International News

2018-05-25 |

Monsanto And Bayer Are Set To Merge. Here's Why You Should Care

Together they will influence markets all over the world on a scale we’ve never seen before.

The U.S. Justice Department this month is expected to approve a merger of two huge corporations ― St. Louis-based seed company Monsanto and German crop-chemical conglomerate Bayer ― and the consequences could be enormous.

The $66 billion deal, already approved by the European Union, will create the world’s biggest pesticides and seeds monopoly. The hookup will confine 61 percent of global seeds and pesticides production in the hands of just three megacorporations ― the other two being newly merged DowDuPont, and ChemChina, which acquired pesticides and seed company Syngenta last year.

Is that a problem?

It depends who you ask. Monsanto and Bayer are pitching their consolidation as a way to develop the technology and innovation necessary to feed a world that in two decades is likely to be home to 10 billion people. For critics ― environmentalists and many farmers ― it’s a terrifying step toward a near-monopoly in agriculture, giving giant companies unprecedented access to farmer data, squeezing out small farmers, and potentially raising food prices for consumers.

2018-05-11 |

These Farmers Switched to Organic After Pesticides Made Their Families Sick

Some farmers transition to organic production to earn premium prices. Others switch to make their farms more sustainable. But for some farmers, transitioning to organic is a necessary way to protect their family’s health—and even save their lives.

Blaine Schmaltz, who farms in Rugby, North Dakota, is a good example. One day in 1993, Schmaltz was spraying an herbicide on his field. He stopped to check the level in the sprayer tank. While looking inside, he lost control of his legs and passed out. He was later hospitalized for several months with asthma, muscle aches and pains, and insomnia. A doctor diagnosed him with “occupational asthma.”

“The doctor told me to leave agriculture,” Schmaltz says. “He said, ‘if you don’t, you probably won’t live 10 years.’”

While recovering, Schmaltz read about organic farming and decided to transition because he wanted to continue farming. The next spring he started the transition, and over time his symptoms disappeared. Today, Schmaltz continues to grow certified organic wheat, beans, flax, and other specialty grains.

“I didn’t switch to organic farming for the money or a utopian dream,” he says. “I did it for myself and my family in order to stay in agriculture.”

2018-05-08 |

Weedkiller products more toxic than their active ingredient, tests show

After more than 40 years of widespread use, new scientific tests show formulated weedkillers have higher rates of toxicity to human cells

US government researchers have uncovered evidence that some popular weedkilling products, like Monsanto’s widely-used Roundup, are potentially more toxic to human cells than their active ingredient is by itself.

These “formulated” weedkillers are commonly used in agriculture, leaving residues in food and water, as well as public spaces such as golf courses, parks and children’s playgrounds.

The tests are part of the US National Toxicology Program’s (NTP) first-ever examination of herbicide formulations made with the active ingredient glyphosate, but that also include other chemicals. While regulators have previously required extensive testing of glyphosate in isolation, government scientists have not fully examined the toxicity of the more complex products sold to consumers, farmers and others.

Monsanto introduced its glyphosate-based Roundup brand in 1974. But it is only now, after more than 40 years of widespread use, that the government is investigating the toxicity of “glyphosate-based herbicides” on human cells.

2018-05-07 |

In Blow to Monsanto, India's Top Court Upholds Decision That Seeds Cannot Be Patented

In an another legal blow to Monsanto, India's Supreme Court on Monday refused to stay the Delhi High Court's ruling that the seed giant cannot claim patents for Bollgard and Bollgard II, its genetically modified cotton seeds, in the country.

Monsanto's chief technology officer Robert Fraley, who just announced that he and other top executives are stepping down from the company after Bayer AG's multi-billion dollar takeover closes, lamented the news.

Fraley tweeted, "Having personally helped to launch Bollgard cotton in India & knowing how it has benefited farmers ... it's sad to see the country go down an anti-science/anti-IP/anti-innovation path..."

Monsanto first introduced its GM-technology in India in 1995. Today, more than 90 percent of the country's cotton crop is genetically modified. These crops have been inserted with a pest-resistant toxin called Bacillus thuringiensis, or Bt.

Citing India's Patents Act of 1970, the Delhi High Court ruled last month that plant varieties and seeds cannot be patented, thereby rejecting Monsanto's attempt to block its Indian licensee, Nuziveedu Seeds Ltd., from selling the seeds.

Because of the ruling, Monsanto's claims against Nuziveedu for unpaid royalties have been waived, as its patents are now invalid under Indian law. Royalties will now be decided by the government.

2018-05-03 |

Farmers switched to organic after pesticides made them sick or their fathers died

Avoiding toxic pesticides, seeing fathers get cancer or die, and protecting their children are big motivations for farmers to switch to organic

Some farmers transition to organic production to earn premium prices paid for organic crops. Others switch to make their farms more sustainable. But for some farmers transitioning to organic is a necessity to save their health—and even their lives.

Blaine Schmaltz, who farms in Rugby, North Dakota, is a good example. One day in September 1993, Schmaltz was spraying an herbicide on his field. He stopped to check the level in the sprayer tank. Looking inside, he started to feel lame and then passed out. He was later hospitalized for several months with asthma, muscle aches and pains, and insomnia. A doctor diagnosed him as having “occupational asthma.”

“The doctor told me to leave agriculture,” Schmaltz says. “He said, ‘if you don’t you probably won’t live 10 years.’ ”

While recovering, Schmaltz read about organic farming and decided to transition because he wanted to continue farming. The next spring he started the transition, and over time found it was the right choice. His symptoms disappeared.

2018-05-03 |

The situation of EU sugar beet farmers made worse by a GM sugar beet from Monsanto

EU farmers need a true shift to agroecology
European sugar beet producers have been suffering in recent years from a succession of transformations of the sector and low market prices. Some Member States have been using the farmers’ difficult situation as an excuse to lift the EU ban on three neonicotinoids - the famous bee-toxic pesticides. And yet, it seems that some of the same Member States are willing to let imported GM sugar beet flood the EU market.

EU sugar beet farmers in a difficult position
The recent confirmation of the ban of the three most used neonicotinoid pesticides in the EU is without a doubt the best news of the year for biodiversity, as these insecticides have been proven to be the main cause for high mortality rates of bees in intensive farming areas. However, until the end, the sugar beet sector and some Member States have been arguing against the ban, or at least in favour of a derogation for sugar beet farmers, highlighting the current dire situation of the market as their main argument.

2018-05-02 |

Pesticides and human health: the UK government’s ‘elephant in the room’

The UK Government currently has a consultation running until 8th May entitled ‘Health and Harmony: the future for food, farming and the environment in a Green Brexit.’ A promising title I thought! That was until I read the various consultation documents – produced by DEFRA – where it became abundantly clear that, despite the title, there is a glaring omission of anything human health related, especially regarding rural residents and communities.
(.....)
A number of recent major international reports have detailed the damage to human health from existing industrial and chemical-intensive conventional food and farming systems.

For example:

The United Nations report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food in March 2017 that found that chronic exposure to agricultural pesticides has been associated with several diseases and conditions including cancer, developmental disorders, and sterility, and that those living near crop fields are particularly vulnerable to exposure from these chemicals;

The IPES-FOOD report that outlines the unacceptable harm caused by the current chemical farming systems; exposes just some of the astronomical health costs externalized by the current system; and finds an urgent and “overwhelming case for action.” The report found that many of the severest health conditions afflicting populations around the world – from respiratory diseases to a range of cancers – are linked to industrial food and farming practices, including chemical-intensive agriculture;

The Lancet Commission on pollution and health report on the global deaths and chronic diseases from outdoor air pollution, and which included from the use of pesticides. In fact the lead author was reported as saying that his biggest concern is the impact of the hundreds of industrial chemicals and pesticides already widely dispersed around the world.

2018-04-27 |

EU Member States back plans to protect pollinators

The Standing Committee on Plants, Animals, Food and Feed has today voted to approve the extension of the European Commission's restrictions on the use of three of the most widely used neonicotinoids.

Greens/EFA food safety spokesperson Bart Staes comments:

"At long last, this strong action against neonicotinoids has been approved. Comprehensively banning the mostly widely used neonicotinoids is an essential step to reverse the decline in bee populations. Bees and other pollinators play a huge role in maintaining biodiversity and in the production of our food and they have to be protected."

2018-04-27 |

Three neonicotinoids down, more bee-killing pesticides to go

European governments have backed a European Commission plan for a near-total ban of three bee-killing neonicotinoid insecticides. Representatives from 16 countries meeting in Brussels voted in support of the EU ban.

Four countries opposed the ban and eight abstained. The countries supporting the ban were: France, Germany, Spain, Italy, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden, Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Slovenia, Estonia, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, representing 76.1 per cent of the EU population. Those opposing were: Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Denmark. Those abstaining were: Poland, Belgium, Slovakia, Finland, Bulgaria, Croatia, Latvia and Lithuania.

Greenpeace EU food policy adviser Franziska Achterberg said: “This is great news for pollinators and our wider environment, but there was never any question that these three neonicotinoids had to go. Now the EU must make sure that they are not simply swapped with other harmful chemicals. These three neonicotinoids are just the tip of the iceberg – there are many more pesticides out there, including other neonicotinoids, that are just as dangerous for bees and food production. Governments must ban all bee-harming pesticides and finally shift away from toxic chemicals in farming.”

2018-04-27 |

EU bans bee-killing neonic pesticides

EU governments today passed a total ban on bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides on outdoor crops.

Commenting on the vote, Sandra Bell, bee campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe said:

"This comprehensive neonicotinoid ban, covering all outdoor crops, is a tremendous victory for our bees and the wider environment.

"The European Commission must now focus on developing a strong pollinator initiative that boosts bee-friendly habitat and helps farmers cut pesticide-use.

Many farmers are already successfully growing crops without neonicotinoids. But too many other damaging chemicals and practices are still used. Farmers need more support from the European Commission and national governments to farm with nature – not against it."

Friends of the Earth Europe is calling for an overhaul of the EU's food and farming system to make it less dependent on pesticides, via a concrete pollinator strategy and a radical change to the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP). The European Commission is expected to issue its proposals for CAP reform on May 31.

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