Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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07.08.2018 |

Consumer Awareness of GMOs Continues to Soar

The right to know what’s in your food continues to ring true with consumers. According to the Hartman Organic and Natural Report 2018 consumer awareness of GMOs is almost universal at 97%. The growth in consumer awareness also aligns with an increasing amount of consumers seeking to avoid GMOs. Hartman reports that 46% of shoppers deliberately avoid GMOs when shopping.

This finding aligns with the continued growth of sales of Non-GMO Project Verified products which is now estimated to be at $26 billion. Hartman noted that 36% of shoppers say that they are buying more non-GMO products in comparison to a year ago and that of the consumers seeking to avoid GMOs 42% seek out Non-GMO Project Verified products.

07.08.2018 |

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as Invasive Species

Abstract

This paper frames genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as invasive species. This offers a way of considering the reception, diffusion and management of GMOs in the foodscape. “An invasive non-native species is any non-native animal or plant that has the ability to spread causing damage to the environment, the economy, our health and the way we live” (NNSS, 2017). Without any social licence, pesticide companies have thrust GMOs into the foodscape. The release of GMOs has generally been unwelcome, there has been no ‘pull’ factor from consumers and there has been vocal resistance from many. The apologists for GMOs have argued the self-contradictory conceit that GMOs are ‘same but different’. Under this logically untenable stance, GMOs are to be excluded from specific regulation because they are the ‘same’ as existing organisms, while simultaneously they are ‘different’ and so open to patenting. GMOs are patented and this demonstrates that, prima facie, these are novel organisms which are non-native to the foodscape. GMO apologists have campaigned intensively, and successfully in USA, to ensure that consumers are kept in the dark and that GMOs remain unlabelled - as a consequence GMOs are ubiquitous in US consumer foods. In contrast, in Australia GMOs are required to be labelled if present in consumer products and, in consequence, Australian food manufacturers do not use them. The release of a GMO calls for biosecurity measures. After trial plots of Monsanto GM canola in Tasmania in the 1990s, the sites continue to be biosecurity monitored for GMO escape, and volunteer canola plants continue to appear two decades later. In Western Australia the escape of GMO canola into a neighbouring organic farm resulted in the loss of organic certification and the monetary loss of the organic premium for produce. GMO produce sells for a 10% discount because of market forces and the consumer aversion to GMOs. Where non-GM product is accidentally contaminated with some GM grain, the whole batch is discounted and is sold as GMO. There is a lack of evidence that GMOs can be contained and many jurisdictions have banned the introduction of GMOs. GMOs have the potential and the propensity to contaminate non-GMO crops and thereby devalue them. The evidence is that GMOs are invasive species, they are unwelcome by consumers, peaceful coexistence with non-GM varieties is a fiction, and GMOs are appropriately managed as a biosecurity issue.

06.08.2018 |

Brazil judge suspends use of agrochemical glyphosate

SAO PAULO (Reuters) - A Brazilian judge has suspended the use of products containing the agrochemical glyphosate, a widely employed herbicide for soy and other crops in the country, according to legal filings.

A federal judge in Brasilia ruled that new products containing the chemical could not be registered in the country and existing registrations would be suspended within the next 30 days, until the government reevaluates their toxicology.

The decision, which could be subject to multiple appeals, also applies to the insecticide abamectin and the fungicide thiram.

The ruling affects companies such as Monsanto Co, which markets a glyphosate-resistant, genetically-modified type of soybean that is planted on a large scale in Brazil. Monsanto is now a unit of Bayer AG, following a $62.5 billion takeover of the U.S. seed major which closed in June.

Certain glyphosate-resistant corn and cotton strains have also been authorized in Brazil.

04.08.2018 |

Where is restriction on genome editing headed in Japan?

On 11 July 2018, the Natural Environment Subcommittee of the Central Environment Council under the Ministry of the Environment (MoE), held a meeting of its GMO, etc. specialist panel, at which it was decided to establish an "investigative panel on genome editing technology, etc. and the Cartagena laws" thus setting the direction for deliberations. The most important task is to organize the concepts that will help to make a decision on whether or not genome editing will be subject to restrictions under the Cartagena laws (see BJ July 2018).

Under the concepts indicated by the MoE, genome editing is divided into three types, known as SDN1 to SDN3. SDN1 is the editing technology in greatest use at present, in which DNA is simply cleaved. This case does not fall under restrictions regardless of whether nucleic acid (e.g. guide RNA) is included in the artificial nuclease (DNA-cleaving enzyme). SDN2 inserts several bases at the location of the cleavage, and while nucleic acid is not included in the artificial nuclease this is subject to restrictions. SDN3 is the case in which genes are inserted at the location of the cleavage, and since nucleic acid is included, this is also subject to restrictions. Therefore, deliberations are to be conducted on the basis that no restrictions are imposed in the case that nothing is inserted, and imposed in the case that something is inserted.

03.08.2018 |

Commission authorises five Genetically Modified products for food and feed use

Daily News 03 / 08 / 2018

Brussels, 3 August 2018

Today, the Commission has adopted authorisation decisions of five Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for food and feed use. The authorisation decisions do not cover the use of these GMOs for cultivation. Today's decisions concern 2 new authorisations (maize MON 87427 x MON 89034 x NK603, maize 1507 x 59122 x MON 810 x NK603) and the renewal of 3 existing authorisations (maize DAS-59122-7, maize GA21, sugar beet H7-1). All of these Genetically Modified Organisms have gone through a comprehensive authorisation procedure, including a favourable scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). All Member States had a right to express a view in the Standing Committee and subsequently the Appeals Committee, and the outcome is that the European Commission has the legal backing of the Member States to proceed. The authorisations are valid for 10 years, and any products produced from these Genetically Modified Organisms will be subject to the EU's strict labelling and traceability rules. For more information on GMOs in the EU see: https://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/gmo_en

02.08.2018 |

Nestle misled consumers about GMOs in its food products. lawsuit alleges

Nestle is facing a federal class-action lawsuit in Los Angeles alleging it sold products labeled as having "No GMO Ingredients" with genetically modified organisms.

The corporate parent behind such food brands as Stouffer's frozen dinners, Buitoni pasta, and Haagen Dazs ice cream also is accused on designing a seal on its product packaging with the intention to trick consumers into thinking that its products were certified by the non-profit Non-GMO Project, a leading authority on the subject

According to an 18-page court filing, Nestle's "No GMO Ingredients" label was developed by the Switzerland-based company to mimic the appearance of the Non-GMO Project seal, which is on more than 43,000 products. The suit also alleges that Nestle sold dairy from cows fed GMO grain, a violation of the non-profit's standards for its Product Verification Program.

01.08.2018 |

CFS Sues Trump Administration Over GMO Labeling Delay

Washington, D.C. – Today, Center for Food Safety (CFS) filed a federal lawsuit against the Trump administration for failing to abide by the mandatory deadlines Congress set in the 2016 genetically engineered (GE) food disclosure law. That law required that its regulations be finished by two years after its enactment, or July 29, 2018. Earlier this week Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), which is assigned to draft and issue the new labeling rules, missed the final rules deadline. So today CFS went to Court, in order to get a mandated schedule for completion and judicial oversight of USDA, to ensure timely completion of the rules.

"Americans have waited for decades for GE foods to be labeled, which Congress knew when it ordered USDA to get this done in a reasonable timeframe," said George Kimbrell, CFS Legal Director. "Trump, Perdue, and their corporate lobbyists may want indefinite delay and keeping Americans in the dark, but the law doesn't permit it."

31.07.2018 |

Repair of double-strand breaks induced by CRISPR–Cas9 leads to large deletions and complex rearrangements

Abstract

CRISPR–Cas9 is poised to become the gene editing tool of choice in clinical contexts. Thus far, exploration of Cas9-induced genetic alterations has been limited to the immediate vicinity of the target site and distal off-target sequences, leading to the conclusion that CRISPR–Cas9 was reasonably specific. Here we report significant on-target mutagenesis, such as large deletions and more complex genomic rearrangements at the targeted sites in mouse embryonic stem cells, mouse hematopoietic progenitors and a human differentiated cell line. Using long-read sequencing and long-range PCR genotyping, we show that DNA breaks introduced by single-guide RNA/Cas9 frequently resolved into deletions extending over many kilobases. Furthermore, lesions distal to the cut site and crossover events were identified. The observed genomic damage in mitotically active cells caused by CRISPR–Cas9 editing may have pathogenic consequences.

27.07.2018 |

Communities Raise Their Voices on Genetic Engineering

Crispr technology may allow scientists to change the environment forever, but working with the affected localities presents a challenge.

(.....)

Crispr, which stands for clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats, isn’t the first new technology to pose such complicated questions. But Crispr offers “the potential to control evolution and change future species,” says biochemist Kevin Esvelt, an assistant professor at the Cambridge, Mass.-based MIT Media Lab, where Mice Against Ticks was born.

Crispr is the immune system of bacteria. Scientists adapted Crispr and the Cas9 enzyme that it produces to serve as a tool to edit DNA in plants, animals and humans. Researchers soon realized that Crispr might be used not only to edit or repair genes of people living with diseases but also to edit embryos, changing the DNA of future generations. It could also be used to create a so-called “gene drive,” spreading engineered genetic changes through populations of wild animals but also altering the environment in unpredictable ways. With so much at stake, Dr. Esvelt says, scientists must not make such decisions by themselves.

25.07.2018 |

Industry shocked by EU Court decision to put gene editing technique under GM law

The European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday (25 July) that organisms obtained by mutagenesis plant breeding technique are GMOs and should, in principle, fall under the GMO Directive, in a surprising move that went contrary to the Advocate-General’s non-binding opinion.

The decision shocked the industry, which described it as a severe blow to innovation in EU agriculture and warned about economic and environmental consequences.

József Máté, Corporate Communications Leader at Corteva Agriscience, described the Court decision as a “bad day” for the EU agri-food sector.

(.....)

A ‘victory’

On the contrary, it was warmly welcomed by environmental NGOs, who said the EU shut the door to “new GMOs”. They hailed the Court’s decision and called it a victory for consumers, farmers and the environment.

Nina Holland, a campaigner from the Corporate Europe Observatory, said big agribusiness corporations will continue lobbying in Brussels to escape EU safety rules for the new GMOs.

“But today’s ruling leaves no doubt: Products from gene editing are covered by the existing EU GMO rules,” she said.

Similarly, Bart Staes MEP [Greens/EFA] noted that just because the industry has come up with new ways to modify organisms “does not mean that these techniques should be exempt from existing EU standards on GMOs.”

“Recent scientific studies show that these new techniques might not be as accurate as the industry claims them to be, that’s why it’s essential that they come under the same labelling requirements and impact assessments as existing GMOs,” he added.

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