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27.11.2017 |

EU to renew glyphosate licence, ignoring concerns

Brussels – A qualified majority of European governments voted to approve the European Commission’s plan to grant a five-year unrestricted licence to glyphosate, a widely used weedkiller that has been linked to cancer and environmental harm.

The European Commission will now issue a formal renewal of the licence for glyphosate in the EU.

Reacting to the news, Greenpeace EU food policy director Franziska Achterberg said: “The people who are supposed to protect us from dangerous pesticides have failed to do their jobs and betrayed the trust Europeans place in them. The European Commission and most governments have chosen to ignore the warnings of independent scientists, the demands of the European Parliament and the petition signed by more than one million people calling for a glyphosate ban. The threats of corporate lawsuits are of obviously of much greater concern to them than people’s health and the environment.”

Nine countries voted against the five-year licence (Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg and Malta), while one country abstained (Portugal) and the other eighteen countries voted in favour (Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Spain and the UK).

The Commission plan is based on a flawed health risk assessment of glyphosate, which states there is insufficient evidence of a cancer link, despite the WHO’s classification of the weedkiller as a probable cause of cancer.

27.11.2017 |

EU fails to seize opportunity to end glyphosate

EU Member States today supported a new five-year licence for the controversial weed-killer glyphosate, missing the opportunity to ban it completely and make European food and farming safer and more sustainable.

Adrian Bebb of Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Glyphosate damages nature, probably causes cancer, and props up an industrial farming system that is degrading the land we need to feed ourselves. Today's approval, even if only for five years, is a missed opportunity to get rid of this risky weedkiller and start to get farmers off the chemical treadmill. Five more years of glyphosate will put our health and environment at risk, and is a major setback to more sustainable farming methods."

Glyphosate is the most widely-used weedkiller in the world and is used excessively by non-organic farmers, as well as in playgrounds, parks and other public places. Traces are found in many foods and drinks, as well as in the soil and water. Tests have also found glyphosate in the breastmilk and urine of people. In March 2015 the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IACR) concluded that glyphosate was genotoxic (alters DNA) and probably causes cancer.

The EU's food safety watchdog has given glyphosate a clean bill of health but has been accused of plagiarism by copying the main safety arguments from the industry's application. In addition, papers released in the USA reveal that the main producer of glyphosate, Monsanto, has been ghost writing safety studies, covertly paying European scientists and has unduly influenced regulatory authorities to support the continued use of glyphosate.

27.11.2017 |

EU settles dispute over major weedkiller glyphosate

EU countries have voted to renew the licence of glyphosate, a widely used weedkiller at the centre of environmental concerns.

The proposal at the EU Commission's Appeal Committee got 18 votes in favour and nine against, with one abstention, ending months of deadlock.

The Commission says the new five-year licence will be ready before the current one expires on 15 December.

Glyphosate is marketed as Roundup by the US agrochemical giant Monsanto.

22.11.2017 |

MEPs divided on the citizens’ initiative to ban glyphosate

More than a million European citizens have signed a petition to ban glyphosate, a pesticide classed as a probable carcinogen. In the face of European concerns, MEPs are divided. EURACTIV France reports.

Around 1.3 million European citizens want a ban on glyphosate.

The European Parliament, which rejected a 10-year renewal of glyphosate authorisation in October and proposed a total ban by 2022, debated on Monday (November 20th) a European citizens’ initiative entitled “Prohibiting Glyphosate and protecting people and the environment from toxic pesticides “.

(.....)

EU Member States will vote on renewal of glyphosate’s licence for five years on 27 November.

22.11.2017 |

PRESS RELEASE: Strong Institutional commitment needed to ensure a good legislative transition

Brussels, 22 November 2017 - The trilogue agreement for a new organic regulation reached last June was adopted by the Special Committee on Agriculture on Monday and by the Parliamentary Committee on Agriculture today.

The next step is the sign off in the Parliament's plenary and the Council of Agriculture Ministers.

Christopher Stopes, IFOAM EU President: "IFOAM EU acknowledge the huge effort made by the Institutions to improve the text. We recognise that a number of concerns highlighted by IFOAM EU has been taken into consideration and some improvements have been made. The legal check has also solved some of the inconsistencies previously highlighted.

Nevertheless, the lack of a strong majority in both the SCA and the AGRI Committee has shown the fragility of this text. Countries like Austria (biggest share of organic land) and Germany (biggest EU market) did not endorse the text as it still includes a number of inconsistencies and mistakes that will make the practical implementation very difficult."

21.11.2017 |

Why Did MEPs Reject 3 GM Crops Last Month?

One of three significant votes in the European Parliament on 24th October last involved the rejection of the authorisation of GM crops. So what reason did the the MEPs for reject these crops? You can read the full motions for a genetically modified soy, oilseed rape and maize at the links provided.

As we reported here recently, GUE/NGL MEP Lynn Boylan stated that this process of authorisation has been rejected numerous times. “It is beyond frustrating to have a situation whereby President Juncker admits that the procedure is undemocratic but yet his Commission fails to bring forward a credible alternative. Instead they continue to pursue the same route over and over again.”

The motions are accompanied by the evidence MEPs used to to justify their refusal to authorise. These are the footnoted references hyperlinked to the bottom of the page. They shed a light on processes and proceedings in Europe. For each motion, see the links for soy, oilseed rape and maize.

20.11.2017 |

Glyphosate: MEPs debate citizens’ call for a ban

A European Citizens’ Initiative petition calling for an EU-wide ban on herbicide glyphosate was discussed on Monday with the petitioners and the European Commission.

A European Citizens' Initiative (ECI) entitled “Ban glyphosate and protect people and the environment from toxic pesticides”, calling for a ban on the herbicide, a reform of the pesticide approval procedure and EU-wide mandatory reduction targets for pesticide use, collected over 1 million signatures.

Parliament rejected a ten-year renewal of glyphosate’s licence in October and proposed a full ban by 2022. EU member states will vote on a five-year renewal on 27 November.

16.11.2017 |

Standard CRISPR gene drives may work too well to be used for conservation

Gene-editing tools heralded as hope for fighting invader rats, malarial mosquitoes and other scourges may be too powerful to use in their current form, two new papers warn.

Standard forms of CRISPR gene drives, as the tools are called, can make tweaked DNA race through a population so easily that a small number of stray animals or plants could spread it to new territory, predicts a computer simulation released November 16 at bioRxiv.org. Such an event would have unknown, potentially damaging, ramifications, says a PLOS Biology paper released the same day.

“We need to get out of the ivory tower and have this discussion in the open, because ecological engineering will affect everyone living in the area,” says Kevin Esvelt of MIT, a coauthor of both papers who studies genetic solutions to ecological problems. What’s a pest in one place may be valued in another, so getting consent to use a gene drive could mean consulting people across a species’s whole range, be it several nations or continents.

16.11.2017 |

Genetically-modified crop ban extension in South Australia to 2025 passes Upper House by single vote

South Australia is set to extend its controversial ban on the growing of genetically-modified crops until 2025 after a bill put forward by the Greens passed the Upper House by a single vote.

The current ban will expire on September 1 in 2019 and was due to be debated later next year, but the Greens surprised the State Parliament with its motion to extend it for another 6 years.

The bill is also expected to pass the Lower House, and Greens leader Mark Parnell said when that happens the State's farmers will be the big winners.

"There are a lot of farmers in South Australia who are nervous about the (GM) technology, and what the marketing evidence shows is that there is a price premium for not growing GM crops," he said.

16.11.2017 |

Gene Drives Are Too Risky for Field Trials, Scientists Say

In 2013, scientists discovered a new way to precisely edit genes — technology called Crispr that raised all sorts of enticing possibilities. Scientists wondered if it might be used to fix hereditary diseases, for example, or to develop new crops.

One of the more intriguing ideas came from Kevin M. Esvelt and his colleagues at Harvard University: Crispr, they suggested, could be used to save endangered wildlife from extinction by implanting a fertility-reducing gene in invasive animals — a so-called gene drive.

When the genetically altered animals were released back into the wild, the fertility-reducing gene would spread through the population, eradicating the pests.

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