Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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19.12.2018 |

Glyphosate and Bt Proteins Toxic to Stingless Bees

Brazil is the second largest producer of genetically modified (GM) plants in the world. This agricultural practice exposes native pollinators to contact and ingestion of Bacillus thuringiensis proteins (e.g. Cry toxins) from transgenic plants. Furthermore, native bees are also exposed to various herbicides applied to crops, including glyphosate.

Various bee species are suffering large population declines. Stingless bees are important wild pollinators which have a life history which makes them more susceptible to the effects of agrochemicals, compared to other bees.

A study found that the Bt proteins Cry1F and Cry2Aa, and glyphosate were highly toxic to the stingless bee M. quadrifasciata, causing lethal or sublethal effects which can severely impair colony growth and viability, and reduce pollination ability. Glyphosate was very toxic to the bee larvae, killing all of them within only a few days of exposure while bees treated with Cry2Aa and Cry1F proteins were delayed in their development.

This study underscores the need for further research to establish trustworthy methods of assessing the risks of glyphosate and Cry proteins for non-target species.

17.12.2018 |

GMOs raise heckles in Zambia

Lusaka – The import of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) into Zambia has sparked concern among the public with consumer watchdogs calling for government intervention to sustain the country’s quest to accelerate diversification and investment to grow the agricultural sector.

The National Biosafety Authority, a government agency tasked to oversee and regulate agricultural related products - less those inclined with GMOs, has given three distributors permits to import products that might contain GMOs.

Cold Chain, Horizon and Innscor are among the 12 retailers, wholesalers and distributors that applied for new and renewal permits, have been allowed to bring into the country products with GMOs following a risk assessment.

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Zimba has since demanded a report from the NBA on how much food containing GMOs or with traces of GMOs has been allowed to land in Zambia and the companies allowed to import them.

He appealed to President Edgar Lungu to clear the matter if the diversification and non-GMO policy have been aborted.

“We are also appealing for the intervention of the Head of State, President Edgar Chagwa Lungu, over the GMO imports that are threatening to destroy our agriculture and our diversification agenda.”

12.12.2018 |

How France and Germany Are Ousting Glyphosate In A Search For Healthy Soils and Pesticide-Free Crops

The Macron Government of France is offering its farmers a way out of glyphosate dependency within the next 3 years.

Millions have been following European discussions on the possible ban (or a new licensing period) for glyphosate-based herbicides; discussions which stemmed from the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) declaring glyphosate a probable human carcinogen in March, 2015.

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The French solution to glyphosate

In November, 2018, the French government presented possible mechanisms for achieving such a ban. Here is my best understanding on how the French government sees a transition away from glyphosate use while protecting farmers financially.

Overall, the plan emphasizes good farming practices and encourages dialogue among farmers. The government has also declared that no one will be left without a solution if they abandon glyphosate.

07.12.2018 |

GMO-free food and drinks launches up 366% in Canada - research

The number of food and drinks products claiming GMO-free status has risen dramatically over the last ten years in the Canadian market.

According to Mintel's Global New Product Database, there was a 366% increase in 'GMO-free' claims on natural food/drink launches in Canada from 2007-17. Products claiming 'no additives/preservatives' grew 21%.

At the same time, Mintel said less specific claims such as 'all natural product' declined 62% in the same time period.

07.12.2018 |

GMO-free food & drinks launches up 366% in Canada

The number of food and drinks products claiming GMO-free status has risen dramatically over the last ten years in the Canadian market.

According to Mintel's Global New Product Database, there was a 366% increase in 'GMO-free' claims on natural food/drink launches in Canada from 2007-17. Products claiming 'no additives/preservatives' grew 21%.

At the same time, Mintel said less specific claims such as 'all natural product' declined 62% in the same time period.

07.12.2018 |

Gene drive symposium

Interdisciplinary symposium on gene drives with a focus on their scientific, ethical, socio-economic and regulatory aspects

FRIDAY 24 MAY 2019

9:00―17:00 Eventforum Bern Fabrikstrasse 12

3012 Bern, Switzerland

The idea of circumventing the rules of inheritance in order to quickly spread and maintain desired traits through an entire population or species, has long existed. With new genetic engineering techniques for genome editing, such as CRISPR-Cas9, it may soon be possible to turn this idea into reality. It has been claimed that gene drive technology may be used to combat infectious diseases such as malaria, dengue or zika, as well as to reduce the threat posed by agricultural pests and ecologically harmful invasive species. However, a crucial difference with conventional gene technology is that gene drives intentionally target wild populations in order to permanently alter them.

Gene drives are a technology that raises fundamental ecological, social, ethical, and legal questions:

* Which path do we want to take as a society?

* Is it a good idea to seek to irreversibly alter ecosystems in the age of mass extinctions?

* Are there dispensable species?

* Are the promised goals achievable?

* Who gets to decide?

* What environmental implications could we face if we were to eliminate populations or species using gene drives?

* What are the consequences of making such attempts if they are unsuccessful?

* Who is responsible when things go wrong with a technology that potentially crosses borders?

* Are the appropriate regulations in place?

A working group of international scientists and philosophers has extensively considered these questions. The outcome of this process will be presented for discussion at the Gene Drive Symposium.

SPEAKERS

Lim Li Ching, Third World Network

Christopher Preston, University of Montana

Ricarda Steinbrecher, Federation of German Scientists (VDW)

Helen Wallace, GeneWatch UK

PANEL DISCUSSION

Kevin Esvelt, MIT Media Lab

Ignacio Chapela, University of California, Berkeley

PANEL MODERATION

Ernst Ulrich von Weizsäcker, Honorary president, Club of Rome

More information at: https://genedrives.ch

European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility

07.12.2018 |

Mark Lynas slammed for exploiting African farmers’ images to promote GMOs

African farmers are demanding that Lynas cease using their images in his GMO promotionals; Lynas’s mischief-making may have triggered Tanzania’s ending of GMO field trials. Report: Claire Robinson, GMWatch and Mariam Mayet, African Centre for Biodiversity

The British pro-GMO activist Mark Lynas has angered African farmers over his mis-use of their images on the internet to promote his pro-GMO agenda. The farmers have demanded that Lynas remove their images and names from all online platforms.

These developments are documented in a new report by Dr Eugenio Tisselli, an IT specialist, and his co-author, biosafety scientist and agroecologist, Dr Angelika Hilbeck of ETH Zurich, Switzerland. Since 2011, Drs Tisselli and Hilbeck have coordinated a project, “Sauti ya wakulima” (“The voice of the farmers”), aimed at supporting Tanzanian farmers create a collaborative network of shared knowledge.

Drs Tisselli and Hilbeck felt compelled to speak out when they discovered that some Tanzanian farmers, whom they know personally, were used in Lynas’s public relations campaign to promote GM crops in Tanzania. Drs Tisselli and Hilbeck emphasized that the farmers know nothing of the GMO “debate” or Lynas’s role in it. They are only concerned that their voices were used without their knowledge or consent in a context they do not understand and do not want to be a part of.

04.12.2018 |

The USDA Will Release a Final Rule on Labeling GMO Foods

After a contentious two-year comment period pitted corporate interests against consumer advocates, a rule requiring companies to label genetically modified foods is being finalized this week. The White House Office of Management and Budget approved the Obama-era legislation last week, industry site IEG Policy reports, marking its last step before publishing.

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When the proposal was first unveiled for comment, many of the food and environmental groups that had spearheaded the call for transparency in food labeling opposed it, criticizing the friendly design and confusing language as "pro-biotech propaganda." (Notably, the labels change GMO to "BE" for bioengineered.) "It's almost a little smiley face," George Kimbrell, legal director for the Center for Food Safety, said in a statement to the Sierra Club.

Since then, the USDA has modified its design: The new, slightly more somber labels will adorn packing on GMO foods starting in 2020—exempting certain manufacturers and foods with minor GMO ingredients, according to the proposal.

04.12.2018 |

Tanzania Ban Genetically Modified Crop Trials

On November 21st, 2018, the Ministry of Agricultural of Tanzania has instructed the Tanzania Institute for Agricultural Research (TARI) to terminate Genetic Modified Organism-GMOs at its research centers.

In addition, it has ordered TARI to destroy with all remainders of the experiments on GMOs.

The action was taken after the Institute began to disseminate the results of its researches on GMOs without obtaining government approval.

Tanzania has been carrying out GM seeds confined field trials for maize in Makutopora in Dodoma Region and for cassava at the Mikocheni Agriculture Research Institute in Dar es Salaam.

03.12.2018 |

GMO cotton failure in Burkina Faso: Farmers speak out

For two years, over 500 farmers from the different cotton-growing regions in Burkina Faso documented their experience with Monsanto’s Bt cotton. This three-year farmer-led research initiative, called “Bt Cotton and Us: The Truth from our Fields,” provides an important counterbalance, as Burkina Faso was the first country in West Africa to adopt genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and industry often lauds its success when promoting GMOs in other countries.

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