Australian tarantula venom contains novel insecticide against agricultural pests

Date: September 11, 2013
Source: Public Library of Science

Spider venoms are usually toxic when injected into prey, but a new protein discovered in the venom of Australian tarantulas can also kill prey insects that consume the venom orally. The protein is strongly insecticidal to the cotton bollworm, an important agricultural pest, according to research published September 11 in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Glenn King and Maggie Hardy from the Institute of Molecular Bioscience at the University of Queensland, Australia, and colleagues from other institutions.

The small protein, named orally active insecticidal peptide-1 (OAIP-1), was found to be highly toxic to insects that consumed it, with potency similar to that of the synthetic insecticide imidacloprid. Cotton bollworm, a pest that attacks crop plants, was more sensitive to OAIP-1 than termites and mealworms, which attack stored grains.

These and other insect pests reduce global crop yields by 10-14% annually and damage 9-20% of stored food crops, and several species are resistant to available insecticides. Isolated peptides from the venom of spiders or other venomous insectivorous animals, such as centipedes and scorpions, may have the potential to serve as bioinsecticides. Alternately, the authors suggest the genes encoding these peptides could be used to engineer insect-resistant plants or enhance the efficacy of microbes that attack insect pests. King elaborates, “The breakthrough discovery that spider toxins can have oral activity has implications not only for their use as bioinsecticides, but also for spider-venom peptides that are being considered for therapeutic use.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Public Library of Science. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Journal Reference:

  1. Margaret C. Hardy, Norelle L. Daly, Mehdi Mobli, Rodrigo A. V. Morales, Glenn F. King. Isolation of an Orally Active Insecticidal Toxin from the Venom of an Australian Tarantula. PLoS ONE, 2013; 8 (9): e73136 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0073136

Biotech industry wants organic farmers to pay for GMO contamination of their own crops

Thursday, November 29, 2012 by: Ethan A. Huff, staff writer

(NaturalNews) A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) committee dominated by representatives from the biotechnology industry, seed companies, and academia has decided to make an official recommendation to the public agency that organic farmers be forced to bear financially responsible for the genetic contamination of their own organic crops by genetically-modified (GM) crops.

The USDA Advisory Committee on Biotechnology & 21st Century Agriculture, also known as AC21, is largely of the persuasion that agricultural coexistence means organic farmers should have to foot the bill when their fields are destroyed by unintentional GMO drift. According to an advisory report recently issued by the committee, this means requiring that organic farmers purchase their own crop insurance to pay for potential damages resulting from transgenic contamination.

“Of particular concern in the report is the recommendation that organic and non-GE conventional farmers pay to self-insure themselves against unwanted GE contamination,” said a recent statement issued by the National Organic Coalition (NOC). “This proposal allows USDA and the agricultural biotechnology industry to abdicate responsibility for preventing GE contamination while making the victims of GE pollution pay for damages resulting from transgenic contamination.”

Organic and conventional farmers have long had to deal with the threat of transgenic contamination from nearby GM crop fields, the pollen of which occasionally drifts or is carried by bees into organic crop fields. In the past, violated farmers have had to basically suck up their resultant losses, or even face litigation from the company whose seed materials trespassed onto their properties.

Real coexistence between GMOs, organic crops is impossible

The contamination issue has become so problematic in recent years that a number of industry groups have tried to pursue so-called coexistence measures that, in some sort of alternate universe, would allow GMOs, conventional crops, and organic crops to peacefully coexist in harmony with one another. But as anyone with any knowledge of GM crops already knows, it is virtually impossible to contain GMOs and prevent their eventual spread.

With this in mind, AC21 seems fully aware of the fact that GMO spread and contamination is inevitable. Its solution to the problem; however, is not to restrain GMOs in any way, but rather to set them free and leave it to organic farmers to clean up the mess. And this, of course, is the apparent position of the federal government as well, which continues to unleash new and unnecessary GMOs like Monsanto’s GM alfalfa into the wild without any concern for the irreversible damage this will cause.

“We urgently need meaningful regulatory change that institutionalizes mandatory GE contamination prevention practices,” added the NOC about the inherent failures of the committee proposal. “USDA needs to stop dragging its heels, get serious and focus on making this happen.”


10 Ways to Start Eating Local Foods

By Molly Watson, Guide
Eating locally has many benefits. But how can you get started? Here are 10 ways to get started buying and eating locally.

1. Learn What’s In Season

Knowing what’s in season in your region will help you know what to expect at farmers markets and help you know which items at other markets and stores might be from local or regional sources (and which ones most definitely are not!).

  • Regional Seasonality Guides
  • Produce Seasons

2. Shop at Farmers Markets

Shopping at farmers markets that feature locally grown products is a fun, easy way to increase the amount of local foods you purchase and eat. Not all farmers markets have the same guidelines, so check to see if stands are required to sell products grown or produced on local or regional farms. Be very suspicious of any market that features bananas – unless you’re in Hawaii or Florida!

  • Farmers Market Tips
  • How to Save Money at Farmers Markets
  • Find a Local Farmers Market

3. Join Community Supported Agriculture

Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) connects participants to a specific farm (or, sometimes, group of farms). You buy a share in a farm and, in return, you get a share of the harvest. You get the freshest, best produce the farm has to offer; the farm has a set of guaranteed sales and money up-front for seasonal expenses.

  • What Is CSA?
  • Benefits of Joining a CSA
  • Things to Consider When Choosing a CSA
  • Sources for Finding a Local CSA

4. Shop at Stores That Label Food Origins

If you have a choice of markets, chose one that notes where it sources its products. In particular, look for signs marking the source of seafood, meat, poultry, and produce. Co-ops and health food stores are more likely to clearly denote the origins of the foods they carry, but conventional grocery stores are increasingly labeling their produce sections and meat and seafood counters.No signs at your local market? Speak to the manager or section managers. Express your interest in locally grown and produced foods. Ask that any locally or regionally grown items at the store be so noted. You’ll be surprised at how much good will rises up to meet genuine interest.

5. Shop the Perimeter of Grocery Stores

The aisles around the perimeter of grocery stores contain more ingredients than processed foods. Shop these perimeters for fresh produce, meats, and dairy–precisely those items that you can ask about their source and hopefully find some from near-by sources. Pay particular attention to the produce aisle: if you know your seasons, you may be able to find some locally or regionally grown items.

6. Get Ultra-Local: Plant a Garden

Growing your own food is the ultimate way to eat local. From a simple herb garden to prolific raised beds designed to feed a family, there are lots of ways to grow your own food.

  • Container Vegetable Gardens
  • Growing Heirloom Vegetables
  • Growing Kitchen Herbs
  • Miniatures and Dwarf Fruit Trees

7. Visit U-Picks & Farm Stands

For most city-dwellers, farm stands aren’t an everyday food gathering solution. But when the opportunity presents itself, u-picks (where you go to a farm and pick your own produce) are a great source for large quantities of super-fresh produce.

  • Sources for Finding U-Picks & Farm Stands

8. Choose Restaurants That Source Locally

Frequent restaurants that buy from local and regional farms, growers, and purveyors and continue your support of local farmers and producers even when you eat out.

9. Frequent Locally-Owned Food Producers

Continue your support of a local food system by buying from artisans and locally-owned food producers such as bakeries, butchers, and coffee roasters for foods you don’t cook at home or which aren’t grown locally.

10. Buy Family Farmed or Fair Trade Products When Local Is Unavailable

Don’t live near dairy cows? Buy milk from dairies that buy from family-owned farms. Live in the contiguous 48 states of the U.S. but find yourself unwilling to give up coffee? Buy coffee grown in sustainable ways by people who pay workers fairly.Eating local foods is certainly about eating food grown closer to home, but it is also about being more aware of your food and how it gets to you.


GMO Trilogy

This explosive exposé reveals what the biotech industry doesn’t want you to know – how industry manipulation and political collusion, not sound science, allow dangerous genetically engineered food into your daily diet. Company research is rigged, alarming evidence of health dangers is covered up, and intense political pressure applied. Chapters read like adventure stories and are hard to put down:

  • Scientists were offered bribes or threatened. Evidence was stolen. Data was omitted or distorted.
  • Government employees who complained were harassed, stripped of responsibilities, or fired.
  • Laboratory rats fed a GM crop developed stomach lesions and seven of the forty died within two weeks. The crop was approved without further tests.
  • The only independent in-depth feeding study ever conducted showed evidence of alarming health dangers. When the scientist tried to alert the public, he lost his job and was silenced with threats of a lawsuit.

Read the actual internal memos by FDA scientists, warning of toxins, allergies, and new diseases – all ignored by their superiors, including a former attorney for Monsanto. Learn why the FDA withheld information from Congress after a genetically modified supplement killed nearly a hundred people and disabled thousands. The GMO Trilogy’s was released in April 2006 in conjunction with Earth Day (April 22) and International GMO opposition Day (April 8)—a coordinated 30-nation campaign to raise awareness about genetically modified (GM) food.

Unnatural Selection (parts 1 – 5)

Hidden Dangers in Kids’ Meals: Genetically Engineered Foods (parts 1-3)

You’re Eating WHAT?


Response to “Some truth about GMO” by Mr. Wilmot Simmons

— 04 November 2011 — by Naud Brouwer

Dear Editor,

The use of BT in organic farming is a fact; the thing is that organic farmers have used BT as a pesticide, sprayed on their crops so the UV light from the sun can break it down, and the rain could wash the BT off before any product would be harvested.

Another interesting thing is that the BT used by organic farmers for over 50 years is a weakened or almost dead bacteria. This is only sprayed in case of high insect infestation and only onto the affected area. The bacterium inside the spray contains the pro-form of the so- called BT toxin.

This is not an active component; it needs to be tailored (cut to size) to produce the active BT toxin, which is effective as a pesticide.

When the insect eats the dead bacterium, the toxin is partially digested in the insect gut by proteolytic (cutting) enzymes and converted to active BT toxin. This is actually a lectin which binds to the gut wall of the insects and this interferes with the digestion/absorption of food, thereby preventing growth, maturation, reproduction.

The actual bacterium, which is not eaten by any insects, degrades in the light/sun/rain pretty fast (less than a day). The chances of pests developing resistance to it are very low indeed, since all the pests which are exposed to the toxin are affected by it.

NOTE! The ACTIVE TOXIN can only be found IN THE GUT OF THE INSECT. (Susan Pusztai Bt in organic
farming and GM crops – the difference)

The BT produced by BT corn however, does contain high doses of the active toxin, in the whole plant. The toxin cannot be washed off, or broken down by the sunlight. It stays in the plant after harvesting. The rest material of the plant breaks down, and the BT toxin gets into the ground, and the groundwater. Because of the constant exposure to BT toxin the pests that the farmers want to control develop a resistance to the BT itself, and this means that farmers will have to start spraying even more pesticides than they had to do before with their conventional Hybrid seed.

Is BT corn safe to eat? There has not been any long term testing on humans, so we simply do not know. We do know that:

• BT is extremely similar (so much so it is difficult to distinguish without sophisticated testing) to two other bacteria: B. cereus, which causes food poisoning, and B. anthracis, which causes anthrax.

• BT secretes many of the same toxins B. cereus does when it is growing. There is mounting evidence that spores germinate in humans and can live for extended periods of time in the respiratory and gastrointestinal tract. The effect of these low level infections is unknown, but there have been isolated reports of disease caused by BT. One of the reasons BT may not be seen as a common cause of sickness is that it is very hard to test for its presence – many cases diagnosed as B. cereus gastroenteritis (a fairly common form of food poisoning) may in fact be caused by BT.

• People with sensitive immune systems could be affected in ways we do not yet know, but immune responses are seen when BT infections establish in humans.
• DDT was used for thirty years and was claimed to be extremely safe for humans. The same sort of testing done to arrive at that conclusion has been
done with BT. (Quick Bt Facts)

“Lower crop production”

I am not aware of anyone saying that there will be a lower crop production. But I do know from scientific research that the promised higher yields are not as promising as the big companies tell us.

I would like you to read “failure to yield” written by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture data indicate that the average corn production per acre nationwide over the past five years (2004–2008) was about 28 percent higher than for the five-year period 1991–1995, an interval that preceded the introduction of BT varieties.

But our analysis of specific yield studies concludes that only 3–4 percent of that increase is attributable to BT, meaning an increase of about 24–25 percent must be due to other factors such as conventional breeding.”

Failure to yield

Another interesting research on higher yields is a study performed over 30 years.

“Organic farming is far superior to conventional systems when it comes to
building, maintaining and replenishing the health of the soil. For soil health alone, organic agriculture is more sustainable than conventional.

When one also considers yields, economic viability, energy usage, and human health, it’s clear that organic farming is sustainable, while current conventional practices are not.”

FST 30 Years

Since I am writing a letter to the editor of a newspaper and not a book, I have to leave it at this for now. I do want to challenge Mr. Simmons to come up with some unbiased (not paid for by any of the big GMO companies) research about all the issues there are about GMO corn. And I want him to convince me that there is nothing to worry about.

Naud Brouwer
San Miguel, Toledo


Countries Growing GMOs

The world’s leading producers of GM crops are the United States, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, India and China. In 2006, GM crop production also reached noteworthy levels in Paraguay, South Africa, Uruguay and Australia. In the EU, GM crops have remained uncommon. Appreciable GM maize production in the EU only took place in Spain on an area of nearly 60,000 hectares. In Portugal, Germany, France and the Czech Republic, transgenic crops were primarily grown for small-scale field trials.

In 2005, Iran and the Czech Republic were added to the list of countries commercially growing transgenic crops. As of 2006, 38 percent of GM crops are grown in developing countries.

Global Area of Genetically Engineered Crops, 1996 to 2006: By Country (Million Hectares)
Country USA Argentina Brazil Canada China Paraguay
1996 1.5 0.1 0.1
1997 8.1 1.4 1.3 0.0
1998 20.5 4.3 2.8 <0.1
1999 28.7 65.7 1.4* 4.0 0.3
2000 30.3 10.0 3.6* 3.0 0.5
2001 35.7 11.8 5.7* 3.2 1.5
2002 39.0 13.5 6.3* 3.5 2.1
2003 42.8 13.9 3.0 4.4 2.8
2004 47.6 16.2 5.0 5.4 3.7 1.2
2005 49.8 17.1 9.0 5.8 3.3 1.8
2006 54.6 18.0 11.5 6.1 3.5 2.0

*illegal cultivation of gmos: calculated area

Global Area of Genetically Engineered Crops, 1996 to 2006: By Country (Million Hectares)
Country India South Africa Uruguay Aus-tralia Mexico Romania
1996 <0.1 <0.1
1997 0.1 <0.1
1998 <0.1 0.1
1999 0.1 0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2000 0.2 <0.1 0.2 <0.1 <0.1
2001 0.2 <0.1 0.2 <0.1 <0.1
2002 <0.1 0.3 <0.1 0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2003 0.1 0.4 0.1 0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2004 0.5 0.5. 0.3 0.2 0.1 0.1
2005 1.3 0.5 0.3 0.3 0.1 0.1
2006 3.8 1.4 0.4 0.2 0.1 0.1
Global Area of Genetically Engineered Crops, 1996 to 2006: By Country (Million Hectares)
Country Philippines Honduras Colombia Iran  Spain Por- tugal Ger- many
1998 <0.1
1999 <0.1 <0.1
2000 <0.1 <0.1
2001 <0.1 <0.1
2002 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2003 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1 0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2004 0.1 <0.1 <0.1 0.5 0.1 <0.1
2005 0.1 <0.1 <0.1 1.3 0.1 <0.1 <0.1
2006 0.2 <0.1 <0.1 <0.1 0.1 <0.1 <0.1

Source: ISAAA, Clive James, 2006.

Michael’s letter to the various Ministries and to the PM

This is Michael’s letter to the various Ministries and to the PM. It was submitted to Amandala Press and The Reporter for publishing.

Dear All,
The decision to import GM seeds into Belize is folly. At the very least, it’s extremely premature. The Belize Agricultural Health Authority does not have the resources, time, or capacity to do any meaningful monitoring of this environmental release. I find it incredulous that the product was brought in and no risk analysis was conducted. For goodness sake, BAHA does risk analysis for importation of milk powder into this country. It does point to the fact that doing a risk analysis for GMO is an involved process and BAHA simply does not have that capacity. BAHA has been expecting this push to get GM seeds into Belize for some time and has been pro-active in trying to develop the necessary capacity to deal with the request for importation. For instance, September 26th to the 30th, 2011, BAHA has partnered with the offices of the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD), to conduct a workshop here in Belize with all the Bio-safety members of the Caribbean and Belize on how to go about doing a risk analysis for living modified organisms (LMOs/GMOs); industry (Monsanto) will be present at this training as well. In addition, we have written a project with the International Atomic Energy Agency and have received PCR testing equipment that can be used for the detection of DNA in LMOs. Furthermore, the CBD is only now developing guidelines for the international community on how to monitor for stacked events in GMO, which this importation is, and a separate set of guidelines for long term monitoring. This is at an INITIAL STAGE. and has not yet been distributed to countries wishing to use these valuable guidelines.

But there are many other reasons why this importation makes no sense. Apart from a policy, Belize does not have a national bio-safety framework, which is composed of a policy, legislation, administrative procedures, and public participation into the decision process. In 2005, 2006, a draft bio-safety law was developed, but this draft law does not reflect the policy, is already outdated given the many new developments in the biosafety arena, and is heavily US centric which will legitimize easy access for GM to come in. I sincerely hope that this is not the same law that is now being presented to the Solicitor General’s Office. Any legislation developed for bio-safety must follow the policy of March 2009 as that policy is the result of NATIONAL consultation over a two year period. Belize, like the US, does not have any provision for liability should something go wrong,(and many things have gone awry, even in field trials). It is unfathomable that the Government is pushing for GM in Belize, which will negate the promotion of Belize as a “natural niche” and the markets that we’re developing for our quality and organic agro-products. This is a specialized market that Belize is tapping into with higher returns; Belize certainly cannot compete with countries like Canada, Argentina and the US, all non-parties to the Cartegena Protocol, in exporting any GM corn.

The most comprehensive assessment of agriculture and food security to date, that involved over 400 scientists and authors internationally, including the bio-tech industry, was the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD), co-sponsored by the World Bank, FAO, UNEP, UNDP, WHO, UNESCO and GEF, which found, among many other things, that in the future, agriculture can only be sustained by small farms without the use of GM. This is where Belize has an advantage and should use it by supporting our small farmers to ensure food security and sustainability.

This is my considered opinion.

Michael DeShield, BVSc, MSc
Director of Food Safety 2001-2011
Bio-safety and BCH Focal Point 2004-2011