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15.09.2017 |

EU report on weedkiller safety copied text from Monsanto study | Environment

Exclusive: EU’s food safety watchdog recommended that glyphosate was safe but pages of report were identical to application from pesticide maker

The European food safety authority (Efsa) based a recommendation that a chemical linked to cancer was safe for public use on an EU report that copied and pasted analyses from a Monsanto study, the Guardian can reveal.

Glyphosate is the core ingredient in Monsanto’s $4.75bn (£3.5bn) a year RoundUp weedkiller brand and a battle over its relicensing has split EU countries, with a final decision on its authorisation expected in early November.

13.09.2017 |

Study Questions Sustainability of GM Soy Production in Argentina

Roundup Ready (RR) soybean, a genetically modified (GM) soy variety resistant to the herbicide glyphosate, was introduced in Argentina in 1996. By 2015-2016, GM soybeans were cultivated on nearly 20.5 million hectares, representing 60% of total land cultivated, and production reached 61 million tons. In 2015, the soybean sector accounted for 30.7% of total exports of the country and dominated the international soybean pellets market with nearly 33.3% of world exports, ahead of the United States and Brazil.

A new study uses a holistic approach to explore the long-term sustainability of the "soybeanization" of Argentinian agriculture, through an evidence-based assessment of the most relevant economic, social, and environmental factors. The research was based on a unique data set drawn from a field survey carried out in 2011 in two provinces of the Argentinian Pampas.

12.09.2017 |

Fighting the EU's hypocrisy on GMOs

The European Parliament will vote tomorrow on whether to allow the import of a new GM soybean into the EU

There is a major contradiction and a terrible hypocrisy at the heart of the EU’s policy on GMOs. This contradiction is largely invisible from EU citizens, as it does not affect the labelling of food, and does not lead to any mowing of GM fields by protesting activists. To discover it, you‘d have to take a dive into the story of the more than 70 GM crops which are allowed to enter the EU to feed our farm animals.

A soybean... and two dangerous herbicides

Let‘s take the example of a certain variety of soybean sold by the US-based multinational Dow AgroSciences. This soybean, poetically named “DAS68416-4”, has been genetically engineered to tolerate the use of two herbicides: glufosinate-ammonium and 2,4D.

These herbicides have, as all herbicides do, a negative effect on the environment and biodiversity. This is even more the case when they are used alongside varieties that have been rendered tolerant to them. Indeed it has been shown that, in the absence of risk to their own crop, farmers use higher quantities of these products. Not to mention the possible combined effects of glufosinate and 2,4 D on the environment.

06.09.2017 |

Consumer organisations urge EU-Japan trade negotiators to deliver for consumers

Technical negotiations are about to start between the EU and Japan to fine-tune their future trade agreement. Today, Consumers Union of Japan (CUJ) and The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) sent recommendations to negotiators on how to ensure these talks lead to an EU-Japan trade deal that works for consumers.

In July, the European Union and Japan reached a so-called ‘political agreement’ for a trade deal. But this does not constitute the final product: many details remain open-ended and will be decided in technical talks starting this month.

06.09.2017 |

Consumers in Japan and Europe want Guarantees for a Positive Trade Agreement

Consumers Union of Japan and The European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) would like to provide input on the EU-Japan trade agreement. The technical negotiations between Japan and the EU are about to start and the final agreement will cover a broad range of economic sectors and inevitably affect consumers. This phase provides the opportunity for both sides to demonstrate that trade can deliver to consumers.

04.09.2017 |

GeneWatch UK PR: New documents show Oxitec's GM mosquitoes ineffective and risky

GeneWatch UK today released an updated report on Oxitec's releases of genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes in the Cayman Islands (1). The report cites new information regarding ineffectiveness and risks, including the annual report of the project, recently released as a result of a Freedom of Information request (2).

The annual report was not available to the National Conservation Council (NCC) at its June 4th meeting, when it approved an island-wide roll-out of GM mosquito releases.

The new information shows that the releases have been ineffective and large numbers of biting female GM mosquitoes have been released.

"Plans to roll-out Oxitec's GM mosquito releases island-wide must be halted whilst this new information is properly considered", said Dr Helen Wallace, Director of GeneWatch UK, "Oxitec's GM technology is failing in the field and poses unnecessary risks. Islanders' money should not be thrown away on an approach which has not been successful."

03.09.2017 |

South Korean government to shut down GMO-related development project

Agreement with North Jeolla civic group will establish guidelines for future GMO research

The South Korean government has agreed to shut down a project that has been accused of being a step toward commercializing genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and to set up a joint committee with civic groups to hold regular deliberations about GMO research plans. This has earned the government credit for creating a framework that allows civic society to take part in governance instead of unilaterally ramming through its policies.

On the morning of Sept. 1, the Rural Development Administration (RDA) and the North Jeolla Residents’ Campaign against GMOs signed an agreement at the RDA office in Jeonju, North Jeolla Province, in which the RDA agreed “not to promote the production of genetically modified crops” and promised to shut down its Genetically Modified Crop Development Project by the end of the year. The project had been suspected of being designed to promote the commercialization of genetically modified crops.

The RDA also promised that crop testing which had taken place next to its office would be relocated to a place with safety facilities and that those tests would be conducted on a limited basis. Tests on genetically modified rice, peppers and wheat had raised the ire of local farmers and civic groups.

01.09.2017 |

GMA: GMO labeling should apply to highly refined oils, sweeteners

If consumers are to believe that the food industry is serious about transparency, highly refined oils and sweeteners derived from GM crops must be included in the new bioengineered food standard (the federal GMO labeling law), even if they are indistinguishable from their non-engineered counterparts, says the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA).

01.09.2017 |

Court Documents Reveal Monsanto Edited “Independent” Scientific Review

In March 2015, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) reported that glyphosate, the main herbicide in Roundup, was “probably carcinogenic to humans.” Later, on July 7, 2017, the California state Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) named glyphosate as a chemical that can cause cancer and added it to the state’s list of dangerous substances. This requires Roundup manufacturer Monsanto to add new warnings to the product label for sales in the state of California, but they have taken the issue to court, claiming that the change is unwarranted.

Meanwhile, hundreds of people have filed Roundup lawsuits against the company, claiming that after long-term exposure to the herbicide, they developed cancer and other serious injuries. Now, documents uncovered in discovery suggest that Monsanto may have manipulated evidence concerning glyphosate and its risks to human health.

Monsanto Hired Help to Rebut the IARC’s Conclusions

01.09.2017 |

Human Embryo Editing Study Shows We Still Have a Lot to Learn About CRISPR

The first human embryos edited in the U.S. appear to have had a faulty gene repaired—but now a debate is raging as to what actually happened.

In late July, MIT Technology Review broke the story about the work, in which researchers edited about 150 early-stage embryos using the CRISPR gene-editing technique. In the subsequent paper published in Nature, the team revealed that it was able to successfully eliminate a genetic mutation that causes a deadly heart condition. Importantly, the results suggested the edits occurred with a far higher level of precision than anyone else had managed before in embryos. One of the study's authors, Shoukhrat Mitalipov, talked of clinical trials being near at hand.

But questions have emerged this week about how, exactly, the faulty gene was removed. The authors of the original study claim the gene was repaired as CRISPR cut out only the faulty DNA, which was on the paternal side, then used normal maternal DNA as a template to correct the mutation—a previously unknown phenomenon. (Watch our CRISPR explainer)

On Monday, a different group of researchers called this account into question in a paper posted on bioRxiv. They pointed out that Mitalipov's team only showed that the faulty gene is absent from embryos after editing, not that the gene had been repaired. What's more, paternal and maternal DNA are still distinct in the embryos the team was using. So how could the two have interacted?

Instead, the cross-examiners suggest—and many have subsequently agreed—that it's possible that CRISPR could have been making much larger deletions of the embryos' DNA. If that's true, then the faulty gene would fail to show up when Mitalipov's team went looking for it, but the embryos could have a great deal of genetic damage besides. Without ruling out this possibility—or else figuring out another way to avoid so-called "off-target" effects—it would be irresponsible to suggest that CRISPR-edited embryos be implanted and allowed to grow into children.

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