Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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16.10.2018 |

A picture from the FAO in Rome
A picture of some of the signers, who presented the call today at the FAO in Rome, not least also to the chairman of the CFS, Mario Arvelo, who participated in the event.-+--+-From left to right: Aisha Ali (IPACC, AFSA), Neth Dano (ETC), Pat Mooney (ETC), Benny Haerlin (SOS), Elisabeth Mpofu (Via Campesina), Mariann Bassey Orovwuje (AFSA, FoE), Sophia Monsalvo (FIAN), Tom Wakeford (ETC), Azra Talat Sayeed (IWA), Jan Urhahn (Inkota), Antonio Onorati (Via Campesina Europe)

Over 200 Global Food Movement Leaders and Organizations Reject "Gene Drives"

New Report exposes how a controversial genetic forcing technology is targeting the farm

Rome, 16 October 2018 (World Food Day) – Global food movement leaders and organizations representing hundreds of millions of farmers and food workers today set out their clear opposition to "gene drives" – a controversial new genetic forcing technology. Their call for a stop to this technology accompanies a new report, Forcing the Farm, that lifts the lid on how gene drives may harm food and farming systems.

Gene drives are a genetic engineering tool that aim to force artificial genetic changes through entire populations of animals, insects and plants. Unlike previous genetically modified organisms (GMOs) these gene drive organisms (GDOs) are deliberately designed to spread genetic pollution as an agricultural strategy – for example, spreading 'auto-extinction' genes to wipe out agricultural pests. Agri-research bodies now developing these extinction-organisms include the California Cherry Board, the US Citrus Research Board and the private California company Agragene Inc. Next month, the United Nations Biodiversity Convention will meet to discuss measures to control this technology, including a possible moratorium.

"There is no place in a good food system for these deliberately spreading organisms," says Mariann Bassey, chair of the African Food Sovereignty Alliance, whose 34 member organisations are among the 200+ groups and individuals who have signed the call against gene drives. "Gene drives may drive species to extinction and undermine sustainable and equitable food and agriculture," Bassey continued.

Those launching the call for a moratorium on gene drives in food and agriculture include all past and present UN Special Rapporteurs on the Right to Food; the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements; IUF (the International Union representing Food and Farmworkers); and La Via Campesina, the largest network of peasant movements representing 200 million peasants in 81 countries. Signatories also include well-known commentators on food matters including seed activist Vandana Shiva, World Food Prize winner Dr Hans Herren, International President of Friends of the Earth International Karin Nansen, Activist and Food entrepreneur Nell Newman, and environmentalist and geneticist David Suzuki.

"Applying gene drives to food systems threatens to harm farmers' rights and the rights of peasants as enshrined in international treaties," explains Dr Olivier De Schutter, who served as the UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food from 2008-2014. "Gene drives would undermine the realization of human rights including the right to healthy, ecologically-produced and culturally appropriate food and nutrition."

"La Via Campesina is firmly positioned against the gene drive technology. It is a threat to peasant economies, to people, countries and even the world's food sovereignty – a technique which threatens life, biodiversity and social systems, " said Genevieve LaLumiere, a Canadian young farmer of La Via Campesina. "This uncontrolled technology is dangerous and can contaminate our seeds, our animals and our soil; destabilize our ecosystems; and destroy our fundamental resources." Marciano Da Silva from Brasil Peasant Organisation (also of La Via Campesina) continued, "gene drive technology is, fundamentally, a tool for patentability of native traits of our peasant seeds."

08.10.2018 |

The world is against them: new era of cancer lawsuits threaten Monsanto

A landmark verdict found Roundup caused a man’s cancer, paving the way for thousands of other families to seek justice

Dean Brooks grasped on to the shopping cart, suddenly unable to stand or breathe. Later, at a California emergency room, a nurse with teary eyes delivered the news, telling his wife, Deborah, to hold out hope for a miracle. It was December 2015 when they learned that a blood cancer called non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) was rapidly attacking the man’s body and immune system.

By July 2016, Dean was dead. Deborah gets emotional recounting the gruesome final chapter of the love of her life. But in recent months, she has had reason to be hopeful again.

In an historic verdict in August, a jury ruled that Monsanto had caused a man’s terminal cancer and ordered the agrochemical corporation to pay $289m in damages. The extraordinary decision, exposing the potential hazards of the world’s most widely used herbicide, has paved the way for thousands of other cancer patients and families to seek justice and compensation in court.

08.10.2018 |

UK: Soil Association responds to George Eustice on genome editing

Soil Association rejects suggestion by farm minister George Eustice that the recent ECJ ruling on genome editing should be ignored

EXCERPT: “The Soil Association will continue to encourage the cultivation of open pollination seeds, which can help farmers adapt to a changing climate by breeding drought and pest tolerant plants. Breeding crops in this way has proven to be lower-cost, faster and more effective than GM, particularly when informed by new technologies like Marker Assisted Selection, based on our new knowledge of the genome.”

07.10.2018 |

Stakeholders warn against introducing GM maize seed

LAHORE: Stakeholders have warned the new government against experimenting with the healthy maize crop, saying farmers, dairy and livestock sector, seed producers and industrialists are satisfied with the increase in harvest.

The federal government is in consultation with the stakeholders for introducing imported genetically modified (GM) maize seeds in the near future. These seeds will be protected from some pests and will have tolerance against lethal pesticides.

The new technology, however, will be detrimental to the local maize varieties as it will contaminate them due to cross-pollination.

The stakeholders have fiercely opposed the large-scale import of costly and potentially hazardous GM maize seeds. They argue that the maize crop has been showing tremendous results and there is no major challenge to its cultivation that needs any intervention.

05.10.2018 |

How should we control the power to genetically eliminate a species?

The power to re-engineer or eliminate wild species using a “gene drive” needs to be brought under international governance, say Simon Terry and Stephanie Howard

(Stephanie Howard and Simon Terry, researchers for the Sustainability Council of New Zealand)

Thanks to a form of genetic engineering technology known as a gene drive, it is now possible to modify or even eliminate a wild species in its natural habitat, bypassing the laws of inheritance that have governed nature for millennia. The power to deliver “extinction to order” is potentially immense – as is the political challenge.

The technology works by driving a gene throughout a population, meaning the plants or animals containing the drives could impact ecosystems that cross not just country borders, but entire continents.

05.10.2018 |

Stop Monsanto shredding the rules on GMOs

Australian families risk eating untested, unlabelled genetically modified (GM) food – including animal products – because federal agencies which should be protecting us have sided with the biotech industry and are proposing to deregulate a range of risky new GM techniques.

Powerful, clear scientific evidence shows the potential risks that these new GM techniques pose. It’s vital that organisms produced using these techniques are assessed for safety before being released into our environment and supermarkets.

04.10.2018 |

Mexico’s new science minister is a plant biologist who opposes transgenic crops

MEXICO CITY—In early June, evolutionary developmental biologist Elena Álvarez-Buylla received an out-of-the-blue phone call from the campaign of Andrés Manuel López Obrador, then the front-runner in Mexico's presidential election, with a question. If López Obrador won, would she consider becoming the next director of the National Council of Science and Technology (Conacyt), the country's science ministry and primary granting agency? "My first reaction was to say, ‘I can't,’" recalls Álvarez-Buylla, a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) here. "I have a great passion for scientific research," and she couldn't imagine leaving the laboratory.

(.....)

Álvarez-Buylla led a team that confirmed the results of the 2001 study and has continued to hunt for transgenic DNA and any possible effects in Mexican landraces, work that helped her win Mexico's National Science Prize in 2017. She says she has nothing against genetic engineering in itself; her team creates and studies GM plants in the lab, and such experiments should not be prohibited or restricted, she says. "I'm not a Luddite who is scared of technology." But her own experiments have shown introduced genes can have unpredictable effects. "If a transgene is inserted in one part of [a plant's] genome, it can be silenced and have no effect. If it's inserted in another part, it can lead to a tremendous change," she says. That unpredictability makes it too risky to allow GM maize anywhere near Mexico's landraces, she argues. Planting GM maize in Mexico has been prohibited since 2013, pending the outcome of a lawsuit. Álvarez-Buylla has been an outspoken proponent of a permanent ban.

03.10.2018 |

New Study Shows Roundup Kills Bees

Glyphosate targets undesired weeds—as well as honeybees

The most widely sprayed herbicide in the world kills honeybees, according to a new report.

Glyphosate, an herbicide and active ingredient in Monsanto’s (now Bayer’s) Roundup weed killer, targets enzymes long assumed to be found only in plants. The product is advertised as being innocuous to wildlife. But some bacteria also use this enzyme, including a microbiome found in the intestines of most bees. When pollinators come in contact with glyphosate, the chemical reduces this gut bacteria, leaving bees vulnerable to pathogens and premature death.

“The bee itself has no molecular targets from glyphosate,” Nancy Moran, a biologist at the University of Texas at Austin and a coauthor of the study, told Environmental Health News. “But its gut bacteria do have targets.”

Moran and other scientists liken glyphosate exposure to taking too many antibiotics—and upsetting the balance of good bacteria that supports immunity and digestion.

“We all know that glyphosate is an antibiotic. It’s very toxic to bacteria. It’s even patented as an antibiotic,” says Nathan Donley, a senior scientist at the Center for Biological Diversity. “But very few researchers have actually dived into this issue. The good thing is, that’s starting to change.”

02.10.2018 |

Imported seeds fast replacing local varieties in Pakistan

KARACHI: Agriculture constitutes the largest sector of Pakistan’s economy and the majority of the population depends on it. It contributes about 24 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), accounts for half of the country’s employed labor force, and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings. It feeds the whole rural and urban populations of Pakistan.

The country has a rich biodiversity and multinational companies have realized this. Thousands of varieties of seeds, medicinal plants and herbs have been developed over hundreds of years by farming communities, who were well-equipped with indigenous knowledge of the local environment, climate and conditions for agricultural production.

But the day is not far off when the entire seed business will be controlled by seed companies, leaving local farmers totally dependent on imported or multinationals’ seeds.

01.10.2018 |

Call to Action 2018: Our Bread, Our Freedom

Food systems are either sources of nourishment forging the foundations of human health and well-being or one of the most substantial health risk factors.

An entire colonization of the earth, agriculture and our bodies has taken place over a century. Food and agriculture systems upon which we all depend have increasingly become industrialized and globalized. Commercial compulsions of current global agricultural and food systems, compounded by high levels of economic inequality are making healthy diets unavailable or unaffordable to large sections of the population in every part of the world.

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