GMO-free news from the Netherlands

2015-04-23 |

U.S. award stirs up controversy over genetically modified Golden Rice

Golden Golden Rice compared to white rice (Photo: IRRI Photos/flickr)

Environmentalists and farmers’ organisations have heavily criticised the White House’s decision to award a humanitarian prize to the scientists who invented vitamin-enriched “Golden Rice”, describing it as a “hoax”. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced Professor Ingo Potrykus of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich and Peter Beyer of the University of Freiburg in Germany as the winners of the “Patents for Humanity Award“. The scientists invented the genetically modified rice after a decade of research and granted Swiss agro-chemicals company Syngenta the rights to develop the technology. Golden Rice has been genetically modified to provide beta-carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A, one of the essential micro-nutrients. Vitamin A deficiency is causing between 2 and 3 million deaths each year, as well as about 500,000 cases of blindness among children. The GM rice is being developed by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines. Preliminary results were mixed. In 2014, IRRI announced that more research would be needed before Golden Rice can be commercialised due to its very low yield performance compared to local varieties used by farmers. Biodiversity experts Vandana Shiva, laureate of the Right Livelihood Award, described the White House ‘award’ to Golden Rice as a desperate attempt to promote failed GMOs. Shiva commented: „Golden Rice is the Emperor who has no clothes. Since 1985 the promoters have been promising the miracle, but it is still far from introduction. In any case it is hundreds of percent less efficient than biodiversity alternatives in providing Vitamin A. Because the malnutrition crisis is so severe, we cannot waste time and resources on false promises.” Filipino farmer-scientist group MASIPAG believe that GM rice will not solve malnutrition: „Poverty and hunger are the main culprits in malnutrition cases. Therefore to address Vitamin A Deficiency, we should address the lack of resources to ensure that people have access to proper nutrition,” said Dr Chito Medina, National Coordinator of MASIPAG. The organisation has been pushing for agroecology and sustainable agriculture to improve food security in Asia. According to Medina, “Global and international studies such as the International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge Science and Technology for Development (IAASTD) and the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food have recognized agroecology and other farmer innovations as a means to address food security and rural development. Contextually appropriate technologies will better serve the farmers and consumers of developing countries, rather than a potentially harmful technology such as Golden Rice.” (ab)

2015-04-23 |

EU proposal on GMO food criticised by Greenpeace, industry

Juncker breaks promise Juncker breaks promise

The European Commission's proposed new rules on the approval of food derived from genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), published on Wednesday (22 April), have immediately attracted criticism from both environment NGOs and the agribusiness sector. For the first time, the proposal formally allows EU countries to opt-out from the Europe-wide approval system.
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Only one GM crop is currently grown in Europe, Monsanto's maize MON810, in Spain and Portugal.

But the new proposal attracted criticism by Greenpeace, which said the proposed reform would still allow the Commission to authorise the import of GMOs, even when a majority of national governments, the European Parliament and the public oppose them.

“The Commission’s proposal is a farce because it leaves the current undemocratic system untouched. It would allow the Commission to continue ignoring major opposition to GM crops, despite president Juncker’s promise to allow a majority of EU countries to halt Commission decisions on GMOs," said Greenpeace EU's food policy director Franziska Achterberg.

2015-04-23 |

Kenya: GMO debate outdated, argues food security lobbyist

Agricultural campaign organisation Green Peace Africa has called on the government to move away from the Genetically Modified Foods debate and invest in ecological farming techniques.

2015-04-23 |

China to Strengthen Regulations on Genetically Modified Plant Seeds

China is set to strengthen supervision of genetically modified plant seeds in an amendment to the country's existing Seed Law. As CRI's Wang Wei reports, the draft amendment has been proposed in the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress, China's top legislature.

2015-04-23 |

USA: GMO labeling bill stalls amid interagency, committee tussle

House Agriculture Committee lawmakers want more control over deciding which government agency -- the Agriculture Department or the Food and Drug Administration -- would control the regulation of labels for genetically modified foods.

2015-04-23 |

Vanuatu threatens to deport anti GMO group

The Vanuatu government has confirmed that it threatened the New Caledonian NGO Stop GMO Pacific with deportation if it continued to spread what the government is calling unneccesary propaganda about the danger of GM plant material.

2015-04-23 |

EU: Commission explains new rules that allow Member States to decide on the GMOs use for food & feed

The Commission presents the outcome of its review of the decision-making process for the authorisation of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) as food and feed. This review derives from the Political Guidelines presented to the European Parliament in July 2014, on the basis of which this Commission was elected.

2015-04-21 |

Fertile soils key to food security and sustainable development

Soil A handful of fertile soil (Photo: Pat Dumas/flickr.com)

Healthy soils are the foundation of global food production and ought to become a top priority on the political agenda. This was one of the key messages of the opening pannel at the Global Soil Week, which started in Berlin on Monday. „If humanity’s overarching need for food security and nutrition, climate change mitigation and sustainable development is to be met, soil resources have to be given the global attention they deserve,” said Moujahed Achouri, Director of FAO’s Land and Water Division, in his opening address. However, the level of soil degradation is alarming in many countries. „Every year, 24 billion tonnes of fertile soil is lost: through erosion, development, flooding, mining - or through intensive agriculture,“ says Jes Weigelt of the Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies (IASS) in Germany, which organises the conference together with partners such as FAO, UNEP or the European Commission. Global Soil Week brings together more than 550 land and soil management experts from 78 countries. Under the slogan „Soil. The Substance of Transformation“, this year’s meeting highlights the importance of land and soil in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These goals, to be adopted by the UN General Assembly in autumn, will succeed the Millennium Development Goals and form the political foundation for sustainable development in both developing and industrialised nations. But a new IASS research paper released on Monday shows that the land demands made in the SDGs exceed the world’s existing land resources. Twelve of the proposed SDGs relate to the sustainable use of natural resources and several depend on the use of additional land resources, e.g. Goal 2 on food security and sustainable agriculture, as well as the goals on energy supply (Goal 7), production and consumption (Goal 12) and the sustainable use of ecosystems (Goal 15). IASS Executive Director Klaus Töpfer concluded: “The 17 SDGs are therefore not consistent. The demands for biomass and land that they make are far more than we can possibly meet. We need to set priorities, for example, where food security is concerned.” According to the publication, consumers play an important role as well. “The choices we make are of great importance: not only our decisions on what to consume, but also our decision to buy food in a way that it does not end up being wasted.” (ab)

2015-04-21 |

EU clears path for 17 new GM foods

Seventeen new genetically modified food products will be authorised for import to Europe before the end of May in a significant acceleration of biotech trade, the Guardian has learned.

2015-04-21 |

UK: Chair of the Agricultural Biotechnology Council says to let the customer decide

I was recently speaking to a member of the animal feed supply chain who informed me that the amount of animal feed (most of which is genetically modified) to Europe equated to the combined weight of every person in the European Union – an almost unimaginable weight of 33 million tonnes.

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