In recent weeks there has been a wave of good news stories from the movement to keep GM crops (and toxic pesticides) out of our fields, out of supply chains and off our plates. From China to Croatia concerned citizens, scientists and even whole nations are standing up to say “No to GMO” despite multiple pressures. Here we share a selection of some of the boldest stories, in a top ten list that’s really worth reading. In no particular order…
1. Mom’s Across America meet with EPA to discuss grave concerns over Monsanto’s RoundUp herbicide
A recent US study discovered disturbing levels of glyphosate – RoundUp’s chief ingredient – in US mothers’ breast milk, raising concerns over the health of both mothers and infants. In reaction, Moms Across America and Thinking Moms Revolution secured a meeting with the US Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) officials to discuss concerns about RoundUp, the world’s most widely used herbicide.
Pilot tests revealed the build up (bio-accumulation) of glyphosate in Mothers’ bodies, afinding that contradicts industry claims that the herbicide does not accumulate. The assumption that glyphosate does not accumulate is a key factor in allowing companies to claim that glyphosate is safe, as they argue it does not build up to harmful levels in the body. Testing also found that levels of glyphosate in US urine samples were ten times higher than those in Europe.
After the meeting EPA spokesperson Cathy Millbourn announced that the EPA, hopes to have a preliminary risk assessment completed in 2014 and to determine by 2015 whether the use of the herbicide should continue, be limited, or halted entirely.
The EPA made no other comment about the meeting, and Founder of Mom’s Across America reported a mixed outcome: “I saw that we have EPA members on our side. They may not be able to act now, but they want to. They want us to push on and give them the reason to make a bold change. They want their children to be safe as much as you and I… (but) despite our compelling binder of studies and undeniable evidence through testimonials of mothers of risk of harm, they did not agree to our request to recall Roundup, or revoke the license of glyphosate.”
Mom’s Across America are organising marches for the 4th of July to raise further awareness of the issue.
2. Russian PM says Russia will not import GMOs, as MPs propose radical new bill to make producing GMOs a terrorist act
In April, Russia’s Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev announced that his nation has no reason to grow or import GMOs as it can meet its needs through organic production. Backed by agricultural minister Nikolay Fyodorov, Medvedev stated:
“If the Americans like to eat GMO products, let them eat it then. We don’t need to do that; we have enough space and opportunities to produce organic food.”
This announcement follows a call from the State Duma’s Agricultural Committee for the government to ban the registration and use of GM in Russia. A three-year moratorium is now in place as new scientific research is conducted.
Meanwhile, a group of Russian MPs have submitted a draft bill to parliament calling for stricter punishment, including criminal prosecution, for individuals and firms who produce and distribute harmful biotechnology in the country.
Sponsors and authors of the bill have strikingly suggested that punishments should be comparable to those given to terrorists, with jail sentences from fifteen years to life for serious offences.
Co-author of the bill Kirill Cherkasov, a member of the State Duma Agriculture Committee, said:”When a terrorist act is committed, only several people are usually hurt. But GMOs may hurt dozens and hundreds. The consequences are much worse. And punishment should be proportionate to the crime.”
3. Scale of GM risk in Hawaii emerges as communities put pressure on authorities
Described as ‘Ground-Zero’ for the GMO debate, Hawaii has long been one of the world’s biggest testing grounds for both GM crops and pesticides. Biotech corporations such as Syngenta, Dow, DuPont and Bayer all own land for testing on the islands.
Fears over the health impacts of large scale testing close to communities are being increasingly substantiated with the discovery of abnormally high rates of cancer, breathing disorders and birth defects. It has been reported that companies are using twenty-two kinds of restricted-use pesticides, and withholding information about these chemicals from officials. These include organophosphates which Hawaiian doctor James Raelson referred to as akin to the chemical weapons used in Syria’s recent civil war, only in lower concentrations.
A recent Deutsche Welle documentary has highlighted both the injustices being suffered by inhabitants of Kauai, Hawaii’s fourth largest island, but also the vibrancy of the anti-GM movement on the Islands.
Community members have been taking to the streets in mass protests, and organising against GM for years. Thanks to their efforts local authorities are taking action. Last year Kauai Council passed a law, set to come into force later this year, that will force companies to create buffer zones between their fields and formally disclose the pesticides they are using.
A group called Sustainable Hawaiian Agriculture for the Keiki and the Aina Movement (SHAKA) has gathered enough signatures (19,400) in Maui County to give residents the option to vote for a temporary ban on GM crops this autumn. This is the first time a citizens initiative has collected enough support to be featured on a ballot in Maui’s history.
Hawaii County has already adopted a law banning GM cultivation, with a single exemption for a GM papaya variety.