Gene-swapping vaccines spawn lethal poultry virus

REUTERS | JULY 16, 2012

Three vaccines used to prevent respiratory disease in chickens have swapped genes, producing two lethal new strains that have killed tens of thousands of fowl across two states in Australia, scientists reported on Friday.

The creation of the deadly new variant was only possible because the vaccines contained live viruses, even though they were weakened forms, said Joanne Devlin, lead author of the paper published in the journal Science.

Devlin and her team discovered how closely related the two new strains were with viruses in the vaccines after analysing their genes.

“What we found was the field viruses … were actually a mixture of the genomes from different vaccine viruses,” said Devlin, a lecturer at the University of Melbourne’s School of Veterinary Science. “They actually combined, mixed together.”

The viruses emerged in 2008, a year after Australia started using a European vaccine along with two very similar Australian vaccines to fight acute respiratory disease in poultry. The illness causes coughing, sneezing and breathing difficulties in birds, normally killing 5 percent of them.

The two new strains, however, were far more harmful, and since they were created have killed up to 17 percent of chicken flocks across Victoria and New South Wales, the two main chicken rearing states in Australia.

“What could have happened was one chicken was vaccinated with one vaccine and later was exposed to the other vaccine somehow, from nearby chickens,” Devlin said.

Agricultural authorities in Australia have been informed of the results of the study, and are considering how to prevent similar cross-overs happening again.

“Use of only one vaccine in a population of birds will prevent different viruses from combining,” Devlin said.

“Authorities are reviewing labels on vaccine to change the way vaccines are used and prevent different vaccines being used in one population.”

In Brazil, it is Monsanto vs 5,000,000

By LUIS MIRANDA | THE REAL AGENDA | JUNE 4, 2012

Monsanto is one of the most powerful corporations on the planet and one of a handful that heavily influences government policy when it comes to food production. This company is also one of a few that has proposed as their main goal to control perhaps the most important aspect of human existence, which is the food supply system. Together with Cargill, Monsanto is known as the thugs of the food supply, as they are charged with the poisoning of our food system. Monsanto is a biotechnology giant, and as such, it makes its money by selling genetically modified organisms often implanted in food crops such as corn, soy, cotton and others. As many people are well aware, these three agricultural products are probably the top ones when it comes to feeding the world and that is why the company’s intention to patent them is worrisome.

Hundreds if not thousands of farmers from around the world have tried to sue Monsanto for what they consider are illegal practices, monopolistic policies, food contamination, and other issues in an attempt to cut off the tentacles that are now strangling the food supply. But every single time, Monsanto has managed to defeat lawsuit after lawsuit. In response to accusations of fraudulent business practices, the bio-tech giant has counter sued farmers who dared challenge its supremacy in order to convince others that it is impossible to end its growing monopoly on food production. As seen on films such as Food Inc and Farmaggedon, Monsanto spares no resources when it comes to punishing farmers that seek to cancel their contracts, or even those who don’t want to do business with them.

But the problem with Monsanto is not only about its present actions. Its past is almost as concerning as its intention to own every single form of food. The company is the creator of the artificial sweetener saccharin, which it sold to Coca-Cola and canned food companies as a sugar replacement. It is also used in Splenda and almost all chewing gum and candy. In its most toxic form, artificial sweeteners like aspartame are known to cause cancer. The company also developed Agent Orange, first produced as an herbicide and defoliant, but later used as a military weapon by the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Over 12 million gallons of the chemical described as “perhaps the most toxic molecule ever synthesized by man”, were dropped over people, towns, farms, and water supplies.

Monsanto also brought us the Recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone, which is used worldwide, except for a few developed nations. “The milk we drink today is quite unlike the milk our ancestors were drinking without apparent harm for 2,000 years,” said Harvard scientist Ganmaa Davaasambuu. “The milk we drink today may not be nature’s perfect food.” According to analysis conducted on milk that originated from rBGH-injected cows, the high levels of this hormone found in the milk, caused higher levels of cancer-causing hormones and lower nutritional value. And we cannot forget Monsanto’s growing seed production, which the company claims produce foods that are perfectly safe to eat. As many will suspect, the only studies that have concluded such thing are Monsanto-sponsored tests or others that they company has conducted itself.

If Monsanto’s game is one of numbers, then that what it is going to get. Recently, five million Brazilian farmers began a legal feud with US biotech giant Monsanto for what they claim is the unfair payment of royalties for the use of their seed with genetically engineered organisms. GMOs were illegally introduced in Brazil over a decade ago, and now 85 percent of the soy produced in the country is genetically modified. Much of Monsanto’s success is owed to the complicity of powerful local and foreign land owners who chose quantity over quality. The government agencies that are supposed to oversee food safety haven’t done their job either, as GMOs haven’t been properly labeled.

The legal battle between Monsanto and the 5 million farmers stems from their refusal to pay royalties to the US company. In 2008, millions of farmers agreed to fight Monsanto and its policy to collect payment for the use of its technology, even from farmers who did not do business with the corporation. The farmers complain that Monsanto unlawfully demands that producers of transgenic soy pay 2 percent of their earnings in royalties. “Monsanto gets paid when it sell the seeds. The law gives producers the right to multiply the seeds they buy and nowhere in the world is there a requirement to pay for a second time. Producers are in effect paying a private tax on production,” said lawyer Jane Berwanger.

Although a Brazilian judge ruled that Monsanto’s policy of requesting royalties was not legal, and demanded that the company returned the money taken from farmers since 2004, the company appealed the decision and took it to a federal court, which is supposed to make a decision by 2014. Such decision will consist of a court upholding Brazilian laws or bending over to Monsanto’s interests. Some Brazilian farmers believe that the higher the case goes, the less of a chance they have to come out on the winning side. There is just too much money involved. Government numbers show that sales of genetically modified soy, used for animal feed, oil production and biofuel, among other things, have reached $24.1 billion, adding up to 26 percent of Brazil’s agricultural exports in 2011. Most of that soy is sold to China.

Besides the dangers presented to humans, animals and other plant species, transgenic soy also brings another problem: the issue of running an agricultural model based on monoculture. “Transgenic soy occupies 44 percent of land under grain cultivation but represents only 5.5 percent of farm jobs,” says Sergio Schlesinger, a researcher who describes the advance of soybean monoculture in his book The Grain that Grew too much. Mr. Schlesinger talks about the fact that a monoculture scheme is not beneficial due to the fact that the highly mechanized system requires much less labor, which leads to less need for farm workers.

The Brazilian government has gone from banning GMOs to opening the lands to it, to investing and taking part on research and development of GMO. Today, GMO soy is present in 17 states in Brazil, where the southern lands of Mato Grosso, Parana and Rio Grande do Sul account for the largest production. Along with Brazil, Argentina, China and India are also big players in the soy production and trade markets. Brazil has been sought as an option for the plantation of large amounts of soy and other GMO products due to its abundant water and land resources and it is expected to become the largest soybean producer. This has so-called environmentalists very worried in Brazil due to the acceleration of deforestation and water waste that Big Agra usually brings along anywhere it goes.

United Nations Will Pursue a Global Green Government at Rio+20 Summit

By ALEX NEWMAN | THE NEW AMERICAN | APRIL 27, 2012

A recently released United Nations report outlines the global body’s plan to foist a centrally planned “green” world order on all of humanity, making every level of government subservient to its “sustainable development” agenda. The upcoming Rio+20 sustainability conference in Brazil — held two decades after the first “Earth Summit” adopted Agenda 21 — will be used to solidify the foundation of the emerging planetary control system.

Under the guise of a “green economy” — expected to cost trillions of dollars per year, according to the report — the UN intends to make use of coercive power at all levels of governance to implement the plan. From local and national governments to regional and global entities, programs affecting every area of human life will be used to advance the controversial “sustainable development” agenda.

According to the UN report, entitled “Working towards a Balanced and Inclusive Green Economy: A United Nations System-wide Perspective,” everything must change to make humanity more sustainable. Lifestyles, opinions, education, health, consumption, production, agriculture, diet, law, taxation, industry, governance, and more: Literally everything must be re-shaped to conform with new international standards.

“Specifically, in a transition to a green economy, public policies will need to be used strategically to reorient consumption, investments, and other economic activities,” the document explains, touting the reduction of carbon emissions and new educational programs to teach humanity why it must become sustainable. “Transitioning to a green economy requires a fundamental shift in the way we think and act.”

The perfect opportunity to solidify the scheme is coming up in June at the UN sustainability summit. And UN bosses are determined not to waste it. “Agreement among UN entities on core elements of strategy, policy, and programmatic services in support of governments’ green economy initiatives will send a powerful signal to governments, businesses, and civil society of the determination of the UN system to ‘Deliver as One’ on a green economy transformation for sustainable development,” the report notes.

Green, From the Top Down:

The plan, of course, will be imposed from the top down. Regional, national, state, and even local governments will all be coaxed into participation. “At the international, sub-regional, and regional levels, there is a need for policy coherence and financial and technological cooperation,” the UN report states. Various enforcement tools will be used to ensure compliance.

Global “justice” to enforce obedience must be powerful for the scheme to succeed. “The success of regulatory approaches hinges on the certainty of policies as well as the quality and credibility of regulatory institutions and their compliance mechanisms, including justice systems,” the report explains. “Effective compliance mechanisms should be put in place in order to achieve the desired outcomes.”

Read Full Article →

The Shocking Reality About GMOs

by Dave Opiyo
AllAfrica.com
July 12, 2011

The spectre of people developing new and strange allergies, indigenous seeds losing their genetic codes and disappearing altogether, farmers making bumper harvests — or no harvests at all — is in the air.

Two weeks ago on July 1, Kenya became the fourth African nation to permit imports of GMO crops, joining South Africa, Egypt and Burkina Faso.

Supporters of the move say it is essential in helping to stabilise prices and feed millions of hungry Kenyans, but matters are not that straightforward.

The online encyclopedia Wikipedia defines a genetically modified or genetically engineered organism (GEO) as one “whose genetic material has been altered using genetic engineering techniques.”

These techniques, generally known as recombinant DNA technology, explains the encyclopaedia, use DNA molecules from different sources, which are then combined into one molecule to create a new set of genes.

This DNA is then transferred into an organism, giving it modified or novel genes. Transgenic organisms, adds Wikipedia, are a subset of GMO organisms which have DNA that originated in a different species.

To put it more clearly, think of an orange with tomato genes. The coming into force of the Bio-Safety Act, 2009 on July 1 that allows the growing and sale of genetically modified crops has elicited mixed reactions.

GMOs are modified in the laboratory to enhance desired traits such as increased resistance to herbicides or improved nutritional content.

But, as expected, anti-GMO lobbyists have kicked up a storm, saying the safety of genetically engineered crops has not been proven beyond reasonable doubt.

“The developers of GMOs have exerted great pressure to ensure that the Bio-Safety Act serves the interests of foreign agribusiness, rather than farmers and consumers,” Ms Anne Maina, an advocacy coordinator for African Biodiversity Network (ABN), says.

Recently, anti-GMO lobbyists, mainly from the ABN, Unga Revolution and Bunge La Mwananchi, protested the move, urging the government to revoke it.

 On May 25, Jeffrey Smith, who describes himself as a “consumer advocate promoting healthier, non-GMO choices”, argued in a blog:

“When US regulators approved Monsanto’s genetically modified “BT” corn, they knew it would add a deadly poison into our food supply. That’s what it was designed to do.

“The corn’s DNA is equipped with a gene from soil bacteria called BT (Bacillus Thuringiensis) that produces the BT-toxin.

“It’s a pesticide; it breaks open the stomach of certain insects and kills them.” Monsanto is a market leader in bio-technology and production of GMOs.

According to the blogger, Monsanto and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) swore up and down that it was only insects that would be hurt.

The BT-toxin, they claimed, would be destroyed in the human digestive system and not have any impact on all of the trusting, corn-eating consumers.

“Now,” he continued, “doctors at Sherbrooke University Hospital in Quebec found the corn’s BT-toxin in the blood of pregnant women and their babies, as well as in non-pregnant women.”

This is one of the many fights in Monsanto’s hands. In its website, the firm says food derived from authorised genetically-modified (GM) crops is as safe as the conventional (non-GM-derived) version.

Putting the matter into perspective, Monsanto says the first large acreage plantings of GM crops — herbicide-tolerant soybeans and canola — took place in 1996 after successfully passing US regulatory review.

Since then, additional GM crops with herbicide tolerance, insect tolerance and virus resistance have been given clearance for planting and consumption.

 These include varieties of corn, sugar beets, squash and papaya. All of these crops have been assessed for food and feed safety in producing countries, “and many more countries have approved the import of food or food ingredients that contain GM products”.

Hundreds of millions of meals containing food from GM crops have been consumed. There has not been a single substantiated instance of illness or harm associated with GM crops, the company argues.

According to Monsanto, some of the negative health effects associated with GMOs could be caused by other considerations.

In one response, it says: “There has been an increased interest in food allergies. Unfortunately, there are no stable diagnostic criteria for testing for food allergies and food intolerance.

“Together, these two factors have probably resulted in an increase in reporting of allergies. Therefore, rates of allergies may not have actually increased as much as it would appear.”

Implications on health

Such is the nature of the GMO controversy Kenyans will soon find themselves embroiled in. Anti-GMO groups say scientific evidence has shown that continued consumption of GM food is likely to have serious implications on not only health, but also the environment and food production.

Studies such as the one by Sherbrooke University Hospital have shown that those who eat genetically modified foods tend to see an increase in their allergic reactions to the types of foods they are already allergic.

Further, by eating these genetically modified foods, people also form allergies to foods which they were never allergic to before.

 Naturally, Monsanto refutes such findings with its own, sometimes poking holes on the research methodology and the findings by its critics.

In lab tests done on animals, there were cases where once the animals ingested genetically modified food, they became completely sterile in a matter of weeks.

In other cases, experimental animals died in a matter of weeks of liver, kidney and pancreatic complications. But that’s one side of the story.

The University of Nairobi’s Centre for Biotechnology and Bio-informatics Director, Prof James Opiyo Ochanda, was quoted in the Business Daily recently as saying that the use of GMOs could be beneficial to Kenya’s attainment of food security because genetically engineered crops are resistant to pests and diseases that often require expensive and harmful chemicals to eradicate.

“Instead of applying chemicals, scientists have engineered the plants to introduce genes or molecules that allow the crop to protect itself.

This is better than the application of chemicals that pollute the environment and harm the body, thus posing dangers to our systems,” he said.

Similar remarks were also made by Prof Samuel Gudu, a plant breeding specialist and Moi University’s Deputy Vice chancellor in-charge of planning and development.

In an interview with the same paper, Prof Gudu reckons that GM technology could help Kenya increase the production of key crops such as maize.

“GMOs are meant to improve the quality of maize. They can protect the crop against insects and what Kenyans should be asking for are the details of the consignment to be brought in as opposed to fear-mongering,” he says.

However, increasing yields and food safety are come at a risk, as the Sherbrooke University Hospital findings show.

And, as the debate rages, the National Bio-Safety Authority (NBA), which is tasked with ensuring that GMOs imported into Kenya are safe both to human beings and the environment, has called for caution.

“Propaganda should not be used as justification as to whether to accept or deny individuals from using GMOs in the country…. We are solely relying on scientific facts,” says NBA chair Prof Miriam Kinyua.

“We have to make sure that what is brought into the country is safe. By doing so, we have to ensure that the risk assessment is well done scientifically,” adds Prof Kinyua, who is also a lecturer at Moi University’s Department of Biotechnology.

“If the importer proves to us that the GMO is good, we approve it and inform the public of the same. If we have reservations because of some findings, we shall say ‘Sorry’.”

According to the Bio-Safety Act, the regulatory authority will communicate its final decision of approval or rejection of an importing license after three months of receiving the application.

After allowing an importer to place a genetically modified organism on the market, the law also allows any person to submit a written opposition within 30 days from the date the notice is posted.

Organisations and individuals opposed to the importation of GMOs will most likely seize this opportunity.

“Is Kenya ready for GMOs?” we asked Prof Kinyua, and she curtly replied that the fact that the government had created a specialised institution and “put in place systems means that we are moving somewhere”.

But “moving somewhere” certainly doesn’t mean full capacity. According to Prof Kinyua, the authority is yet to publish regulations that will guide the process, but that will be done soon.

How will the authority ensure that GM seeds don’t end up in the stomach unprocessed — or the shamba, because Kenyans tend to eat what they grow?

Dr Roy Mugiira, the acting head of the National Bio-Safety Authority, says millers licensed to import genetically modified maize must ensure that this does not happen to avoid the possibility of anybody planting them as seeds. A tall order, this one.

Any lapse on their part that could allow the seeds to be planted will lead to a fine of more than Sh20 million or 10-year prison terms or both. If this happens unintentionally, they will have to meet the cost of removing such seeds from circulation.

According to Dr Mugiira, one of the options being considered is to have the maize milled at the point of landing and then transported as flour, hence avoiding any deliberate or accidental escaping of seeds.

 Widespread opposition

GMO seeds, just like conventional maize, have the capacity to germinate and produce.

Initially, bio-technology firms sterilised GM seeds to forestall germination; but the technology, called terminator, was never commercialised following widespread opposition.

The maize being targeted by the millers has been engineered to develop resistance against weeds and pests.

Another type of GM maize is being tested in Kenya for drought resistance, but it is not yet ready for commercialisation.

If the current bio-safety laws are to be followed strictly, then the earliest the first GM maize can land in to the country legally is around October.

 In 2008, The Daily Mail published a story to validate a claim by Prince Charles that Indian farmers were killing themselves after the improved yields promised by a bio-technology firm failed, therefore ruining the farmers economically.

Some had borrowed heavily. A farmer, Shankara Mandaukar, couldn’t take it anymore when a promised unheard-of-harvest turned into two crop failures after he abandoned indigenous seeds.

“Ranged against the Prince” reported the papers, “are powerful GM lobbyists and prominent politicians, who claim that genetically modified crops have transformed Indian agriculture, providing greater yields than ever before.”

Humanitarian crisis

“However”, wrote the paper, “official figures from the Indian Ministry of Agriculture do indeed confirm that, in a huge humanitarian crisis, more than 1,000 farmers kill themselves here every month.

“It seems many are massively in debt to local money-lenders, having over-borrowed to purchase GM seed.”

Pro-GM experts blamed the suicides on rural poverty, alcoholism, drought and ‘agrarian distress’.

Back to Monsanto, the bio-technology market leader says claims from anti-biotechnology activists that genetically-modified crops don’t increase yields, and that GM crops actually have lower yields than non-GM ones are simply false.

“In agriculture, desirable crop characteristics are known as traits. One of the most important traits is yield.

“Improving crop yield can be accomplished through both breeding and bio-technology. GM crops generally have higher yields due to both breeding and bio-technology,” explains Monsanto.

True, but Indian farmers will tell you of the other side of increased yields.

The 2000-Page Power Grab any Dictator Dreams About

In the words of the very same legislators who created the new financial bill, ‘No one will know until this is actually in place how it works’…, said Christopher Dodd, democrat from Connecticut.  The new bill gives sweeping powers to the president, whoever it is, to determine what is done with many aspects of American citizen’s lives.  “…it deals with every single aspect of our lives,” added Dodd.

WSJ

After more than 20 hours of continuous wrangling, Congressional Democrats and White House officials reached agreement on the

Lawmaker Christopher Dodd (D), next to senator Richard Shelby.

final shape of legislation that would transform financial regulation, avoiding last-minute defections among New York lawmakers that had threatened to upend the bill.

After months of uncertainty about how the U.S. would craft new rules, the agreement offers the clearest picture since the financial crisis of how markets and the government will interact for decades to come. The common thread: large financial companies are facing a tougher leash.

he bill is expected to have enough support to become law. Both chambers plan to vote next week. The margin in the House and Senate will likely be close because most Republicans are expected to oppose the measure.

If the bill passes, President Barack Obama is expected to sign the package into law by July 4. Thursday’s agreement also gives the president leverage going into a weekend summit of world leaders in Canada, where he will prod other nations to rewrite their rules.

“This is about as important as it gets, because it deals with every single aspect of our lives,” said Sen. Christopher Dodd (D., Conn.), a chief architect of the compromise.

In two important ways, the agreement is tougher on the banking industry than officials in the Treasury Department anticipated when they first drafted their version of the bill 12 months ago.

Lawmakers agreed to a provision known as the “Volcker” rule, named after former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, which prohibits banks from making risky bets with their own funds. To win support from Sen. Scott Brown (R., Mass.), Democrats agreed to allow financial companies to make limited investments in areas such as hedge funds and private-equity funds.

The move could require some big banks to spin off divisions, known as proprietary-trading desks, which make bets with the firms’ money.

The bill also includes a provision, authored by Sen. Blanche Lincoln (D., Ark), which would limit the ability of federally insured banks to trade derivatives. This provision almost derailed the bill following vehement objections from New York Democrats. Ms. Lincoln worked out a deal in the early hours of Friday morning that would allow banks to trade interest-rate swaps, certain credit derivatives and others—in other words the kind of standard safeguards a bank would take to hedge its own risk.

Banks, however, would have to set up separately capitalized affiliates to trade derivatives in areas lawmakers perceived as riskier, including metals, energy swaps, and agriculture commodities, among other things.

A panel of 43 lawmakers spent two weeks reconciling differences between a bill that passed the House in December and the Senate in May. They concluded their negotiations along party lines at a little after 5 a.m. ET in a Capitol Hill conference room marked by tension, levity and exhaustion. Senior administration officials, including Treasury Department Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin, arrived late in the afternoon to try and quell the feud between the New York delegation and Ms. Lincoln.

Major components of the bill, including the derivatives provisions, were negotiated in the hallway of the Dirksen Senate Office Building as the clock neared midnight. At one point, after hearing of an offer from Senate Democrats, Rep. Melissa Bean (D., Ill.) exclaimed: “Are you flipping kidding me? Are you flipping kidding me?”

Democrats hailed the agreement as a tool to prevent the kind of taxpayer-funded bailouts that stabilized the economy in 2008 but left divisive scars. Many Republicans said the bill could have unintended consequences, crimping financial markets and access to credit.

“My guess is there are three unintended consequences on every page of this bill,” Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R., Texas) said of the nearly 2,000-page bill.

The deal comes as the banking industry is still struggling to regain its footing. Hundreds of banks have been dragged down by bad loans and investments. The violent restructuring of the U.S. banking sector two years ago has left just a few companies controlling a vast amount of the deposits, assets and financial plumbing of the country.

Government-controlled Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac remain a multibillion dollar drain on the U.S. Treasury, and largely untouched by this proposal. And the banking sector in parts of Europe remains fragile.

The legislation would redraw how money flows through the U.S. economy, from the way people borrow money to the way banks structure complicated products like derivatives. It could touch every person who has a bank account or uses a credit card.

It would erect a new consumer-protection regulator within the Federal Reserve, give the government new powers to break up failing companies and assign a council of regulators to monitor risks to the financial system. It would also set up strict new rules on big banks, limiting their risk and increasing the costs.

The legislation gives the Securities and Exchange Commission new powers to regulate Wall Street and monitor hedge funds, increasing the agency’s access to funding. The Commodity Futures Trading Commission would also have new powers under the bill, which would try and force most derivatives to face more scrutiny from regulators and other market participants.

To pay for some of the new government programs, the bill would allow the government to charge fees to large banks and hedge funds to raise up to $19 billion spread over five years. The assessment is designed to eventually pay down a part of the national debt.

The broad contours had been set for weeks and mostly mirror a proposal the White House has pushed since last summer. But the last few days represented a mad dash of political maneuvering to iron out final details.

Negotiations went into Friday morning, with New York Democrats and White House officials meeting to address the bill’s potential impact on New York, which relies on the financial industry for employment and tax revenue.

To win broader support, Democrats softened the bill’s impact on community banks, auto dealers, and small payday lenders and check cashers.

From the beginning, lawmakers opted against a dramatic reshaping of the country’s financial architecture. Instead, they moved to create new layers of regulation to prevent companies from taking on too much risk.

For example, regulators decided not to order a sweeping consolidation of the regulatory agencies policing finance. They also decided not to bust up large financial companies, despite pressure from liberal groups.

But they did create a process for seizing and dismantling faltering companies, tools the government lacked in 2008 during the seemingly chaotic events surrounding Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, and American International Group Inc.

Democrats are banking on stronger government regulators to constrain risk in the financial system and prevent a future banking crisis—or at least blunt its impact.