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09.12.2017 |

GM crop farmers may be held liable if they contaminate other properties

Western Australian growers of genetically modified crops may be held liable if they contaminate non-GM properties and produce in future.

An upper house standing committee parliamentary inquiry is examining compensation mechanisms for farmers who lose money because of contamination from genetically modified material.

Earlier this year, Greens MLC Diane Evers tabled a petition calling for farmer protection legislation to compensate any non-GM farmer who suffers a loss from GM contamination.

The petition was sparked by the Marsh versus Baxter case, where an organic farmer unsuccessfully sued his neighbour for GM canola contamination.

08.12.2017 |

Debate on Glyphosate Use Comes to a Head in Argentina

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 8 2017 (IPS) - In and around the city of Rosario, where most of Argentina’s soybean processing plants are concentrated, a local law banned the use of glyphosate, the most widely-used herbicide in Argentina. But two weeks later, producers managed to exert enough pressure to obtain a promise that the ban would be overturned.

This episode, which took place in November, reflects the strong economic interests at stake and the growing controversy surrounding the use of agrochemicals and their impact on people’s health and the environment.

“Agriculture in Argentine has undergone major changes in recent decades and consolidated its agroindustrial model, strongly based on soy, which displaced wheat and corn,” explained Emilio Satorre, professor and researcher at the University of Buenos Aires (UBA) department of agronomy.

“The sown area climbed from 15 to 36 million hectares, 60 to 65 percent of which are covered with genetically modified (GM) soy, while the use of phytosanitary products increased threefold. This system generated great wealth for the country, but of course it produces greater risks,” he told IPS.

08.12.2017 |

How Monsanto’s GM cotton sowed trouble in Africa

When America’s biotech giant tried to export its know-how to small cotton farmers in Burkina Faso, there was a problem: The quality sank.

BOBO-DIOULASSO, Burkina Faso - In 2000, farmers in Burkina Faso, Africa’s top cotton grower, were desperate. Their cotton fetched top prices because its high-quality fibre lent a luxurious sheen to clothing and bedsheets. But pests – bollworms – were threatening the crop.

Even when you dropped the bollworm larvae into a bucket of poison, farmers said, they kept swimming.

08.12.2017 |

GM plants in bird feed found in non-GMO Switzerland

Authorities have identified the presence of genetically modified oilseed rape in bird feed sold in Switzerland. This could provide a pathway for the release of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) into the environment.

Authorities have contacted bird feed importers to ensure GM seeds do not find their way into Switzerland, where a moratorium against all such crops is in place until 2021.

An assessment of bird feed carried out by national agricultural research centre Agroscope has revealed that 24 of 30 samples tested contain genetically modified oilseed rape. Eleven of these showed evidence of multiple contamination, some with up to three varieties of transgenic oilseed rape that are authorised as animal feed in the European Union: GT73, RF3, MS8. The majority showed a contamination rate of less than 0.5%.

07.12.2017 |

WA farmers could get compensation for cross-contamination of genetically modified crops

West Australian farmers whose crops are contaminated by genetically modified material could soon receive compensation for economic losses.

The standing committee on environment and public affairs will conduct a parliamentary inquiry into possible compensation schemes for costs incurred by farmers in cases of GM cross-contamination.

The inquiry was sparked by a petition from European consumer rights organisation Foodwatch, submitted by upper house Greens member Diane Evers in January.

“WA farmers should not lose their right to sell non-GM crops at a higher price due to the actions of another grower,” Ms Evers said on Thursday.

She said the committee had stated its intention to consider broader matters outside the terms of the petition.

07.12.2017 |

Greens/EFA group calls for Commission decision to be annulled

Glyphosate

The Greens/EFA group will try to build a majority in the European Parliament to refer the European Commission’s decision to renew the licence for glyphosate to the European Court of Justice.

The call follows a new report from Professor Olivier De Schutter, who served as the United Nations Special Rapporteur on the right to food from 2008 to 2014, outlining the reasons why the Commission's renewal should be annulled. The report is available on the Greens/EFA website.

05.12.2017 |

Criminal complaint filed against EU authorities after glyphosate approval

Approval was gained via covert industry influence and copy-pasting of manufacturers’ documents instead of independent evaluation, NGOs say

An alliance of environmental NGOs on Monday launched criminal proceedings in Austria, Germany, Italy, Portugal, and France against the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment, BfR, over the EU approval of glyphosate.

Citing their own investigations, US court documents (the so-called "Monsanto Papers"), and a report on plagiarism, the NGOs state that BfR and EFSA have not conducted an independent, objective and transparent assessment of the health risks of glyphosate, as required by the EU Pesticide Regulation 1107/2009. As a result, glyphosate has once again been approved in Europe, when it would otherwise have failed to meet the legal requirements for authorization. The NGOs are concerned that serious damage to health will occur as a result of what they term official misconduct.

03.12.2017 |

Gene Drive Files reveal covert lobbying tactics to influence UN expert group

This week, a UN expert group is meeting to address issues around so-called gene drives, a highly controversial genetic extinction technology with potential applications for agricultural, conservation or military use. The expert group (officially the Ad-Hoc Technical Expert Group, AHTEG, on Synthetic Biology) is convened by the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

One day ahead of the meeting, a large set of documents has been released, which show how this UN expert group process is being influenced by a covert operation run by a Gates-funded lobby firm. Following Freedom of Information requests by U.S.-based researcher Edward Hammond of Prickly Research, a large set of emails, the Gene Drive Files, was obtained. The correspondence reveals how external actors with a vested interest in the development of gene drives have organised amomg themselves to influence the work of the relevant UN expert group. The publication of the Gene Drive Files provides crucial and very worrying insights into these influencing attempts of the only UN process adressing this controversial but rapidly developing new technology.

Civil society organisations, including Corporate Europe Observatory, have sent a letter to Dr. Cristiana Paşca Palmer, Executive Secretary of the Convention on Biological Diversity, calling for urgent measures to address conflict of interest in the CBD, its Protocols and subsidiary bodies.

30.11.2017 |

New ‘Glyphosate-Free’ Label for Food and Beverages Is a Big Win for Humans and Bees!

In recent years, consumers have become more conscientious of the products they buy, leading to a number of certifications being added to labels of products, like “Gluten-Free,” “Non-GMO Project Verified,” “Vegan,” etc., and now there is a new label on the shelves — “Glyphosate Residue Free.”

Glyphosate is the world’s most commonly used herbicide that is typically known by the commercial name Roundup (a Monsanto-owned weed killer), and its presence has become a growing concern for conscious consumers. Extensive scientific studies have shown that glyphosate is detrimental to the health of humans, the environment, and animals, particularly bees.

The World Health Organization’ cancer agency declared the chemical to be a “probable human carcinogen” in 2015, and it has been shown to be an endocrine disruptor. Glyphosate is said to pollute up to 75 percent of U.S. air and water resources, and it is present in 90 percent of soybeans and 70 percent of corn grown in the U.S.

30.11.2017 |

Genome-edited foods must be labelled as GMOs – industry body

o preserve consumer transparency, Germany's new government must ensure that genome-edited plants do not escape GMO regulations and labelling, warns GMO-free food industry body VLOG

The "Ohne Gentechnik” (Without Genetic Engineering) sector is growing in Europe. As reported by VLOG, the German Association for Food Without Genetic Engineering, the number of members and licensees of VLOG has risen by 52 percent to over 600 companies in the past 12 months. This year, food manufacturers will turn over more than 4.6 billion euros with more than 7,000 foodstuffs bearing the "Ohne GenTechnik" seal.

Alexander Hissting, executive director of VLOG, warned that this booming industry needs a reliable political framework in order to fully exploit its economic potential. That means, he said, that the new coalition government must ensure that "genetically engineered plants do not make their way without labelling through the back door to the fields and supermarket shelves".

Hissting is referring to the new genetic engineering processes such as CRISPR/Cas. GMO proponents want plants produced by means of genome editing to be excluded from biotech regulations. This would put an end to the transparency and freedom of choice enjoyed by consumers with regard to genetically modified food. "Genetic engineering must be regulated and labelled as genetic engineering", Hissting said.

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