Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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21.08.2018 |

EDITORIAL: Genome editing poses a tricky regulatory challenge

The government has started working on legal and regulatory rules on dealing with genome-edited animals and plants.

In developing a regulatory system to govern genome editing, a new type of genetic engineering that involves changing an organism’s DNA, the government has to adopt an appropriately cautious, safety-first approach to ensure that there will be no harmful effects on biodiversity or human health.

Unlike early, less precise genetic engineering techniques, gene editing is aimed at changing DNA at a specific site in the genome.

The approach employs various techniques. A certain type of protein is used as “scissors” to cut the DNA at the target site to eliminate its specific gene function. Or new useful DNA is inserted into a specific location of the gene.

19.08.2018 |

Pesticide damage to DNA found "programmed" into future generations

Dr Paul Winchester sees a potentially catastrophic outcome resulting from the epigenetic damage caused by pesticides

EXCERPT: [Dr Paul] Winchester lays the blame [for rising infertility] at the feet of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which doesn't consider epigenetic or generational effects of chemicals, and the pesticide and chemical manufacturers like Monsanto. "They can sell all the Roundup they want, but if it's in me they are going to have to pay for that. Every molecule that I find is on them … What I want to know is: has my fetus had altered DNA imprinting because of this chemical? I have a right to know that. If we are going to have to wait 75 years to find out if my grandchildren are going to be affected by it, I think somebody has to pay. They better put a fund together. I want somebody's head to roll. I don't think that the EPA and Monsanto get to walk away."

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.

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