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International News

2017-11-10 |

EU hits deadlock over Roundup herbicide license extension

BRUSSELS • European Union countries deadlocked on Thursday on the future of weedkiller glyphosate that some experts say causes cancer, with the European Commission urging them to reconsider its proposal to allow its use to continue for five years.

Europe has been wrestling for two years over what to do with the chemical, a key ingredient in Monsanto Co.'s top-selling weedkiller Roundup.

The chemical has been used by farmers for more than 40 years, but its use was cast in doubt when the World Health Organization's cancer agency concluded in 2015 it probably causes cancer.

The European Chemical Agency said in March this year, however, there was no evidence linking it to cancer in humans.

On Thursday, the European Union's 28 countries failed to approve or reject the Commission's proposal for a five-year extension to the license allowing glyphosate to be used.

Fourteen countries voted in favor, nine against and five abstained, not enough to secure a "qualified majority" under EU voting rules, the Commission said, adding that it would resubmit its proposal by the end of November, before the current authorization expires on Dec. 15.

2017-11-10 |

Glyphosate deadlock remains, with clear lack of political support for reapproval

EU Member States today failed to agree on the renewal of the herbicide Glyphosate, after a proposal from the European Commission to extend its license for five years. Its current license for use in the EU runs out on December 15.

Adrian Bebb, food and farming campaigner at Friends of the Earth Europe said: "Overwhelming public pressure is paying off, with a clear lack of political support to extend the licence for glyphosate. This weedkiller locks in reckless industrial farming, damages nature and probably causes cancer. When the final decision comes around, there's only one responsible option – take it off the market immediately, and support farmers to help them get off the chemical treadmill."

2017-11-09 |

EU governments reject Commission push for glyphosate |

Brussels - European governments have again refused to support a European Commission plan to grant a shortened but unrestricted licence for glyphosate, Europe’s most widely used weedkiller that has been linked to cancer and environmental harm.

The Commission is now expected to take the same proposal to a vote in the so-called appeals committee, where it is also expected to fail. Thereafter, the Commission has the power to adopt its own proposal without the backing of European governments.

2017-11-09 |

Food is culture, food is life, food is ritual: Conference examines ethics of synthetic biology

What if scientists could code DNA as easily as engineers code software? If everything from veggie burgers to opiates could be grown and synthesized completely in a lab? If data could be uploaded and stored on a strand of DNA?

With the advent of new genetic technologies, these questions are no longer hypothetical.

A conference hosted by the Canadian Council of Churches and the World Council of Churches that ran from November 2-4 in Toronto, Ont., aimed to address new technologies and examine the ethics of the field of “synthetic biology.”

A panel discussion, entitled “Redesigning Life: Synthetic Biology, New Genetic Engineering and Ethics,” took place Friday evening, November 3, as part of the conference, “Redesigning the Tree of Life: Synthetic Biology and the Future of Food.”

2017-11-09 |

EU fails again to agree glyphosate renewal

Member states divided

In order to find a deal, member states have to reach a qualified majority. This means that 55 percent of the EU countries, representing 65 percent of the European population, have to agree on the proposal.

Out of the 28 EU member states, 14 voted in favour of the five-year proposal, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Ireland, Spain, the Netherlands, Slovenia and United Kingdom.

The same countries, with the addition of Romania and Poland (now abstaining) had backed the previous 10-years proposal, with Spain initially not willing to accept years as a renewal time.

On the other hand, nine EU members states voted against the proposal, namely Belgium, Greece, France, Croatia, Italy, Cyprus, Luxembourg, Malta, and Austria.

France was willing to further reduce the five-year proposal.

The five member states that abstained comprised Germany (where talks to form a government coalition that would include the Greens party are underway), as well as Bulgaria, Poland, Portugal and Romania.

2017-11-09 |

EU fails to agree on glyphosate license renewal

The European Commission has again hit a wall in renewing the approval for the weedkiller glyphosate. The vote comes after 18 months of agonizing over the controversial herbicide.

The European Union on Thursday voted on whether to prolong the use of the common but controversial herbicide glyphosate within its borders, but failed to reach a consensus.

The proposal to renew the EU license for glyphosate for another five years failed to a reach a qualified majority, meaning a decision has again been postponed, according to lawmakers. The current license is due to expire on December 15, but there is an 18 month grace period.
Fourteen countries voted in favor of the renewal, nine against, while five, including Germany, abstained from voting. The proposal could now be referred to an appeal committee, or alternatively the Commission could draw up a new proposal to be voted upon.

"No qualified majority for glyphosate renewal in vote today," said Luxembourg's Environment Minister Carole Dieschbourg on Twitter. Belgian Agriculture Minister Denis Ducarme confirmed the result.

2017-11-09 |

Unauthorised GMOs : Spain wants to bypass the rules

The Spanish authorities have discovered unauthorised seeds of genetically modified cotton. Spain asked the European Commission whether it could process the seeds to turn them into products for feed and food uses. A pragmatic view which would benefit companies...

The presence of unauthorised GMOs in the European Union is not unusual. In the summer of 2017, unauthorised seeds of two genetically modified cottons (MON1445 and MON531) have been detected in Spain on a shipment from Argentina.

Cottons seeds unauthorised for import
Feed and food « produced from » [1] these two transgenic cottons are authorised on the European market : more specifically, the authorisations concern food and feed additives, feed materials and cottonseed oil. But unlike other genetically modified cottons authorised in the European Union [2], the authorisations do not cover products containing or consisting of these genetically modified cottons [3]. The scope of both applications did indeed only cover the products produced from the genetically modified cottons. Thus, it is clear that the two transgenic cottons detected in Spain are not authorised in the form of seeds in the European Union.

Moreover, in its opinion on the applications of both the particular cottons, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) [4] [5] indicates that there were no requirements for scientific information on environmental safety assessment of accidental release or cultivation of the cottons since the scope of the applications « only includes products produced from cotton » MON 531 and MON1445 which contain no viable plant parts [6].

2017-11-07 |

EU: 4.3% drop in GM crop cultivation

In 2017, not one hectare was sown with genetically modified maize in the Czech Republic and in Slovakia. And in Portugal and in Spain, the surfaces [planting area] of transgenic crops decreased. All in all, throughout the European territory, this surface declined from 136,338 to 13,571 hectares, a decrease of 4%.

Transgenic crops do not exactly have the wind in their sails in the European Union. In 2016, only four countries of the European Union continued to cultivate MON810 maize (the only one allowed for cultivation in the European Union): Spain, Portugal, Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Two of those countries have abandoned these crops in 2017 : the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The crop surfaces strongly decrease in Portugal, and a little in Spain. The drop in the transgenic maize area (-4.3%) is higher than the drop in the total maize cultivation area (including conventional, GM, and organic) (-1.3%) .

2017-10-26 |

French Health Regulator Withdraws Licence for Bayer Weedkiller

PARIS — French health and environment regulator ANSES said on Thursday it had withdrawn the licence for Bayer's Basta F1 weedkiller made with glufosinate-ammonium, citing uncertainty over its effect on health following a review.

The product, which is used to spray vineyards, fruit orchards and vegetables, was the only weedkiller containing glufosinate authorised in France, ANSES said in a statement.

2017-10-25 |

Goodbye to Golden Rice? GM Trait Leads to Drastic Yield Loss and “Metabolic Meltdown”

GMO Golden Rice is promoted as a potent tool to alleviate vitamin A deficiency. However, Indian researchers now report that the genes needed to produce it have unintended effects. When they introduced the engineered DNA, their high-yielding and agronomically superior Indian rice variety became pale and stunted, flowering was delayed and the roots grew abnormally. Yields were so reduced that it was unsuitable for cultivation (Bollinedi et al. 2017).

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