Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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16.08.2018 |

Councils urged to suspend use of Roundup or face risk of legal action

COUNCILS should ban the use of Roundup or risk being sued by employees and residents if their health is affected, say action groups.

The call comes in the wake of a landmark lawsuit in the United States in which a jury found chemical giant Monsanto liable for causing a school groundsman’s cancer from his exposure to the weedkiller.

The active chemical in Roundup – glyphosate –is classified as probably carcinogenic by the World Health Organisation but is still approved for use in Australia.

13.08.2018 |

Investors shun Bayer stock over US pesticide ruling

FRANKFURT AM MAIN (AFP) -

Investors fled shares in German chemicals and pharmaceuticals giant Bayer Monday, fearing a massive damages ruling against one of newly-acquired US firm Monsanto's flagship products could signal a wave of costly lawsuits.

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Nevertheless, "if it's a quarter of a billion dollars per case, you don't need to lose many lawsuits before it becomes quite expensive," said analyst Michael Leacock of MainFirst bank, pointing out that Monsanto faces some 4,000 US lawsuits at the state level and 450 so-called "multi-district" cases at the federal level.

"The total cost, in our view, could easily reach $10 billion" if Bayer were to settle out of court with a still larger number of plaintiffs, he predicted.

11.08.2018 |

China says U.S. farmers may never regain market share lost in trade war

This story is being published by POLITICO as part of a content partnership with the South China Morning Post. It originally appeared on scmp.com on Aug. 11, 2018

China can easily find other countries to buy agricultural goods from instead of the U.S., its vice agriculture minister said, warning that American farmers could permanently lose their share of the Chinese market as a result of the trade war.

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China and the U.S. have been locked in a tit-for-tat trade war since early last month. Beijing unveiled its latest retaliatory tariffs on $16 billion of American goods on Wednesday, matching Washington’s move to slap 25 percent duties on the same value of Chinese imports.

The vice agriculture minister also said Chinese companies had “basically stopped” importing soybeans from U.S. farmers since July 6 and would deal with the impact by finding alternative ingredients for animal feeds.

China is the world’s biggest importer of soybeans, which it uses to make cooking oil, biodiesel and the meal to feed livestock.

Han said the country was expecting soybean imports from the U.S. to drop dramatically this year and that preparations had already been made. “China is totally able to handle the shortfall created by a drop in American soybean imports,” Han told Xinhua.

11.08.2018 |

Monsanto ordered to pay $289m as jury rules weedkiller caused man's cancer

Court finds in favor of Dewayne Johnson, first person to take Roundup maker to trial

DeWayne Johnson listens during the Monsanto trial in San Francisco last month. Photograph: Reuters

Monsanto suffered a major blow with a jury ruling that the company was liable for a terminally ill man’s cancer, awarding him $289m in damages.

Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, won a huge victory in the landmark case on Friday, with the jury determining that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer and that the corporation failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure. The jury further found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression”.

Johnson’s lawyers argued over the course of a month-long trial in San Francisco that Monsanto had “fought science” for years and targeted academics who spoke up about possible health risks of the herbicide product. Johnson was the first person to take the agrochemical corporation to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the brand Roundup causes cancer.

10.08.2018 |

Verdict reached in Dewayne Johnson vs Monsanto

The lawsuit alleges exposure to Monsanto’s Roundup weed killer and its active ingredient, glyphosate, caused Northern California resident Dewayne “Lee” Johnson to develop non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL).

09.08.2018 |

Stop illegal "new GM" field trials – NGOs to Juncker

Commission urged to clamp down on illegal GMO releases and imports

In the wake of the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling that certain new techniques of genetic engineering do fall under EU legislation on GMOs, a coalition of NGOs including GMWatch has written to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker asking him to take action against EU member states that have permitted field trials with new GMOs outside the GMO legal framework. The "rogue" member states include the UK, Sweden, Finland, and Belgium.

The NGOs' letter calls on Juncker to remind EU member states that they must stop all ongoing and planned releases in the environment that are not in accordance with the GMO legislation. Should a member state fail to comply immediately, then the Commission should launch an infringement procedure. The letter also asks Juncker to enable EU member states to ensure that GMOs derived from new genetic engineering techniques do not enter the EU without market authorisation. For this purpose, the EU should task the European Network of GMO Laboratories (ENGL) to develop methods for the detection of GMOs (authorised and unauthorised) developed through new genetic engineering techniques.

09.08.2018 |

Europe’s GM legislation is ‘outdated’, US says after Court ruling on gene editing

US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue has called a recent ruling by the European Court of Justice on new plant-breeding techniques (NPBTs) a ‘setback’ and said Washington is ready to help EU politicians make decisions based on scientific evidence.

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The ECJ ruled on 25 July that organisms obtained by mutagenesis plant breeding technique are GMOs and should, in principle, fall under the GMO Directive

The Court’s decision was hailed as a victory by NGOs, while the biotech industry described it as a severe blow to innovation in EU agriculture with long-term economic and environmental implications.

The term NPBTs describes a number of scientific methods for the genetic engineering of plants to enhance traits like drought tolerance and pest resistance [See background].

Before the ruling, a European Commission spokesperson told EURACTIV that “broader reflection” is needed when it comes to innovation in the EU seeds sector.

Following the Court decision, the executive said it would now carefully assess it without providing further information.

08.08.2018 |

Jurors mull 'day of reckoning' in Roundup cancer trial

The lawyer for a California groundskeeper dying of cancer urged jurors Tuesday to make Monsanto pay hundreds of millions of dollars for failing to warn about the health risks of weed killer Roundup.

"Today is their day of reckoning," attorney Brent Wisner told jurors as he urged them to impose a penalty of more than $400 million on Monsanto for hiding the cancer-causing potential of Roundup and commercial strength version Ranger Pro.

"Every single cancer risk found had this moment, where the science finally caught up, where they couldn't bury it anymore."

Terminally-ill Dewayne Johnson watched as his attorney accused Monsanto of putting profit over people's health by fighting research signaling Roundup's potential cancer risks and failing to issue warnings.

Johnson, 46, testified that he would "never" have used Roundup or Ranger Pro had he known it could lead to his illness.

07.08.2018 |

Consumer Awareness of GMOs Continues to Soar

The right to know what’s in your food continues to ring true with consumers. According to the Hartman Organic and Natural Report 2018 consumer awareness of GMOs is almost universal at 97%. The growth in consumer awareness also aligns with an increasing amount of consumers seeking to avoid GMOs. Hartman reports that 46% of shoppers deliberately avoid GMOs when shopping.

This finding aligns with the continued growth of sales of Non-GMO Project Verified products which is now estimated to be at $26 billion. Hartman noted that 36% of shoppers say that they are buying more non-GMO products in comparison to a year ago and that of the consumers seeking to avoid GMOs 42% seek out Non-GMO Project Verified products.

07.08.2018 |

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as Invasive Species

Abstract

This paper frames genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as invasive species. This offers a way of considering the reception, diffusion and management of GMOs in the foodscape. “An invasive non-native species is any non-native animal or plant that has the ability to spread causing damage to the environment, the economy, our health and the way we live” (NNSS, 2017). Without any social licence, pesticide companies have thrust GMOs into the foodscape. The release of GMOs has generally been unwelcome, there has been no ‘pull’ factor from consumers and there has been vocal resistance from many. The apologists for GMOs have argued the self-contradictory conceit that GMOs are ‘same but different’. Under this logically untenable stance, GMOs are to be excluded from specific regulation because they are the ‘same’ as existing organisms, while simultaneously they are ‘different’ and so open to patenting. GMOs are patented and this demonstrates that, prima facie, these are novel organisms which are non-native to the foodscape. GMO apologists have campaigned intensively, and successfully in USA, to ensure that consumers are kept in the dark and that GMOs remain unlabelled - as a consequence GMOs are ubiquitous in US consumer foods. In contrast, in Australia GMOs are required to be labelled if present in consumer products and, in consequence, Australian food manufacturers do not use them. The release of a GMO calls for biosecurity measures. After trial plots of Monsanto GM canola in Tasmania in the 1990s, the sites continue to be biosecurity monitored for GMO escape, and volunteer canola plants continue to appear two decades later. In Western Australia the escape of GMO canola into a neighbouring organic farm resulted in the loss of organic certification and the monetary loss of the organic premium for produce. GMO produce sells for a 10% discount because of market forces and the consumer aversion to GMOs. Where non-GM product is accidentally contaminated with some GM grain, the whole batch is discounted and is sold as GMO. There is a lack of evidence that GMOs can be contained and many jurisdictions have banned the introduction of GMOs. GMOs have the potential and the propensity to contaminate non-GMO crops and thereby devalue them. The evidence is that GMOs are invasive species, they are unwelcome by consumers, peaceful coexistence with non-GM varieties is a fiction, and GMOs are appropriately managed as a biosecurity issue.

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