Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Philanthropist questions

Philanthropist questions America’s push of high-tech farming in Africa
By Philip Brasher
Argus Leader Washington Bureau
October 12, 2011

WASHINGTON - The genetically engineered seeds and high-tech farming methods that the United States is pushing poor countries to accept are no solution to hunger by themselves and actually might wind up harming small-scale farmers, philanthropist Howard Buffett said.

Buffett, the son of billionaire Warren Buffett, has worked with Microsoft founder Bill Gates to pay for the development of biotech seeds that could be used in Africa, including drought-tolerant corn.

“Seed is only part of the solution,” Buffett said Wednesday.

“Soil is more important,” he added, noting that African soils are widely degraded and that farmers don’t know how much fertilizer they need even if they can get it.

“Simply distributing seeds without a soil fertility plan will eventually be a disaster,” he told an audience at the annual World Food Prize conference that included scientists, officials from the U.S. government and many developing countries, and several agribusiness CEOs, including Hugh Grant of biotech seed giant Monsanto Co.

Buffett, who operates farms in Illinois and Nebraska, warned that encouraging poor African farmers to adopt U.S. farming methods could push them to abandon the crop diversity their families have long depended on and switch to growing just one crop, such as corn. That would leave the farmers’ families vulnerable if their crops failed or prices for the crop collapsed.

[Read More…]

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Just label it

Just label it
By Doug Gurian-Sherman
Union of Concerned Scientists
October 6, 2011

Genetically engineered (GE) foods have been in our groceries for years, and are found in most processed foods in the U.S. But there is nothing on a box of corn flakes that tells you whether there are GE ingredients in that food—and the GE industry wants it to stay that way.

This is contrary to what the large majority of consumers want. Consumer surveys show that overwhelming majorities (over 90 percent) consistently say that GE content should be disclosed—as documented by a new campaign to require the labeling of GE foods, called “Just Label It!”

The campaign wants the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to reverse its misguided policy that says food companies cannot be required to disclose the GE content in our foods.

[Read More…]

IFOAM request to UN

IFOAM requests UN require members to label genetically modified foods
Press Release
October 6, 2011

Washington, DC - Representatives of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements (IFOAM) presented a special declaration October 1, 2011 to the United Nations (UN), requesting that the international organization commit all of its member nations to a world without genetically modified (GMO) foods and to identify existing GMO foods on product labels. The UN declaration was written in anticipation of the GMO Right2Know March which kicked off at the UN headquarters in New York on October 1 and will end at the White House on October 16.

The UN delegation included IFOAM representatives, Joseph Wilhelm, founder of Rapunzel organic products and the force behind “Gene-Free America;” and his employees.” Maria-Luisa Chavez welcomed the delegation and accepted the declaration on behalf of the UN. She will pass it on to the president of the General Assembly, the main deliberative, policymaking and representative organ of the United Nations.

Mr. Wilhelm believes that consumers have the right to know whether the food they buy is genetically altered. “Twenty percent of all manufactured foods in the U.S. contains genetically modified ingredients (GMO),” he said. “We hope the Right2Know march will raise consumer awareness and influence U.S. legislators to require that labels indicate whether the product contains GMOs.”

The UN declaration was signed by: Katherine DiMatteo, IFOAM president; Joseph William, IFOAM member; and, Bernward Geier, NGO coordinator. It outlines the critical issues facing consumers in the U.S. and Europe. “Biased agriculture policies, research and development agendas, and private sector strategies favor short-term individual profits,” the declaration states. “This (behavior) is to the detriment of the long-term sustainable use of natural resources for the benefit of all and is responsible for hunger, poverty, climate change, and the destruction of habitats and biodiversity.”

[Read More…]

Friday, September 30, 2011

Food safety fears (China)

Ministry seeks to ease GM food safety fears
By Liu Linlin
Global Times, China
September 30, 2011

The Ministry of Agriculture (MOA) on Thursday pledged to ensure safety of genetically modified (GM) crops amid scientists’ appeals for caution in commercializing such products.

“We will develop GM technologies in strict accordance with relevant regulations and ensure the safety of GM products,” Chen Xiaohua, a deputy MOA minister, told reporters on Thursday responding to questions on the import of GM corn from the US.

“China will continue its development of GM crops because this is an important strategic move for the whole nation,” Chen said, adding that the ministry is drawing up plans to expand corn production to meet increasing domestic demand.

According to, China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corporation imported 61,000 tons of GM corn in July 2010.

In November 2009, the MOA issued a production safety certificate to two varieties of GM rice and one of GM corn, the first such case in the country. The move sparked long-running debates about the safety of GM foods and their impact on the environment.

The three main issues surrounding GM foods according to the World Health Organization are their potential for provoking allergic reactions, transferring harmful genes to the human body and crossbreeding with other plants.

Yuan Longping, a famous agricultural scientist known as the “father of hybrid rice,” has repeatedly urged the government to proceed cautiously with any move to commercialize GM crops.

[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…]

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