Wednesday, August 12, 2009


Washington Post Reports Meat Eating is 'Huge Contributor' to Climate Change

Last week, the Washington Post summarized a number of recent reports indicating that one of the best things you can do to reduce your carbon footprint or greenhouse gas pollution is to reduce your meat consumption. Here are some quick highlights:

-A Carnegie Melon study found that the average American would benefit the planet more by being vegetarian one day per week than by switching to a totally local diet (heck, why not do both?).

-A University of Chicago study found that switching to a vegan diet would have a bigger impact than trading your gas guzzler for a Prius.

-The head of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, recommended that people give up meat one day a week to take pressure off the atmosphere.

-According to a 2006 United Nations report, livestock accounts for 18 percent of worldwide greenhouse gas emissions.

Although we've reported similar studies in Organic Bytes over the years, it's refreshing to see a mainstream media outlet finally bring attention to the topic. Americans seem okay being told they should recycle, drive less, and weatherize their homes, but something short-circuits when you ask them to reduce their meat consumption.

Read the full story here...

Group faults UK's £100m support for GM crops in Africa


By Roseline Okere

The Environmental Rights Action/Friends of the Earth Nigeria (ERA/FoEN) has criticised plans by the government of the United Kingdom to spend about £100 million to support the growing of Genetically Modified (GM) crops in Africa.

According to ERA, a new white paper shows that the UK government will dramatically increase spending on high-tech agriculture in the next five years, much of which will be on GM crop research.

The breakdown of the funding, ERA/FoEN explained, shows that bio-fortified crops, containing so-called added vitamins, will receive £80 million of development money, while £60 million will go into researching drought-resistant maize for Africa, while pest resistance will be funded to the tune of £24 million.

Reacting to the development in a statement issued in Lagos Monday, ERA/FoEN depicted the gesture as an "attempt to control, colonise and contaminate food supply under the guise of helping the Africa continent.

The group added that the white paper avoids the terms "genetically modified" even when scientists and development experts were clear that much of the money would be spent on GM crops.

ERA/FoEN Executive Director, Nnimmo Bassey said: "It is extremely ridiculous that the British government overlooked contentious issues such as under-investment in African solutions to hunger, lack of infrastructure and extension services in rural communities and only narrowed our hunger challenge to yields and so-called vitamins. It is shocking that the British government would believe the claims of biotech industry to GMOs yield better than organic or conventional varieties at a time when empirical evidence has shown that such claims are not true."

Bassey reiterated ERA's position that Africans must be allowed to determine what they want to eat as well as how and where they want it grown, explaining that, a recent report from South Africa revealed that even indigenous chickens have refused to eat GM maize.

"If chickens will not eat it why should we? Do chickens have more brains than people? This unholy gesture should be an eye-opener to African governments that hobnob with the biotech industry and their allied research institutes that are only interested in providing un-African solutions to our challenges.

"Time and again we have said that the true test of the sincerity of the global North in addressing the food crisis in Africa is not the thrusting of GMO foods down African throats but to sincerely and without hidden motives listen to Africans and support ecological solutions being developed on the continent. Any attempt to arm-twist African countries into accepting GMO in the guise of aid will not be accepted," Bassey warned.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Smart chickens weren't be duped by foul play

The Sunday Independent, Aug. 2, 2009

By Eleanor Momberg

Chickens refusing to eat the maize they had been fed has led to the discovery that their feed had been genetically modified to include a well-known weed and insect killer.

Strilli Oppenheimer was recently approached by Dawid Klopper, the head gardener at the family estate, Brenthurst, informing her that her indigenous African chickens were refusing to eat the mealies in the chicken feed bought from a large supplier.

Concerned that the birds may be ingesting genetically modified maize, she instructed Klopper to have the maize tested.The chickens' diet was immediately changed to include organic vegetables, Oppenheimer stopped consuming the home-grown eggs and the maize was sent to the GMO testing facility at the University of the Free State for analysis.

The results confirmed Oppenheimer's initial suspicion - the maize had been genetically engineered to produce proteins that are toxic to certain insects and weeds. "It contained BT1 which makes the maize insect resistant, as well as Roundup which makes it weed resistant.

This is the first report we have had of chickens not eating GM feed," said a GM expert. While small quantities of BT1 and Roundup weed killer were found in the seeds, the concern remained with the cumulative effect of GM feed, not only on the chickens, but also on the eggs they produced for the family.

"This is of serious concern. Do you know that 96 percent of soya-based foods are genetically modified and that maize in South Africa is contaminated," asked Oppenheimer, pointing out that research by well-known scientist Dr Arpad Pusztai had shown that rats fed on GM potatoes suffered from a weakened immune system and stunted growth of their internal organs, including the liver, kidneys and brain.

Pusztai was fired by the Rowett Research Institute in the UK in 1998 after his research into the human nutritional consequences of GM. His findings had far-reaching implications for the biotech industry, which had contended that GM crops and products would not adversely affect human health.

International research has shown a direct link between certain types of genetic engineering and cancer.

Gundula Azeez and Coilin Nunan of The Soil Association, a UK environmental charity, stated in their paper, "GM Crops - the health effects", that international research had shown that milk, eggs and meat from GM-fed animals contained GM crop DNA, concluding that it was likely that people were frequently being exposed to GM DNA.

They concluded that because of the lapses in extensive safety assessments, there were "very good scientific reasons for being concerned about the safety of GM crops".

Rose Williams, acting director of Biowatch, said globally there was great concern that GM products had not been adequately tested in terms of their effect on people, animals and the environment.

"There has been no testing on humans, very limited testing on animals and very little research on environmental impacts. This is the case globally, but in South Africa even less work has been done, even though the commercial release of GM maize, GM soya and GM cotton has been approved."

Williams said concerns by NGOs such as Biowatch, the African Centre for Biosafety and SAFeAGE about the lack of control over GM crops and contamination of non-GM crops had largely been ignored.

"Government has not done enough to protect the public from the potential threats of GM foods. There is also the matter of liability - who will take responsibility for people's losses and any health problems relating to consumption of GM foods, whether they are for people or for animals.

"Williams said the contamination of non-GM crops was a real problem, with the biotech industry leading people to believe that co-existence of GM and non-GM crops was possible. "But it is not," she said.

While the recently implemented Consumer Protection Act called for the labelling of GM foods, the regulations linked to the measure had yet to be finalised.

About her chickens' refusal to eat their maize, Oppenheimer said: "They're smart."