International News

2015-02-25 |

Seed Libraries Fight for the Right to Share

It’s easy to take seeds for granted. Tiny dry pods hidden in packets and sacks, they make a brief appearance as gardeners and farmers collect them for future planting then later drop them into soil. They are not “what’s for dinner,” yet without them there would be no dinner. Seeds are the forgotten heroes of food—and of life itself.

Sharing these wellsprings of sustenance may sound innocuous enough, yet this increasingly popular exchange—and wider seed access—is up against a host of legal and economic obstacles. The players in this surreal saga, wherein the mere sharing of seeds is under attack, range from agriculture officials interpreting seed laws, to powerful corporations expanding their proprietary and market control.

Seed libraries—a type of agricultural commons where gardeners and farmers can borrow and share seed varieties, enriching their biodiversity and nutrition—have sprouted up across the U.S. in recent years, as more Americans seek connection to food and the land.

2015-02-20 |

The world produces enough food to feed 10 billion people

Why are there still so many hungry people in the world?
The world produces enough food to feed 10 billion people. Poverty and hunger prevail because of economics, not scarcity

The greatest challenge for the sustainable development goals (SDGs) is to eradicate poverty and hunger while maintaining sustainable food security for all in a crowded and dramatically unequal world. Although the world has succeeded in reducing poverty in accordance with the millennium development goal (MDG) targets, food security and adequate nutrition have not been achieved.

(.....) According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), almost 1 billion people suffer from chronic hunger and almost 2 billion are under- or overnourished. Children are the most visible victims of nutritional deficiencies. Approximately 5 million children die each year because of poor nutrition. Access to adequate food during the first 1,000 days of life is vitally important for healthy future generations. Even a temporary lack of food during that crucial time has a negative effect on physical and intellectual development. I was shocked when told that in Haiti, even before the devastating earthquake that ruined the country, that small mud balls were being sold in the market to ease children’s hunger pangs. Of the world’s hungry people, 98% live in developing countries. The root causes of food insecurity and malnutrition are poverty and inequity rather than shortages. FAO statistics confirm that the world produces enough food to feed the 7 billion people living today, and even the estimated 9-10 billion population in 2050. Global agriculture produces 17% more calories per person today than 30 years ago, despite a 70% increase in population.

(.....) The challenge is mainly a matter of fashioning political will strong enough to overcome entrenched interests in maintaining food insecurity.

• Hilal Elver is the UN special rapporteur on the right to food

2015-02-13 |

Bt Maize Brings Minimal Benefit to Smallholder Farmers in South Africa

Maize is the major staple crop in many parts of Africa. Bt maize is the only commercialised genetically modified (GM) food crop in the continent and has been cultivated in South Africa since 2001 through public and private programmes. Bt maize produces insecticidal proteins that provide resistance to the African maize stem borer (Busseola fusca) and the Chilo borer (Chilo partellus), two pests that cause significant yield losses.

An article in the South African Journal of Science examines the efficacy of Bt maize in improving smallholder agriculture in the country (Fischer K, Van den Berg J, Mutengwa C. Is Bt maize effective in improving South African smallholder agriculture? S Afr J Sci. 2015;111(1/2), Art. #a0092, 2 pages. dx.doi. org/10.17159/sajs.2015/a0092). The article highlights the fact that Bt maize was originally developed for use in large-scale capital intensive farming, which is reflected in its functioning and currently results in it being of limited use to smallholders. It also points to the regulatory context of Bt maize in South Africa and the lack of information provided to farmers, including the need toplant a refuge of non-Bt maize next to their Bt crop to delay resistance development, which have largely prevented smallholders from benefitting from Bt maize.

2015-02-09 |

GMO contamination: Farmers file more than 360 corn lawsuits against Syngenta

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Farmers and farm businesses in 20 states have now filed more than 360 lawsuits against agricultural chemicals-maker Syngenta, and hundreds more may be coming as a federal judge organizes the complex case so they can move forward.

The dispute centers around Syngenta's sale of a corn seed called Agrisure Viptera, which was genetically altered to contain a protein that kills corn-eating bugs such as earworms and cutworms. The U.S. Department of Agriculture approved it in 2010, and Syngenta first sold it to farmers in 2011.

China, a growing importer of U.S. corn that refuses to buy genetically modified crops it hasn't tested, had not approved Viptera when Syngenta began selling it. In November 2013, China discovered the Viptera corn trait in several U.S. shipments.

It began rejecting U.S. corn imports in February 2014. The lawsuits say it rejected more than 131 million bushels.

2015-02-08 |

Fields of Gold: GMO-Free Crops Prove Lucrative for Farmers

Non-Biotech Corn, Soybeans Fetch a Premium as Processors Respond to Rising Demand

Last spring, for the first time in 20 years, Indiana farmer Jim Benham planted his fields entirely with soybean seeds that hadn’t been genetically modified to withstand herbicides.

It wasn’t because the 63-year-old suddenly had embraced the anti-GMO movement. Instead, he was drawn to a nearly 14% per-bushel premium for non-GMO soybeans offered by a local grain terminal, which sells them to Asian feed processors.

Mr. Benham is among a small but growing number of Midwestern farmers moving away from biotech seeds developed by Monsanto Co. , DuPont Co. and other companies in response to lower crop prices over the past two years that have slashed farm profits.

2015-02-04 |

Herbicide resistant GM crops present health risks for consumers that cannot be ignored

David Schubert is professor at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of the author.

(CNN)One would expect that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the best interests of the public in mind, but its recent decisions have cast serious doubt upon this assumption.

One in particular could have a dramatic impact on the safety of the U.S. food supply: It is the mandate of the EPA to regulate the use of agricultural chemicals like insecticides and herbicides, as well as to determine their allowable limits in food and drinking water.

(.....)

What does this all mean? Consumers should consider purchasing certified organic soy and corn products until the EPA withdraws its allowance of food crops that contain herbicides, and every effort should be made to prevent the introduction of additional herbicide resistant crops. These food additives are not good for you or your children.

2015-01-29 |

Open letter to the Commission on new genetic engineering methods

Dear Commissioner Andriukaitis,

In the interest of protecting the environment and public health, genetically modified crops are subject to risk assessment, an authorisation process and labelling rules under EU law. All nontraditional breeding processes that change the structure of DNA using genetic engineering technologies or interfere with gene regulation fall within the scope of these GM regulations. Some are now calling on the European Commission to exempt new genetic engineering techniques from GM rules. The undersigned groups argue that such an exception could threaten the environment and our health, and would violate EU law.

Any attempt to engineer genomes by invasive methods can cause unexpected and unpredictable effects. For example, “cisgenesis” - a genetic engineering technique that uses genes from the same
species - is still genetic engineering and is therefore subject to unexpected and unpredictable effects caused by the genetic engineering process itself, and not by the trait or sequence inserted. New techniques to genetically engineer plants and animals, such as so-called DNA scissors (nucleases) and interventions in gene regulation, raise additional concerns.

(Read more)

27 January 2015

Francesco Panella, President, Bee-life European Beekeeping Coordination
Nina Holland, Researcher, Corporate Europe Observatory
Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, Co-Director, Econexus, UK
Andrea Ferrante, Coordinating Committee, European Coordination Via Campesina
Mute Schimpf, Food Campaigner, Friends of the Earth Europe
Dr Helen Wallace, Director, GeneWatch, UK,
Saskia Richartz, Acting Director, Greenpeace European Unit
Christoph Then, Executive Director, Testbiotech, Germany

2015-01-28 |

DuPont GMO seed sales down - Bt corn no longer resistant to pests

DuPont acknowledged a dent to seed sales in Brazil from the resistance of a major insect pest to genetically modified traits as the chemicals conglomerate unveiled a fourth successive quarter of declining agriculture sales.

The US-based group, unveiling results for the October-to-December quarter in line with Wall Street expectations, said that revenues at its agricultural division fell 4.1% to $1.73bn.

The decline reflected in part a 1% drop in sales of agrochemicals which, with a rise in sales volumes more than offset by a greater mix of lower priced products, and by currency headwinds.

However, the drop was in the main down to DuPont's seeds business, Pioneer, which saw sales drop by 7%, thanks in the main to setbacks in Brazil.

2015-01-27 |

Europe's food fight shifts after GM crop vote

Campaign groups and the biotech industry are digging in for a new round of conflict, following the European Union's decision to allow member states to set their own rules on growing genetically modified organisms.

Environmentalists who favor a GMO ban say the crops have not been properly tested - posing health risks for consumers and giving a small group of corporations too much control over food supplies. The biotech industry says farmers should be free to grow whatever crops they want, and GMOs are a safe way to boost food production and feed the planet's growing population.

Since the European Parliament vote on Jan. 13, neither industry nor campaigners have claimed victory.

Under planned legislation, expected to be finalised in March, member states would not be able to block GMOs with domestic health or environmental regulations.

Instead, countries that oppose cultivation can negotiate with companies individually, to ask them not to market the products on their territory. States would also be able to block GMOs under town planning and other rules.

2015-01-19 |

We are fed up!: 50,000 march against TTIP & GMOs in Berlin

We are fed up! 50000 people demo We are fed up! 50000 people demo

A broad alliance of farmers, ethical consumers, and anti-capitalist activists staged a march through Berlin that numbered up to 50,000, to denounce the proposed TTIP treaty between the US and EU, and mass farming technologies.

More than 120 organizations joined the fifth annual ‘We are Fed Up!’ demonstration, which this year focused on the increased importation of American farming practices – such as genetic modification, frequent antibiotic injections for animals, and chemical meat treatments – following the implementation of the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

(.....) Speaking at one of the Green Week events, Federal Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt promised to address the issues raised by the demonstrators, and said that he welcomed the public display of opinion.

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