International News

2014-12-16 |

Council backs organic sector demands and Commission changes its approach to a new organic regulation

Organic production Organic production

IFOAM EU: Brussels, 15 December 2014 – EU Agriculture Ministers have endorsed a non-binding report summarising the progress made under the strong leadership of the Italian Presidency on the Commission proposal for a new organic regulation. Nevertheless, a legally binding, partial general approach was rejected as concerns with the Commission’s flawed proposal were too great. Speaking at the meeting, Agriculture Commissioner Phil Hogan said that organic is a key sector in Europe for job creation, is growing 9% a year and this must be supported by regulation. He continued: “No one disputes the fact that the current proposal is unacceptable.”

“It is very positive that the Council and Commission acknowledge how problematic the Commission proposal would be to organic food and farming,” said IFOAM EU President Christopher Stopes. “Since the Commission launched the process, IFOAM EU has said that the most effective way to strengthen organic requirements, consumer confidence and market development is to enhance the existing regulation. We are very pleased that, in many respects, the Italian Presidency has brought the Commission proposal for the first 19 articles back into line with the current regulation.”

2014-12-16 |

GMO authorisation in the EU: The Commission once again attacked for undue delays


On 17 October 2014, EuropaBio, Fefac and Coceral filed a complaint to the European Ombudsman, Emily O’Reilly, regarding the delay in the authorisation procedures concerning twenty applications for GMOs. This complaint occurs while the European bodies are close to an agreement on the GMO opt-out proposal, an agreement supposedly aimed at “unblocking” the GMO authorisation process.

The Ombudsman’s website does mention the case but does not provide detailed information. The small amount of information that is provided states that the complaint concerns allegations of maladministration by the European Commission of the GMO applications. The European Commission is accused of having breached its duties relating to a “reasonable time-limit for taking decisions”. The Ombudsman’s office told Inf’OGM that the plaintiffs are EuropaBio (European Association for Bioindustries), the European Feed Manufacturers’ Federation (FEFAC) and the European association representing the trade in cereals, rice, feedstuffs, oilseeds, olive oil, oils and fats and agrosupply (Coceral).

The three associations consider that the European Commission has badly administered twenty applications of GMOs for import, food and feed under regulation 1829/2003 by causing “illegal and unreasonable delays”. They claim that the “Commission should put to vote in the relevant committee and/or adopt a formal decision on the twenty pending applications and abstain from causing any such delays in the authorisation process in the future”.

The Ombudsman’s office told Inf’OGM that they had only published limited information so far as the case is ongoing. They added that they have already “inspected the relevant files in the Commission” and that they are “waiting for the Commission’s opinion on the allegations which they should submit by the end of January 2015”. At the time of publication of this article, Inf’OGM was still expecting requested comments from Fefac, Coceral and EuropaBio.

2014-12-12 |

International Tribunal Demands GM Maize Ban in Mexico

Calls on UN bodies to take action

DEC 4, 2014, MEXICO CITY—The Mexican Chapter of the Permanent Peoples' Tribunal has called on the Mexican government to ban the planting of genetically modified (GM) maize in the country. The decision cited the importance of maize as one of three principal staple crops globally, which millions depend on. The Tribunal, which considered evidence gathered over three years from over 1000 organizations on this and other issues, also highlighted the importance of Mexico as the centre of origin of maize globally.

2014-12-11 |

Farmer interest in non-GMO beans, corn grows

A strong interest by farmers in growing non-GMO soybeans next year may be leading to lower premiums offered by buyers of the product.

Wayne Hoener, vice president of sales for eMerge, a Des Moines-based seed company that sells non-GMO corn and soybean seed to farmers, says there has been strong interest from farmers for non-GMO seed for next spring.

There are several reasons for that interest, he says.

One is the declining commodity prices. A premium of $2 per bushel, for example, marks a higher percentage at $9 beans than at $13 beans.

The same is true of the corn premiums. The premium total may be slipping, but it still figures to a higher percentage of price than a year or two ago.

Another reason is weed pressure. There have long been concerns about the potential for weed resistance to glyphosate. Some farmers may be making the switch as one way of dealing with that weed pressure.

“You have people questioning the value of the Roundup gene,” says Iowa State University weed specialist Bob Hartzler. “How many are doing it (making the switch) because of that concern, I don’t know.”

Even without those concerns, interest in non-GMO crops has been increasing in recent years, Hoener says. One reason for that is companies producing non-GMO seed have done a better job of producing varieties that yield as well as the GMO varieties.

2014-12-03 |

Duluth seed-sharers and state look for common ground

Duluth library's free seed-sharing program Duluth library"s free seed-sharing program

Last summer, gardeners In Duluth wanted to share their heirloom seeds, so they set up a spot in the public library where folks could drop off packets of home-grown seeds and others could pick them up. Unfortunately, Minnesota law regarding seeds is set up to keep an eye out for shenanigans by companies like Monsanto and Con-Agra. Peter Passi of the Duluth News Tribune notes that the state Department of Agriculture notified the library that the seed-sharing program was out of compliance. The library needs a seed-labeling permit, which costs $50 and requires the holder to include “seed lot numbers from each gardener sharing seed, documentation of any noxious weeds that might contaminate the seeds, plant variety, seed origin and the percent of seed that can be expected to germinate. An official germination test typically involves about 400 seeds,” Passi wrote. This is clearly beyond the reach of the sharers who drop off packets of 20 or 30 seeds.

2014-12-01 |

Maize pollen deposition in relation to distance from the nearest pollen source under common cultivation


Maize pollen deposition was negatively correlated with distance from the nearest pollen source. The highest pollen deposition was within the field, but depositions of several thousand pollen grains per square meter were recorded over the kilometer range. A power function model most accurately described the relationship between deposition and distance from the nearest pollen source, rather than the exponential model currently used in EU risk assessment and management, which underestimates exposure for distances greater than 10 m. Regression analysis confirmed the high significance of the power relationship. The large variation in pollen deposition at a given distance reflected the influences of wind direction and other meteorological and site conditions. Plausible variations of single values and the predicted mean pollen count at a given distance were expressed by confidence intervals.

2014-11-25 |

Bee populations decline due to loss of essential pollinating plants

Bee Busy bees at work (Photo: Jack Wolf/

Bee populations have decreased in recent decades mainly due to a loss of biodiversity causing the decline of their essential host plants, according to a study published Monday in the journal US Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). The scientists of Wageningen University in The Netherlands analysed the pollen found on the bodies of insects from 57 different wild bee species collected before the onset of their decline and used data to quantify population trends of bee species and their host plants. They found that the bees had certain favoured plants for pollinating. Dr Jeroen Scheper, an environmental specialist at the Alterra Research Institute reported, “we assessed the relative importance of a range of proposed factors responsible for wild bee decline and show that loss of preferred host plant species is one of the main factors associated with the decline of bee populations in The Netherlands”. Another important factor was bee body size, because larger bee species require more pollen to survive than smaller species. The researchers said that diet breadth and other potential factors such as length of flight period or climate change sensitivity were not important in explaining twentieth century bee population trends. The loss of natural habitats, namely grasslands, that are increasingly used for intensive agricultural production has led to a decline in wildflowers and the loss of bees’ food sources. Scheper mentions, that “these results indicate that mitigation strategies for loss of wild bees will only be effective if they target the specific host plants of declining bee species”. Bees are important for crop production, pollinating up to 80% of plants and flowers essential to the human diet.

2014-11-24 |

Rising suicide rate for Indian farmers blamed on GMO seeds

Corporate cotton Corporate cotton

Monsanto, which has just paid out $2.4 million to US farmers, settling one of many lawsuits it’s been involved in worldwide, is also facing accusations that its seeds are to blame for a spike in suicides by India farmers.

The accusations have not transformed into legal action so far, but criticism of Monsanto has been mounting, blaming the giant company for contributing to over 290,000 suicides by Indian farmers over the last 20 years.

The author of a documentary on Indian farmers’ suicides, Alakananda Nag, who has interviewed dozens of the relatives of those who have taken their lives, links the rise in the suicide rate to the use of GMO seeds. She believes small farms are particularly vulnerable.

“The large farms certainly have the funds to support themselves and get on, but the smaller ones are really ones that suffer the most,” Nag told RT. “Monsanto definitely has a very big hand to play. A few years ago it was illegal to grow GMO crops in India. It’s not like the suicide did not exist back then. It did, but I think there was definitely a sharp rise in the [suicide] numbers once [GMOs] were allowed.”

The Center for Human Rights and Global Justice has estimated that in 2009 alone 17,638 Indian farmers committed suicide, or one suicide every 30 minutes.

Farmers’ widows, such as Savithri Devi from India’s southern state of Telangana, explain just how tough things can get for those trying to grow enough crops to earn a living.

“[My husband] initially put a bore well, then started cultivation, but we didn’t get enough water from the bore well and there were no rains, too,” Devi told RT. “So he again tried to deepen the bore well, but it didn’t work. So he borrowed money. His depression eventually led him to committing suicide. He drank pesticide and died.”

The legalization of GMO in 2002 has only added to the stress experienced by Indian farmers, according to the head of the Council for Responsible Genetics, Sheldon Krimsky.

2014-11-20 |

ADM sued Syngenta over sales of a GMO corn

GM maize: a dangerous experiment GM maize: a dangerous experiment

Nov 19 (Reuters) - Archer Daniels Midland Co sued seed company Syngenta AG on Wednesday over sales of a genetically modified corn variety not approved for import by China, joining more than 100 farmers and exporters in pursuing damages from the Swiss-based company. The lawsuit alleges that Syngenta commercialized the MIR162 corn variety, also known as Agrisure Viptera, without creating an effective stewardship program to ensure the grain would not be shipped to markets that have not approved it. China has over the past year rejected shipments of more than 1 million tonnes of U.S. corn and corn products because they contained MIR162 grain. The variety, planted on about 3 percent of U.S. corn acres during the past two years, can be found throughout the American supply chain because it has not been segregated from other varieties since its launch in 2011.

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