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14.03.2018 |

Monarch Butterfly Numbers Keep Declining

The annual count of Monarch butterflies overwintering in Mexico shows declines from last year’s numbers—a 15 percent decrease –according to figures from an official Mexican government count in the winter of 2017. These numbers underscore how at risk the iconic animal is, with a possible collapse of migration if populations are critically low.

Monarch butterflies (also known as Eastern Monarchs) embark on an impressive migration every year. Roughly 99 percent of all North American monarchs migrate each winter to oyamel fir forests on 12 mountaintops in central Mexico. Scientists estimate the population size by measuring the area of trees turned orange by the clustering butterflies. But for the second year in a row, its numbers are declining — 2.48 hectares of occupied winter habitat is down from 2.91 hectares last winter. Apart from partial rebounds in the winters of 2001 and 2003, numbers have gone down steadily since 1996. Overall monarchs have declined by more than 80 percent over the past two decades.

14.03.2018 |

EC forced to reopen 2015 decision on allowing GMO soy imports

The EU Commission has been forced to revisit a 2015 decision to allow the import of genetically-modified soybeans after a court rules it breached a technicality on deciding that the modified oilseed had no impact on human or animal health or on the environment.

The European Court of Justice said Wednesday the EU executive must review whether the EU’s food and safety body should have consulted with non-governmental organisations when declaring GMO oilseeds fit for consumption in 2015.

An executive director for the complainant company – Berlin-based anti-GMO lobby group TestBiotech – told Agricensus that the internal review on the environmental impact of GMO beans would now be reopened.

“We are using the law to increase the level of protection but importing these [genetically modified] soybeans will be a political decision in the end,” Christoph Then said.

“The current risk assessment is not in accordance with the law and there are gaps in it,” he added.

In November 2015, the EC rejected an application by TestBiotech to review a decision by its food safety body to allow genetically modified soybeans in the EU market because the body did not consult with civil society - as required under the Aarhus Regulation.

08.03.2018 |

Concerns Over a Monsanto - Bayer Merger

Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager, has until 5th April to reach a final decision as to whether or not to approve the takeover of Monsanto by Bayer. If the company wins conditional antitrust approval for its $62.5 billion bid, the merger would create a company with a share of more than a quarter of the world’s seed and pesticides market.

The consideration of the merger has already been a lengthy process. Bayer has moved to resolve some of Vestager’s main concerns after she opened an in-depth probe into the deal in August. To placate opposition voices, the corporations have divested some key assets (such as Bayer’s LibertyLink) to reduce the appearance of monopolistic market control but the deal may be permanently blocked unless Bayer makes more significant concessions.

It is generally assumed that if approved, the merger would create a risky consolidation of corporate power that could make life more difficult for farmers using pesticides and manufactured fertilisers. These mergers could threaten food sovereignty around the world by limiting the ability of farmers to make independent choices for themselves, and lock them into damaging and detrimental contracts. It is certainly essential that EU regulators properly investigate before it’s too late.

06.03.2018 |

Natural Soybean and Grain Alliance developing non-GMO opportunities for Arkansas farmers

A new organization aims to help Arkansas farmer realize opportunities in non-GMO food and agriculture markets. The Natural Soybean and Grain Alliance (NSGA) was established in 2015 after co-founders Kelly Cartwright and Lanny Ashlock helped develop the edamame food soybean industry in Arkansas.

“We’re trying to develop markets for non-GMO soybeans,” says Cartwright, NSGA’s executive director.

NSGA worked with the University of Arkansas’s soybean breeding program and begin licensing non-GMO, value-added soybean seed varieties to sell to the state’s farmers. The soybean varieties include high-protein food- and feed-grade varieties and a high yielding commodity grade variety called DrewSoy 5.0. The soybean is insect and disease resistant and has performed well in university trials in Arkansas, Mississippi, and Missouri.

NSGA’s goal with the three non-GMO soybean varieties is to “add value to the bottom lines of producers,” says Cartwright.

Arkansas is one of the leading state producers of non-GMO soybeans in the U.S. Five to 10 percent of Arkansas’s soybeans are non-GMO, there is significant production of natto and edamame soybeans, and the University of Arkansas is well-known for its non-GMO soybean breeding program.

05.03.2018 |

International Women's Day Action in Brazil: Women from MST (Landless Worker's Movement) Occupy Suzano Against GE Trees

At dawn on Monday (05), more than 1,000 landless rural workers took the helm of the Suzano paper and pulp mill, located in Mucuri, in the extreme south of Bahia.

Women report problems related to the water crisis in the municipality, caused by large-scale production of eucalyptus; aerial spraying in the areas of Suzano; monocultures; and use of transgenic seeds in productive management.

22.02.2018 |

Movements of Millions Say No to Gene Drives as Brazil Attempts to Legalize Genetic Extinction Technology

Regulatory change would spread modified genetic traits to wild organisms

MONTREAL, MEXICO CITY, SÃO PAULO, February 22, 2018—The largest rural movements in Brazil, representing well over a million farmers, are protesting a new Brazilian regulation that would allow release of gene drives, the controversial genetic extinction technology, into Brazil’s ecosystems and farms.

On February 3rd and 4th, the National Coalition of Farmworkers and Rural, Water and Forest Peoples[1] met near São Paulo, Brazil and sounded the alarm about new Brazilian regulatory changes – a resolution passed on January 15th by Brazil’s National Technical Commission on Biosafety that would allow the release of gene drive organisms into the environment. [2] The effect of this change is that Brazil becomes the first country in the world to establish a legal channel for the release of gene drives into the environment. The new rule could potentially make it even easier to release a living gene drive organism than a GMO seed.

The farmers organizations are concerned about agribusiness giants spreading more transgenic seeds, but also attempts to directly change the nature of wild plants and animals.

João Pedro Stédile, from the National Coordination of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) which represents over a million landless peasants in Brazil and is part of the global peasant movement La Via Campesina, summarized the concerns expressed in the meeting:

“Brazil is living a serious political, economic, social and environmental crisis, and transnational capital has supported a political coup. Within this context, the government is now changing laws and the Constitution to allow them to take over our natural resources. This decision from CTNBio is illegal, and would allow the dissemination of new transgenic seeds and living organisms without even minimal controls and assessments. We are not staying passive on these assaults, we will fight back against this resolution.”

08.02.2018 |

SIT to probe Monsanto’s role in production, sale of herbicide-tolerant Bt Cotton in State

Maharashtra Government has constituted a Special Investigation Team (SIT) to conduct probe into how many seed companies produced and sold Bt Cotton seeds with herbicide-tolerant transgenic gene though there was no permission to do so.

The issue of seed companies selling unauthorised herbicide-tolerant transgenic Bt Cotton seeds had come to fore following the media attention towards the deaths of farmers and farm-labourers due to pesticide spraying. Many farmers had alleged that the dealers had sold to them ‘BG-III’ seeds that were herbicide-tolerant. The herbicide-tolerant Bt Cotton plants remained unaffected even if farmers sprayed herbicides in their farm to remove the weeds and protect cotton plants. Later, the Government found that many seed companies had produced and sold Bt Cotton seeds with ‘transgenic herbicide/Glyphosate tolerant trait’. The said seeds were not permitted to be sold in the market. Against this backdrop, the Government has constituted SIT to conduct a probe into the matter.

07.02.2018 |

Germany′s Angela Merkel finally reaches coalition deal with SPD

Agriculture: The pesticide glyphosate, a source of much friction between the CSU and SPD , will be banned, along with genetically modified crops. On top of that, the two parties agreed to limit animal experiments and to introduce a new "animal welfare label" to help ensure better conditions in industrial farming. That measure was already being planned by current Agriculture Minister Christian Schmidt of the CSU.

06.02.2018 |

India 'illegally' importing genetically modified soya seeds, allege farmers and food activists

NEW DELHI: Farmer and food activists have alleged that genetically modified soya bean seeds are being imported “illegally” for cultivation, in violation of a directorate general of foreign trade (DGFT) notification of 2006 that prohibits the import of GMOs without approval from the genetic engineering appraisal committee (GEAC).

Some activists have also found imported packaged foods containing GM ingredients being sold in departmental stores, one of which is a cake mix. The screening of GM products is lax, activists said in a statement on Monday. “We suspect packaged foods containing soya bean or corn seed imported from US may be genetically modified, there is no segregation there. All these products should be checked for GM ingredients,” said Kavitha Kuruganti of the GM free coalition.

05.02.2018 |

Yucatán takes a stand against GMOs

CHACSINKÍN, Yuc. (EL UNIVERSAL) .- After the authorization of the planting of transgenic crops in Yucatan and Campeche in 2011 a judicial struggle started in which producers and civil organizations have warned that they will not allow any GMOs to be grown in their lands, as they assure these will be harmful to the population and the environment in the long term.

The “Guardians of the Seeds” (Guardianes de las Semillas), a fusion of civil organizations and local producers pointed out that they will continue in their fight so that the sowing of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) is not authorized, and totally forbbiden, even at an experimental level.

In order to address the demanded measures against GMOs and protect the production of honey, of which Yucatan is national leader, decree 418 was issued the in 2016, prohibiting GMOs in the state. Nevertheless, the highest court by the Presidency of the Republic, argued that the State Executive is not authorized to prohibit the crops, as the Biosecurity is responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock, Rural Development, Fisheries and Food: SAGARPA (Secretaría de Agricultura, Ganadería, Desarrollo Rural, Pesca y Alimentación).

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