Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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12.06.2019 |

Patent applications covering ‘seeds to meat’ and from ‘maize to milk’

Patent on salmon and trout is not just an isolated case

12 June 2019 / The patent granted by the European Patent Office (EPO) covering salmon and trout reared on specific plants (EP1965658) could now become a precedent for many other patent applications. Recent research shows several similar European patent applications are already pending, claiming food products, such as meat and milk, derived from animals fed with selected plants.

The patent on salmon and trout was granted in October 2018 and recently brought to public attention by “No Patents on Seeds!”. The patent monopoly covers the rearing and feeding of the fish, along with the fish itself. After learning of this case, No Patents on Seeds! researched similar patent applications. This research came to an alarming conclusion: there are several other European patent applications recently filed at the World Patent Institute (WIPO), all following a similar strategy. Starting with plants and feed, also the food products derived from farm animals are claimed as inventions.

For example, Syngenta not only claims genetically engineered maize as its ‘invention’ but also the production of milk and meat from animals fed with such plants: In patent WO2018204245, “a harvested cattle carcass” is part of the invention; and patent WO2019075028 claims a “method of increasing the amount of milk produced by a dairy animal”. While these patents rely on transgenic maize, others such as the patent on salmon also claim usage of conventionally bred plants.

12.06.2019 |

Austria moves to ban glyphosate this year

Glyphosate is the subject of a heated debate over whether it causes cancer.

Austria is heading toward a likely ban of glyphosate this year after the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) backed the Social Democrats' drive to end usage of the controversial weedkiller.

"There are enough studies that adequately demonstrate the risk that glyphosate poses to the environment and human health," the FPÖ's new party leader, Norbert Hofer, said Wednesday. "It is therefore a sign of responsible environmental policy to put this ban on track."

Glyphosate is the subject of a heated debate in Europe and the U.S. over whether the weedkiller causes cancer.

11.06.2019 |

First Canadian case of insect resistance to GM Bt corn discovered

Farmers in Nova Scotia have found that the European corn borer has developed resistance to the GM trait designed to kill it

In Nova Scotia, corn farmers are observing that the European corn borer, an insect pest, has developed resistance to the genetically engineered (genetically modified or GM) trait designed to kill it.

This is the first report in the world of the European corn borer (ECB) developing resistance to a genetically engineered trait used to confer insect resistance. It is also the first report in Canada of any insect pest developing resistance to a genetically engineered trait. The development of resistance in other insect pests targeted by Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) traits in corn has been observed in the US, South Africa and Brazil. Additionally, in the US and other countries, some cotton pests have also developed resistance to Bt cotton traits.

“This is an important reminder that nature can adapt to and overcome genetically engineered traits,” said Lucy Sharratt of the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network.

The Canadian Corn Pest Coalition reported that some ECB populations have developed resistance to the Cry1F protein, which is one of at least eight genetically engineered Bt proteins used in Canada in genetically engineered insect-resistant corn.

08.06.2019 |

USDA investigates unapproved GMO wheat found in Washington state

CHICAGO (Reuters) - The U.S. Department of Agriculture has confirmed the discovery of unapproved, genetically modified (GM) wheat plants growing in an un-planted agricultural field in Washington state.

There was no evidence the wheat had entered the food supply, the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service said in a statement on Friday. The wheat is resistant to glyphosate, a widely used herbicide commonly referred to as Roundup.

“USDA is collaborating with our state, industry and trading partners, and we are committed to providing all our partners with timely and transparent information about our findings,” the statement said.

There are currently no commercially approved genetically modified wheat varieties, and incidences of rogue plants are rare. However, unapproved plants were found in 2018 in Alberta, Canada, in 2016 in Washington state, in 2014 in Montana and in 2013 in Oregon.

07.06.2019 |

Save Our Food. Free the Seed.

Not long ago I was sitting in a combine tractor on a 24,000-acre farm in Dazey, N.D. The expanse of the landscape — endless rows of corn and soybeans as precise as a Soviet military parade — was difficult to ignore. So were the skyscraper-tall storage silos and the phalanx of 18-wheeled trucks ready to transport the grain. And yet what held my attention were the couple of dozen seeds in my palm — the same seeds cultivated all around me.

(.....)

More than 90 percent of the 178 million acres of corn and soybeans planted last year in the United States were sown with genetically engineered seeds. It’s a vision as dispiriting as it is unappetizing.

Vegetables have been spared some of this genetic tinkering but are increasingly victim to the same aggressive corporate seed environment. Last year the pharmaceutical company Bayer acquired the world’s largest vegetable seed company, Monsanto.

For these megacompanies, capturing a large share of the vegetable seed market means capturing patentable genetics. Since 2001, the scope of utility patents has expanded to include novel plant traits. (Before this, you could own a variety, but not its traits, in the same way that you can own a beachfront property but not the particles of sand.)

06.06.2019 |

GM golden rice must be vacuum packed to retain beta-carotene

Rapid degradation of beta-carotene in the rice during storage and cooking means it's not a solution to vitamin A deficiency in the developing world. Report: Claire Robinson

The vitamin A precursor beta-carotene is only present at low levels in GM golden rice, when compared to carrots and green leafy vegetables. But it rapidly degrades to even lower levels when the rice is stored after harvest, a new study by Indian scientists has found. After just 6 months of storage in the presence of air, even at the low refrigerated temperature of 4 degrees C, the beta-carotene degraded by around 68–79%.

The lowest degradation rate was seen in paddy rice (unprocessed rice complete with the hull), the middle rate in brown rice (with the hull removed), and the highest in polished rice (with the hull removed and the bran mostly polished off). Polishing is the standard treatment given to rice throughout Asia. Brown rice is hardly ever eaten and paddy rice is never eaten.

31.05.2019 |

Are New Genetically Modified Techniques the Future of Food and Farming?

I first met Jim Thomas, Co-Director of the ETC Group, at a Sustainable Ag and Food Systems Funders conference. Jim had been tracking emerging technologies and their intersection with food and agriculture for some time. When I first heard him speak, in his lilting almost playful cadence, about something called “synthetic biology,” my ears perked up.

He was talking about a new form of genetic engineering that can alter genetics on a worldwide scale – one with little or no government oversight.

(.....)

What are these next generation of GMO’s?

Biosynthesized Ingredients or “Synthetic Biology” modifies algae, yeast or bacteria to produce high-value products such as flavors, fragrances or dietary supplements. Once modified, the yeast or algae is fed starch or sugar (usually GMO corn or sugar), and the “natural” process of fermentation begins.

(.....)

Gene Drives is a controversial technology that changes an organism so that it will ALWAYS pass on those genetically engineered traits to all future generations. Future generations, in turn, will pass it on until it changes the entire population forever.

Imagine the power to change the genetics of entire populations – we now have that power.

With gene drives, we can change or even eradicate entire species from the planet.

31.05.2019 |

Are New Genetically Modified Techniques the Future of Food and Farming?

I first met Jim Thomas, Co-Director of the ETC Group, at a Sustainable Ag and Food Systems Funders conference. Jim had been tracking emerging technologies and their intersection with food and agriculture for some time. When I first heard him speak, in his lilting almost playful cadence, about something called “synthetic biology,” my ears perked up.

He was talking about a new form of genetic engineering that can alter genetics on a worldwide scale – one with little or no government oversight.

(.....)

Gene Drives is a controversial technology that changes an organism so that it will ALWAYS pass on those genetically engineered traits to all future generations. Future generations, in turn, will pass it on until it changes the entire population forever.

Imagine the power to change the genetics of entire populations – we now have that power.

With gene drives, we can change or even eradicate entire species from the planet.

27.05.2019 |

Gene Drives: Destructive and uncontrollable

From people's eye color to the sterility of unwanted species: When Gene Drives made the scientific breakthrough four years ago, euphoria spread among some scientists in the face of "producible" opportunities. But the technology holds incredible dangers.

Gene drives have the potential to override classic inheritance rules. This makes it possible to manipulate or even eradicate entire populations and species within a few generations. A dangerous technology: destructive, uncontrollable and irreversible.

The dangers are out of proportion to the hoped-for goals of combating infectious diseases and controlling agricultural pests and invasive species. Because the cross-pollination of Gene Drive organisms in populations of the wild leads to an uncontrollable chain reaction that can eradicate species, alter whole ecosystems and decimate biodiversity.

Gene Drives affect us all - find out: www.genedrives.ch

24.05.2019 |

Gene Drive Report

Gene Drives. A report on their science, applications, social aspects, ethics and regulations

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