Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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16.01.2018 |

Growing opposition to patents on seeds

Seed giants still trying to expand their monopolies

16 January 2018

As a new report published today by No Patents on Seeds! shows, the European Patent Office (EPO) continues to grant patents on plants derived from conventional breeding – even though the contracting states urged the enforcement of relevant prohibitions in 2017. Around 25 patents were approved last year, despite the EPO officially claiming that it no longer grants such patents. The patents cover crops such as lettuce, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumber, grapes, sunflower, sorghum and soybeans. In response, there is growing opposition to EPO practice. And for the first time, a joint letter written by COPA/COGECA, No Patents on Seeds! and organisations from the organic sector has been sent to the EU Commission. COPA/COGECA is the largest farmers’ organisation in the EU and also represents many breeders.

Despite growing criticism, the seed giants are still trying to push their agenda of misappropriation of natural resources: Syngenta has asked the EPO to abolish existing restrictions. The company filed an appeal in August 2017, and this will be the subject of a public hearing at the EPO tomorrow.

15.01.2018 |

To Save Family Farms, We Must Oppose Monsanto-Bayer Merger

Iowa has lost nearly a third of its family farms since Senator Grassley’s election to Congress. The remaining farmers face a crisis. Crop prices have fallen by more than 50 percent since 2013, with no end in sight. In fact, farmers’ debt levels are almost as high as they were prior to the farm crisis of the mid-1980s and Iowa currently has the slowest growing economy of all 50 states.

Meanwhile, a wave of mergers among the world’s agricultural giants is upending the markets for fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds. If approved, the proposed merger would result in just two companies – Monsanto-Bayer and Dow-DuPont – controlling about three-quarters of the American corn seed market. The power that these corporations would hold in the seed market is unprecedented. The corn, soybeans, and cotton markets would be considered highly concentrated under the government’s own merger guidelines.

12.01.2018 |

Call to Action for 20 January 2018 - Stop the agro-industry!

Together for peasant-friendly farming, healthy food, animal welfare, global peasant rights and fair trade!

Four more wasted years of agricultural politics in Germany? We cannot afford that! Now more urgent than ever we need more regional and eco-friendly farming and healthy food for all! But there is something stopping this change: the powerful agri-business lobby. Enough of that! We have to make sure that politics finally follow the interests of people, instead of helping corporations to gain more power. That's why we - the powerful, colorful, and loud “We are fed up!” movement - must stand up to corporations and hold the new government to account.

We are fed-up with the fatal reality of the agro-industry - and we know how to do it better:

11.01.2018 |

Agri-Activism Opportunity

Are you a pro-active person, interested in sustainable agriculture, willing to get your hands dirty and your voice louder for a sustainable food system?

"Four weeks ago I left my ordinary Dutch life to give it a try: working on a remote organic farm in Wales and work on a sustainable food system. I knew I was going to learn a lot of new things but I didn't know I was going to have so much FUN!!" - Tosca Boot, Agri-Activist volunteer 2017

Every summer, we pair up four volunteers for placements on a beautiful, community-supported, organic, family farm in Wales. But this isn't ordinary WWOOFing – it is a two-in-one opportunity, during which you will tackle the problems of our current food system and work towards sustainable solutions.

The farm is run by Gerald Miles, a prominent campaigner who has been at the heart of the anti-GM movement in the UK for decades. Volunteers get hands-on experience in working on an organic farm rooted at the heart of a local community and get involved in planning and delivering campaigns to make the local area herbicide- and pesticide-free, as well as raising awareness about the risks of GMOs in agriculture.

10.01.2018 |

EU Commission uses the Christmas period to grant authorisation for imports of genetically engineered soybeans

A gift made to Bayer and Dow without anyone knowing

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The EU Commission has granted six further authorisations for genetically engineered plants, including some controversial genetically engineered soybeans with triple herbicide resistance.

The decision to grant authorisation was made on the quiet by the EU Commission during the Christmas holiday period. Testbiotech has proven that the real risks from consumption of these soybeans were not investigated. But the EU Commission failed to respond to any of these scientific arguments. Instead, a letter dated 21 December was sent to Testbiotech in which the Commission set out purely formalistic arguments to the effect that no new evidence had been provided. The letter was sent at the same time the EU Commission made their decision to give green light for the soybeans, without mentioning in the letter.

10.01.2018 |

Glyphosate: A victory for corporate lobbying, not science

In November 2017, EU member States narrowly voted for a five-year reauthorisation of glyphosate, the world’s most widely used weedkiller. While this is far from the fifteen-year license the agrochemical industry was pushing for, the result was a major disappointment to PAN and other organisations campaigning to protect the environment and human health from the harmful impacts of pesticides. It was also a slap in the face to the millions of European citizens who signed petitions calling for glyphosate to be banned.

Straight after the vote, the pro-glyphosate PR machine went into overdrive declaring the decision ‘a major victory for science and common sense’ over supposedly dishonest and uninformed environmentalists. The petrifying thing about this false narrative – fostered successfully for decades by the agrochemical industry – is that it is winning.

08.01.2018 |

GMOs, Global Agribusiness And The Destruction of Choice

One of the myths perpetuated by the pro-GMO (genetically modified organisms) lobby is that critics of GMOs in agriculture are denying choice to farmers and have an ideological agenda. The narrative is that farmers should have access to a range of tools and technologies, including GM crops.

(.....)

It is convenient to paint critics of GMOs as being authoritarian and possessing an ideological agenda. Whether it is Bayer, Monsanto or one of the other major agritech/agribusiness concerns, the real agenda is clear: elite commercial interests and the maximisation of profit for shareholders are the driving forces behind GM agriculture.

Critics of GMOs and transnational corporations did not have a leading role in drafting the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights to create seed monopolies. Monsanto did. Critics did not write the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. The global food processing industry had a leading role in that (see this). Whether it involves Codex, the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture aimed at restructuring Indian agriculture or the proposed US-EU trade deal (TTIP), the powerful agribusiness/food lobby has secured privileged access to policy makers.

From the World Bank’s ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ to the Gates Foundation’s role in opening up African agriculture to the global food and agribusiness oligopolies, democratic procedures at sovereign state levels have been bypassed to impose seed monopolies and proprietary inputs on farmers and to incorporate them into a global supply chain dominated by powerful corporations.

From the destruction of indigenous agriculture in Ethiopia to the ongoing dismantling of Indian agriculture at the behest of transnational agribusiness, where is the ‘choice’?

04.01.2018 |

Whitewash by Carey Gillam

The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science

It’s the herbicide on our dinner plates, a chemical so pervasive it’s in the air we breathe, our water, our soil, and even found increasingly in our own bodies. Known as Monsanto’s Roundup by consumers, and as glyphosate by scientists, the world’s most popular weed killer is used everywhere from backyard gardens to golf courses to millions of acres of farmland. For decades it’s been touted as safe enough to drink, but a growing body of evidence indicates just the opposite, with research tying the chemical to cancers and a host of other health threats.

In Whitewash, veteran journalist Carey Gillam uncovers one of the most controversial stories in the history of food and agriculture, exposing new evidence of corporate influence. Gillam introduces readers to farm families devastated by cancers which they believe are caused by the chemical, and to scientists whose reputations have been smeared for publishing research that contradicted business interests. Readers learn about the arm-twisting of regulators who signed off on the chemical, echoing company assurances of safety even as they permitted higher residues of the herbicide in food and skipped compliance tests. And, in startling detail, Gillam reveals secret industry communications that pull back the curtain on corporate efforts to manipulate public perception.

02.01.2018 |

Shhhh. The “Gene Silenced” Apple Is Coming.

Will you know it when you see it at the grocery store?

The Arctic Golden apple, the first genetically modified apple available to consumers, is making its way to grocery store shelves. I’m an apple loyalist—I pack one as an after-lunch snack nearly every day of the week. So I jumped at the chance to sample this new version of the fruit at a fall event hosted by the environmental technology think tank the Breakthrough Institute in San Francisco. The apple was crisp and mildly sweet, and pretty much tasted to me like any normal Golden Delicious apple. But there was one difference: When I let a slice sit on my plate for half an hour, it never turned brown.

The apple is the handiwork of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., a company based in Canada with orchards in Washington. Since receiving approval from the US Department of Agriculture in 2015, the company has been finessing several genetically engineered apples: The Arctic Golden has arrived at select grocery stores around the Midwest (though Okanagan wouldn’t specify which stores), and the Arctic Granny and the Arctic Fuji are in the works.

28.12.2017 |

Combinatorial Effects of Stacked GM Plants Deserve Proper Assessment

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has a leading role to give scientific advice to the EU Commission, the European Parliament and to the EU member-states. EFSA advice is aimed at protecting consumers and the food chain.

Recent GM plants tend to include both insect resistance and herbicide tolerance traits. Some of these ’stacked’ GM plants have multiple Cry-toxinsexpressed as well as tolerance to several herbicides. This means that non-target organisms in the environment (biodiversity) will be co-exposed to multiple stressors simultaneously, raising concerns over combinatorial or interactive effects. Industry data has showed that stacked Bt expressing plants may express higher levels of distinct Cry-toxins compared with the mother lines. A similar co-exposure may happen to consumers through chemical residues in the food chain.

EFSAhas expressed scientific interest in and requested for research on such combinatorial effects. A recent journal article discusses EFSA's response to one such study submitted by Bohn et al. in 2016.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/29155358/

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