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09.06.2018 |

Authorities get another chance to respond to plea against amended seed act

LAHORE Justice Sayyed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi of Lahore High Court on Friday expressed serious concerns over the failure of the authorities concerned to submit a reply on a petition challenging the Pakistan (Amended) Seed Act 2015.

The judge remarked, “It is shocking that local farmers’ future has been put in jeopardy,” adding that the amended law could endanger national food security by making the country dependant on multinationals for genetically-modified seeds.

The judge warned that the plant breeder’s rights registry would be restrained from operating if a response was not submitted in the matter by June 22.

At an earlier hearing, the court had directed the Punjab government to produce the resolution passed by the provincial assembly calling upon the Centre to pass a plant breeders’ rights bill. Notices were issued to the federal government in which it was asked to file para-wise comments to the petition filed by Human Voice, an non-government organisation, challenging the Pakistan Amended Seed Act, 2015 for being in violation of farmers’ fundamental rights and passed at the behest of US-based multinational seed manufacturing companies.

07.06.2018 |

Germany expects to see record Non-GMO food sales

It seems demand in Germany for Non-GMO milk and dairy products, eggs and poultry remains unabated.

02.06.2018 |

France will start labelling meat which was fed with genetically modified crops

Sustain member Beyond GM believes that labelling isn’t enough - we need to start producing food that people can trust.

French politicians have backed mandatory labelling for GM animal feed as part of the Food and Agriculture Bill. The bill will also make it mandatory for labels to include details of pesticide use used on fruit and vegetables.

If accepted by the Senate, the new labelling laws will start by January 2023. The on-pack information would have to include information on the conditions in which the animal were raised and whether they have had GM animal feed.

Pat Thomas, the director for Beyond GM (who are part of the Sustain alliance) believes that the UK should take note of the ruling in France:

“At the heart of the French action are the issues of provenance and authenticity of the food we eat, as well as its nutritional quality and safety. France has been very publicly struggling with these issues – and opening the doors to important conversations.

01.06.2018 |

In High Demand, Organic Soy and Corn Farmers Stand to Win

The United States is importing more organic corn and soybeans than it’s producing, according to recent data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service.

Despite a steady increase in demand for organic products among consumers, U.S. crop growers have been reluctant to make the switch from conventional crops, even if it could mean higher profits for farmers struggling with low commodity prices.

“Corn, soybeans and cotton have pretty much the lowest (organic) adoption level of any crop we grow in the U.S.,” said Catherine Greene, an agricultural economist at the USDA Economic Research Service. “We’re orders of magnitude lower in the adoption level of feed grains than we are for many of the fruits and vegetables.”

But soybeans and corn, the two crops that dominate much of the agricultural landscape in the Midwest, have become lucrative organic imports since the USDA implemented the National Organic Program in 2002.

(.....)

“We have had three large farms convert from conventional to organic in the last five years,” said Jim Traub, a merchandiser at Clarkson Grain Company near Cerro Gordo, Ill. “In 1992, we did not know what organic meant.”

Clarkson Grain Company processes both non-GMO and organic corn and soybeans. Farmers who sell non-GMO soybeans to Clarkson, even without the full organic distinction, have access to Japanese markets, where Midwestern beans are used in tofu, soymilk, and other food products.

Traub said it’s a relationship Clarkson has had with a Japanese trading company for more than 20 years that provides growers a $1.50 premium per bushel compared to genetically modified beans. Farmers who grow non-GMO corn see a premium of about 75 cents.

The price for organic corn and soybeans is even higher, paying farmers two to three times what they might make on a bushel of conventional grain.

But Traub said making the switch to full organic is not a quick and easy transition.

31.05.2018 |

Parliamentary consultation & decision making on SA’s Corporate Seed Bills a Sham!!

The African Centre for Biodiversity (ACB) is deeply concerned that South Africa’s draconian corporate seed Bills were approved by the Parliamentary Select Committee on the 22nd May 2018, with no substantial changes being made. This despite a number of provinces having rejected the Bills entirely on the basis that they did not adequately serve the interests of smallholder farmers, while other provinces proposed amendments to accommodate concerns before supporting the Bills. Indeed, Provincials came under heavy fire by farmers, non-governmental organisations and the public at large because the Seed Bills ignore and undermine the significant role that smallholders can and do play in the development, maintenance and conservation of genetic and agricultural biodiversity, and in food production and provision. Beyond this, the Bills criminalise the historical practices of saving, exchanging, and selling of farm-saved seed, and farmer varieties, instead of ensuring the protection of these systems, and ensuring that support is provided to strengthen these systems.

Mariam Mayet, Executive Director of the ACB asks “These Seed Bills are still based on apartheid style legislation and do not embed the transformative and empowering policies required by the country. The Seed Bills laws fail to concretely protect and promote smallholders and small-scale seed enterprises, and to support social justice and ecological integrity.”

27.05.2018 |

Cotton output under threat as non-Bt varieties found contaminated

LAHORE: The official comprehensive tests of cotton seeds have revealed that all non-Bt varieties, including standard elite lines, have been contaminated with Bt genes, leading to productivity losses due to growing resistance against the toxic protein, The News learnt on Saturday.

The Bt cotton has been genetically modified by the insertion of one or more genes from a common soil bacterium, Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). These genes encode for the production of insecticidal proteins, and thus, genetically transformed plants produce one or more toxins as they grow.

Pakistan Central Cotton Committee, in a meeting held in Multan, learnt that all the widely cultivated fifteen non-Bt cotton varieties, developed by public and private sector institutions, included in the biochemical test (BCT) under the National Coordinated Varietal Trials (NCVT) 2018 have emerged as contaminated.

According to the BCT results, compiled in accordance with the lab examination of four leading institutions, the standard elite varieties of CIM-620 and CRIS-129 developed by Central Cotton Research Institutes (CCRIs) located at Multan and Sakrand respectively, are also no more conventional seed types.

25.05.2018 |

Monsanto And Bayer Are Set To Merge. Here's Why You Should Care

Together they will influence markets all over the world on a scale we’ve never seen before.

The U.S. Justice Department this month is expected to approve a merger of two huge corporations ― St. Louis-based seed company Monsanto and German crop-chemical conglomerate Bayer ― and the consequences could be enormous.

The $66 billion deal, already approved by the European Union, will create the world’s biggest pesticides and seeds monopoly. The hookup will confine 61 percent of global seeds and pesticides production in the hands of just three megacorporations ― the other two being newly merged DowDuPont, and ChemChina, which acquired pesticides and seed company Syngenta last year.

Is that a problem?

It depends who you ask. Monsanto and Bayer are pitching their consolidation as a way to develop the technology and innovation necessary to feed a world that in two decades is likely to be home to 10 billion people. For critics ― environmentalists and many farmers ― it’s a terrifying step toward a near-monopoly in agriculture, giving giant companies unprecedented access to farmer data, squeezing out small farmers, and potentially raising food prices for consumers.

16.05.2018 |

The EU needs to speak up to avoid ‘backdoor’ GMOs on our plates

By Mute Schimpf | Friends of the Earth Europe

When is a genetically modified organism (GMO) not a GMO? This is the question that the ECJ will soon rule on after a complaint from a coalition of French agriculture groups reached the EU’s highest court, writes Mute Schimpf.

Schimpf is a food campaigner for the environmental NGO Friends of the Earth Europe.

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) is expected to rule in the coming weeks whether new genetic modification (GM) techniques to make foods and farm crops – so-called ‘GM 2.0’ – are fully covered by existing safety laws.

Immediately after the ruling, the European Commission must quickly get its act together and ensure crops produced from new GM techniques are safety-checked and labelled, otherwise it will face public backlash and regulatory problems.

If the court’s ruling follows its Advocate General’s opinion as expected, it is likely to suggest that most food and crops derived from GM 2.0 techniques would be classified as GMOs.

However, this doesn’t automatically mean that they will be subject to the same safety checks that cover first-wave GMOs.

11.05.2018 |

These Farmers Switched to Organic After Pesticides Made Their Families Sick

Some farmers transition to organic production to earn premium prices. Others switch to make their farms more sustainable. But for some farmers, transitioning to organic is a necessary way to protect their family’s health—and even save their lives.

Blaine Schmaltz, who farms in Rugby, North Dakota, is a good example. One day in 1993, Schmaltz was spraying an herbicide on his field. He stopped to check the level in the sprayer tank. While looking inside, he lost control of his legs and passed out. He was later hospitalized for several months with asthma, muscle aches and pains, and insomnia. A doctor diagnosed him with “occupational asthma.”

“The doctor told me to leave agriculture,” Schmaltz says. “He said, ‘if you don’t, you probably won’t live 10 years.’”

While recovering, Schmaltz read about organic farming and decided to transition because he wanted to continue farming. The next spring he started the transition, and over time his symptoms disappeared. Today, Schmaltz continues to grow certified organic wheat, beans, flax, and other specialty grains.

“I didn’t switch to organic farming for the money or a utopian dream,” he says. “I did it for myself and my family in order to stay in agriculture.”

08.05.2018 |

Weedkiller products more toxic than their active ingredient, tests show

After more than 40 years of widespread use, new scientific tests show formulated weedkillers have higher rates of toxicity to human cells

US government researchers have uncovered evidence that some popular weedkilling products, like Monsanto’s widely-used Roundup, are potentially more toxic to human cells than their active ingredient is by itself.

These “formulated” weedkillers are commonly used in agriculture, leaving residues in food and water, as well as public spaces such as golf courses, parks and children’s playgrounds.

The tests are part of the US National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) first-ever examination of herbicide formulations made with the active ingredient glyphosate, but that also include other chemicals. While regulators have previously required extensive testing of glyphosate in isolation, government scientists have not fully examined the toxicity of the more complex products sold to consumers, farmers and others.

Monsanto introduced its glyphosate-based Roundup brand in 1974. But it is only now, after more than 40 years of widespread use, that the government is investigating the toxicity of “glyphosate-based herbicides” on human cells.

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