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10.01.2018 |

EU Commission uses the Christmas period to grant authorisation for imports of genetically engineered soybeans

A gift made to Bayer and Dow without anyone knowing

Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The EU Commission has granted six further authorisations for genetically engineered plants, including some controversial genetically engineered soybeans with triple herbicide resistance.

The decision to grant authorisation was made on the quiet by the EU Commission during the Christmas holiday period. Testbiotech has proven that the real risks from consumption of these soybeans were not investigated. But the EU Commission failed to respond to any of these scientific arguments. Instead, a letter dated 21 December was sent to Testbiotech in which the Commission set out purely formalistic arguments to the effect that no new evidence had been provided. The letter was sent at the same time the EU Commission made their decision to give green light for the soybeans, without mentioning in the letter.

10.01.2018 |

Glyphosate: A victory for corporate lobbying, not science

In November 2017, EU member States narrowly voted for a five-year reauthorisation of glyphosate, the world’s most widely used weedkiller. While this is far from the fifteen-year license the agrochemical industry was pushing for, the result was a major disappointment to PAN and other organisations campaigning to protect the environment and human health from the harmful impacts of pesticides. It was also a slap in the face to the millions of European citizens who signed petitions calling for glyphosate to be banned.

Straight after the vote, the pro-glyphosate PR machine went into overdrive declaring the decision ‘a major victory for science and common sense’ over supposedly dishonest and uninformed environmentalists. The petrifying thing about this false narrative – fostered successfully for decades by the agrochemical industry – is that it is winning.

08.01.2018 |

GMOs, Global Agribusiness And The Destruction of Choice

One of the myths perpetuated by the pro-GMO (genetically modified organisms) lobby is that critics of GMOs in agriculture are denying choice to farmers and have an ideological agenda. The narrative is that farmers should have access to a range of tools and technologies, including GM crops.

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It is convenient to paint critics of GMOs as being authoritarian and possessing an ideological agenda. Whether it is Bayer, Monsanto or one of the other major agritech/agribusiness concerns, the real agenda is clear: elite commercial interests and the maximisation of profit for shareholders are the driving forces behind GM agriculture.

Critics of GMOs and transnational corporations did not have a leading role in drafting the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights to create seed monopolies. Monsanto did. Critics did not write the WTO Agreement on the Application of Sanitary and Phytosanitary Measures. The global food processing industry had a leading role in that (see this). Whether it involves Codex, the Knowledge Initiative on Agriculture aimed at restructuring Indian agriculture or the proposed US-EU trade deal (TTIP), the powerful agribusiness/food lobby has secured privileged access to policy makers.

From the World Bank’s ‘enabling the business of agriculture’ to the Gates Foundation’s role in opening up African agriculture to the global food and agribusiness oligopolies, democratic procedures at sovereign state levels have been bypassed to impose seed monopolies and proprietary inputs on farmers and to incorporate them into a global supply chain dominated by powerful corporations.

From the destruction of indigenous agriculture in Ethiopia to the ongoing dismantling of Indian agriculture at the behest of transnational agribusiness, where is the ‘choice’?

04.01.2018 |

Whitewash by Carey Gillam

The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science

It’s the herbicide on our dinner plates, a chemical so pervasive it’s in the air we breathe, our water, our soil, and even found increasingly in our own bodies. Known as Monsanto’s Roundup by consumers, and as glyphosate by scientists, the world’s most popular weed killer is used everywhere from backyard gardens to golf courses to millions of acres of farmland. For decades it’s been touted as safe enough to drink, but a growing body of evidence indicates just the opposite, with research tying the chemical to cancers and a host of other health threats.

In Whitewash, veteran journalist Carey Gillam uncovers one of the most controversial stories in the history of food and agriculture, exposing new evidence of corporate influence. Gillam introduces readers to farm families devastated by cancers which they believe are caused by the chemical, and to scientists whose reputations have been smeared for publishing research that contradicted business interests. Readers learn about the arm-twisting of regulators who signed off on the chemical, echoing company assurances of safety even as they permitted higher residues of the herbicide in food and skipped compliance tests. And, in startling detail, Gillam reveals secret industry communications that pull back the curtain on corporate efforts to manipulate public perception.

02.01.2018 |

Shhhh. The “Gene Silenced” Apple Is Coming.

Will you know it when you see it at the grocery store?

The Arctic Golden apple, the first genetically modified apple available to consumers, is making its way to grocery store shelves. I’m an apple loyalist—I pack one as an after-lunch snack nearly every day of the week. So I jumped at the chance to sample this new version of the fruit at a fall event hosted by the environmental technology think tank the Breakthrough Institute in San Francisco. The apple was crisp and mildly sweet, and pretty much tasted to me like any normal Golden Delicious apple. But there was one difference: When I let a slice sit on my plate for half an hour, it never turned brown.

The apple is the handiwork of Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc., a company based in Canada with orchards in Washington. Since receiving approval from the US Department of Agriculture in 2015, the company has been finessing several genetically engineered apples: The Arctic Golden has arrived at select grocery stores around the Midwest (though Okanagan wouldn’t specify which stores), and the Arctic Granny and the Arctic Fuji are in the works.

28.12.2017 |

Combinatorial Effects of Stacked GM Plants Deserve Proper Assessment

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has a leading role to give scientific advice to the EU Commission, the European Parliament and to the EU member-states. EFSA advice is aimed at protecting consumers and the food chain.

Recent GM plants tend to include both insect resistance and herbicide tolerance traits. Some of these ’stacked’ GM plants have multiple Cry-toxinsexpressed as well as tolerance to several herbicides. This means that non-target organisms in the environment (biodiversity) will be co-exposed to multiple stressors simultaneously, raising concerns over combinatorial or interactive effects. Industry data has showed that stacked Bt expressing plants may express higher levels of distinct Cry-toxins compared with the mother lines. A similar co-exposure may happen to consumers through chemical residues in the food chain.

EFSAhas expressed scientific interest in and requested for research on such combinatorial effects. A recent journal article discusses EFSA's response to one such study submitted by Bohn et al. in 2016.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/29155358/

26.12.2017 |

Banana growers oppose GM field-testing in Mindanao

DAVAO CITY — Major banana growers and exporters said they oppose a plan to conduct field-testing of genetically modified (GM) bananas in Mindanao, saying this will affect the marketability of the region’s produce.

Stephen A. Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association, Inc. (PBGEA), said in an interview last week that such trials pose a danger to the country’s second-biggest agricultural export commodity as “it might send a wrong signal to the markets where we sell our bananas.”

Mr. Antig said those behind the plan to conduct the test should consult industry stakeholders.

“They must remember that any news will have a very huge impact on the industry,” he cautioned.

It was reported on a local television network in November that researchers from Australia are planning to carry out field trials for GM bananas that will address Fusarium wilt, also known as the Panama disease.

24.12.2017 |

Violating the Sacred: GMO Chestnuts for the Holidays?

VIOLATING THE SACRED: GMO CHESTNUTS FOR THE HOLIDAYS?

GENETIC ENGINEERING IS NO GIFT TO FUTURE GENERATIONS

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Deregulation of the GE American Chestnut

William Powell, lead American chestnut scientist at SUNY/ESF recently announced his team is almost ready to apply for Federal deregulation to allow them to distribute their GE trees, free of charge, in hopes they will be planted in great numbers. Some of these GE trees, modified with a wheat gene, will be planted near surviving disease resistant non-GMO American chestnut trees. The goal is for the GE tree to cross pollinate with the others and create the next generations of disease-resistant offspring.

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Powell and his team, along with researchers from North Carolina State University, have spent considerable time with stakeholders from the Oneida Nation in New York State. They, along with their brother nations of the Haudenasaunee, hold vast swaths of eastern woodland areas where a majority of the wheat-altered GE chestnuts could be planted. Support for this plan has been mixed. Traditional elders remind us that communication with these natural entities is a key element in medicinal efficacy. By changing its genetic makeup it is a totally different and foreign organism. Tom Goldtooth, an elder and executive director of the Indigenous Environmental Network has said that GE trees have no soul. Others, however, are cautiously optimistic and are taking a wait and see approach.

20.12.2017 |

Glyphosate: A Toxic Legacy

Journalist and Author Carey Gillam Shares Decades of Research into Monsanto and its Ubiquitous Weed Killer

Carey Gillam is a Kansas-based journalist turned glyphosate geek. Her first book, Whitewash: The Story of a Weed Killer, Cancer, and the Corruption of Science, fills a gaping hole in the literature and is getting excellent reviews. Erin Brockovich says Whitewash “reads like a mystery novel as Gillam skillfully uncovers Monsanto’s secretive strategies.” Publishers Weekly says, “Gillam expertly covers a contentious front” and paints “a damning picture.” And Booklist calls it “a must-read.” Gillam brings more than 25 years in the news industry covering corporate America to her project investigating Monsanto’s premier product and the malfeasance that surrounds it. During her 17 years employed by the global news service Reuters, she developed her specialty in the big business of food and agriculture.

20.12.2017 |

Synthetic Biology and Relevant International Law By Lim Li Ching

About the Book

SYNTHETIC biology has been operationally defined as “a further development and new dimension of modern biotechnology that combines science, technology and engineering to facilitate and accelerate the understanding, design, redesign, manufacture and/or modification of genetic materials, living organisms and biological systems”. The complexity and novelty of the technology present significant challenges in terms of its governance and regulation.

This booklet looks at the multilateral treaties that apply to various aspects of synthetic biology, including, most notably, the Convention on Biological Diversity and its Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety. Nevertheless, gaps still exist in the international legal framework when it comes to addressing all the potential negative impacts resulting from the application of synthetic biology techniques. In view of this, the author sets out several elements and principles that could underpin a more holistic regulatory approach towards this emerging new technology.

Lim Li Ching has a B.Sc. in Ecology and an M.Phil. in Development Studies. She is a Researcher with the Third World Network and coordinates its biosafety programme. She is currently a member of the Ad Hoc Technical Expert Group on Socio-economic Considerations, established by Parties to the Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety.

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