Category Archives: Big Agribiz

Obama seizes control over all food, farms, livestock, farm equipment, fertilizer and food production across America | Mar 20, 2012

by Mike Adams

(NaturalNews) “We told ya so” just doesn’t quite cut it anymore. As the American sheeple slept, selfishly refusing to take a stand against tyranny, the Obama administration has been plotting what can only be called a total government takeover of America.

On March 16, 2012, President Obama issued an executive order entitled, “NATIONAL DEFENSE RESOURCES PREPAREDNESS.” (…)

This executive order states that the President alone has the authority to take over all resources in the nation (labor, food, industry, etc.) as long as it is done “to promote the national defense” — a phrase so vague that it could mean practically anything.

The power to seize control and take over these resources is delegated to the following government authorities:

(1) the Secretary of Agriculture with respect to food resources, food resource facilities, livestock resources, veterinary resources, plant health resources, and the domestic distribution of farm equipment and commercial fertilizer;

(2) the Secretary of Energy with respect to all forms of energy;

(3) the Secretary of Health and Human Services with respect to health resources;

(4) the Secretary of Transportation with respect to all forms of civil transportation;

(5) the Secretary of Defense with respect to water resources; and

(6) the Secretary of Commerce with respect to all other materials, services, and facilities, including construction materials.

This takeover is designed, in part, to “stockpile supplies” for the U.S. military. Authority for this total takeover of all national resources is granted with nothing more than the writing of a single statement that claims these actions are necessary to “promote the national defense.” As stated in the order:

the authority delegated by section 201 of this order may be used only to support programs that have been determined in writing as necessary or appropriate to promote the national defense:

(a) by the Secretary of Defense with respect to military production and construction, military assistance to foreign nations, military use of civil transportation, stockpiles managed by the Department of Defense, space, and directly related activities;

What all this means is that the U.S. government now claims the power to simply march onto your farm with guns drawn and demand all your crops, seeds, livestock and farm equipment.


How Genetically Modified Foods Could Affect Our Health in Unexpected Ways

AlterNet | Jan 11, 2012

By Ari LeVaux

Chinese researchers have found small pieces of rice ribonucleic acid (RNA) in the blood and organs of humans who eat rice. The Nanjing University-based team showed that this genetic material will bind to receptors in human liver cells and influence the uptake of cholesterol from the blood.

The type of RNA in question is called microRNA (abbreviated to miRNA) due to its small size. MiRNAs have been studied extensively since their discovery ten years ago, and have been implicated as players in several human diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes. They usually function by turning down or shutting down certain genes. The Chinese research provides the first in vivo example of ingested plant miRNA surviving digestion and influencing human cell function in this way.

Should the research survive scientific scrutiny — a serious hurdle — it could prove a game changer in many fields. It would mean that we’re eating not just vitamins, protein, and fuel, but gene regulators as well.

That knowledge could deepen our understanding of many fields, including cross-species communication, co-evolution, and predator-prey relationships. It could illuminate new mechanisms for some metabolic disorders and perhaps explain how some herbal and modern medicines function.

This study had nothing to do with genetically modified (GM) food, but it could have implications on that front. The work shows a pathway by which new food products, such as GM foods, could influence human health in previously unanticipated ways.

Monsanto’s website states, “There is no need for, or value in testing the safety of GM foods in humans.” This viewpoint, while good for business, is built on an understanding of genetics circa 1960. It follows what’s called the “Central Dogma” of genetics, which postulates a one-way chain of command between DNA and the cells DNA governs.

The Central Dogma resembles the process of ordering a pizza. The DNA codes for the kind of pizza it wants, and orders it. The RNA is the order slip, which communicates the specifics of that pizza to the cook. The finished and delivered pizza is analogous to the protein that DNA codes for.

We’ve known for decades that the Central Dogma, though basically correct, is overly simplistic. For example: miRNAs that don’t code for anything, pizza or otherwise, travel within cells silencing genes that are being expressed. So while one piece of DNA is ordering a pizza, it could also be bombarding the pizzeria with RNA signals that can cancel the delivery of other pizzas ordered by other bits of DNA.

Researchers have been using this phenomena to their advantage in the form of small, engineered RNA strands that are virtually identical to miRNA. In a technique called RNA interference, or RNA knockdown, these small bits of RNA are used to turn off, or “knock down,” certain genes.

Read More

EU court says French GM maize ban was illegal

Reuters | Sep 9, 2011

LUXEMBOURG (Reuters) – France acted illegally when it imposed a ban on the cultivation of a genetically modified (GM) maize variety developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto in 2008, Europe’s highest court ruled on Thursday.

The French authorities did have the right to impose a moratorium on the growing of Monsanto’s insect-resistant MON810 maize, but based its decision on the wrong EU legislation, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice said.

To impose such a ban, member states must demonstrate a potentially serious risk to human or animal health or the environment, and notify EU authorities of the need to take emergency measures, it added.

Emergency measures must be based on science and backed by an assessment from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), according to the European Commission.

France imposed its safeguard clause against MON810 maize in February 2008, citing a “serious risk to the environment.”

Six other EU countries have similar safeguard clauses in place: Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg.

Having tried and failed to force several EU countries to lift their cultivation bans, last year the Commission proposed letting member states decide themselves whether to grow or ban GM crop cultivation.

A spokesman for EU health and consumer commissioner John Dalli said talks on the proposal would continue, but France would have to abide by the court’s ruling.

“It’s now up to the French administrative court to decide whether to table a new safeguard clause,” the spokesman said.

A spokesman for Monsanto said the ruling confirmed its argument that the French authorities failed to follow the correct procedures when imposing the ban.

“Over the last 15 years, MON810 has proven agronomic, economic and environmental benefits and its safety has been confirmed consistently. French farmers should no longer be denied the choice to use it,” he said.

The plan to force farmers off their land

WND | Aug 12, 2011

By Henry Lamb

Al Gore was beside himself when the Senate failed to ratify the Convention on Biological Diversity in 1994. Gore had spent the first two years of his vice presidency developing what he called his “Ecosystem Management Policy.” This new policy was nothing more than preparing the agencies of government to implement the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, the Convention on Biological Diversity and Agenda 21. These three policy documents were adopted in Rio de Janeiro at the 1992 U.N. Conference on Environment and Development.

Agenda 21 was the only document that was not an international treaty. It was, instead, a non-binding “soft-law” document that was designed to avoid the necessity of congressional debate or Senate ratification. Bill Clinton issued an executive order to create the President’s Council on Sustainable Development (PCSD) especially to implement Agenda 21 administratively – without oversight or interference from Congress. The agencies of government have done a masterful job of infecting almost all urban communities with some form of government control under the guise of “Sustainable Development,” which is the objective of Agenda 21.

Now, the Obama regime intends to impose the same kind of control over rural America through his White House Rural Council, also created by executive order.

The rather bland 18-page Convention on Biological Diversity came with an 1,140-page instruction book called the Global Biodiversity Assessment. Page 993 of this instruction book says that the Convention’s plan for protecting biodiversity is “…central to the Wildlands Project recently proposed in the United States.” Page 15 of the Wildlands Project says:

“… at least half of the land area of the 48 conterminous states should be encompassed in core reserves and inner corridor zones … assuming that most of the other 50 percent is managed intelligently as buffer zone.”

Since the President’s Council on Sustainable Development was created, agencies of the federal government and complicit environmental organizations have been working overtime to get people out of rural areas and into “stack-‘n’-pack” high-rise so-called “sustainable” communities. Under the guise of “preserving open space,” unelected bureaucrats ignore the property rights of the people who own the open space and write regulations that sometimes require as much as 40 acres to build a single home. Quite often, development of any sort is absolutely prohibited. These regulations are typically delivered to a community through a comprehensive land-use plan.

In more rural areas, especially in the farming and ranching parts of the country, these measures have not been as successful as the government wants. That’s why a new extension of the PCSD is needed. This time, however, they are calling it the White House Rural Council.

This Council, chaired by the secretary of Agriculture and consisting of the heads of 25 government departments and agencies, is charged with extending “sustainability” to that part of the country that has not already been subdued by the measures implemented by the PCSD.

How will they do it? Let us count the ways.

Consider the Department of Transportation’s recent announcement of its intention to reclassify farm vehicles and implements as “commercial” vehicles and require all drivers of these vehicles to hold a Commercial Driver’s License. Applicants for a CDL must be 21 years of age, submit a medical record, a complete driving record from any state in which a license has been obtained and pass rigorous written and driving tests. CDL holders must keep a log of their activities available to law enforcement at any time, must not work more than 12 consecutive hours, must carry at least $750,000 in liability insurance and many more requirements that farmers and ranchers just can’t meet.

Farm children have always helped by learning early how to drive farm vehicles. Grandpa could drive the tractor, when he could not do the heavy lifting he did as a youngster. This DOT regulation will end farming and ranching as it has always been known in this country. Farmers and ranchers cannot afford to pay professional CDL holders to come plow the fields, mow the hay, or harvest the corn. Farmers and ranchers who can no longer make a living from the land will have no choice but to sell their land and move to a “stack-‘n’-pack” sustainable community. The only potential buyers for these farms are corporate agricultural conglomerates, land trusts, or the government. Since comprehensive land-use plans or other government regulations preclude the possibility of development in the open space, farmers and ranchers will never get the real value of the land.

To add to the hardship on rural families, the Department of Agriculture is still planning to require every farm animal to have an electronic identification ear tag, which will add more costs and bureaucratic red tape to farming and ranching operations.

Every agency that is a member of the White House Rural Council can, and will, find some regulation that rural land owners must comply with to stay on their land. This new executive order has but one purpose: to further tighten regulatory control over people in rural communities to ensure that their lifestyle becomes “sustainable,” or in plain language, government-approved.

Emails Show White House Promotes Genetically Engineered Crops in Wildlife Refuges

Truthout | Jul 25, 2011

by  Mike Ludwig

Monsanto researchers in Stonington, Illinois, are working to develop new soybean varieties in this July 2006 file photo. According to PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch, "The White House is engaging in a joint effort with Monsanto ... and as we understand it, it's part of a White House pledge to double exports," (Photo: Monsanto via The New York Times)

The Obama administration is supporting genetically engineered (GE) agriculture in more than 50 national wildlife refuges across the country and watchdog groups say internal emails among top administration officials reveal that the GE plots are a priority in the White House.

Earlier this year, a settlement in a lawsuit filed by the watchdog group Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) and its allies halted the planting of GE crops in US Fish and Wildlife Service wildlife refuges in northeastern states. Now PEER claims the Obama administration is working with the biotech lobby to shield GE plots in refuges from future legal challenges.

A January 10, 2011 email obtained by PEER reveals that biotech lobbyist Adrianne Massey contacted Peter Schmeissner, the senior policy analyst for the White House Office of Science and Technology, about the legal challenge to GE crop plantings in northeastern refuges.

Massey, who has made a career out of promoting biotechnology across the world, promotes the public policy of the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), a lobby funded by Monsanto and other biotech firms.

The Obama administration recently created the White House Agricultural Biotechnology Working Group and GE crop opponents claim the interagency group has teamed up with BIO to boost exports of GE crops to countries that have grown leery of America’s increasingly transgenic food supply.

Massey also emailed Schmeissner about legally mandated environmental assessments of GE crops in wildlife refuges. PEER contends the emails are evidence of “collusion” between the Obama administration and the biotech lobby, but it remains unclear how much sway BIO actually holds within the administration. The Office of Science and Technology did not respond to an inquiry from Truthout.

The biotechnology working group features top-level officials from almost every agency under the Obama administration involved in agricultural trade and beyond, including the State Department, the Justice Department, the Office of Budget and Management, the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Other internal emails reveal that Schmeissner asked top officials in the working group to comment on new environmental assessments of GE crop plantings in refuges across the country. The mandatory assessment can help the government defend the GE crop plantings from legal challenges. So. how did tiny parcels GE crops in wildlife refuges become a priority for top White House officials?

For years, the Fish and Wildlife Service has allowed farming on national wildlife refuges for the purpose of habitat restoration. The agency claims farming helps develop native grasslands and provides food for wildlife.

Deborah Rocque, a top official for the wildlife refuge system, told Truthout that GE crops restore habitats in ways that conventional crops cannot. Crops that are genetically engineered to tolerate herbicide (such as Monsanto’s Roundup Ready corn and soy) provide beneficial ground cover and the herbicides can be sprayed across entire fields, killing only unwanted weeds, but sparring the GE crops.

Conservationists can debate whether blanketing parcels of wildlife refuges with GE crops and plant-killing chemicals is sound land management practice or an ecologically dangerous experiment, but PEER believes that BIO and the Obama administration are not interested in habitat restoration.

“The White House is engaging in a joint effort with Monsanto … and as we understand it, it’s part of a White House pledge to double exports,” said PEER Executive Director Jeff Ruch.

The US has had trouble in recent years exporting GE crops to Europe, where many consumers are skeptical about GE foods and some countries mandate that foods containing GE ingredient must be labeled. Now that more than 90 percent of corn and soy grown in America is GE, the government has a vested interest in promoting the acceptance of GE crops in other countries.

“These plans are based on the curious notion that wildlife benefit from having the small slivers of habitat set aside for them covered by genetically engineered soybeans,” Ruch said of the program in an earlier release. “To boost US exports, the Obama administration is forcing wildlife refuges into political prostitution.”

PEER claims that Fish and Wildlife policy did not allow for GE crops in wildlife refuges unless found essential for some purpose, and some European countries pointed to the policy as evidence that GE crops are not environmentally sound. So by using environmental assessments to justify GE crop plantings in picturesque wildlife refuges, the Obama administration and agribusiness firms can clean up the tarnished image of GE crops worldwide.

Rocque, however, said that Fish and Wildlife never had a policy whether or not GE crops should be planted in refuges and it simply makes sense to use herbicide-resistant GE crops as a habitat restoration tool.

Ruch said PEER filed its first legal challenge after being contacted by Fish and Wildlife biologists who opposed using refuge land to grow GE crops. PEER later obtained an internal email among Fish and Wildlife officials that the group believes is evidence that USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has put pressure on the agency to get in line with the broader administration’s stance on GE agriculture.

In the January 14 email, Interior Department Deputy Secretary David Hayes tells Fish and Wildlife Deputy Director Tom Ashe and Interior Department official Tom Strickland that Vilsack is “somewhat exercised that the Administration is not being consistent in supporting genetically engineered crops.”

“This is the White House telling Fish and Wildlife to get out of the way,” Ruch said.

Rocque, however, said she is unaware of any internal pressure from the White House to promote the planting of GE crops in wildlife refuges.

GM Crops Decimating Monarch Butterflies Habitats

Eat Drink Better | Jul 26, 2011

Monarchs butterflies’ decline correlated to increased plantings of herbicide tolerant GM crops and overuse of glyphosate (RoundUp) herbicide.

Twelve years ago, a study found that genetically modified Bt corn was lethal to monarch butterflies; recent research shows that another type of GM crop is even more damaging to the beloved insect.
“What’s going on down there is a disaster”

A recently published study says that increasing acreage of GM Roundup Ready (RR) corn and soybeans is a major cause for declining populations of monarch butterflies in North America. The paper, published in the journal Insect Conservation and Diversity, says that increased use of glyphosate herbicide with RR GM crops in the Midwest is killing milkweed plants, which monarchs rely on for habitat and food.

Chip Taylor, an insect ecologist at the University of Kansas and co-author of the paper, told the New York Times, “This milkweed has disappeared from at least 100 million acres of these row crops. Your milkweed is virtually gone.”

The paper documents that populations of monarch butterflies in central Mexico, where they migrate to in winter, have declined over the past 17 years, reaching an all-time low in 2009-2010.


In Midwest, Flutters May Be Far Fewer

Lincoln P. Brower, an entomologist at Sweet Briar College and co-author of the paper, told Wired magazine: “What is going on on the ground down there is a disaster.”

Monarch butterflies migrate from the United States to Mexico each year, traveling some 4000 miles.

Taylor and Brower both criticized a recent paper by Andrew K. Davis, an assistant research scientist at the University of Georgia, which didn’t find a significant decline in monarch populations. Davis analyzed monarch populations in Cape May, N.J., and Peninsula Point, Michigan. Brower said those are minor sites that would not reflect the true status of monarch populations. “His paper is not representative of the big picture (of overall monarch populations), which is Mexico.”
“Bigger threat than Bt corn”

While the paper lists several other factors, such as deforestation in Mexico, contributing to declining monarch populations, Taylor says the proliferation of RR crops and the overuse of glyphosate is the major cause.

“This is the one main factor that has happened,” he says. “You look at parts of the Midwest where there is a tremendous use of these crops and you see monarch populations dropping. It’s hard to deny the conclusion.”

Taylor has been warning about the negative impact of RR crops on monarchs since writing a blog about it in 2001. “I’ve always thought they were a bigger threat to monarchs than Bt corn.”

Taylor says the monarchs’ decline accelerated around 2003 when herbicide tolerant GM crops accounted for nearly 50% of all corn and soybeans. That number has increased to more than 80% in the last two years.

“Once herbicide tolerant GM crops reached 50%, we saw a significant impact on monarch populations,” he says.

Human gelatin to be used for desserts and candies

New Method for Making Human-Based Gelatin

ScienceDaily | Jul 14, 2011

Scientists are reporting development of a new approach for producing large quantities of human-derived gelatin that could become a substitute for some of the 300,000 tons of animal-based gelatin produced annually for gelatin-type desserts, marshmallows, candy and innumerable other products.

Their study appears in American Chemical Society’s Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.

Jinchun Chen and colleagues explain that animal-based gelatin, which is made most often from the bones and skin of cows and pigs, may carry a risk of infectious diseases such as “Mad Cow” disease and could provoke immune system responses in some people. Animal-based gelatin has other draw-backs, with variability from batch to batch, for instance, creating difficulties for manufacturers. Scientists thus have sought alternatives, including development of a human-recombinant gelatin for potential use in drug capsules and other medical applications.

To get around these difficulties, the scientists developed and demonstrated a method where human gelatin genes are inserted into a strain of yeast, which can produce gelatin with controllable features. The researchers are still testing the human-yeast gelatin to see how well it compares to other gelatins in terms of its viscosity and other attributes. Chen and colleagues suggest that their method could be scaled up to produce large amounts of gelatin for commercial use.

First study into GM Atlantic salmon mating reveals danger of escape to wild gene pool | Jul 13, 2011

If genetically modified Atlantic salmon were to escape from captivity they could succeed in breeding and passing their genes into the wild, Canadian researchers have found. Their research, published in Evolutionary Applications, explores the potential reproductive implications of GM salmon as they are considered for commercial farming.

“The use of growth-enhancing transgenic technologies has long been of interest to the aquaculture industry and now genetically modified Atlantic salmon is one of the first species to be considered for commercial farming. Yet, little is known about the potential impact on wild salmon populations if the GM species were to escape captivity,” said lead author Darek Moreau from the Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada.

One of the key concerns about a transgene escape is the “Trojan gene effect”, caused when a GM fish outcompetes or reproduces equally against wild rivals, however if the resulting offspring are genetically inferior this could lead a species towards eventual extinction. Until now there is no empirical research to demonstrate the ability of transgenic Atlantic salmon to breed naturally and infiltrate the wild gene pool.

In the wild, reproducing males present two main forms of rivals which any escaping transgenic male would have to compete with; large males which have migrated and returned from the sea and smaller male parr which have matured in freshwater. The large males are aggressive and develop attributes to fight off their rivals, while the smaller male parr use cryptic colouring and ‘sneak fertilisation’ to compete.

To measure the ability of transgenic males to complete with wild males during the reproductive season the team monitored breeding behaviour in a naturalised laboratory setting and used genetic analysis to determine the success of competing individuals at producing offspring.

Large, migratory wild males outperformed their captivity-reared transgenic counterparts in terms of a variety of spawning behaviours. Moreover, despite being less aggressive, non-transgenic male parr were also able to outperform their GM rivals in terms of spawning behaviour, and as a result, achieved higher overall fertilisation success.

“While the transgenic males displayed reduced breeding performance relative to their non-transgenic rivals they still demonstrated the ability to successfully participate in natural spawning events and thus have the potential to contribute modified genes to wild populations,” said Moreau. While the study provides an estimate of breeding performance under only a single set of physical and demographic environmental conditions, it does mimic a likely invasion scenario where the genetic background of the transgenic population differs from that of the wild population.

“Our study provides the first empirical observations on the natural reproductive capacities of growth hormone transgenic Atlantic salmon,” concluded Moreau. “While the resulting ecological and genetic effects of a transgene escape remain uncertain, these data highlight the importance of preventing reproductively-viable GM salmon from entering natural systems.”

Genetically Modified Grass Could Make Superweed Problem Worse

A genetically engineered grass expected to hit U.S. markets without government review could speed the evolution of hard-to-control weeds, and perhaps require a return to toxic herbicides scrapped decades ago.

Wired | Jul 11, 2011

By Brandon Keim

Pigweed growing in a soybean field. Since the introduction of Roundup-ready soy, Roundup-resistant pigweed has become a major problem. (Image: pawpaw67/Flickr)

On July 1 — a Friday afternoon, a time usually reserved for potentially controversial news — the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced that Scotts Miracle-Gro’s herbicide-resistant Kentucky bluegrass would be exempt from tests typically required of transgenic crops.

Scotts Miracle-Gro is the largest U.S. retailer of grass seed, and the modified grass could be widely used in residential lawns. It’s resistant to glyphosphate, a front-line herbicide known commercially as Roundup.

The grass will survive extra doses of Roundup, allowing more than usual to be applied. That’s the problem, said agricultural biotechnology expert Douglas Gurian-Sherman of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The more a chemical is used consistently, the more likely that somebody’s weeds will become resistant. That’s standard, agreed-upon science,” said Gurian-Sherman. “The way that Roundup is used because of transgenic crops exacerbates that problem.”

Herbicide resistance evolves in much the same way as antibiotic resistance: When a weed- or bug-killing compound is applied, any weeds or bugs lucky enough to be genetically resistant will have the best chance to survive and reproduce.

Many crop plants are already engineered to be Roundup-resistant, and heavy use of the herbicide appears to have fueled the evolution of dozens of Roundup-resistant weed strains. They’re a major threat to agriculture in parts of the United States, virtually uncontrollable except by hand-pulling or a return to toxic, decades-old herbicides that the relatively benign Roundup had replaced.

“The industry hasn’t developed a new herbicide in a long time. When resistance develops to something like glyphosphate, it’s not like we can move to some new chemical,” said Gurian-Sherman.

Compared to pigweed that can grow three inches each day in soybean fields, Roundup-resistant lawn weeds would be a nuisance rather than an economic threat. But just as superweeds have pushed farmers to bring back toxic herbicides, so might they push homeowners and landscapers.

“We’re burning out Roundup and going back into the past,” said Gurian-Sherman. “The same kind of thing could happen in residential use.”

Another potential problem is the spread of Roundup resistance into related strains of bluegrass, said plant geneticist Norman Ellstrand of the University of California, Riverside.

“I don’t know what other bluegrass species it’s cross-compatible with, but I can say with 98 percent certainty that it’s cross-compatible with some,” said Ellstrand. “If this plant grows and flowers at the same time as other bluegrass, they’ll flourish. You’ll have a new incidence of herbicide resistance getting into the wild.”

Whereas Kentucky bluegrass is popular for lawns, it’s not always welcome. Other members of its 500 species-strong genus are considered weeds.

A lesson can be taken from the unintentional escape of genes from rice bred for resistance to the Clearfield herbicide, said Ellstrand. “Now you have a very bad, weedy rice in Costa Rica that’s resistant to the herbicide,” he said. “It doesn’t happen easily with rice. If it happens with rice, it will happen with bluegrasses.”

Another species of Roundup-resistant grass developed by Scotts Miracle-Gro for golf courses was nixed by the USDA because of fear that resistance would spread to related pest species, noted Ellstrand. “The U.S. Forest Service waded in and said, ‘We don’t want it,’” he said.

Had the the Department of Agriculture decided to treat Roundup-ready bluegrass as a genetically modified plant, extra assurance of its environmental safety would have been demanded. But they decided not to because it fit through a loophole.

Genetically engineered plants are technically designated for regulation according to methods used to insert and activate new genes. Earlier methods used bacteria, which triggered pest-related clauses of the USDA’s Plant Protection Act. But the Roundup-ready bluegrass was made with a so-called gene gun. No bacteria were involved, and the law’s fine print was satisfied.

“By all definitions of genetic engineering, that’s genetic engineering. But it totally escapes the U.S. regulatory framework,” Ellstrand said.

According to Scotts Miracle-Gro spokesman Lance Latham, the USDA’s decision “allows us to move forward with field tests. It’s a first step. It’s our hope that testing will continue our advancement to develop grass seed that is even more sustainable.”

Europe paves way for GM crop bans

Anti-GM campaigners outside parliament. Photograph: Martin Argles for the Observer

European commission vote on Tuesday opens door to countries individually banning GM crops | Jul 6, 2011

Outi Alapekkala for for EurActiv

The European Parliament on Tuesday backed plans to let member states choose whether to ban the cultivation of genetically-modified (GM) crops on their territory, giving a detailed list of grounds on which such bans could be imposed.

The House voted to amend European Commission proposals for an EU regulation that would allow member states to restrict or ban the cultivation on their territory of GM crops, which have been given safety approval at EU level.

The Commission’s initial proposal suggested that member states could restrict or ban their cultivation on all but health or environmental grounds, which were to be assessed solely by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

But the proposals have sparked a wave of criticism, with businesses fearing they could lead to fragmentation of the internal market, bringing legal uncertainty for farmers. Some of the EU executive’s proposals have also been deemed incompatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

The Parliament’s report seeks to provide member states with “a solid legal basis” for banning GM crop cultivation, and to give them better legal protection in the event of challenges from trading partners opposed to bans.

The report – adopted with 548 votes in favour, 84 against and 31 abstentions – lists a number of reasons to allow member states to impose bans. These include:

• Environmental grounds: Such as pesticide resistance, the invasiveness of certain crops, threats to biodiversity or a lack of data on potential negative consequences for the environment.

• Socio-economic considerations: Such as the practicality and cost of measures to avoid an unintentional presence of GMOs in other products, fragmentation of territory, changes in agricultural practices linked to intellectual property regimes, or social policy objectives such as the conservation of diversity or distinctive agricultural practices.

• Grounds relating to land use and agricultural practices.

Health Commissioner John Dalli noted that specifying the grounds on which the cultivation could be restricted would indeed enhance the EU executive proposal. “I can therefore support this approach,” he said.

Dalli also welcomed the Parliament’s restriction criteria for being largely inspired by the indicative list that the Commission had already developed.

But he insisted that the environmental considerations put forward for banning GMOs should be clearly distinct from those that have already been assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

In addition, he stressed that “any grounds need to be substantiated and in line with the reality of the territory in question”.

In another move, the Parliament voted to change the legal basis of the Commission proposal from Article 114 (on the approximation of national law to establish the internal market) of the EU Treaty to Article 192, which is related to the environment.

The Parliament’s rapporteur, French MEP Corinne Lepage (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe), said that basing the proposal on Article 192 would give member states more say on the matter.

But Commissioner Dalli said he still thought that the Article 114 was best suited to the proposal.

The Parliament’s report maintains a common EU authorisation framework for GMOs, but the House wants the risk assessment conducted at EU level by EFSA to be improved by taking into account long-term environmental effects or effects on non-target organisms before a new GMO variety can be authorised.

The Parliament also insisted that member states must take measures to prevent contamination of conventional or organic farming by GM crops, and ensure that those responsible for such incidents can be held financially liable.