Wednesday, November 2, 2011

EPO’s reply to accusations

A noisy silence - EPO’s reply to civil society’s accusations
Press Release (Translated from Italian by Emilia Mancini)
November 02, 2011

Last week, in spite of uninterrupted rain, over 300 million protesters gathered in Munich to voice their refusal of EPO’s patent policy. The large crowd included a wide range of environment activists, farmers and development organizations from several European countries.

Just outside the main entrance to the majestic building owned by EPO (European Patent Office), the protesters reported the irregularities found in the latest patents granted on living matter (which represents the most precious common good). Such patents even exceed the rather loose limitations imposed by European laws. In fact, not only do they concern plants and animals reproduced through biotechnological processes, but also those reproduced through ‘essentially biological methods’, which do not need to be patented according to the European Patent Convention or to the Directive 98/44 named ‘Directive for the protection of biotechnological inventions’.

Following an appeal filed against the patent on broccoli (EP1069819), it was decided that such a plant would represent a ‘judicial case’ for EPO and that, based on the decision of the High Court of Appeal (the EPO’s inner court), it should be decided whether patents should also be granted on plants reproduced through conventional methods. The Court’s decision was long awaited and arrived three years later. In December 2010, EPO announced that the patent on broccoli’s reproduction procedure was revoked, whereas the patent for the plant itself was left on a standby status.

[Read More…]

Thursday, October 20, 2011

GM ‘ambassadors’

Biotech group bids to recruit high-profile GM ‘ambassadors’
By John Vidal and Hanna Gersmann
October 20, 2011

Leaked documents claim Sir Bob Geldof, Kofi Annan and Lord Patten have shown interest in EuropaBio outreach programme

Europe’s largest and most influential biotech industry group, whose members include Monsanto, Bayer and other GM companies, is recruiting high-profile “ambassadors” to lobby European leaders on GM policy.

Leaked documents from a PR company working for Brussels-based EuropaBio claim to have “had interest” from Sir Bob Geldof; the chancellor of Oxford University and BBC Trust chairman, Lord Patten; former Irish EU commissioner and attorney general David Byrne, and “potentially” the involvement of former UN secretary general Kofi Annan and pro-GM science writer Mark Lynas.

The 10 or more ambassadors will not be paid directly, but the lobbyists have offered to write, research and place articles in their names, arrange interviews and speaking engagements with the Financial Times and other international media, and secure for them what could be lucrative speaking slots at major conferences.

In addition, EuropaBio says it will introduce them to the highest-level European bureaucrats and MEPs in order for them to make the case for GM within EU institutions.

[Read More…]

Friday, September 9, 2011

French maize ban

EU court says French GM maize ban was illegal
By Charlie Dunmore and Julien Toyer
September 08, 2011

  • Says France based its decision on wrong EU legislation
  • France says GMO maize ban still in place despite ruling
  • Monsanto says allow French farmers choice to use the maize

LUXEMBOURG - France acted illegally when it imposed a ban on the cultivation of a genetically modified (GM) maize variety developed by U.S. biotech giant Monsanto in 2008, Europe’s highest court ruled on Thursday.

The French authorities did have the right to impose a moratorium on the growing of Monsanto’s insect-resistant MON810 maize, but based its decision on the wrong EU legislation, the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice said.

In reaction to the ruling, France said its embargo on MON810 maize was still valid and that it would restart a procedure if needed.

To impose such a ban, member states must demonstrate a potentially serious risk to human or animal health or the environment, and notify EU authorities of the need to take emergency measures, the court said.

Emergency measures must be based on science and backed by an assessment from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), according to the European Commission.

France imposed its safeguard clause against MON810 maize in February 2008, citing a “serious risk to the environment.”

Six other EU countries — Germany, Austria, Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary and Luxembourg — have similar safeguard clauses in place.

[Read More…]

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Limits on modified honey

EU court puts limits on modified honey
Associated Press
September 6, 2011

BRUSSELS - Honey that contains traces of pollen from genetically modified crops needs special authorization before it can be sold, the European Union’s top court said Tuesday, in a judgment that could have widespread consequences on the bloc’s policy on genetically modified organisms, or GMOs.

The ruling from the European Court of Justice came after several Bavarian beekeepers demanded compensation from their government for honey and food supplements that contained traces of pollen from genetically modified maize.

The beekeepers had their hives close to fields where the Bavarian government was growing Monsanto’s MON 810 maize for research purposes.

The EU has strict guidelines on authorizing and informing consumers about foods containing GMOs — a policy that has caused problems for producers of genetically modified seeds such as U.S.-based Monsanto Co. that are used to much laxer rules in other parts of the world.

Environmental activists said Tuesday’s ruling will force the 17-country European Union to strengthen the rules even further.

“This is a victory for beekeepers, consumers and the movement for GM-free agriculture in Europe,” Mute Schimpf, a food campaigner for Friends of the Earth Europe, said in a statement. “This ruling rewrites the rule book and gives legal backing to stronger measures to prevent contamination from the likes of Monsanto.”

Friday, August 12, 2011

GM trials halted in Spain

Public pressure halts GM trials in Castellón, Spain
By Phil Lee
FOE International
August 12, 2011

Friends of the Earth Spain celebrates the suspension of GM trials with human genes after mass mobilisations by the general public.

Valencia’s local government has revoked the permit of an Italian pharmaceutical company to experiment with GM rice combined with human genes in Vinaros, Castellon.

After protests from social, ecologist and peasant organizations, the Valencian Committee of Genetically Modified Organisms, which depends on the Council of Agriculture, has rejected this dangerous crop.

The aim of the GM trial was to obtain enzymes to treat Gaucher’s disease. However, there are several treatments for this disease that are obtained through genetic engineering in confined environments.

The risks associated with this experiment would have been far to high for what was a commercial purpose. There are already many cases of contamination with experimental GMOs, some of them with rice crops.

The trials were opposed by various social, ecological and farmers organisations. In Castellon the 15M movement were involved in setting up information stands about GM crops in various towns in the province in order to educate citizens more on the controversial science.

Talks and open debates were also organised and a cyberaction was carried out in which 5,000 people participated requesting the annulment of the license granted to the crop. As a result of the opposition, the municipality declared the Castellon region would remain GM-free.

However, in Spain as a whole, there are still numerous experiments with GM crops taking place. The country is the only EU member state that cultivates large-scale commercial GM corn.

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