Friday, July 20, 2012
GM animals coming soon to Europe despite public distaste
By Mute Schimpf
Public Service Europe
July 20, 2012
There is one thing genetically modified foods always bring to the table - controversy. And there is one thing European Union authorities and biotech companies seem intent on ignoring: the fact that nobody wants GM crops or animals on their plates. Last month, European food authorities took steps to open our markets to genetically modified animals, by publishing guidelines for their introduction. The guidelines, commissioned by the European Commission on behalf of the European Food Safety Authority give biotech companies the capability to seek permission to develop GM animals like salmon, pig, sheep and chicken.
This move by the commission comes even though there is no appetite among consumers for GM milk or meat, and no appetite from food processors or retailers to sell them - and for good reason. Nowhere in the world is any GM animal authorised for food production. Even in the United States, where there is less resistance to GM than in Europe, the planned introduction of the first GM animal - a salmon - caused widespread concern. Environmental, human health and economic problems have been identified with GM salmon.
GM sugar beet restrictions lifted; litigation in limbo
By Mateusz Perkowski
July 20, 2012
Restrictions on growing genetically engineered sugar beets have been lifted by USDA, but legal wrangling over the crop doesn’t appear likely to cease soon.
The USDA’s decision to fully deregulate the crop has thrown into question an existing lawsuit over agency regulations and may lead to further litigation.
On July 20, the agency’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service entered a final record of decision that transgenic sugar beets resistant to glyphosate herbicides are ”no longer subject to our regulations.”
The crop’s full commercialization has raised the question whether an existing lawsuit over partial deregulation is moot.
Wednesday, July 18, 2012
EU Commission (temporarily) stops approvals for cultivation of genetically engineered crops
July 18, 2012
Munich/Brussels - Recent investigations reveal that new approvals for the cultivation of genetically engineered crops in Europe in 2012 are unlikely. The Commission returned the dossiers for three maize lines to the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA). MON810, Bt11 and maize 1507 have all been considered safe by EFSA numerous times. In a letter to the EU Commission, EFSA announces a new opinion on maize MON810 till December.
”In our view, this is a first sign that the Commission acknowledges that the present risk assessment for genetically engineered crops must be improved considerably. If EFSA was honest they would admit that there isn’t even any precise knowledge about the content of insecticidal Bt toxin in the plants”, says Christoph Then for Testbiotech „During the last ten years, there have been manifest problems with the independence of EFSA’s GMO experts. Now, opinions that were already finished with are being put to test again. However, there is a reasonable assumption that EFSA’s safety checks will in fact be more critical than in the past.”
In June, the GMO Panel was partly re-established but according to an assessment of Testbiotech, the majority of experts still can be seen as proponents of genetically engineered plants in agriculture.
Thursday, July 12, 2012
House panel advances bill that accelerates biotech crop reviews
By Jack Kaskey
July 12, 2012
A U.S. House committee advanced a bill today that would accelerate approval of genetically modified crops from Monsanto Co. and other seed makers by limiting environmental reviews and setting decision time limits.
The provisions, part of a farm-policy overhaul approved 35-11 by the House Agriculture Committee, would limit the ability of the U.S. Department of Agriculture to consider most environmental laws in determining the safety of new biotech crops. The crops would be approved automatically if no decision is made within 18 months.
Grain and food providers are concerned the bill ignores the threat of “premature commercialization” of biotech crops, which may affect domestic and export markets, according to the National Grain and Feed Association, which represents more than 1,000 companies. Environmental groups also objected.
The bill “weakens the already woefully inadequate federal oversight of genetically engineered crops, livestock and food,” Anna Ghosh, a spokeswoman for Washington-based Food & Water Watch, said today in a statement.
Tuesday, July 10, 2012
USDA speeds release of data on biotech crops
By Mateusz Perkowski
July 10, 2012
The USDA is speeding up the public release of data about genetically engineered crops submitted by biotech developers.
Under the agency’s new policy, petitions seeking deregulation for transgenic crops will be disclosed when the agency decides the submissions are complete.
Until now, the USDA has kept these petitions confidential until the agency had finished the draft versions of its deregulation decisions.
As part of the change, the agency has made public nine petitions for transgenic crops — four for soybeans, two for corn, two for canola and one for apples.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which regulates biotech crops, said the “improved review process” will give the public more time to comment about potential environmental and economic issues.
Biotech critics remain skeptical about the effects of the policy change while proponents hope the decision will speed up approvals for transgenic crops and make their commercialization less controversial.