Tuesday, September 6, 2011
EU court puts limits on modified honey
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, September 2, 2011
USDA Advisory Committee asked to consider compensating producers for unintended biotech traits
September 2, 2011
WASHINGTON, D.C. - Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack this week charged the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) newly reconstituted Advisory Committee on Biotechnology and 21st Century Agriculture to explore whether and how to compensate producers who sustain economic losses as a result of the unintended presence of biotech-enhanced traits in organic and non-biotech crops.
During opening remarks, Vilsack said he wanted the advisory committee to “find illusive answers we’ve been grappling with for some time” related to what he calls the “coexistence” of different crop-production systems. The secretary asked the panel to determine whether a compensation scheme is needed to address economic losses by producers whose crops lose value as a result of the unintended presence of biotech-enhanced events. Vilsack also asked the advisory committee to consider what implementation would require, including what eligibility standards should be established for determining losses and the types of tools and triggers (such as tolerances, testing protocols, etc.) would be needed to verify and quantify such losses to determine eligibility. The third charge assigned by Vilsack was to determine other appropriate actions that would “bolster or facilitate coexistence” among different U.S. agricultural production systems. “I’m confident that people who are smart, reasonable and willing to work can find solutions,” Vilsack maintained.
Friday, January 21, 2011
Can GM and Organic Get Along?
By Lisa Hare
January 20, 2011
Despite fierce opposition from businesses, organizations and consumers supporting organic agriculture, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined it will approve the full deregulation or modified deregulation of genetically engineered (GE) alfalfa. The agency will announce its decision on, or shortly after, January 24.
The USDA is pushing for “coexistence” between organic and genetically engineered farmers. Organic advocate wonder if such a “middle ground” is possible. This negotiation is taking place in the conflict or GE alfalfa.
Things are heating up. Today (Jan. 20), the House Agriculture Committee will hold a public “forum” on the issue. And two days ago, Senators Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga. and Pat Roberts., R-Kan., and U.S. Representative Frank Lucas, R-Okla. sent USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack a letter asking him to deregulate GE alfalfa without restrictions
On December 17, the USDA released its environmental impact statement (EIS) of Monsanto’s genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa. USDA produced the EIS in response to a federal judge, who asked for a more thorough analysis of the potential environmental, economic and health impacts of GE alfalfa before the USDA approved deregulation.
Although the EIS outlines three options for GE alfalfa (continued regulation, full deregulation or conditional deregulation), the USDA has made it clear it will deregulate this crop by the end of January 2011, pushing the two sides into “co-existence.”
Wednesday, January 5, 2011
The BS just keeps coming. Coexistence is an impossibility. Period. So let’s stop pretending.
Open Letter to Stakeholders from Secretary Vilsack to Urge GE and Non-GE Coexistence
U.S. Department of Agriculture, USA (USDA)
Press Release No. 0674.10
December 30, 2010
Complexity surrounds American agriculture today. With the recent announcement of USDA’s final Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for genetically engineered (GE) Roundup Ready alfalfa and the subsequent meeting to bring together diverse stakeholders for a dialogue, USDA has taken decisive steps toward looking at possible approaches to alfalfa production coexistence that are reasonable and practical.
These actions have generated tremendous interest in USDA’s and my intentions regarding our ability to objectively regulate GE agricultural products and whether we are focused enough on science. I have tremendous confidence in our existing regulatory system and no doubts about the safety of the products this system has approved and will continue to approve. As a regulatory agency, sound science and decisions based on this science are our priority, and science strongly supports the safety of GE alfalfa. But, agricultural issues are always complex and rarely lend themselves to simple solutions. Therefore, we have an obligation to carefully consider USDA’s 2,300 page EIS, which acknowledges the potential of cross-fertilization to non-GE alfalfa from GE alfalfa - a significant concern for farmers who produce for non-GE markets at home and abroad.
The rapid adoption of GE crops has clashed with the rapid expansion of demand for organic and other non-GE products. This clash led to litigation and uncertainty. Such litigation will potentially lead to the courts deciding who gets to farm their way and who will be prevented from doing so.
Regrettably, what the criticism we have received on our GE alfalfa approach suggests, is how comfortable we have become with litigation - with one side winning and one side losing - and how difficult it is to pursue compromise. Surely, there is a better way, a solution that acknowledges agriculture’s complexity, while celebrating and promoting its diversity. By continuing to bring stakeholders together in an attempt to find common ground where the balanced interests of all sides could be advanced, we at USDA are striving to lead an effort to forge a new paradigm based on coexistence and cooperation. If successful, this effort can ensure that all forms of agriculture thrive so that food can remain abundant, affordable, and safe.
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack