THIRD WORLD NETWORK BIOSAFETY INFORMATION SERVICE
Dear Friends and Colleagues
Biosafety and socio-economic risks of GM 2,4-D Maize
Maize is a staple crop in South Africa. In 2015–2016, Dow AgroSciences Southern Africa (Pty) Ltd performed field trials on genetically modified (GM) maize made tolerant to the herbicide, 2,4-D (event DAS-40278-9) and stacked varieties carrying not only 2,4-D tolerance, but also glyphosate tolerance and/or Bt insecticidal toxins. The trials are on going in 2017. South Africa had approved GM 2,4-D maize for import as food, feed and processing in 2012, despite extensive public outcry.
The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has published a briefing paper entitled, ‘South Africa and 2,4-D Stacked GM maize: Biosafety, Socio-economic risks’. Key findings of the report highlight that there was no evidence of collection of biosafety data to assess risk. No considerations of the harms of pesticides, combinatorial or synergistic effects of multiple pesticides to human health had been addressed before commencing the trials. Nor were considerations given to the effects of Bt toxins to non-target organisms and the environment.
Furthermore, the commercialisation of 2,4-D tolerant GM crops developed by Dow is predicted to lead to a 30-fold rise in 2,4-D pesticide use. A synthetic auxin (plant hormone), 2,4-D is a war chemical that has long been linked to wide-ranging toxicity, including cancers, birth defects and reproductive toxicity, as well as potential to be an endocrine disruptor. It is completely banned in Scandinavian countries. The paper reports that Dow failed to consider the potential combinatorial effects of the many novel gene sequences used and the risks posed to human health by multiple toxic herbicide uses in the field. In addition, the results from field trial data fail to demonstrate the efficacy of GM crops to prevent yield loss due to pest or weed damage. If anything, the results suggest a potential yield drag for herbicide tolerant varieties.
The paper concludes that theGM/chemical monocropping model is exacerbating public health issues and serving to contaminate South Africa’s major food staples with toxic chemicals and untested GM food products. It calls for a shift to non-GM maize and a diversification of diets to include indigenous crops that are culturally, nutritionally and climatically appropriate to reverse this health crisis. The ACB, along with other CSOs, are also callingfor an immediate halt to the current trials of GM 2,4-D maize.
With best wishes,
Third World Network
131 Jalan Macalister
Websites: http://www.twn.my/and http://www.biosafety-info.net/
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ABOUT 2,4-D GM MAIZE: COMING TO OUR PLATES SOON
Press Release from the African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB), Trust for Community Outreach and Education (TCOE) and the Commercial & the Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU)
Thursday, 25 May 2017
The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) has published a briefing paper today titled, ‘South Africa and 2,4-D Stacked GM maize: Biosafety, Socio-economic risks’, exposing ongoing risky technological developments with South Africa’s staple food – maize. It exposes that plans are underfoot to commercially grow genetically modified (GM) maize resistant to the war chemical, 2,4-D (event DAS-40278-9). According to the briefing, US chemical giant Dow Agrosciences who is merging with another US chemical giant Dupont, has been conducting field trials of 2,4-D GM maize in SA since 2015 and which trials are still underway. These field trials involve GM maize tolerant to 2,4-D and the 2,4-D tolerant trait stacked with the glyphosate tolerant and/or Bt. insecticidal toxins. They follow the approval by the South African GMO authorities of 2,4-D GM maize in 2012 for import as food, feed and processing, despite extensive public outcry and it not being grown anywhere in the world commercially.
The ACB’s report points to numerous worrying shortcomings in Dow’s scientific safety assessment. Dow has miserably failed to consider the potential combinatorial effects of the many novel gene sequences used and the risks posed to human health by multiple toxic herbicide uses in the field. Crucially, the results from field trial data fail to demonstrate the efficacy of GM crops to prevent yield loss due to pest or weed damage. If anything, the results suggest a potential yield drag for herbicide tolerant varieties.
According to Director of the ACB Mariam Mayet, “It is totally unacceptable that farm workers, farmers and consumers will be exposed to more and new cocktails of chemicals in this war against nature and evolutionary biology. These toxic chemicals will further pollute water and soils and load our staple food with even more novel and risky genes and toxic chemical residues. This is even more disturbing in an era where mega-mergers in the agribusiness sector are conferring increasing power to an oligarchy of global seed and agrochemical producers”.
The synthetic auxin (plant hormone), 2,4-D is a war chemical that has long been linked to wide-ranging serious illnesses including cancers, birth defects, reproductive toxicity and disruption of endocrine systems. Scandinavian countries have banned the use of 2,4-D and there are partial bans in place in Canada and South Africa. Research shows that the commercial use of 2,4-D resistant seed/crops could lead to a 30-fold rise in 2,4-D pesticide use. The European Union has on 17 May 2017 rejected the importation of 2,4-D GM maize and glufosinate tolerant GM maize, as a result of the increase in the global use of the 2,4-D toxic chemical that raised concerns surrounding endocrine disruption and embryonic development.
Trevor Christians of the Commercial, Stevedoring, Agricultural and Allied Workers Union (CSAAWU) is deeply concerned about the impact of the 2,4-D toxic pesticide on farm workers, who will bear the brunt of escalating pesticide use and exposure. Christians noted that “farm workers are the most marginalised of the South African workforce, often receiving below living-wages and surviving on precarious seasonal work. When farm workers fall sick they rarely receive workers’ compensation, assistance with healthcare or paid sick leave. How can we knowingly pile even more suffering onto farm workers?” he asked.
Mercia Andrews of TCOE, an organisation that has for many decades struggled with farmworkers and smallholder farmers for land and agrarian reform and food sovereignty says “the current state of our maize production, where large corporations own our staple food, shape our production systems and introduce risky technologies with impunity, is totally unacceptable. We demand a transition out of these systems to agroecology –where we produce food in an ecologically sustainable and socially just manner.” Andrews further points out that “South Africa is experiencing rapid resource depletion, and simultaneously, the country is wracked by a ‘double burden’, where there is both severe undernutrition and overweight and obesity, due to the reliance on cheap, over-processed, single food diets.”
All three groups are calling for the immediate halting of the current trials, a ban on GMOs and the urgent need for South Africa to transition to alternative pathways that support and strengthen agricultural biodiversity and dietary diversity.
Mariam Mayet firstname.lastname@example.org
Mercia Andrews email@example.com
Trevor Christians firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors
ACB’s report: South Africa and 2,4 D stacked GM maize: biosafety, socio-economic risksis available at www.acbio.org.za
ACB’s short briefing: What you should know about Dow’s 2,4 D GM Maize
After 40 years of assurance from Monsanto that their herbicide is benign, the safety ofglyphosate is currently under review world-wide, following a 2015 finding from the World Health Organisation’s (WHO’s) cancer research arm, the IARC, that the chemical is a class 2a carcinogen.
SOUTH AFRICA AND 2,4-D STACKED GM MAIZE: BIOSAFETY, SOCIO-ECONOMIC RISKS
African Centre for Biodiversity
• The advent of 2,4-D tolerant GM crops is testament to the failure of the most popular GM trait – glyphosate-tolerance, to combat weeds with reduced environmental and economic burden. Glyphosate-tolerant crop cultivation has led to sharp rises in glyphosate use and subsequent epidemics of glyphosate-tolerant weeds that are threatening yields, increasing farmer costs on additional weed protection products. High herbicide use has been a public health disaster in areas of high cultivation, such as Argentina, where pesticide use has risen by 858% (1994–2010), with rises in birth defects, cancers and other illnesses. The dire situation in Argentina is a warning of the human costs of intensive chemical/GM agricultural systems.
• To combat weed resistance, GM producers are commercialising crops tolerant to other herbicides, including 2,4-D, as well as stacked crops with tolerance to multiple herbicides. The commercialisation of 2,4-D tolerant GM crops, such as maize DAS-40278-9 developed by Dow AgroSciences is predicted to lead to a 30-fold rise in 2,4-D pesticide use. A synthetic auxin (plant hormone), 2,4-D is a war chemical that has long been linked to wide-ranging toxicity, including cancers, birth defects and reproductive toxicity. Research suggests its potential to disrupt endocrine systems. Its toxicity has led to total national bans in Scandinavian countries and partial bans in Canada as well as South Africa.
• Dow Agroscience’s 2,4-D maize event DAS-40278-9 was approved for import in SA in 2012, for food, feed and processing, despite lack of testing for long-term toxicity. Short-term toxicity data is severely limited and outdated. There is, therefore, insufficient data to conclude safety of DAS-40278-9.
• Dow Agrosciences Southern Africa performed field trials in South Africa in 2015–2016 on 2,4-D tolerant maize (DAS-40278-9) and stacked events tolerant to 2,4-D and glyphosate, and events with multiple insecticidal Bt toxins. Trial data showed no evidence of collection of biosafety data to assess risk assessment as stated in the Executive Council Decision Documents that approved the trials. No considerations of the harms of pesticides, combinatorial or synergistic effects of multiple pesticides to human health have been addressed before commencing trials. Nor were considerations given to the effects of Bt toxins to non-target organisms and the environment.
• Trial data generated in South Africa completely failed to show any increase in yield of GM varieties in comparison to the non-GM control, highlighting a lack of proven efficacy of these crops. Trials show a slight yield reduction for herbicide-tolerant varieties in comparison to the control.
• Maize is a staple crop in South Africa, unlike Argentina, for example, whose GM produce is primarily destined for animal feed exports. A shift away from the vicious cycle of GM monocultures, weed resistance and rising chemical dependency is urgently need to protect the human and environmental health of South Africa and the long-term sustainability of its food system.