News

2018-01-19 |

GM Crops Drive Increased Pesticide Use in Brazil

In Brazil, genetically modified (GM) crops were initially introduced illegally at the end of the 1990s and officially authorized in 2003. Six types of GM crops are authorized, but only three are effectively in use, namely, soybean, corn and cotton that are herbicide-resistant, insect-resistant or both.

A new study has identified and characterized changes in the patterns of use of pesticides and herbicides in Brazil from 2000 to 2012. The emphasis was on soybeans, the main commodity produced in the country, of which 90% of the crops are GM. In 2014, when pesticide sales in Brazil were the highest at US$12.2 billion, the cultivated area of GM crops reached 42.2 million hectares, which represented an increase of 1306.67% over the 3 million hectares registered in 2003.

The study found that contrary to the initial expectations of decreasing pesticide use following the adoption of GM crops, overall pesticide use in Brazil increased 1.6-fold between the years 2000 and 2012. During the same period, pesticide use for soybean increased 3-fold. However, this increase did not result in an increase in average productivity. The results obtained in this study agree with similar studies in the US, Argentina, and other parts of the world which strongly suggest that the adoption of GM crops increases pesticide use, specifically herbicides sprayed on soybean, with possible increases in environmental and human exposure and associated negative impacts.

2018-01-18 |

Modern mutagenesis techniques are GMOs according to the European Court of Justice Advocate General

On Thursday 18 January, the European Court of Justice published the opinion of its Advocate General on the legal statute of modern mutagenesis, including some of the techniques known as “new breeding techniques”.

This opinion confirms what civil society and the Greens/EFA have been claiming from the beginning: these are not “breeding techniques” but GMOs. This is a clear victory against a corporate newspeak aimed at creating false public acceptance.

However, it isn’t all good news. At the same time, the Advocate General opens the door for some of these techniques to be exempt from risk assessment, traceability and labelling. These potential exemptions are all the more unwelcome given that the criteria proposed by this opinion are vague and subject to controversy, including within the scientific community. More worryingly, whereas a long history of safe use had been up until now considered a pre-requisite to release any products from mutagenesis in the environment without a prior risk assessment, the Advocate general considers this to be unnecessary.

Green MEP Bart Staes comments: “It would be absolutely reckless and unacceptable if products legally defined as new types of GMOs were to be released without a case-by-case risk assessment and without any labelling. Farmers have the right to know what they sow, and citizens what they eat.”

2018-01-18 |

ECJ opens back door to new GMOs

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) today gave the first indication of how it will classify foods and crops derived from new genetic engineering techniques.

The opinion issued by one of the ECJ's Advocates General noted that even if all food and crops derived from new GM techniques were to be considered genetically modified organisms (GMOs), he keeps the door open to some of them not being subject to the same risk assessment, labelling, and monitoring as existing GMOs.

Mute Schimpf, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Farmers and consumers across the EU expect that any new approach to producing food and crops should be fully tested to make sure they are safe for the public and the environment.They will be counting on the European Court of Justice to not uphold today's opinion, and instead makes sure that all new genetically modified foods and crops are properly regulated."

2018-01-18 |

Glyphosate: European Parliament group presidents endorse Special Committee

Special Committee on Glyphosate Special Committee on Glyphosate

PRESS RELEASE

Following a Greens/EFA initiative, the Conference of Presidents of the European Parliament endorsed the mandate of a Special Committee to analyse and assess the authorisation procedure for pesticides today. The decision will be endorsed by the next plenary.

The committee will be composed of 30 members and will meet for nine months. The constituent meeting is expected in March 2018.

Co-presidents of the Greens/EFA group Ska Keller and Philippe Lamberts:

"Thanks to the hard work of campaigners and environmentalists, the issue of glyphosate and other harmful pesticides has been brought to the forefront of the political debate. Through this committee, the Green/EFA group will seek to analyse the failings in the process that led to the renewal of the authorisation of glyphosate. In particular, we want to look at the work of the European agencies (EFSA and ECHA) and the German agency Bfr. We want Europe's agencies to be irreproachable in their assessment of potentially dangerous substances. The protection of public health and our environment must take precedence over any other consideration and requires total independence of scientific work."

2018-01-17 |

Syngenta fails at the European Patent Office

A patent on the breeding of maize will not be granted
17 January 2018

At a public hearing, the European Patent Office (EPO) today rejected an appeal filed by Syngenta. The company wanted the EPO to grant a patent on the breeding of higher-yield maize plants (EP2121982). At the same time, Syngenta also wanted the EPO to abolish existing restrictions in the field of plant and animal breeding that have only recently been put in place. The EPO also rejected this attempt.

Decisive for the EPO’s decision were technical reasons. Therefore, the content of the patent claims was not defined clearly enough. With this specific patent, maize plants with hereditary factors were to be crossed to achieve higher yielding offspring. However, as the description of the patents shows, the specific genes required to achieve these characteristics were unknown. In this particular instance, sequences of marker DNA that can indicate the presence of the desired genes were to be used for the selection of suitable plants.

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