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.
Sunday, July 10, 2011
Dubious Dealings With the Panda
By Stephan Börnecke
July 10, 2011
Can genetically altered soybeans be sustainable? The discussion is heating up over a shipment of this raw material that is to arrive in Europe these days. There are accusations against the environmental organization WWF, which issues its certificate for genetically modified plants.
The attempt by the international agriculture and foodstuff industry to brush up its image is entering a new phase. After years of preparations, the first shipment of allegedly sustainably produced soybeans is to reach Europe in the next few days by ship: 80,000 tons of soybeans produced by the Brazilian producer André Maggi, destined for the farmers of the large-scale dairy enterprise Friesland-Campina and the meat-processing company Vion, both Dutch companies. Another 5,000 tons are going to the US, to the food manufacturer Unilever.
The dispute about whether these soybeans were actually produced in a sustainable manner has been ongoing for months and is now about to start in earnest because this raw material, allegedly grown in an environmentally friendly manner, contains genetically modified soy. In Europe, that is not considered sustainable at all, especially since there are more and more reports about the health risks involved in the growing of genetically modified soybeans. Because of the Brazilian shipment, genetically modified oil and meal will end up in milk, in feed for pigs and chickens, or even in margarine and dressings - and the companies pretend to be green.
Behind this shipment is the RTRS Association (Round Table on Responsible Soy Association), which was founded in 2006 in Switzerland with the help of the international environmental organization WWF, and which is supported by companies such as Monsanto, Unilever and Bayer Crop Science. Their certificate, which could soon also be on German food products, expressly allows the growing of genetically altered soy. Genetically altered soy, however, has a significant impact on the environment due to the use of the total herbicide Round-Up, which contains glyphosate. Recent studies confirmed that it also affects human health. Says Heike Moldenhauer, expert for genetic engineering of one Germany’s most respected nature protection organizations (BUND), “this has nothing to do” with sustainability.
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
New “responsible” soy label misleads consumers
June 08, 2011
On Wednesday, June 8th, 2011, the first highly controversial cerificates for “responsible” soy is issued to companies such as Ahold and FrieslandCampina, during a ceremony in Rotterdam. The new certificates were initiated by the World Wildlife Fund and will be marketed by the Round Table on Responsible Soy (RTRS). One certificate covers one tonne of soy products: beans, flour or oil.  ASEED is present to protest against this label’s greenwashing of toxic soy production.
The new label has been dismissed by hundreds of organisations as “greenwashing”. Networks including Friends of the Earth International, Global Forest Coalition, Platform Aarde, Boer, Consument (ABC) en Food & Water Watch wrote a letter to warn supermarkets not to cooperate with this misleading label. 23,000 consumers sent petitions with similar messages. 
“This soylabel is a typical example of consumer deceit”, says Nina Holland of Corporate Europe Observatory: “Importing soy for industrial livestock farming in the Netherlands is inherently unsustainable. Apart from that the soy is produced with intensive use of agrotoxins. Even genetically manipulated soy that is resistant to the herbicide Roundup can be called ‘responsible’.