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Biotech News

Terminator Is Back According to reports from the Rural Advancement Foundation International, biotech companies are continuing to develop terminator technology, despite announcements in 1999 that the technology was o.

Terminator Is Back
According to reports from the Rural Advancement Foundation International, biotech companies are continuing to develop terminator technology, despite announcements in 1999 that the technology was on hold.

Genetically engineered (GE) terminator genes, when inserted into crops, make the crops unable to produce seeds that sprout. This forces farmers to buy new seeds every season and sabotages the age-old farming practice of saving seeds from one season to the next.

Biotech Genes On The Move
Genes from GE crops can spread from biotech plants into other forms of wildlife, new research shows. Researchers in Germany studied honey bees fed pollen from GE canola. When they looked at bacteria and fungi from the gut of the bees, the researchers found that the biotech genes had jumped from the canola to these microorganisms.

The results indicate that gene crossovers are occurring on a greater scale than previously assumed. Such genetic transfers are likely taking place in the intestinal track of humans and animals as well, which could impact our health. For instance, doctors in Europe have repeatedly voiced concern that the antibiotic-resistant genes present in many biotech crops could be transferred to disease-causing pathogens, producing diseases that can’t be controlled by antibiotics.

Losing Ground
Beginning in Europe, GE foods are being driven off the world market. In the European Union, United States corn exports have fallen from $360 million a year to near zero. US soy exports fell from $2.6 billion annually to $1 billion and should fall much further as GE soy is banned from animal feed. Canada’s canola exports to Europe have fallen from $500 million a year to near zero. Meanwhile Brazil is doing a brisk business selling "GE-free" soybeans to Europe, while Australia has also been cashing in selling "GE-free" canola.

Consumer rejection of gene-foods is steadily spreading to Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, India and a host of other nations. Japan and South Korea have the biotech industry extremely worried, since these two nations alone buy $11.3 billion of US agriculture exports every year. On May 18 the Tokyo Grain Exchange soy futures market began offering the choice of GE or non-GE soybeans. On the first day of trading, non-GE buyers committed to 914,000 tons, compared to only 364,000 tons for unsegregated (GE-tainted) US soybean futures.

Stink Bugs
"Stink bugs" are infesting Bt cotton fields in North Carolina and Georgia, devouring the cotton crop. The "insect resistant" cotton is genetically engineered to contain Bt toxin to kill insect pests. However, the Bt cotton is failing miserably at repelling the stink bugs. In fact, the insects seem to love the mutant plants.

Farmers are being advised by industry to spray the stink bugs with toxic pesticides, including methyl parathion, one of the deadliest chemicals used in American agriculture. So much for claims by biotech promoters that Bt crops are more environmentally friendly and will get farmers off the toxic treadmill.

Seed Firm Exodus
Large seed companies are moving to regions free of genetically modified production to reduce the risk of contamination. The move comes in the aftermath of the recent uproar in Europe caused by the contamination of "non-GE" canola from Canada with GE seeds.

Advanta, the company that imported the contaminated seeds from Canada, had to compensate European farmers who were sold the contaminated seeds. Now Advanta is moving its operation out of western Canada because of the high risk of contamination from cross-pollination with GE crops. Pioneer Hi-Bred, another major seed company, has moved to Romania, Hungary and Austria to avoid contamination.

Rogue DNA
Recent research released by Monsanto shows that its genetically engineered Roundup Ready soybeans contain unexpected, foreign fragments of DNA, whose effects on human health and the environment are unknown. Since it took almost a decade to map the biotech soy and locate the "rogue" fragments, scientists and environmentalists are concerned that other biotech crops could also harbor unknown fragments of DNA, whose effects are also unknown.

"These results demonstrate that genetic modification is a clumsy process, not precise as is often claimed," said Dr Sue Mayer, director of Genewatch, an independent research group. "There is no control over how many genes, in what order, or where they are inserted."

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