International News

2014-10-23 |

Patents on plants and animals a threat to food sovereignty, new report warns

Broccoli Patent on the severed broccoli (Photo: Cookthinker/flickr)

The European Patent Office (EPO) has already granted several thousand patents on plants and seeds, with an increasing number of patents on plants and seeds derived from conventional breeding, according to a new report published by the international coalition “No Patents on Seeds!” If politicians don’t ensure that these kind of patents are prohibited, our daily food will soon be controlled by big corporations and the patent industry, the report warns. Since the 1980s, around 2400 patents on plants and 1400 patents on animals have been granted in Europe. The EPO has granted more than 120 patents on conventional breeding and about 1000 such patent applications are pending. The scope of many of these patents often covers the whole food chain from production to consumption. The report gives an overview of patents granted in 2013 and early 2014, including a patent on conventionally bred peppers derived from wild, insect-resistant varieties from Jamaica. The patent granted to Syngenta covers the plants, fruits and seeds and even claims the growing and harvesting of the plants as an invention. The EPO also granted a patent to Monsanto on screening and selecting soybean plants adapted to certain climate zones, concerning wild relatives of soybeans found in Asia and Australia. This gives Monsanto a monopoly on the future usage of hundreds of natural DNA sequence variations in the conventional breeding of soybeans. “Industry together with the EPO is the driving factors turning the patent system into an instrument for misappropriation of basic resources needed to produce our daily food. They are selling out the future of our food”, warns Christoph Then, one of the authors of the report. According to European patent law, plant and animal varieties as well as conventional methods of plant and animal breeding cannot be patented. With its decision, the EPO has “intentionally created a situation full of legal absurdities that allows prohibitions to be circumvented”, serving the interests of multinationals such as Monsanto, Dupont and Syngenta who already control more than 50% of the international commercial seed market.

2014-10-21 |

Salt-tolerant Dutch potatoes to fight salinity and world hunger?

Potato Salt was added after harvest (Photo: Guillaume Brialon)

A Dutch team has developed a potato crop through traditional breeding methods that is tolerant to salt water. Their project beat more than 500 competitors from 90 countries to win an award sponsored by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). Inspired by sea kale, Dutch farmer Marc van Rijsselberghe set up Salt Farm Texel in the north of the Netherlands and collaborated with Dr Arjen de Vos from the Free University in Amsterdam to look at the possibility of cultivating crops using non-fresh water. “The world’s water is 89% salinated, 50% of agricultural land is threatened by salt water, and there are millions of people living in salt-contaminated areas. Up until now everyone has been concentrating on how to turn the salt water into fresh water; we are looking at what nature has already provided us with”, van Rijsselberghe told the Guardian. The process of desalination is expensive and requires much energy. The salt-tolerant potato plants, however, were watered with diluted sea water. The variety is four times more salt tolerant than regular potato varieties. The project used a trial and error approach and then screened different potato cultivars of which only two showed increased salt tolerance and were used for further development of the saline potato. Some of the Texel seed potatoes are already on their way to Pakistan where 4.2 million hectares of land is salt affected and farmers are often forced to use brackish groundwater to water their crops, which reduces yields and the quality of the crops. If the potatoes adapt to the Asian climate, they could transform the lives of farmers not only in Pakistan. According to Dutch team, there is no risk of overdosing on salt when eating crops fed by sea water. “What we find is that, if you tease a plant with salt, it compensates with more sugar,” said de Vos. The salt is mostly retained in the leaves of the plant. Peter Melchett, policy director of Soil Association, welcomed the new potato variety: “This is another example of conventional breeding beating GM technology by years. These non-GM salt-tolerant potatoes are already being grown yet ‘saline tolerance’ has always been one of the great (as yet unfulfilled) promises of pro-GM campaigners.”

2014-09-04 |

MEPs voice concerns over EU ministers 'opt out' compromise

Legislation on the cultivation of genetically modified (GM) crops must be made 'watertight' to avoid member states who ban GMO cultivation being taken to court, the European Parliament's Committee on Environment agreed in a first debate on the proposed 'opt out' legislation.

2014-01-24 |

Chile: Farmer won lawsuit against Monsanto

José Pizarro Montoya, 38, a landless farmer and former producer of GMO between 2009-2010 season in Melipilla (RM), is the first Chilean and perhaps the only Latin American to won a lawsuit against Monsanto. He tried to reveal their case in transgenic seminar organized in Stone House on January 22 by Agriculture Minister Luis Mayol. There international and national speakers preached the benefits of genetically modified crops. Pizarro intervene just wanted to say that you did not recommend any farmer cultivating transgenic work for Monsanto export, because it could end up ruining like him, besides damaging the earth.

2014-01-16 |

EP voted in favour of a resolution to reject to authorise the GM maize 1507 cultivation

New GM maize authorisation must be rejected according to EP
The European Parliament today voted in favour of a resolution initiated by the Greens calling on EU governments to reject a proposal by the European Commission to authorise the cultivation of a variety of GM maize in the EU for the first time in 15 years. The Greens welcomed the outcome, with health and food safety spokesman Bart Staes stating:
"The Parliament has today made its position very clear: there should be no new authorisation of GM maize, as proposed by the Commission. This vote is a clear rebuke to the European Commission and gives a clear democratic mandate to EU governments to reject the proposed authorisation of this GM maize variety. The gung-ho approach by the Commission to this controversial and unpopular technology is simply not acceptable and EU governments in Council must now deliver a clear response and reject this authorisation.

2014-01-07 |

China continued rejecting and screening U.S. GM corn

China continued to reject corn cargoes from the U.S. that contained an unapproved genetically modified variety while accepting a first bulk-carrier shipment of the grain from Ukraine. The quarantine agency’s newest figure cited by Xinhua was 56,000 tons more than it announced on Dec. 19, showing the government’s continued screening of U.S. corn and and dried distillers’ grains, or DDGS, for the unapproved insect resistanr MIR 162 gene. Net corn sales to China from the U.S. in the seven days through Dec. 26 dropped by 116,000 tons from the previous week, according to a report on the website of U.S. Department of Agriculture.

2013-12-17 |

Proposed GM maize 1507 authorisation must be rejected say MEPs

The European Parliament's environment and public health committee today voted with a clear majority in favour of a resolution tabled by the Greens calling on EU governments to reject a proposal by the European Commission to authorise the cultivation of a type of GM maize in the EU for the first time in 15 years

2013-12-13 |

The Commission infringed the procedural rules of the systems for authorising GMOs in the European Union

Judgment in Case T-240/10: Hungary v Commission
The General Court has annulled the Commission’s decisions concerning authorisation to place on the market the genetically modified potato Amflora. The Commission infringed the procedural rules of the systems for authorising GMOs in the European Union. In the territory of the European Union, genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may be released into the environment or placed on the market only if consent has been given, subject to specific conditions and granted with a view to specified uses, after a scientific assessment of the risks.

2013-12-13 |

International Civil Society Statement of Concern on the Commercialization of Bt Brinja

One hundred civil society organizations from around the world have written to the authorities in Bangladesh, urging them to suspend the planned commercialization of Bt brinjal, genetically engineered to produce a Cry1Ac-like toxin, in Bangladesh. This is the same Mahyco-Monsanto Bt brinjal that was stopped in India, and its history there is highly relevant.

2013-11-29 |

Argentina: Brutal attack on anti-Monsanto activists

Sofia 20 people were injured in the attack (Photo: Ecos Córdoba)

In Argentina, a camp protesting the construction of a Monsanto seed plant in Cordoba province was violently attacked and at least 20 people were injured. On Thursday morning, a gang of 60 people arrived in a bus at the campsite in Malvinas Argentianas, destroyed tents, set fire to parts of the camp and attacked anti-GMO activists with sticks and stones. Several people were injured, among them Goldman Environmental Prize winner Sofia Gatica, who spearheads the protests and was sent to hospital with serious head injuries. On Monday, she had already been beaten up in broad daylight, just a few days after receiving a death threat on a bus. A man had a gun pointed at her and said: “There are several ways of dying. Stop with Monsanto or I’m going to end your life and spill your brains all over Malvinas Argentina.” The activists have been camping opposite the Monsanto grounds since September to prevent the construction of a corn processing plant by blocking the entry of building material and fuel. The attackers are allegedly linked to the Construction Workers Union (UOCRA) since workers are not able to continue their work due to the protests. Monsanto executives condemned the violence but accused the protesters of destroying workers’ cars. The activists denied these claims and accused the police of doing nothing to stop the violent attack.

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