Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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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

(.....)

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.”

16.01.2018 |

Growing opposition to patents on seeds

Seed giants still trying to expand their monopolies

16 January 2018

As a new report published today by No Patents on Seeds! shows, the European Patent Office (EPO) continues to grant patents on plants derived from conventional breeding – even though the contracting states urged the enforcement of relevant prohibitions in 2017. Around 25 patents were approved last year, despite the EPO officially claiming that it no longer grants such patents. The patents cover crops such as lettuce, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumber, grapes, sunflower, sorghum and soybeans. In response, there is growing opposition to EPO practice. And for the first time, a joint letter written by COPA/COGECA, No Patents on Seeds! and organisations from the organic sector has been sent to the EU Commission. COPA/COGECA is the largest farmers’ organisation in the EU and also represents many breeders.

Despite growing criticism, the seed giants are still trying to push their agenda of misappropriation of natural resources: Syngenta has asked the EPO to abolish existing restrictions. The company filed an appeal in August 2017, and this will be the subject of a public hearing at the EPO tomorrow.

15.01.2018 |

To Save Family Farms, We Must Oppose Monsanto-Bayer Merger

Iowa has lost nearly a third of its family farms since Senator Grassley’s election to Congress. The remaining farmers face a crisis. Crop prices have fallen by more than 50 percent since 2013, with no end in sight. In fact, farmers’ debt levels are almost as high as they were prior to the farm crisis of the mid-1980s and Iowa currently has the slowest growing economy of all 50 states.

Meanwhile, a wave of mergers among the world’s agricultural giants is upending the markets for fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds. If approved, the proposed merger would result in just two companies – Monsanto-Bayer and Dow-DuPont – controlling about three-quarters of the American corn seed market. The power that these corporations would hold in the seed market is unprecedented. The corn, soybeans, and cotton markets would be considered highly concentrated under the government’s own merger guidelines.

12.01.2018 |

Call to Action for 20 January 2018 - Stop the agro-industry!

Together for peasant-friendly farming, healthy food, animal welfare, global peasant rights and fair trade!

Four more wasted years of agricultural politics in Germany? We cannot afford that! Now more urgent than ever we need more regional and eco-friendly farming and healthy food for all! But there is something stopping this change: the powerful agri-business lobby. Enough of that! We have to make sure that politics finally follow the interests of people, instead of helping corporations to gain more power. That's why we - the powerful, colorful, and loud “We are fed up!” movement - must stand up to corporations and hold the new government to account.

We are fed-up with the fatal reality of the agro-industry - and we know how to do it better:

11.01.2018 |

Agri-Activism Opportunity

Are you a pro-active person, interested in sustainable agriculture, willing to get your hands dirty and your voice louder for a sustainable food system?

"Four weeks ago I left my ordinary Dutch life to give it a try: working on a remote organic farm in Wales and work on a sustainable food system. I knew I was going to learn a lot of new things but I didn't know I was going to have so much FUN!!" - Tosca Boot, Agri-Activist volunteer 2017

Every summer, we pair up four volunteers for placements on a beautiful, community-supported, organic, family farm in Wales. But this isn't ordinary WWOOFing – it is a two-in-one opportunity, during which you will tackle the problems of our current food system and work towards sustainable solutions.

The farm is run by Gerald Miles, a prominent campaigner who has been at the heart of the anti-GM movement in the UK for decades. Volunteers get hands-on experience in working on an organic farm rooted at the heart of a local community and get involved in planning and delivering campaigns to make the local area herbicide- and pesticide-free, as well as raising awareness about the risks of GMOs in agriculture.

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