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Jan 23, 2011
Hadn't expected this (I mean, not surprised at Beddington, as he's said it before), but the Guardian dedicating a whole article to cheerleading GM: I am referring to 'Genetically modified crops are the key to human survival, says UK's chief scientist'

The whole article focuses on Sir John Beddington's opinion - cheerleading GM - with only one (inaccurate/ incomplete) sentence to 'balance' it ("Such remarks will enrage many environmental groups, who believe it is wrong for the west to impose a technology it has developed on the third world."); this *endless* pushing of GM does not only enrage "environmental groups", but farmers, anti-debt groups, religious groups, poverty alleviation agencies and many, many more. Also, the objection is not that the "third world" shouldn't benefit from a 'western technology' (how silly would that be - technology transfer - under just conditions! - is actually something that these groups actively advocate for!), but because (amongst others):

- The potential abuse of power that this technology and gene patent laws give the breeding companies (the crops are purposefully made sterile), thus making farmers subservient/ at the mercy of GM companies
- It has been proven that it does *not* systematically increase yields (as promised by GM)
- The 'benefit' of being able to use more pesticides mainly serves to increase profit of GM-linked pesticide sellers and pollute fields and rivers plus poison farmers, *not* benefit food output
- It is *not* a solution for the emotive 'world hunger' (as a humanitarian aid worker I know that many die of hunger surrounded by food... because they can't afford to buy it, because 'globalisation/ free trade' make it difficult for farmers to compete with cheap imports; because people lack access to simple solutions to store excess food; because farmers and local traders face trade barriers to export; because land is leased to rich foreigners...)
- Funding for biotechnology reduces the money that is available for researching other technologies that would probably be more beneficial, cheaper and more sustainable (if probably less profitable for shareholders).
- GM is not safe (several animal studies indicate serious health risks associated with GM food, including infertility, immune problems, accelerated aging, faulty insulin regulation, and changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system)
- If Beddington doesn't want 'environmentalists' from stopping GM, then Beddington should also listen to his intended 'beneficiaries' of the technology: e.g. the 'global south' do *not* want it

I could go on forever, but will leave it at this. I could provide several reputable sources for all (and more) arguments above if you wish. I'll mention just one: The International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) is a major World Bank and UN funded study that has been endorsed by 58 governments, including the UK. Its findings are that small-scale sustainable agriculture (using local variaties) is the way forward if we are going to provide food for the Earth's growing population in a time of climate chaos and is dismissive of GM for some of the above mentioned reasons.

I hope in the future The Guardian (and all) will provide more balanced reporting!

I wrote a variety on the above in an e-mail to the Guardian Environment Editor.

Lots of other relevant research and info on Political CleanUp.
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Posted: Jan 23, 2011 6:33am
Oct 2, 2010

I've just come back from a 5-week assignment in Pakistan supporting the humanitarian response to the devastating floods (focusing on grant management and reporting to my day employer's numerous donors, running into the millions GBP, thanks to people's and institutions' generosity). Haven't had much chance for much else (would have loved to get in touch with Pakistan-based environmentalists!), though did keep up with my OU work on Islam and Environment courses. Anyone else wondering whether the floods damage and misery is all due to the rain, but our logging (with PK having high international debts, selling off assets is means to generate hard currency and saying 'our logging' as we're creating the demand) and mixed up other priorities, means the poor in Pakistan are suffering from more than poverty...

$5,000,000,000,000: The cost each year of vanishing rainforest
British researchers set out the economic impact of species destruction - and their findings are changing world's approach to global warming (well I hope so!) - is money the only language that talks loud enough to be heard? Perhaps the UN Biodiversity Chief, Mr Ahmed Djoghlaf, can add his answer to this question when he comes on The Guardian on 4 October?

BTW: An insecticide used in genetically modified (GM) crops grown extensively in the US and other parts of the world has leached into the water of the surrounding environment according to a study published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

Sorry if the above doesn't sound terribly organised... arrived back with heavy cold and wanted to put up some of my thoughts - both for any readers to know I'm still around and also for me to get some issues off my chest...

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Posted: Oct 2, 2010 11:21pm
Jul 15, 2010

Interesting, if not easily accessible for all, is an article starting page 66 in the 2nd issue of Constellations, by IMASE (International Muslim Association of Scientists and Engineers): Islamic Legal Perspectives on Genetically Modified Food (GMF), Dr Anke Iman Bouzenita, Assistant Professor, Department of Fiqh and Usul al-Fiqh, International Islamic University Malaysia

"Genetically modified food (GMF) is part of our realities as consumers worldwide. The techniques and possibilities involved do require an Islamic legal (fiqh) study as to assess GMF with regard to its consumption, production and related research. The paper focuses on placing the study of GMF within a holistic context, under consideration of the societal background and rationale it has been developed under. It investigates into the possibility of transferring fiqh devices such as istihalah (chemical transformation), istihlak (extreme dilution) and others to GMF combining genetic material from permissible and non-permissible sources. It raises a number of deliberations and concerns with regard to the usage of the ‘maqasidic’ scheme and discusses the permissibility of GMF under the aspects of changing creation or harnessing nature."

The author ends the abstract with a quote from the Quran:
“God cursed him, but he (Iblis) said: ‘I will take of Your servants a portion marked off, I will mislead them, and I will create in them false desires. I will order them and they will surely slit the ears of cattle, and I will verily command them, and they will certainly change the creation of God.’ And whoever takes Satan as a patron instead of God has indeed suffered a great loss.” (Quran, An-Nisa/ The Women, 118-119)

And for those who don't have time to read (those who want to be taken on the journey first: look away now!), the key conclusion: "Considering the impact of GM food holistically with regard to its consumption, production and research, we may conclude that the entire conceptualisation of GMOs for human (or animal) consumption follows a rationale that is not in agreement with the Islamic way of life. As the rationale for bringing about GM food for animal or human consumption is in contradiction with Islamic concepts, my conclusion is that Muslims should seriously re-evaluate their participation in this field."

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Posted: Jul 15, 2010 1:32pm
Jun 2, 2010

Working from home this afternoon, I just finished listening to the programme Rothamsted Research on BBC Radio 4. The programme info mentions "This use of GM as a 'tool' in experiment has been very successful." This is deceptive (and have thus complained to the BBC!) as it implies it's a solution (in the making); it may be an interesting 'toy' for scientists, but it's NOT a solution and this has been shown by research including that of IAAST (the IPCC of agriculture but with even less teeth), Austrian Gov't research (even if last month pro-GM bullied them into withdrawing - and the study has even been taken down from the Austrian Government website: why not leave it for people to read? Reference still is: Biological effects of transgenic maize NK603xMON810 fed in long term reproduction studies in mice, Velimirov A et al. Bundesministerium für Gesundheit, Familie und Jugend Report, Forschungsberichte der Sektion IV Band 3/2008, Austria, 2008) etc. The 'downside' of GM is NOT just that people are currently 'just' worried about it's safety... it's playing with the start of the food chain, of the web of biodiversity, it's corporate ownership, increased dependency of farmers on outside input. I would REALLY appreciate it if the BBC stopped being a mouth piece of GM pushing (note two people - Dr Wallace and Prof. Wynne - resigned from the UK Government's Food Standards Authority's GM group in the past week because of this - even if I didn't hear about this from the BBC!).

On another note (where UK Government wants to allow new nuclear plants in the UK): we're still finding bills for the ones already there... and it's NOT just for a coffee and bun.

In peace, Rianne

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Posted: Jun 2, 2010 8:30am
May 21, 2010

And yet another GM push... this time on poor farmers in India:
According to an article on the BBC: "Scientists say they are crucial to tackling food shortages" - this is just SOOOO misleading... Monsanto etc sponsored scientists say it....independent/ UN scientists are not at all that convinced!!!! See, just as an example, MAJOR research by International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAAST) like IPCC for agriculture, final report from 2008.

In peace, Rianne

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Posted: May 21, 2010 2:38pm
Mar 28, 2010

The International Journal of Biological Sciences (IJB published a comparative analysis of blood and organ system data from trials with rats fed three main commercialized genetically modified (GM) maize (NK 603, MON 810, MON 863), which are present in food and feed in the world. NK 603 has been modified to be tolerant to the broad spectrum herbicide Roundup (so little with modification to withstand increased drought or delike!). MON 810 and MON 863 are engineered to synthesize two different Bt toxins used as insecticides. According to the scientists: "Our analysis clearly reveals for the 3 GMOs new side effects linked with GM maize consumption, which were sex- and often dose-dependent. Effects were mostly associated with the kidney and liver, the dietary detoxifying organs, although different between the 3 GMOs. Other effects were also noticed in the heart, adrenal glands, spleen and haematopoietic system. We conclude that these data highlight signs of hepatorenal toxicity, possibly due to the new pesticides specific to each GM corn. In addition, unintended direct or indirect metabolic consequences of the genetic modification cannot be excluded."

Note GM companies have so far tried to suppress this kind of information (and/ or discourage others doing the necessary research) in an effort to push this 'money spinner' on us. I'm glad more of the health impacts are out now, even if for people of faith, 'playing God' (as GM is NOT similar to selective breeding, but in a test tube crossing species who would not mix in nature/ Creation!) should be a no-no, especially as perpetuated myths such as 'GM contributes to poverty alleviation' is nonsense (all it does is put food chain in hand of mega for-profit companies!).

Since critisism on the IPCC (OK, human errors weren't good, but by far do NOT undermine the scietific basis for climate change whatsoever, plus opposers should expose their funding sources... yes, Big Oil, and no this is not conspiracy... check the facts), some think it's fair season to critisize other UN reports as well, but bloggers and sceptics leaping all over a UN report that 'exaggerated' the link between meat and climate change are not revealing that the scientist challenging the figures has been funded by the livestock industry!

Also interesting news that the Green Party  (though not pleased with negative way it was put: 'Green Party drops bomb shell'... it wasn't the Green Party, it was the PEOPLE who voted for change!) has won a by-election so convincingly, so close to the general elections in the UK (expected 6 May '10).

Finally, interesting that someone took the time to compare amounts of food presented on paintings of the 'Last Supper' and found that over a thousand years the meals have gone 'super size', it seems gradually some have forgotten what Prophet Jesus PBUH stood for and advocated: simplicity and modesty.

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Posted: Mar 28, 2010 2:49am
Feb 26, 2010

Yesterday I was one of three 'Green Dragons'. No, nothing violent or scary, but a play on a programme on the UK television where entrepreneurs vie for money from the rich dragons. In our case, we gave green advice. As the audience were school pupils, the event was also much education focused. It was organised by Globally Local. As it was still Fairtrade Fortnight, bagged myself a free fairtrade chocolate from the Co-op.

Another thought I wanted to share today is what indeed Jeffrey Sachs put so well: some of the most vocal climate sceptics are "recycled critics of control on tobacco and acid rain" and when a report for the UN into the activities of the world's 3,000 biggest companies estimates that "one-third of profits would be lost if firms were forced to pay for use, loss and damage of environment" (article in The Guardian), you can imagine they would fight tooth and nail to avoid any changes in the current situation (directly or by hiring lobbyists, funding anti-globl warming 'think tanks' etc). Yes, some say the UN is discredited because of found errors in IPCC reports... but do a few errors (OK, still errors, shouldn't have happened) in an 8,000 page documentation discredit the whole foundation of the science? No, they do not!

Not everything is doom and gloom about climate change, it opens opportunities (not that we want more climate change, but that which is already in the pipeline and to prevent further deterioration could give green jobs a boost), but I am most saddened about Lord Smith telling National Farmers' Union that climate change "could provide opportunities for novel crops and systems" [meaning GM] ... yes, it could be a boon, but ONLY for the private seed sellers who make farmers dependent on them as the seeds are deliberately sterile and as a society we thus put the start of the food chain in corporate hands whose legal duty it is to aim for financial profit.

If you live in Birmingham and active in your place of worship, do think of attending a workshop on 'Faith, Climate Change and Global Poverty' on 6 March (disclosure, I'm the convenor).

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Posted: Feb 26, 2010 5:45am


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Rianne ten Veen
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