Tag Archive | "Bayer"

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Will We Use an Agreement to Save the Bees?

Posted on 23 August 2016 by Jerry

Scientists report good news about the closing of the ozone hole at the South Pole. Fortunately the human species banned chlorofluorocarbons with the Montreal Protocol that was signed September 16, 1987, almost 30 years ago by 25 nations. Over 165 nations are now a party to the agreement. A couple of recent articles in this blog cite progress made by the US with China and India (see http://iamaguardian.com/1849/u-s-and-india-to-reduce-use-of-hydrofluorocarbons/ and http://iamaguardian.com/1542/the-more-we-understand-ozone-the-less-we-know/ ).

Susan Solomon of MIT led the team that evaluated the ozone hole in Septembers of multiple years. As reported by National Geographic in June of this year, “Solomon’s team found that, in recent years, the hole is not eclipsing the 12-million-square-kilometer threshold until later in the southern spring, which indicates that the September hole is shrinking. In fact, the researchers believe the ozone hole has shrunk by more than 4 million square kilometers. Furthermore, the hole is not as deep as it used to be.”

Human beings have used their chemicals and banned some of them to right ozone wrongs they committed. Can we, will we do it again to save the bees? Can we convince or mandate through law that select businesses will no longer use banned chemicals to hurt the bees? Can we ban or severely limit the use of neonicotinoid insecticides (insecticides based upon the use of a chemical similar to nicotine)?

An article appeared in the New Scientist in July of 2016. It said, “Exposure to neonicotinoids, a type of pesticide widely used on crops, reduced the percentage of viable sperm in male honeybees (drones) and also shortened the insects’ lifespans, according to a study published today (July 27) in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.” The study observes that the queens of the colony collect sperm from the drones and store it for future fertilization. If the sperm is bad the future reproduction is compromised.

Shell and Bayer both developed these insecticides. Chemical companies around the globe now sell them. In addition, as of 2011, Bayer, Syngenta, Sumitomo Chemical, Nippon Soda, and Mitsui Chemical made derivatives of these products. These products are now widely used for instance in the U.S. where they are used on 95% of corn and canola crops, most cotton, sorghum, sugar beats and about half of all soybeans. In addition they are used on the majority of all fruits, vegetables and nuts.

An article in Nature magazine was published online in August of this year said as follows, “In 2013, the European Union imposed a 2-year moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids to protect both domesticated and wild bees. This moratorium is scheduled to be formally reviewed in 2016, although exemptions to this ban have already been implemented in the UK.”

In addition the article continued, “Our results provide the first evidence that sub-lethal impacts of neonicotinoid exposure can be linked to large-scale population extinctions of wild bee species, with these effects being strongest for species that are known to forage on oilseed rape crops. These results support the findings of previous studies on commercially bred pollinators that have identified the underlying mechanisms affecting mortality. This study extends existing evidence from a limited number of model species to the wider community of bees found in agricultural landscapes. These findings provide an important contribution to the evidence base underpinning the current moratorium on the use of this insecticide in the European Union.”

In an article on this blog last year (see http://iamaguardian.com//?s=bees&x=0&y=0 ) we described the value of bees to all of us. We said, “Feral bees, or the other 3,999 species in the U.S., are dying.  Feral bees are the large majority of bees.  They are often solitary, stingless and ground nesting.  Estimates place the annual value of all bees in the U.S. Economy at between $14,000,000,000 and $20,000,000,000.”

We continued, “This is because they are a key pollinator of hundreds of plants we depend upon.  These include beans, tomatoes, onions, carrots, oilseeds, sunflowers, fruits and plants such as clover that our livestock are dependent upon.  Another way to estimate the value is to recognize that one out of every three bites of food you take has some dependence on bees.”

So the question is should we seriously restrict or ban entirely the neonicotinoid pesticides? Should this be another Montreal Protocol? Should we find the countries beyond the European Union to support a worldwide ban? The answer is yes!

We should begin our quest to save the bees and ourselves by banning production of the offending chemicals. We should write to our president or presidential candidates to have them initiate the international cooperation to save our bees and ourselves. We should insist that this effort be taken in our name to save the future agriculture needed to feed the world.

Use the following links to access additional information or articles used to prepare this article.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/06/antarctic-ozone-hole-healing-fingerprints/

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-36674996

http://science.sciencemag.org/content/353/6296/269

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/despite-volcanic-setback-antarctic-ozone-hole-healing

http://www.the-scientist.com/?articles.view/articleNo/46652/title/Pesticides-Reduce-Male-Honeybee-Fertility–Study/

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1835/20160506

http://www.nature.com/articles/ncomms12459

http://e360.yale.edu/feature/bee_collapse_co2_climate_change_agriculture/2991/

http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/283/1835/20160506

 

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Speed/Slow/Stop…or LABEL Genetically Modified Foods

Posted on 05 August 2011 by Jerry

genetically modified foods

In the early 1990’s advances in genetic engineering changed the nature of the chemical business at firms such as Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical, and Bayer.  They went from manufacturing chemical substances such as herbicides like Roundup, to patenting genetically modified seeds for crops such as corn, rice, soybeans and wheat.  These seeds were genetically engineered to have many different characteristics.  In some cases they added genes to crops that made them impervious to herbicides such as Roundup.  These crops were branded as “Roundup Ready” in that a farmer could use Roundup in his fields to kill weeds with no fear the herbicide would damage their crop.  In other cases they added genes that were from other species of plants that produced natural pesticides. These made the resulting crops impervious to various insect pests.  With active support from the United States government and the deep pockets of these multinational chemical companies, there was a concerted push to have these seeds approved for use and planted throughout the world.

The chemical companies insisted there was little environmental or heath risk from these genetically modified crops.  They said that human or animal consumption involved taking these crops into the digestive tract and that any potentially harmful toxins or chemicals were destroyed in the digestive process.  Opponents claimed there was insufficient research to determine possible effects.  Since these seeds were patented products of their respective companies, information about them was withheld as proprietary and access to them for research was not granted.  Recent research indicates their toxins are not destroyed in the digestive process but instead can be found in the human blood stream, see the related story “Where there’s toxins, there’s….what?” June 1, 2011.

Some governments reacted aggressively, e.g. the United States, while others reacted cautiously, e.g. the European Union.  Different groups of farmers accepted the crops, others rejected them citing consumer concerns about genetically modified foods.  With little regulation and much governmental support, the industry has been very successful in the United States at replacing natural crops with genetically modified crops.  The following chart was published by the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) in 2011.  It shows various modified crops achieving between 65% – 94% of planted acreage in the United States.  This leads to very high reliance on genetically modified ingredients in the American food supply.  A recent estimate is that 80% of the products purchased at an average grocery store in the US contain some ingredient that is from a genetically modified source.

Designations before the crop type refer to the type of genetic modification that has been made:
HT = herbicide-tolerant varieties   Bt = insect resistant varieties

The chemical industry, assisted by the U. S. Government, has actively fought labeling of genetically modified food with every tactic at their disposal.  This has included using provisions in the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) to block any country from requiring mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods.  They have asserted the labeling would amount to adoption of “technical regulations” that erect “unnecessary obstacles to trade” or are more “trade restrictive than necessary” under the Technical Barriers Trade (TBT) Agreement or the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement of the GATT.   On this basis they have blocked labeling of genetically modified foods as violations of the GATT and threatened legal challenges through the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In addition, they have derailed progress by the Codex Alimentarious Commission in Geneva which was established jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO).  As a part of its mission to establish internationally recognized standards for food safety, the Codex has sought an agreement to allow countries to have a valid argument for requiring genetically modified labeling domestically under Article XX of the GATT.

In a surprise move at the July 5, 2011 Codex meeting, the United States, the lone holdout to an agreement on genetically modified food labeling, abruptly reversed its two decades old position and endorsed a labeling guidance document.  While the Codex cannot order labeling, its guidance document gives countries the international permission to require genetically modified labeling of food consumed in their country. Over a hundred countries signed the guidance document and a substantial number will now begin their process to initiate mandatory labeling.

There is little agreement however, on what labeling standards should be followed.  Two major camps have emerged over the years with some arguing for “product” labeling with others endorsing a “process” labeling.  Under the product option, which is the minimalist approach, genetically modified foods would require labeling only when the products are not substantially equivalent to their unmodified cousins in composition, nutritional value or intended use. In addition, labels would be required if the modified food contained allergens or ingredients from certain fats not found in their natural counterparts.  The process option would call for labeling of all genetically modified foods and food ingredients regardless of whether they were substantially equivalent to their natural counterparts or not.  This process option has been adopted and implemented by the European Union (EU), Japan, Australia, New Zealand, South Korea and to some extent China.

It is very doubtful that the chemical industry or the U.S. government will change their long held position against labeling of genetically modified foods.  They adhere to the argument there is no substantial difference between genetically modified foods and their natural counterparts.  This acceleration of labeling internationally can serve as the opportunity for American citizens who favor mandatory labeling of genetically modified foods to renew and redouble their lobbying efforts to secure labeling at home.  In addition, we must encourage organizations which will push for labeling nationally to embrace this as a priority effort.  This is the opportunity to reverse the tide and make progress in this area.

Organizations who are leaders on this issue and who could use support and further encouragement are as follows:

Greenpeace International: http://www.greenpeace.org/international/en/campaigns/agriculture/problem/

Organic Seed Alliance:

http://www.seedalliance.org/ten-ways-to-respond-to-usda-s-ge-alfalfa-and-sugar-beets-decision/

The Center for Food Safety

http://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/

Letters to elected officials are also a required part of lobbying for labeling.  The following link provides access to a data base with which to indentify your elected representative and their address.  You are encouraged to take a stand and demand full “process” labeling of genetically modified foods in the United States.

Congressional Representatives: http://writerep.house.gov/writerep/welcome.shtml

Background:  In Beyond Animal, Ego and Time, in Chapter 13: Protect Life Imperative – Synthetic Biology, there is a description of the history of genetic engineering and synthetic biology and the risks associated with both.  The book calls for “mandatory and detailed” labeling of all genetically or synthetically engineered plant or animal food.  It takes the position “Only an informed citizenry should decide to consume genetically engineered food.”

 

Use the following links for more information:

 

GM Foods in the Supermarket:  http://www.foodconsumer.org/newsite/opinion/comments/supermarket_foods_0520111206.html

Adoption of Genetically Engineered Crops in the U.S.:  http://www.ers.usda.gov/data/biotechcrops/

 

Country Adoption of GM Crops – a recent sampling:

South Africa: http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/201106081109.html  and  http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/201107060142.html

Peru: http://www.farming.co.uk/articles/view/4140 Peru’s Congress bans GM crops

Ireland: http://canadianawareness.org/2011/04/ireland-says-not-in-this-country-bans-genetically-modified-crops/

Canada: http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=5790

European Union: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-europe-14045365

Approval of GM Food Labeling: http://www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_food_safety/017860.html

http://www.codexalimentarious.net/web/archives.jsp?lang=en  See session 39 Codex Committee on Food Labeling, click English pdf, scroll to REP 11/FL Appendix III.

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