Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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11.07.2017 |

Biotech Industry Cultivates Positive Media—and Discourages Criticism

In April 2016, Monica Eng of WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR station, published a critical story revealing that the agrichemical giant Monsanto had quietly paid a professor at the University of Illinois to travel, write, and speak about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and even to lobby federal officials to halt further GMO regulation. In a grueling, year-long reporting project, Eng uncovered documents proving that Monsanto made the payments to University of Illinois professor Bruce Chassy, and that he advised Monsanto to deposit money in the university’s foundation, where records are shielded from public disclosure.

“I knew that this would be a big story,” Eng says.

What she didn’t expect was the massive blowback: The university accused her of being an activist, not a journalist, and she was hounded by Twitter trolls who jumped on her story and waged a campaign to discredit her personally.

“I’ve worked as a professional journalist in Chicago for more than three decades,” Eng says. “I’ve uncovered questionable activity in government groups, nonprofits, and private companies. But I don’t think I have ever seen a group so intent on trying to personally attack the journalist covering the issue.”

Eng’s experience is just one example of a strategy first invented by Big Tobacco to smear critics, spin reporters, and tamp down information that could damage the industry’s image.

“I don’t think I have ever seen a group so intent on trying to personally attack the journalist covering the issue.”

—Monica Eng

08.07.2017 |

Dicamba Ban: Missouri Joins Arkansas in Halting Sale and Use of the Herbicide

Yesterday (July 8, 2017) the Missouri Department of Agriculture joined the Arkansas Plant Board in banning the use and sale of dicamba herbicide. The Missouri ban is effective immediately while the Arkansas ban will take effect on Tuesday, July 11.

Missouri’s Stop Sale, Use or Removal Order includes the following dicamba pesticide products labeled for agricultural uses.

05.07.2017 |

5 GMOs authorized for import in the EU without any political support

5 GMO authorizations were published yesterday, without any political support, neither from the Member States nor from the European Parliament. This is further proof that the decision process concerning GMOs needs to be changed quickly to a more democratic and more transparent one. The Greens/EFA are actively working to that end.

The European Commission yesterday published regulations authorizing the use of four new GM plants in food and feed: two cottons (from Monsanto and Bayer), and two maize strains (from Syngenta and Dow Agrosciences)[1]. They also renewed the authorization of the well-known maize Mon 810 from Monsanto for use in food and feed.

None of these authorizations received political support from the Member States, as they have been repeatedly unable to gather the qualified majority needed during the votes.

All of these authorizations, however, were disavowed by the European Parliament, who voiced objections against each of them, every time with comfortable voting majorities. The reasons for these objections are numerous: tolerance to herbicides dangerous for the environment and in certain cases, for health, unacceptable shortcomings in the evaluation etc. But what this really demonstrates is the inadequacy of the decision-making process concerning GMO authorization, a fact that had already been acknowledged by Jean-Claude Juncker back in 2014.

In February, the European Commission published a draft to reform this process. We welcome the opening of this much-needed debate; however, the Commission’s proposal is insufficient to reach a truly democratic decision-making procedure.

29.06.2017 |

Still no solution regarding patents on plants and animals

by No Patents on Seeds

The 38 Contracting States of the European Patent Office (EPO) at their meeting in The Hague decided to strengthen prohibitions in European patent law in regard to the breeding of plants and animals.

However, at the same time, new loopholes have been created that will allow the relevant prohibitions to be eroded. As a result, the EPO will shortly resume granting patents on conventionally bred plants and animals. Already in May 2017, companies were informed that several patents on plants derived from random mutations are ready to be granted. The legal and political controversy will continue.

"Pressure from civil society succeeded in strengthening current prohibitions in European patent law. But this is not yet a long term solution," says Christoph Then, spokesperson for "No Patents on Seeds!" The EPO and big business will continue to abuse patent law to privatise the resources of daily food production. In reaction, we will maintain our pressure on political decision-makers."

28.06.2017 |

World’s First GM Fish Factory Needs Risk Assessment

PEI Approval of Rollo Bay facility puts wild salmon at risk, groups say

Charlottetown, June 27, 2017: Today, local and national environmental groups expressed profound concern over a decision by the Government of Prince Edward Island to approve construction of the world’s first factory to grow genetically modified (GM, also called genetically engineered) fish.

“GM salmon poses a major risk to wild salmon, yet there has been no federal scientific assessment of the commercial production of this organism,” said Mark Butler of Ecology Action Centre. “A recent parliamentary report raised serious concerns about the approval process for GM animals and the federal minister of the Environment needs to step in right away.”

26.06.2017 |

Through the back door: European Patent Office wants to expand patenting of plants and animals

Important political decision on prohibitions in European patent law expected this week

26 June 2017

On Wednesday this week, the 38 contracting states of the European Patent Office will meet in La Hague to make a decision on the future interpretation of existing prohibitions in European patent law in regard to the breeding of plants and animals. The EU Parliament and the EU Commission are demanding that such patents are confined to genetic engineering. According to a proposal presented by the EPO, some of these patents will indeed no longer be granted in future. However, at the same time, new loopholes are being created that will allow the avoidance of the relevant prohibitions. Consequently, it is more than likely that there will be an overall increase in the number of patents granted on conventional breeding.

European patent law already prohibits patents on “essentially biological processes” i.e. breeding processes that do not use genetic engineering for the breeding of plants and animals. Nevertheless, the EPO has in the past granted several patents on plants bred through crossing and selection or other random processes, such as mutations. According to current proposal of the EPO, in future patents will only be refused if they claim plants or animals directly produced by crossing and selection. However, the prohibitions will become immediately ineffective and invalid for these plants or animals if a specific genetic condition is claimed.

26.06.2017 |

Glyphosate: Appeals Court Denies Monsanto's Request for Reconsideration Post Controversial Reuters Story

Monsanto, the maker of the glyphosate-based herbicide Roundup, filed a motion June 16 in U.S. District Court, Northern District of California to reconsider the chemical's addition to California's Proposition 65 list of agents known to cause cancer.

The agrochemical giant made this move based on a June 14 Reuters investigation of Dr. Aaron Blair, a lead researcher on the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) committee, that classified glyphosate as a "2A probable human carcinogen" in March 2015.

On June 22, Monsanto's petition for review and application for stay were denied by the court.

Earlier this year, California became the first state to consider requiring Monsanto to label glyphosate as a chemical "known to the state to cause cancer" in accordance with the Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986, better known as Prop 65. The designation was compelled by the IARC's glyphosate classification.

Glyphosate is at the center of hundreds of cancer lawsuits in which plaintiffs across the U.S. claim that they or their loved ones developed non-Hodgkin's lymphoma due to exposure to Monsanto's Roundup, pointing in part to the IARC cancer classification.

23.06.2017 |

Syngenta Loses $218 Million Verdict in First GMO Trial Test

Syngenta AG was ordered to pay $217.7 million to a group of Kansas farmers who claimed the company carelessly marketed its genetically modified corn seed, causing contamination of U.S. crops and a rejection of export sales to China by officials there.

A Kansas jury issued the verdict Friday in the first trial brought by U.S. farmers alleging Syngenta caused five years of depressed corn prices. Several other trials are pending as lawyers pursue suits on behalf of some 350,000 corn growers claiming as much as $13 billion in losses.

23.06.2017 |

The EPA Quietly Approved Monsanto's New Genetic-Engineering Technology

It’s the first time RNA interference will be used to kill insect pests.

DvSnf7 dsRNA is an unusual insecticide. You don’t spray it on crops. Instead, you encode instructions for manufacturing it in the DNA of the crop itself. If a pesky western corn rootworm comes munching, the plant’s self-made DvSnf7 dsRNA disrupts a critical rootworm gene and kills the pest.

This last step is called RNA interference, or RNAi, and the Environmental Protection Agency last week approved the first insecticide relying on it. Just a few years ago, RNAi was the hot, new biotechnology generating both hype and controversy. But its first approval as an insecticide has been surprisingly low-key. The EPA’s decision attracted little attention from the press or even from environmental groups that reliably come out against new genetically modified crops.

The first product DvSnf7 dsRNA will show up in is SmartStax Pro, a line of genetically modified corn seeds made in collaboration between two agricultural giants, Monsanto and Dow. The RNAi part comes from Monsanto, which has its eye on a number of RNAi applications. Monsanto expects corn seed with RNAi to be on the market by the end of this decade.

23.06.2017 |

Dicamba: Arkansas Tries To Stop An Epidemic Of Herbicide Damage

Arkansas's pesticide regulators have stepped into the middle of an epic battle between weeds and chemicals, which has now morphed into a battle between farmers. Hundreds of farmers say their crops have been damaged by a weedkiller that was sprayed on neighboring fields. Today, the Arkansas Plant Board voted to impose an unprecedented ban on that chemical.

"It's fracturing the agricultural community. You either have to choose to be on the side of using the product, or on the side of being damaged by the product," says David Hundley, who manages grain production for Ozark Mountain Poultry in Bay, Arkansas.

The tension — which even led to a farmer's murder — is over a weedkiller called dicamba. The chemical only became a practical option for farmers a few years ago, when Monsanto created soybean and cotton plants that were genetically modified to survive it. Farmers who planted these new seeds could use dicamba to kill weeds without harming their crops.

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