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Reasons We Do Need GM Foods: It is about improving nutrition

A couple of months ago, reading an article about world hunger, I found out that someone dies of starvation every 3.6 seconds. Can you imagine that? I tried to understand how we can let that happen but I couldn’t. So, I started wondering what are we–and specifically the scientific community–doing to help stop or even diminish a pandemic problem like hunger.

GM Food nutritionAccording to the World Health Organization, hunger and malnutrition are the single gravest threats to the world’s public health. Malnutrition is by far the biggest contributor to child mortality, present in half of all cases. So, world hunger is not only a quantitative issue, it is also a qualitative matter. People do not die only because they are not able to eat enough food, but because they do not consume some vital nutrients required to subsist.

As a biotech company employee, it was pleasant to know that–for the last two decades–crop biotechnology has been used in two major ways to enhance human nutrition: improving global food security by making more food available and by enhancing the nutritional composition of food.

Maureen Mackey’s article, The Application of Biotechnology to Nutrition, acknowledges, in the next several years, we will see the application of biotechnology to enhance major global staples–such as rice, wheat, corn and cassava grown in Asia, Africa and Latin America, which will be needed to feed the expanded populations in these continents.

Scientists around the world agree about the particular relevance biotechnology will have to ease hunger and malnutrition in developing countries, increasing the nutritional value of food. Gene technology will enable the production of new crop varieties that will produce essential vitamins and micronutrients. This is especially important in regions where access to food is limited and balanced diets are difficult to achieve.

In the last decade, scientists have genetically modified fruits and vegetables to offer higher levels of anti-oxidant vitamins that help ward off cancer and heart disease, and vitamin A to prevent blindness. As other biologically active components in food plants are discovered to have disease-fighting nutritional value, their levels may also get a genetic boost.

Even these achievements are still in a development stage, they indicate a relevant and important role for biotechnology in improving food quality and developing functional foods, particularly those targeted for needy populations in developing countries–such as children and pregnant women.

Nevertheless, great efforts have been made to demonize biotech industry since its inception. I genuinely respect and appreciate the work of many organizations concerned about the implementation of biotechnology improvements in the food chain, even when the U.S. government developed a Coordinated Framework for the Regulation of Biotechnology in 1986 to provide for the regulatory oversight of organisms derived through genetic engineering.

What really keeps me up at night is that even when the scientific community, authorities and experience demonstrate the safety of GMO, some people’s personal agendas keep reducing the chances of survival of 15 million children that die every year of hunger.

10 Reasons We Do Need GM Foods

Santiago is a Manager of Public Affairs at Monsanto. He was born and raised in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Public Relations, post-graduate studies in Social Communication & Media and an MBA in Marketing Management. Prior to working at Monsanto, Santiago taught PR for almost seven years while working as a Communications Advisor for several organizations and industries. He also worked for a multi-national IT company and an Oil & Gas company as PR Manager.

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81 Responses to "Reasons We Do Need GM Foods: It is about improving nutrition"

  1. So I have already had my comments erased!!! And yet I didnt speak callously or with profanity.
    So lets try again Santiago!!!
    Why is it when it comes to human genetic alteration/testing it is so controversial and pretty much understood by all that their are great risks involved with changing the natural composition of our bodies.
    So please tell me why is it when it comes to one of the oldest living organisms in the world……plants……. why dont we understand that inherently the risks are the same as if it were humans??
    In my belief system everything is alive ,indeed plants and vegetables are alive, and everything on this planet is connected.If we forcefully change the genetics of our food it is a logical and obvious conclusion that eventually we will change the makeup of ourselves. This doesnt take a genius to figure out!!!!
    I ask you and everyone else. Where is the humane life sustaining ideology in this??
    The only difference I see in humans and our plant friends is one thing. Choice!!!
    We have the ability to choose in a humane way in a responsible way for the good of everything and everyone or we have the choice to choose to do everything for the sake of the bottom line for the sake of profit.
    And for all you god loving god fearing people. Wouldnt any god of any religion rightly punish us for trying to alter those things that our god made and provided us with for our own sustainability.

  2. Hmmm, Santiago, while I agree that there are many good reasons why we do need GM foods, I don’t think your argument is very strong. The fact is that we have no shortage of food, and no shortage of nutritious food, on our lovely planet – what we have is a lot of humans who have no money and no economic resources to buy the food with. Most of the good (and bad) people who are starving are suffering becuase they have no way to participate in the global economy. This is often due to conflicts associated with governments or religions, or due to incredible corruption that keeps the poor weak. When people have access to the economy, even in bad times, they get creative and find ways to survive. So while there are lots of great contributions that GM products can make to improve the environment and human lives, I think that they will do nothing to resolve the kind of poverty that results in hunger and malnutrition. Focus on distribution, supply will take care of itself.

  3. Why do you monitor responses on You Tube if you welcome all opinions? Why this blog now? Damage control, or just sheer propaganda? Why do you think you have the right to patent seeds and apply technology fees on contracts? No one owns life. Why are so many of your employees also going in and out of the revolving door of the US government? Why are you clearing land to grow corn for ethanol if you care about the ‘food crisis?’ Also, why are you stopping the labelling of foods to tell consumers that bacteria organisms are in their food? It is our democratic right to choice. The fact you would work so hard to stop such labelling speaks volumes of your true intentions.

  4. Funny, Ironic, I don’t know, but in my experience hungry or starving people don’t really care if the food is non GM or organic, they just want food.
    Thus, it’s pretty easy to be idealistic with a full stomach.
    A

  5. It is key to note that trangenic traits are bringing huge benefits to society. It is difficult to argue that better nitrogen use efficiency or drought tolerance traits are not going to benefit greater society and not just biotech companies or farmers. Instead of thinking that hating biotech is cool please take the time to fully understand the technology and the issues at hand. Too many people take pride in participating in the anti biotech movemnet and really have no idea what they are actually argueing against.

  6. Bill – ideally distribution of food would not be an issue, however it always has been, and looking at the state of the world today I cant see this changing in my lifetime – what will change in my lifetime is that in excess of 3 billion more people will (or at least are projected to) be added to the population further taxing the already fragile (locally) global food supply.

    GM foods can offer a partial fix to the problems of malnutrition within this timescale – not as the only fix, but as part of a much needed greater fix. As an example, I recently attended a seminar by a researcher from the Danforth center here in St Louis where they are working on modifying Cassava (an important crop plant in sub-saharan africa aswell as south america) to contain higher quantities of zinc – the cassava tuber while being extremely rich in starches is not a good source of micronutrients or proteins but makes up the bulk of the diet for millions of people. Their preliminary results showed (and here I may not be remembering the exact numbers) 6 fold increases in Zinc which would mean that to obtain the WHO recommended quantity of daily zinc from Cassava consumption would be brought into plausible ranges (it was possible to obtain this quantity otherwise theoretically, but it would most likely result in a single village consuming their whole crop in a matter of days or weeks).

    This is a single project of which I am aware which is specifically tailored not by ‘big biotech’ but by the academic community with the only aim of reducing malnutrition in areas where it is a huge factor – I’m sure that there are probably hundreds more of equal value all striving to do the same thing – provide more nutritious food to those who need it by genetically modifying crop plants native to the particular areas to be better – if even a handful of these projects come to fruition the positive impact on millions of lives will be a great thing – and in my mind a far more likely thing than circumventing the petty aspects of human nature which keep such a large portion of the human population in poverty and malnutrition.

    Closer to home – things like vistive soy beans which help reduce trans-fats in oils are ‘big biotechs’ current contribution to the nutritional aspect of genetic modification – it can be argued that people would be healthier if they simply took the decision to avoid trans fats without the get around, but everyone knows that putting this theory into practice is pretty difficult on a personal level, and that adoption by the population at large is pretty much a pipe dream – whereas introduction of oils and fats which have lower or no trans fats present is probably our best option – changing people’s diets without actually changing their diets.

  7. After you buy up all the seed companies and get HR 875(?) passed will I still be able to grow may organic backyard garden so I don’t have to eat genetically modified crap, or will you shut me down and force me to eat your GMO’s that I don’t want and don’t need?

  8. Kate,

    Those are your links for info on HR 875?? Really??
    Why not put a link with the actual bill.. LOL
    No lets put up some blog sites and some pages from whoever.
    People if you read the bill, although monsanto might not be responsible for it, and I mean truly read it and digest it and understand it. It is clear that it is if anything structured around and for big agri business.
    You see it is hoped that we all only read all these webposts and websites without actually taking the time to read the BILL!!
    Go to the source dont rely on someone else to give you their opinion and figure it out for yourself.
    And if I remember right it has passed through its first round of approval in voting.
    Correct???

  9. Thanks Kate!

    Can anyone who thinks that this bill benefits Monsanto in particular please point me to the part of the bill which seems to favor Monsanto over say, the general public?

    To me, and I’ll admit now I skim read the bill, the whole thing appeared to involve the creation of a seperate health office to deal with food safety as regards foodborne illnesses from source to final consumer – rather than having this process fragmented – I may just not be looking at it right, but I cant see any way that this would be in Monsanto’s interest, or against Monsanto’s inerest – from my (skim)reading it appears at best that this bill is Monsanto neutral (maybe that is the issue? – perhaps any bill which doesnt negatively impact Monsanto in some way is part of an evil scheme to take over the world?)

  10. maybe not so much to take over the world but my fear is that a huge company like yourself with tons of lobbying being done will or have already influenced the implementation of this bill. By conglomerating the departments stated in this bill and by now having a duty to redefine what is considered healthy and appropriate for us humans. How easy is it for such a powerful company to help persuade the powers that be that your seeds and pesticides are the only right ones that fit to the health and needs of people. And hopefully not but still possible to persuade the same powers that be that any other type of seed or pesticide must therefore be unfit for humans.
    I dont fear that anyone is trying to take over the world that is silly Ewan.
    But what I do fear is that this whole industry is completely contaminated just like our banking and finance industry out to rape the public in order to raise profits and stocks.
    That is the real fear in all this and based on the experience that every person in this country has experienced (well most everybody)due to the criminal and greedy acts of others we have every right to question what in the heck is going on.
    So as to the benefits only time will tell. But I bet you folks get a huge nod from the powers that be and lots of funding. I am afraid that the eventuality is that if I want to produce food not from mansanto and dont want use your pesticides what are the chances that the choice might be made for me.
    And frankly i just dont want to eat your food or use your products. Just like anything else i dont like fast food either and thankfully I can still make the choice not to eat the crap. Same idea applies here.

  11. In response to Bill,

    Poverty is extremely complex and goes beyond simply being able to participate in a world economy (althought this is helpful in many situations). Literacy and numeracy, nutrition, access to energy, etc. and dozens of other factors impact poverty.

    Access to appropriate technology is a part of getting people out of poverty, but it is only a part. GM food are a small part of the solution. How vital they are (and how appropriate) will vary with the location and problems faced in that particular society, village, family, and individual.

  12. Scared stiff – again, can you point me to the exact parts of the bill which specifically benefit a) Monsanto in particular, or b) Agribusiness in general.

    My general feeling is that having food safety responsibilities spread over multiple government agencies rather than being centralized plays into the hands of agribusiness as they can probably take advantage of lack of communication or differences in departmental rules.

    I think the parts people are concerned about are the right to inspect – which, as a consumer, is something I think the government should have on any food production facility which has, as its end customer, the public.

    The definitions of what is healthy as far as I can make out are what is healthy in terms of the introduction of microorganisms into the food chain – and as the trend has been towards tightening these regulations (rightfully) one can only assume (and hope) that this would continue.

    As has been stated numerous times in these blogs – consumer choice remains available, you have the choice to buy certified organic, which will have different pesticides and herbicides (or the same pesticide in the case of Bt) and a different set of fertilizer sources (predominantly animal waste, but potentially mined nitrate rather than manufactured nitrate) or you can try and find a small scale sustainable farm near to where you live and buy from them (if you hate business in general, and it appears that you do, I’d suggest this as your best course of action – organic for the most part is the same as conventional agriculture with the substitution of a few inputs)

  13. So in relation to my last post I have been reading alot of info about mansanto in iraq. WOW!! Way to get your products out there. I am wondering if you can lead me to a some info that might state as to what extent your company is imbedded in iraq.
    From what I am finding is that mansanto has pretty much secured themselves as the primary if not only source of seed for iraq.
    There is even rumour ( and I stress rumour) that iraqis by law have to use mansanto products. Is that really true?
    And if it is in anyway true…anyway true…than it stands to reason that if some 3rd world country can have their basic food supply completely controlled what is to stop the same thing from happening to us. In other words what sort of bill or provision was put into place in iraq to implement this policy and how does it compare to say …..hr875???
    Also from what info I have found it seems that nearly all farming in the same place is almost totally destroyed. Yes yes i know we can all make the argument well they are in a war zone. But beyond that argument how does mansanto fit in to the system.

  14. Scared stiff – I’m assuming you mean “order 81″ which as far as I can tell is a tweaking of Iraqi law such that patent law is enforcable in Iraq…. as it is in (most of)the rest of the world – meaning that any seed supplier who offers a patented product is now protected, by law, from theft of their product in Iraq – meaning that they will bring the product to the country – giving Iraqi farmers the CHOICE of using patented seeds if they so wish.

    My assumption is that you dont want a country ravaged by war to have the benefits of a legal system which allows for its inclusion in modern agriculture on an even footing with the rest of the world which is the essence of having an enforcable patent law in any country – without protection of intellectual property rights patent holders will not bring their products to a market.

  15. Andy, did you know that in 2002, Zambia rejected US gene altered corn during a famine? Apparently, starving people DO in fact care if the food is GM or not!

  16. I still have a really hard time believing that a company which holds a patent for Terminator Seed technology would have the audacity to state that its services are needed to feed the world! Despite the fact that these plants are not yet grown commercially, cross contamination is inevitable, and what will happen once these GURTS cross with regular plants? I guess we’ll all just have to keep buying new seeds from Monsanto to replace the ones that won’t germinate. For a “life sciences” company, Monsanto sure does deal a lot in DEATH! Just ask those folks in Anniston, Alabama! Monsanto’s PCBs ruined their town, and Monsanto LIED about to the citizens until a lawsuit forced the truth to be revealed. WHY SHOULD CONSUMERS BELIEVE ANYTHING REPRESENTATIVES OF THIS COMPNAY SAY? The bribes in Indonesia are a great example. The person responsible for that division when the bribes took place is none other than the company’s current CEO, Hugh Grant! That little tidbit is not mentioned on the For the Record site for some strange reason! Just like the Anniston situation. I waited about a year for Bradley Mitchell’s promise to address this situation on the For the Record page to come to fruition…I haven’t seen it yet, but maybe I just missed it since I stopped checking after finally deciding it 1) wasn’t going to happen and 2) would be a blatant lie anyway…Did anyone ever apologize to those people or even admit guilt?

  17. Yep, just checked the For the Record site again and saw absolutely nothing about Monsanto’s PCBs destroying an entire town! Why should we trust Monsanto with our food supply after what the company did? I would venture to say that anyone who would be affiliated with this company cannot be trusted. No one with integrity would be associated with Monsanto!

  18. Carey – I’d be interested to know how you’d propose that a terminator gene would propagate itself in a population given that by its very nature it cant propagate – given that cross pollination of the same species within a 3km radius is generally in the range of 0.5% this technology, if applied (which Monsanto have stated time and again that they wont apply it – the tech was developed by DL&P in conjunction with the US government long before Monsanto purchased the company) would at best find its way into 0.5% of nearby same species crops and result in 0.5% of the seeds generated from the cross not germinating – thus causing a cessation of the flow of the gene – when you consider the flow to wild species… well, I dont believe I’ve seen any evidence to suggest any level of gene flow from a crop to wild species, but even if you assume a microscopically small quantity it would be immaterial – a terminated seed is a dead end for the gene.

    As an added aside, and based on the above assumptions, I’ve never (personally, not from a company stand point) quite understood the opposition to the use of terminator technology in GM seeds – to me it is a win win situation for both sides of the debate (well maybe not so much for total opponents of GM tech who would see it not exist at all) – such a technology, if applied:-

    1. Would make it impossible for anyone to save seed – GM producers would no longer have the need to persue legal action for seed saving – keep in mind that GM tech patents currently act as what is essentially a legal terminator anyway. This is good for GM companies obviously, but also great for anyone concerned about companies coming after them for saving seed which they claim not to have saved.

    2. Would make contamination of non-GM crops a non issue (if the GM contaminates your crop the seed wont germinate so you dont have to worry about building up GM crops in subsequent plantings)

    3. Would effectively prevent gene flow out of the GM pool as any progeny would terminate thus acting to contain the genes in the GM pool.

    4. Would be agronomically important in terms of volunteer populations of transgenics growing in the season after planting – which may at present require changes in herbicide use to control – if these seeds terminated, herbicide use could be standardized season to season.

  19. Rereading my previous post “0.5% of nearby same species crops and result in 0.5% of the seeds generated from the cross not germinating” isnt quite what I meant to say….. any crops pollinated should obviously see a 100% failure in germination of those containing the terminator gene.

  20. Whoever can answer these questions,

    Do me a favor and ask your grandparents if they ever heard to so many food allergies? Then ask yourself if Monstanto’s genetically modified food is good for you. Some people say their children died from GMO’s. Lastly, the public overwhelmly wants Monsanto to label their food as GMO’s. So why not label? The age of delaying, and denying of needed public information should be over for Monstanto.

    No GMO’s = Virtually no food allergies

    GMO’s = Greater risk of anaphylactic shock and death

    By the way, do you know what a phytonutrient is?It’s basically nutrients in food that science says is good for the body, but the scientists just don’t know how. So, now we know that science is not 100% capable of figuring out food in relation to the metabolism, and nutrition in the human body. So, my last question is how can Monstanto say 100% that it’s genetically modified food is not harmful?

    Thanks,
    Bob

    • Bob,

      Yes, I do know what phytonutrients are. Your definition is a bit simplistic and inaccurate regarding the scientific understanding of phytonutrients . For more information, I would refer people to the USDA Web site at http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/AR/archive/dec99/stage1299.htm

      Biotechnology has the potential to be used to increase the level of phytonutrients. While no product has been commercialized to date to my knowledge, USDA researchers have used biotech to increase the levels of the phytonutrient lycopene in tomatoes.

      On the allergy front, my wife’s grandmother actually has a serious allergy to seafood. She grew up in Nepal and never ate anything but organic food (by default, not choice) until probably the late 70s. She has likely never consumed GM food as she never left Nepal and I don’t see anything in her diet that is likely to contain GM.

      As to allergies, there is no evidence to link allergenicity to currently approved GM crops.
      There is evidence to suggest that the reporting of allergies is increasing in some countries and geographic areas. This is likely due to several causes:
      • There has been an increased interest in food allergies. Unfortunately, there are no stable diagnostic criteria for testing for food allergies and food intolerance. Together, these two factors have probably resulted in an increase in reporting of allergies. Therefore, rates of allergies may not have actually increased as much as it would appear.
      • Increased prevalence of allergies is in some cases well documented. These are likely due to the fact that the consumption of some foods has increased in certain geographic areas. For instance, in the U.S., the use of soy-based infant formula has increased in the last 10-20 years. You need to be exposed to a substance in order to develop an allergy to it, and historically not as many people had been exposed to soy, particularly as infants, as they are today. Any increase in infant soy allergies is likely due to increased consumption of soy.
      • There is also evidence that better household hygiene and reduced early exposure to allergens and infections may be partially responsible for increasing rates of some allergies. This has been called the “hygiene hypothesis”. Because exposure to certain allergens is removed or greatly reduced during infancy and early childhood, the immune systems may develop an improper or exaggerated response, which results in allergies later in life. Supporting evidence for this theory includes the fact that children on farms have lower rates of asthma than non-farm children, and children born into a household with a pet are also less likely to develop asthma than children in a home where a pet is introduced later in life.
      Assessing the allergenicity of introduced proteins is a required component of the safety assessment of GM crops. There is no single test that can be used to determine if a substance is an allergen. Consequently allergenicity must be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

  21. Scared Stiff.
    Are you currently a farmer? Do you have any agricultural background? What knowledge do you have on the subject matter to be criticizing it other than what is “rumored” as you put it, look up the facts and read the numbers. By having crops that have a BT protein to protect against insects, farmers save thousands. Just with that one BT protein in the plant, it removes LOADS of processes that no longer are needed. It eliminates spraying insecticides for those insects, deleting the time, energy, money, and fuel, needed to create, package, and transport the insecticides. Then deleting more fuel that farmers would need to apply the pesticides over the crops. Bet you didn’t think that one BT protein would in itself help with the reduction of all of these.
    I grew up on a farm and know first hand the cost associated with beginning to end production. Monsanto is trying to make farmers more efficient and produce the best quality products. Why do you think they have been so successful? Do you really think the government has anything to do with it? Farmers have the decision to decide what crops to grow and they choose the one that offers them the best outcome, while still safe. Crops that are GMO are not just released in a 1-2 year period. It takes YEARS of research and testing to make sure it is not harmful to humans and the environment.
    Your so called lack of “choice” seems ridiculous. In case you haven’t noticed there seems to be a growing trend in choice everyday in the grocery store. Organic options have flooded the shelves, giving you the choice to decide what you truly want. As for Monsanto stopping you in growing your little “organic garden” what makes you think they will stop you from doing this? And if it were organic, why would you be worrying about the pesticides they have anyway? Isn’t that the point of organic……to NOT use anything of that nature? As for organic crops being the right way to feed the world. I personally do not think it is physically possible. There is NO way for enough food to be grown to cure world hunger on a method of production that goes back to the stone age. Yes, I love the idea of organic foods but for those who can afford it. Would you go back to a time where medicine was not available? Yes God may have given us plants and that’s the way they currently are, but that doesn’t stop you from going to the doctor demanding for medicine that was clearly “man made”.
    As for me I think the it’s great Monsanto is coming out with Soybeans like Vistive that has little to no trans fat and a outlook on a soybean that has omega 3 fatty acids, helping those who don’t have access to fish, the opportunity to still receive the nutrients. God gives us the sense to make choices…what choice you make depends on you.

  22. Leo Says:

    April 8, 2009 at 12:49 pm
    Scared Stiff.
    Are you currently a farmer? Do you have any agricultural background? What knowledge do you have on the subject matter to be criticizing it other than what is “rumored” as you put it, look up the facts and read the numbers. By having crops that have a BT protein to protect against insects, farmers save thousands. Just with that one BT protein in the plant, it removes LOADS of processes that no longer are needed. It eliminates spraying insecticides for those insects, deleting the time, energy, money, and fuel, needed to create, package, and transport the insecticides. Then deleting more fuel that farmers would need to apply the pesticides over the crops. Bet you didn’t think that one BT protein would in itself help with the reduction of all of these.

    ———————-

    I just happened to come across this while researching a different, but related issue, and wonder how many farmers have to follow these guidelines, Leo. How much does Bt really reduce farmers’ inputs of time, pesticide, etc?

    http://msucares.com/pubs/publications/p2108.htm

    Guidelines for Scouting and Management of Specific Pests
    Thrips, Aphids, Mites, Whiteflies, Cutworms
    Bt-cotton has no activity against these pests. Scouting, thresholds, and control should be similar to conventional cotton.
    ——————————————————————————–

    Tobacco Budworm/Bollworm
    These are the primary target pests of Bt-cotton. Given a high percentage of expressing plants and the absence of resistance, the need to treat for these pests will be greatly reduced.
    Like conventional cotton, Bt-cotton should be scouted for tobacco budworm/bollworms at 3- to 4-day intervals. Supplemental treatment with foliar insecticides may be required in some situations…..
    ++++++++++++++++++
    Might be interesting for cotton farmers.

    One comment I have about your comparison of organic farming to “farming?” in the Stone Age. There is a lot more to organic farming than You must be aware of. It is certainly a Science and an Art.

    ****************
    http://www.ibiblio.org/InterGarden/agriculture/feedback/dirtfarmer/msg00117.html

    By crop season 2000, the FQPA will surely lead to substantial restrictions on many of the organophosphate (OP), carbamate, and synthetic pyrethroid insecticides that farmers would have to return to if the effectiveness of foliar Bt insecticides is undermined by resistance [due to excessive exposure from Bt crops]. The prospect of the loss of Bt led an experienced Florida crop consultant to remark that the loss of Bt would “… force us back to the stone-age of pest management in a heart-beat.”

    Monsanto has admitted that up to 50 percent of the Bt-cotton acreage had to be sprayed for cotton bollworm (Gary Barton, Monsanto biotechnology spokesman, quoted in Southern Sustainable Farming # 12, September 1996). Harold Lambert, an Innis, Louisiana crop consultant, says the product was only 60 percent effective on bollworms. He calculates that 80 percent of his clients had to spray Bollgard fields 1.5 to 2 times (Ag Consultant, November, 1996, page 9).

  23. The following is an online petition to the Home Depot CEO. How does Manstanto respond to something like this? I get a little scared of Manstano’s food. The website is:

    http://salsa.democracyinaction.org/o/642/petition.jsp?petition_KEY=1345

    This is an exact copy of the petition:

    The Home Depot, Inc.
    Attention: Frank Blake, CEO Home Depot,
    2455 Paces Ferry Road Atlanta
    GA 30339-4024

    Dear Mr. Blake,

    I am very concerned about Home Depot’s sale and distribution of Monsanto Corporation’s RoundUp line of products. RoundUp is a broad-spectrum herbicide and is the most widely used weed killer in the United States and Canada. Though RoundUp’s active ingredient, glyphosate, is considered by the Environmental Protection Agency to have a relatively low toxicity, RoundUp has been linked to numerous environmental and human health problems:

    • Studies of farmers and other people exposed to glyphosate herbicides have shown that this exposure is linked with increased risks of the cancer non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, miscarriages, and attention deficit disorder. For each of the hazards identified in these studies there are also laboratory studies with results that are consistent with the studies of exposed people.

    • There is also laboratory evidence that glyphosate herbicides can reduce production of sex hormones.

    • Studies of glyphosate contamination of water are limited, but new results indicate that it can commonly contaminate streams in both agricultural and urban areas.

    • Problems with drift of glyphosate herbicides occur frequently. Only one other herbicide causes more drift incidents.

    • Glyphosate herbicides caused genetic damage and damage to the immune system in fish. In frogs, glyphosate herbicides caused genetic damage and abnormal development.

    Monsanto Corporation has a long and sordid history as one of the most unethical companies in recent history. From false advertising to scientific fraud, persecuting small farmers and force-feeding Genetically Engineered crops on the world, Monsanto has consistently behaved in a manner inconsistent with Home Depot’s Business Code of Conduct and Ethics.

    I applaud Home Depot’s recent commitment to incorporate sustainable and green products into your overall line. I urge you to please discontinue the sale of RoundUp and all Monsanto products in favor of organic products and ethical companies. Home Depot’s Statement of Values includes “Doing the Right Thing.” As the largest home improvement company in the United States, Home Depot can do the right thing and set the standard for ethical and sustainable products.

    Thank you for your time.

    Sincerely,

  24. Bob – I followed your line of thinking to its logical conclusion and decided to compile an exhaustive list of things my grandparents didnt have as kids, and that we now have in abundance – or at least I tried to, the list is too long, if the rest of your logic works as well I fear that short of living in the woods and foraging for my own food the modern world is just too unsafe. Here’s a few though (some food related, some not so much)

    Peanuts
    Bananas
    Cuisine from other cultures
    Microwaves
    Satellites
    Supermarkets
    Coconuts
    Pistachio nuts
    Chocolate as anything other than a really rare treat
    Fast food
    Pre-packaged meals
    Pesticides
    Laws about environmental safety
    The green movement

    Etc etc ad infinitum – I’m pretty sure there’s a few in there that one could plausibly at least bring into question around any increase in allergies, and a few thrown in just to show how ludicrous the ‘well we didnt have it then but we do now so it’s to blame’ approach is as a stand alone arguement.

  25. wow leo!!
    pretty harsh and angry. Hey guess what i grew up on a farm too. Does that mean you anything in regards to my arguments??? NOt really.
    Start with your soybeans. Didnt some study group just come out recently showing pretty good proof that through their test on mice that Glyphosate formulations induce apoptosis and necrosis in human umbilical, embryonic, and placental cells.
    But of course they must be lying right, because we “organic farmers” have huge resources and lobbying power to influence a result in disfavor of mansanto.
    I wonder how brazil feels about that result.
    and you are right there is a growing trend in the popularity of “natural food” for only one reason ( which the inception of this blog proves as well) there is a growing awareness of the potential dangers of gm foods and products.
    After all the real impact comes after a few generations of people are exposed before the real result of these contaminates can be defined.
    I propose one thing
    Organic food should be redefined to mean simply…..any food that does not contain gm. period end of story.
    ANd I believe you are wrong we could grow enough food around the world for the world population but please dont make the argument that gm food is needed to do this. Starvation has more to do with political agendas than anything. But it is a nice gloss over argument. Even if mansanto succeeded in their supposed goal of saving the planet with their modified food they still would not be stopping starvation. Not while turning a profit.

  26. As an additional insight into the potential for GM tech in the area of food allergies:-

    “Genetic engineering for removing food allergens from plants” Mohan B. Singha, and Prem L. Bhalla Tredns in plant science vol 13 issue 6 June 2008 pages 257-260

    Offers insight into work being done to produce hypoallergenic plants. (lets just say this ties back into the main topic as increasing the available food choices of people who suffer allergies should lead to an increase in their nutritional status…..)

  27. Deborah – look at the data on the indian suicides blog around insecticide reduction – for non-bt controlled pests the same level of application is required (therefore to suggest total elimination of a need to spray any pesticides isnt entirely true (I may have been guilty of this myself somewhere…. cant be sure)) however there is a 2-3 fold reduction in the spraying of pesticides required to control the insects which bt is designed to control – and tellingly, these pesticides are the most dangerous (type I as opposed to type II or III) – also one of the studies cited indicates that Bt cotton performs significantly better even under no pesticide usage.

    Cotton farmers are fully aware that Bt cotton only controls specific pests and that to control non-target species other methods will be required – as they are equally aware that the use of Bt cotton will reduce the costs associated with control of the group of insects which bt is targetted to (and the reduction in toxic pesticide applications which goes hand in hand with this)

    Exposure to Bt crops has not yet led to any field effect levels of Bt tolerance (as previously discussed) and with the introduction of stacking this possibility is further reduced – foliar Bt spraying would cause exactly the same issues (although I’m unsure if sprayed pesticides require refuges to reduce the possibility of evolved resistance) so the comments around pesticide spray switches dont hold much water.

    Beth – the claims made about roundup in your open letter are either plain false or overblown – sources for the info therein would be nice as it isnt apparent online that any of the studies listed actually exist

    Force feeding on GM food is a pretty blatantly false accusation, as is that of being party to scientific fraud. Keep in mind that the number of people signing the document has zero bearing on the truth contained therein.

    Scared stiff – no, there’s no recent study in mice that show any effects of glyphosate on human tissue (I’m pretty sure you mean the french study on petri dish grown human tissue that reportedly showed some effects – effects which wouldnt be unexpected for any regular surfactants and which have no bearing on in vivo human tissues)
    - I’m sure Brazil is largely indifferent to the study.

    I’d like to correct your ‘growing awareness of the potential danger’ to ‘growing fear of the imagined danger’ as this more accurately reflects the stance of the anti-GM crowd

    If the real impact of changes isnt seen for generations then we should all still be bemoaning the switch in the 50′s and 60′s towards the modern agricultural system – and should be as fearful of current organic producers as you appear to think we should be of GM producers – as the methods and varieties of plants used are just as new.

    I personally think organic should be redefined (towards the more locally grown non-industrialized reduced/eliminated rather than replaced inputs version) so as to make it less of a corporate invention to tax the gullible. I dont remotely see why it would be a good thing to deregulate organic further to only not include GM products – infact one of the few changes in regulations I would like to see (and which would raise my opinion of the intelligence behind the whole movement) is the inclusion of GM products into the organic movement – as they arent dangerous or deleterious to the environment or human health in any way shape or form.

  28. Beth,

    You’ll notice that the petition conveniently cites no evidence beyond unnamed “laboratory results” and “studies.” If you are truly interested in reading about the issues raised in the petition, you will find information on the safety of glyphosate here: http://www.monsanto.com/products/techandsafety/herbicide_scipubs.asp

    Glyphosate has an excellent human health and environmental profile and a long history of safe use for over 35 years and in more than 130 countries. This has been a key factor in the acceptance of glyphosate products as among the most widely used herbicides in the world.

    I understand that you may be skeptical of anything coming from a corporation, so don’t just take our word for it. Conservation groups have chosen glyphosate formulations to restore and manage wildlife habitats because of their effectiveness against most weeds and due to the fact that glyphosate has very low toxicity to wildlife. I would suggest you check out the references to glyphosate in the following guides from the Nature Conservancy, Ducks Unlimited, and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park – to name just three.

    http://www.nature.org/wherewework/northamerica/states/florida/files/weeds_you_should_know.pdf

    http://www.ducks.org/media/Conservation/GLARO/_documents/_library/_landowner/WSG.pdf

    http://www.fleppc.org/publications/ww/smokymountainsSummer2003.pdf

    Thanks for your note – I appreciate you taking the time to come to us with your questions.

  29. Scared -

    You seem to be victim of a lot of misinformation.

    1. Monsanto does not claim that it will “save the world” or even save it from starvation. We do however believe that GM (as well as breeding) can help. We’ve actually made a committment to doubling corn, soy and cotton yields by 2030.
    2. That Order 81 Iraq stuff is pure conspiracy theory. Monsanto does not even sell seed in Iraq to my knowledge. We were not behind Order 81 – which by the way simply sets up a means by which to protect intellectual property for seed. Similar laws exist in nearly every devloped country in the world and are key to the development of improved germplasm.

    No one discounts your views because you are an organic farmer (although I think your research skills could use some honing). I would suggest however that where Leo has planted both non-GM and GM varieties of crops, he has a perspective you cannot offer.

    O

  30. http://www.ehponline.org/members/2005/7728/7728.html

    Study in Environmental Health Perspectives – ” Here we show – that glyphosate is toxic to human placental JEG3 cells within 18 hr with concentrations lower than those found with agricultural use, and this effect increases with concentration and time or in the presence of Roundup adjuvants. Surprisingly, Roundup is always more toxic than its active ingredient.”

  31. I think the fact that this blog is hosted by Monsanto is a joke. How much are you guys being paid to post defensive statements about Monsanto’s products?
    If Monsanto was a corporation that truly followed proper ethics then this blog wouldn’t exist.

  32. Starvation in this day and age has little to with what kind of crops are being planted and everything to do with corruption, be it domestic or international. Even if someone invented a way of feeding a thousand people on a square meter of land, children would still die in famine because it doesn’t ‘benefit the rulers’ to feed the needy.
    Monsanto, as any other large corporation is about nothing other than profits and anyone claiming otherwise is just talking rubbish.

  33. Marie:
    First of all this is an in vitro study, which contradicts data from numerous studies in higher order animals which would obviously more realistically mimic real conditions.

    Plus this involves DIRECT exposure to tumor cells at concentrations that would be much much higher than normal conditions.

    Basically it’s a horrible study with no relevance. You could DIRECTLY expose that cell line to many substances that you probablly consider healthy with similar effects.

  34. An interesting proposition- that if Monsanto followed proper ethics, we would not host a blog about our own products. There are two possible ways of interpreting this proposition.

    Broadly, the general proposition would seem to be that if people individually or collectively believe in something, it is unethical for them to host a blog on the subject. This would imply that on any subject, only those in opposition have the proper ethical position to host a blog. The logical defect here, of course, is that the oppositon is simply FOR being AGAIST something. Clearly, nobody can host a blog about anything. Silliness.

    More narrowly, the implication is that because Monsanto has a financial interest, and so do Monsanto employees, we should not host a blog on the subject. Remember, however, that the vast majority of people working for ANY organization have some degree of financial interest. Religious organizations, labor unions, charitable organizations, and yes- even those who oppose biotechnology- have economic interests in competing technologies (organic growers), supporting their causes (Greenpeace and similar organizations), keeping themselves paid (yes, Virginia… even Greenpeace pays its staff), supporting their own research, etc.

    The ethical imperative is not to avoid hosting a blog- but to be clear about who you are. Everyone knows that Monsatoblog.com is a Monsanto blog. Monsanto employees routinely identify themselves as such. Anyone who wishes to play by the rules regarding obscenity and inappropriate language (threats, etc.) can say whatever they wish to say, and those who do not want to pay attention to it at all do not have to go to Monsantoblog.com in the first place.

    There is nothing at all unethical about Monsanto TRANSPARENTLY hosting a blog about its own products.

    Maimonides was right. If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am for no one but myself, who am I? If not now, when?

    I beleve in what we do. I will stand up and blog for it. Now.

  35. Time for a blunt discussion on Seralini’s laboratory studies on placental and testicular cells. If you put a detergent of any sort on cells in a petri dish, the cells get sick (and will die if you get the concentration high enough or recover if you remove the detergent soon enough).

    The choice of cells was not biological but political- reproductive tissue cells were chosen so that the author could scream “endocrine disruptor”. Any other cell line would have given essentially the same result- but would not have been as “useful” in terms of inducing unnecessary fears. Similarly, he chose to measure cellular function by sex hormone production. He could have measured almost any cellular function- but again, this choice was “useful” He has not demonstrated “endocrine disruption”- he has demonstrated that detergents injure cells using endpoints chosen for political convenience.

    Roundup formulations contain surfactants (detergents) to help the active ingredient penetrate the waxy cuticle of the plant. The same is true of virtually any herbicide formulation. The active ingredient has a very low degree of cellular toxicity- so it is the detergent that injures cells in culture.

    So what? Baby shampoo, liquid bath soaps, shampoos, dishwashing soaps, laundry detergents, and a slew of other product we use everyday have detergents in them. We squirt them in our hair, rub them all over our skin, soak our dishes in them, and wash our clothing with them. Over 99% of our exposure to these types of materials comes from these direct and indirect human applications- NOT from pesticide use in general and certainly not from Roundup in particular.

    And if you test the types of surfactants and detergents used in these products- guess what- they injure cells too.

    You can go buy “plant based detergents” if you want. Again- so what? You can make a detergent by chemically processing any kind of fat- from plants or animals. Fatty acids are fatty acids- whether from animals of plants, and polyethoxylated fatty acid detergents have the same structure- and the same toxicity- no matter what the source of the fat was. (If you are vegetarian and wish to get your polyethoxylated fats from non-animal sources, I can respect your personal decision as to source- but don’t kid yourself about the chemisty or the toxicity).

    These kinds of detergents are common in our everyday environment- mostly, as noted above, NOT from pesticides- and with no apparent harm. Why? Last time I checked, we did not consist of naked, unprotected cells living in protein-free media at the bottom of a petri dish. Whole organisms have a wide variety of defense mechanisms in place- barriers like skin, metabolic processes.

    In my mind, these data are worthless and irrelevant for safety assessment at best. At worst, they are misleading to those who have not sorted through the politics and emotion to get to the science.

    What I find most disturbing about the cell lines chosen and the endpoints measured- and the way in which the results are positioned- is that they were clearly undertaken by the investigator for “maximum ruckus” not optimum understanding.

    Maybe the public should expect more from investigators like this one….. but that is not for me to determine.

  36. Whoa, Ewan! Um, I am just a normal, everyday consumer (though I do hold two advanced degrees, just not in the sciences, obviously) I didn’t realize that one needed to be a scientist to correspond on this site. This is information I came across on a seed website: Here is the link http://www.victoryseeds.com/news/terminator_gene.html

    “Will the Terminator spread to other plants?

    It is likely that Terminator will kill the seeds of neighboring plants of the same species, under certain conditions. However, the effects will be confined to the first generation, and will not be able to spread to other generations.”

    I guess I should have been clearer before in saying that if it spreads and kills any neighboring plants of the same species’ seeds, what will happen then? The farmers who are affected will have to go and buy more, presumably from your company since Monsanto is buying up all the seed companies. I guess it is a “win-win situation,” you know, unless you happen to be that farmer whose crops are contaminated with the genes and who lose their seed for the next season. Is that better? Regardless of my lack of scientific knowledge about the Terminator gene and all the decimals and statistics you threw at me, there are many, many opponents to this kind of technology, and many of these opponents are scientists with very impressive credentials, what are yours? What are your ties to this company.

    Really my main point was that Monsanto sure does deal a lot in DEATH for a life sciences company. I don’t have to be a scientist and spout a bunch of numbers to know that.

  37. Its not really about scientific knowledge, its simply logical – a gene which causes seeds to be non viable cannot spread. To spread a gene needs to make it into the next generation. By definition a seed which is not viable does not make it into the next generation.

    The numbers I threw at you were the potential casualties which would result from contamination from pollen drift. The percentages are scientifically likely numbers for the amount of contamination. At worst a farmer would lost 0.5% of the seed he was replanting – now, I cant speak for other crops, but I know for a fact that corn yields will not drop if 0.5% of the plants, at random in a field, fail to germinate (neighbouring plants will utilize the space to maximize their own production making up for the loss of 0.5% of the corn ears)

    In **my opinion** terminator seeds would be a win win situation. There could be no gene flow out of GM fields so proponents of 100% GM free agriculture wouldnt have to worry. It wouldnt be possible to infringe patents on these seeds because the seeds themselves would prevent you from doing so. You wouldnt have to worry about herbicide resistant volunteers in a subsequent years crop because the seeds wouldnt be viable.

    Although of course none of this really supports the arguement that Monsanto deals in death, because Monsanto does not utilize terminator technology in any of their products. (although I’m sure countless unborn generations of weeds would fully support your stance)

  38. Dan Goldstein Says:

    April 15, 2009 at 2:33 pm

    The choice of cells was not biological but political- reproductive tissue cells were chosen so that the author could scream “endocrine disruptor”. Any other cell line would have given essentially the same result- but would not have been as “useful” in terms of inducing unnecessary fears.
    ___________

    Dan, I read that Seralini used placental cells because of a larger than usual rate of late-term miscarriages among women exposed to Roundup.
    http://www.gmfreecymru.org/pivotal_papers/crucial5.htm

    An epidemiological study of Ontario farming populations showed that exposure to glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, nearly doubled the risk of late miscarriages. Seralini and his team decided to research the effects of the herbicide on human placenta cells. Their study confirmed the toxicity of glyphosate, as after eighteen hours of exposure at low concentrations, large proportions of human placenta began to die. Seralini suggests that this may explain the high levels of premature births and miscarriages observed among female farmers using glyphosate.

    Seralini’s team further compared the toxic effects of the Roundup formula (the most common commercial formulation of glyphosate and chemical additives) to the isolated active ingredient, glyphosate. They found that the toxic effect increases in the presence of Roundup ‘adjuvants’ or additives. These additives thus have a facilitating role, rendering Roundup twice as toxic as its isolated active ingredient, glyphosate.
    **************
    Belle and his team have been studying the impact of glyphosate formulations on sea urchin cells for several years. The team has recently demonstrated in Toxicological Science (December 2004) that a “control point” for DNA damage was affected by Roundup, while glyphosate alone had no effect. “We have shown that it’s a definite risk factor, but we have not evaluated the number of cancers potentially induced, nor the time frame within which they would declare themselves,” Belle acknowledges.
    ***************
    There is another recent study; the methodology is not released, yet; nor the study peer-reviewed.

    http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=46516

    Carrasco explained that in the first phase of the experiment, amphibian embryos were submerged in a solution of herbicide diluted in water in a proportion that was 1,500 times weaker than that used today on genetically modified soybeans in Argentina – the country’s main crop. The embryos suffered head deformations.

    In the second stage, embryonic cells were injected with glyphosate diluted with water, without the additives that go into the commercial product. The impact was even more negative, showing that the active ingredient accounts for the toxicity, rather than the additives, the biologist said.

    “One should be able to suppose, with certainty, that the same thing that happens to amphibian embryos can happen to humans,” said Carrasco, whose team of specialists in biology, biochemistry and genetics has been working on the study for 15 months

    A potent mix of glyphosate sprayed from airplanes is one of the tools used by the Colombian government to eradicate illegal coca crops.

    But the destructive effects of the spraying on crops, livestock and people in areas across the border in Ecuador have prompted complaints by the Ecuadorean government.

    Some 200 million litres a year of glyphosate are used in Argentina. Soybeans cover around 50 percent of all farmland – nearly 17 million hectares – and are the country’s main export product. The herbicide is mainly applied by aerial spraying.

    Agronomist Jorge Gilbert with the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) told IPS that glyphosate, like other chemicals used to combat weeds or pests, “is not good or bad in and of itself, but depends on how it is applied.” [aerial spraying of humans in coca fields--or any fields--is, IMO, not a good use]

    But environmental and social organisations have been complaining for at least five years that populated areas near fields of genetically modified soybeans have suffered a sharp increase in the number of cases of cancer, birth defects, lupus, kidney disease, and respiratory and skin ailments.

    The Grupo de Reflexión Rural (GRR – Rural Reflection Group), a local NGO that launched a “Stop the Spraying!” campaign in 2006 in the provinces where soybeans are most extensively planted, published a report this year based on the accounts of rural doctors, experts and the residents of dozens of farming towns.

    GRR lawyer Osvaldo Fornari told IPS that the federal courts were presented with the report and asked to investigate the approval process for herbicides and pesticides. He also said that based on the cases of people whose health has allegedly been affected, the “precautionary principle” should be applied, and the use of Roundup should be preventively banned.

    President Cristina Fernández ordered the creation of a committee made up of staff from the Health Ministry, the Secretariats of the Environment and Agriculture, and INTA, to investigate the health and environmental impacts of glyphosate. (END/2009)

  39. Germany Bans Cultivation of GM Corn!

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,618913,00.html

    More proof GMO corn breed is dangerous for the environment.

    —–

    Secondly, I keep hearing from Monstanto that some GMO tomatoes increase lycopene. However, a $25-million four-year study of organic food, funded by the European Union, found that organic fruits and vegetables contain up to 40 percent more antioxidants.

    Which is true? Since this is probably “misinformation” according to Monstanto. I was just wondering the truth.

    http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/86972.php

    —————-
    According to the study listed below, “there was significantly more vitamin C (27 percent), iron (21 percent), magnesium (29 percent) and phosphorus (13 percent) in the organic produce than in the conventionally grown vegetables. There were also 15 percent fewer nitrates in the organic vegetables.”

    “The vegetables that had the biggest increases in nutrients between organic and conventional production were lettuce, spinach, carrots, potatoes and cabbages.”

    http://organic.lovetoknow.com/Nutritional_Content_of_Organic_Food

  40. Bob – the german ban on cultivation of GM corn no more proves GMOs are dangerous than the 1920′s ban on production, sale and transportation of alcohol in the US proves that alcohol causes societal failure.

    Secondly – I’d guess that both are probably true. A tomato genetically modified to have higher levels of antioxidants than a conventional tomato grown under similar conditions – will have. Tomatoes grown under completely different conditions will have different levels of antioxidants and other nutrients. This isnt a case of either or.

    What you are pointing out here is the difference between conventional (industrial) agriculture, and organic (I’m guessing organic true to the original creed, and not the whole foods industrial organic model that is now the norm)

  41. Ewan Ross Says:

    April 20, 2009 at 9:59 am
    Bob – the german ban on cultivation of GM corn no more proves GMOs are dangerous than the 1920’s ban on production, sale and transportation of alcohol in the US proves that alcohol causes societal failure.

    ——————-

    Could you also say that the deregulation of gmo’s in the US makes them no safer than cigarettes, ddt, pcb’s, atrazine, etc, etc?

  42. No Deborah, you couldnt say that, as it makes an assertive assumption about levels of safety. Not to mention all the products you mention aren’t deregulated they’re either banned or have mandatory safety warnings – unlike GMOs.

    My point was that the ban of cultivation of GM corn proves nothing more than Germans have banned cultivation of GM corn. It doesnt prove the corn is safe, or dangerous.

  43. Upon what have the Germans based their decision? It must be on something; they were willing to risk being sued by Monsanto.

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/feedarticle/8467513

    HAMBURG, April 22 (Reuters) – Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company, said on Wednesday it hoped legal action to end Germany’s ban on growing its genetically modified (GMO) maize would allow the variety to be sown for the 2009 harvest.
    On Tuesday, Monsanto said it had started legal action against the decision on April 14 by German Agriculture Minister Ilse Aigner to ban cultivation and sale of Monanto’s MON 810 GMO maize which stopped it being sown for this year’s harvest. [ID:nLL625236
    Monsanto hoped a court decision would be available by mid-May which would permit the maize to be sown for this year’s harvest, a Monsanto spokesman said.

    Aigner had said she decided to issue the ban as information showed there was a justifiable reason to believe GMO maize presented a danger to the environment.

    A spokesperson for Germany’s Agriculture Ministry said: “We have taken note of this lawsuit, which is not a surprise.” The ministry would not make detailed comment on legal cases.

  44. That’s a very good question Deborah. Everything I can find says that Aigner state “I have come to the conclusion there are just reasons to assume that the genetically-modified maize MON 810 represents a danger for the environment”

    However I cant find anything that actually explains the reasoning.

    . “If Aigner had allowed the cultivation of GM corn, it probably would have cost her votes at the European parliamentary elections in June, and probably in the German federal election too. The CSU’s popularity among voters is not so great that she could have allowed GM corn. The second reason is more substantial: There is a deep mistrust of genetic modification. Germans are prepared to accept every artificial flavor, every preservative or any other dubious ingredient in food – but when it’s a question of genetic modification, they want nothing to do with it.”

    Quoted from the german financial times sums it up quite well

    as does

    “Fear has won again – or to be more precise, the CSU’s fear in the lead up to the European elections,” writes Die Welt. “For years a green-conservative splinter group, the Ecological Democratic Party, has been the fear-monger in villages in Bavaria, spreading rumors and false allegations about genetic engineering. Because nobody took a stand against them, an active movement has developed, based on unsettled farmers and city eco-esoterics, who have made the CSU scared. … Queasy feelings are dictating politics.”

    From Die Welt.

    So, fear and politics, it seems. Always good reasons for making decisions in my book (fear and scaremongering pretty much account for Europe’s general outlook on GM crops, at least in my experience)

  45. So you are implying this rejection of GM is just fear-mongering, not the precautionary principle or the will of the people at work? Is the precautionary principle substantially equivalent to fear mongering? I was taught something different in school–that science must move responsibly, especially when the risk of doing harm is great, might be uncontrollable, or when the risks are not completely understood.

    About fear being the basis of the decision, yours is a flimsy argument, Ewan, and not even based on hard social science, just an opinion. Why is it so hard to believe or accept that some of the scientific studies done in the EU might influence people’s decisions? Just look at the rate of seed and crop contamination here and in Canada. Some nations apparently find that unacceptable.

    The issue of rejecting GM is more concrete than fear-mongering, and not as easy to fairly dismiss. Over and over, Monsanto tries to categorize any objections to GM as either ignorance or fearmongering extremists. This is a PR strategy and simply untrue.

  46. Deborah, I base it on growing up in Europe, during the introduction of GM crops, and being subject to the constant fearmonger tactics of the press, which in the UK at least, during the 90′s and early 2000′s was essentially anti-scientific, I havent seen much when talking to friends or family which suggests this has remotely changed.

  47. In those days, at least the 1990′s, in America, there was little publicly available scientific information to refute or even examine. Was it different in the EU? Few people will blindly take the word of a company with a vested financial interest that their product, in this case food, is safe. How can a scientific argument be made if that is the case…proprietary info was used to approve gmo’s…or was it different than I recall? The science was and still may be in it’s infancy. And Monsanto, other biotech companies, and governments are eager to apply it to our food and environment. Who would not be cautious and perhaps even scared? Much of the scientific information we have now largely contradicts itself. That does not instill confidence, and trust is not even an issue in scientific argument. Some of the info that finally came out had to be requested under the Freedom of Information Act. Why the secrecy? Biotech is refusing to give seed samples to scientists wishing to do independent studies to glean more information. That does not seem to follow the scientific method or instill confidence. It looks like you have something to hide.

    People don’t want secrecy surrounding their food. Monsanto should try to understand that.
    Many scientists say the risks of genetic engineering can’t be completely qualified at this point. Regulatory agencies have increasingly been found less than thorough in following the laws and protecting the public in general–and even taken to our courts for these lapses.

    We know contamination occurs. We were told it would not. Some feeding studies indicate problems. All we have is one side says it’s safe, the other does not. The judge in the alfalfa case even made a specific note of that.

    What do you think of the scientific arguments of today? Have you objectively considered them.

  48. First, I would like to thank Monstanto for making a blog so common people can have a discussion on the most dangerous crops on earth. I just have a few questions for Monstanto:

    How can roundup ready GMO corn be more nutritious? Since the corn itself is a registered insecticide because every cell is manufactured to produce BT, a natural bacterial toxin. So when a bug eats the corn, the bug dies. What does this toxin do to the “normal flora” and every other cell in the human body? Is round-up ready GMO corn slowing killing me?

    Before Monstanto could legally run wild… Article one of the Constitution always excluded food crops from a patent on moral grounds. Patents were made for tennis rackets, or toasters. NOT NATURE! Does this make Monstanto non-patriotic?

    I guess whoever controls the seed controls the food.

    Lastly, whenever I go to buy a product I see the company’s name that made it. Many companies even have t-shirts and other products. I don’t see that with Monstanto. Is Monstanto embarrassed it’s food, or scared people will find out the truth if Monstanto started labeling? If I had to rank the most evil companies on earth, Monstanto would rank first with flying colors.

    Lastly, Bob and Deb make a good point on Germany.

    Editors Note: Link omitted due to copyright laws. It was a link to “Future of Food” from YouTube.

  49. Lisa,

    You are so welcome. We are happy to start some real dialogue, even if some people are incapable of actually engaging in civil discussion and feel the need to be snide.

    Nutrition is only one of the potential benefits of GM technology. Not all GM technology, such as Bt crops, improve nutrition. They do however reduce the use of riskier pesticides, so there certainly is a health potential health benefit.

    Actually plant patents predated Monsanto’s involvement in the seed business. Plant patents are not limited to biotech or Monsanto. Google “raspberry” (non-GM) and “patent” and this will become quite apparent. The first life form patented was a yeast for beer – by Louis Pasteur I believe.

    We have plenty of hats and shirts etc with the name of Monsanto and sister companies on them! You just have to go onto a farm to see them. While John Deere still dominates farm fashion, Monsanto is making steady inroads and I see lots of farmers wearing our hats and golf shirts.

    So far Dekalb Wingwear has not proven fashionable in urban areas, but we do have hope. Maybe you can help us with inroads here? Shoot the webmaster your address and we will send you a hat!

  50. Deborah -

    Anti scientific in that the foods were deemed dangerous. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary (not in the volume we have today, but there was zero evidence against)

    Anti scientific in the sense that any trials of GM crops were destroyed by marauding hordes of morons.

    Anti scientific in that the entire culture of the UK at least revolved pretty much around the idea that being dumb in the area of math or science was a good thing.

    These self same emotions are driving Europe’s current fashion of rejecting GM food. There isnt a huge degree of contradiction in the scientific literature, unfortunately the scientifically illiterate can far more easily get their message out and accepted by the general public because it is what a large portion of the public essentially want to hear. There’s contradiction in the science in exactly the same way that there are contradictions in the body of evidence behind the theory of evolution.

    Yes, I’ve objectively considered the scientific arguements today. I’m as pro-GM now (if not moreso) than I was aged 16.

  51. Lisa,

    Just some additions to Brad’s comment.

    You can find all the safety studies about our products here: http://www.monsanto.com/products/technical_safety.asp
    All available for the public on the web.

    As to the first patented life form (yeast for beer) it was patented in 1873 – way before Monsanto was around to “legally run wild”. As to patenting seed – patenting of seeds with enhanced genetics was actually in practice 10 years before Monsanto introduced its first genetically modified seeds. Kind of funny though that everyone thinks we ‘invented’ that legistlation.

    I’m actually trying to put some more stuff together around the history of seed patenting for a blog post. I hope you return to the blog to check it out when I’ve got it all done!

  52. Ewan Ross Says:

    April 28, 2009 at 9:44 am
    Deborah -

    Anti scientific

    [where was the proof you offered the people? Look at your own studies-the one you just cited in the 'helping a thirsty world' thread and the anti scientific nature--scientific method calls for verifiable data and repeating experiments and transparency]

    in that the foods were deemed dangerous. Despite scientific evidence to the contrary (not in the volume we have today, but there was zero evidence against)

    [we still need independent sound scientific method open to peer-review. let scientists have access to seed.]

    Anti scientific in the sense that any trials of GM crops were destroyed by marauding hordes of morons. [emotional language. You have no idea of their levels of intelligence or values]

    Anti scientific in that the entire culture of the UK at least revolved pretty much around the idea that being dumb in the area of math or science was a good thing.[I find that hard to quantify, qualify, and believe]

    ================
    Ewan, would that language be permissible by a non Monsanto commentor? And Brad, you can come across as pretty snide as well. I have tried not to dignify your offenses with a comment in the past, but this seems to be a new trend or strategy–offend the posters enough and maybe they will go away??? Or maybe they will be upset enough to say something more rude than you already have and be banned?

    You really have answered my question. I think you are as closed minded as you accuse others of being. It’s a common phenomenon.

  53. Deborah – which language exactly wouldnt be permissable by a non-Monsanto commentor? Calling the vandals who destroyed field trials morons? I dont see how this is any more or less offensive than comments by non-Monsanto commentors suggesting that monsanto is the devil, that it is an evil company, that farmers who use our products are idiots. I consider the people who destroyed sanctioned field trials to be morons. I always will. Just as I consider people who vandalize public property morons, and people who violate the law to destroy property for any reason.

    You also seem confused by the distinction between anti-scientfic and unscientific – I grew up in Europe, I witnessed not an unscientific rejection of GM (such an unscientific rejection would be based on Jeffrey Smithesque techniques) but an anti-scientific rejection of GM – GM was painted as bad from the getgo because it was scientific. You dont have to believe this was the environment that I grew up in, I’m not offering this as a scientific arguement. This is my own personal experience of the socio-political climate in Europe (specifically in the UK) during the start of the debate on GM (through to the present day as far as I am aware, although habving been out of the country for 3 years now perhaps things have changed).

    The first paper I linked on the water-use thread had a slightly questionable methodology which I believe you responded to (and um, I’m going to go out on a limb and say you were being incredibly snide with the comment, qualifying it with “and I am completely serious, not just poking fun” is akin to “no offense but”) by comparing it to elementary school science. However I subsequently listed 5 published works by the same author on the same subject. Scientific consensus with variable methods.

    You can find it as hard to quantify, qualify, or believe as you like – it is the truth of my personal experience of growing up in the UK. A truth which has been reflected at various times in the writings of Richard Dawkins and other leading British scientists (I cant recall which books specifically, but I’d recommend everything he’s wrote, I have a feeling it may have been in his collected essays)

  54. And to keep it in a more european perspective – the initial quotes around the anti-science nature of european politics came from Die Welt and the german Financial Times – both I would say relatively good sources for judging how public perception of various issues actually is in reality, without having to rely on the views of a confessed Monsanto employee with a strong leaning towards GM.

  55. Ewan,

    I have read and am concerned on a few levels with you responses.

    f some one offers proof with out citation, you reply, “are you a…….? insinuating they should just shut up if they are not a …….? That is just plain rude and insulting,

    Next People have concerns about GM food, admit that and accept they have “what they feel are” valid concerns. it allows you to respond maturely. Even if the opposition does not you as a voice for Monsanto MUST respond maturely…

    Three if you were concerned about letting everyone no how awesome GM food is, ADVERTISE IT, don’t try and hide what food we eat is already GMd. Think Taco shells here and the scare it caused and act accordingly or at least like you have public interest at heart. That was bad form..

  56. Bryon

    where have I asked if someone is a ….? (not sure what was supposed to be there, I guess it was insulting… pretty sure I havent done that) If you could maybe point me to where I appear to be insulting (other than to vandals, where yes, I intended to be insulting to vandals, and am unapologetic about it) then maybe I can either reword what was said, or explain in what way I dont feel it was insulting.

    I realise fully that people have what they feel are valid concerns. When they raise these concerns I feel it prudent to address these concerns directly – concerns based on misinformation or a lack of understanding of the subject matter need to be addressed like this – if people understand a situation and are still concerned then a meaningful discussion can take place, if people come to the discussion with a head full of nonsense (DNA in my food! Bacteria as promoters! etc) then the discussion is scuppered from the start.

  57. It’s crazy how anyone who disagrees with Monstanto has “misinformation.” Everyone knew that this website would spark debate. I believe that it is ok to disagree with one another. This blog has enhanced my knowledge of GMO food, and maybe the authors of this blog have learned something from the public.

    However, there are a couple of things that I’m still not understanding…

    1) Does BT corn harm human bacteria cells? I look at it like chlorinated water. Cholorine is made to kill all living things in the water, but the water companies forget that a human body is made up of human cells which are living. In turn cholorine kills human cells. If BT corn kills other bacteria that try to eat it, does it also kills that bacteria in our body that tries to digest it? It only makes sense that BT corn is a toxin for our body, not enhancing nutrition.

    I don’t mean to be snide or come across as a vandal, but this blog reminds me of Erin Brockovich. This was movie where all those puppets for the companies including medical doctors that told the public that water was ok to consume, and the people affected by the water were not ill. The citizens affected never questioned the doctors, or the water companies research that said that the water was safe even though it was not.

  58. Lisa,
    I completely agree with you that debate is a great educational tool, for both sides.

    To answer your question about BT corn – it does not harm human cells. BT actually kills insects, such as the corn borer, not bacteria.

    BT corn produces the naturally occurring Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) protein, Cry1Ab. BT corn protects against the European corn borer, the southwestern corn borer, and the pink borer. Corn borers (http://www.ent.iastate.edu/pest/cornborer/)

    The Cry1Ab protein produced in BT corn binds to specific receptors in the gut of sensitive insects, but does not affect mammals or insects that lack those receptors.

    That means that the Cry1Ab protein has selective toxicity to specific insects but is harmless to humans, fish, wildlife and beneficial insects that can help control other pests.
    Bt proteins have been used safely for nearly 40 years in microbial insecticides. Bt is also used in organic farming as a pesticide spray.

    Monsanto’s safety studies including peer reviewed safety publications:
    http://www.monsanto.com/products/techandsafety/safetysummaries.asp

    As to your Erin Brockovich reference. I have seen the movie and I remember a scene in the film when Erin offers the lawyers from the offending corporation water from the polluted area. The lawyers then refuse to drink the water.

    Monsanto is nothing like that corporation. We do eat our own products and we happily feed them to our own families. We are very transparent with our product safety summaries, they’re available for the public on our website: http://www.monsanto.com/products/technical_safety.asp

    I understand consumer concern and I (or my peers) will continue to try to answer any questions you may have.

  59. Lisa – as far as I am aware Bt hasnt been shown to be toxic to bacteria in the soil (I’m not sure there have been any studies on effects on gut bacteria – if I can find any info on that I’ll post it later)

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TC7-436F91H-B&_user=1631782&_rdoc=1&_fmt=&_orig=search&_sort=d&view=c&_acct=C000053988&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=1631782&md5=61d5065f4c5470ea59013d4cafadf4f2

    “Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) toxin released from root exudates and biomass of Bt corn has no apparent effect on earthworms, nematodes, protozoa, bacteria, and fungi in soil D. Saxena and G. Stotzky” (incase my link doesnt work)

    The bt toxin specifically targets insects(and only a specfic grouping of insects), in the human gut it is just another protein.

  60. Hi Lisa,

    I would not say the prevailing sentiment from Monsanto contributors is that anyone who disagrees with Monsanto is guilty of misinformation. However there is a lot of misinformation out there which is oftenreflected in replies on this blog. We will call it when we see it.

    With that said, we are always happly to reply with details, links, etc to back up our allegations of misinformation. If we don’t provide it, just ask.

    Bt is fairly specific and is activated in the gut of certain insects (varies with the strain of Bt), and even then, only at certain stages of larval development. For instance, not only will it not kill adult moths, but will only kill the catterpillars at certain stages of development.

    The extremely low toxicity of Bt to people, as well as its specificity to certain larval states of certain insects, is one of the reasons it is chosen for use in agriculture and incorporation into biotech plants.

    Here is a link with some pretty good background:
    http://www.nysaes.cornell.edu/ent/biocontrol/pathogens/bacteria.html

    On the Erin Brockovitch, if you have questions on any of the comments we “puppets” make, let us know and we’ll do our best to back them up with links and info from other third parties.

    I will offer my own observation that whenever we do this, the supporting parties are quickly lableled as corrupt, shills or biased seldom if ever with analysis of the data presented. Apparently for some folks, the only viewpoints out there which are valid, are those which support their own beliefs.

    As a former government official, I was frequently involved in public meetings and hearings on various issues concerning safety of water, food, etc. In EPA training on how to handle public hearings, the first thing they tell you is to NEVER drink water or eat food offered as a means to prove you believe it is safe. The reason is that the water offered may be spiked with something unsafe!

    I had such offers made to me in a couple public meetings in which I was involved. My response was to offer to go to the person’s house and drink from their tap (or in one case swim from their beach with my kids).

  61. Ewan Ross Says:

    May 1, 2009 at 10:13 am
    Lisa – as far as I am aware Bt hasnt been shown to be toxic to bacteria in the soil
    ________________________________

    http://current.com/items/89977630_bt-cotton-weaving-a-web-of-infertility.htm

    Navdanya’s study was conducted in Bt cotton growing areas of Vidharbha, comparing the microbial biomass in the soil of Bt cotton fields with that of fields that grew other crops or other types of cotton. The survey found statistically significant drops in 2 microbes and 3 beneficial enzymes. These results are significant as it provides scientific evidence that Bt Cotton is making the soil infertile by decreasing microbial activity, and thus essentially killing the very soil that the crop is grown in. Additionally this proves that industrial agriculture creates a relentless cycle of despair as industrial agricultural products deteriorate soil fertility that then necessitates intensified fertilizer and agricultural application, which ultimately results in increased farmer’s costs and soaring debts. It is interesting to note that the study was conducted in a region which has shown an alarmingly high rate of farmer suicides, a shocking 20,000 in the past 5 years. Finally, the fact that Bt cotton crops decreases microbial activity in the soil portends a future of sterile soil that may result in massive desertification and loss of arable land in the future in a time where food security is evermore essential.

    http://www.navdanya.org/report1.pdf

    The microbes with most significant drops are as follows Actinomycetes(17% decrease), Bacteria(14.2%), Dehydrogenase(10.3%) Acid Phosphatase(26.6%) and Nitrogenase(22.6%).

    Actinomycetes play an important role in decomposition of organic materials, and thus provide a vital part in organic matter turnover and carbon cycles that replenish the supply of nutrients in the soil and is an important part of humus formation.

    Bacteria are vital in recycling nutrients, contributing to many important steps in nutrient cycles, such as the fixation of nitrogen from the atmosphere and putrefaction.

    Dehydrogenase enzymes play a significant role in the biological oxidation of soil and increase beneficial microbial activity.

    Acid phosphatase enzymes are used by soil microorganisms to access organically bound phosphate nutrients, which make phosphates available to plants.

    Nitrogenase is the enzyme used by some organisms to fix atmospheric nitrogenous gas. It is the only known family of enzymes which accomplishes this process.

  62. For some reason echoes of school science fairs ring heavily in my ears on that “report” Deborah.

    There is no method described beyond saying that crop fields next door to the cotton fields were picked… regardless of what was growing(what was growing then and what was previously growing would no doubt have a huge impact on microbial populations) or how the different fields had been treated (tillage, irrigation, use of other pesticides, use of herbicides, fertilizer applications – all impact microbial populations), no description of methodology of enzymatic analysis.

  63. Regrettably, I can not find any further detailed information on the methodology, but I am still looking and will let you know if I find anything. I agree that more information is needed.

    I did find this, though, regarding different studies:

    http://www.imba.missouri.edu/report/pdf/2004-10%20Final%20Report.pdf

    Several studies have reported various effects of Bt endotoxins released in root exudates,
    and from biomass and residues on soil microorganisms. Generally, insecticidal toxin released from Bt crops had no short-term deleterious effects on soil biological communities, but the potential long-term effects due to accumulation and persistence of the toxin on soil biodiversity have not been evaluated extensively (Donegan et al., 1995; Betz et al., 2000; Saxena and Stotzky, 2001a; Head et al., 2002; Zwahlen et al., 2003). Research on the effects of altered chemical or physical properties of Bt corn residues on decomposition have yielded conflicting results. Those transgenic Bt corn hybrids with higher lignin contents compared with nontransgenic corn may lead to slower residue decomposition by soil microorganisms (Masoero et al., 1999; Saxena and Stotzky, 2001b). In contrast, Bt corn varieties with low lignin content, low C/N, and high soluble carbohydrate content in leaves are documented (Escher et al., 2000). Therefore, further study is required to fully understand the properties of transgenic crop residues
    and the effects on microbial activity including decomposition.

    [Can you explain why Bt plants have higher lignan content? Why does genetically engineering a plant to produce Bt affect lignan? I'm also curious why these difference occur between Bt corn and the isoline: "The C/N, lignin/N, lignin and ash contents of individual plant components varied widely
    (Table 2). The Bt residues, including root, stem and leaves had higher lignin, lignin/N ratio and
    total organic C contents than those of non-Bt residues. Total N was lower in Bt stem and leaf of but higher in roots compared with the non-Bt isoline. Roots also contained higher lignin, but
    lower C/N and total organic C content than those of other components."]

    3.5. Carbon substrate utilization

    Principle component analysis illustrated that carbon substrate utilization patterns of
    bacterial communities between soils were highly significantly different (P < 0.0001), while they
    did not differ due to residue component amendment in the microcosms (Table 5). Soils amended with Bt residues significantly differed (P = 0.0219) from those with non-Bt residues. Similarly, a significant effect on carbon substrate utilization patterns by Bt residues was observed in the field study (P = 0.0267).

    Our study demonstrated that interactions
    among corn residue type (Bt vs non-Bt), residue component, and soil type may alter soil
    microbial community function. Information from this study may be useful for improving Bt corn
    residue management to minimize any potential undesirable agronomic and environmental effects.
    Because Bt corn residues may require more residence time in soil during longer decomposition, we cannot rule out the possibility that the associated toxins remaining in soil for this extended time may also affect soil microbial activity (Flores et al., 2005).
    The impact of different tillage systems on Bt and non-Bt corn residue decomposition and the soil microbial community may require longer term studies over several consecutive growing seasons.
    Bt corn residues seemed to affect soil bacterial
    community function as measured by substrate utilization assays. The ecological importance of
    this observation is not clear, however, it suggests that Bt residues may affect selected activities
    of soil bacteria carried out by specific enzymes that cannot be detected with very general assays
    such as the C mineralization procedure used here. More detailed studies on Bt residues interacting with specific activities of the soil microbial community are required to confirm these
    effects.
    —————————-
    There was also some info on glyphosate:

    http://jeq.scijournals.org/cgi/content/full/33/3/825

    The soybean nitrogen fixing symbiont, Bradyrhizobium japonicum, possesses a glyphosate-sensitive enzyme and upon exposure to glyphosate accumulates shikimic acid and hydroxybenzoic acids such as protocatechuic acid (PCA), accompanied with B. japonicum growth inhibition and death at high concentrations….Deleterious effects of glyphosate on B. japonicum and its inhibition of the nodulation and/or nitrogen fixation processes have been observed in GR soybean. Although the effects of GR soybean genotype has been assessed in terms of yield potential, the magnitude of inhibition of N2 fixation in soybeans due to glyphosate application has not been critically assessed [hs anyone done this to your knowledge--has Monsanto?] under field conditions. Soybean productivity and N2 fixation have the potential to compensate for short periods of stress. However, even a small reduction in N2 fixation potential may have long-term effects on sustainable soil nitrogen pools, considering the widespread adoption of the GR soybean system. The effects of glyphosate on N2 fixation potential of GR soybean should be especially evaluated on sandy soils with limited nitrogen availability.
    **********************************
    This is from 2006, published 2007–it seems there is still so much uncertainty. Did Monsanto study the short and long-term effects of Bt on soil structure and ecology before marketing their seeds en masse? Are they doing any follow-ups to monitor the effects?

    http://www.ecology.kee.hu/pdf/0603_001019.pdf

    Most of the risk assessment studies on transgenic plants have
    done observations on changes in their respective aboveground environment and its biota. Very few
    reports are available on the impacts of transgenic plants or their products (that they release in soil) on soil
    biota (both invertebrates and. microorganisms) and soil processes mediated by them. However,
    observations of these studies were not delivering anything conclusively and creating state of confusion
    also regarding impact of transgenic plants on soil ecosystem. As some of the studies suggested that If
    production and release of the transgene products from transgenic plants through different routes in soil
    exceed to its consumption/ biodegradation, may lead to their accumulation beyond threshold levels,
    which may have acute as well as chronic effect on soil ecosystem. Impacts of transgenic plants are also
    dependent upon spatial and temporal environmental variables. Whereas some of the studies observation
    suggests that transgenic plants don’t have any negative impact on soil ecosystem.
    Transgenic Bt cotton and Bt corn plants
    release Bt endotoxin into the soil from their different parts (roots, leaves etc), which
    persists in soil and retained its immunological and biological activity [64, 66]. A major
    problem in evaluating the impacts of transgenic crops on soil microbial diversity is the
    lack of baseline information on- diverse agroecosystems to compare with
    agroecosystems in which transgenic crops have been introduced [10, 17], and lack of
    universally approved approach for carrying out impact assessment of the transgenic
    plants on soil ecosystem.

    Donegan [20]
    examined the effects of decomposing transgenic cotton litter on structure of soil
    microbial communities and observed transient and significant increase in culturable
    aerobic bacteria and fungi in two out of three transgenic lines, which was attributed to
    unexpected changes in plant root exudates. Similarly, aerobic bacterial, fungal
    population and fungal species diversity in soil samples of Bt potato (Solanum
    tuberosum L.) differ significantly from non-Bt potato plants [21].

    But contradictory to Heuer, Christopher and Jeffrey [13] observed
    rhizospheric and bulk soil samples of Bt corn for PLFA and bacterial and fungal CLPP
    profiles and found 73% and 6.3 -3.8% differences respectively of rhizospheric and bulk
    soil microbial community. But they found that expression of Cry endotoxin and varietal
    differences of transgenic corn don’t have a significant effect on microbial profiles,
    except in the high-clay soil where both factors significantly affected bacterial CLPP
    profiles (accounting for 6.6 and 6.1% of the variability). The persistence as well as
    intensity of the impacts of transgenic plants on the structure of microbial community is
    dependent on the environment conditions of cultivation site [25, 26, 36].Reports on retention time of
    transgenic products in soil are very limited. Head [38] reported that Cry1Ac protein was
    undetectable from soil samples of six fields that are under cultivation of Bt cotton from
    last 3-6 yrs and have incorporated Bt cotton plant residues by postharvest tillage.
    Wherease Oger et al. [62] observed that changes induced by transgenic plants in soil
    microbial community structure are persistent for a long time.
    Above studies observations has shown variation in response of soil microorganisms
    to various transgenic plants due to different reasons. Spatial and temporal factors of
    cultivation site play an important role in determining the impact of transgenic plants on
    soil ecosystem. Any changes in soil due to introduction of transgenic plants should be
    crosschecked by replication of the experiment over the long duration. Very few reports
    are available on the effect of transgenic plants on invertebrate or protozoan population
    of soil. Experimental studies are urgently needed on the structural alterations of
    invertebrate or protozoan population of soils due to transgenic plants. Further research
    for probing non targeted traits of new transgenic crops and the mechanisms by which
    these traits may affect soil biological structure and processes, including changes incomposition of root exudates, is needed for better understanding of the potential impact
    of transgenic crops on soil ecosystem.

    Differences in the composition of crop residues due to the introduction of a
    transgenic trait have been primarily observed in transgenic Bt crops. Masoero [52]
    reported that two transgenic Bt corn hybrids had higher starch, lignin and lower protein
    and soluble nitrogen contents compared with non-transgenic corn. Saxena and Stotzky
    [70] also observed 33 to 97% higher lignin content in 10 Bt corn hybrids, compared
    with their respective non-Bt isolines. In contrast, Escher [28] found low carbon:
    nitrogen ratio (C / N), lignin content and higher content of soluble carbohydrates in the
    leaves of one Bt corn variety compared with the corresponding non-transgenic corn
    variety.
    *********************************

    Again, I wonder why the Bt event is so different than the isoline in composition–what is making the plant different? And did Monsanto perform soil studies before releasing ge crops?

  64. Deborah -

    On the Bt – the lignin difference is indeed an interesting phenomenon, which warrants further study – I cant find any reliable info on why lignin levels would be affected by the presence of the Bt protein.

    Interestingly lignin levels also appear to be down in one line in the Escher study – which is also interesting in that it appears that wood lice juveniles suffer from differential mortality – although to burst the bubble of excitement this statement may cause, the higher mortality rate was seen on the Bt- treatment and not the Bt+.

    I’m not convinced due to the apparent variability between these two studies that the increase in lignin content is either massively different to the wildtype (33%-90% sounds big, but when the levels you are measuring are 3-6% dry weight I am not convinced that this necessarily is a huge deal – also these changes may be correlated with the other differences noted – one has to take care not to count the same change multiple times), or that the difference matters particularly .

    If you actually read the research rather than the preamble in the first paper you cite the statement

    “Previous research with transgenic and
    nontransgenic corn demonstrated that bacterial diversity in the corn rhizospheres were
    differentiated among soil textures but not between corn varieties….. Our observations agree with other research demonstrating that soil texture is one of most important abiotic determinants of soil microbial communities….”(cut out the references to make it an easier read)

    Makes it relatively clear that in this study at least there was no adverse affect on microbial population caused by the Bt corn residues (with the caveat that longer term presence of the Bt toxin needs to be further studied as this wasnt a long term study).

    Which leads me to! (and you’ll like this, it’s a long term study on the effects of growing Bt corn on microbial populations)

    http://jeq.scijournals.org/cgi/reprint/37/2/647

    which over the course of 4 years sees some transient (single year) significant differences in some of the variables measured, but over the course of the study (4 year) sees no difference in any of the studied parameters (total culturable bacteria, gram-negative bacteria, chitin utilizing organisms, cellulose utilizing organisms (only looked at 1 year so this isnt quite as conclusive), fungi, protozoa, ammonium and nitrite oxidizing bacteria, nitrate reducing bacteria and enzyme activities of arylsulfatases, acid and alkaline phosphatases,
    dehydrogenases, and proteases.

    This broadly agrees with the fact that single year studies have seen, and havent seen differences, but strongly suggests that over time there is no difference between Bt and non-Bt corns effect on soil microorganisms.

    On glyphosate – any organism which uses EPSPS (glyphosate’s target) in aromatic amino acid production (only plants and some microorganisms do this) will be affected by glyphosate (as far as I am aware at least, and with the obvious exception of EPSPS’s which either have always lacked the site which glyphosate blocks, or have evolved resistance) so effects on some organisms is not unexpected – as there is no impact on yield due to the effect on the symbiotic bacteria I dont think that concern should be overly high – as N availability is one of the biggest impacts on yield one would expect to see a yield impact if N availability to the plant was impacted significantly

    http://jeq.scijournals.org/cgi/reprint/35/5/1633

    offers a relatively up to date and balanced report on the environmental safety or RR crops and glyphosate (in particular noting that “Glyphosate is more environmentally and toxicologically benign than many of the herbicides that it replaces.” which I believe is the most important fact to keep in mind when discussing any possible environmental or toxicological effects of Glyphosate rather than examining it in a vacuum)

  65. Ewan,

    Does this say that soil texture is the most influential factor–in this study–or the ONLY factor:
    ********************************
    “Previous research with transgenic and
    nontransgenic corn demonstrated that bacterial diversity in the corn rhizospheres were
    differentiated among soil textures but not between corn varieties….. Our observations agree with other research demonstrating that soil texture is one of most important abiotic determinants of soil microbial communities….”(cut out the references to make it an easier read)

    Makes it relatively clear that in this study at least there was no adverse affect on microbial population caused by the Bt corn residues (with the caveat that longer term presence of the Bt toxin needs to be further studied as this wasnt a long term study).

    ++++++++++++++++++
    Did Monsanto do these types of soil studies before marketing gmo’s. If so, would you direct me to the studies?

  66. Deborah – the most important factor, not the only factor. However it does state that varietal differences (ie GM vs non-GM) are not demonstrated (an observation which is thoroughly supported by the 4 year study)

    If you go on to read the rest of the study (paying particular attention to the graphs at the end) something I’d suggest in any scientific paper – you’re more likely to be saying something about the actual research of the paper if you quote from the results/conclusions or even the abstract than the introduction – you will note that of 5 varieties tested only 1 variey exhibited increased lignin (which would generally suggest that transgenic expression of Bt does not increase lignin content) furthermore it would appear that changes in lignin content are driving factor behind differences in substrate utilization etc (which show statistically significant differences between bt and non-bt (with the caveat that only the increased lignin line was analysed))

    To the best of my knowledge I dont think Monsanto did do these kind of studies prior to commercial release, at least I havent personally been able to find any articles (nor am I convinced that such a study would be required to commercialize any transgenic – unless it were released as a product specifically designed for use in situations where maintaing or enhancing bacterial microbial communities was key, in which case there’d be about 10 years of internal data on said product before it ever released commercially)

  67. Ewan Ross Says:

    May 12, 2009 at 8:18 am

    If you actually read the research rather than the preamble [abstract] in the first paper you cite the statement [Thanks again for that tip. Do you really assume I don't read these things, based on our past discussions?]

    “Previous research with transgenic and
    nontransgenic corn demonstrated that bacterial diversity in the corn rhizospheres were
    differentiated among soil textures but not between corn varieties…. Our observations agree with other research demonstrating that soil texture is one of most important ABIOTIC [emphasis, mine] determinants of soil microbial communities….”(cut out the references to make it an easier read)

    Makes it relatively clear [does it really?] that in this study at least there was no adverse affect on microbial population caused by the Bt corn residues (with the caveat that longer term presence of the Bt toxin needs to be further studied as this wasnt a long term study).

    ================
    By cutting out the references and the surrounding statements, you have taken this snippet out of context, IMO.

    The researchers are concurring with previous findings on abiotic variables, but do not even speak to their own findings on biotic variables here in the second section of that statement. I do not see that they say type of residue, Bt or non-Bt has no affect, only that soil texture is the primary abiotic factor. Look here:

    “Bt corn residues seemed to affect soil bacterial community function as measured by substrate utilization assays. The ecological importance of this observation is not clear, however, it suggests that Bt residues may affect selected activities of soil bacteria carried out by specific enzymes that cannot be detected with very general assays such as the C mineralization procedure used here.

    “Based on the results of the microcosm and
    field studies, we concluded that incorporation of Bt residue with higher lignin content and
    lignin/N ratio in soil significantly affected the structure of microbial communities compared with the residue from its non-Bt isoline

    “Residue type (Bt vs non-Bt) or
    tillage had little effect on DGGE patterns. However, a number of low-intensity bands differed
    across the various sample dates. It is possible that many weak bands that were not detected
    occurred on all sampling dates, thus distinct communities associated with the different residues may have been overlooked. However, because bands were selected based on set limits of density values, these differences were not documented. [can we be sure they are insignificant?]

    “The difference in residue quality between Bt and non-Bt residue may be one of the
    principal reasons for the observed effects on soil microbial properties. [Seems to indicate a difference] Our study demonstrated that interactions among corn residue type (Bt vs non-Bt), residue component, and soil type may alter soil microbial community function

    “Because Bt corn residues may require more residence time in soil during longer decomposition, we cannot rule out the possibility that the associated toxins remaining in soil for this extended time may also affect soil microbial activity”
    ============================
    But, don’t take my interpretation as adequately researched; here is how ARS (USDA) interpreted the final copy of the study:

    http://www.ars.usda.gov/research/publications/publications.htm?seq_no_115=214010&pf=1

    Interpretive Summary: Corn genetically modified (GM) for resistance to insect pests (Bt) is planted on about 50% of the corn production area of the United States. The impact of Bt corn on the soil environment and many soil biological processes has received little attention. Effects on important soil biological processes such as decomposition (the breakdown of organic materials for carbon [C] storage in soil and release of carbon dioxide [CO2]) have been largely neglected in environmental assessments of Bt corn. Previous research by other scientists suggests that chemical composition of Bt corn stalks, leaves, and roots differ from ¿conventional¿ corn and may alter soil microorganisms responsible for decomposition, interfering with this process when the plant parts remain on the soil surface or are incorporated into the soil. Our objectives were to determine differences in chemical composition of the vegetative parts (`residues¿) of Bt and non-Bt corn varieties; evaluate the effect of corn residues on decomposition in different soils; and determine effects of the residues on the structure of the microbial populations in soil. Although Bt and non-Bt corn plants differed in lignin (organic compound that gives plant cells its rigid structure), no differences were observed in the decomposition based on the amount of C released when either corn residue types were mixed in soil. The greatest effect on decomposition rate was due to differences in soil texture, regardless of corn residue mixed in the soil. Decomposition was consistently highest in the silt loam soil. Also, soil microorganism composition in field-collected soils DIFFERED DUE TO CORN RESIDUE TYPE[emphasis, mine], suggesting an effect on biological processes mediated by the microorganisms could occur during growth of the Bt corn. Because we only investigated two contrasting corn varieties, follow-up research is required to verify that these results are representative of the hundreds of Bt varieties currently available for production in different soils and environments. Also, our results suggest ONLY that the biological process of decomposition was not affected; we did not study effects of other specific biological processes mediated by soil microorganisms [I hope someone will do that soon--or has done], which should be pursued in the future. Nevertheless, the current information has important implications for scientists, extension personnel, producers, and environmental stakeholders because it demonstrates that growth of Bt corn AFFECTS MICROBIAL POPULATIONS AND POSSIBLY SOME ASSOCIATED BIOLOGICAL PROCESSES IN THE SOIL[emphasis mine] limited to our study; therefore, cropping systems that include Bt varieties need more examination relative to impacts on soil biological processes to better assess long-term effects on the soil resource.

    Based on the results of the microcosm and field studies, we concluded that incorporation of Bt residue with higher lignin content and lignin/N ratio in soil SIGNIFICANTLY AFFECTED THE STRUCTURE OF MICROBIAL COMMUNITIES [emphasis, mine] compared with the residue from its non-Bt isoline. Abiotic factors including soil texture and sampling time also influenced the soil microbial communities and the decomposition of corn residues.
    ****************

    Also, Ewan, are you saying that you know of ONLY ONE Bt corn event with higher lignin levels than its non gm isoline?

    And it wasn’t only the lignin: Masoero [52] reported that two transgenic Bt corn hybrids had higher starch, lignin and lower protein and soluble nitrogen contents compared with non-transgenic corn. [from the above study] What does this say about the unintended consequences of genetic engineering and substantial equivalency?

    I also can’t help wondering why doing studies on the effects of transgenic root exudates/or plant residues on soil microorganisms would not be required for deregulation? That is almost beyond belief! I think your apparent ease with the presumption that the studies were not done reveals the lack of scope and depth of Monsanto’s premarket studies on gmo’s and the environment. Would you say that unintended negative or disruptive effects of transgenic crops on soil microorganisms and function would not be risking the most crucial and fundamental element of ecosystem functioning? Did Monsanto have no responsibility to investigate this consequence before releasing gmo’s into the environment?

    Do you think it might be a good idea for Monsanto to do so in the future–before releasing new gmo’s into the environment–and for Monsanto to do extensive, independently peer-reviewed follow up studies now, especially considering the acreage planted over time to gmo‘s?

    Finally, I can not access your 4 year study. Can you give free link to the study? I have plenty of free links showing soil ecology disruption.

  68. Deborah – hmm, not sure if there is a free version available or not – I assumed as it was from JEQ like one of the studies you linked that it would be widely available…. the study title, authors etc are:-

    Microbial Populations and Enzyme Activities in Soil In Situ under Transgenic Corn Expressing Cry Proteins from Bacillus thuringiensis

    I. Icoza, D. Saxenab, D. A. Andowc, C. Zwahlenc and G. Stotzkya

    J Environ Qual 37:647-662 (2008)

    perhaps you’ll have a little more luck finding it (the pdf wasnt working too well for me but the html did… perhaps my link is just a bad one)

    On the lignin – I’m saying that of the 5 lines tested in that paper only 1 had higher lignin content, therefore, from that paper, one would have to conclude that increased lignin is the exception and not the rule in Bt transgenics – it’d be interesting to see if these differences persisted, or if there was some other variable at work (the 4 year study, if you can access it, shows how a single year study could find differences which arent persistent and therefore may not be meaningful)

    On unintended consequences – working with various different genetic backgrounds (non-GM) it is always a surprise to me (perhaps it shouldnt be, but I havent been at this very long) how different various hybrids can be when grown under controlled conditions in terms of N content, C:N ratios, growth rates, other metabolites etc – I’d argue that so long as levels of starch, lignin etc etc are within species norms not too much should be read into the differences (for instance(and purely hypothetically for the moment):- if it were shown that Bt corn of variety A reduced microbial diversity by 5% would this be important if non-Bt variety B reduced diversity by 10% as compared to variety A?)

    From a 2007 review:-

    http://www.sciencedirect.com/science?_ob=ArticleURL&_udi=B6TC7-4R7M900-1&_user=1631782&_coverDate=03%2F31%2F2008&_rdoc=1&_fmt=full&_orig=search&_cdi=5163&_sort=d&_docanchor=&view=c&_acct=C000053988&_version=1&_urlVersion=0&_userid=1631782&md5=7ae732aa9e84e7e7f62458b73200cbf2#bib91

    “Because most studies have generally indicated few or no significant detrimental effects on microbes and other organisms in below-ground soil ecosystems, more studies on the risks associated with Bt plants, at least those currently available, to these organisms are probably not indicated.”

    I still read the study you linked as predominantly showing that increased lignin content changes things, not the Bt protein – there is no demonstration that the Bt protein is doing anything other than sitting in a plant which has significantly higher shoot lignin – my removal of citations was not an attempt to muddy the waters, just to make the statement a tad more readable (I note that you truncate one of the statements in your previous piece also, presumably for similar reasons?) – I assume that most interested readers will go to the source and check any statements and so dont want to expand my already overly long postings with stuff easily found in the link.

    You appear to want the moon on a stick when it comes to the number of studies done. There is no reason to believe, for the transgenics currently on the market, that there would be a significant and meaningful impact on soil microorganism ecology above and beyond that found between varieties of various crops or between various agricultural practices (I have no idea if this is the assumption that was used prior to the release of the crops, or if things like this were looked at and found not be be significant – this is purely from a personal standpoint) – as studies have been done, and no meaningful, significant and persistant effects have been found my assumption appears to be well founded (albeit perhaps open to the accusation of being unscientific)

  69. Ewan, can you find out if Monsanto did soil ecology safety studies prior to releasing gmo’s?

  70. I wonder what happens to the soil microbiology when corn such as Genuity with stacked traits for Bt cry proteins is sprayed with roundup and still gets a dose or two or atrazine? How would this scenario fit into your comparison of A and B; we could call this one X. It looks like there would be a still greater impact.

  71. Deborah – I don’t think soil ecology studies were performed prior to releasing GMOs (this may not be correct, but as I’ve previously stated, from a personal stance I don’t see why they would be)

    From your second example, introducing ‘X’ rather than just A and B – I would assume that differential effects of herbicides utilized in ANY agricultural system would completely swamp out any supposed transgenic effect – this is because there is (to me at least) an obvious reason to believe that herbicides would impact microbial communities, either by directly harming some microbes (for instance by blocking the production of amino acids) or by indirectly changing the nutritive composition of the soil (kill the weeds, change the availability of nutrients and root networks provided by these weeds – this could work both ways, in that killing the weeds may increase available nutrition to microbes, changing the microbial population profile) whereas there is no logical reason, for the current traits on the market, to assume any effect on soil microbes purely as a result of the transgenic nature of the plants.

    Essentially making this more of an organic vs conventional farming – even within organic there are surely different methodologies which massively impact the microbial populations at the field level – I cant imagine that manure fertilized vs legume cover crop fertilized systems have microbial populations which match as closely as the transgenics in the study which vary as a result of lignin (as you’d have to concede that of manure and cover crop one or the other is likely to decompose at a different rate, and that this difference appears to be the main driving force behind differences in microbial communities) – should either of these systems then be demonized as compared to each other because of an alteration of soil microbes?

  72. If soil fertility is negatively affected, increasing the need for external inputs, decreasing yield, and compromising the resource.

    If symbiotic microorganisms are negatively affected.

    If long-term effects of the pesticide or PIP disrupt parts of or the entire ecosystem.

  73. I guess one would have to ask farmers using Bt corn whether their input requirements have increased (as compared to what they have used prior to using Bt) and whether their yields have decreased – I’m thoroughly convinced, from various sources cited on these blogs, that this is not the case (even the ‘failure to yield’ piece credited Bt corn with yield increase)

    For symbiotic microorgansims – I guess this depends on a case by case basis, and on the size of the negative effects – if the legume crops in the rodale study had just had something negatively impacting their symbiotic microorganisms on bumper years then perhaps the legume cover crops would have been at least as, and possibly less, of a source of leached nitrogen.

  74. What is wrong with the food we already had? There is plenty of food out in nature. People starving to death is due to overpopulation. I believe it’s, “survival of the fittest,” or, “natural selection.” I’m struggling with feeding myself now, and it’s MY problem. Also, I’m not going to have kids and have them go through worse circumstances. All this extra processed food might be causing overpopulation. We wouldn’t reproduce as much if we felt there wasn’t enough food to eat. Yet, Monsanto tries to keep up with the birth/death rate, enable people to have the mindset to keep reproducing at excessive rates. Humans aren’t on the endangered species list and wont be from lack of food. So we wont die off if Monsanto and their GMO’s aren’t around anymore. Malnutrition? that’s just a lack of education. Your company caters to the ever-growing fast food industry with your hormonal fecal-meat. Is fast food the answer for starvation and malnutrition? That is who you support the most, since most of your crops feed the meat we eat and not us. There are foods out in nature you can eat and not have to rely on supermarkets or restaurants.

  75. “Nature” – I dont believe that processed food is a causative factor in the overpopulation of the globe – if you take a look at where population growth is highest, and where it is lowest there is probably a relatively strong inverse correlation between the availabilty of processed and fast foods – if memory serves a lot of first world countries are actually seeing negative population growth or at least relatively stagnant growth curves as compared to second and third world countries.

    The problem with the food we already have is that we have huge problems growing enough food to meet the nutritional needs of billions of people – even in areas not plagued by drought and famine the staple crop may be great in terms of calorific intake but incredibly poor in terms of other required nutrients (cassava is a prime example, being very rich in carbohydrates but a horrible source of protein and micronutrients (aswell as being a potential toxin due to high levels of cyanide) – this is a staple crop across much of africa and south america)

    While standing idly by and allowing billions to starve to death is clearly one solution to the problem of human overpopulation I dont believe that anyone can truly believe that this is even a remotely moral choice, based on the same arguements of ‘natural selection’ and ‘survival of the fittest’ one would have to assume that proponents of such a solution avoid all antibiotics, never see a doctor and would willingly see their own children die of blood poisoning induced by something as simple as a splinter – I know that without the intervention of modern technology I, and every member of my family, would not have made it past the age of 20 – essentially by arguing against attempting to alleviate/solve the global food/population dilemma you condemn billions to essentially the same fate – death due to an unwillingness to apply modern technology based on a misguided idea that somehow because natural selection occurs it is in some way morally correct.

    Even prior to the conception of GM foods supplements have been added to the food supply to prevent what were common ailments earlier this century – I cant see how improving our ability to alleviate suffering caused by dietary shortcomings can be seen as a bad thing – perhaps the perceived imbalance of omega3/6 oils entering the food chain due to the switch from grass fed to corn fed beef is one thing which GM tech could address (assuming the problem is a real one, I havent actually looked at any scientific data around it, just read a few popular “eat real food” type books which hold this as one of the tragedies of industrial farming methods)

    Also keep in mind that the original post is about why we need GM foods. Not necessarily why we need Monsanto GM foods – Monsanto isnt the only player out there. My guess is that in terms of increasing nutrition for crops in the third world that academic research will remain the primary driving force, with Monsanto playing a role in introducing traits such as drought tolerance and nitrogen use efficiency which will play an important role in increasing yields in areas which have high water stress and low availability of fertilizers. Companies like Monsanto are more likely to play a role in increasing/modifying nutrients in crops which go into the industrial food chain – people may bemoan the fact that fast food, and processed food, is terrible stuff, but it appears to be here to stay – and if modification of the base ingredients can achieve a healthier end product then I would argue that this, while not being the best solution, at least makes the best of a bad situation.

  76. We do not “need” genetically modified foods. Humans may modify species of plants and animals by selective breeding, but that is hardly the same thing as inserting genes that belong to an unrelated species, or creating plants that could contaminate nearby ones w/pollen that carries damaging genes. We need to preserve the genetic material of ‘heirloom’ and other species because they have value in themselves and keep control of these things in the people’s hands, not in corporations’ hands. As for the poisons spread by the barrel in agriculture, this is very damaging to the planet as a whole. You can’t justify this kind of damage just because it’s profitable. Very short sighted, greedy, and wrong-headed.

  77. Crow – any plant modified by selective breeding could ‘contaminate’ (a pretty loaded word, and one I question) nearby closely related varieties with pollen carrying ‘damaging’ (again, loaded, and not exactly backed up by anything other than rhetoric) genes (ie non-native genes to the variety in question).

    To return to those points – to what extent is ‘contamination’ by a transgene, or indeed by a mutant gene selected for by selective breeding (mutations may have occured naturally, or been induced by chemical mutagens or radioactivity), harmful if it does find its way into another variety or sub-species through cross pollination?

    The answer isn’t obvious to me. There is no obvious advantage or disadvantage as far as I can see it if a non-crop plant were to end up containing a gene for herbicide resistance (other than the obvious benefit to the plant should it ever be sprayed with that herbicide) or a gene for producing Bt toxin (other than the benefit to the plant of not being eaten by a certain subset of insects, and the disadvantage to that sub-set of insects due to not having that particular plant to eat) – neither of these genes crossing into other plants has an obvious negative effect (other than the perceived negative of non-GM being ‘contaminated’ by GM, which if you dont want to eat any GM at all is obviously a problem within crop plants) – indeed if there were a truly negative effect then considering the estimated levels of cross contamination (cant recall exactly but I believe it is well under 1% cross pollination between the same species with 100-300m seperation) within the same species there is not a lot to worry about as natural selection against any plants containing deleterious genes would prevent ‘bad’ genes spreading (just as natural selection prevents the spread of naturally occuring ‘bad’ genes anyway) the presence of the transgenic (or artificially selected) gene in the genome of a hybrid between a crop species and a wild species, or between varieties of a crop species doesnt to my mind add to any reduction in biodiversity or to any reduction in the genetic material over and above that already caused by the addition of 50% of the genome of an unrelated/non-closely related species/variety – which never appears to come up as a concern, but in terms of things like heirloom varieties (which if memory serves are incredibly inbred lines of various species) any cross pollination with any other variety is going to be catastrophic in terms of maintaining a pure-bred heirloom.

    As to the damage caused by the poisons of agriculture – the justification is not in the profit, it is in the billions of lives spared starvation from the use of fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides together with the most advanced breeding techniques (of which GE is but a part)