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07.09.2018 |

GMO Free Regions Conference calls for a moratorium on “Gene Drives”

More than 200 participants from GMO Free Regions throughout Europe, as well as guests from North-America, Asia, New Zealand and Africa (35 nations in total) met in Berlin to discuss new an old challenges of genetic engineering in agriculture as well as the environment at large. They were relieved and reassured by the recent European Court of Justice’ decision that all forms of genetic engineering, including CRISPR-Cas and other forms of so called “gene editing” fall under the European directive on GMOs. This requires risk assessment and specific approval for each GM product, traceability and labelling.

However, participants agreed that the new GM technologies require special attention and debate and additional risk assessment. A new generation of GMO, “Gene drives”, designed to alter the genetic makeup of entire species, including their potential extinction, was of major concern. Such Gene Drive Organisms (GDOs) should not be released into the environment anywhere on the world, participants agreed.

The network of 64 gmo free regional governments, hosting the 2nd day of the Conference, adopted a Berlin Declaration, that calls for a European and global moratorium of Gene Drives and demands that national governments as well as the EU take on this issue at the upcoming meeting of the Convention on Biological Diversity. When presenting the declaration, the networks President Dr. Beatrix Tappeser, said: “Let us continue the precautionary approach, and maintain our GMO Free pathway, that has served the European Regions so well over the past decade. There needs to be more public investment in the agriculture people really want.”

Benny Haerlin of “Save Our Seeds”, who organised the NGO-part of the conference, added: “The debate about GMOs, including recent promises of “new” genetic engineering are not just a matter of safety and precaution. The dispute about these technologies is about the kind of agriculture we want for the future: Multinational industry driven techno-innovation versus small farmers driven agroecology.”

31.08.2018 |

Seed firms to pay just 1,300cr as compensation for crop loss to Maharashtra cotton farmers

Soon after the pest attack, the Maharashtra government announced a compensation of Rs 30,800 a hectare to the affected farmers in a region already reeling under an agrarian crisis. Of this, Rs 16,000 a hectare was to to be paid by seed companies under the Maharashtra Cotton Seeds Act.

(.....)

Officials said the seed companies often challenge the state’s orders. “The companies always move court, challenging our orders, saying the farmers do not follow instructions on the seed packets,” another official said. “In some cases, the compensation slapped is more than the firms’ annual turnover.”

Experts and farmers’ activists agreed. “I don’t think these claims will be accepted by the seed companies, as they cite the lack of awareness among farmers about the pest attack,” said farm activist Vijay Jawandhia. “Instead of waiting for the compensation from companies, the government should first pay it to the farmers. He said only a-fourth of the cotton farmers applied for the compensation as they did not have awareness about the provision in the first place.

Bijay Kumar, additional chief secretary, agriculture department said, “The compensation is being claimed based on applications and depending on the loss assessed from the crop cutting system. While giving the compensation under NDRF norms, the government is more liberal, but the compensation is claimed more scientifically from the companies. Even if the companies move court against the orders, we are sure to win them in the court.”

23.08.2018 |

Bound to fail – The flawed scientific foundations of genetic engineering

Invitation to the public event on the evening before the 9th GMO Free Europe Conference:

Bound to fail – The flawed scientific foundations of genetic engineering

The Central Dogma is 60 years old - but has it always been the new clothes of the emperor?

Public and press event: Wednesday, September 5th 7 – 9.30 pm

GLS Bank, Schumannstraße 10, 10117 Berlin

With:

• Prof. Ignacio Chapela, UC Berkeley, Berkeley, California, USA

• Prof. Jack Heinemann, University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

• Dr. Ricarda Steinbrecher, EcoNexus, Oxford, UK

• Dr. Angelika Hilbeck, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

• Dr. Sarah Agapito Tenfen, GenØk - Centre for Biosafety, Tromsø, Norway

Organizers:

• European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility

• GLS Gemeinschaftsbank

• Zukunftsstiftung Landwirtschaft

22.08.2018 |

Too Big to Feed: The Short Report

Mega-mergers and the concentration of power in the agri-food sector

What is corporate concentration, why does it matter for food security, and who are the biggest corporate players in each agrifood sector/"link" in the Industrial Food Chain? This accessible booklet (soon to be available in French and Spanish) answers these questions and more.

The Too Big to Feed: The Short Report was developed by ETC Group, in partnership with IPES-Food. It summarizes the full report Too Big to Feed, published by IPES-Food in October 2017. The full-length report (available here) includes additional data and a more detailed analysis on the impact of the consolidation of the agri-food sector.

16.08.2018 |

Prozessflut: Verschluckt sich Bayer an Monsanto?

Monsanto
Kreativer Protest gegen Agro-Gentechnik (Foto: Joe Brusky / flickr, creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0)-+-

Nachdem sich BASF zum Nachtisch noch Bayers Gemüsesparte einverleibt hat, darf der Leverkusener Chemiekonzern sein amerikanisches Tochterunternehmen Monsanto jetzt vollends schlucken. Damit übernimmt er auch Tausende teurer Gerichtsprozesse auf der ganzen Welt. Den Aktionären schlägt das toxische Mahl offenbar auf den Magen: Die Bayer-Aktie ist in freiem Fall.

Bei den Gerichtsprozessen geht es um Spritzmittelschäden für Gesundheit und Umwelt, Patente, Lizenzgebühren, Risikowarnungen und vieles mehr. Seit 11.8., als eine kalifornische Geschworenenjury Monsanto zu 250 Millionen Euro Schadenersatz an einen Krebskranken verurteilt hatte (wir berichteten), fiel der Kurs der Bayer-Aktie um 20 Prozent. Mit 76,03 Euro erreichte sie laut Manager-Magazin heute den tiefsten Stand seit fünf Jahren und etwa die Hälfte ihres Wertes von 2015. Anleger fürchteten unabsehbare Prozessrisiken, schreibt das Blatt.

Und das mit gutem Grund: Neben den nach Angaben Monsantos rund 5000 Klagen wegen Krebserkrankungen durch Glyphosat muss sich Bayer als alleiniger Eigentümer nun an den unterschiedlichsten Fronten für die berüchtigte Geschäftstätigkeit des amerikanischen Saatgutgiganten vor Gericht verantworten. Und die Hiobsbotschaften häufen sich.

So haben Farmer aus acht US-Bundesstaaten diese Woche beim Bezirksgericht am Monsanto-Sitz St. Louis Sammelklagen wegen Ernteschäden durch den Unkrautvernichter Dicamba eingereicht. Nach einem Bericht des US-Agrarportals harvestpublicmedia.org richten sich die Klagen sowohl gegen Bayer-Monsanto wie gegen BASF, die beide das Herbizid vertreiben. Die Bauern werfen den Unternehmen vor, Dicamba-resistentes Saatgut entwickelt zu haben, wohl wissend, dass das passende Spritzmittel nicht-resistente Pflanzen auf benachbarten Feldern vernichten kann. Und statt etwas dagegen zu tun, hätten die Firmen das Risiko durch ihr Handeln noch vergrößert. 2017 waren nach einem aktuellen Bericht der Universität Missouri 1,5 Millionen Hektar Anbaufläche durch Dicamba geschädigt worden, vorwiegend Sojapflanzen. Wie der Infodienst berichtete, war das Herbizid daraufhin in einigen Bundesstaaten verboten worden.

Auch in der Frage, ob der US-Bundesstaat Kalifornien Glyphosat auf eine Liste krebserregender Stoffe setzen darf, musste Monsanto nach einem Bericht des San Francisco Chronicle gestern eine Niederlage einstecken. Das oberste kalifornische Gericht ließ kein Rechtsmittel gegen ein Urteil der Vorinstanz zu, die es den kalifornischen Behörden im April erlaubt hatte, auf dieser Liste vor dem Totalherbizid zu warnen.

Bereits im Juli hatte Monsanto bei einem Patentstreit mit brasilianischen Landwirten eine Schlappe einstecken müssen. Wie die Nachrichtenagentur Reuters berichtete, wies ein brasilianisches Gericht lokale Töchter von Monsanto an, Lizenzgebühren im Zusammenhang mit der Gensoja-Technologie auf ein Treuhandkonto zu übertragen. Dort sollen die Gebühren der Landwirte vorläufig geparkt werden, bis die Richter entschieden haben, ob sie rechtens sind. Sojabauern im brasilianischen Bundesstaat Mato Grosso hatten Monsanto Unregelmäßigkeiten bei genetisch verändertem Soja-Saatgut der Sorte Intacta RR2 Pro vorgeworfen und bei Gericht die Aberkennung des Patents beantragt.

In Frankreich haben Imker Bayer wegen Glyphosatrückständen in ihrem Honig verklagt, berichtete die Nachrichtenagentur AFP. Die Liste ließe sich fortsetzen. Selbst bei Bayer scheint man noch keinen vollständigen Überblick darüber zu haben, was man sich mit Monsanto an Prozessrisiken eingehandelt hat. „Aufgrund der Auflagen des US-Justizministeriums war Bayer der Zugang zu detaillierten internen Informationen von Monsanto bisher verwehrt“, schreibt der Konzern heute in seiner Presseinformation. Und es klingt fast erleichtert, wenn es weiter heißt: „Mit dem heutigen Tage erhält Bayer auch die Möglichkeit, sich aktiv in die Verteidigung bei den Glyphosat-Verfahren und etwaigen anderen Rechtsstreitigkeiten, z. B. etwaigen Schadenersatzklagen bezüglich des Produkts Dicamba, einzubringen.“ Natürlich wird Bayer vortragen, dass es Glyphosat nicht für krebserregend hält. Auch geht das Unternehmen davon aus, dass die nächste Instanz dem todkranken Krebspatienten keinen Schadenersatz zusprechen wird. Und selbstverständlich teilt der neue Mega-Konzern seinen Aktionären mit, dass er sich wie geplant positiv wirtschaftlich entwickeln wird. Ob die Adressaten ihm das abnehmen, muss sich erst noch zeigen. [vef]

16.08.2018 |

Exclusive: U.S. seed sellers push for limits on Monsanto, BASF weed killer

CHICAGO (Reuters) - America’s two biggest independent seed sellers, Beck’s Hybrids and Stine Seed, told Reuters they are pushing U.S. environmental regulators to bar farmers from spraying dicamba weed killer during upcoming summers in a potential blow to Bayer AG’s Monsanto Co.

Limiting spraying of the chemical to the spring season, before crops are planted, would prevent farmers from using the herbicide on dicamba-resistant soybeans that Monsanto engineered. The seeds are sold by companies including Beck’s and Stine.

Last summer, after farmers planted Monsanto’s dicamba-resistant soy seeds en masse, the herbicide drifted onto nearby farms and damaged an estimated 3.6 million acres of non-resistant soybeans, or 4 percent of all U.S. plantings.

11.08.2018 |

China says U.S. farmers may never regain market share lost in trade war

This story is being published by POLITICO as part of a content partnership with the South China Morning Post. It originally appeared on scmp.com on Aug. 11, 2018

China can easily find other countries to buy agricultural goods from instead of the U.S., its vice agriculture minister said, warning that American farmers could permanently lose their share of the Chinese market as a result of the trade war.

(.....)

China and the U.S. have been locked in a tit-for-tat trade war since early last month. Beijing unveiled its latest retaliatory tariffs on $16 billion of American goods on Wednesday, matching Washington’s move to slap 25 percent duties on the same value of Chinese imports.

The vice agriculture minister also said Chinese companies had “basically stopped” importing soybeans from U.S. farmers since July 6 and would deal with the impact by finding alternative ingredients for animal feeds.

China is the world’s biggest importer of soybeans, which it uses to make cooking oil, biodiesel and the meal to feed livestock.

Han said the country was expecting soybean imports from the U.S. to drop dramatically this year and that preparations had already been made. “China is totally able to handle the shortfall created by a drop in American soybean imports,” Han told Xinhua.

11.08.2018 |

Monsanto ordered to pay $289m as jury rules weedkiller caused man's cancer

Court finds in favor of Dewayne Johnson, first person to take Roundup maker to trial

DeWayne Johnson listens during the Monsanto trial in San Francisco last month. Photograph: Reuters

Monsanto suffered a major blow with a jury ruling that the company was liable for a terminally ill man’s cancer, awarding him $289m in damages.

Dewayne Johnson, a 46-year-old former groundskeeper, won a huge victory in the landmark case on Friday, with the jury determining that Monsanto’s Roundup weedkiller caused his cancer and that the corporation failed to warn him of the health hazards from exposure. The jury further found that Monsanto “acted with malice or oppression”.

Johnson’s lawyers argued over the course of a month-long trial in San Francisco that Monsanto had “fought science” for years and targeted academics who spoke up about possible health risks of the herbicide product. Johnson was the first person to take the agrochemical corporation to trial over allegations that the chemical sold under the brand Roundup causes cancer.

09.08.2018 |

Stop illegal "new GM" field trials – NGOs to Juncker

Commission urged to clamp down on illegal GMO releases and imports

In the wake of the EU Court of Justice (ECJ) ruling that certain new techniques of genetic engineering do fall under EU legislation on GMOs, a coalition of NGOs including GMWatch has written to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker asking him to take action against EU member states that have permitted field trials with new GMOs outside the GMO legal framework. The "rogue" member states include the UK, Sweden, Finland, and Belgium.

The NGOs' letter calls on Juncker to remind EU member states that they must stop all ongoing and planned releases in the environment that are not in accordance with the GMO legislation. Should a member state fail to comply immediately, then the Commission should launch an infringement procedure. The letter also asks Juncker to enable EU member states to ensure that GMOs derived from new genetic engineering techniques do not enter the EU without market authorisation. For this purpose, the EU should task the European Network of GMO Laboratories (ENGL) to develop methods for the detection of GMOs (authorised and unauthorised) developed through new genetic engineering techniques.

07.08.2018 |

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as Invasive Species

Abstract

This paper frames genetically modified organisms (GMOs) as invasive species. This offers a way of considering the reception, diffusion and management of GMOs in the foodscape. “An invasive non-native species is any non-native animal or plant that has the ability to spread causing damage to the environment, the economy, our health and the way we live” (NNSS, 2017). Without any social licence, pesticide companies have thrust GMOs into the foodscape. The release of GMOs has generally been unwelcome, there has been no ‘pull’ factor from consumers and there has been vocal resistance from many. The apologists for GMOs have argued the self-contradictory conceit that GMOs are ‘same but different’. Under this logically untenable stance, GMOs are to be excluded from specific regulation because they are the ‘same’ as existing organisms, while simultaneously they are ‘different’ and so open to patenting. GMOs are patented and this demonstrates that, prima facie, these are novel organisms which are non-native to the foodscape. GMO apologists have campaigned intensively, and successfully in USA, to ensure that consumers are kept in the dark and that GMOs remain unlabelled - as a consequence GMOs are ubiquitous in US consumer foods. In contrast, in Australia GMOs are required to be labelled if present in consumer products and, in consequence, Australian food manufacturers do not use them. The release of a GMO calls for biosecurity measures. After trial plots of Monsanto GM canola in Tasmania in the 1990s, the sites continue to be biosecurity monitored for GMO escape, and volunteer canola plants continue to appear two decades later. In Western Australia the escape of GMO canola into a neighbouring organic farm resulted in the loss of organic certification and the monetary loss of the organic premium for produce. GMO produce sells for a 10% discount because of market forces and the consumer aversion to GMOs. Where non-GM product is accidentally contaminated with some GM grain, the whole batch is discounted and is sold as GMO. There is a lack of evidence that GMOs can be contained and many jurisdictions have banned the introduction of GMOs. GMOs have the potential and the propensity to contaminate non-GMO crops and thereby devalue them. The evidence is that GMOs are invasive species, they are unwelcome by consumers, peaceful coexistence with non-GM varieties is a fiction, and GMOs are appropriately managed as a biosecurity issue.

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