Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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23.06.2017 |

The EPA Quietly Approved Monsanto's New Genetic-Engineering Technology

It’s the first time RNA interference will be used to kill insect pests.

DvSnf7 dsRNA is an unusual insecticide. You don’t spray it on crops. Instead, you encode instructions for manufacturing it in the DNA of the crop itself. If a pesky western corn rootworm comes munching, the plant’s self-made DvSnf7 dsRNA disrupts a critical rootworm gene and kills the pest.

This last step is called RNA interference, or RNAi, and the Environmental Protection Agency last week approved the first insecticide relying on it. Just a few years ago, RNAi was the hot, new biotechnology generating both hype and controversy. But its first approval as an insecticide has been surprisingly low-key. The EPA’s decision attracted little attention from the press or even from environmental groups that reliably come out against new genetically modified crops.

The first product DvSnf7 dsRNA will show up in is SmartStax Pro, a line of genetically modified corn seeds made in collaboration between two agricultural giants, Monsanto and Dow. The RNAi part comes from Monsanto, which has its eye on a number of RNAi applications. Monsanto expects corn seed with RNAi to be on the market by the end of this decade.

23.06.2017 |

Dicamba: Arkansas Tries To Stop An Epidemic Of Herbicide Damage

Arkansas's pesticide regulators have stepped into the middle of an epic battle between weeds and chemicals, which has now morphed into a battle between farmers. Hundreds of farmers say their crops have been damaged by a weedkiller that was sprayed on neighboring fields. Today, the Arkansas Plant Board voted to impose an unprecedented ban on that chemical.

"It's fracturing the agricultural community. You either have to choose to be on the side of using the product, or on the side of being damaged by the product," says David Hundley, who manages grain production for Ozark Mountain Poultry in Bay, Arkansas.

The tension — which even led to a farmer's murder — is over a weedkiller called dicamba. The chemical only became a practical option for farmers a few years ago, when Monsanto created soybean and cotton plants that were genetically modified to survive it. Farmers who planted these new seeds could use dicamba to kill weeds without harming their crops.

16.06.2017 |

Emergency Ban of Dicamba Pesticides Recommended in Arkansas Misuse of Drift-prone Pesticide Has Prompted 87 Recent Complaints

LITTLE ROCK— In response to dozens of new complaints of misuse of the highly toxic and drift-prone pesticide dicamba, an Arkansas regulatory committee today recommended an emergency ban of the controversial pesticide that has spurred three lawsuits and a dispute that led to the murder of an Arkansas farmer.

If the Arkansas Pesticide Committee’s recommendation is approved on Tuesday by the Arkansas State Plant Board, as well as by Gov. Asa Hutchinson, the ban on in-crop uses of the pesticide will be immediate.

“What we’re seeing in Arkansas is proof of what we all already knew — that this dangerous, drift-prone pesticide is not safe to use,” said Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Assurances from pesticide makers that new dicamba products and tighter application regulations would end the drift problems that damaged hundreds of thousands of acres simply ignored reality.”

16.06.2017 |

WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral & Naples, Florida

CAPE CORAL, Fla. -

More than 1,000 people claim a product that's still on store shelves has given them cancer.

Multiple class action lawsuits plague the maker of the popular weed killer, Roundup. Monsanto vehemently denies its product makes people sick.

But the NBC2 Investigators talked with a Cape Coral man who said the weed killer nearly killed him.

16.06.2017 |

Dicamba herbicide complaints up sharply in 2017

More than 50 complaints of crops damaged by dicamba herbicide drifting from neighboring farm fields have been reported to the Arkansas State Plant Board so far in 2017.

That number is up sharply from 2016, in which 32 dicamba drift complaints were filed in the entire year, said Tom Barber, extension weed scientist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Among the damaged crops are some 100 acres of soybeans in Division of Agriculture research plots at the Northeast Research and Extension Center at Keiser in Mississippi County.

Ironically, those soybean plots were part of research by Division of Agriculture weed scientist Jason Norsworthy on dicamba drift and volatility.

The dicamba drift and volatility trials, for herbicide products from Monsanto and Syngenta, are needed before the products can be certified for use in Arkansas, Norsworthy said. The damage from unexpected dicamba drift interrupted the trials, making Norsworthy’s data useless in most of the plots unless he replants and starts over.

16.06.2017 |

Crispr inventor worries about the unintended consequences of gene editing

In 2012, Jennifer Doudna, along with a small group of scientists, invented a ground-breaking technology to edit DNA known as Crispr. Scientists are still experimenting with it.

Crispr has been in the news recently because a group of scientists released a much-debated study arguing that editing genes can lead to many unintended, unpredictable consequences. In the controversial case, the scientists edited genetic blindness out of a group of mice and said they found two thousand unintended consequences. The scientific community is split on the results, and Doudna said it's hard to conclude anything from the study. But she knows the possible dangers of gene editing, and she warned about them in a Wired article in May.

Marketplace's senior tech correspondent Molly Wood spoke with Doudna at the Wired Business Conference in New York earlier this month and asked Doudna what concerns her the most about her revolutionary new technology?

15.06.2017 |

One million sign petition for EU weedkiller ban

Strasbourg (France) (AFP) - More than one million people have signed a petition demanding the EU ban the Monsanto weedkiller glyphosate over fears it causes cancer, campaigners said Thursday.

The petition comes as the European Union is deciding whether to renew the licence of the controversial herbicide produced by the US agro-chemicals giant.

13.06.2017 |

Glyphosate: Working with Nature or Against it?

The reputation of glyphosate, a broad-spectrum systemic herbicide, i.e. the world’s most widely used weedkiller, also used as a crop desiccant, took a hit in 2015, with the publication of a World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) report, raising questions about its safety and the research practices of its manufacturer, the chemical giant Monsanto.

Will today’s debate on glyphosate authorisation, prompted by the IARC classification of the substance as “probably carcinogenic in humans“, trigger a transition to a better way of doing agriculture? A method that doesn’t rely on death, uniformity, and sterility via the constant application of pesticides like glyphosate, but relies instead on life, biodiversity, and the emergent natural processes it supports to ensure long term, rather than short term, fertility, and productivity?

09.06.2017 |

Harmonize conflicting regulations for genetically engineered plants and animals

In January this year, two US agencies proposed the first substantial overhaul in 30 years of how they regulate genetically altered crops and livestock. Some plant scientists expressed relief. Some animal researchers used more colourful language.

The proposals — one to govern plants, the other to govern animals — came to wildly different conclusions. The US Department of Agriculture (USDA) suggests that many plants whose genomes have been altered by a single DNA letter change should not need approval before being released in the field. However, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) contends that animals whose genomes have been similarly changed might have to go through a rigorous evaluation before being released onto the market.

01.06.2017 |

GM-Free Shopping List
GM-Free Shopping List

New GM-Free Shopping List out now

The 2017 edition of the GM-Free Shopping List, published today, includes many brands not listed in earlier editions.

The GM-Free Australia Alliance (GMFAA) has further reported increasing interest from food producers this year to the demand for groceries free of genetically manipulated organisms (GMOs).

GMFAA spokesperson Jessica Harrison stated that the Shopping List acknowledges and promotes a growing list of brands whose GM-free status caters to consumers' right to choose non-GM foods. “Australians passionate about the right to choose have been voting with their wallets. Growing consumer awareness about genetic manipulation is increasing demand for both conventional and organic foods, supporting their producers and adding to market pressure on food producers to choose non-GMO suppliers".

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