Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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20.01.2018 |

Dr Vandana Shiva submits objection to Bayer-Monsanto Merger

Press Statement - Monsanto is pretending to have sold business to a four year old company Tierra Agrotech with a paid up capital of 1 lakh rupees. This needs urgent investigation: Dr Vandana Shiva

New Delhi, January 20, 2018: Raising objections to the proposed merger between Monsanto and Bayer, Dr Vandana Shiva on Saturday submitted her comments and objections to the Competition Commission of India through an email and courier.

Bayer-Monsanto merger if comes through will be the largest cash acquisition. It is pegged at USD 66 Billion. Not only will it have a huge impact on the agri-business of the Europe and United States, but will have consequences globally for farmers and citizens. The proposed merger is perhaps one of the biggest convergences of agribusiness and pharmaceuticals which will adversely affect competition and free trade not only in India but the world.

Speaking in this context Dr. Shiva said:”The Bayer Monsanto merger is not arithmetic issue of economic concentration. It is a political issue. If the mergers go through, it will be spelling the end of peoples’ rights, democracy and constitutional safeguards. In 20 years time Monsanto has illegally captured the cotton seed sector violating biosafety laws and corrupting regulatory agencies.”

She said, “Indian farmers have suffered for Monsanto’s profits and their Bt cotton has left a legacy of poison and death all over the cotton belts of India. Bt cotton which claimed to control pest has failed and now farmers are also dying because of pesticide poisoning.”

19.01.2018 |

European court suggests relaxed gene-editing rules

Judicial opinion says restrictive regulations may not apply to plants and animals bred using CRISPR technique.

Crops and drugs created using powerful gene-editing techniques such as CRISPR–Cas9 might not need to be regulated by the strict European Union rules that govern genetically modified organisms (GMOs), according to a formal opinion from an advocate general in the European Court of Justice.

European scientists have cautiously welcomed the carefully worded document, published on 18 January. They would like to use precise gene editing, which allows tiny changes to be made to a genome in a simple and highly controlled manner, to create hardier plant species or to improve medical treatments. But legal uncertainty about existing rules has hindered progress in Europe, say researchers.

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Bobek’s text says that there is nothing in the directive to stop member states from making their own rules for gene editing, raising the possibility of a patchwork of different rules applying in different member states, which critics say undermines the single market.

19.01.2018 |

Arkansas lawmakers OK ban on disputed herbicide dicamba

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. • Arkansas lawmakers on Friday approved banning an herbicide that farmers say has drifted onto crops where it wasn't applied and caused damage, but the prohibition still faces a legal challenge from a maker of the weed killer.

The Legislative Council, without discussion, approved the Plant Board's plan to ban dicamba from April 16 through Oct. 31. A subcommittee earlier this week recommended that the council — the Legislature's main governing body when lawmakers aren't in session — approve the proposal.

Dicamba has been around for decades, but problems arose over the past couple of years as farmers began to use it to kill invasive weeds in soybean and cotton fields where specially engineered seeds had been planted to resist the herbicide. The board proposed the ban after receiving nearly 1,000 complaints last year about the weed killer drifting onto fields and damaging crops not resistant to the herbicide. Arkansas is one of several states where farmers have complained about dicamba drifting.

19.01.2018 |

GM Crops Drive Increased Pesticide Use in Brazil

In Brazil, genetically modified (GM) crops were initially introduced illegally at the end of the 1990s and officially authorized in 2003. Six types of GM crops are authorized, but only three are effectively in use, namely, soybean, corn and cotton that are herbicide-resistant, insect-resistant or both.

A new study has identified and characterized changes in the patterns of use of pesticides and herbicides in Brazil from 2000 to 2012. The emphasis was on soybeans, the main commodity produced in the country, of which 90% of the crops are GM. In 2014, when pesticide sales in Brazil were the highest at US$12.2 billion, the cultivated area of GM crops reached 42.2 million hectares, which represented an increase of 1306.67% over the 3 million hectares registered in 2003.

The study found that contrary to the initial expectations of decreasing pesticide use following the adoption of GM crops, overall pesticide use in Brazil increased 1.6-fold between the years 2000 and 2012. During the same period, pesticide use for soybean increased 3-fold. However, this increase did not result in an increase in average productivity. The results obtained in this study agree with similar studies in the US, Argentina, and other parts of the world which strongly suggest that the adoption of GM crops increases pesticide use, specifically herbicides sprayed on soybean, with possible increases in environmental and human exposure and associated negative impacts.

18.01.2018 |

Modern mutagenesis techniques are GMOs according to the European Court of Justice Advocate General

On Thursday 18 January, the European Court of Justice published the opinion of its Advocate General on the legal statute of modern mutagenesis, including some of the techniques known as “new breeding techniques”.

This opinion confirms what civil society and the Greens/EFA have been claiming from the beginning: these are not “breeding techniques” but GMOs. This is a clear victory against a corporate newspeak aimed at creating false public acceptance.

However, it isn’t all good news. At the same time, the Advocate General opens the door for some of these techniques to be exempt from risk assessment, traceability and labelling. These potential exemptions are all the more unwelcome given that the criteria proposed by this opinion are vague and subject to controversy, including within the scientific community. More worryingly, whereas a long history of safe use had been up until now considered a pre-requisite to release any products from mutagenesis in the environment without a prior risk assessment, the Advocate general considers this to be unnecessary.

Green MEP Bart Staes comments: “It would be absolutely reckless and unacceptable if products legally defined as new types of GMOs were to be released without a case-by-case risk assessment and without any labelling. Farmers have the right to know what they sow, and citizens what they eat.”

18.01.2018 |

ECJ opens back door to new GMOs

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) today gave the first indication of how it will classify foods and crops derived from new genetic engineering techniques.

The opinion issued by one of the ECJ's Advocates General noted that even if all food and crops derived from new GM techniques were to be considered genetically modified organisms (GMOs), he keeps the door open to some of them not being subject to the same risk assessment, labelling, and monitoring as existing GMOs.

Mute Schimpf, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Farmers and consumers across the EU expect that any new approach to producing food and crops should be fully tested to make sure they are safe for the public and the environment.They will be counting on the European Court of Justice to not uphold today's opinion, and instead makes sure that all new genetically modified foods and crops are properly regulated."

18.01.2018 |

Special Committee on Glyphosate
Special Committee on Glyphosate

Glyphosate: European Parliament group presidents endorse Special Committee

PRESS RELEASE

Following a Greens/EFA initiative, the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament endorsed the mandate of a Special Committee to analyse and assess the authorisation procedure for pesticides today. The decision will be endorsed by the next plenary.

The committee will be composed of 30 members and will meet for nine months. The constituent meeting is expected in March 2018.

Co-presidents of the Greens/EFA group Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts:

"Thanks to the hard work of campaigners and environmentalists, the issue of glyphosate and other harmful pesticides has been brought to the forefront of the political debate. Through this committee, the Green/EFA group will seek to analyse the failings in the process that led to the renewal of the authorisation of glyphosate. In particular, we want to look at the work of the European agencies (EFSA and ECHA) and the German agency Bfr. We want Europe's agencies to be irreproachable in their assessment of potentially dangerous substances. The protection of public health and our environment must take precedence over any other consideration and requires total independence of scientific work."

17.01.2018 |

Syngenta fails at the European Patent Office

A patent on the breeding of maize will not be granted

17 January 2018

At a public hearing, the European Patent Office (EPO) today rejected an appeal filed by Syngenta. The company wanted the EPO to grant a patent on the breeding of higher-yield maize plants (EP2121982). At the same time, Syngenta also wanted the EPO to abolish existing restrictions in the field of plant and animal breeding that have only recently been put in place. The EPO also rejected this attempt.

Decisive for the EPO’s decision were technical reasons. Therefore, the content of the patent claims was not defined clearly enough. With this specific patent, maize plants with hereditary factors were to be crossed to achieve higher yielding offspring. However, as the description of the patents shows, the specific genes required to achieve these characteristics were unknown. In this particular instance, sequences of marker DNA that can indicate the presence of the desired genes were to be used for the selection of suitable plants.

17.01.2018 |

Commission and council dig in on GMO opt-outs

The issue of genetically modified organisms is heavily contested, with EU member states unable to reach a common position

The European Commission and the EU's national governments have passed each other the buck on who should make the first move on a heavily-criticised proposal on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food.

The proposal would allow EU member states to ban GMOs - even if those GMOs had received an EU-wide stamp of approval.

There are widely diverging views on the benefits - and dangers - of GMOs, and the EU can be roughly divided into one-third pro-GMO countries, one-third anti-GMO countries, and another third which abstains from voting in the approval process.

The commission has often seen itself forced to approve GMOs without the backing of member states, because no majority was either in favour – or against – it.

The current plan has been stuck in the legislative pipeline since 2015, after more than 80 percent of members of the European Parliament (EP) rejected it.

It can only become law if both the parliament and the Council of the EU – where national governments meet – agree on its content.

16.01.2018 |

Agribusiness First: Trump’s Farm Policy

Reducing Competition and Farmers’ Choices

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Another major merger, between global giants Bayer and Monsanto, appears to be next in line for regulatory approval. In January, prior to taking office, President-elect Trump met with officials from Bayer and Monsanto indicating that he would approve the proposed merger. In November, Trump’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an inter-agency body housed at the Department of Treasury, gave the merger the green light. The merger is still being reviewed by the Justice Department and European Union antitrust regulators have yet to approve the merger, expressing concerns about reduced competition, choices for pesticides and seeds, and prices for farmers.

If the Bayer-Monsanto merger is approved, the new company would be the world's largest vegetable seed company, world's largest cottonseed company, world's largest manufacturer and seller of herbicides and world's largest owner of intellectual property/patents for herbicide-tolerant traits, according to an analysis by civil society organizations.

“We have to buy seeds; they (Monsanto-Bayer) have us in a situation where we have to buy their product,” Texas farmer Dee Vaughan told the Texas Tribune. “But they still have the ability to go even higher on their prices.”

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