Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

News

20.07.2017 |

Resistance to CRISPR gene drives may arise easily

Fruit fly experiments show hurdles remain before gene-editor can be used to control disease, pests

A genetic-engineering tool designed to spread through a population like wildfire — eradicating disease and even whole invasive species — might be more easily thwarted than thought.

Resistance to the tools, called CRISPR gene drives, arose at high rates in experiments with Drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, researchers at Cornell University report July 20 in PLOS Genetics. Rates of resistance varied among strains of fruit flies collected around the world, from a low of about 4 percent in embryos from an Ithaca, N.Y., strain to a high of about 56 percent in Tasmanian fruit fly embryos.

“At these rates, the constructs would not start spreading in the population,” says coauthor Philipp Messer, a population geneticist. “It might require quite a bit more work to get a gene drive that works at all.”

14.07.2017 |

Tennessee joins states taking action on dicamba; Missouri imposes restrictions

CHICAGO • Tennessee on Thursday imposed restrictions on the use of dicamba, becoming the fourth state to take action as problems spread over damage the weedkiller causes to crops not genetically modified to withstand it. Missouri on Thursday also announced restrictions, partially rolling back an emergency ban announced last week.

Dicamba is sprayed by farmers on crops genetically modified to resist it but it has drifted, damaging vulnerable soybeans, cotton and other crops across the southern United States. Farmers have fought with neighbors over lost crops and brought lawsuits against dicamba producers.

14.07.2017 |

Traditional mustard output adequate, don’t need GM mustard

New Delhi, July 14 (IANS) Rajasthan, India’s top mustard producing state on Friday, expressed its reservations over commercial introduction of Genetically Modified (GM) variety of mustard, saying output from the traditional varieties was adequate.

Rajasthan’s Agriculture Minister Prabhu Lal Saini said it did not want to be dependent on any company for seeds.

“Production of mustard is quite good in our state. We are getting 32-33 quintals per hectare from the traditional varieties and oil content (recovery) is also between 40-42 per cent. The output from the traditional varieties is adequate and it is highly nutritious. Then why do we need GM seeds? We do not want to disturb our parental seeds,” Saini told reporters here.

13.07.2017 |

EU authorities broke their own rules and brushed aside evidence of cancer to keep glyphosate on the market

A new report by the toxicologist Dr Peter Clausing shows that the EU authorities violated their own rules and disregarded evidence that glyphosate is carcinogenic to reach a conclusion that the chemical does not cause cancer

The EU authorities reached the conclusion that glyphosate is not carcinogenic by disregarding and brushing aside evidence of cancers in experimental animals and by violating directives and guidelines that are supposed to guide their work, according to a new report [1] by the German toxicologist Dr Peter Clausing.

The report shows for the first time that glyphosate should have been classified as a carcinogen according to the current EU standards. This would mean an automatic ban under EU pesticides legislation. However, the EU authorities disregarded and breached these standards, enabling them to reach a conclusion that the chemical is not carcinogenic.

11.07.2017 |

Biotech Industry Cultivates Positive Media—and Discourages Criticism

In April 2016, Monica Eng of WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR station, published a critical story revealing that the agrichemical giant Monsanto had quietly paid a professor at the University of Illinois to travel, write, and speak about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and even to lobby federal officials to halt further GMO regulation. In a grueling, year-long reporting project, Eng uncovered documents proving that Monsanto made the payments to University of Illinois professor Bruce Chassy, and that he advised Monsanto to deposit money in the university’s foundation, where records are shielded from public disclosure.

“I knew that this would be a big story,” Eng says.

What she didn’t expect was the massive blowback: The university accused her of being an activist, not a journalist, and she was hounded by Twitter trolls who jumped on her story and waged a campaign to discredit her personally.

“I’ve worked as a professional journalist in Chicago for more than three decades,” Eng says. “I’ve uncovered questionable activity in government groups, nonprofits, and private companies. But I don’t think I have ever seen a group so intent on trying to personally attack the journalist covering the issue.”

Eng’s experience is just one example of a strategy first invented by Big Tobacco to smear critics, spin reporters, and tamp down information that could damage the industry’s image.

“I don’t think I have ever seen a group so intent on trying to personally attack the journalist covering the issue.”

—Monica Eng

08.07.2017 |

Dicamba Ban: Missouri Joins Arkansas in Halting Sale and Use of the Herbicide

Yesterday (July 8, 2017) the Missouri Department of Agriculture joined the Arkansas Plant Board in banning the use and sale of dicamba herbicide. The Missouri ban is effective immediately while the Arkansas ban will take effect on Tuesday, July 11.

Missouri’s Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order includes the following dicamba pesticide products labeled for agricultural uses.

05.07.2017 |

5 GMOs authorized for import in the EU without any political support

5 GMO authorizations were published yesterday, without any political support, neither from the Member States nor from the European Parliament. This is further proof that the decision process concerning GMOs needs to be changed quickly to a more democratic and more transparent one. The Greens/EFA are actively working to that end.

The European Commission yesterday published regulations authorizing the use of four new GM plants in food and feed: two cottons (from Monsanto and Bayer), and two maize strains (from Syngenta and Dow Agrosciences)[1]. They also renewed the authorization of the well-known maize Mon 810 from Monsanto for use in food and feed.

None of these authorizations received political support from the Member States, as they have been repeatedly unable to gather the qualified majority needed during the votes.

All of these authorizations, however, were disavowed by the European Parliament, who voiced objections against each of them, every time with comfortable voting majorities. The reasons for these objections are numerous: tolerance to herbicides dangerous for the environment and in certain cases, for health, unacceptable shortcomings in the evaluation etc. But what this really demonstrates is the inadequacy of the decision-making process concerning GMO authorization, a fact that had already been acknowledged by Jean-Claude Juncker back in 2014.

In February, the European Commission published a draft to reform this process. We welcome the opening of this much-needed debate; however, the Commission’s proposal is insufficient to reach a truly democratic decision-making procedure.

29.06.2017 |

Still no solution regarding patents on plants and animals

by No Patents on Seeds

The 38 Contracting States of the European Patent Office (EPO) at their meeting in The Hague decided to strengthen prohibitions in European patent law in regard to the breeding of plants and animals.

However, at the same time, new loopholes have been created that will allow the relevant prohibitions to be eroded. As a result, the EPO will shortly resume granting patents on conventionally bred plants and animals. Already in May 2017, companies were informed that several patents on plants derived from random mutations are ready to be granted. The legal and political controversy will continue.

"Pressure from civil society succeeded in strengthening current prohibitions in European patent law. But this is not yet a long term solution," says Christoph Then, spokesperson for "No Patents on Seeds!" The EPO and big business will continue to abuse patent law to privatise the resources of daily food production. In reaction, we will maintain our pressure on political decision-makers."

28.06.2017 |

World’s First GM Fish Factory Needs Risk Assessment

PEI Approval of Rollo Bay facility puts wild salmon at risk, groups say

Charlottetown, June 27, 2017: Today, local and national environmental groups expressed profound concern over a decision by the Government of Prince Edward Island to approve construction of the world’s first factory to grow genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) fish.

“GM salmon poses a major risk to wild salmon, yet there has been no federal scientific assessment of the commercial production of this organism,” said Mark Butler of Ecology Action Centre. “A recent parliamentary report raised serious concerns about the approval process for GM animals and the federal minister of the Environment needs to step in right away.”

26.06.2017 |

Through the back door: European Patent Office wants to expand patenting of plants and animals

Important political decision on prohibitions in European patent law expected this week

26 June 2017

On Wednesday this week, the 38 contracting states of the European Patent Office will meet in La Hague to make a decision on the future interpretation of existing prohibitions in European patent law in regard to the breeding of plants and animals. The EU Parliament and the EU Commission are demanding that such patents are confined to genetic engineering. According to a proposal presented by the EPO, some of these patents will indeed no longer be granted in future. However, at the same time, new loopholes are being created that will allow the avoidance of the relevant prohibitions. Consequently, it is more than likely that there will be an overall increase in the number of patents granted on conventional breeding.

European patent law already prohibits patents on “essentially biological processes” i.e. breeding processes that do not use genetic engineering for the breeding of plants and animals. Nevertheless, the EPO has in the past granted several patents on plants bred through crossing and selection or other random processes, such as mutations. According to current proposal of the EPO, in future patents will only be refused if they claim plants or animals directly produced by crossing and selection. However, the prohibitions will become immediately ineffective and invalid for these plants or animals if a specific genetic condition is claimed.

NewsActualitéNachrichtenActualidad

Das Organisationsteam