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14.02.2020 |

Farmer vs. Bayer, BASF: Farmer Awarded $15M in Dicamba Drift Trial

CAPE GIRARDEAU, MISSOURI: Late this afternoon, a jury in a U.S. District Court in Cape Girardueu, Missouri issued a verdict finding Bayer and BASF liable for plaintiff Bader Farms’ 30,000+ damaged peach trees due to drifting of the broad spectrum herbicide dicamba. Bader Farms was awarded $15 million in damages, with the amount of punitive damages to be decided Saturday.

This verdict was issued amidst reports of an ongoing dicamba drift crisis — reported cases of dicamba drift are up in Indiana, Arkansas, Iowa, and Illinois.

Linda Wells, Pesticide Action Network Organizing Director, issued the following statement:

“This verdict is just the tip of the iceberg — there is a long queue of farmers who have been impacted by dicamba drift and deserve their day in court. The internal Monsanto (now Bayer) documents uncovered in this case show that the company released a highly destructive and intentionally untested product onto the market, and used its influence to cheat the regulatory system.

14.02.2020 |

Genetic forcing: EFSA caught by industry

The Corporate Europe Observatory (CEO) association has carried out meticulous investigative work which enables it to affirm that "half of the experts responsible for assessing the potential risks of the technology have financial links with organizations developing this technology and others with conflicts of interest with a company developing genetically modified insects”. These conflicts of interest, recurrent within the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA), are likely to compromise the scientific quality and the neutrality of the opinion it will publish.

13.02.2020 |

Epic battle over green farming divides EU departments

DG ENV officials reckon DG AGRI is out to block real change.

Two European Commission departments are at war over how much action is needed to make the EU's farming system more environmentally friendly.

Agriculture is one of the most fundamental components of the EU budget and receives about €59 billion of subsidies each year. Politically protected farmers, however, have long avoided tough, binding targets to go green, despite producing about 10 percent of Europe's emissions.

(.....)

Though it is unclear whether it is an official policy position, much of the document appears to be a response to a draft of DG ENV's biodiversity strategy, obtained by POLITICO earlier this month. That strategy called for a 2030 target to slash the use of pesticide and fertilizers by 30 percent.

But DG AGRI's document suggests the EU should not set targets for reducing the use or risks of pesticides, and instead focus on "providing alternatives and enhancing the introduction of alternative pest management." It says it would be "meaningless" from a public health perspective to reduce the "volume or value of a long set of very diverse substances."

The EU has committed to measures to "significantly reduce" the risk and use of agricultural chemicals in the Green Deal.

12.02.2020 |

Three Big Battles for Global Food Policy Looming

World Food Systems Summit is part of a three-pronged corporate food policy power grab

February 12, 2020—A corporate alliance (consisting of Big Ag, the World Economic Forum, philanthro-capitalists and others) have spearheaded three separate initiatives (the Food Systems Summit, restructuring research institutions, acceleration of data collection) which threaten to converge and utterly transform the multilateral food and agriculture system.

If successful, these initiatives would further force-feed the failed industrial food system to the public sector and world agriculture, binding governments to a corporate agenda that marginalizes farmers, civil society, social movements and agroecology.

In a new Communiqué, The Next Agribusiness Takeover, ETC Group describes in detail the history and implications of the three initiatives – for which the World Food Systems Summit is setting the framework.

11.02.2020 |

Aller Aqua phases out the use of South American soy

Danish fish feed manufacturer, Aller Aqua, says it will cease sourcing the soy it needs for its formulations from South America, with its European manufacturing bases privileging regional purchasing of soy products instead.

10.02.2020 |

French Council of State imposes strict application of European GMO legislation

Brussels, 10 February 2020 – France’s Council of State has ruled in favour of a coalition of associations, including the Confédération paysanne, who had mobilised against GMO, taking legal action against the French government.

The associations petitionned the court in 2015 over the then Prime Minister’s refusal to declare a moratorium on the cultivation in France of varieties made tolerant to herbicides, or to apply GMO regulations to all varieties obtained by new mutagenesis techniques.

Last week, the Council of State found in favour of the associations, ruling that organisms obtained using new mutagenesis techniques should be subject to European regulations on GMO, specifically European Directive of 12 March 2001 (2001/18/EC). In accordance with the precautionary principle, risk assessments should be carried out on GMO, which must also be subject to compulsory public information, labelling and monitoring requirements.

05.02.2020 |

New GMOs: Kyriakides gets off on wrong foot with biased consultation

The new EU Health Commissioner Stella Kyriakides recently told EURACTIV.com that her “priority is to gather more information” on gene editing. To this end, she said, “we will be preparing a study on new genomic techniques, foreseen for spring 2021”. Clearly, the design and set-up of such a study will be crucial to its outcome, writes Nina Holland.

By Nina Holland, a researcher at Corporate Europe Observatory

On 10 February 2020, DG SANTE will hold a ‘targeted stakeholder consultation’ to discuss the set-up of this policy study on ‘new genomic techniques’.

However, only Brussels-based organisations have been invited and the list of invitees shows an enormous bias towards industry interests. Out of 94 organisations invited, more than 70% represent industrial food and farming interests, contrasting with fewer than 12% of NGOs.

Such a biased set-up raises concerns that the study is being designed to deliver a pre-determined conclusion.

03.02.2020 |

The GM potato push in Rwanda: With regulatory hurdles in Uganda, is this the industry’s fall back?

To enable the introduction of the first GM crop to be grown in Rwanda – a GM potato variety named ‘Victoria’ – the Rwandan government is fast-tracking the development of a biosafety policy and legal framework.

Civil society is deeply concerned about the potential risks of this GM potato variety, which has been genetically modified through cisgenesis – a process that involves taking three genes from three wild South American potato varieties to confer resistance to late blight.

Late blight has a devastating impact on potato farmers globally, with yield losses in East Africa alone estimated at up to 70%. This has led to Rwandan farmers using more pesticides, particularly fungicides – normally eight applications of three different chemicals each season. Not only does this excessive use of fungicide come at a high financial, environmental and health cost but it has also led to increased resistance in late blight, which is caused by a pathogen that quickly adapts into new strains, living on and between crops as mycelium.

Understandably, the Rwandan government would like to reduce vulnerability to late blight, increase yields and reduce the amount of fungicide used in the growing of potatoes.

However, will this GM potato fulfil on its promise to provide a solution?

23.01.2020 |

RAGES subreport: New genetic engineering technologies

Genetically modified organisms (GMOs), predominantly plants, have been commercially grown in some countries, notably the Americas, since the mid-1990s. Current GMOs have been developed using ‘first generation’ genetic engineering technologies. More recently, new applications of GMOs and new modes of creating novel traits have been developed alongside new genetic engineering technologies. Grafting, cisgenesis and intragenesis, reverse breeding and RNA-directed DNA

methylation (RdDM) either utilise GMOs created using first generation techniques as an intermediary stage or can, in the case of agro-infiltration, unintentionally give rise to GMOs. Most, if not all, of the principal concerns regarding first generation GMOs apply to these new types of GMOs and new genetic engineering techniques. Some novel types of GMOs (e.g. RNA interference (RNAi)-based GM plants) present additional challenges for risk assessment, as do new genetic engineering techniques, such as genome editing.

19.01.2020 |

GM food: Keep EU rules or risk health, says gene expert

A war of words has broken out among some of Britain’s leading scientists over the safety of genetically modified crops and livestock.

It follows a warning by a genome researcher at King’s College London that Crispr, the “high-precision” gene-editing technology that is revolutionising DNA research, is less precise than has been claimed and could create mutant crops that produce toxic or carcinogenic proteins.

Michael Antoniou, head of King’s gene expression and therapy group, said that after Brexit ministers should retain the tough EU rules that have blocked most genetically modified crops and livestock from commercial use.

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