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21.09.2018

Lithuania Bans GM Crops as Biotech Industry Loses More Ground

Lithuanian Agriculture Minister, Virginija Baltraitienė, announced last week that the Baltic country has demanded an EU opt-out regarding the growing of genetically modified (GM) crops.

Baltraitienė stated; “So far we are not ready. We have to choose whether to promote organic production, or allow GMOs. Our strategy is to increase the number of clean, high-quality products.”

Commercial GM crop cultivation has never been allowed in Lithuania, and the majority of previous Biotech company requests for trials for GM maize, GM oilseed rape and GM potatoes in the country were not given permits by the Environment Ministry, however the official opt-out has strengthened Lithuania’s position on this issue even further.

21.09.2018

Patented Plants: Who Owns Our Global Seed Supply?

At the Non-GMO Project, we believe that by encouraging a non-GMO seed supply, we are supporting the restoration of traditional seed breeding and the right of farmers to save and plant their own seeds and grow varieties of their choice. It’s one of our most important principles. But why do we need to restore these traditional farming practices in the first place? One important reason is that some of agriculture’s biggest corporations use patents to control how farmers grow crops.

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But What about Patents on Non-GMO Seeds?

Non-GMO seeds can be patented too. The key differences are the number of patents and the degree to which those patents impact large-scale agriculture. Some of the most commonly-patented non-GMO plants are actually flowers, not food. Meanwhile, some GMO-producing corporations hold more than thousands of patents (search here to explore these patents), and they hold them on major commodity crops such as soy and corn.

Do we really want to live in a world where we depend on just a couple companies for the whole world’s seed supply?

At the Non-GMO Project, we do not. We do, however, want to live in a world where individual farmers have the power to collect, crossbreed, and save their own seeds.

17.09.2018

Czech Republic to restrict use of glyphosate weedkiller

PRAGUE (AFP) -

The Czech Republic will limit the use of substances containing the controversial glyphosate weedkiller as of next year, the agriculture ministry said on Monday.

Glyphosate was introduced in 1974 by US agro-giant Monsanto under the brand-name Roundup. Earlier this year, Monsanto was wholly acquired by German behemoth Bayer.

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The Czech Republic will ban the blanket use of glyphosate as a weedkiller and as a drying agent to accelerate plant maturation, the ministry said in a statement.

"These substances will only be employed in cases when no other efficient method can be used," Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman said.

The ministry also said glyphosate use in the Czech Republic had dropped from 935,000 litres in 2013 to 750,000 litres last year.

The European Union decided last year to extend a licence for the herbicide by five years until 2022, with 18 of the bloc's 28 member states voting in favour, including the Czech Republic and Germany.

14.09.2018

Bayer May Face Next Roundup Cancer Trial Sooner Than Planned

By Bloomberg -- Bayer AG isn’t counting on another trial over its Roundup herbicide until February, but an elderly couple who say exposure to the weed killer gave them cancer has other ideas.

Among some 8,700 people who blame their cancer on Bayer’s recently acquired Monsanto unit, the couple is asking to go to the front of the line to present their case to a jury in December “before they die.”

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“A number of trials are currently scheduled beginning in February 2019, but may be subject to change,” Bauman said during the call. “So the bottom line -- there is no further case that is going to be tried for the remainder of the year.”

What’s Next in Court for Bayer Crop-Chemical Claims: QuickTake

Monsanto is fighting to postpone the Pilliod couple’s trial in state court in Oakland, California, arguing that they haven’t met the requirements for expedited scheduling.

A spokesman for Monsanto didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the couple’s request for an expedited trial.

Separately, U.S. District Judge Vince Chhabria in San Francisco, who is handling all the Roundup cases in federal court, said he wants to schedule the first four trials for the spring of 2019.

The Oakland case is Pilliod v. Monsanto Company, RG17862702, California Superior Court for the County of Alameda. The federal case is In re: Roundup Products Liability Litigation, MDL 2741, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

14.09.2018

UK to consider relaxing gene editing ban post Brexit

We take a science-based approach to GM regulation: UK to consider relaxing gene editing ban post Brexit

The UK has confirmed it will ‘consider’ relaxing the European Union’s controversial decision to include gene editing techniques within its regulatory framework that restricts the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in the food chain after Brexit.

12.09.2018

CRISPR/Cas9 Found to Cause Extensive Genetic Mutations in Cells

CRISPR/Cas9 is one of the newest genome editing tools. It can alter sections of DNA in cells by cutting at specific points and introducing changes at that location. Scientists at the Wellcome Sanger Institute carried out a full systematic study in both mouse and human cells and discovered that CRISPR/Cas9 frequently caused extensive mutations, but at a greater distance from the target site.

Published in the journal Nature Biotechnology, the study found that CRISPR/Cas9 gene editing can cause greater genetic damage in cells than was previously thought. The researchers found that many of the cells had large genetic rearrangements such as DNA deletions and insertions.

These results create safety implications for gene therapies using CRISPR/Cas9 in the future as the unexpected damage could lead to dangerous changes in some cells. In addition, some of these changes were too far away from the target site to be seen with standard genotyping methods. The researchers stressed that standard tests for detecting DNA changes miss finding this genetic damage, and that caution and specific testing will be required for any potential gene therapies.

09.09.2018

Business: ‘Free-From’ Foods Are Changing the Way Your Meals Are Produced

General Mills Inc. spent five years and built a special eight-story sorting facility to get rid of an ingredient that wasn’t in its cereal.

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Dannon Cows

“Americans increasingly want to know what’s in the products they buy and how they’re made,” said Sergio Fuster, president of the U.S. yogurt division for Danone’s North American unit.

The maker of Dannon yogurt began reaching out to farmers eight years ago to identify ways to source non-genetically modified feed for cows. Since then, more than 65,000 acres of farmland have been converted to source the feed needed by the dairies, including grass and alfalfa, said Fuster.

The company’s Danimals brand, almost entirely transitioned to non-GMO, is among its best performers. Dannon’s market share in the kids segment grew by a third in the past three years to reach 41 percent in 2017.

Butterball sells organic and antibiotic-free products and recently expanded its all-natural products including turkey bacon, sausage and burgers to lure customers outside of the holidays, when demand for its poultry usually peaks.

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.”

06.09.2018

One-sided attacks and biased reporting of the ECJ judgement regarding new genetic engineering methods reveal an arrogant and unenlightened understanding of science, democracy and law

European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility (ENSSER), Berlin, Germany

By Dr Eva Gelinsky and Dr Angelika Hilbeck – ENSSER

Introduction

“Nothing has been “banned”. Interpreting laws that simply recognise the novelty and distinctiveness of different kinds of GM breeding processes, the ECJ is merely offering a consistent framework of interpretation within which continuing healthy reasoned argumentation can be more rigorously played out.”

28.08.2018

BioAfrica Convention: Open for the business of profit; closed to the questions that matter

Media release: Civil society responds to BioAfrica Convention

This week the biotechnology industry meets at the Durban International Convention Centre. Themed “Africa – Open for business” the Convention will explore various ways in which African biodiversity can be exploited for agriculture, industry and health by providing a platform for stakeholders in the biotechnology environment. The Convention is co-hosted by AfricaBio, the Technology Innovation Agency and the South African Department of Science and Technology, with primary sponsorship from DuPont, Syngenta and MSQ Health.1

What is clear from the programme and exorbitant participation fees is that they will not be building the Bio-Economy together with the communities whose resources and knowledge will be exploited. There has been no attempt to open the content or participation to civil society voices that might challenge the neo-colonial agenda, or the neoliberal approach to commodifying and privatising nature and traditional knowledge, an approach which also contravenes the essence of African belief systems which centralise communal ownership and benefit.

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