‘EU approves Monsanto, Bayer genetically modified soybeans’, Reuters, July 22:
“The European Commission on Friday approved imports of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready 2 Xtend genetically modified soybean variety, after months of delays that had derailed the U.S. seed giant’s product launch this spring.
The decision now clears the way for widespread planting next season and removes a hurdle for North American farmers and grain traders, who have to keep close track of unapproved biotech traits that can disrupt trade. Top importer China approved the soybeans earlier this year.
U.S. grain trader and processor Archer Daniels Midland Co told Reuters on Friday its elevators and processing plants will now accept the Xtend soybean variety. Rivals Cargill Inc [CARG.UL], Bunge Ltd and CHS Inc, which had also refused to accept the variety without EU import approval, could not be immediately reached for comment.
The EU is the second largest importer of soybeans and its approval is not expected to have a major impact on merger talks by German suitor Bayer AG, whose sweetened $64-billion buyout offer of Monsanto was rejected last week, as it had been widely anticipated, analysts said on Friday.
“It would have been a big deal if it hadn’t been approved, but this was the expected outcome, although it took longer than anyone thought,” said Bernstein analyst Jonas Oxgaard.
Still, the approval marks a key victory for Monsanto in the wake of months of regulatory delays over this launch, and swirling controversy over whether glyphosate, the chemical in its popular Roundup herbicide, is carcinogenic.
Monsanto expects Roundup Ready 2 Xtend soybeans, designed to tolerate applications of glyphosate and dicamba weed killers, to be planted on 15 million acres next spring and 55 million acres by 2019. The company is still waiting the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to approve dicamba use on crops” (again, more is here.)
From July 19 WSJ (behind a pay wall): “Monsanto Co. on Tuesday rejected a roughly $65 billion takeover proposal from Bayer AG, saying the improved bid continued to undervalue the biotech seed giant.
“Monsanto left the door open to further talks, however, and Bayer said it would continue to pursue the deal, despite objections from a major shareholder.”
Yes, I reckon that Monsanto’s coming bottom line sweetened the deal for Bayer.
Via ecowatchcom: ‘How the EPA Ignores the Dangers of Pesticide Cocktails’, it begins:
“The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has approved nearly 100 pesticide products over the past six years that contain mixtures that make them more poisonous and increase the dangers to imperiled pollinators and rare plants, according to an investigation by the Center for Biological Diversity. These “synergistic” combinations have been widely overlooked by the EPA in its approval of pesticides for food, lawns and other uses.
The new report, ‘Toxic Concoctions: How the EPA Ignores the Dangers of Pesticide Cocktails’ pdf, involved an intensive search of patent applications for pesticide products containing two or more active ingredients recently approved by the EPA for four major agrochemical companies (Bayer, Dow, Monsanto and Syngenta).
“The EPA is supposed to be the cop on the beat, protecting people and the environment from the dangers of pesticides,” Nathan Donley, a scientist with the Center for Biological Diversity and author of the report, said. “With these synergistic pesticides, the EPA has decided to look the other way and guess who’s left paying the price?”
Synergy occurs when two or more chemicals interact to enhance their toxic effects. It can turn what would normally be considered a safe level of exposure into one that results in considerable harm. Pesticide mixtures are ubiquitous in the environment and also present in many products for sale on store shelves.”
Grim to read more on the EPA’s ‘see no evil’ practices.
From GMwarch.org: ‘Emails reveal role of Monsanto in Séralini study retraction Details’, 20 July 2016
“Editor at the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology invited Monsanto scientists to review a study that found toxic effects from Monsanto products, reports French newspaper Le Monde
In September 2012 the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) published the research of a team led by the French biologist Professor Gilles-Eric Séralini, which found liver and kidney toxicity and hormonal disturbances in rats fed Monsanto’s GM maize NK603 and very small doses of the Roundup herbicide it is grown with, over a long-term period. An additional observation was a trend of increased tumours in most treatment groups.
In November 2013 the study was retracted by the journal’s editor, A. Wallace Hayes, after the appointment of a former Monsanto scientist, Richard E. Goodman, to the editorial board and a non-transparent review process by nameless people that took several months.
Did Monsanto pressure the journal Food and Chemical Toxicology (FCT) to retract the study? French journalist Stéphane Foucart addresses this question in an article for Le Monde.
The article shows the total subordination of Goodman to Monsanto. It also reveals how Hayes played a double role in the retraction of the study, acting behind the scenes to encourage Monsanto scientists to join the reviewing panel that would feed their views into the decision to retract.
Influence of chemical companies on academics
Foucart examined emails disclosed as a result of a freedom of information request submitted by the food transparency organisation US Right to Know (USRTK). Foucart writes that the emails “reveal the influence of the chemical companies on some academics”.
‘Study linking GM maize to cancer must be taken seriously by regulators; Trial suggesting a GM maize strain causes cancer has attracted a torrent of abuse, but it cannot be swept under the carpet’
I’d covered the study in 2012 for then, My.firedoglake; it’s long, but also has the report and hideous photos linked.
Ooopsie; Patrick Bond at CP: ‘Bill Gates’ Silver-Bullet Misfiring at the Mandela Memorial Lecture’, July 18
“On July 17, Bill Gates delivered the annual Mandela Lecture in Johannesburg, justifying his philosophy of market-orieted, technology-centric philanthropy. Last year, French economist Thomas Piketty’s speech on inequality attracted healthy debate, with even business notables endorsing his concerns, given South Africa’s intense social conflict.” [snip] major inequality, angry, militant workers…and worse… I’ll skip his initial, but thankfully brief, homage to the mega-billionaire Gates as too much to bear. He rolls on, and good on him:
“But compare what can be termed Gates’ ‘philanthro-capitalism’ with Ford Foundation President Darren Walker’s proposal for a more appropriate approach to giving in the 21st century: “We foundations need to reject inherited, assumed, paternalist instincts… We need to interrogate the fundamental root causes of inequality, even, and especially, when it means that we ourselves will be implicated.”
In contrast, Gates specialises in top-down technicist quick-fixes – ‘silver bullets’ – which often backfire on the economic shooting range of extreme corporate influence and neoliberal policies. As Global Justice Now’s Polly Jones complained in a report last month, Gates’ “influence is so pervasive that many actors in international development, which would otherwise critique the policy and practice of the foundation, are unable to speak out independently as a result of its funding and patronage.”
Amongst the few exceptions are Katharyne Mitchell and Matthew Sparke, whose research critiques Gates’ “highly targeted investments, market-mediated partnerships, rapid technological fixes, constant assessment, quick exits, and the use of competition, benchmarking and rankings to set funding priorities.”
Bad examples can be drawn across the vast sphere of Gates Foundation activities:
* Gates’ power threatens African food in part due to his advocacy of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), which benefit agro-corporates such as Monsanto but wipe out local seeds. In Kenya, Gates’ people and US AID appear to have succeeded in reversing a GMO-seed ban (only four African states allow GMOs). The Gates-supported Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa “advised and lobbied the governments of Ghana, Tanzania, and Malawi, among others, to adopt pro-business seed and land policy reforms,” according to a critique by a progressive food-sovereignty NGO, Oakland Institute.
* To address species-threatening climate change, a rather confused Gates favours ‘Terrapower’ nuclear, a dangerous distraction from the urgent need to both expand renewable energy and radically reduce fossil-fuel abuse. As Exxon CEO Rex Tillerson bragged about Gates at his recent AGM, “there’s no space between he and I.” (sic)
* Privatised health and education are Gates’ speciality but in India, a Gates-funded trial on the genital cancer-causing disease Human papillomavirus was cancelled by the government because thousands of girls aged 10-14 were victims of ethics violations such as forged consent forms and lack of health insurance; seven died. The case is now in the country’s Supreme Court.”
He indicts Gates’ non-profit industrial complex further, including making sure his Merck brand of AIDS medicines were used in SA and Botwana, resulting in ‘at least 330,000 avoidable deaths’. Bond also narrates how neoliberal South Africa has become since the ANC took power, especially under Madiba.
“Gates has apparently not (yet) reached the stage of philanthro-seduction of radical social movements, trade unions, feminists, Black Lives Matter activists, LGBTI scene, environmentalists, Occupiers, anti-imperialists, youth and progressive political parties which do so much to withstand the inequality, state surveillance, racism and other features of contemporary economic tyranny.
These forces show, objectively, that the world urgently needs far less corporate power – including in the hands of Bill Gates and Microsoft – and many more bottom-up activist initiatives to achieve thorough-going wealth redistribution.”
Also, Colin Todhunter has warned much the same, but: ‘Toxic Wheat, GMOs and the Precautionary Principle’, by Raúl Ilargi Meijer, July 16
He’s reprised a post of his from two years ago, but with a new addition at the top:
“But first I would like to touch on a closely connected issue, which is Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s ‘war’ on GMOs. Taleb, of Black Swans fame, has been at it for a while, but he’s stepped up his efforts off late.
In 2014, with co-authors Rupert Read, Raphael Douady, Joseph Norman and Yaneer Bar-Yam, he published The Precautionary Principle (with Application to the Genetic Modification of Organisms), an attempt to look at GMOs through a ‘solidly scientific’ prism of probability and complex systems. From the abstract:
The precautionary principle (PP) states that if an action or policy has a suspected risk of causing severe harm to the public domain (affecting general health or the environment globally), the action should not be taken in the absence of scientific near-certainty about its safety. Under these conditions, the burden of proof about absence of harm falls on those proposing an action, not those opposing it. PP is intended to deal with uncertainty and risk in cases where the absence of evidence and the incompleteness of scientific knowledge carries profound implications and in the presence of risks of “black swans”, unforeseen and unforeseable events of extreme consequence.
[..] We believe that the PP should be evoked only in extreme situations: when the potential harm is systemic (rather than localized) and the consequences can involve total irreversible ruin, such as the extinction of human beings or all life on the planet. The aim of this paper is to place the concept of precaution within a formal statistical and risk-analysis structure, grounding it in probability theory and the properties of complex systems. Our aim is to allow decision makers to discern which circumstances require the use of the PP and in which cases evoking the PP is inappropriate.
This puts into perspective the claims made by Monsanto et al that since no harm has ever been proven to arise from the use of GMOs, they should therefore be considered safe. Which is the approach largely taken over by American politics, and increasingly also in Europe and other parts of the world. In their paper, Taleb et al say the approach does not meet proper scientific standards.”
There must be some good news out there, but this is har-har funny, anyway: ‘Barack Obama’s half-brother Malik says he’s voting for Donald Trump; Malik Obama, who has the same father as the US president, said his frustrations with the Democratic party have lead him to support the Republican nominee’, the Guardian, lol.