Beyond Pesticides (BP) and The Organic Consumers Association (OCA) today responded to a federal judge’s ruling against Monsanto Co.’s motion to dismiss the groups’ lawsuit, filed in April, 2017.
Jay Feldman, executive director of Beyond Pesticides, the lead plaintiff in the case, said:
“In the face of EPA’s poor regulation of pesticides, misleading pesticide product labeling cannot be left unchecked. The court’s decision to allow our case to move forward, in denying Monsanto’s motion to dismiss, is critical to showing that the company is deceiving the public with a safety claim on its Roundup (glyphosate) label. Its advertising and labeling claim that Roundup ‘targets an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets’ is false, given the devastating harm that glyphosate has on beneficial bacteria in the gut biome. The disruption of the gut biome is associated with a host of 21st century diseases, including asthma, autism, bacterial vaginosis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Crohn’s disease, depression, inflammatory bowel disease, leaky gut syndrome, multiple sclerosis, obesity, Type 1 and 2 diabetes, and Parkinson’s.
The science on the hazards of Roundup (glyphosate) are clear and Monsanto officials know it. With this case, we seek to ensure that the public is not misled by false advertising and product labeling in the marketplace. It is a critical step toward ensuring that people are fully informed before purchasing toxic products that can poison them, their families, and the communities where they live.”
OCA International Director, Ronnie Cummins stated:
“Monsanto aggressively markets Roundup as ‘safe’ for humans and animals, despite newer studies indicating that glyphosate may be carcinogenic and its use may affect human and animal cardiovascular, endocrine, nervous and reproductive systems. No reasonable consumer seeing the claim on this product that glyphosate targets an enzyme not found ‘in people or pets’ would expect that Roundup actually targets an important bacterial enzyme found in humans and animals, affecting the health of their immune system.
Survey after survey shows that consumers rely on labels to guide their purchases and keep them and their families safe. When corporations mislead on the issue of a product’s effect on consumers and their families, they put everyone, but especially young children—in this case, playing in yards and parks—at risk, leaving the public no other recourse than to use the legal system to seek the removal of this misleading information.”
U.S. District Judge Timothy Kelly, a Trump appointee, ruled that OCA and BP presented enough evidence to support that Monsanto’s labeling of its flagship weedkiller, Roundup, misleads consumers.
Through their attorneys, Richman Law Group, OCA and BP sued Monsanto on behalf of the general public, in Washington D.C., under the District of Columbia’s Consumer Protection Procedures Act, for misleading the public by labeling its popular weedkiller Roundup as “target[ing] an enzyme found in plants but not in people or pets.” The nonprofits allege that this statement is false, deceptive and misleading, because the enzyme targeted by glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, is, in fact, found in people and pets.
GMO Multi-stakeholder Meeting organized by CENDI (www.cendiglobal.org)
Hanoi, Vietnam, May 21 to 22, 2018
Drastic GM Corn expansion in Vietnam brings adverse health and environmental impact to farmers
In 2006, Vietnams Prime Minister issued Decision no. 11/2006/QD-TTg on the adoption of genetically modified crops (GMOs) as part of the “program on development and application of biotechnology in agriculture and rural development” aiming at having 30-50% farmland under GMO cultivation by 2020.
In 2010, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) started experiments of 7 corn varieties from the giant agrochemical and seed companies Sygenta, Pioneer Hibred Vietnam and Dekalb Vietnam (a subsidiary of Monsanto). Commercialization of genetically modified crops in Vietnam started in 2015 within pilot areas in An Giang, Dong Thap, Dong Nai, Phu Tho, Son La, Thanh Hoa, Thai Nguyen, Hoa Binh and Tuan Quang provinces. The expansion of GM corn production is in line with the proposal of the government to boost corn exports in the region.
The expansion of Bt corn has not just increased conversion of forest areas for monoculture plantations. Valuable insects, birds, medicinal plants are also lost along the way while paving for the erosion of traditional seeds. It has also increased the use of toxic herbicides and pesticides which contaminated land and water in the uplands. In 2017 and 2018, a series of media investigation within these GMO BT corn areas shows evidence of growing farmers woes, ill health and toxic environmental pollution. These includes increasing cases of respiratory ailments, miscarriages and skin diseases . The poisoning of 78 farmers this May 2018 in Son La province is among the most recent of these evens documented so far.
Glyphosate, the genetically modified Bt Corn’s evil twin, poisons 78 farmers in Vietnam uplands
The poisoning and suffering of 78 farmers in Son La province has raised public alarm on the worsening environmental pollution and health hazard brought by massive unregulated use of the toxic herbicide Glyphosate, along with drastic expansion of monoculture GMO Corn plantations in Vietnam. News reports show that Son La province is now using about 300,000 litres of herbicide annually leading to toxic contamination of their water supply and environment. The rise of Glyphosate is most pronounced within leading pilot areas for genetically modified BT Corn, such as in Son La.
Glyphosate, the world’s most widely used toxic herbicide, was declared carcinogenic in 2015 by the World Health Organization and is now banned in most European Countries for its pernicious ecological and polluting effects. Unfortunately, despite statements of its negative health impacts coming from WHO, glyphosate is not among the 1,024 types of chemical pesticides and herbicides the Minister of Agriculture and Development (MARD) have announced as banned.
GM Corn and Glyphosate are both manufactured by multinational corporations like Monsanto, which holds a majority position in the global commercial seed trade, GMO development, and the promotion of chemical pesticides and herbicides. Monsanto amassed huge profits from the manufacture of biochemical poisons during the war era and has been the culprit in several horrific ecological catastrophes of “eco-cide” in the last century, as documented in the Monsanto Tribunal in 2017. Amids this, Monsanto’s monopoly and influence in the trajectory of agricultural policies in Vietnam and South East Asia continues to grow with the commercialization of GMOs.
GMO Multistakeholders meeting in Hanoi tackles issues and concerns threatening farmers’ and consumers’ welfare in Vietnam and South East Asia.
These pressing public issues prompted various farmers, indigenous peoples, and policy makers to conduct a multi-stakeholders in-depth discussion on the implications of vast GM corn expansion. More than 40 participants from different provinces, parliament members, and government officials gathered to discuss, analyze and address the impacts of GMO commercialization in Vietnam over the last 3 years.
GMOs are not an isolated issues for Vietnam. Participants from other South East Asian countries, Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Laos who were present at the meeting also shared their country’s experiences and actions to confront the harmful impacts of GM crops that have sustained the corporate take over of agriculture in the last two decades.
To counter the detrimental impacts of the Green Revolution’s hybrid rice and conventional chemical agriculture, which eroded local genetic resources over the past four decades, MASIPAG, a farmer-led national network promoting farmers’ rights in the Philippines, develops and promotes local rice varieties and organic, diversified and sustainable farming systems. Now, more than 600 traditional varieties, 1,200 MASIPAG bred-lines and 500 farmer-bred locally-adapted varieties are kept alive by hundreds of farmers organizations across the archipelago. MASIPAG emphasized that diversity and rights to seed is the heart of farmers’ freedom and power against corporate control.
Despite strong opposition, the first GM Corn commercialization in Asia was in the Philippines. Cumulatively, more than 600,000 hectares or almost a fourth of the country’s corn area are now planted with GM Corn. MASIPAG launched a national socio-economic impact study in 2012-2013 revealing that GMO farmers experienced negative net income due to tightening seed monopoly, rising cost of seed and chemical inputs, usurious rates of traders’ interest which led to debt chains, bankruptcy and weakening of land rights.
Monoculture plantations of GM corn have also led to dwindling biodiversity, erosion and contamination of traditional corn varieties and massive land use conversion of upland forest for agricultural expansion. During the height of herbicide-resistant and Round-up Ready GM corn adoption, Glyphosate peaked at from 5.7 to 6 Million liters annual used in 2011. Meanwhile, estimates of corporate seed profit from GM corn in the Philippines ballooned to more than 115 million US dollar in 2014. An ongoing health investigation also revealed rising cases of cancer, and glyphosate contamination of land and water in upland areas where GM corn plantations are concentrated. Learning from Negative experiences with GM corn, Phillipines civil society have linked with various sectors and organizations in Asia to opposed GM Golden Rice, a genetically engineered rice with the capability to produce beta-carotene, the precursor of Vitamin A, which is intended to be released in Philippines, Indonesia and Bangladesh.
BioThai, a network in Thailand shared that the GMO debate started as early as 1999 when Monsanto planned to release BT Cotton in the country. Strong civil society campaigns led to the decision to ban all GMO field trials in 2001 and to the drafting of safeguards and regulation under Biosafety Bill in 2002, despite Monsanto’s strong influence in government during that time. Thailand is now facing a grave problem of GM contamination in papaya which has caused economic loss and export rejections in 2012 and 2013. Rising GMO contamination and leakage were also detected in several agronomic crops, including cotton, corn, soybean, papaya and chili from 2007 to 2013, affecting Thailand agricultural exports negatively. From 2014 to 2015 Monsanto, through Charoen Pokhpand (CP) company, lobbied anew to push for GMO planting in Thailand, but a strong and united public demonstration halted this plan. Currently, numerous organizations in Thailand are pushing for the promotion and support of sustainable, organic and indigenous agricultural systems, while protecting and promoting traditional local seed varieties and community values.
A sharing from GRAIN, an international organisation working to advancing community controlled and biodiversity based agriculture, emphasized that there is a need for the public, including policy makers, to be more discerning and critical of the two decades of deception and false promises coming from GMO promoters that GMOs will help feed countries like Vietnam with its increasing population, that it is more productive, helps eliminate the use of agrochemicals and thus contribute to farmers’ economic improvement, and that it’s perfectly safe for humans and the environment.
Experiences from neighboring countries, as well as from other part of the world, has provided us with vast evidence that GMO is only working to increase corporations control over seeds and to put farmers in further economic dependence and indebtedness. Lesson learned from disastrous Bt cotton in India shows how growing Bt cotton has created massive indebtedness in farming communities due to high input cost and this has lead to huge numbers of farmer suicides. The failure of Bt cotton promises also experienced by more than 4000 farmers in Sulawesi, Indonesia in 2001 lead to that country still not allowing the commercial planting of GM crops until now. In Latin America where GM soybean is planted on a large scale, the glyphosate use has rocketed to over 550 million litres per year, with terrible consequences for the health of its inhabitants. It also causes soil depletion and thus forces farmers to use more and more fertilisers if they want to have sufficient yields.
Moving forward: protect traditional seed diversity, environmental health and farmers’ rights against GMOs
The rich and diverse discussions in the workshop provided an important and much needed venue for the stakeholders to gather information, discuss perspectives, analysis and propose solutions to address issues surrounding GMO commercialization in Vietnam.
While corporations profit, farming communities are suffering from declining health, growing debts, loss of cultural agricultural knowledge, and increasing social vulnerability and undeniable ecological degradation. The introduction of herbicide-resistance GMOs is evidently responsible for the increase use of glyphosate in the farm. GM seeds helps multinationals seeds company like Monsanto, Syngenta, CP Thailand to control seeds and prohibited farmers from developing farmers own seed system and erode local agriculture biodiversity. Vietnam has experience big shifts in agricultural production from self-sufficient to market oriented and this can bring grave consequences for Vietnamese farmers and environment if it continues to grow this way.
Two days of collective discussions and debates brought forth important recommendations. The workshop concluded that nationally in Vietnam there is a need to:
(1) Having broader public participation on the policies concerning GMOs in the country,
(2) Cooperative action among different sectors in Vietnam to push for more responsive government action to investigate, regulate and address multi-faceted issues experienced from three years of GMO commercialization in the country,
(3) Learn from and work with other countries in facing GMO threats, and in defending local and diverse seed varieties, farmers rights, consumers health, traditional indigenous culture and environment,
(4) Push for a more responsive Biosafety policy to ensure regulation, safeguards, accountability, social-environmental protection and the primacy of peoples’ rights against corporate takeover of agriculture and GMO commercialization,
(5) Foster stronger solidarity and unity to strengthen network collaboration across South East Asia, particularly between Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia to challenge GMOs; protect and promote traditional local seed varieties; enhance learning exchanges and collaboration to build capacities in the development of diversified and sustainable agricultural systems in the region.
In unity, participants also echoes that sustainable agricultural development can only be realized when the environment is protected, culture is respected, and farmers rights to seeds and land is upheld against corporate greed.
Widely planting GMOs on a large-scale areas means to transform agri-culture into agri-business, and the natural biogeochemical cycle into a process, where technology is used to cruelly force and abuse the law of existence, and the victims of which are human beings.
The power behind GMOs is changing the farmers from being independent, confident and self-determined into being dependent and slave to GM technology and GMOs in terms of the daily livelihood. As a result, their livelihood sovereignty in nature-interactive and nature-interrelated cultivation, their wisdom and traditional cultural values, as well as their inter-generational ethical behaviors toward Nature would lose forever.
GMOs with associated chemical fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides would destroy micro-organisms in soil, which are very vital not only for the survival of the organic layer on the soil surface, but also for the biogeochemical cycle between soil and crops, between crops and sun, between sun and water, and between water and wind to promote the photosynthesis process for all living things to breathe. The invisible hands behind GMOs are accused be the culprit for the destruction of the nature law of all living things on the earth.