Brazil fines Monsanto $250,000 for misleading ad

AFP – A Brazilian court fined US biotech giant Monsanto $250,000 on Wednesday for what a judge said was the company’s misleading advertising concerning GM soy.

Monsanto released an advert lauding GM seeds in 2004 — a time when their use in Brazil was banned — suggesting that they benefited the environment.

But Judge Jorge Antonio Maurique in Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul state, slammed the commercial as “abusive and misleading propaganda,” dubbing the scientific benefits of Monsanto’s product as “very questionable.”

Monsanto can appeal the court ruling but a representative refused to comment on the decision issued on Wednesday, saying the company was awaiting official court notification of the ruling before considering its next steps.

The first GM soy seeds were illegally smuggled into Brazil from neighboring Argentina in 1998 when their use was officially banned and subject to prosecution.

The ban has since been lifted and 85 percent of Brazil’s soybean crop (25 million hectares or 62 million acres), is now genetically modified, making Brazil the world’s second producer and exporter, behind the United States.

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USDA panel gets altered-crops pay plan

Washington — California voters this fall will decide a ballot measure that would require labeling of foods containing genetically engineered material. But the Department of Agriculture is already tied in knots over how to deal with the contamination of organic and conventional foods by biotech crops.
On Monday, a USDA advisory panel will consider a draft plan to compensate farmers whose crops have been contaminated by pollen, seeds or other stray genetically engineered material. The meeting is expected to be contentious, pitting the biotechnology and organic industries against each other.
The draft report acknowledged the difficulty of preventing such material from accidentally entering the food supply and concerns that the purity of traditional seeds may be threatened.
It also cited fears on both sides that official action to address contamination could send a signal to U.S. consumers and export markets in Europe, Japan and elsewhere that the purity and even safety of U.S. crops are suspect.
An official who was not authorized to speak for the record described the current stalemate as “don’t ask, don’t tell.”
Known as AC21, the Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture consists of representatives from across agriculture. Its current incarnation was created by Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack to appease critics after his decision in January 2011 to approve genetically engineered alfalfa, a plant that can spread easily.
Genetically engineered crops are also known as genetically modified organisms, or GMOs. Genetic engineering entails the insertion or deletion of genes, often from different species, into a plant to produce a desired trait. Up to now the chief traits are resistance to insects and herbicides.
U.S. corn 90% biotech
Bioengineered crops dominate U.S. commodities, including 90 percent of U.S. corn. In some states, penetration is all but complete, including 99 percent of the Arkansas cotton crop. Most processed foods contain genetically engineered material.
USDA’s organic certification does not permit bioengineered material unless trace amounts show up despite a farmer’s best efforts to avoid it. Many food companies do their own testing and have rejected contaminated shipments.
The biotech industry, which includes Monsanto, DuPont and other seed companies, argued that contamination is minimal. Organic growers, they said, get a premium for their crops and should “assume the economic risks associated” with certifying that their crops meet organic standards.
The organic industry said biotech companies should be responsible for containing their own genes and that contamination threatens the right of farmers to choose how to farm.
Vilsack directed the advisory committee to find a way for the two sides to co-exist. The panel has wrestled with the issue for more than a year but remains divided. The draft suggests using taxpayer-subsidized crop insurance to compensate farmers whose crops have been contaminated.
Lisa Bunin, organic policy coordinator for the Center for Food Safety, a Washington nonprofit that opposes genetic engineering, said crop insurance would put the burden of proof and the cost on the victims of contamination. She said the focus should be on preventing contamination, and that California’s Proposition 37, which would require the labeling of genetically modified foods, shows that people are “waking up to the realization that there are hidden ingredients in their food.”
Compensation is “just a way to hide the effects of … contamination,” Bunin said, calling the draft a “last-ditch attempt by the biotech industry to institutionalize transgenic contamination.”
No guarantee
Panel member Isaura Andaluz, head of Cuatro Puertas, a nonprofit heritage seed bank in Albuquerque, issued a blistering critique of the draft earlier this month. Andaluz said she was shocked that the panel’s report said “it is not realistic to suggest that commercial seed producers can guarantee zero presence” of genetically engineered material in seed varieties that are organic or not genetically engineered.
If that is true, she wrote, Vilsack’s co-existence plan already has failed.
The biotech industry fears that setting a suggested threshold of 0.9 percent engineered content, above which a product would be considered contaminated, would imply a safety limit, falsely signaling to consumers and export markets that bioengineered crops are unsafe.
The draft report said methods have been developed to keep “gene flows” segregated, citing the example of sweet corn grown in fields next to popcorn.
Environmental groups worry, however, that bioengineered crops threaten wild plants, too. Engineered canola and grasses spread easily in storm winds and floods, turning up miles from where crops are planted.
Oversight is split among three agencies, USDA, the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. Under a rule developed in 1992 under former Vice President Dan Quayle, bioengineering is presumed safe for food and the environment.
Carolyn Lochhead is The San Francisco Chronicle’s Washington correspondent E-mail clochhead@sfchronicle.com

Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/science/article/USDA-panel-gets-altered-crops-pay-plan-3814480.php#ixzz25etipAVA

6 New GMO Crops that may soon Hit Your Dinner Table

Remember when the USDA gave Monsanto’s new GMO crops the fast track to approval? Regardless of the numerous accounts of organ damage, pesticide-resistant weeds, and unintentionally mutated organisms like resistant insects, our own government is manipulating the game to let “biotech bullies” like Monsanto get speedier regulatory reviews. Consequently, the environment, livestock, and consumers will be exposed to even greater danger.

As stated in their press release, the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, envisions transforming the USDA “into a high-performing organization that focuses on its customers.” We’d like to think that we, the consumers, are those customers. The likes of Monsanto, Dow, and Syngenta, however, would probably disagree.

Here’s your chance to tell the USDA otherwise. The first two crops on this list have been on the old, slower-track approval process, which allows 60 days for the public to comment. The remaining four are new additions but are on the fast track, meaning we still only have until September 11th of 2012 to have our say before these seeds hit the soil and, maybe, your dinner table.

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6 New GMO Crops to Act Against

Dow 2,4-D and Glufosinate Tolerant Soybean – Since the US first began using GM crops, our herbicide usage has been boosted by 300 million pounds, despite claims by biotech behemoths that other plants like weeds would not grow resistant to glyphosate – commonly known as RoundUp. And now, we have “superweeds.” Of course, biotech (and seemingly the USDA) doesn’t care, and they plan on adding the 2,4-D herbicide and dicamba (see number 4) to the list. Take action here.
Syngenta Corn Rootworm Resistant Corn – Plenty of nations have banned Syngenta’s GM Bt crops—but not the US. This type of corn produces its own pesticides and kills all bugs, good or bad, which also means livestock can get sick from eating it. Research says that 80% of pregnant women have Bt toxins in their blood. Take action here.
Okanagan Non-Browning Apple – Conventional apples are covered in pesticides. That’s why we buy organic, but Okanagan has produced the first GM apple. Take action against genetically modified apples right here.
Monsanto Dicamba Tolerant Soybean – Take action here.
Dow 2,4-D, Dlyphosate and Glufosinate Tolerant Soybean – Take action here.
Genective Glyphosate Tolerant Corn

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12 New GM Crops Up For USDA Approval

Earlier this summer, the USDA posted twelve new GE crops for public comment with a September 11 deadline, and nine are under the new fast-tracked process. That’s twelve new GMOs to review and issue comments on in two months!

Here’s the lowdown. Three of the new crops are under the old petition process. Under the old process there is only one 60-day public comment period. Here are the three crops under the old process:

— Dow 2,4-D and Glufosinate Tolerant Soybean (APHIS-2012-0019)
Take Action!

Since the introduction of GM crops, the US has seen herbicide use increase by over 300 million pounds. Big Biotech originally claimed that weeds would not develop resistance to glyphosate (RoundUp), but they have and these new “superweeds” have become the driving force behind new crops engineered for stacked, or multiple, herbicide tolerances. Adoption of these new crops will lead to dramatic increases in the use of higher risk herbicides such as 2,4-D and dicamba, perpetuating the herbicide treadmill that is already in place.

2,4-D is already the third-most-used US herbicide, after glyphosate and atrazine, and as a leading source of dioxin pollution, it’s one of the most deadly. As of yet, however, it’s hardly used on soy at all. Just 3 percent of total US soybean acres were treated with 2,4-D in 2006. Not only will this percentage skyrocket once Agent Orange Soy hits the market, the amount used per acre may triple, according to the USDA.

—Bayer Glyphosate and Isoxaflutole Tolerant Soybean (APHIS-2012-0029)

—Syngenta Corn Rootworm Resistant Corn (APHIS-2012-0024)
Take Action!

Syngenta’s genetically engineered Bt crops have been banned in many countries because of the documented harm they cause to people, animals and insects. Bt corn produces its own insecticide that kills bad bugs and good bugs alike, Bt corn pollen has reportedly killed peasants in the Philippines, Bt livestock feed harms animals, and the Bt toxin is now found in the blood of over 80% of women and their unborn children.

Under the new process, USDA has also opened nine additional new crops for public comment. This initial comment period applies to the petitions for nonregulated status which include information submitted by the petitioning company. Once USDA has the completed their environmental analyses they will open a final 30-day comment period for the decision-making documents.

Here are the 9 crops under the new process with the same September 11 deadline:

—Okanagan Non-Browning Apple (APHIS-2012-0025)
Take Action!

Okanagan’s “Arctic” apple would be the first genetically engineered version of a food that people directly bite into. According to the latest study by the Environmental Working Group, conventionally grown apples are the most pesticide contaminated fruit or vegetable on the market. Conventional apples are dangerous, and GMO apples are just a dumb idea – one not even supported by many in the apple industry itself!

—Dow 2,4-D, Glyphosate and Glufosinate tolerant Soybean (APHIS-2012-0032)
Take Action!

—Monsanto Dicamba Tolerant Soybean (APHIS-2012-0047)
Take Action!

According to the Institute for Science in Society (ISIS), “dicamba is actually an old herbicide that served alongside “agent orange” in Vietnam, and has been resurrected as an environmentally friendly chemical through the magic of public relations.”

—BASF Imidazolinone Tolerant Soybean (APHIS-2012-0028)

—Monsanto High Yield Soybean (APHIS-2012-0020)

—Monsanto Glyphosate Tolerant Canola (APHIS-2012-0035)

—Pioneer Glyphosate Tolerant Canola (APHIS-2012-0031)

—Monsanto Hybrid Corn (APHIS-2012-0027)

—Genective Glyphosate Tolerant Corn (APHIS-2012-0046)

USDA Fast-Tracks GMO Crop Approval Process

Despite massive public opposition, last year the USDA announced plans to streamline its genetically engineered petition process under the Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service (APHIS). Earlier this year these controversial changes were implemented, speeding up the approval process for new genetically engineered seeds and crops. The new process will cut in half the time it takes for new GE seeds and crops to enter the market.

USDA claims that the new fast-track process allows for earlier input from the public to improve the quality of its environmental analyses. But according to a USDA press release, the new process is a part of efforts by the Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, to “transform USDA into a high-performing organization that focuses on its customers.” The customers that USDA is so keen on assisting are none other than Monsanto, Dow, Dupont, BASF, Syngenta, and the rest of the Biotech bullies!

for original article click here.