News

14.03.2020 |

Australia's GM hornless cows and the science experiment that went wrong

Mutants or miracles?

They were the genetically modified cows that would change the dairy industry forever, but then it all went wrong and the experiment ended up in an Australian paddock.

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Australia’s GM cows

This paddock in country Victoria could be just like any other. Surrounded by lush grass, it’s lined with trees and a wire fence.

There’s one key difference — what’s inside it is considered a “biological hazard” and is under quarantine.

12.03.2020 |

Revealed: Monsanto’s secret funding for weedkiller studies | Environment

The research, used to help avoid a ban, claimed ‘severe impacts’ on farming if glyphosate was outlawed

Monsanto secretly funded academic studies indicating “very severe impacts” on farming and the environment if its controversial glyphosate weedkiller were banned, an investigation has found.

The research was used by the National Farmers’ Union and others to successfully lobby against a European ban in 2017. As a result of the revelations, the NFU has now amended its glyphosate information to declare the source of the research.

Monsanto was bought by the agri-chemical multinational Bayer in 2018 and Bayer said the studies’ failure to disclose their funding broke its principles. However, the authors of the studies said the funding did not influence their work and the editor of the journal in which they were published said the papers would not be retracted or amended.

02.03.2020 |

It's not just chlorinated chicken: five foods a US trade deal could bring to the UK

GM foods

The majority of US processed foods contain genetically modified ingredients, unlike British food. The US is demanding a “science-based” approach to food. This sounds good, but in trade deals “science-based” is a shorthand for more genetically modified food and more intensive chemical use. It contrasts with the EU’s precautionary principle, which takes a cautious approach to health risks and bans foods where there’s a credible risk to health. In the US, the balance of proof works the other way, and there is a high barrier that has to be passed before “harm” translates into regulation. Lead paint, banned in most of Europe before the second world war, was not prohibited in the US until 1978. Boris Johnson and his lead negotiator to the EU have talked about the need for the UK’s approach to food standards to be “governed by science”. GM is coming this way.

27.02.2020 |

Gene-editing regulation not the biggest hurdle for SMEs in EU, says academic

The argument that excessive regulation adversely affects small and medium enterprises (SMEs) does not stand up to scrutiny, according to molecular geneticist Dr Michael Antoniou, head of the gene expression and therapy group at King’s College London.

The regulatory approval process for new biotech crop varieties is often said to be unduly slow and expensive, presenting an important barrier for biotech SMEs.

The chair of the agriculture committee (AGRI) MEP, Norbert Lins, recently told EURACTIV.com that it is much easier for larger companies to implement new GM legislation, but it’s the smaller ones that are most affected by the recent gene-editing ruling.

26.02.2020 |

Bayer’s Chairman to Leave After Monsanto Purchase Turns Sour

Bayer AG Chairman Werner Wenning is leaving the German drugs and chemicals company before his term expires, capping a half-century of dealmaking that culminated in the contentious Monsanto acquisition and a blizzard of lawsuits over its Roundup weedkiller.

Wenning, 73, will be succeeded in April by Norbert Winkeljohann, 62, who joined Bayer’s supervisory board in May 2018 just before the Monsanto deal closed. The $63 billion purchase was the brainchild of Wenning and Chief Executive Officer Werner Baumann, who was censured by shareholders at last year’s annual meeting.

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Winkeljohann is the first outsider to head the Bayer board. While the new chairman is relatively new to Bayer, he is no stranger to companies in turmoil. He joined the Deutsche Bank AG board in August 2018, as part of a management shakeup amid tensions between Chairman Paul Achleitner and then-CEO John Cryan. He has also sat on a Bayer board committee charged with overseeing the Roundup litigation response since last June.

26.02.2020 |

Bangladesh Food safety body plans GMO labelling on products

Bangladesh Food Safety Authority (BFSA) is planning on making declaration of genetically-modified (GM) crop in food products mandatory, said its chairman yesterday.

A genetically modified organism, or GMO, is an organism that has had its DNA altered or modified in some way through genetic engineering. In most cases, GMOs have been altered with DNA from another organism, be it a bacterium, plant, virus or animal; these organisms are sometimes referred to as "transgenic" organisms.

There is a huge distrust amongst the public about the safety of GMO crops.

"Every product, be it packaged, processed or imported, must have a declaration stating whether this is GM or not. We will issue a directive in this regard soon," said BFSA Chairman (in charge) Manbub Kabir.

25.02.2020 |

EU mulls faster genetically modified food approvals for Trump

Such a move could shift focus to the approvals process at food safety watchdog EFSA.

Brussels is ready to offer to speed up the approval process for genetically modified organisms imported into the EU, as part of a mini trade agreement with Washington.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wants to strike such a deal with U.S. President Donald Trump by March 18.

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Marco Contiero, Greenpeace EU’s agriculture policy director, said that if turbo-charged GMO approvals were what the Commission meant by a Green Deal, “it boils down to business-as-usual greenwashing for the sake of defending the German car industry.”

“Of course, they’re ready to give the U.S. what they want, despite a clear decades-long rejection by EU citizens,” he continued. “This Commission seems to be acting just like the past one. It’s scary news.”

25.02.2020 |

Researchers Are Substantially Undercounting Gene-Editing Errors, Concludes a New Paper

The standard gene-editing tool, CRISPR-Cas9, frequently produces a type of DNA mutation that ordinary genetic analysis misses, claims new research published in the journal Science Advances. In describing these findings the researchers called such oversights “serious pitfalls” of gene editing (Skryabin et al., 2020). In all, the new results suggest that gene-editing is more error-prone than thought and, further, that identifying and discarding defective and unwanted outcomes is not as easy as generally supposed.

20.02.2020 |

Health, environment and climate are not negotiable

More than 100 civil society organisations demand a stop to trade talks with the US that will further endanger EU rules on health and the environment and aggravate the climate crisis. A change of course is needed.

We have followed the recent talks between the European Commission and the US authorities on a new trade agreement with disbelief and disappointment. It has become clear that the Commission is prepared to accommodate Trump’s demands for a reduction of EU food safety levels, to the detriment of public health, animal welfare and the environment, and also undermining EU commitments on climate change.

Fear of threats made by the US President to impose high tariffs on European cars cannot be an excuse for retreating on basic public interest. The apparent paradigm shift within the Commission, emerging after months of negotiating behind closed doors and largely shielded from public scrutiny, is highly alarming. We call on governments and parliamentarians in the EU to push the Commission to alter its course. It must be made clear to the US Administration that our public health and environmental protection levels are not for sale.

16.02.2020 |

Toxic residues through the back door

Pesticide corporations and trade partners pressured EU to allow banned substances in imported crops

Pesticide corporations and trade partners have put immense pressure on the EU to allow residues of certain hazardous pesticides - banned in Europe - to be present in food and feed imports. Facing an endless number of visits, letters and reports, complaints and threats at the WTO by the US, Canada and others, the European Commission dropped its original plan to ban residues of these dangerous chemical substances in imports. It is now up to the new Commission - with its ambitious European Green Deal - to change this approach and stand up for public health.

EU pesticide rules include a ban on particularly hazardous substances in pesticides, for instance those that are carcinogens or endocrine disruptors. These substances are so dangerous that EU regulators believe that, unlike other chemicals, there is no safe level of exposure to them.

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