world news/dissent; genetic engineering

During secretive meetings last spring, China‘s security and propaganda officials concluded that they had to take a tough line, Mr. Chen said. In April, the leadership approved an internal directive identifying seven ideological threats, including rights defense activists and civil society advocates.
http://www.nytimes.com/2014/01/16/world/asia/chinese-activists-test-new-leader-and-are-crushed.html?hpw&rref=world&_r=0
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MOSCOW, January 16 (RIA Novosti) – Ukraine’s parliament rushed through wide-ranging powers Thursday to suppress opposition protests and label non-governmental organizations as “foreign agents” if they receive money from abroad.http://en.ria.ru/world/20140116/186601073/Ukraine-Proposes-Sweeping-Crackdown-on-Dissent.html

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Egyptian Constitution vote

1-16-14  “The people say ‘Yes,’” said a front-page headline in Al Akhbar, while Al Ahram reported that 90 per cent of voters had backed the charter.

An election official also said that unofficial results indicated that more than 90 per cent of the voters have said “yes” to the new constitution….

It is a heavily amended version of a constitution written by Mr Morsi’s allies and ratified in December 2012 with 64 per cent of the vote but with a nationwide turnout of just more than 30 per cent. http://www.thenational.ae/world/middle-east/vast-majority-of-egyptian-voters-back-new-constitution#ixzz2qbg8wqSY

January 16, 2014, 6:17 a.m.

 
CAIRO — Unofficial results Thursday indicated that Egypt’s new constitution was approved by about 98% of voters, a lopsided margin reminiscent of elections that were held prior to the uprising against Hosni Mubarak three years ago.

The military-backed interim government had campaigned vigorously for approval of the rewritten charter, while the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist movement of deposed president Mohamed Morsi, had called for a boycott of the two-day vote. 

[Updated 6:17 a.m. PST, Jan. 16: State media, citing unofficial tallies released by 26 of Egypt’s 27 governorates, reported a turnout of about 36%, which would surpass the roughly one-third of eligible voters who cast ballots in the previous constitutional referendum, held during Morsi’s tenure.      http://www.latimes.com/world/worldnow/la-egypt-vote-20140116,0,5108373.story#ixzz2qbsphYjJ

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Iran vote

Dozens of arbitrary arrests and other human rights abuses against dissidents have taken place in the run-up to Friday’s vote, Amnesty International said in a report published Wednesday.

“This latest crackdown appears intended, at least in part, to stifle debate and to deter criticism of the authorities in the lead-up to the election,” Amnesty said, adding that at least five journalists have been detained and three newspapers shut down since March.

The report documents several cases, including the arrest of Khosro Kordpour, editor-in-chief of Mukrian News Agency. When his brother went to the Ministry of Intelligence to seek information, he was also arrested, and both were held in solitary confinement.

Jamileh Karimi, a member the Central Council of the Reformists Coalition in Fars Province, has been in solitary confinement since his arrest in April.

Several other political activists, trade unionists and students have been arrested over the past months, according to Amnesty.  http://english.alarabiya.net/en/special-reports/iran-elections-2013/2013/06/13/Iran-tightens-noose-on-dissent-ahead-of-presidential-elections-.html

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plot to destroy real genetic engineering studies

A crucial factor behind the dearth of such studies is the industry’s use of its seed patents (exclusive rights over how the new genetically altered seeds are used) to restrict independent inquiry. According to a 2012 report by Earth Open Source, “Permission to study GM crops is withheld or made so difficult to obtain that research is effectively blocked.”

In 2009, a group of 26 entomologists sent a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), protesting the restrictions and “selective denials and permissions based on industry perceptions of how ‘friendly’ or ‘hostile’ a particular scientist may be toward [seed-enhancement] technology.” Most chose to withhold their names for fear of reprisals.

Even when permission is granted, seed companies reserve the right to block publication of studies. A scathing editorial published in Scientific American in 2009 explained: “In a number of cases, experiments that had the implicit go-ahead from the seed company were later blocked from publication because the results were not flattering.”

Independent scientists whose findings contradict claims of biotech companies regularly come under attack by GM proponents. According to author and consumer advocate Jeffrey Smith, there is nothing random about the targeting. “The attack on scientists is very well structured by the biotech industry,” says Smith. “It’s systematic, it’s worldwide, it’s very coordinated. It’s part of the way that they do business.”…

Chapela and Quist’s study clearly showed what environmentalists had been warning about for years: that GM corn imports from the U.S were polluting indigenous varieties. The discovery contradicted long-held industry claims that crop spread could be controlled.

As a courtesy to the Mexican government, Chapela shared his preliminary findings with agricultural officials. He then sent his study to Nature magazine, where it was peer reviewed by five other scientists before being published in November 2001. Reaction was swift. In a plot turn worthy of a spy thriller, Chapela was taken by taxi to an abandoned building in Mexico City to meet with a furious senior government official whose various attempts to get him to retract his article included bribes, intimidation and the ultimate threat: “I know where your children go to school.”

As news of the study’s results began to leak even before Nature‘s publication, the threats and intimidation turned to smear tactics. Some of the most virulent attacks came courtesy of two email addresses that were later traced to The Bivings Group, a public relations firm hired by Monsanto. Bivings conducted a viral marketing campaign using fabricated identities to discredit Chapela’s findings.

Though the study was published, the fallout over the findings was so explosive that Nature later published an editorial distancing itself from the study – an unprecedented move in the magazine’s 133-year history and criticised by many scientists for its contempt of the scientific process.     http://www.ifex.org/international/2013/04/04/seeds_of_dissent/

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After Séralini and his team published this and other papers showing harmful effects from GM crops and the glyphosate herbicide used with GM Roundup Ready crops, he was subjected to a vicious smear campaign. The smears appeared to come from the French Association of Plant Biotechnologies [Association Française des Biotechnologies Végétale] (AFBV), chaired by Marc Fellous.

Séralini believed the researchers Claude Allegre, Axel Kahn, and Marc Fellous were behind

the defamation and intimidation campaign in France. He sued Fellous for libel, arguing that the campaign had damaged his reputation, reducing his opportunities for work and his chances of getting funding for his research.

During the trial, it was revealed that Fellous, who presented himself as a “neutral” scientist without personal interests, and who accused those who criticise GMOs as “ideological” and “militant”, owned patents through a company based in Israel. This company sells patents to GM corporations such as Aventis. Séralini’s lawyer showed that other AFBV members also have links with agribusiness companies.

The court found in Séralini’s favour. The judge sentenced the AFBV to a fine on probation of 1,000 Euros, 1 Euro for compensation (as requested by Séralini) and 4,000 Euros in court fees.

pp. 30-1 of http://earthopensource.org/files/pdfs/GMO_Myths_and_Truths/GMO_Myths_and_Truths_1.3b.pdf

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BP in $500 million grant to UC Berkeley

On February 1, 2007 Robert Birgeneau, Chancellor of the University of California, Berkeley, announced an agreement between BP (formerly British Petroleum) and the University of California at Berkeley to establish an Energy Biosciences Institute (EBI) on the Berkeley campus. Under the agreement BP will provide the university with $500 million over 10 years. According to the San Francisco Chronicle, this is “by far the largest alliance ever between industry and academia.”…

One aspect of the agreement that is hidden is the extent to which research at EBI will involve genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Professor Chapela said, “What would certainly come out of the BP-Berkeley facilities would be a large number of genetically altered, reproducing, living organisms to be released in the public environment.” …

GMO refers to plants or other organisms whose genetic material has been modified by splicing in genetic material from another organism in order to produce a plant or animal with supposedly better qualities (such as more pest-resistant or containing better nutrition). Many scientists are critical of the way that GMO crops are being introduced into the ecosystem because no one really knows what kind of harmful effects the modified plants might have.In Colombia, where BP has extensive investments, the Colombian president’s human rights adviser, Attorney-General and Ombudsman said that “BP passed photographs and videos of local protesters to the army, which human rights groups say led to killings, disappearances, torture and beatings.” A general hired by BP to provide security was linked by the InterAmerican Commission on Human Rights to a paramilitary group responsible for 149 murders between 1987 and 1990.http://revcom.us/a/083-special/bp-berkeley-en.html

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Stakeholders Weigh in on UC Berkeley GMO Complex

By Richard Brenneman

A forum critical of UC Berkeley’s plans to ramp up genetic engineering research at a planned massive new second campus of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in Richmond drew a capacity crowd to the David Brower Center Thursday night. 

One speaker after another ripped into the potential consequences of the university’s grandiose plans, including the human and environmental devastation certain to be wrought on Africa and Latin America.   …

 

29 March 2012

 The green areas are cane plantations 

 Maria José Guazzelli of Brazil’s Center for Ecological Agriculture focused on the impacts of the metastasis of sugar cane plantations to fuel her own nation’s massive ethanol industry. 

And it is sugar cane which is fueling the champagne dreams of investors in the Jay Keasling-launched Amyris which, with the financial backing of French oil giant Total and other corporateers, is using cane fibers left over from ethanol processing and genetically engineered microbes in a thus-far unsuccessful attempt to launch a new agrofuel industry in Brazil. 

Already “a huge monoculture which is linked to global warming and deforestation,” Guazzelli said, sugar cane has been embraced by the Brazilian government, which has estimated that cane plantations could cover as many as 160 million acres — an area equivalent to the state of Texas. 

And while the government initially declared the Amazon Basin off-limits to industry expansion, officials are now saying the basin’s west central region may be suitable for still more planting. “Now we have added rain forest.”   http://www.berkeleydailyplanet.com/issue/2012-03-30/article/39524?headline=Stakeholders-weigh-in-on-UC-Berkeley-GMO-complex

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10-8-07    Back in February, BP Plc (BP) and UC Berkeley proposed a deal that could provide $500 million for research aimed at using genetic engineering to increase biofuel yields. The partnership was hailed by BP Group Chief Executive John Browne as “creat[ing] the discipline of energy biosciences.” Now, protestors on the famously liberal campus, largely from the anti-GMO camp, are stepping up their efforts. Though eight months have passed since the high-profile announcement, no agreement has been signed to actually bring the Energy Biosciences Institute into being.

In a demonstration last week, protestors carried a mocked-up Trojan horse and railed against the environmental effects of biofuel production and general corporate control of research at the university. Leading the protest was a professor, Miguel Altieri, who is a long-time critic of agribusiness as an unsustainable practice.  http://gigaom.com/2007/10/08/a-green-dilemma-genetic-engineering-for-biofuel-production/

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9-13-09 Borlaug’s work was not, properly speaking, in genetic modification. He used so-called natural methods of plant breeding and was wary of the monopolistic agenda of big agribusiness. But he saw genetic modification as only a refinement of old plant breeding methods and became a strong advocate of its possibilities, both to enable more mouths to be fed and to help the environment. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/obituaries/science-obituaries/6183951/Norman-Borlaug.html
……………………………………………………Some gmo fans try to turn Borlaug’s work, much in the 1960s, often called the Green Revolution that fed a billion people, into a victory of genetic engineering.

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