Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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02.06.2018 |

France will start labelling meat which was fed with genetically modified crops

Sustain member Beyond GM believes that labelling isn’t enough - we need to start producing food that people can trust.

French politicians have backed mandatory labelling for GM animal feed as part of the Food and Agriculture Bill. The bill will also make it mandatory for labels to include details of pesticide use used on fruit and vegetables.

If accepted by the Senate, the new labelling laws will start by January 2023. The on-pack information would have to include information on the conditions in which the animal were raised and whether they have had GM animal feed.

Pat Thomas, the director for Beyond GM (who are part of the Sustain alliance) believes that the UK should take note of the ruling in France:

“At the heart of the French action are the issues of provenance and authenticity of the food we eat, as well as its nutritional quality and safety. France has been very publicly struggling with these issues – and opening the doors to important conversations.

01.06.2018 |

In High Demand, Organic Soy and Corn Farmers Stand to Win

The United States is importing more organic corn and soybeans than it’s producing, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Despite a steady increase in demand for organic products among consumers, U.S. crop growers have been reluctant to make the switch from conventional crops, even if it could mean higher profits for farmers struggling with low commodity prices.

“Corn, soybeans and cotton have pretty much the lowest (organic) adoption level of any crop we grow in the U.S.,” said Catherine Greene, an agricultural economist at the USDA Economic Research Service. “We’re orders of magnitude lower in the adoption level of feed grains than we are for many of the fruits and vegetables.”

But soybeans and corn, the two crops that dominate much of the agricultural landscape in the Midwest, have become lucrative organic imports since the USDA implemented the National Organic Program in 2002.

(.....)

“We have had three large farms convert from conventional to organic in the last five years,” said Jim Traub, a merchandiser at Clarkson Grain Company near Cerro Gordo, Ill. “In 1992, we did not know what organic meant.”

Clarkson Grain Company processes both non-GMO and organic corn and soybeans. Farmers who sell non-GMO soybeans to Clarkson, even without the full organic distinction, have access to Japanese markets, where Midwestern beans are used in tofu, soymilk, and other food products.

Traub said it’s a relationship Clarkson has had with a Japanese trading company for more than 20 years that provides growers a $1.50 premium per bushel compared to genetically modified beans. Farmers who grow non-GMO corn see a premium of about 75 cents.

The price for organic corn and soybeans is even higher, paying farmers two to three times what they might make on a bushel of conventional grain.

But Traub said making the switch to full organic is not a quick and easy transition.

31.05.2018 |

Parliamentary consultation & decision making on SA’s Corporate Seed Bills a Sham!!

The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) is deeply concerned that South Africa’s draconian corporate seed Bills were approved by the Parliamentary Select Committee on the 22nd May 2018, with no substantial changes being made. This despite a number of provinces having rejected the Bills entirely on the basis that they did not adequately serve the interests of smallholder farmers, while other provinces proposed amendments to accommodate concerns before supporting the Bills. Indeed, Provincials came under heavy fire by farmers, non-governmental organisations and the public at large because the Seed Bills ignore and undermine the significant role that smallholders can and do play in the development, maintenance and conservation of genetic and agricultural biodiversity, and in food production and provision. Beyond this, the Bills criminalise the historical practices of saving, exchanging, and selling of farm-saved seed, and farmer varieties, instead of ensuring the protection of these systems, and ensuring that support is provided to strengthen these systems.

Mariam Mayet, Executive Director of the ACB asks “These Seed Bills are still based on apartheid style legislation and do not embed the transformative and empowering policies required by the country. The Seed Bills laws fail to concretely protect and promote smallholders and small-scale seed enterprises, and to support social justice and ecological integrity.”

31.05.2018 |

Academics Review: The Making of a Monsanto Front Group

Academics Review, a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization launched in 2012, claims to be an independent group but documents obtained by U.S. Right to Know revealed it is a front group set up with the help of Monsanto and its public relations team to attack agrichemical industry critics while appearing to be independent.

Covert industry funding

The Academics Review website describes its founders as “two independent professors,” Bruce Chassy, PhD, professor emeritus at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and David Tribe, PhD, senior lecturer at the University of Melbourne, Australia. As of May 2018, the website claims, “Academics Review only accepts unrestricted donations from non-corporate sources to support our work.”

However, tax records show that the primary funder of Academics Review has been the Council for Biotechnology Information, a trade association that is funded and run by the largest agrichemical companies: BASF, Bayer, DowDuPont, Monsanto and Syngenta.

According to CBI tax records, the industry-funded group gave Academics Review a total of $650,000 in 2014 and 2015-2016. Tax records for AcademicsReview.org report expenses of $791,064 from 2013-2016 (see 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016). The money was spent on organizing conferences and promoting GMOs and pesticides, according to the tax records.

Emails reveal secret origin of academic front group

31.05.2018 |

Exposing a Chemical Company

Dr Thom Davies, Research Fellow at the Department of Sociology, University of Warwick @ThomDavies

Many documentary photography projects attempt to reveal the structural violence that society has wrought. Monsanto: a photographic investigation by photographer Mathieu Asselin is more specific in its aim: it is a visual call for corporate responsibility. Drawing on the theme of temporality that pollution often creates, the photobook is a timeline that documents over 100 years of chemical harm. The book explains through word and image how the agrochemical company Monsanto has caused ecological, social, and health problems for countless people across the world.

“The book draws on a wide range of visual techniques to tell its dark story”

31.05.2018 |

Biofortified Partners with the Agrichemical Industry on PR Projects

Biology Fortified Inc., known as “Biofortified,” is a nonprofit organization that works closely with the agrichemical industry and its allies on public relations and lobbying campaigns to defend genetically engineered foods and pesticides and try to discredit industry critics.

Biofortified partners with agrichemical industry

This internal Monsanto document identifies Biofortified as an “industry partner” in Monsanto’s public relations plan to discredit the World Health Organization’s cancer research arm, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), to protect the reputation of Roundup weedkiller. In March 2015, an IARC expert panel judged glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, to be probably carcinogenic to humans.

The Monsanto PR document identified four tiers of industry partners the corporation planned to engage in its “preparedness plan” for the IARC cancer report. Biofortified is listed in “Tier 2,” along with Academics Review, AgBioChatter academics, Genetic Literacy Project and Sense About Science. These groups are are often cited as independent sources, but as the Monsanto plan and other examples indicate, they work behind the scenes with the agrichemical industry to protect corporate interests.

30.05.2018 |

GMO imported crops continue to enter the EU while the flawed authorisation process undergoes reform

2 objections to GMOs were voted today

Making GMO authorizations more democratic

Little by little, the European Parliament is trying to install more democracy and transparency into the EU decision processes. Indeed, following its Committee on Industry in April, the European Parliament’s Committee on Constitutional affairs (AFCO) just adopted a position which calls for profoundly reforming the way the EU approves GMOs, active substances contained in pesticides or any product or substance susceptible of having an impact on human health or the environment.

Indeed, the current system (called “comitology”) has been dysfunctional for years, in particular in relation to GMOs. When it comes to their authorisation, the EU Parliament only has a symbolic role in the matter, whilst Member States have been unable to reach a common decision for the last 3 years. This leaves the Commission alone to decide, and the threats from biotech companies to take the Commission to court has led it to deliver the requested authorizations, thereby systematically ignoring the Parliament’s position.

29.05.2018 |

Toxic Mega-Merger between Bayer and Monsanto gets approval from Department of Justice

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Department of Justice formally announced today its approval of the Bayer-Monsanto merger, contingent upon divestments from the two companies.

Tiffany Finck-Haynes, senior food futures campaigner with Friends of the Earth, issued the following statement in response:

This toxic mega-merger is another Trump Administration handout to an industry that’s poisoning people and the planet. The Department of Justice is prioritizing corporate profits instead of listening to the 1 million Americans who spoke out against the merger. DOJ also failed to listen to more than 93 percent of polled farmers who are concerned about the merger.

Americans deserve better than corporate monopolies that drive up food prices and put family farmers out of business. The DOJ’s weak divestment requirements will do nothing to stop Bayer-Monsanto from controlling more and more of our food system. This merger will damage the bargaining power of family farmers, prevent farmers from accessing diverse seed varieties, and allow seed prices to rise.

29.05.2018 |

DOJ Approval of Bayer-Monsanto Mega-Merger Hangs Farmers Out to Dry

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice approved the mega-merger of Bayer AG and Monsanto Co.

The Organization for Competitive Markets, which has fought on behalf of U.S. family farmers to block the mega-merger, issued the following statement:

“Today’s news makes it clear that our anti-monopoly laws are completely worthless and the U.S. Department of Justice merger review process is pointless. Economists have well established that there is a strong likelihood of market abuse when four companies control 45% of the market, and the fact that DOJ has now allowed one company to control 77% of all seed corn, 69% of all seed traits and 58-97% of the markets in cotton, soybeans, and canola, means DOJ has just authorized a monopoly.

America’s family farmers will pay the price for this action, and consumers will see fewer choices in the market. Where is the justice in the Department of Justice?”

It is clear to us that our laws don’t work for the people, and therefore our attention and our efforts must be focused on Capitol Hill to call on Congress to take action to stop agricultural mergers until stronger anti-monopoly laws are implemented.

For more information on U.S. farmers’ strong opposition to the merger, see our March 8, 2018 poll results.

27.05.2018 |

Cotton output under threat as non-Bt varieties found contaminated

LAHORE: The official comprehensive tests of cotton seeds have revealed that all non-Bt varieties, including standard elite lines, have been contaminated with Bt genes, leading to productivity losses due to growing resistance against the toxic protein, The News learnt on Saturday.

The Bt cotton has been genetically modified by the insertion of one or more genes from a common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). These genes encode for the production of insecticidal proteins, and thus, genetically transformed plants produce one or more toxins as they grow.

Pakistan Central Cotton Committee, in a meeting held in Multan, learnt that all the widely cultivated fifteen non-Bt cotton varieties, developed by public and private sector institutions, included in the biochemical test (BCT) under the National Coordinated Varietal Trials (NCVT) 2018 have emerged as contaminated.

According to the BCT results, compiled in accordance with the lab examination of four leading institutions, the standard elite varieties of CIM-620 and CRIS-129 developed by Central Cotton Research Institutes (CCRIs) located at Multan and Sakrand respectively, are also no more conventional seed types.

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