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The Failed Promise of Agricultural Biotechnology Norwegian Tour September 2012 Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst Center for Food Safety.

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Presentation on theme: "The Failed Promise of Agricultural Biotechnology Norwegian Tour September 2012 Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst Center for Food Safety."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Failed Promise of Agricultural Biotechnology Norwegian Tour September 2012 Bill Freese, Science Policy Analyst Center for Food Safety

2 Civil society organization founded 1997 Civil society organization founded 1997 Support organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture Support organic and other forms of sustainable agriculture Critically assess new food and agricultural technologies, like GMOs Critically assess new food and agricultural technologies, like GMOs Public education, engagement in regulatory process, when necessary lawsuits Public education, engagement in regulatory process, when necessary lawsuits

3 Facts vs. Fiction Facts vs. Fiction Focus on GMOs actually being grown, not science fiction Focus on GMOs actually being grown, not science fiction Consult independent studies and data whenever possible, for example: Consult independent studies and data whenever possible, for example: USDA data on crop yield, pesticide use USDA data on crop yield, pesticide use Peer-reviewed scientific studies Peer-reviewed scientific studies Union of Concerned Scientists Union of Concerned Scientists

4 Science Fiction Despite > 2 decades of experimentation and hypenot a single, commercially grown GMO has: Despite > 2 decades of experimentation and hype, not a single, commercially grown GMO has: Higher yield potential Higher yield potential Vitamin enhancement Vitamin enhancement Salt tolerance Salt tolerance Pharmaceutical production, etc., etc., etc. Pharmaceutical production, etc., etc., etc.

5 Herbicide-Resistant (HR) Crops Herbicides = chemical weed-killers Herbicides = chemical weed-killers Herbicides also kill crops, so must be used with restraint, early in season Herbicides also kill crops, so must be used with restraint, early in season Herbicide-resistant (HR) crops allow unrestrained use of herbicides directly on the crop, throughout season Herbicide-resistant (HR) crops allow unrestrained use of herbicides directly on the crop, throughout season Roundup Ready soybeans, corn, cotton, canola grown on roughly 135 million ha in the world Roundup Ready soybeans, corn, cotton, canola grown on roughly 135 million ha in the world

6 Roundup-Resistant Weeds From total reliance on Roundup for weed control in Roundup Ready crops From total reliance on Roundup for weed control in Roundup Ready crops Weeds evolve resistance to herbicides just as bacteria evolve resistance to overused antibiotics Weeds evolve resistance to herbicides just as bacteria evolve resistance to overused antibiotics Populations of 24 weed species now resistant to Roundup (chemical name: glyphosate) Populations of 24 weed species now resistant to Roundup (chemical name: glyphosate) Infest million hectares in U.S. alone Infest million hectares in U.S. alone How do farmers respond to resistant weeds? How do farmers respond to resistant weeds? Increase pesticide use and pollution Increase pesticide use and pollution Increase soil-eroding tillage Increase soil-eroding tillage Go back to hand-weeding Go back to hand-weeding

7 Increased Pesticide Use Pesticide = any chemical used to kill a pest (weed, insect, disease agent) Pesticide = any chemical used to kill a pest (weed, insect, disease agent) GM crops increased pesticide use in U.S. by 144 million kilos from GM crops increased pesticide use in U.S. by 144 million kilos from Herbicide-resistant: million + Insect-resistant: - 29 million Impacts of Genetically Engineered Crops on Pesticide Use in the United States: The First Thirteen Years, Dr. Charles Benbrook, The Organic Center, Nov

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11 Roundup-Resistant Weeds, So What? Globally, no weed control tools are as good as glyphosate, and its potential widespread loss because of resistance is a looming threat to global cropping and food production. Dr. Stephen Powles, Western Australian Herbicide Resistance Initiative, in Proc. of the National Academy of Sciences, 107(3): , 1/19/10 It is the single largest threat to production agriculture that we have ever seen, said Andrew Wargo III, the president of the Arkansas Association of Conservation Districts. U.S. Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds, NYT, 5/4/10 U.S. Farmers Cope With Roundup-Resistant Weeds, NYT, 5/4/10 Right now, we are on the edge of a precipice that we could step off of in the next two years. Dr. Micheal Owen, Iowa State University weed scientist, as quoted in: Reeling from resistance, Successful Farming, 1/26/10.

12 "It will be a very significant opportunity" for chemical companies, says John Jachetta, a scientist at Dow Chemical's Dow AgroSciences and president of the Weed Science Society of America. "It is a new era."

13 The New Era of More Pesticide Pollution Dow – corn & soybeans resistant to 2,4-D, part of the dioxin-laced, Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange, a probable carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, banned in Norway Dow – corn & soybeans resistant to 2,4-D, part of the dioxin-laced, Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange, a probable carcinogen and endocrine disruptor, banned in Norway Monsanto - soybeans & corn resistant to dicamba, a chlorinated chemical cousin of 2,4-D linked to higher rates of colon cancer in farmers Monsanto - soybeans & corn resistant to dicamba, a chlorinated chemical cousin of 2,4-D linked to higher rates of colon cancer in farmers Mortensen et al (2012). Navigating a critical juncture for sustainable weed management, BioScience 62(1):

14 The New Era of Biotechnology (= Pesticide + Seed) Pesticide Co. Seed Firms Acquired (partial) MONSANTO DeKalb, Agracetus, Asgrow, Seminis, Delta & Pine Land, Holdens Foundation Seeds, Delta & Pine Land DUPONTPioneer SYNGENTA Northrup King, Advanta, Funk Seed Intl, Rogers Bros. BAYER Aventis CropScience, Nunhems BV, AgrEvo, Plant Genetic Systems DOWMycogen

15 Control of Seed Supply

16 Why do farmers grow GMOs? NOT higher yield NOT higher yield Convenience, labor-saving Convenience, labor-saving Protect from herbicide drift Protect from herbicide drift Few alternatives Few alternatives

17 Yield Drag with Roundup Ready Soybeans Two years of extensive field trials by University of Nebraska researchers Two years of extensive field trials by University of Nebraska researchers Conventional (non-GM) soybeans yield 5% more than closely related Roundup Ready soybeans Conventional (non-GM) soybeans yield 5% more than closely related Roundup Ready soybeans Elmore, R. et al (2001). Glyphosate-Resistant Soybean Cultivar Yields Compared with Sister Lines, Agron J :

18 Failure to Yield April 2009 study by Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analyzed peer-reviewed literature comparing yields of GM vs. conventional corn and soybeans April 2009 study by Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) analyzed peer-reviewed literature comparing yields of GM vs. conventional corn and soybeans No yield advantage for herbicide- resistant corn or soybeans No yield advantage for herbicide- resistant corn or soybeans If we are going to make headway in combating hunger due to overpopulation and climate change, we will need to increase crop yields. Traditional breeding outperforms genetic engineering hands down. If we are going to make headway in combating hunger due to overpopulation and climate change, we will need to increase crop yields. Traditional breeding outperforms genetic engineering hands down. Dr. Doug Gurian-Sherman, Senior Scientist, UCS

19 Convenience, Farming without Farmers Weed control is SIMPLE – use one herbicide over and over instead of DIVERSE weed control tactics Weed control is SIMPLE – use one herbicide over and over instead of DIVERSE weed control tactics LABOR-SAVING LABOR-SAVING Allows large growers to become bigger Allows large growers to become bigger In South America, agricultura sin agricultores In South America, agricultura sin agricultores

20 Protection Against Herbicide Drift Tomato farmers with Red Gold, a tomato processor in Indiana, lost over $1 million over 4 years from crop damage due to Roundup drift Tomato farmers with Red Gold, a tomato processor in Indiana, lost over $1 million over 4 years from crop damage due to Roundup drift Some farmers buy Roundup Ready crops to protect against spray drift or misapplication by neighbor Some farmers buy Roundup Ready crops to protect against spray drift or misapplication by neighbor

21 Fewer Seed Choices The whole issue of farmers not buying conventional seed goes back to the industry pushing all of the traits into their best genetics. It is a vicious cycle where they put traits into the best corn so we tend to plant more of those varieties so then the company says, "Look we sold more of the corn with traits so we had better offer even more of it!" The whole issue of farmers not buying conventional seed goes back to the industry pushing all of the traits into their best genetics. It is a vicious cycle where they put traits into the best corn so we tend to plant more of those varieties so then the company says, "Look we sold more of the corn with traits so we had better offer even more of it!" Farmer on list serve, March 17, 2008 Farmer on list serve, March 17, 2008

22 More Problems with GMOs Herbicide-resistant crops volunteer weeds Herbicide-resistant crops volunteer weeds Contamination market rejection Contamination market rejection Higher seed prices Higher seed prices Patented seeds lawsuits for seed-saving Patented seeds lawsuits for seed-saving

23 HR Crops as Weeds The combination of dormant seed and herbicide resistance makes GM glyphosate-resistant canola a new and difficult California weed which was first observed in the winter of 2009.

24 Contamination Market Rejection CFS has documented 293 episodes where unwanted or illegal GE crop material has been discovered in conventional food/feed CFS has documented 293 episodes where unwanted or illegal GE crop material has been discovered in conventional food/feed GM StarLink corn (2000/01) caused $1 billion in losses to U.S. farmers GM StarLink corn (2000/01) caused $1 billion in losses to U.S. farmers GM LibertyLink rice (2006/07) caused total economic losses of $741 million to $1.285 billion. GM LibertyLink rice (2006/07) caused total economic losses of $741 million to $1.285 billion.

25 Flax Contamination GM flax approved 1998 in Canada and US GM flax approved 1998 in Canada and US Banned 2001 on pressure from growers fearful of contamination & export losses (60-70% exported to Europe) Banned 2001 on pressure from growers fearful of contamination & export losses (60-70% exported to Europe) Eight years later (Sept. 2009), GM flax detected in food items in 30 countries (EU, Norway, Asia) Eight years later (Sept. 2009), GM flax detected in food items in 30 countries (EU, Norway, Asia) Flax prices dropped sharply Flax prices dropped sharply EU rejects contaminated shipments, flax growers could lose exports for 3-5 years EU rejects contaminated shipments, flax growers could lose exports for 3-5 years

26 Organic Canola No More The introduction of transgenic herbicide- tolerant canola in western Canada destroyed the growing … market for organic canola. Smyth et al (2002). Liabilities and economics of transgenic crops, Nature Biotechnology, June 2002.

27 Contaminate all seeds "The hope of the [biotech] industry is that over time the market is so flooded [with GMOs] that there's nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender. "The hope of the [biotech] industry is that over time the market is so flooded [with GMOs] that there's nothing you can do about it. You just sort of surrender. Food industry consultant Don Westfall, of Promar International, speaking of the biotech industrys atttude to GE crop contamination in the wake of the StarLink corn debacle. As quoted in: Starlink Fallout Could Cost Billions, Toronto Star, Jan. 9, 2001, Food industry consultant Don Westfall, of Promar International, speaking of the biotech industrys atttude to GE crop contamination in the wake of the StarLink corn debacle. As quoted in: Starlink Fallout Could Cost Billions, Toronto Star, Jan. 9, 2001,

28 Seed Prices Rising "The cost of corn seed keeps getting higher and there doesn't appear to be a stopping point in sight." "The cost of corn seed keeps getting higher and there doesn't appear to be a stopping point in sight." University of Kentucky agronomist Chad Lee University of Kentucky agronomist Chad Lee GM SmartStax corn costs nearly $300/bag, three times more than conventional seed GM SmartStax corn costs nearly $300/bag, three times more than conventional seed

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30 Monsantos Prosecution of U.S. Farmers 75 employees, $10 million per year devoted to investigating and suing U.S. farmers for alleged patent infringement 75 employees, $10 million per year devoted to investigating and suing U.S. farmers for alleged patent infringement Monsanto hires private investigators (McDowell & Associates of St. Louis) and prominent U.S. law firms Monsanto hires private investigators (McDowell & Associates of St. Louis) and prominent U.S. law firms Investigates roughly 500 farmers/year Investigates roughly 500 farmers/year Source: Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers, Center for Food Safety, 2005 & 2007 update: Source: Monsanto vs. U.S. Farmers, Center for Food Safety, 2005 & 2007 update:

31 Investigation Tactics According to farmers who have been investigated, Monsantos private investigators: Trespass on farmers property to take photos or crop samples Trespass on farmers property to take photos or crop samples Adopt disguises to win farmers trust (e.g. pretend to be farmers or land surveyors) Adopt disguises to win farmers trust (e.g. pretend to be farmers or land surveyors) Issue threats, become physically aggressive Issue threats, become physically aggressive Produce false or fabricated evidence Produce false or fabricated evidence Encourage farmers to rat on neighbors via hotline – breeding suspicion, distrust in rural America Encourage farmers to rat on neighbors via hotline – breeding suspicion, distrust in rural America

32 Lawsuits Against Farmers As of January 2010, Monsanto has filed 136 lawsuits involving 400 farmers and 53 small businesses/farm As of January 2010, Monsanto has filed 136 lawsuits involving 400 farmers and 53 small businesses/farm 9 cases were ongoing as of January 13, cases were ongoing as of January 13, 2010 Settlements Highest: $3,052,800 Lowest: $5,595 Median: $75,000 Average: $171,660 Total recorded judgments: $23,345,821

33 Estimates of Coerced Settlements Most cases settled out-of-court Most cases settled out-of-court 2,391 to 4,531 seed piracy matters settled 2,391 to 4,531 seed piracy matters settled Estimate that farmers paid Monsanto somewhere between $85.7 to $160.6 million Estimate that farmers paid Monsanto somewhere between $85.7 to $160.6 million

34 Positive Signs Food companies and farming groups reject GMOs Food companies and farming groups reject GMOs Farmers starting to turn away from Roundup Ready soybeans Farmers starting to turn away from Roundup Ready soybeans Increased demand for non-GM seed Increased demand for non-GM seed GM labeling initiative in California GM labeling initiative in California Organic market continues to grow Organic market continues to grow

35 Food Companies Reject Some GMOs in U.S. McDonalds and Burger King killed GM potatoes in 2000 McDonalds and Burger King killed GM potatoes in 2000 Gerbers (baby foods) – non-GMO policy Gerbers (baby foods) – non-GMO policy Del Monte – no to GM sweet corn Del Monte – no to GM sweet corn Popcorn Board – no to GM popcorn Popcorn Board – no to GM popcorn Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Trader Joes do not use GM ingredients in store brands Whole Foods, Wild Oats and Trader Joes do not use GM ingredients in store brands

36 Farmer/Commodity Group Reject Some GMOs Monsanto shelved Roundup Ready wheat 2004 – farm groups, wheat traders Monsanto shelved Roundup Ready wheat 2004 – farm groups, wheat traders Rice millers and blocked introduction of GM LibertyLink rice Rice millers and blocked introduction of GM LibertyLink rice Flax Council of Canada forced prohibition of GM flax in 2001 Flax Council of Canada forced prohibition of GM flax in 2001

37 Demand for Conventional Soybean Seed Rising Increased demand for conventional soybeans since 2007 in Missouri, Ohio, Mississippi and Kansas – in some cases outstripping supply Increased demand for conventional soybeans since 2007 in Missouri, Ohio, Mississippi and Kansas – in some cases outstripping supply Driven by: Driven by: Rising price of Roundup Ready seed Rising price of Roundup Ready seed Increased cost of Roundup Increased cost of Roundup Roundup-resistant weeds Roundup-resistant weeds Price premium for non-GM soybeans Price premium for non-GM soybeans Legal to save/replant, additional cost savings Legal to save/replant, additional cost savings

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39 Court Victories Farmers and Center for Food Safety have sued USDA for illegally approving several GMOs Farmers and Center for Food Safety have sued USDA for illegally approving several GMOs Roundup Ready alfalfa and sugarbeets Roundup Ready alfalfa and sugarbeets Established that harms to farmers and environment from contamination and resistant weeds must be taken into consideration Established that harms to farmers and environment from contamination and resistant weeds must be taken into consideration

40 GMO Labeling Campaign Campaign to persuade U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration to institute mandatory labeling of GMOs Campaign to persuade U.S. Food and Drug Adminstration to institute mandatory labeling of GMOs 1.2 million people have signed petition 1.2 million people have signed petition Over 50 countries in world with > 40% of worlds population have mandatory labeling Over 50 countries in world with > 40% of worlds population have mandatory labeling Also campaign in California Also campaign in California

41 Organic Market Growing Organic market in U.S. grows 9.5% overall in 2011 to reach $31.5 billion in sales Organic market in U.S. grows 9.5% overall in 2011 to reach $31.5 billion in sales Organic food and beverage: $29.2 billion Organic food and beverage: $29.2 billion Organic non-food: $2.2 billion Organic non-food: $2.2 billion Organic Trade Associations (OTAs) 2012 Organic Industry Survey.

42 Conclusions Biotechnology = pesticides + seeds Biotechnology = pesticides + seeds GMOs are mostly herbicide-resistant more pesticide use, resistant weeds, hand weeding GMOs are mostly herbicide-resistant more pesticide use, resistant weeds, hand weeding Contamination rampant huge losses Contamination rampant huge losses Seed prices skyrocketing Seed prices skyrocketing Monsanto sues famers for saving seeds Monsanto sues famers for saving seeds Positive signs: Public and farm groups rejects some GMOs Public and farm groups rejects some GMOs Farmers turning more to non-GM seed Farmers turning more to non-GM seed Citizens demand GMO labeling Citizens demand GMO labeling Organic market growing Organic market growing

43 Center for Food Safety Center for Food Safety 660 Pennsylvania Ave., SE, #302 Washington, DC


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