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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.

03.08.2018 |

Commission authorises five Genetically Modified products for food and feed use

Daily News 03 / 08 / 2018

Brussels, 3 August 2018

Today, the Commission has adopted authorisation decisions of five Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) for food and feed use. The authorisation decisions do not cover the use of these GMOs for cultivation. Today's decisions concern 2 new authorisations (maize MON 87427 x MON 89034 x NK603, maize 1507 x 59122 x MON 810 x NK603) and the renewal of 3 existing authorisations (maize DAS-59122-7, maize GA21, sugar beet H7-1). All of these Genetically Modified Organisms have gone through a comprehensive authorisation procedure, including a favourable scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). All Member States had a right to express a view in the Standing Committee and subsequently the Appeals Committee, and the outcome is that the European Commission has the legal backing of the Member States to proceed. The authorisations are valid for 10 years, and any products produced from these Genetically Modified Organisms will be subject to the EU's strict labelling and traceability rules. For more information on GMOs in the EU see: https://ec.europa.eu/food/plant/gmo_en

25.07.2018 |

A victory for food safety and the environment: ECJ ruling on new GMOs

Today, the European Court of Justice ruled that organisms obtained by mutagenesis, otherwise known as "new breeding techniques" by the biotech industry, are in fact Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), and are subject to the 2001 EU GMO Directive and all its obligations. Despite heavy lobbying by the industry looking for ways to circumvent the GMO Directive, the Court's ruling is a victory for European food safety and the environment.

Bart Staes MEP, Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament and spokesperson on GMOs comments:

"Today's ruling is a victory for food safety and the environment. Just because the industry has come up with new ways to modify organisms does not mean that these techniques should be exempt from existing EU standards on GMOs. Recent scientific studies show that these new techniques might not be as accurate as the industry claims them to be, that's why it's essential that they come under the same labelling requirements and impact assessments as existing GMOs. These new patented organisms may have unintended effects, as well the potential to increase our dependence on the agri-chemical industry, and therefore must be stringently monitored by the European Food Safety Authority for any risks to human, animal and environmental health."

25.07.2018 |

EU Court of Justice: CRISPR is genetic engineering

The judges of the EU Court of Justice
Court of Justice of the European Union

The European Court of Justice today has issued a long awaited verdict on the question how to interpret the exemption of certain forms of mutagenisis from the EU regulation on genetically modified organisms. Acoording to its press release today, the Court clearly states: All mutagenesis is genetic modfication. Therefore, some traditional forms of random mutagenesis (by radiation and chemical treatment) had been explicitely exempted from the regulation. This exemption, the court decided, does not apply to new forms of direct mutagenesis by new technologies of genetic engineering such as CRISPR-Cas.

20.07.2018 |

Do we really need next-gen genetically modified foods to feed the world?

Companies are on the verge of selling lab-grown meat. The new products are touted as environmentally friendly, but is it what consumers want and where exactly are the lines when it comes to genetic engineering?

When a strawberry from Chile and a strawberry from the United States met in a genteel French garden 200 years ago — on a blind date arranged by gardeners who wanted to create a better berry — it was love at first sight.

Previously, imported species from the US state of Virginia hadn't produced much, while the fruits of European varieties were very small. As it turned out, the Chilean genes held the magic ingredient, and nearly every strawberry you buy in the market today comes from that strain.

Luscious strawberries may be among the the tastiest results of genetic tinkering, but they are not the only. Mesopotamians started propagating wild grasses with the biggest seeds 10,000 years ago, which eventually turned them into the crops we now call rice, wheat, barley, oats, millet and rye.

11.07.2018 |

NEW REPORT: Alternatives to Glyphosate

Working with nature and “many little hammers”

PAN Europe today has published an updated edition of its report on alternative to glyphosate as a contribution to the ongoing discussions among some Member States, led by France, on phasing out glyphosate and promoting alternatives.

In the margin of next week’s gathering of the EU agricultural ministers (Tuesday 16th July), France will be organising a meeting with like-minded delegations to exchange on how to phase out glyphosate and promote alternatives. PAN Europe welcomes this forerunner initiative by the French and takes this opportunity to release the second edition of its report on ‘alternative methods in weed management to the use of glyphosate and other herbicides’.

Last December, following glyphosate’s reauthorisation, six ministers from France, Belgium, Luxembourg, Slovenia, Malta and Greece wrote a letter to the European Commission asking them to ”prepare the exit plan for glyphosate by supporting farmers to do so” (1). As France speeds up its efforts toward a phase-out, other like-minded Member States seem also eager to discuss next steps and share approaches in the exit plan for glyphosate.

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