Tuesday, December 13, 2011

USDA ‘hands were tied’

USDA claims ‘hands were tied’ in biotech approval
By Mateusz Perkowski
Capital Press
December 13, 2011

The USDA’s authority over genetically engineered crops was a top subject during recent oral arguments in a lawsuit over biotech alfalfa.

Attorneys for the agency repeatedly argued that its authority was limited, claiming “its hands were tied” in deciding to re-commercialize the crop, which can withstand glyphosate herbicides.

The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, or APHIS, had to base its decision on whether transgenic Roundup Ready alfalfa posed a plant pest risk, similarly to a virus or bacteria, attorneys said.

“In other words, APHIS is not the policy decision-maker in Congress’ stead to decide whether, as a matter of market preference, organic crops, conventional crops or indeed genetically engineered crops should dominate,” said Eric Womack, an attorney for the agency.

The USDA fully deregulated biotech alfalfa in early 2011 after completing a court-ordered environmental review of the crop. In 2007, a federal judge had overturned the agency’s previous approval of the crop.

The Center for Food Safety, a non-profit critical of transgenic crops, filed a lawsuit against the USDA, claiming that Roundup Ready alfalfa was deregulated in violation of administrative and environmental laws.

The group fears biotech alfalfa will cross-pollinate with organic and conventional crops, among other issues.

[Read More…]

Friday, December 9, 2011

Court affirms verdict

Arkansas court affirms $50M verdict for rice farmers
By Jeannie Nuss
Associated Press
December 08, 2011

LITTLE ROCK — The Arkansas Supreme Court on Thursday affirmed a nearly $50 million verdict for farmers who say they lost money because a company’s genetically altered rice seeds contaminated the food supply and drove down crop prices.

Bayer, the German conglomerate whose Bayer CropScience subsidiary produced the seeds, had argued that Arkansas tort laws set a limit on punitive damages and that courts should set aside jury awards that “shock the conscience.” In the April 2010 verdict, a Lonoke County jury awarded $42 million in punitive damages and $5.9 million in actual damages.

The company said a lower court erred last year in ruling that a cap on punitive damages is unconstitutional.

But in its 24-page opinion released Thursday, the state Supreme Court agreed with the lower court that the cap on punitive damages was unconstitutional. Associate Justice Courtney Hudson Goodson wrote that the cap “limits the amount of recovery outside the employment relationship,” while the Arkansas constitution only allows limits on compensation paid by employers to employees.

The latest decision comes years after Bayer developed an experimental strain of rice called LibertyLink to withstand its Liberty herbicide. Federal regulators had not yet approved it for human consumption when trace amounts were found mixed with conventional rice seed in storage bins in Arkansas and Missouri.

[Read More…]

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Corn pest damage

More Monsanto corn showing pest damage
By Georgina Gustin
STLtoday.com
December 3, 2011

Corn plants genetically engineered by Monsanto to repel pests are suffering severe damage from insects in more areas than previously reported, according to government scientists, who called the company’s monitoring of the problem “inadequate.”

In a memorandum posted this week by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, scientists reported that corn plants genetically engineered to kill the corn rootworm are showing signs of severe damage in Minnesota and Nebraska fields.

This past summer, researchers from Iowa State University and the University of Illinois reported damage in their states. At the time, those appeared to be the only states with reported damage. But the EPA memo, dated Nov. 22, said that reports of severe damage in Minnesota and Nebraska actually surfaced three and four years ago.

“Producers are reporting greater-than-expected damage, and investigators are trying to pinpoint the cause,” said Mike Gray, an entomologist with the University of Illinois, who this summer found evidence of damage in Illinois fields. “EPA is saying: ‘Hey. What’s going on? We need to take these reports seriously.’”

[Read More…]

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

French ban annulled

French court annuls ban on growing Monsanto GMO maize
By Sybille de La Hamaide
Reuters
November 28 2011

PARIS - France’s highest court on Monday overturned France’s ban on growing a strain of genetically modified maize (corn) developed by U.S. biotech firm Monsanto, saying it was not sufficiently justified.

The decision follows a ruling by the European Court of Justice (ECJ) in early September saying France had based its decision to impose a moratorium on the growing of Monsanto’s insect-resistant MON810 maize on the wrong EU legislation.

Suspension or banning measures ought to be taken at European Union level unless a member state can demonstrate a potentially serious risk to human or animal health or the environment, the courts said.

“Drawing on the consequences of the ECJ’s ruling, the State Council finds that the agriculture ministry could not justify its authority to issue the decrees, failing to give proof of the existence of a particularly high level of risk for the health and the environment,” the highest French court said.

The French agriculture ministry declined to comment.

[Read More…]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Approving the GM potato

Approving the GM potato: conflicts of interest, flawed science and fierce lobbying
Corporate Europe Observatory
November 2011

How EFSA and BASF paved the way for controversial GM crops in the EU

In March 2010, the European Commission approved BASF’s genetically modified Amflora potato for cultivation in the European Union. CEO has investigated the background to this decision, including the controversial scientific advice provided by the European Food Safety Authority on the use of antibiotic resistant marker genes. CEO found that more than half of EFSA’s GMO panel had conflicts of interest, as defined by the OECD. Their advice, which contravened WHO guidelines, contributed to the approval of the GM potato - and is likely to lead to the approval of similar GM crops in the near future.

[Read More…]

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