News

2018-01-17 |

Commission and council dig in on GMO opt-outs

The issue of genetically modified organisms is heavily contested, with EU member states unable to reach a common position

The European Commission and the EU's national governments have passed each other the buck on who should make the first move on a heavily-criticised proposal on the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) in food.

The proposal would allow EU member states to ban GMOs - even if those GMOs had received an EU-wide stamp of approval.

There are widely diverging views on the benefits - and dangers - of GMOs, and the EU can be roughly divided into one-third pro-GMO countries, one-third anti-GMO countries, and another third which abstains from voting in the approval process.

The commission has often seen itself forced to approve GMOs without the backing of member states, because no majority was either in favour – or against – it.

The current plan has been stuck in the legislative pipeline since 2015, after more than 80 percent of members of the European Parliament (EP) rejected it.

It can only become law if both the parliament and the Council of the EU – where national governments meet – agree on its content.

2018-01-16 |

Agribusiness First: Trump’s Farm Policy

Reducing Competition and Farmers’ Choices
(.....)
Another major merger, between global giants Bayer and Monsanto, appears to be next in line for regulatory approval. In January, prior to taking office, President-elect Trump met with officials from Bayer and Monsanto indicating that he would approve the proposed merger. In November, Trump’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS), an inter-agency body housed at the Department of Treasury, gave the merger the green light. The merger is still being reviewed by the Justice Department and European Union antitrust regulators have yet to approve the merger, expressing concerns about reduced competition, choices for pesticides and seeds, and prices for farmers.

If the Bayer-Monsanto merger is approved, the new company would be the world's largest vegetable seed company, world's largest cottonseed company, world's largest manufacturer and seller of herbicides and world's largest owner of intellectual property/patents for herbicide-tolerant traits, according to an analysis by civil society organizations.

“We have to buy seeds; they (Monsanto-Bayer) have us in a situation where we have to buy their product,” Texas farmer Dee Vaughan told the Texas Tribune. “But they still have the ability to go even higher on their prices.”

2018-01-16 |

Growing opposition to patents on seeds

Seed giants still trying to expand their monopolies
16 January 2018

As a new report published today by No Patents on Seeds! shows, the European Patent Office (EPO) continues to grant patents on plants derived from conventional breeding – even though the contracting states urged the enforcement of relevant prohibitions in 2017. Around 25 patents were approved last year, despite the EPO officially claiming that it no longer grants such patents. The patents cover crops such as lettuce, onions, tomatoes, potatoes, cucumber, grapes, sunflower, sorghum and soybeans. In response, there is growing opposition to EPO practice. And for the first time, a joint letter written by COPA/COGECA, No Patents on Seeds! and organisations from the organic sector has been sent to the EU Commission. COPA/COGECA is the largest farmers’ organisation in the EU and also represents many breeders.

Despite growing criticism, the seed giants are still trying to push their agenda of misappropriation of natural resources: Syngenta has asked the EPO to abolish existing restrictions. The company filed an appeal in August 2017, and this will be the subject of a public hearing at the EPO tomorrow.

2018-01-15 |

To Save Family Farms, We Must Oppose Monsanto-Bayer Merger

Iowa has lost nearly a third of its family farms since Senator Grassley’s election to Congress. The remaining farmers face a crisis. Crop prices have fallen by more than 50 percent since 2013, with no end in sight. In fact, farmers’ debt levels are almost as high as they were prior to the farm crisis of the mid-1980s and Iowa currently has the slowest growing economy of all 50 states.

Meanwhile, a wave of mergers among the world’s agricultural giants is upending the markets for fertilizers, pesticides, and seeds. If approved, the proposed merger would result in just two companies – Monsanto-Bayer and Dow-DuPont – controlling about three-quarters of the American corn seed market. The power that these corporations would hold in the seed market is unprecedented. The corn, soybeans, and cotton markets would be considered highly concentrated under the government’s own merger guidelines.

2018-01-10 |

EU Commission uses the Christmas period to grant authorisation for imports of genetically engineered soybeans

A gift made to Bayer and Dow without anyone knowing
Wednesday, 10 January 2018

The EU Commission has granted six further authorisations for genetically engineered plants, including some controversial genetically engineered soybeans with triple herbicide resistance.

The decision to grant authorisation was made on the quiet by the EU Commission during the Christmas holiday period. Testbiotech has proven that the real risks from consumption of these soybeans were not investigated. But the EU Commission failed to respond to any of these scientific arguments. Instead, a letter dated 21 December was sent to Testbiotech in which the Commission set out purely formalistic arguments to the effect that no new evidence had been provided. The letter was sent at the same time the EU Commission made their decision to give green light for the soybeans, without mentioning in the letter.

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