leaked copy of a draft version of the assessment report that was analysed by toxicologist Peter Clausing [4], even significant, positive results of carcinogenicity were dismissed, and evidence misrepresented and wilfully misinterpreted in order to diminish existing evidence. Defending their assessment in response to EFSA’s decision Kate Guyton, senior toxicologist and member of the IARC panel, said they had conducted “the most independent, rigorous and transparent evaluation”, based on “rigorous scientific criteria”. She reiterated the exclusion of unpublished data as well as industry-linked studies as “extremely important for independence and transparency” [5].

Not only is glyphosate now set to be reapproved for another 10 years, the levels of Acceptable Daily Intake (ADI) have been proposed to rise from 0.3 milligrams per kilo of body weight per day (mg/kg bw/d), to 0.5 mg/kg bw/d [6].  Recent reviews highlight toxicity at well below these levels. For example, oxidative stress – a potential precursor to cancer – had been documented at levels of 0.09 mg/kg bw/d, as has toxicity to the liver and kidney [7]  further questioning the validity of the regulatory assessments. Minute levels of only 0.169 ng/L to 0.169 mg/L have also been shown to induce proliferation of oestrogen-dependent breast cancer cells in vitro, and increase expression of oestrogen receptors by activating the genetic oestrogen response element (see [8] Glyphosate is Carcinogenic).

As emphasised in [8], the IARC assessment, though comprehensive is not complete and could have been even more damning of glyphosate safety. Nonetheless, it made no difference in the end on the outcome of the EFSA assessment, which as explained below has little to do with science-based evidence.

Toxicologist declares “serious deficiencies” in EFSA assessment

The new version of the draft renewal assessment report (RAR) by EFSA, not published by EFSA, was leaked and analysed by Clausing for Pesticide Action Network, Germany, who found gaping inadequacies in its assessment of glyphosate’s carcinogenic and teratogenic toxicities.

The new draft was supposed to take account of the recent IARC decision. According to Clausing, the revised draft differs little from the initial version in cherry-picking and spinning evidence to support the safety of the chemical.

Burying the evidence of toxicity may well come back to haunt chief glyphosate producer Monsanto, now facing a growing number of personal injury lawsuits from cancer patients for knowingly misinforming the public and farmworkers about the dangers of the chemical.

As reported previously by ISIS (see [3]), the re-assessment was largely performed by a consortium of chemical companies that calls itself the ‘Glyphosate Task Force’ (GTF)  that includes Monsanto, Syngenta and Dow Agrosciences. Clausing highlights a “deliberate” dismissal of studies showing evidence of toxicity in the draft report, which he says [4]: “needs to be subjected to a complete and thorough re-analysis by a group of truly impartial experts before a decision can be made about the approval or non-approval of glyphosate in the European Union”.

The approval process

The renewal assessment report (RAR) is the basis for the legal decision for EU’s approval of glyphosate. It consists of experimental results provided by the applicant in the form of a dossier. In the case of glyphosate, the applicant is the Glyphosate Task Force (GTF). The European community legislation for marketing pesticides is included in Regulation [EC] No. 1107/2009, which states that each pesticide’s active ingredient alone must be re-assessed every 10 years, not the commercial formulations that are used in real life situations (and have been shown to be more toxic at levels 1 000 times that of glyphosate alone [9]). Notably, the IARC included studies on glyphosate formulations, analysing the public health risks in a more holistic manner that reflects the real life scenarios where people are exposed to the commercial formulations and not glyphosate alone.

The dossier contains a volume called Toxicology and Metabolism. These include studies published in the scientific literature over the last 10 years as well as unpublished industry studies based on the OECD guidelines for good laboratory practice (GLP). These industry studies are confidential and only their summaries are made public in the dossier. If a study from the published scientific literature is omitted from consideration for re-approval, the applicant must give a reason for the omission. As summarised below however, many studies were omitted without explanation, or reasons for dismissal are arbitrary and appear dependent on the results of the study. The applicant then selects a country, the Rapporteur Member state (RMS), in this case Germany, to assess the application. Overall responsibility for the assessment lies with the Bundesinstitut für Verbraucherschutz (BVL, Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety), but the Bundesinstitut für Risikobewertung (BfR, Federal Institute for Risk Assessment) is  actually responsible for assessing the human safety aspects.

When the application was first submitted, the rapporteur state had opened it up for public comment in December 2013, and the finalised report released in 2014, which the BfR claims to have all the comments included. According to available information, there were two further drafts re-submitted to the RMS and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) (January and March 2015), the earlier being available only to scientists close to industry. It is the March version that Clausing analysed.

Disappearing evidence of carcinogenicity and reproductive toxicity

Some of the highlighted inconsistencies include the selective dismissal of studies during the literature search on carcinogenicity studies and mechanistic studies of cancer including genotoxicity – DNA damage that can lead to cancers. EU legislation relating to genotoxicity tests follows a two-tiered approach starting with in vitro tests; and if these fail to detect toxicity, in vivo tests are performed. Under EU legislation for assessing cancer risk of pesticides, genotoxicity is one of the cancer mechanisms studied. This is important because specific forms of genotoxicity are valid biomarkers for cancers, such as increased micronuclei, whole segments of chromosome that have become separated from the nucleus (indicative of DNA damage). Positive tests for genotoxicity therefore generally preclude the approval of a pesticide.

The RAR included 48 studies on genotoxicity from the literature search, 14 of which have negative results, while 31 show genotoxic effects. Three were described as inconclusive by the GTF. This means that the GTF explained away 31 studies to come to the conclusion that glyphosate is not genotoxic, despite the EFSA guidance for the literature review stating that “relevance criteria should not be too restrictive”. Many of the disqualified studies were not even discussed; especially those that followed established international protocols that validate them for regulatory assessments. One such study by Koller et al. (2012) received no negative comments [10]. It followed established protocols and included both glyphosate and glyphosate formulations, a positive control and also showed genotoxicity at levels several times lower than concentrations sufficient to induce cytotoxicity. Furthermore, many studies were misrepresented in the summary table with for example, the table only displaying the highest doses used, as well as only some of the supplementary experiments while omitting the important tests such as micronuclei assays that had been performed in the studies. Also omitted were in vivo tests performed on blood from people in regions sprayed with glyphosate (see [7]), which clearly show that glyphosate in the air is absorbed into the body and is toxic. The most recent study from 2015, which was also not included in the IARC report assessed DNA damage in children living in a high agrochemical use zone in Argentina. Researchers found that children living within 500 metres of sprayed fields had 66 % more cells with micronuclei than those living 3 000 metres away; 40 % of these children also had persistent illnesses [11].

The BfR, according to the German Ministry of Agriculture, claimed to have made a “detailed, quality-assured examination” of all the studies, independent of the GTF’s summary. The IARC in comparison included an extra 21 publications in its carcinogenicity assessment absent from the RAR. Clausing rightly questions what the conclusion would have been if the additional 21 studies were included in the analysis, and how the BfR could allow these glaring omissions when they claimed to have conducted independent literature searches.

Oxidative stress, like genotoxicity is another key mechanism for cancer development. Studies reporting increased oxidative stress following glyphosate exposure were included in the IARC’s assessment. In contrast, the RAR failed to mention it at all. When pressed by Testbiotech and PAN Germany, the BfR admitted that oxidative stress is “without doubt” a possible mechanism of carcinogenicity. So how can they have omitted it unintentionally? This is an important point considering that the EU legislation for testing carcinogenicity of pesticides requires long-term 2-year, large-scale animal studies, very few of which are conducted by scientists outside of industry due to the high costs of such experiments. Mechanistic evidence therefore, should be given careful consideration, and not dismissed or ignored. Compiling evidence of carcinogenicity from these different fields, as the IARC did, would make the evidence too compelling from industry’s point of view. As reviewed in [12] A Roundup of Roundup® Reveals Converging Pattern of Toxicity From Farm to Clinic to Laboratory Studies, Special ISIS report, the consistent pattern of toxicity across scientific fields, clinical studies and farmer experiences provides the strongest evidence of glyphosate’s harmful effects.

In the analysis of the animal studies, misinterpretations and twisting of results continues. Of the four regulatory animal studies discussed by the RAR, malignant lymphoma was increased upon glyphosate exposure. How were these findings explained away? First, the significant increase in lymphoma incidence was seen in a study using Swiss albino mice, which have a higher propensity to develop tumours, so the RAR concluded that this strain of mice was not suitable. This was also a criticism levelled at Dr Séralini’s group when they published increased tumours in Sprague Dawley rats exposed to GM foods and pesticides 2 years ago, drawing a concerted attack from pro-GM proponents (see [13] Retracting Séralini Study Violates Science and Ethics, SiS 61), despite the study being a toxicological and not carcinogenic study for which Sprague-Dawley rats are standardly used. The other three studies were performed in CD-1 mice and showed dose-dependent non-significant increases, though when using alternative statistical methods explicitly recommended by the OECD (Cochran-Armitage-Trend Test) they become significant. The latest RAR draft confirmed the significance of these studies when applying the Cochran-Armitage statistical methods, and admit that it could be due to real treatment effects with “evidence of carcinogenicity conclusive”, but then goes on to conclude that a lack of consistency across studies makes the evidence “insufficient” for classification.  Further, tumour incidence in the Swiss albino mice was outside the range of historical controls, above the mean incidence of the historical control, and also the incidence was dose-dependent. If they had fallen within the range of historical controls, no doubt industry would have used this to dismiss the findings. Even with results that are not significant, this does not rule out biological significance, just as we see in the reverse situation where industry dismisses statistically significant results as being not biologically relevant (as has already been the case with glyphosate where evidence of teratogenicity was dismissed) [14]. When it came to analysis of epidemiological studies included in the IARC report, the RAR dismissed them, claiming they “see a particular problem with the co-formulants of glyphosate-based formulations” due to the higher toxicity of formulations over the active ingredient alone.

It comes as no surprise then that the BfR concluded [2] “there is no in vivo genotoxicity and mutagenicity potential of glyphosate or its formulations expected under normal exposure scenarios”. In contrast, the IARC concluded that “there is strong evidence that glyphosate causes genotoxicity”.

Thus, while there are strict guidelines for regulatory study protocols, industry has been granted complete freedom in how the studies are interpreted for risk assessment.

The regulatory process in the EU is clearly exposed in the glyphosate re-approval process as toothless, corrupt and unscientific (see [3]).  Both industry and our regulatory bodies are fully aware of the dangers of glyphosate herbicides.

A similar practice of dismissing and ignoring evidence was repeated with regard to the reproductive toxicity of glyphosate.

Lawsuits piling up as public react to Monsanto’s lies

It has become clear that Monsanto have known about the carcinogenic properties of glyphosate for many years (see [2] Glyphosate is Carcinogenic), and now that the toxicity of the herbicide is finally being recognised by the WHO, the public are beginning to challenge the company. Recent months have seen the filing of class action lawsuits for falsifying safety claims in the labelling of the herbicide (see [15] Fallout from WHO Classification of Glyphosate as Probable Carcinogen, SiS 67) as well as ‘mass tort’ personal injury lawsuits. Mass tort lawsuits let one attorney or several attorneys represent several injured parties at once. In the US, a Colorado-based law firm is putting together cases for 50 individuals, while in Delaware three lawsuits were filed by three firms representing three plaintiffs in recent weeks. In the case of 58-year old Enrique Rubio who lives in Colorado, the plaintiffs claim that he developed cancer after a decade of spraying Roundup on vegetable and fruit crops, unaware of the cancer risks [16]. Another plaintiff, Joselin Barrera who is only 24 years old and a child of migrant farm workers claims that her non-Hodgkin lymphoma was related to glyphosate exposure. A third plaintiff is a horticultural worker who contracted leukaemia [17].

Upcoming review on exposure levels by WHO also compromised by conflicts of interest

The WHO will also soon re-evaluate the findings of its various scientific bodies that differ in their interpretation of glyphosate safety. The JMPR (Joint Meeting of Pesticide Residues) are administered by the WHO as well as the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and meet regularly to review pesticide residue safety and set maximum exposure levels and recommended daily intake of chemicals. They last evaluated glyphosate in 2011, claiming it to be safe. Due to the divergence of opinion between the JMPR and the IARC, the WHO created an ad-hoc expert taskforce to explain the divergence of analyses, recommending a complete re-evaluation by the JMPR. The JMPR also have clear conflicts of interest, with 3 of the 8 members reportedly having financial and professional ties to industry [18], while one is the head of the BfR. The taskforce concluded that differences stem from the IARC including peer-reviewed literature as well as studies using commercial formulations in its analysis, calling for the JMPR to review internal guidelines for criteria for data inclusion/exclusion. In October 2015 the JMPR published a call-out for data for a meeting on glyphosate in May 2016. Calls for data are advertised on their website [19].

To conclude

EFSA have, perhaps surprisingly, admit to the potential genotoxic properties of glyphosate formulations [20], going against the general assumption that adjuvants are “inert” and can thus be kept as industry commercial secrets.  So, while declaring glyphosate safe and aiming to approve its use for another 10 years, EFSA are also admitting that the analysis by the IARC cannot be thus far disputed. Furthermore, adjuvants are added to all pesticide formulations, implicating a universal toxicity of chemical pesticides.

The US Environmental Protection Agency may be acknowledging the toxic nature of glyphosate herbicides to some extent, as it has just withdrawn approval for the currently in-use Enlist Duo herbicide from Dow Agrosciences that contains both glyphosate and 2,4-D. The decision came following new information provided by Dow to the EPA of its toxicity to non-target plants being more serious than previously understood [21].

In short, EFSA’s conclusion should be rejected outright as it results from a corrupt assessment process in which relevant data are arbitrarily dismissed in favour of confidential unpublished data from industry.

References

  1. Addendum: Renewal Assessment Report. Glyphosate Addendum I to RAR, 31 August 2015. http://www.mdr.de/fakt/fakt-glyphosat-bfr-bewertung100.htm Clausing P.
  2. Ho MW and Swanson N. Glyphosate ‘Probably Carcinogenic to Humans’ Latest WHO Assessment,Science in Society 66, 16-18
  3. Swanson N and Ho MW. Scandal of glyphosate reassessment in Europe. Science in Society 63, 8-9, 2014
  4. The Glyphosate Renewal Assessment Report. An Analysis of Gaps and Deficiencies. http://blog.campact.de/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/Glyphosat-Studie_final.pdf
  5. IARC expert defends glyphosate cancer verdict. GMWatch.com, accessed 24th November 2016 http://us6.campaign-archive2.com/?u=29cbc7e6c21e0a8fd2a82aeb8&id=2abaae39ad&e=25e512476b
  6. EFSA advises higher safety limits on glyphosate weedkiller. GMWatch.com, accessed 24th November 2015. http://www.gmwatch.org/news/latest-news/16532-efsa-advises-higher-safety-limits-on-glyphosate-weedkiller
  7. Mesnage R, Defarge N, Spiroux de Vendômois J. Séralini GE. Potential toxic effects of glyphosate and its commercial formulations below regulatory limits. Food and Chemical Toxicology 2015, 84, 133e153
  8. Ho MW & Saunders P. Glyphosate is Carcinogenic. Chapter 8, Banishing Glyphosate, Special ISIS report 2015 http://www.i-sis.org.uk/Banishing_Glyphosate.php
  9. Mesnage, R., Defarge, N., Spiroux de Vendômois, J., Séralini, G.E. Major pesticides are more toxic to human cells than their declared active principles. BioMed Research International Volume 2014, Article ID 179691, 1-8 http://dx.doi.org/10.1155/2014/179691
  10. Koller VJ, Fürhacker M, Nersesyan A, Mišík M, Eisenbauer M, Knasmueller S. Cytotoxic and DNA-damaging properties of glyphosate and Roundup in human-derived buccal epithelial cells. Archives of Toxicology 2012, 86, 805-13. doi: 10.1007/s00204-012-0804-8
  11. Bernardi N, Gentile N, Mañas F, Méndez Á, Gorla N, Aiassa D. Assessment of the level of damage to the genetic material of children exposed to pesticides in the province of Córdoba. Archivos Argent Pediatría 2015, 113, 126-31
  12. Sirinathsinghji E. A Roundup of Roundup® Reveals Converging Pattern of Toxicity From Farm to Clinic to Laboratory Studies.Science in Society 65, 26-31, 2015.
  13. Ho MW and Saunders PT. Retracting Séralini study violates science & ethics. Science in Society 61, 20-21, 2014.
  14. Antoniou M, Habib M, Howard CV, Jennings RC, Leifert C, Nodari RO, Robinson C, Fagan J. Roundup and birth defects: Is the public being kept in the dark? Earth Open Source, 2011.
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  16. Monsanto in Another Huge Lawsuit for ‘Lying About Roundup-Cancer Link’. NaturalSociety.com, accessed 23rd October 2015 http://naturalsociety.com/monsanto-faces-another-huge-lawsuit-for-lying-about-roundup-cancer-link/
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  21. EPA moves to withdraw approval of controversial weed killer. AP.org, accessed 25th November 2016 http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/U/US_EPA_WEED_KILLER?SITE=AP&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT&CTIME=2015-11-25-10-57-51

State Lawmakers Demand Congress Oppose HR 1599

A bipartisan group of 95 state lawmakers (representing 21 states) who have either sponsored state GMO labeling bills, or supported state GMO labeling ballot initiatives or bans on GMO crops, have signed on to a joint letter asking Congress to oppose H.R. 1599, or any other federal law that would preempt states’ rights to enact GMO labeling laws.

In their letter, the lawmakers argue that states have a constitutional right to pass GMO labeling laws, as affirmed by a District Court in April with regard to Vermont’s labeling law.  They also reject claims by supporters of H.R. 1599 that state GMO labeling laws would create a “messy patchwork” of laws that would be burdensome for food manufacturers.

Maine Rep. Michelle Dunphy (D-Old Town) is lead author of the letter. Rep. Dunphy is also lead sponsor of Maine’s LD 991, a bill before the Maine state legislature that would speed enactment of Maine’s existing GMO labeling law (LD 718) by repealing the clause requiring five contiguous states, including Maine, to pass GMO labeling laws before GMO labeling can be enacted in Maine.

“H.R. 1599 is being deceptively sold to Congress on the mistruth that it will address consumers’ concerns by establishing a uniform federal standard for GMO labeling,” Dunphy said. “In fact, H.R. 1599 would preempt state and federal mandatory labeling laws and instead establish a voluntary, government-run program for labeling non-GMO foods. States have historically held the right to pass food safety and food labeling laws, and Congress should not undermine that right just to protect the biotech industry.”

Sen. Robert L. Hedlund, a Republican in the Massachusetts State legislature said:  “H.R. 1599 is nothing more than an attempt to legally sanction the right of corporations to withhold factual information from consumers. If Congress concedes to industry on this state right, what’s to prevent other industries from asking Congress to strip states of other long-held rights? It’s a slippery slope.”

New York State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele, Jr. (I, D, WF-Sag Harbor) who is a co-sponsor of legislation currently pending in the New York State Assembly which would require the labeling of genetically modified foods and other consumable products made from genetically modified materials said: “I signed on to Rep. Michelle Dunphy’s letter because I strongly believe that consumers have the right to know whether the foods they purchase have been produced with genetic engineering so they can make informed purchasing decisions.  I am opposed to H.R. 1599 (the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act) as it would undermine a State’s right to pass GMO labeling laws.”

From Rhode Island, Rep. Blake Filippi, an Independent, said: “This is simply a matter of choice. Many of my neighbors don’t want to eat genetically modified organisms. If the Congressional sponsors of this bill choose to eat this type of food, that is their prerogative. But, they should not attempt to deny our neighbors the ability to make that same choice.”

In their letter, lawmakers wrote:

HR 1599 would undermine the existing rights of states to pass food labeling laws; it would undermine the efforts of the thousands of people working to create basic transparency in food labels in their states; it would undermine the rights of consumers to basic information; and it would undermine the concept of a free market based on truth and transparency in labeling.

The letter will be addressed in a House briefing, on October 20, and during a Senate briefing, scheduled for October 22.

H.R 1599 passed the House on July 23. While a Senate version has yet to be introduced, the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, announced that the Committee will hold a hearing on the federal regulation of agriculture on October 21.

Monsanto and its Promoters vs. Freedom of Information

by Ralph Nader

Next year, the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will celebrate its 50th anniversary as one of the finest laws our Congress has ever passed. It is a vital investigative tool for exposing government and corporate wrongdoing.

The FOIA was championed by Congressman John E. Moss (D-CA), who strove to “guarantee the right of every citizen to know the facts of his Government.” Moss, with whom I worked closely as an outside citizen advocate, said that “without the fullest possible access to Government information, it is impossible to gain the knowledge necessary to discharge the responsibilities of citizenship.”

All fifty states have adopted FOIA statutes.

As the FOIA approaches its 50th year, it faces a disturbing backlash from scientists tied to the agrichemical company Monsanto and its allies. Here are some examples.

On March 9th, three former presidents of the American Association for the Advancement of Science – all with ties to Monsanto or the biotech industry – wrote in the pages of the Guardian to criticize the use of the state FOIA laws to investigate taxpayer-funded scientists who vocally defend Monsanto, the agrichemical industry, their pesticides, and genetically engineered food. They called the FOIAs an “organized attack on science.”

The super-secretive Monsanto has stated, regarding the FOIAs, that “agenda-driven groups often take individual documents or quotes out of context in an attempt to distort the facts, advance their agenda, and stop legitimate research.”

Advocates with the venerable Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) do worry that the FOIA can be abused to harass scientists for ideological reasons. This is true; for example, human-caused global warming deniers have abused the FOIA against climate scientists working at state universities like Michael Mann of Pennsylvania State University.

Among other suggestions, UCS recommends the following:

  • “Universities should clarify their policies and procedures with regard to open records requests, ensure that their employees understand these policies, and make sure they have considered how they will respond when overly broad requests are used to harass their researchers…..
  • Legislators should examine their open records laws and ensure that they include appropriate exemptions that will protect privacy and academic freedom without compromising accountability.
  • The National Academy of Sciences and other research organizations should provide guidance to legislators and universities on what should be disclosed and what should be protected….”

For more on the UCS positions see: http://www.ucsusa.org/center-science-and-democracy/protecting-scientists-harassment/freedom-bully-how-laws.

The proper response to abuses of the FOIA is not, however, to advocate blocking citizens or reporters from using the FOIA.

There are countless government and corporate scandals that have been revealed by the FOIA, but here are just two from this year.

In February, Justin Gillis and John Schwartz of the New York Times used documents obtained by the Greenpeace and the Climate Investigations Center through the FOIA to expose the corporate ties of the climate-change-denying scientist Wei-Hock “Willie” Soon, who received over $1.2 million in contributions from the fossil fuel industry over the last ten years.  Soon even called his scientific papers “deliverables” to his corporate donors.

Another area of risk to food and health was revealed by FOIA requests. There are legitimate concerns about the health and environmental perils of genetically engineered crops and food. And the concerns are mounting. For example, in March, the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) classified the herbicide glyphosate – which is sprayed as Roundup on many genetically engineered crops – as “probably carcinogenic to humans.”

On August 20, in the New England Journal of Medicine, Philip J. Landrigan and Charles Benbrook wrote that “the argument that there is nothing new about genetic rearrangement misses the point that GM crops are now the agricultural products most heavily treated with herbicides and that two of these herbicides may pose risks of cancer.” Another study published on August 25 in the journalEnvironmental Health suggests that very low levels of exposure to Roundup “can result in liver and kidney damage” in rats, “with potential significant health implications for animal and human populations.”

U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit consumer group staffed by consumer advocates, is conducting an investigation of the food and agrichemical industries, including companies like Monsanto, and how they use front groups and taxpayer-funded professors at public universities to advance their claims that processed foods, artificial additives, and GMOs are safe, wholesome, and beyond reproach.

Based on documents that U.S. Right to Know obtained through the FOIA, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Lipton wrote a front page New York Times article about how Monsanto and the agrichemical industry use publically-funded scientists to lobby, and to promote its messages and products.  For example, Lipton reported on a $25,000 grant from Monsanto to University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta, who had repeatedly denied having ties to Monsanto: “‘This is a great 3rd-party approach to developing the advocacy that we’re looking to develop,’ Michael Lohuis, the director of crop biometrics at Monsanto, wrote last year in an email as the company considered giving Dr. Folta an unrestricted grant.”

One thing is clear; food safety, public health, the commercialization of public universities, corporate control of science, and the research produced by taxpayer-funded scientists to promote commercial products are all appropriate subjects for FOIA requests.

The use of the FOIA by citizens, journalists, and others to expose scandals is essential to ensure honest scientific inquiry and is critical to developing protective public health and environmental standards. Scientific research should not be contaminated by the inevitable biases and secrecy that come with corporate contracts at public universities.

The FOIA is a valuable tool to help citizens uncover corruption and wrongdoing, and to vindicate our right to know what our own governments are doing.
Ralph Nader

Industry Liars Outed

From http://usrtk.org/gmo/a-short-report-on-journalists-mentioned-in-our-foias/

On September 23rd, Washington Post food columnist Tamar Haspel admitted to receiving “plenty” of money from pro-agrichemical industry sources.

Following her admission, I thought it might be useful to report on journalists – including Haspel — mentioned in the documents we have received from state public records requests.

U.S. Right to Know is conducting an investigation of the food and agrichemical industries, their PR firms and front groups, and the professors who speak for them.

So far, three reporters come up in interesting ways: Amy Harmon, Keith Kloor and Tamar Haspel.

These reporters appear in the context of Jon Entine, who is perhaps the leading PR operative working to promote the views of the agrichemical industry, and its pesticides and GMOs. Entine is founder and executive director of the Genetic Literacy Project, which, along with the PR firm Ketchum’s GMO Answers, are the agrichemical industry’s two most visible front groups. Entine is also founder and president of the PR firm ESG MediaMetrics, whose clients have included the agrichemical giant Monsanto.

Amy Harmon

Amy Harmon is a reporter for the New York Times.  She was part of a Times team that won a Pulitzer Prize in 2001, and in 2008 she won a Pulitzer for explanatory reporting.

On September 23, 2013 at 7:44pm, Jon Entine emailed Renee Kester: “FYI, I think I’ve talked Amy Harmon into doing a Hawaii Hawaii [sic] story. . .  and I gave her your and Kirby’s email information, so she may call at some point if she indeed pursues this.” Kirby Kester is president of the Hawaii Crop Improvement Association, an agrichemical industry front group.

On January 4, 2014, the New York Times published a front-page article by Amy Harmon, titled “A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops.” The story is datelined from Kona, Hawaii.

In 2014, Harmon won second place for the Society of Environmental Journalists “Kevin Carmody Award for Outstanding In-depth Reporting, Large Market” for “The Facts About GMOs,” a series that included the article “A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops.”

On September 30th, Harmon is scheduled to speak to the Cornell Alliance for Science, a group funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote GMOs. The group is running a petition against U.S. Right to Know’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Keith Kloor

Keith Kloor is a freelance journalist who has written for Nature, Science Insider, Discover, Slate and other outlets.  Kloor has written many pro-GMO articles that have been featured by Jon Entine’s Genetic Literacy Project.

Kloor is mentioned in two places in the FOIA documents.

In one email, Jon Entine refers to Keith Kloor as a “very good friend of mine”.

In another email, on October 18, 2014, Dr. Channapatna Prakash, a GMO advocate and dean at Tuskegee University, emails Adrianne Massey of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), along with several others, to forward an alert from Lorraine Thelian, vice chairman of the PR firm Ketchum that “the hacker community Anonymous is planning a series of attacks on biotechnology and food industry websites…Trade association and corporate websites of CBI [Council for Biotechnology Information] members are being targeted in this planned attack.”  Dr. Prakash writes, “Adrianne I have copied Kevin Folta, Karl von Mogel, David Tribe and Keith Kloor here as well.”

Dr. Prakash cc’d the email to Jay Byrne (former director of corporate communications for Monsanto), Jon Entine, Bruce Chassy (agrichemical industry advocate) Val Giddings (former VP of BIO), Henry Miller (agrichemical industry advocate), Drew Kershen (agrichemical industry advocate), Klaus Ammann, Piet van der Meer, Martina Newell-McGloughlin (agrichemical industry advocate), Karl Haro von Mogel (member of the board of directors of Biology Fortified, a pro-GMO website), Kevin Folta (agrichemical industry advocate), Keith Kloor and David Tribe (agrichemical industry advocate).

Keith Kloor was the only journalist who received this email.

The email implies that Kloor works closely with the agrichemical industry’s prominent advocates.

Kloor has written three articles that were critical of U.S. Right to Know’s FOIA requests, in Science Insider, Discover and Nature.

On March 23rd, 2015, Kloor gave a talk for the Cornell Alliance for Science, which is hosting a petition against U.S. Right to Know’s FOIA requests.

Tamar Haspel

Tamar Haspel is a columnist at the Washington Post.  She has written many columns for the Post defending or praising GMOs that have later been featured by Jon Entine’s Genetic Literacy Project.

In 2015, Haspel won the James Beard Foundation Award for her Post columns.

In June 2014, Haspel spoke to a pro-industry conference about “How can scientists best engage the GMO debate with a skeptical public?”  The conference was coordinated by Jon Entine and Cami Ryan, who is currently social sciences lead for Monsanto.  The conference was led by two agrichemical industry front groups, the Genetic Literacy Project and Academics Review, along with the University of Florida, which receives major funding from agrichemical companies, as noted in a September 6 article in the New York Times.

Haspel also moderated a panel organized by the North Carolina Biotechnology Center, which “provides long-term economic and societal benefits to North Carolina through support of biotechnology research, business, education and strategic policy statewide.”

In a September 23 chat hosted by the Washington Post, answering a question about whether she receives money from industry sources, Ms. Haspel wrote that, “I speak and moderate panels and debates often, and it’s work I’m paid for.” Later that day, I asked Ms. Haspel on Twitter how much money she had received from the agrichemical industry and its front groups.  She replied, “Since any group believing biotech has something to offer is a ‘front group,’ plenty!

Is it appropriate for a Washington Post columnist to write glowing columns about GMOs while appearing at such pro-industry conferences?  Is it a conflict of interest for Haspel to accept money from agrichemical company interests that she covers as part of her beat as a Post food columnist?  How much money has Haspel received from agrichemical industry interests?

Some journalists have criticized journalists for “buckraking” on speakers’ circuits. For example, former Washington Post Executive Editor Ben Bradlee said, “I wish it would go away. I don’t like it. I think it’s corrupting. If the Insurance Institute of America, if there is such a thing, pays you $10,000 to make a speech, don’t tell me you haven’t been corrupted. You can say you haven’t and you can say you will attack insurance issues in the same way, but you won’t. You can’t.”

Haspel wrote in the Washington Post that she will only speak at events where “if for-profit companies are involved in the event (which they often are), they can’t be the only voice.  So, I will speak at a conference co-sponsored by, say, Monsanto and the USDA and NC State University, but not an event sponsored by Monsanto alone.”  However, at the June 2014, conference at which Haspel spoke, no consumer advocates were slated to speak, only pro-industry advocates.

On October 16, Haspel is scheduled to speak to the Cornell Alliance for Science, a pro-GMO group that is hosting a petition against U.S. Right to Know’s FOIA requests.

Haspel has been critical of the U.S. Right to Know FOIA requests.  On August 17, on Twitter, she wrote: “The money/time/brainpower wasted on @garyruskin’s mean-spirited, self-interested attack on @kevinfolta! Can we move on to something useful?” Others did not agree with her news judgment.  On September 6th, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Eric Lipton wrote an article largely based on our FOIA requests – especially of University of Florida Professor Kevin Folta – which ran on the front page of the Sunday New York Times. The article revealed how Folta, who repeatedly denied ties to Monsanto, in fact had received an undisclosed $25,000 grant, as well as writing assignments from the company, and worked closely with it and its PR firm Ketchum, which ghostwrote text for him and organized media and lobbying meetings for him.

U.S. Right to Know is a consumer advocacy group.  We try to expose what the food industry doesn’t want us to know.  We believe it is useful for the public to see how the food and agrichemical companies do their public relations work.  That is one way we can help consumers to assess the claims and information they receive from the companies involved in our food production, their PR firms and operatives, and the journalists who work with them.