Europe against GMO crops! Please, sign the Avaaz petition! I already did.
It's us who decide, not Monsanto!!!

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

The holy quest against Monsanto and other general fun

What you're about to read?
  • Scientists find 'new method' to prevent accidental spread of GM crops
  • Former EU agriculture commissioner calls for positive GMO policy
  • Study finds pesticide residues in wine
  • Warning over EU's ageing science workforce
  • EU set to clash over proposed mercury ban
Again, we're starting with GMs! I talk about this so often, but I won't get tired to bash against this monster, Monsanto. I don't understand how one company may push a whole intercontinental union! It's unbelievable. For me, the most important thing for an innovation to be used is to be safe. Proved safe! Not desired safe. And to protect people's choice-what to buy and what not to buy. And I don't see this happening. Yet.
First article presents a new way to limit the spreading of the GMo seeds. My comment is

Scientists find 'new method' to prevent accidental spread of GM crops

1 April 2008

Chinese scientists claim they have developed a simple strategy to kill unwanted GM plants which are accidentally spread to conventional fields by pollination and seed dispersal.

The unintended spread of GM crops is a major concern for environmental and food safety reasons. This is the main motivation for the introduction by several EU member states of national moratoriums on the marketing and growth of commercial GM crops that have EU-wide authorisation. Now, Chinese scientists claim that they have invented a strategy to contain the problem.

The researchers modified a strain of rice so that the rice became highly sensitive to bentazon, which is a herbicide used for rice and other crop control and to which conventional rice and other crops have a natural resistance.

Field trials showed that transgenic rice plants "can be selectively killed at 100% by one spray of bentazon at a regular dose used for conventional rice weed control".

The results of the studyexternal , published in the open-access, international scientific and medical journal PLoS ONE in March 2008, describe the method as "simple, reliable and inexpensive for implementation" but acknowledge that increased use of bentazon could become a concern for environmental safety and weed resistance development reasons.

The researchers say that this method could also be used to create transgenic rice with genes that are currently regarded as safe. They argue that as the safety of GM crops may be subject to change as understanding improves over time and some of the GMOs currently authorised become undesirable in the future, the new containment strategy "could make any recall of a released transgene much easier if ever needed".

According to the study, the strategy "may be applicable to other grain crops, especially corn". The same group of researchers is currently working on field trials for corn.

Several EU countries have, over recent years, invoked an EU safeguard clause allowing the suspension of the marketing and growth on their territory of GM crops which have undergone positive safety assessments by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Most recently, in early January 2008, France suspended a GM maize strain, citing new scientific evidence on cross-pollination of GM and conventional fields at local level and a negative effect on insects. source

My comment: This definitely throws some light into the misery, especially if the research is real. But mind you, the crops must be produced with that special gene, so that they can be killed later. So it's not only to have the tool, we have to use it! And it should be safe for all of us.

Former EU agriculture commissioner calls for positive GMO policy

28 March 2008

New political measures are needed to ensure that global food demand is met in an environmentally sustainable way, said Franz Fischler, who argued in favour of GMO technology to help produce new food crops that meet changing climatic conditions and can be used in biofuel production.

The former agriculture commissioner said that a market-driven approach to agriculture cannot deal with issues such as environmental security. "Participants in this conference acknowledge market failure in respect of food security and environmental security. Neither receives sufficient government attention or support," said Fischler, currently chairman of the RISE foundationexternal , which supports and monitors rural private investment.

As for the current EU debate on GMOs, the former commissioner said that the problem regards real benefits for consumers. "As long as we are not able to demonstrate to consumers that there is a benefit, their consumption behaviours won't change."

In addition to this, there are "two fundamental open problems" linked to the debate. The first, he said, is that the agricultural sector must in future also produce new plants which are not used for food and feed but for other purposes, such as biofuels. "For these non-food purposes, GMO techniques could play an increasing role."

The second question is climate change and the need to adapt plant varieties to new climatic conditions in a way that allows plants to consume, for example, less water. "The discussion here is to know whether there is enough time to do this through traditional breeding methods or whether the development is so fast that it will be necessary to use GMO techniques which can produce new varieties far more quickly," said Fischler.

Fischler's views were echoed by John Atkin of Syngenta, a world leader in agribusiness based in Switzerland, which sponsored the conference. "By 2030, 50% more food will be needed. This is two billion more people and mouths to feed via better diets," said Atkin. "Technology can contribute hugely to responding to the challenges of food security. For this, it is important to demonstrate what technology can do and illustrate the consequences of better seeds, better chemicals and better use of fertilisers," he added.

Regardless of several positive safety assessments from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the EU 27 remain divided over the acceptability of GMOs and several member states are resisting pressure from the European Commission to lift their individual GMO bans on certain varieties of GM maize exported by the American giant GM producer Monsanto, for example.

Early this year, French President Nicolas Sarkozy joined Austria, Germany and Poland in invoking an EU safeguard clause enabling France to suspend the marketing and growth on its territory of a GM crop that has EU-wide authorisation.

The Commission has never substantiated the applications invoking the safeguard clause while EU environment ministers have repeatedly failed to reach a qualified majority for or against the Commission's proposals to lift the national bans. source

My comment: I'm so sick of this. People must finally understand that Monsanto should be stoned to annihilation. I don't have a problem with GMOs, I have a problem with the disgusting way that company abolish people's choice! People MUST have the right to choose the food they consume. Our right to eat clean and organic food is absolute and no one can even think of robbing us from it. When I see a way to protect fields and to guarantee me I buy clean food, I'll say Great, use GMO crops. But until then, I offer them to fuck off and die. And as for the links I left in the title-they are for you, to acquire an idea what kind of pressure the EU is holding on.

Study finds pesticide residues in wine

27 March 2008

A study by the European Pesticides Action Network (PAN) reveals that wines on sale in the EU may contain residues of up to 10 different pesticides potentially harmful to human health. But manufacturers argue that the quantities are so tiny that drinking wine poses no health risk.

"Grapes are among the most contaminated food products on sale in the EU and receive a higher dose of synthetic pesticides than almost any other crop," argues the environmental NGO in a reportPdf external analysing pesticide residues in wine, published on Wednesday (26 March).

The study covered 40 bottles of wine - 34 conventional and six organic ones - purchased inside the EU. According to the results, the 34 bottles of conventional wine together contained 148 pesticide residues. All 34 bottles contained from one to ten pesticides, bringing the average per bottle to more than four. Of the six bottles of organic wine tested, one sample contained a low concentration of a possibly carcinogenic pesticide.

According to PAN Europe, the "contamination of wines is a direct result of over-reliance on pesticides in grape production". The group argues that the presence of pesticides in European wines is a "growing problem" as grape farmers abandon traditional pest control methods to adopt more hazardous synthetic pesticides. According to Elliot Cannell of PAN Europe, this trend has a direct impact on the quality of wines produced in Europe as pesticides used to grow food crops "can and do end up in food products".

Responding to the report, the European Crop Protection Association (ECPA), which represents pesticide manufacturers, highlighted that all the residues found were authorised for use in the EU.

"Drinking wine poses no health risk for European consumers with respect to pesticide residues [...] Both the use of pesticides and monitoring of residues are very carefully controlled by independent scientists. Maximum residue levels are set well below levels that could cause a risk to humans, to build in a substantial safety margin," said ECPA Director General Friedhelm Schmider.

In 2006, the European Commission proposedPdf external tightening the existing pesticide usage and authorisation rules in Europe as public concerns over the health and environmental impact of the so-called plant protection products continue to grow. So far, the Commission has rejected demands by Parliament to extend an existing list of substances banned from use in the production of pesticides. The EU 27's agriculture ministers are set to debate the matter in April and are expected to reach a political agreement by 19 May 2008. source

My comment:I love red wine and this information really concerns me. Me, I hope the Commission finally reach an agreement and tighten the control over pesticides.

Warning over EU's ageing science workforce

25 March 2008

Ageing populations in the science and technology professions are putting the EU's innovation potential at risk, according to the bloc's statistics agency Eurostat, which published new figures last week.

Faced with ageing populations, EU member states should pay special attention to human resources in science and technology (HRST) "to ensure that their hard-earned knowledge is conserved," conclude Eurostat statisticsexternal on senior HRST in Europe published on 18 March 2008.

Eurostat refers to an annual report on science and technology in Japan, which argues that the rapid ageing of Japanese society has increased the proportion of middle-aged and senior citizens in scientific professions. As the trend of lower birth rates coupled with populations is set to continue, the Japanese expect that the number of researchers and engineers will decrease rapidly.

To remedy the situation, the country's industry, academia and research institutions recommend special treatment for older researchers so that they can continue their work and show their creativity.

As for the EU, the share of European HRST aged 45-64 fluctuated between 30% and 50% in 2006. Bulgaria (yup :( ), Finland, Germany and Sweden had the highest proportion of senior HRST in the EU 27 at around 46%. Meanwhile, Spain and Ireland had the lowest proportion of senior HRST (30%) as well as a relatively high number of young HRST in the 25-34 age group.

The statistics also conclude that "senior employed HRST aged 45-64 were less mobile than younger employed HRST". Only Denmark and the UK had relatively high mobility among senior scientists, possibly due to their flexible labour force policies that encourage mobility.

Supporting the mobility of researchers is one of the objectives of the EU's Growth and Jobs (Lisbon) Strategy, as mobile science and technology human resources contribute to better knowledge transfer between industry, academia and research organisations, which in turn is expected to lead to increased innovation.

Since the Lisbon declaration in March 2000, EU member states have also been stressing the need to increase the number of people entering science and technology careers. In terms of human resources, it is estimated that an extra half a million researchers (or 1.2 million research-based staff) are needed to meet the Lisbon goals of innovation and competitiveness. source

My comment:Yes, this is unfortunately very true. At least in my university. I so hope someone figure it out that if they pay more to phd students, people will choose science more often. I so hope I manage to get some money out of this :)

EU set to clash over proposed mercury ban

28 March 2008

The European Parliament's environment committee voted on Wednesday (26 March) to ban all imports and exports of mercury in the EU by 2010, reinstating earlier demands which had already been rejected by member states in June last year.

MEPs insisted that the ban should take effect as of December 2010, setting Parliament on a collision course with the EU Council of Ministers, which voted last year to maintain the Commission's proposed October 2011 start date (EurActiv 29/06/07).

However, the committee did agree with the Council that mercury waste should be stored "in a way that is safe for human health and the environment" before eventually being disposed of. Such places include abandoned salt mines, deep underground hard rock formations or specific safe storage facilities above the ground.

Mercury is highly toxic, with a recent study published in January by the 'Stay Healthy, Stop Mercury' campaign concluding that even low-level exposure to it in the womb can cause brain damage in children.

Mercury contamination comes from a wide variety of sources, including waste recycling and industrial facilities involved in cleaning non-ferrous metals and natural gas. In the EU, the chlor-alkali industry remains the largest single user of mercury and has already committed to either close or convert its mercury plants by 2020 at the latest.

The full Parliament will adopt a final position during a plenary vote in May. If the two institutions continue to disagree, the proposal will be sent to the last-chance conciliation procedure. source

My comment: I'd like to know the reason behind that postponement. We're ready to decrease our emissions(on paper of course), but not to clean our water? Hmmm...

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