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16.11.2017 |

Gene Drives Are Too Risky for Field Trials, Scientists Say

In 2013, scientists discovered a new way to precisely edit genes — technology called Crispr that raised all sorts of enticing possibilities. Scientists wondered if it might be used to fix hereditary diseases, for example, or to develop new crops.

One of the more intriguing ideas came from Kevin M. Esvelt and his colleagues at Harvard University: Crispr, they suggested, could be used to save endangered wildlife from extinction by implanting a fertility-reducing gene in invasive animals — a so-called gene drive.

When the genetically altered animals were released back into the wild, the fertility-reducing gene would spread through the population, eradicating the pests.

15.11.2017 |

The EU glyphosate timeline

9 November 2017

A new Commission proposal for a 5-year, unrestricted glyphosate licence fails to receive the support of a qualified majority of EU countries.

To come:

27 November 2017

The Commission is to present and possibly amend its proposal for a 5-year, unrestricted glyphosate licence in the appeals committee of higher level member state representatives.

End of November 2017

EFSA is to publish an opinion on the impact of glyphosate residues in feed on animal health, and a review of maximum residue levels in food and feed.

Early December 2017

The Commission is to take a final decision based on the appeal committee vote by EU governments. In July, European Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis said: “I wanted to make clear that the Commission has no intention to reapprove this substance without the support of a qualified majority of member states. This is and will remain a shared responsibility”.

15 December 2017 The current EU approval for glyphosate expires.

10.11.2017 |

EU hits deadlock over Roundup herbicide license extension

BRUSSELS • European Union countries deadlocked on Thursday on the future of weedkiller glyphosate that some experts say causes cancer, with the European Commission urging them to reconsider its proposal to allow its use to continue for five years.

Europe has been wrestling for two years over what to do with the chemical, a key ingredient in Monsanto Co.'s top-selling weedkiller Roundup.

The chemical has been used by farmers for more than 40 years, but its use was cast in doubt when the World Health Organization's cancer agency concluded in 2015 it probably causes cancer.

The European Chemical Agency said in March this year, however, there was no evidence linking it to cancer in humans.

On Thursday, the European Union's 28 countries failed to approve or reject the Commission's proposal for a five-year extension to the license allowing glyphosate to be used.

Fourteen countries voted in favor, nine against and five abstained, not enough to secure a "qualified majority" under EU voting rules, the Commission said, adding that it would resubmit its proposal by the end of November, before the current authorization expires on Dec. 15.

10.11.2017 |

Glyphosate deadlock remains, with clear lack of political support for reapproval

EU Member States today failed to agree on the renewal of the herbicide Glyphosate, after a proposal from the European Commission to extend its license for five years. Its current license for use in the EU runs out on December 15.

Adrian Bebb, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Overwhelming public pressure is paying off, with a clear lack of political support to extend the licence for glyphosate. This weedkiller locks in reckless industrial farming, damages nature and probably causes cancer. When the final decision comes around, there's only one responsible option – take it off the market immediately, and support farmers to help them get off the chemical treadmill."

09.11.2017 |

EU governments reject Commission push for glyphosate |

Brussels - European governments have again refused to support a European Commission plan to grant a shortened but unrestricted licence for glyphosate, Europe’s most widely used weedkiller that has been linked to cancer and environmental harm.

The Commission is now expected to take the same proposal to a vote in the so-called appeals committee, where it is also expected to fail. Thereafter, the Commission has the power to adopt its own proposal without the backing of European governments.

09.11.2017 |

Food is culture, food is life, food is ritual: Conference examines ethics of synthetic biology

What if scientists could code DNA as easily as engineers code software? If everything from veggie burgers to opiates could be grown and synthesized completely in a lab? If data could be uploaded and stored on a strand of DNA?

With the advent of new genetic technologies, these questions are no longer hypothetical.

A conference hosted by the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches that ran from November 2-4 in Toronto, Ont., aimed to address new technologies and examine the ethics of the field of “synthetic biology.”

A panel discussion, entitled “Redesigning Life: Synthetic Biology, New Genetic Engineering and Ethics,” took place Friday evening, November 3, as part of the conference, “Redesigning the Tree of Life: Synthetic Biology and the Future of Food.”

09.11.2017 |

EU governments reject Commission push for glyphosate

Brussels - European governments have again refused to support a European Commission plan to grant a shortened but unrestricted licence for glyphosate, Europe’s most widely used weedkiller that has been linked to cancer and environmental harm.

The Commission is now expected to take the same proposal to a vote in the so-called appeals committee, where it is also expected to fail. Thereafter, the Commission has the power to adopt its own proposal without the backing of European governments.

Reacting to the news, Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “The Commission is trying to ram through a new glyphosate licence despite massive scandals surrounding its main maker and the EU’s own risk assessment. A new licence is a new licence, regardless of its length. If the Commission continues to allow this toxic chemical to contaminate our soils, water, food and bodies, it is simply rewarding Monsanto for obscuring the dangers linked to its weedkiller. The EU needs to ban it now, not in three, five or ten more years.”

Since early 2016, the Commission has backed an unrestricted EU licence for glyphosate. On six occasions it failed to garner sufficient support for its proposal from European governments (on 8 March 2016, 19 May 2016, 6 June 2016, 24 June 2016 and 25 October 2017). Nine countries representing 32.26% of the EU population voted against a five-year renewal of the glyphosate licence (Austria, Belgium, Greece, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Italy, Luxembourg, Malta), while five countries representing 30.79% of the EU population abstained (Bulgaria, Germany, Poland, Portugal and Romania). Fourteen countries voted in favour representing 36.95% of the EU population (Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania, Finland, Hungary, the Netherlands, Slovenia, Slovakia, Sweden and the U.K.).

09.11.2017 |

EU fails again to agree glyphosate renewal

Member states divided

In order to find a deal, member states have to reach a qualified majority. This means that 55 percent of the EU countries, representing 65 percent of the European population, have to agree on the proposal.

Out of the 28 EU member states, 14 voted in favour of the five-year proposal, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Slovenia and United Kingdom.

The same countries, with the addition of Romania and Poland (now abstaining) had backed the previous 10-years proposal, with Spain initially not willing to accept years as a renewal time.

On the other hand, nine EU members states voted against the proposal, namely Belgium, Greece, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, and Austria.

France was willing to further reduce the five-year proposal.

The five member states that abstained comprised Germany (where talks to form a government coalition that would include the Greens party are underway), as well as Bulgaria, Poland, Portugal and Romania.

09.11.2017 |

EU fails to agree licence renewal for controversial glyphosate weedkiller

With a deadline just weeks away, the European Union failed Thursday to break a hardening stalemate on whether to renew the licence for the widely-used weedkiller glyphosate, which critics fear causes cancer.

The European Commission said it fell short of the majority needed to renew the license for five years when it expires December 15, as only half of the 28 member states voted for its proposal.

"Given that a qualified majority could not be reached ... the result of the vote is 'no opinion,'" said the commission, the EU's executive and regulatory arm.

The latest result was hailed by environmental campaigners, including those who rallied outside EU headquarters to mock US agro-food giant Monsanto, the maker of the best-selling glyphosate product Roundup.

"Today we have seen that the seventh attempt of the European Commission to renew Glyphosate has failed again," said Luis Morago, Avaaz campaign director.

"Monsanto wanted 15 more years and they can't even get five."

The European Commission, which had originally recommended approving the herbicide's use for another decade, said it will now submit its proposal to an appeals committee by the end of November.

09.11.2017 |

EU fails to agree on glyphosate license renewal

The European Commission has again hit a wall in renewing the approval for the weedkiller glyphosate. The vote comes after 18 months of agonizing over the controversial herbicide.

The European Union on Thursday voted on whether to prolong the use of the common but controversial herbicide glyphosate within its borders, but failed to reach a consensus.

The proposal to renew the EU license for glyphosate for another five years failed to a reach a qualified majority, meaning a decision has again been postponed, according to lawmakers. The current license is due to expire on December 15, but there is an 18 month grace period.

Fourteen countries voted in favor of the renewal, nine against, while five, including Germany, abstained from voting. The proposal could now be referred to an appeal committee, or alternatively the Commission could draw up a new proposal to be voted upon.

"No qualified majority for glyphosate renewal in vote today," said Luxembourg's Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg on Twitter. Belgian Agriculture Minister Denis Ducarme confirmed the result.

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