Peru approves 10 year ban on GM crops

Wednesday, 08 June 2011 16:29  
1.Peru approves 10 year ban on GM crops – GENET-news
2.Brazilian commission changes its internal statutes to speed up approval of GM crops – GM-Free Brazil

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via GENET-new

SOURCE:  Andian, Peru
AUTHOR:  Machine translation of the Spanish text
DATE:     07.06.2011

SUMMARY: “The Plenary Session of the Congress, approved the opinion of the law project that declares a moratorium of ten years that prevents the import of Genetically Modified Organisms on the national territory for cultivation, breeding or of any transgenic production.”

Lima, jun. 07 (ANDINA). The Plenary Session of the Congress, approved the opinion of the law project that declares a moratorium of ten years that prevents the import of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) on the national territory for cultivation, breeding or of any transgenic production. It was sustained by the president of the Agrarian Commission, Aníbal Huerta (PAP), who declared that in the face of the danger that can arise from the use of the biotechnology a moratorium must be approved to take care of our biodiversity. It received the endorsement of congressmen Elizabeth Leon (BPCD), Franklin Sanchez (PAP), Mauritius Mulder (PAP), Oswaldo Luizar (BPCD), Jorge of Castillo (PAP), Oswaldo de la Cruz (GPF), Luis Wilson (PAP), Yonhy Lescano (AP), Aldo Estrada (UPP), Hilda Guevara (PAP), Gloria Branches (BPDC) and Maria Sumire (GPN). From different viewpoints, they agreed in the defense of the national biodiversity due to our greater climatic diversity, but they differed with regard to the moratorium. Congressman Alejandro Rebaza (PAP), made some precisions to the opinion and, like the colleagues Sanchez and Estrada, proposed a technical commission of prevention and investigation that issues a report in two years. The legislators Raul Castro (UN) and Juan Carlos Eguren (UN) expressed themselves against the moratorium, because they considered that already we consumed transgenic products and that the doors to biotechnology could not be closed because the transgenic production, that is necessary for covering the food needs, has 70% more sale than the organic production. The parliamentarian José Saldaña (AN) remembered that the biologists have asked to file the project in debate because already exists a law on the matter, whereas legislator Yaneth Cajahuanca (GPN) suggested to leave the project for the next session. On the other hand, congressmen Luis Giampietri (PAP) and Édgard Núñez (PAP) said that it is not possible to close the doors to science and that it is possible to decided on a prudential moratorium of five years. Finally, the president of the Commission of Andean Towns, Washington Zeballos (BPCD), informed on the modifications to the opinion and that the term of the moratorium would have to be of ten years. The proposal was approved by 56 votes to favor, zero against and two abstentions and exonerated from second voting by 50 votes to favor, four against and three abstentions. The approved norm establishes a moratorium of ten years, determines as competent authority of the subject to the Ministry of the Environemnt and creates a Technical Commission of Evaluation and Prevention of Risks of Use of GMOs, that in two years will have to issue a report on the subject.

2.Brazilian commission changes its internal statutes to speed up approval of GM crops and hasten the release of modified bea
Update from the GM-Free Brazil Campaign
Brazil | Rio de Janeiro | June 07 2011
On May 17th a public hearing was held in Brasilia to discuss an application for commercial release of the first genetically modified bean variety. Beans are part of Brazil’s staple diet, consumed daily by most of the population. The new variety was developed by Embrapa (the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation) for resistance to the golden mosaic virus and is already just waiting for commercial authorization from CTNBio (National Biosafety Technical Commission, the official body responsible for evaluating and authorizing GM crops).
The hearing was held at the head offices of Embrapa itself, the state company making the application. This unprecedented event raised the prospect of CTNBio adopting the procedure of ‘consulting society’ at the premises of all applicant companies, with, who knows, the next hearing being held at Monsanto’s head office. The president of CTNBio, Edilson Paiva, claimed they had been unable to find another auditorium available in Brasilia, hence the choice.
The representative for the NGO Terra de Direitos questioned the confidentiality granted to various sections of Embrapa’s report. CTNBio withheld more information than the areas requested by the company, a fact likely to hinder monitoring of the product’s impacts after its commercial release. In this case access to all the data was denied even to the member of the Commission responsible for reporting on the evaluation process.
Field studies were undertaken in just three localities over a two-year period. Interpreted generously this mean that the environmental impacts of the technology were tested in two biomes at most. Brazil’s legislation requires studies to be undertaken in all biomes where the modified plant might be grown. As the Terra de Direitos representative pointed out, Embrapa is applying for unrestricted release of the new GM bean variety throughout the country, despite the lack of adequate data.
AS-PTA’s representative also questioned the absence of data on the potential impacts of genetic modification on the common bean varieties already consumed in Brazil. All the tests were carried out on a single type of bean, rather than those consumed in the country on a daily basis. At the same time, various parts of Embrapa’s report themselves state that the test results vary according to the type of bean receiving the transgene. Despite these tests not being conducted, the application is for release of the GM variety for subsequent incorporation into other bean plants.
Even more revealingly, only two of the 22 transgenic events generated for resistance to the mosaic virus actually worked. As the evaluation report states, it remains unknown why these produced the expected results while the other 20 events did not. Indeed the report concludes that more studies are needed to understand the transgene in question. In other words, when in doubt, release it. This abandonment of the Precautionary Principle was highlighted at the hearing by AS-PTA.
The representative from CONSEA (the National Nutritional and Food Security Council) stressed that the human right to healthy and adequate food will be achieved through agroecology, not through the development of GM seeds. He cited experiments run by Embrapa over an eight-year period that showed considerable success in controlling the bean plant mosaic virus through organic farming methods and without any loss of productivity.
CTNBio approves changes to rules to speed up commercial releases
The day after the public hearing on the GM bean application, the monthly meeting of CTNBio also began in Brasilia. Opening the plenary session, the Secretary of Research and Development Policies and Programs of the Ministry of Science and Technology, Carlos Nobre, emphasized the importance of the Commission’s work and the need for risk evaluation to be based on the Precautionary Principle, much to the incredulity of many of those listening to him. As soon as the Secretary left the plenary session, the president of CTNBio announced that the vote would be taken on changing the body’s statutes. But after hearing the first question, he immediately announced that the process would be sped up to avoid the ‘obstruction principle.’
The regulations were set to be altered at the meeting following a court ruling that obliged CTNBio to introduce more transparent procedures and allow access to the information received for evaluation, except for data covered confidential business information.
The members of the Commission used the chance to alter the statutes to approve changes to the ritual of the evaluation process. They shortened the evaluation periods, meaning that GMOs releases will be even quicker in practice, reinforcing CTNBio’s image as a rubber-stamping institution that has so far never refused a request for commercial release.
The vote to approve the release of GM beans is set to take place shortly.
GM-FREE BRAZIL – Published by AS-PTA Agricultura Familiar e Agroecologia. The GM-Free Brazil Campaign is a collective of Brazilian NGOs, social movements and individuals.
AS-PTA an independent, not-for-profit Brazilian organisation dedicated to promoting the sustainable rural development. Head office: Rua das Palmeiras, 90 | CEP: 22270-070, Rio de Janeiro, Brasil. Phone: 0055-21-2253-8317 Fax: 0055-21-2233-8363
This article can be found on the AS-PTA website at
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Holy Crop! Vatican Blesses GMOs, though ‘Unofficially’


Since the turn of the century, the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the scientific academy of the Vatican, whose 80 members are appointed by the Pope, has kept the world guessing – will the Catholic Church fully support genetically modified organisms?

Then, on November 30 last year, 40 international scientists, including seven Pontifical Academy scientists, released a statement demanding a relaxation of what they call “excessive, unscientific regulations” for approving GM crops, saying that these measures prevent development of crops for the “public good”. The academy scientists also claimed that scientists have both the right and a moral duty to be “stewards of God” by genetically modifying crops to help the world’s poor.

I’ve heard that before – from Ingo Potrykus. Potrykus is a member of the Pontifical Academy, based at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, where he developed ‘golden rice’, and was instrumental in bringing about the 2010 meeting.

Interestingly, but not surprising, most of the 40 participants at the meeting were long-time supporters of GMOs. According to the magazine U.S. Catholic, not only did the participants include GMO developers (both, those who work for governments and for companies that sell genetically modified seeds), but at least four of the speakers at the meeting have ties to Monsanto.

The US, home to the multinational biotechnology giant Monsanto, has lobbied the Vatican for years to persuade it to speak positively about GMOs, calling biotechnology a “moral imperative” to feed the
world’s hungry.

Both the pope and the chancellor of the academy, Bishop Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, one of the seven Vatican advisers at the meeting, tried to distance themselves from the endorsement, saying: “These statements cannot be considered the ‘official’ position of either the Holy See or the Academy.”

Despite attempts by the Vatican to remain publicly neutral, WikiLeaks recently uncovered a transmission from Christopher Sandrolini, a US diplomat to the Holy See, that demonstrates the Vatican’s clandestine approval of GM crops.

If “official position” merely means that Pope Benedict has not endorsed GMOs during a Sunday mass, then maybe his and Bishop Sorondo’s arguments have some merit. However, it is difficult for the Holy See, and those that influence the pope, to claim neutrality without appearing disingenuous given the recent WikiLeaks transmissions.

Washington’s greatest ally at the Vatican has been Italian Cardinal Renato Martino, who spoke of the benefits and safety of GMOs, and who hosted a biotech conference at the Vatican in 2003, while living in New York as the Vatican’s ambassador to the UN. However, Wikileaks cables indicate Martino may have been playing the role of a good diplomat.

“A Martino deputy told us recently that the cardinal had cooperated with (the embassy) on biotech over the past two years in part to compensate for his vocal disapproval of the Iraq war and its aftermath – to keep relations with the US (government) smooth,” reported one cable. “According to our source, Martino no longer feels the need to take this approach,” the cable said.

The Vatican has said the WikiLeaks cables reflect only the views of the people who wrote them – again they are not ‘official’ Vatican positions.

It is fair to say that the Vatican is actually quite modern in some regards, being among rather few Christian ruling bodies that don’t perceive themselves as being directly threatened by real science. The Vatican does, after all, accept the evidence of evolution, astronomy, archaeology and biology – and there are many churches that can’t say the same.

But it is because of this relative modernity that the policies of the Vatican on GMOs need to be taken seriously. Should the church’s tendency to support GMOs become the ‘official’ position, this will have ripple effects that are likely to reach everyone.

Theodora Filis is an environmental journalist, consultant and college instructor. She is a regular contributor to UK,, and a Moderator for sub-group CLIMATE on LinkedIn. Theodora’s articles have appeared in newspapers and magazines worldwide, including The San Francisco Chronicle, KOBE News, World Farming, United Nations Association, UK and World Tech News. You can view her blog at

NASA Announces Results of Epic Space – Time Experiment

Author: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

May 4, 2011: Einstein was right again. There is a space-time vortex around Earth, and its shape precisely matches the predictions of Einstein’s theory of gravity.

Researchers confirmed these points at a press conference today at NASA headquarters where they announced the long-awaited results of Gravity Probe B (GP-B).

“The space-time around Earth appears to be distorted just as general relativity predicts,” says Stanford University physicist Francis Everitt, principal investigator of the Gravity Probe B mission.

An artist’s concept of GP-B measuring the curved spacetime around Earth.

“This is an epic result,” adds Clifford Will of Washington University in St. Louis. An expert in Einstein’s theories, Will chairs an independent panel of the National Research Council set up by NASA in 1998 to monitor and review the results of Gravity Probe B. “One day,” he predicts, “this will be written up in textbooks as one of the classic experiments in the history of physics.”

Time and space, according to Einstein’s theories of relativity, are woven together, forming a four-dimensional fabric called “space-time.” The mass of Earth dimples this fabric, much like a heavy person sitting in the middle of a trampoline. Gravity, says Einstein, is simply the motion of objects following the curvaceous lines of the dimple.
If Earth were stationary, that would be the end of the story. But Earth is not stationary. Our planet spins, and the spin should twist the dimple, slightly, pulling it around into a 4-dimensional swirl. This is what GP-B went to space in 2004 to check.

The idea behind the experiment is simple:
Put a spinning gyroscope into orbit around the Earth, with the spin axis pointed toward some distant star as a fixed reference point. Free from external forces, the gyroscope’s axis should continue pointing at the star–forever. But if space is twisted, the direction of the gyroscope’s axis should drift over time. By noting this change in direction relative to the star, the twists of space-time could be measured.

In practice, the experiment is tremendously difficult.

The four gyroscopes in GP-B are the most perfect spheres ever made by humans. These ping pong-sized balls of fused quartz and silicon are 1.5 inches across and never vary from a perfect sphere by more than 40 atomic layers. If the gyroscopes weren’t so spherical, their spin axes would wobble even without the effects of relativity.
According to calculations, the twisted space-time around Earth should cause the axes of the gyros to drift merely 0.041 arcseconds over a year. An arcsecond is 1/3600th of a degree. To measure this angle reasonably well, GP-B needed a fantastic precision of 0.0005 arcseconds. It’s like measuring the thickness of a sheet of paper held edge-on 100 miles away.

“GP-B researchers had to invent whole new technologies to make this possible,” notes Will. They developed a “drag free” satellite that could brush against the outer layers of Earth’s atmosphere without disturbing the gyros. They figured out how to keep Earth’s magnetic field from penetrating the spacecraft. And they created a device to measure the spin of a gyro–without touching the gyro. More information about these technologies may be found in the Science@NASA story “A Pocket of Near-Perfection.”

Pulling off the experiment was an exceptional challenge. But after a year of data-taking and nearly five years of analysis, the GP-B scientists appear to have done it.

“We measured a geodetic precession of 6.600 plus or minus 0.017 arcseconds and a frame dragging effect of 0.039 plus or minus 0.007 arcseconds,” says Everitt.

For readers who are not experts in relativity: Geodetic precession is the amount of wobble caused by the static mass of the Earth (the dimple in spacetime) and the frame dragging effect is the amount of wobble caused by the spin of the Earth (the twist in spacetime). Both values are in precise accord with Einstein’s predictions.

“In the opinion of the committee that I chair, this effort was truly heroic. We were just blown away,” says Will.

The results of Gravity Probe B give physicists renewed confidence that the strange predictions of Einstein’s theory are indeed correct, and that these predictions may be applied elsewhere. The type of spacetime vortex that exists around Earth is duplicated and magnified elsewhere in the cosmos–around massive neutron stars, black holes, and active galactic nuclei.

“If you tried to spin a gyroscope in the severely twisted space-time around a black hole,” says Will, “it wouldn’t just gently precess by a fraction of a degree. It would wobble crazily and possibly even flip over.”

In binary black hole systems–that is, where one black hole orbits another black hole–the black holes themselves are spinning and thus behave like gyroscopes. Imagine a system of orbiting, spinning, wobbling, flipping black holes! That’s the sort of thing general relativity predicts and which GP-B tells us can really be true.

The scientific legacy of GP-B isn’t limited to general relativity. The project also touched the lives of hundreds of young scientists:
“Because it was based at a university many students were able to work on the project,” says Everitt. “More than 86 PhD theses at Stanford plus 14 more at other Universities were granted to students working on GP-B. Several hundred undergraduates and 55 high-school students also participated, including astronaut Sally Ride and eventual Nobel Laureate Eric Cornell.”

NASA funding for Gravity Probe B began in the fall of 1963. That means Everitt and some colleagues have been planning, promoting, building, operating, and analyzing data from the experiment for more than 47 years—truly, an epic effort.

What’s next?

Everitt recalls some advice given to him by his thesis advisor and Nobel Laureate Patrick M.S. Blackett: “If you can’t think of what physics to do next, invent some new technology, and it will lead to new physics.”
“Well,” says Everitt, “we invented 13 new technologies for Gravity Probe B. Who knows where they will take us?”

This epic might just be getting started, after all….