Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture


31.01.2018 |

European Commission: Following the Trump Administration's Retreat from Science-Based Regulation?

In January, European Union agencies published three documents concerning government oversight of nanotechnology and new genetic engineering techniques. Together, the documents put in doubt the scientific capacity and political will of the European Commission to provide any effective oversight of the consumer, agricultural and industrial products derived from these emerging technologies. Instead, it appears that the Commission will allow product developers, including university scientist/entrepreneurs, to be the judge of whether their products pose unacceptable and, indeed, perhaps unmanageable, risks to the public, the environment and to workers manufacturing emerging technology products.

For U.S. public policy advocates, long accustomed to The Republican War on Science and the Trump administration’s Abandoning Scientific Advice, the European Union agency documents amount to a shocking and yet not wholly unexpected déja vu. We’ve become accustomed to the ostensibly regulated U.S. industry controlling what science is presented for regulatory review by U.S. agencies. We have not yet become accustomed to the surrender of European agencies before the policy demands and economic rationales of scientist/entrepreneurs to allow them to develop and commercialize their products unimpeded by government regulation.

In January, Chemical Watch reported on the European Chemicals (Echa) Management Board’s meeting in December 2017 to review the European Commission’s implementation of a nanomaterial reporting regulation. The Board concluded that the results of the European Commission implementation plan had provided inadequate information for Echa to determine whether the atomic to molecular scale nanomaterials were being used safely in commercialized products.

30.01.2018 |

Namibia can now trace GMO origins

NAMIBIA will now be able to trace the history of genetically modified organisms' products on the local market.

The National Commission for Research, Science and Technology's (NCRST) biotechnology manager Paulus Mungeyi said yesterday that the traceability of GMO is critical to determine their content.

He said this after the official launch of the NCRST's biotechnology testing, training and research laboratory in Windhoek yesterday. The establishment of the lab, Mungeyi said, is part of the mandate to administer the Biosafety Act which regulates activities involving the research, development, production, marketing, transportation and other uses of GMOs, and specific products from GMOs.

29.01.2018 |

Namibia opens first GMO laboratory

Namibia has opened a laboratory for testing food for Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) the first in the Southern African country on Monday.

The Higher Education Minister, Itah Kandjii-Murangi, opened the laboratory, designed by the National Commission on Research, Science and Technology in Windhoek.

Kandjii-Murangi said the laboratory would play a crucial role in testing genetically modified products.

He added that “GMO testing is crucial to ensure that only GMOs and GMO products that are approved for use in Namibia are in the market.”

28.01.2018 |

Rwanda: Debate rages over GMO adoption to raise productivity

Stakeholders are urging caution in the Rwanda’s quest to adopt genetically modified organism technology, with some proposing that other options for increasing agricultural productivity be exhausted before reverting to GMO’s.

Like many countries in East Africa, Rwanda has been apprehensive about introducing GMOs over fears that their impact on the environment and health of human beings is not well known.

Appearing before the Senate Committee on Social Affairs, outgoing director-general of the Rwanda Agricultural Board, Mark Cyubahiro Bagabe, said it was time for Rwanda to adopt GMO’s.

26.01.2018 |

Armenian parliament holds hearings on GMO products

YEREVAN. – The Armenian parliament is holding hearings on “Genetically Modified Organisms, Alternatives or Compulsion” during the session on Friday.

The hearing was initiated by the standing committee on territorial management, local self-government, agriculture and environment.

The legislation concerning GMO foodstuffs was initiated in 2013, but had no continuation. Minister of Agriculture Ignati Arakelyan told Armenian that GMO seed production company Monsanto has assured that it is not importing GMO seeds, and those seed had not been found in the customs offices.

23.01.2018 |

GMOs still banned in Swaziland

MBABANE – The importation of genetically modified crops into the kingdom remains banned.

This strong statement was issued by Minister of Agriculture Moses Vilakati when reacting to what the government’s official stance was following the series of applications presented before the Swaziland Environmental Authority (SEA) for evaluation prior to the granting to either grow genetically modified cotton or import GMO maize into the kingdom.

“As a country we have not approved genetically modified crops it is still being canvassed. No one is legally allowed to import GMO’s into the country,” clarified Vilakati.

23.01.2018 |

High Stakes for CRISPR and GMO Regulation in Europe

The European Court of Justice has been considering whether organisms obtained by mutagenesis are exempt from the EU’s Genetically Modified Organisms Directive.

That might sound esoteric or gobbledygook but both pro- and anti-GMO camps are keenly awaiting the outcome as many believe it will determine the legal status in the EU of the “new genetic engineering techniques”.

It almost certainly won’t but it might set the stage – or one of them.

These techniques are usually and erroneously lumped together and called gene (more properly genome) editing; chief of which is the much vaunted – some might say irresponsibly over hyped and promoted – CRISPR-Cas. Together with “synthetic biology” they make up what has been called GMO 2.0 and are seen by proponents and opponents as the future – direction and/or battleground – of genetic engineering in food and farming.

23.01.2018 |

US gives safety approval to Chinese genetically modified rice strain

BEIJING: A rice genetically modified (GMO) by Chinese researchers to resist pests has passed safety inspections by authorities in the United States, allowing for its sale there even though Beijing continues to prohibit planting of any GMO food grain.

The rice, known as Huahui 1, was developed by a team at Huazhong University in central Hubei province to resist pests like the rice stem borer. While Chinese authorities granted the strain a safety certificate in 2009, it has never been approved for commercial production.

Beijing has spent billions of dollars researching GMO crops but has held back from commercial production of any food grains because of consumer concerns about their safety. Validation of the country's GMO safety testing and products by U.S. authorities could help persuade the government and consumers in China to accept the products at home.


China has said it aims to push forward the commercialization of GMO corn and soybeans by 2020 but has not made public any plans to approve planting of GMO rice, the country's most important staple food.

22.01.2018 |

China’s first GM rice gets US FDA approval

GM crops met with strong opposition from Chinese public

A genetically modified (GM) rice product developed by a group of Chinese scientists has acquired the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval, the first such Chinese product allowed to enter the US market.

However, neither China nor the US has approved mass cultivation of the rice amid low acceptance from the Chinese public for GM food.

Huahui No.1 rice, developed by the Huazhong Agricultural University, is genetically engineered to resist a wide range of insects, thus reducing the use of pesticides.

Lin Yongjun, a professor at Huazhong Agricultural University and one of the scientists that developed the rice, told the Global Times on Monday that Huahui No.1 could not be grown in China as "the country has not conducted regional trials nor provided guidelines to examine genetically engineered rice."

Lin said his team might consider growing Huahui No. 1 in Southeast Asian countries, "but our reach is limited and we hope the authorities can provide funding and legal support."

Lin's university received an email from the FDA on January 11 approving the rice.


"The government wants to take its time on GM food for social stability reason. It has a three-step plan to gradually industrialize GM crops, first on inedible crops, then on vegetables and fruits and the last on staple food such as rice and wheat," Luo said.

"There is still a long way to go before the public accepts GM rice in the market," he noted.

In 2016, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, the nation's top grain producing region, prohibited the cultivation of genetically modified crops, including GM corn and soybeans, after 91.5 percent of respondents to a survey conducted in the province raised objections to GM crops.

21.01.2018 |

Report highlights opportunities and risks associated with synthetic biology and bioengineering

Human genome editing, 3D-printed replacement organs and artificial photosynthesis – the field of bioengineering offers great promise for tackling the major challenges that face our society. But as a new article out today highlights, these developments provide both opportunities and risks in the short and long term.

Rapid developments in the field of synthetic biology and its associated tools and methods, including more widely available gene editing techniques, have substantially increased our capabilities for bioengineering – the application of principles and techniques from engineering to biological systems, often with the goal of addressing 'real-world' problems.

In a feature article published in the open access journal eLife, an international team of experts led by Dr Bonnie Wintle and Dr Christian R. Boehm from the Centre for the Study of Existential Risk at the University of Cambridge, capture perspectives of industry, innovators, scholars, and the security community in the UK and US on what they view as the major emerging issues in the field.


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