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27.09.2018 |

New GMOs: the European Commission in no hurry to act

The judgment of the Court of Justice of the European Union of July 25th does not particularly disturb the European Commission. In its view, it’s up to the Member states to implement the ruling and initiate exchanges on potential difficulties they face. A quite simple analysis but partly deficient. Explanations.

On July 2018 the 25th, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled that only GMOs “obtained by means of techniques/methods of mutagenesis which have conventionally been used in a number of applications and have a long safety record” are excluded from the scope of directive 2001/18. The organisms obtained through the use of a new technique of genetic modification giving rise to one or several mutations must therefore be considered and regulated as GMOs. Has this ruling, which is immediately applicable, already been enforced?

Regulating new GMOs like transgenic ones

During the Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed which took place on September 11th, the Member states and the European Commission discussed the ruling. Interviewed by Inf’OGM, the European Commission explained that it is “carefully analysing the ruling” and announced other talks would take place in October. But things went a bit further on September 11th. According to a EU source, the Commission told the Member states that it considers it has nothing particular to do for the moment: in the Commission’s opinion, it is now up to Member states to implement the court ruling at all levels and to be more specific on what they expect from the Commission.

27.09.2018 |

Bayer may stop selling Monsanto's new Bt cotton in India

Germany’s Bayer AG, which acquired US biotech firm Monsanto in June, recently said new Bt cotton seed technology cannot be introduced in India as it is no more profitable and financially viable because of royalty issues. The acquisition of Monsanto is over globally but is still in process in India.

Monsanto, which has been selling genetically modified (GM) cotton seeds in India through its joint venture Mahyco Monsanto Biotech that has sub-licensed Bt cotton seed technology to various domestic seed companies, is involved in legal battles with the Indian Government and Indian company Nuziveedu Seeds.

The company needs to be compensated for investment made in research and development (R&D) to come up with innovative products, Bob Reiter, global head of R&D, crop science division of Bayer, told a news agency.

26.09.2018 |

The man who beat Monsanto: 'They have to pay for not being honest'

A jury ruled the agrochemical company caused Dewayne Johnson’s cancer. He tells the Guardian he wants to use the victory to make a difference while he still can

Dewayne Johnson looks on after hearing the verdict in his case against Monsanto. A California jury ordered the company to pay $289m to the former school groundskeeper dying of cancer.

Dewayne Johnson tries not to think about dying.

Doctors have said the 46-year-old cancer patient could have months to live, but he doesn’t like to dwell on death. These days, he has an easy distraction – navigating the international attention on his life.

The father of three and former school groundskeeper has been learning to live with the gift and burden of being in the spotlight in the month since a California jury ruled that Monsanto caused his terminal cancer. The historic verdict against the agrochemical corporation, which included an award of $289m, has ignited widespread health concerns about the world’s most popular weedkiller and prompted regulatory debates across the globe.

Johnson, who never imagined he would be known as “dying man” in dozens of news headlines, is still processing the historic win.

23.09.2018 |

India: Failed promises of GM Bt cotton

Stagnant yields, pest attacks and skyrocketing fertilizer use have beset India’s first commercialised GM crop. Claire Robinson reports

GM Bt cotton in India has brought stagnant yields, massive pest attacks, and increased agrochemical use, according to data presented at a conference.

GMO advocates often claim that GM Bt cotton was responsible for increased cotton yield in India. But while yield did increase for the first few years of Bt cotton introduction, this gain was not sustained.

And the data show that even this temporary gain was not due to Bt cotton. During the years when cotton yields grew, from 2002–2005, the percentage of Bt cotton in the total cotton crop was minuscule – below 6% at the all-India level. As the percentage of GM Bt cotton in the total cotton crop grew to over 90%, yields stagnated and even declined.

21.09.2018 |

Lithuania Bans GM Crops as Biotech Industry Loses More Ground

Lithuanian Agriculture Minister, Virginija Baltraitienė, announced last week that the Baltic country has demanded an EU opt-out regarding the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops.

Baltraitienė stated; “So far we are not ready. We have to choose whether to promote organic production, or allow GMOs. Our strategy is to increase the number of clean, high-quality products.”

Commercial GM crop cultivation has never been allowed in Lithuania, and the majority of previous Biotech company requests for trials for GM maize, GM oilseed rape and GM potatoes in the country were not given permits by the Environment Ministry, however the official opt-out has strengthened Lithuania’s position on this issue even further.

21.09.2018 |

Patented Plants: Who Owns Our Global Seed Supply?

At the Non-GMO Project, we believe that by encouraging a non-GMO seed supply, we are supporting the restoration of traditional seed breeding and the right of farmers to save and plant their own seeds and grow varieties of their choice. It’s one of our most important principles. But why do we need to restore these traditional farming practices in the first place? One important reason is that some of agriculture’s biggest corporations use patents to control how farmers grow crops.

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But What about Patents on Non-GMO Seeds?

Non-GMO seeds can be patented too. The key differences are the number of patents and the degree to which those patents impact large-scale agriculture. Some of the most commonly-patented non-GMO plants are actually flowers, not food. Meanwhile, some GMO-producing corporations hold more than thousands of patents (search here to explore these patents), and they hold them on major commodity crops such as soy and corn.

Do we really want to live in a world where we depend on just a couple companies for the whole world’s seed supply?

At the Non-GMO Project, we do not. We do, however, want to live in a world where individual farmers have the power to collect, crossbreed, and save their own seeds.

17.09.2018 |

Czech Republic to restrict use of glyphosate weedkiller

PRAGUE (AFP) -

The Czech Republic will limit the use of substances containing the controversial glyphosate weedkiller as of next year, the agriculture ministry said on Monday.

Glyphosate was introduced in 1974 by US agro-giant Monsanto under the brand-name Roundup. Earlier this year, Monsanto was wholly acquired by German behemoth Bayer.

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The Czech Republic will ban the blanket use of glyphosate as a weedkiller and as a drying agent to accelerate plant maturation, the ministry said in a statement.

"These substances will only be employed in cases when no other efficient method can be used," Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman said.

The ministry also said glyphosate use in the Czech Republic had dropped from 935,000 litres in 2013 to 750,000 litres last year.

The European Union decided last year to extend a licence for the herbicide by five years until 2022, with 18 of the bloc's 28 member states voting in favour, including the Czech Republic and Germany.

14.09.2018 |

Bayer May Face Next Roundup Cancer Trial Sooner Than Planned

By Bloomberg -- Bayer AG isn’t counting on another trial over its Roundup herbicide until February, but an elderly couple who say exposure to the weed killer gave them cancer has other ideas.

Among some 8,700 people who blame their cancer on Bayer’s recently acquired Monsanto unit, the couple is asking to go to the front of the line to present their case to a jury in December “before they die.”

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“A number of trials are currently scheduled beginning in February 2019, but may be subject to change,” Bauman said during the call. “So the bottom line -- there is no further case that is going to be tried for the remainder of the year.”

What’s Next in Court for Bayer Crop-Chemical Claims: QuickTake

Monsanto is fighting to postpone the Pilliod couple’s trial in state court in Oakland, California, arguing that they haven’t met the requirements for expedited scheduling.

A spokesman for Monsanto didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the couple’s request for an expedited trial.

Separately, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco, who is handling all the Roundup cases in federal court, said he wants to schedule the first four trials for the spring of 2019.

The Oakland case is Pilliod v. Monsanto Company, RG17862702, California Superior Court for the County of Alameda. The federal case is In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2741, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

14.09.2018 |

UK to consider relaxing gene editing ban post Brexit

We take a science-based approach to GM regulation: UK to consider relaxing gene editing ban post Brexit

The UK has confirmed it will ‘consider’ relaxing the European Union’s controversial decision to include gene editing techniques within its regulatory framework that restricts the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food chain after Brexit.

12.09.2018 |

CRISPR/Cas9 Found to Cause Extensive Genetic Mutations in Cells

CRISPR/Cas9 is one of the newest genome editing tools. It can alter sections of DNA in cells by cutting at specific points and introducing changes at that location. Scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute carried out a full systematic study in both mouse and human cells and discovered that CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations, but at a greater distance from the target site.

Published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the study found that CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing can cause greater genetic damage in cells than was previously thought. The researchers found that many of the cells had large genetic rearrangements such as DNA deletions and insertions.

These results create safety implications for gene therapies using CRISPR/Cas9 in the future as the unexpected damage could lead to dangerous changes in some cells. In addition, some of these changes were too far away from the target site to be seen with standard genotyping methods. The researchers stressed that standard tests for detecting DNA changes miss finding this genetic damage, and that caution and specific testing will be required for any potential gene therapies.

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