By Dr. Mercola
With the support of local prosecutors, Mr. Gloeckner, a German farmer who had 65 cows die after he fed them genetically modified Bt corn has filed criminal charges against the manufacturer, alleging that the company not only knew the corn could be lethal to livestock, but was covering up deaths that occurred during clinical trials.
According to a recent press release by GM Watch1, the lawsuit asserts that Swiss biotech Syngenta committed a grave criminal offense by deliberately withholding the results of a feeding trial in which four cows died in two days. The deaths prompted the company to halt the test. No health problems or deaths were reported in the control group, which was not fed the genetically engineered Bt 176 corn.
Syngenta is by law required to register the results of feeding studies with the appropriate authorities, which they never did. They testified before the court in an earlier lawsuit brought by Mr. Gloeckner, stating they knew of no risks related to their Bt 176 corn, which resulted in the case against them being dismissed. According to the featured press release2:
"As a consequence of the deliberate withholding of that critical information Gloeckner suffered financial damage well above €500000 (US$650,000) which he was prevented from regaining through the initial court process."
Genetically Engineered Crops Taking a Toll on Livestock Health
As reported by Institute of Science in Society3, this is far from an isolated incident of mysterious deaths associated with genetically engineered feed, and it's not just Syngenta's Bt 176 corn either. Thousands of livestock deaths have been reported across India, as a result of grazing on genetically engineered crops and feed. The Philippines have also reported cases.
According to Dr. Don Huber, an expert on the toxicity of genetically engineered plants, a new organism linked to GE crops appears to be the cause of high reproductive failure in livestock. The organism was initially identified by veterinarians around 1998—about two years after the introduction of Roundup Ready soybeans, which is one of the staple feeds. The vets were puzzled by sudden rates of miscarriages. While sporadic at first, the phenomenon has continued to increase in severity.
In an interview last year, Dr. Huber stated:
"We [recently] received a call from a county extension educator, indicating that he has a dairy that has a 70 percent abortion rate. You put that on top of 10 to 15 percent of infertility to start with, and you're not going to have a dairy very long. In fact, a lot of our veterinarians are now becoming very concerned about the prospects for being able to have replacement animals."
One of the Best Chemical Companies in the World?
I can't help but note the deep irony of Syngenta's publicly recognized facade, and their corporate behavior, which leaves much to be desired for the everyday man and woman who depends on their products being safe.
In 2011, Syngenta was named among the top 10 employers in biotechnology by Science magazine4 for the second year in a row. (Granted, the annual poll is an evaluation of company performance by employees and peers only.) The company was also recognized by the 2011 Dow Jones Sustainability Index (DJSI)5 as one of the best performing chemical companies worldwide for the sixth year in a row, based on economic, social and environmental governance performance.
Personally, I expect more from a company revered for its environmental- and social governance... Hiding clinical trial data that is of utmost significance in terms of health is a heinously shameful act that no morally upright company would ever associate itself with. But that's not the only blotch on Syngenta's corporate resume.
Far from it...
The company recently agreed to pay $105 million to settle a class-action lawsuit in which water utilities in the U.S. Midwest claimed Syngenta's weed killer Atrazine had contaminated their drinking water6. Atrazine has been banned in the European Union—including Switzerland, where it's manufactured—as well as several Wisconsin counties in the United States. Nearly 2,000 water utilities are part of the settlement. As part of the settlement agreement, Syngenta is allowed to plea "no liability."
According to Market Watch7:
"Settling this case will remove the burden of litigation from Syngenta's partners, customers, retailers, distributors, and others who have been inconvenienced by the lawsuit," the company said in a statement. The herbicide is not used in Europe, and critics cite studies indicating it can disrupt sexual reproduction of frogs. Syngenta reiterated Friday that the product is safe, and that "no one ever has or ever could be exposed to enough Atrazine in water to affect their health."
Never mind the "inconvenience" suffered by water utilities that had to filter the "gender-bending" chemicals out of the water, and the residents of those areas that potentially drank traces of the stuff for nearly a decade. As for the absolute, iron-clad guarantee of the total safety of their product, at least one of their own, now former, scientists publicly disagrees.
Former Syngenta Scientist Spills the Beans on Atrazine
Syngenta has been accused of attempting to block the publication of UC Berkeley Professor Tyrone Hayes's work on Atrazine. Dr. Hayes, PhD. claims he resigned his contractor position with Syngenta after they refused to allow him to publish the results of studies they had funded. The research in question found that Atrazine causes hermaphroditism in frogs. After resigning, he obtained independent funding to repeat the research, which was subsequently published.
Since then, he's built an educational web site dedicated to informing the public about Atrazine8. Dr. Hayes gives the following summary of the herbicide:
"Atrazine is the most common chemical contaminant of ground and surface water in the United States. It is a potent endocrine disruptor with ill effects in wildlife, laboratory animals and humans. Atrazine chemically castrates and feminizes wildlife and reduces immune function in both wildlife and laboratory rodents. Atrazine induces breast and prostate cancer, retards mammary development, and induces abortion in laboratory rodents. Studies in human populations and cell and tissue studies suggest that Atrazine poses similar threats to humans. The peer-reviewed scientific studies to support these statements are summarized and can be viewed as you navigate this website."
... Despite the environmental and public health risks, Atrazine continues to be used in the US, for economic reasons. Atrazine may only increase corn yield by as little as 1.2 %, and not at all according to some studies. The agri-giant Syngenta, however, has a very powerful lobby and spent $250,000 lobbying in Minnesota alone in 2005 to keep Atrazine on the market there."
"Top 10 Employer" Condemned for Human Rights Violations in Brazil
In another ironic twist, in May 2010, five months before it "earned" its place on the Top 10 Employers' list of Science Magazine the first time around9, Syngenta was condemned by the Permanent People's Tribunal (PPT) in Madrid for human rights violations in Brazil10, where, in October 2007, Valmir Mota de Oliveira, aka "Keno," had been "killed execution-style by two shots to the chest" by armed security forces hired by Syngenta11.
The killing took place on a farm where Syngenta was illegally growing experimental genetically engineered crops. Keno was part of a group protest against the company's violation of Brazilian environmental laws, which does not permit genetically engineered crops in the surrounding area of the Iguaçu National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage area, where the farm was located. (The company had already been fined R$1 million –about US$500,000—in 2006 to Brazilian environmental authorities for their transgression. However, as of 2008, the company was still contesting the fine12.)
According to a report by the Movement of Landless Workers (MST)13, describing the attack:
"... [A] bus stopped in front of the entrance gate and an armed militia of approximately 40 heavily armed gunmen got out, firing at the people in the encampment. They broke down the gate, killed activist Keno with two shots to the chest, shot five other workers, and severely beat Isabel do Nascimento de Souza, who remains in serious condition at the hospital. The militia attacked the encampment in order to assassinate the leaders and recover the illegal firearms belonging to the NF Security company, which were taken by the workers..."
Syngenta denied having any knowledge about the security guards carrying arms, despite the fact that the company was well-known in the area for providing—you guessed it—armed guards14. An in-depth report titled, The Case of Syngenta: Human Rights Violations in Brazil 200815, details Syngenta's role in this murder, and its role in the environmental destruction of Brazilian environment and agriculture. To learn more, please review the report in its entirety:
"The company claims that it has contributed to the development of agriculture, and that it benefits Brazilian society. However, the reality is that Syngenta has been violating human rights and disrespecting Brazilian laws. It is associated with lobbying groups, politicians, and large landowners who are opposed to agrarian reform and family farming. Despite portraying itself as an advocate of sustainable agriculture, it is clear that its activities are detrimental to both family farmers and to biodiversity.
Syngenta and half a dozen other transnational biotechnology companies lobbied
the Brazilian government to approve commercialization of GM [genetically modified] corn, without conducting health and environmental tests. This greatly endangers the biodiversity that Brazilian communities have been protecting for centuries." [Emphasis mine]
Syngenta along with five other biotech giants was condemned by the Permanent People's Tribunal yet again this year16 for "gross, widespread and systematic violations of the right to health and life, economic, social and cultural rights, as well as of civil and political rights, and women and children's rights."
Overall, Syngenta, like so many other major corporations, behaves in ways totally unbecoming for a company intent on being a good steward of environmental- and human health.
So much for the Dow Jones Sustainability Index.
Keep Fighting for Labeling of Genetically Engineered Foods
While California Prop. 37 failed to pass last November, by a very narrow margin, the fight for GMO labeling is far from over. The field-of-play has now moved to the state of Washington, where the people's initiative 522, "The People's Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act," will require food sold in retail outlets to be labeled if it contains genetically engineered ingredients. As stated on LabelitWA.org:
"Calorie and nutritional information were not always required on food labels. But since 1990 it has been required and most consumers use this information every day. Country-of-origin labeling wasn't required until 2002. The trans fat content of foods didn't have to be labeled until 2006. Now, all of these labeling requirements are accepted as important for consumers. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also says we must know with labeling if our orange juice is from fresh oranges or frozen concentrate.
Doesn't it make sense that genetically engineered foods containing experimental viral, bacterial, insect, plant or animal genes should be labeled, too? Genetically engineered foods do not have to be tested for safety before entering the market. No long-term human feeding studies have been done. The research we have is raising serious questions about the impact to human health and the environment.
I-522 provides the transparency people deserve. I-522 will not raise costs to consumers or food producers. It simply would add more information to food labels, which manufacturers change routinely anyway, all the time. I-522 does not impose any significant cost on our state. It does not require the state to conduct label surveillance, or to initiate or pursue enforcement. The state may choose to do so, as a policy choice, but I-522 was written to avoid raising costs to the state or consumers."
Remember, as with CA Prop. 37, they need support of people like YOU to succeed. Prop. 37 failed with a very narrow margin simply because we didn't have the funds to counter the massive ad campaigns created by the No on 37 camp, led by Monsanto and other major food companies. Let's not allow Monsanto and its allies to confuse and mislead the people of Washington and Vermont as they did in California. So please, I urge you to get involved and help in any way you can, regardless of what state you live in.
- No matter where you live in the United States, please donate money to these labeling efforts through the Organic Consumers Fund.
- If you live in Washington State, please sign the I-522 petition. You can also volunteer to help gather signatures across the state.
- For timely updates on issues relating to these and other labeling initiatives, please join the Organic Consumers Association on Facebook, or follow them on Twitter.
- Talk to organic producers and stores and ask them to actively support the Washington initiative.