Planet Diversity World Congress on the Future of Food and Agriculture

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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.

30.11.2017 |

The time is ripe for a poison-free agriculture

In spite of the EU renewal of glyphosate, herbicides based on the chemical are on their way out and other agrochemicals must follow, says Dr Angelika Hilbeck

The German agriculture minister Christian Schmidt sparked outrage on Monday when he approved a five-year renewal of the EU licence for glyphosate, the active ingredient of Monsanto's flagship herbicide Roundup, in spite of opposition from the environment minister Barbara Hendricks. He apparently acted not only without the knowledge of Chancellor Angela Merkel but also counter to the agreed position of the coalition government.

Germany has abstained in past EU votes on glyphosate in deference to the lack of consensus within the government. Schmidt’s unilateral backing for glyphosate allowed the chemical to be re-approved with the backing of a qualified majority of member states, although the Commission was within its rights to approve it unilaterally if no qualified majority for or against was reached, as was the case in previous votes.

Schmidt and Hendricks belong to different political parties that were brought together in Merkel's last coalition government. In the wake of the recent elections in Germany, Merkel is struggling to form a new coalition. Schmidt's "rogue" behaviour on glyphosate has strained the already difficult negotiation process between the potential coalition partners.

27.11.2017 |

EU to renew glyphosate licence, ignoring concerns

Brussels – A qualified majority of European governments voted to approve the European Commission’s plan to grant a five-year unrestricted licence to glyphosate, a widely used weedkiller that has been linked to cancer and environmental harm.

The European Commission will now issue a formal renewal of the licence for glyphosate in the EU.

Reacting to the news, Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “The people who are supposed to protect us from dangerous pesticides have failed to do their jobs and betrayed the trust Europeans place in them. The European Commission and most governments have chosen to ignore the warnings of independent scientists, the demands of the European Parliament and the petition signed by more than one million people calling for a glyphosate ban. The threats of corporate lawsuits are of obviously of much greater concern to them than people’s health and the environment.”

Nine countries voted against the five-year licence (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Malta), while one country abstained (Portugal) and the other eighteen countries voted in favour (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain and the UK).

The Commission plan is based on a flawed health risk assessment of glyphosate, which states there is insufficient evidence of a cancer link, despite the WHO’s classification of the weedkiller as a probable cause of cancer.

27.11.2017 |

EU fails to seize opportunity to end glyphosate

EU Member States today supported a new five-year licence for the controversial weed-killer glyphosate, missing the opportunity to ban it completely and make European food and farming safer and more sustainable.

Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Glyphosate damages nature, probably causes cancer, and props up an industrial farming system that is degrading the land we need to feed ourselves. Today's approval, even if only for five years, is a missed opportunity to get rid of this risky weedkiller and start to get farmers off the chemical treadmill. Five more years of glyphosate will put our health and environment at risk, and is a major setback to more sustainable farming methods."

Glyphosate is the most widely-used weedkiller in the world and is used excessively by non-organic farmers, as well as in playgrounds, parks and other public places. Traces are found in many foods and drinks, as well as in the soil and water. Tests have also found glyphosate in the breastmilk and urine of people. In March 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IACR) concluded that glyphosate was genotoxic (alters DNA) and probably causes cancer.

The EU's food safety watchdog has given glyphosate a clean bill of health but has been accused of plagiarism by copying the main safety arguments from the industry's application. In addition, papers released in the USA reveal that the main producer of glyphosate, Monsanto, has been ghost writing safety studies, covertly paying European scientists and has unduly influenced regulatory authorities to support the continued use of glyphosate.

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